Minneapolis’ Suffering Hour was a band destined to nab my attention. If not for the fact their moniker was selected in tribute to one of my personal favourite bands, then for the progressive thrashing death of their 2014 EP, Foreseeing Exemptions to a Dismal Beyond. Since then, the band has undergone a sonic shift towards blackened death metal and with that has come a wholesale image switcheroo that now includes corpse paint, massive studded arm bands, shadowy promo photography and stage names. However the trio dresses things up (or down), fact of the matter is that their creative output has been solid enough to attract the attention of Blood Harvest Records who will be releasing the band’s full-length debut, In Passing Ascension, on May 26th. Today, we’re premiering a track off the album, “For the Putridity of Man” and allowing guitarist/vocalist Josh “YhA” Raiken, drummer/vocalist Jason “IsN” Oberuc and bassist/vocalist Dylan “DgS” Haseltine to introduce themselves via the magic of the email interview.
Seeing as this is your first time here, can you give a brief history of the band?
YhA: It’s interesting actually, in some ways none of us are really original members. It started when I joined a thrash band in high school and within a year it ended up just being me and this other guy. We wanted to go more into a progressive direction and he renamed the band Compassion Dies, which he got from a lyric off the Anacrusis album, Reason. He later left when we were trying to form a live band and the lineup hasn’t changed since then. The three of us gigged under that name for a while, subconsciously not liking it at all. When it came time to release our first EP, we knew we had to change it, thus the Suffering Hour name change. We also knew we wanted to evolve the sound we had recorded on the EP, and from that came the sound you will hear on our new album.
What’s the story behind your deciding to go with Suffering Hour as your band name?
YhA: We started out as a proggy type thrash band as I stated earlier and Anacrusis were (and still are) one of my favorite bands within their genre. While we didn’t like the name Compassion Dies for our style, I wanted to find a name that still paid homage to them. Reading through lyrics I wasn’t finding much, and finally decided that the name of their first album was perfect. There was talk when we were switching from the thrashier stuff to the death metal stuff about changing our name again, but we all agreed not to. For me, having our name come from thrash origins is really important to me. Although I don’t write thrash anymore, I still enjoy it and have a lot of respect for it. I liked the idea of our name being a reminder of where we started and that I probably wouldn’t write the way I do if we didn’t come into the death and black metal world through old school metal.
When putting Suffering Hour together, did you have a particular sound goal or direction in mind in terms of the type of metal you wanted to play? And what about the musical change?
YhA: When we changed our writing style, a lot of it came from the fact that I’ve just always written the way I write. I try not to think a lot about genre boxes when I write; hell, when I write for Suffering Hour I usually go on a metal hiatus and just listen to stuff that sounds like the opposite of what I’m writing. A big part of why we switched styles was because as I grew as a musician and as my writing changed direction, I knew we couldn’t be a thrash band anymore. It wasn’t for the sake of sticking it to the new-wave and it wasn’t an excuse to wear corpsepaint. It was just something we had to do for me to be able to write what was coming out of my head and give it the proper label.
In the short amount of time that you’ve been around, your image has gone from the denim/leather/patch look to a more corpse painted get up with stage names for the new album. Do the sonic change follow suit?
DgS: It’s actually the vise versa. All of those changes were a direct result of what we felt better represented our sonic changes. Aesthetics and image in this type of music is something I feel is extremely important and I felt we should do something different to represent what we’re doing musically now. In doing so, it’s undeniably something that we’ve taken outside influences from, as it’s a very common thing in this style, but in no way are we doing it because it’s trendy or that we have to, it’s simply something we wanted to do and how we want to present our art.
How long did it take to write and record In Passing Ascension?
YhA: A lot longer than I thought it would take. Between when I started writing and our release date there’s a span of over three years. I wrote the thing as a teenager for Christ’s sake, and now here I am in my twenties finally putting the thing out. Writing took somewhere between eight months to a year, partly because I was busy with school and work, and partly because my inspiration comes in annoyingly seldom, sporadic bursts. From before I started writing riffs, I knew how the album was going to be structured, so it was just a matter of making the flow come to life. I pretty much wrote the thing in the order the tracks are on the album as well. I don’t really have much of a process with writing riffs, I just get in my zone, get a good start, and then let the song’s vibe tell me where to go. After a little break, we got everything tracked within a six month span. Watching IsN track the whole album in three hours flat was amazing to watch, and I subconsciously hated him for it while I re-recorded my guitars four goddamn times. I’m not great at the whole, “Do it once and do it right,” concept. Bass and vocal tracking went smooth on DgS’s end, and he had it mixed within four months or so after everything was tracked. Lots of intense fine tuning from his end, and the payoff was more than well worth it. I know for a fact the album wouldn’t have come out as well as it did if we would have rushed and if I wouldn’t have had these two awesomely talented dudes working on it with me.
