Q&A: Nightmarer Guitarist Simon Hawemann Digs Dissonance


The argument that death metal was never supposed to be easy listening is relative. From Possessed and Death to Gorguts and Portal, what’s digestible (and enjoyable to our ears) hasn’t changed over the years. What has changed are the parameters and intent. Case in point: Tampa, Florida’s Nightmarer. Featuring members and ex-members of Success Will Write Apocalypse Across the Sky, War from a Harlots Mouth, The Ocean and Gigan, Nightmarer have embarked on a dark, twisted journey, where, according to guitarist Simon Hawemann, the intent is write music that’s oppressive and disturbing.

Nightmarer’s new album, Cacophony of Terror, exudes a sense of discomfort. It was engineered to be difficult, to cause discomfort. From the chords and notes to the pitch and timbre, Cacophony of Terror is earmarked by unease, though to some ears it might be considered simply tech-death. Actually, it’s both. Opener “Stahwald” through closer “Swansong” (and its predecessor “Death”) showcase Nightmarer’s instrumental gymnastics–think Lovecraftian rhythms instead of high-flying, algebraic note choices–and preference for the lower end of the tonal scale.

Tech-death fans, read on. Nightmarer are your new favorite band. Death metal fans, read on. The terrible trio are continuing where bands like Ulcerate, Demilich, and Artificial Brain left off. So, yes, Nightmarer are brutal.

What were some of the sounds/records/bands that informed Nightmarer? The sound is claustrophobic and dense.
Simon Hawemann: We are all over the place and influenced by the grim vibe of black metal, brutal force of death metal, bleak groove of industrial and heaviness of doom. Some of my favorite bands within these realms are Gorguts, Celtic Frost/Triptykon, Mayhem, Godflesh, Deathspell Omega, Morbid Angel, and also older Gojira.

I found it quite hard to listen to the first few times. It wore me out. Was that the intent with Cacophony of Terror?
Simon Hawemann: The intent was to sound dark, oppressive and disturbing. We want to get under the listener’s skin and create a crushing feeling of discomfort without being unlistenable.

Based on the heaviness of the guitars and the rhythmic cadence, there’s a bit of djent in Cacophony of Terror. Is that something Nightmarer is walking towards or away from?
Simon Hawemann: Djent is an extremely annoying genre to me. It sounds like watered down Meshuggah with borderline mainstream rock choruses. I don’t know, there is nothing pretty in our music, so no, we’re definitely not walking towards it. With that being said, I think Meshuggah are an awesome band. Chaosphere and Catch 33 are killer records and both certainly influenced me to get into lower guitar tuning many years ago. But I also don’t think Meshuggah are ‘djent.’ That’s merely what metalcore kids made out of Meshuggah’s sound. I’m pretty thrilled that guitar tuning as low as ours have been adapted in other extreme metal genres in the last couple of years. Portal used 8-strings on Swarth and Vexovoid, Godflesh have used them since A World Lit Only By Fire, Gorguts are playing down-tuned 7-strings these days… We’re not afraid to sound contemporary. I think the endless rehashing of old school metal genres is boring and playing it safe. I listen to tons of genre classics and have a respect tradition, but I’m not a slave to it. My favor for dystopian aesthetics doesn’t allow for that anyways.

The label is using ‘dissonant death metal’ to describe Nightmarer. What are your thoughts on immediately getting a sub-genre with your first record? The dissonance on Cacophony of Terror is palatable.
Simon Hawemann: I’m OK with that. We have used the label ‘Total Dissonance Worship’ to describe our sound before, but you’re right, the dissonance is still palatable. It’s not a means to an end, but rather a vehicle to create an atmosphere of tension that, ideally, evokes a more intense reaction in the listener compared to more tonal music. Of course it’s always tempting to push further and be more extreme. My tolerance for over the top and hard to listen to music is very high, but I also like straight forward and crushing metal songs. Finding a balance between these two elements is what we strive for as a band, but the key element is the tense and dark atmosphere.

Or, would you rather Nightmarer just be called death metal?
Simon Hawemann: No. I think that doesn’t cut it. When I hear the term death metal, I don’t think of music that relies as much on atmosphere as ours. There is death metal in our fabric, but in my opinion, it’s not necessarily the most dominant element.

If you had to isolate a key track for a curious metalhead, which one would it be and why?
Simon Hawemann: “Ceremony of Control,” because it’s a whirlwind of devastating misery and chaos.

Where’d the name, Nightmarer, originate? One who gives nightmares or a condition of repeated nightmares?
Simon Hawemann: You’re on the right track, but we’d like to keep that open. It could be both and our lyrics are playing with these two options without revealing the full truth.

What’s behind the album title, Cacophony of Terror? Was there a specific vision behind it or is it merely meant to startle?
Simon Hawemann: The album tells a story of a person that doesn’t know whether they are trapped in a nightmare or if their reality is just extremely nightmarish. The “Cacophony of Terror” is the confusion and struggle in the protagonist’s mind. It eventually destroys him.

I would expect a track like “Swansong” to be a little less intense. Or, maybe this is the final chaos of life. The song officially ends on a flatline sound effect. What’s the significance to “Swansong” and the flatline sound effect?
Simon Hawemann: The seamless transition kind of gives it away, but “Swansong” is, first and foremost, the outro of “Death.” It serves as a relief after the end of the losing battle that the protagonist is fighting throughout “Cacophony of Terror.” The song “Death” was partially inspired by me witnessing a family member pass away over the course of a couple of days. It represents that final battle as well and I incorporated a lot of the sounds that a dying person makes, but tried to recreate them in the shape of guitar riffs. I know it’s no easy listening, but I do think “Swansong” is the only moment of relief on this album. The end serves as a release.

Now that Cacophony of Terror is out what are Nightmarer’s next set of priorities?
Simon Hawemann: Get out and tour. We are convinced that this material will be nothing short of shattering in a live setting and we’re hungry to make it happen. A US tour for the Fall of 2018 is in the works as we speak. You can check for updates at our Facebook page.

** Nightmarer’s new album, Cacophony of Terror, is out now on Season of Mist. It’s available on CD and Vinyl by clicking HERE. The dissonance awaits!