Despised Icon: Q&A With Guitarist Eric Jarrin

As the decade lurches to a close, it’s interesting to think back to what the metal world was like 10 years ago. As always, the deep recesses of the underground were abound with great death, black and doom bands. But let’s not forget the pervasiveness of deathcore. In the aftermath of the metalcore explosion of (roughly) 2003-2007, in which bands took the melodeath and mixed it with modern hardcore, the gates were opened for similar styles to break through. For the next few years, deathcore would be the trend that ignited the metal world’s attention, this time showing bands mixing in more dissonant and brutal forms of death metal. Cool and fun as much of it was, it met a saturation point very quickly, with many bands seemingly taking ho-hum-level death metal and shoving in breakdowns whenever they ran out of ideas.

However, Montreal’s Despised Icon was always the biggest exception to the rule. The band succeeded were most failed: they took the finesse and feel of modern hardcore and fused it almost seamlessly with brutal death metal and slam. A true crossover, Despised Icon’s classic albums like The Healing Process and The Ills of Modern Man could fit just as comfortably on a playlist with Perseverance as it could with Effigy of the Forgotten.

With Despised Icon, breakdowns and pig squeals were never gimmicks, but rousing moments of excitement and exhilaration: two words that perfectly described my attitude toward interviewing guitarist Eric Jarrin about the band’s excellent new offering: Purgatory, out today via Nuclear Blast.

Hi Eric, congrats on the new album! What would you say the band was trying to accomplish with this record?

A lot of stuff happened since we officially got back together in 2016. And after more than 5 years out of the game, there was not much at stake when we released Beast back then. People in general are more indulgent when it’s a comeback album. It’s the one that follows that will testify to a band’s relevance, so to speak. So, for us, Purgatory, this is the real test. That’s the approach we had when writing this album. We wanted to come up with an album that would encompass all of our albums, our sound, and incorporate new elements to it, to bring it to another level and assert our relevance as a band!

The song, “Snake in the Grass,” absolutely crushes. I like the unapologetic use of pig squeals, they take me back! What is the song about?

It’s a song about trust issues and how you should learn to listen to that inner voice. Whether it’s between family members, with your significant other or a good friend, in any relationship you’re in, you need to have trust as the foundation for it to last. And on many occasions, one will face deception and betrayal before learning how to build a solid relationship and how to properly choose the people you’re involved with. This song is also about self-realization and how to learn to trust your feelings and your intuition when something doesn’t feel right!

What keeps you guys inspired to write great riffs and breakdowns? Do you think the time apart for a few years helped?

Thanks for the acknowledgement on the riffs. As a guitar player, you know it’s a never ending quest! And yes, I think the 5 years apart helped in the sense where we didn’t keep up with the scene and what was going on. So we didn’t get influenced or tried to follow a scene and evolve in the direction that the deathcore genre took. We just picked up where we left off and kept writing the same way we always did. The only difference for Purgatory was the composition workflow. Instead of trying to complete a song at a time and find the next best riff to follow one in a song, we wrote a bunch of moods and riffs for a while and only later on we tried to incorporate them into songs. So for every riff or breakdown that’s on this album, there must have been 5 or 6 others that didn’t make the cut!

The metal and hardcore landscape has seen a lot of changes and shifts since 2002 when you guys came together. Do you ever think about the band’s legacy and your place in the world of extreme music? Are you inspired by any of the bands of groups of bands emerging today?

When we disbanded 9 years ago, we were young and the deathcore genre was at it’s pinnacle. Now we’re old and some people consider us to be pioneers of that genre. I don’t really think about the band’s legacy but more and more, especially when I meet younger bands, they often tell me how much they were into us when growing up and how much we’ve influenced them. So I guess it could mean that we’ve earned a spot in the history of extreme music of some sorts. A death metal band I recently discovered that had a huge impact on me is Rivers of Nihil. Their last album is a real masterpiece and I had the chance to meet up with them and catch them live twice over the past year. Kublai Khan is also another band, although emerging from the hardcore world, that had me headbanging a lot. Awesome grooves and honest lyrics.

What’s in store for Despised Icon this year as far as live shows go? It’d be great to hear this stuff on stage.

Well we finished our North American headline tour a month ago with Suffocation, Kublai Khan, Ingested and Shadow of Intent. It was fun to perform new tracks like Purgatory and Snake in the Grass on these shows. But since we don’t tour full time anymore, we’ll only be back on stage next year in the summer of 2020 for a European run and will probably be back in the U.S. sometimes after that. We do about 30 shows per year so if you ever see us advertised for a concert near you, make sure you come check us out as we never know when is the next time we’ll be back around!!! Cheers \m/