What is the significance or story behind the album’s title and tell us about the album cover?
DgS: In Passing Ascension was chosen for the title as it’s a pretty suitable culmination of all the album’s overall themes. It comes from the spoken word bit at the end of the last track, “Empty Avowals”, which is basically about this fascination I have with death and what’s beyond; how our existence here on Earth is pretty worthless and maybe there’s more to it after death. It’s a really deep subject I could go into for a long time and could be interpreted in a thousand different ways, but I’m just going to leave it at that for the sake of this interview. As for the album cover, it was done by Alexander Brown and is essentially his own visual interpretation of the lyrical themes on this record. I sent him the entire record and lyrics and let him do his magic. To me it also fantastically reflects the album sonically. From very early on in the writing process of this album I always envisioned his art for our cover, as it’s aesthetic is perfectly suiting to our sound.
What can you tell us in particular about the song we’re featuring on the site?
DgS: “For The Putridity of Man,” is the first full track on the album after the intro. It’s a blistering pound-in-the-face to kick off the album. One of the faster tracks on the record, it’s a great blend of our fast death metal riffing and suffocating atmosphere. YhA penned some serious riffs and it has one of the more wonky parts on this record with that intense whammy bar breakdown section. Lyrically, it’s the most pissed off song on the album; a declaration of humanity’s worthlessness if you will.
At what point did Blood Harvest come into the picture and how did you initially come to each other’s attention?
IsN: Blood Harvest came into the picture thanks to Ula Gehret, who is a good friend of mine. He works with a lot of mainstream bands but decided to throw us a bone and get us contacts to a list of record labels we sent to him. Once we were hooked up with those email addresses, we basically spammed a press kit to every single one of them until we got a bite. So many labels wrote back saying it was too late in the year and that they were basically full for the time being, but Rodrigo Alfaro at Blood Harvest really liked what he heard. I think he knew right away what kind of sound we went for when making this album. He has honestly been one of our biggest supporters upon discovering us. He chipped in half the money for the cost of the artwork and layout, sent us a ton of copies of the album and even has PR being done for us at no charge. Blood Harvest is an amazing label and I could not be happier with everything they have done for us so far.
Being a relatively young and new band, what do you feel were some of the bigger lessons you learned in going through the writing/recording/dealing with a label process in the creation of In Passing Ascension?
IsN: Biggest lesson I think all of us in the band learned was to always read into things way more than you think you probably should. We had a few bumps in the road with our artist but I was not afraid to be stern when it came time to getting what we paid good money for. Nevertheless, everything went really smooth when it came to signing with Blood Harvest. Both parties negotiated and came to a fair conclusion and the band could not be happier with the results so far. As YhA said, the actual making of the album took a while before everything was said and done. Having three people try and agree on what would be the final mix was a huge pain at times. It felt like there was a lot of tension between the three of us and it seemed like we were making little to no progress. But once DgS sent us what would be his final effort we all knew right away that was the one. I think I speak for the whole band in saying that we are very pleased with how everything turned out and I hope everyone who listens to the album feels the same way.
Once the album is fully out what’s the plan? And what are your hopes for Suffering Hour going forward?
IsN: The plan is definitely to start playing live again. Some touring here and there, and we definitely would love to play festivals. That to me is the best way to reach the most people and gain new fans. All of us miss playing live a lot and we would really like to spread our sound out as far as possible. Of course my hopes for the band will be that we continue to grow and that some day we can turn this into a full-time gig. I think I speak for everyone in the band when I say we’re hungry and ready to conquer the world with our music.
500 copies CD
500 12″LP (300x Black, 100x Silver/Black Marble w/sticker, 100x Silver w/sticker and poster)
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