American underground death metal supergroup Cast the Stone, featuring Mark Kloeppel (Misery Index, Scour with Phil Anselmo), Derek Engemann (ex-Cattle Decapitation, Scour), Jesse Schobel (Legend, ex-Scour) and vocalist Andrew Huskey, aren’t of the usual cut of cloth. The members’ combined background in some of the extremest forms of death and grind normally would indicate a continuation of their labors of love under a new guise. With Cast the Stone, that’s not entirely the case. In fact, between bouts of old-school Swedish death metal — think: Grave, Dismember, Carnage — rubbing bones with American brutality — the uncompromising type — there’s a distinct thread of melody of the Swedish variety — think: Unanimated, Dissection, and Edge of Sanity — permeating Cast the Stone’s savage ways.
Decibel found guitarist/vocalist Mark Kloeppel gnawing on a Nödtveidt-Andersson hybrid riff while the rest of Cast the Stone were busying themselves with a game of which cover artist is better, Seagrave or Hermann. Kloeppel provided a quick-shot of answers to our most pressing questions, which serves as the perfect primer for our partnership with Agonia Records to premiere Cast the Stone’s full EP, Empyrean Atrophy. While Kloeppel’s had his hands full of light-speed Naglfar and Setherial riffs in Scour, with Cast the Stone, he’s able to slow things down, get a feel for 1993-1994 Sweden, and craft five killer tunes the likes of which haven’t been heard since Morningrise bubbled from under many weeping moons ago. Oh, and Cast the Stone, with their brutal beat on, had to get under Dan Swanö’s infected skin by covering “JesuSatan” off Infestdead’s second, long-forgotten album of the same name.
Introduce Cast the Stone to the world.
Mark Kloeppel: If anyone wants to check it out, I had talked about Cast the Stone in Decibel in a side column within a piece on Scour (click link to play track “Red”), since there is some pretty good history there for Pig Destroyer, Misery Index, Agoraphobic Nosebleed, and Scour all stemming back to a couple local bands in the St. Louis, Missouri metal scene. Cast the Stone is one of those bands. Here’s how it went down. In 2001/2001, I was going to the University of Missouri-Columbia. I had no idea what I wanted to do with myself, and, instead of studying, I was out playing shows in a band called Shadow Faction. Jesse Schobel and Derek Engemann were playing in this band called Atmos, and, being in such a small scene, the two bands played some shows together. That’s how we all met. After jamming a few times, we all moved into a house together at 400 Blair Ct. in Columbia, Missouri, and proceeded to become a really tight band. We recorded a five-song demo and a “full-length album” in that house with equipment we borrowed from the University of MIssouri Tech department to which our friend and engineer Derek Young was heading at the time. We had no idea what we were doing. We tracked that to the best of our ability, and Clint from Unmerciful in Kansas City mixed it. From 2002-2005 we slogged away in the region, and became a bit popular. Promoters were adding us as local openers to shows with Anthrax, Lamb of God, Satyricon, Dying Fetus, Misery Index, and the like. Things were going pretty well, but we had no idea how to take it further. At one point we went to New York for some MTV ‘Battle for Ozzfest’ type thing, or whatever it was, which just amounted to a pretty awesome trip to New York with the boys. As is common with really good local bands, the signed touring bands take notice. Also, it’s a slow arduous process to get a band fully off the ground, especially when you have no idea what the next steps are. Slowly, we started getting picked off by touring bands. I was the first to go, when I got the call from Misery Index. Derek started doing things with Unmerciful, Diskreet, and then Cattle Decapitated, and Jesse started touring with Strong Intention, and some other bands outside of this scene. There were a few times we were touring together over the years, and we had demoed some material together in between all that. We always entertained the idea of giving ‘The Stone’ its due, and here we are. At this point, Cast the Stone is a project that seems to lend itself to the Swedish approach to death metal. We are picking up where we left off, and, starting with this EP, we are further defining our sound. The EP, admittedly, has a broad scope, which will be further refined on the next full-length. I feel like the sound will wind up somewhere between the the first single and the title track.
This isn’t a new project. You’ve waited a bit to release your debut, however. What were the reasons behind the delay in getting things off the ground?
Mark Kloeppel: As previously stated, it’s a very hard road to get a band off the ground from zero when you don’t know what you are doing. Further, the touring acts recognized what kind of players we were. In essence, the individuals got ‘discovered’ and lifted into the touring circuit before that band itself could get to that point. So, we were all picked off, and have had entire music careers by now. Through all that, though, it was always in the back of our minds to give this thing a proper go, or at least put something out on a label. Truth be told, we had some demo recording that we were just going to put out on a smaller label rather than rot on a hard drive. But, somehow, Agonia caught wind of this, and offered us a deal a couple years ago. We proceeded to finish up an EP using our ideas, and, through our breadth of experience, was able to put out a pretty great product.
How would you describe Cast the Stone musically? Straight-up death metal or something slightly different?
Mark Kloeppel: It’s an American approach to Swedish melodic death metal. Mind you, this was not what was in mind when writing the material. We just wrote songs we thought sounded cool, and pleased all of us collectively. That said, when you go back with a listener’s perspective — at least to me — the Swedish influence seems pretty clear. And I’m not just talking about Dismember and Grave. We bring in a few progressive and dark elements as Edge of Sanity, Dissection, and Opeth did. Given those influences, Dan Swanö was an obvious choice to mix the record.
Your debut, Empyrean Atrophy, was handled by Dan Swanö. What was it like working with Swanö?
Mark Kloeppel: Dan is an amazing dude who really knows metal and approaches those mixes from a metal musician’s point of view. The very first mixes we got from him contained production elements that could only come from one who ‘knows’ how the music needs to sound. For example, some long bellowing screams with have a touch of stereo delay on the end that ‘blossoms’ and fades off into the mix. Another example is the distinct sort of ’80s guitar tone and mix during the clean/solo section of “A Plague of Light.” These are all things Dan will just do on his own without having to be told what to do. He knows metal mixes and what needs to be in them.
What do you want death metal fans to walk away with after hearing Cast the Stone?
Mark Kloeppel: All the members have done a lot of distinctly different sounding projects from Misery Index to Cattle Decapitation to Scour. This is yet another side to our personalities, which we want to further explore. So, consider this a proper introduction to something we’ve always wanted to do. We hope a metalhead appreciates the attention to detail and nods to tradition.
** Cast the Stone’s new EP, Empyrean Atrophy, is out August 31st on Agonia Records. Pre-orders for limited edition LPs, CDs, digital downloads are HERE.