Demo:listen: Coagulate

It’s not every day that a band like Coagulate rises from the depths of the underground. Even in the sprawling realm of underground death metal, these Minneapolis-based phlebophiliacs stand out as atypical. For one thing, The Art of Cryptosis is such a rich and well-composed 24 minutes, it’s a short debut full length as much as it is a demo. For another, the production hits with an expert punch. Wherein Coagulate reward the reptilian brain with tentacular, bone-snapping riffs, mutagenic leads, violent blast spells, and these ultra low growls that conjure up some deeply imprinted boogeyman archetypes. 

But deeper than all of that, helmed by one Andrew MV (the MV stands for Maniac Video) on guitars and vocals, this quartet have locked into something authentic, something visceral and hungry, something that challenges the more sophisticated lobes, while punishing those more base pleasurezones just the way they liked to be punished. At four tracks long, The Art of Cryptosis dropped January 17th and the bar shot up impossibly high for any other band to try to reach this year. We had to get ‘em on the column, and we were lucky enough to reach their guitarist/vocalist/founding member Andrew MV. 

The Art of Cryptosis

On the The Art of Cryptosis Coagulate is comprised of Jamie Sellers on drums, Aaron Wolf on guitars, Andrew MV (our contact) on guitars and vocals, and Andy Topeff on bass. But that’s since changed.

“Andy Topeff played bass on the demo, but isn’t currently in the band, although we’re all on good terms,” Andrew tells us. “We just recently recruited Andy Schoengrund from a sick local black metal band called Feral Light. He’s only been with us a few weeks, but so far he’s got all the songs down and is totally killing it.”

One of the reasons Coagulate stick out among the crowd comes from the fact that their biggest influences are also fringe-dwelling weirdos.  

“There was a really sick period in mid to late 90’s death metal where things were starting to get weird, but technical death metal wasn’t really a thing yet. Bands were starting to really experiment with odd time, weird riffs, irregular song structures, keyboards, violins, etc. Bands like Phlebotomized, Pan.Thy.Monium, etc. This pre-technical era of oddity was something I made sure to bring up when trying to recruit the lineup.”

Andrew says his influences going into forming Coagulate were: “First and foremost, Phlebotomized.” He continues: “They’re so perfectly able to capture that weird death metal sound without sacrificing the brutality needed for this genre to succeed. Another big one would have to be Demilich, there’s really no denying the influence. No other band will ever capture the absolute weirdness and masterpiece of Nespithe.  Morpheus Descends, as I mentioned earlier is a big influence, both lyrically and musically. Other bands that worked their way in would be Pan.Thy.Monium, the second Cadaver album, In Pains, Killing Addiction, Carbonized, pretty much any weird death metal. Spheres from Pestilence was also a huge deal for me while conceptualizing the band.”

Besides the influences of other outré metal bands, we here at Demo:listen got the sense that something else was at work behind The Art of Cryptosis, inspiring Coagulate’s surreal death metal assault. Something about the specificity of songs titles like “18th Parallel Succubus Masquerading Transcendence to Divinity (Liar Upon the Cross)” told us that there were some literal references being made on Coagulate’s demo. 

“I love that you’re asking the nerd questions, usually no one is willing to hear me rave about Brian Lumley,” Andrew admits. “I frequent an incredible bookstore in town called Dreamhaven. It’s a mecca for all things horror, sci-fi, and fantasy and it’s been alive and kicking well before I was even born. Anyone in the area, definitely check it out. I kept seeing these books on the shelf called Necroscope. There were so many volumes and they looked evil as fuck. Around this same time I was jamming really hard to the album Chronicles of the Shadowed Ones by Morpheus Descends. While reading the lyrics on Metallum, I saw that they were all based on the Necroscope books. With that seal of approval, I went back to the the shop and picked ‘em up immediately and read the entire series front to back. Lumley is such a visionary when it comes to the wamphyri (pronounced vam-fear-ee) and reworking the vampire mythos. The vampires in the series are these ancient creatures who came through a glowing sphere in Romania that acts as a gateway to their source world, Starside. Basically, they were once human, but were infected by these protoplasmic leech parasites that attach to their spine and keep them indefinitely undead with powers of ESP and protoplasmic, metamorphic flesh. The Starside vampires live in these mile high rock formations called aeries in which they reinforce with protoplasmic human cartilage to form walkways, stairs, balconies, faucets, heating chambers, pipes, etc. It’s wild. Lumley really builds this incredibly vivid, fucked up and gory atmosphere with Tolkien-level world building.” 

Andrew explains that even the riffs he writes can be influenced by the Necroscope series. He says: “When I’m working on riffs, I’ll often go back to the books for reference, just to get a sense of the atmosphere. For example, in ‘Protoplasmic Ensnarement (The Draining of Your Flesh),’ most of the riffs have a literal upscale crawling to them, like being chased by tendrils of protoplasm. The way your fingers work up the fret board is a literal crawl. Stuff like that is entirely intentional when writing.”

Andrew MV, guitarist/vocalist of Coagulate, recording their demo.

The downside to writing such challenge music is finding people who can keep up with it. Andrew says that recording The Art of Cryptosis “was a long time coming, longer than [he] would have liked.” He explains: “Mostly due to constant lineup changes. We’ve been through 3 drummers and 4 bass players in the past 2 years. Other than that, it mostly consisted of frustrating my bandmates with writing blast beat riffs in 13/4. Their groans of dismay are a delicacy to my ears.”

But once the lineup was finalized, the songs were learned, and they made it into the studio?

“Recording the demo was actually a truly enjoyable experience,” Andrew says, adding: “which I definitely can’t say about experiences I’ve had in previous bands. We were recorded, mixed and mastered entirely by our boy Colin Lewis from the bands Invidiosus and Formless Master, the latter of which features Takafumi Matsubara from Gridlink. We probably clocked in over 40 hours on it, and Colin was a dang saint throughout it all. I never once felt rushed or felt like I needed to settle on a take I wasn’t happy with.”

As for the artwork, Andrew explains: “I hand drew the logo myself, but the cover art itself was done by the indomitable Nev from Gruesome Graphx. The dude is a beast. I have almost all my art done by him, be it for Coagulate, or if I need something really brutal done for my VHS company Maniac Video. He rocks shit out at a faster pace and cheaper price than literally everyone else out there and the end result is still the best out of them all. Highly recommended.”

Demo:listen HQ were not alone in our astonishment over this demo. According to Andrew, the response has been almost overwhelming. “It’s definitely kind of blown me away, at least,” he says. “I personally have never played in a project that’s gotten this level of appreciation and interest, especially this early in. Within the first week, we got hit up by 5 labels from the US, Italy, Germany and Spain. It was really pretty incredible.”

And soon The Art of Cryptosis will crossover into the physical realm.

“We’ll be working with Rotted Life from the east coast,” Andrew says, meaning Rotted Life Records, based in Maryland. “So far, they’ve been treating us real well and the cassettes are already at the plant. I actually just got rough drafts of the layout today and it looks totally sick. There’s been some interest in putting out vinyl by them too, hopefully we can make that happen sometime this Summer. For anyone interested, keep an eye on the Coagulate Facebook page, I should be dropping specifics in the next few days.”

Additionally, Andrew says Coagulate are “planning a 3-day Midwest mini tour with our boys up north in Phobophilic sometime around June-ish.” He adds, “I’d be surprised if we didn’t have a few other things up our sleeve in the future too.”

Currently, Andrew says Coagulate are “power-writing” for their debut full length. “Our lead guitarist is planning to move to the West Coast at the end of the year, so we’re really hoping to get this out before then. I’d say we’re like 60-70% done with the writing for it. It’s going to be even more fucked up and weird than the demo. So far I’m proud of the insanity we’ve been able to come up with. If I can continue to feast upon the groans of my bandmates’ dismay at writing riffs in 13/4, all is good.” 

Coagulate urge you to remember: “The blood is life!”