Just when you think there’s nothing new under the sun a band like Vienna, Austria’s Molten Chains comes around and makes you choke on your words like a gauntleted fist straight to your heretofore ignorant kisser.
Formed by guitarist/vocalist Brenton Weir and lately including drummer Michi, Molten Chains began in Australia, Brenton’s native country. As you’ll read in the interview below, Molten Chains existed in several countries, with different lineups, before Torment Enshrined was recorded in Vienna, with the help of studio engineer Devon Graves.
The Austrian duo’s second album Torment Enshrined came out late last year, but with stateside reissues in the works, it’s clear that this remarkable work is only starting to reach people. Consider the following interview then part ‘stoking the fire’ and also partly an attempt at deciphering what madness lies within Molten Chains’ intoxicating novel sound.
First of all, where did Molten Chains come from? I know you’re based out of Vienna, but when and how did you get the idea for Molten Chains? You were in a death metal band called Sematary before this, and you were not an ordinary death metal band. There were other elements mixed in to that band as well. So what made you want to go more arcane with your metal?
The idea came from jamming with my friend Peter, who was also playing guitar but eventually went on to play bass on the demo before leaving the band. I wanted to start something new and I wanted to sing clean. I also wanted to play music that was more traditionally ‘Metal’ with more standard song structures, although that didn’t really last long. The Sematary stuff was essentially technical death metal, finding people to play that sort of stuff is almost impossible, particularly in Vienna. I suppose I thought it’d be easier to get something off the ground that was easier for people to understand and play, I also wanted to challenge myself in other ways like trying to sing clean.
You were originally born in Australia, but you relocated to Austria around 2016, right? Was there anything about Vienna in particular that may have fostered the inspiration for Molten Chains?
I left Australia in 2013 and have since lived in loads of European countries, I did a lot of those working holiday visa schemes and pretty much just traveled around everywhere in Europe before coming to Vienna. I moved to Vienna in 2017 actually. Nothing about Vienna in particular helped me write the music, although I organised a few of our earlier shows with the help of friends I made here. I don’t think it would matter where we would be located, we don’t really fit into any scene and in any case, when writing the music I don’t think that much about other bands or scenes.
Throughout your discography your lyrics have been rife with hellish imagery, references to the occult and lots of concrete details into the otherwise paranormal. But how would you say your lyrics have changed or even grown since your demo from 2018 to now on Torment Enshrined?
That’s a good question. Nothing has been really intentional in terms of content, I just get a vibe from the music and go from there. I´m not sure if the lyrics have grown or gotten better since the demo or even since Sematary. What has changed though, with this album in particular is that the vocal melodies take priority over the actual lyrical length, lots of songs on this album had a lot more lyrics which were cut so that the melodies could work better. The message or the story in the lyrics remained the same it’s just that we tried to have stronger vocal melodies, particularly because the music was generally more complicated than anything we had done before. I think maybe the lyrics on this album were more coherent and more personal than previously. I find it hard writing lyrics, it’s really easy for them to sound cheesy or overly dramatic, particularly when sung clean.
Molten Chains has grown steadily but surely since your first demo and there’s no doubting that Torment Enshrined is your strongest effort to date. How do you feel it compares to the first full-length, In the Antechamber Below?
I think it’s the better than the first album, but I suppose that’s a pretty typical answer, every band says their newest release is their best. I suppose we didn’t really make any massive changes between albums, I just wanted everything to sound better and be more coherent. There are moments on the first album that are really grating I find because we didn’t pull off the idea as well we could have. I think we worked harder on this album to make sure every part was as good as it could be, or at least as good as we could get it. With that being said, I wrote all the songs really quickly, it was a fairly easy album to write. One thing I did differently was I paid more attention to the song structures to make sure they were interesting or didn’t repeat themselves, I really tried to give every song its own personally yet tried to make sure they still worked together as an album. All the songs were written with the idea of being part of one album, with the first album that wasn’t the case, it was just a mix mash of songs were had written over a two year period or so.
What was the recording experience for Torment Enshrined like? We know that In the Antechamber Below was recorded “in the blistering heat between June and July 2019 at Lear Studios,” but what about your new album? Were the circumstances more comfortable? What was it like recording this album at Epic Sound Productions with Devon Graves?
Haha, I forgot I wrote that about the first album. Well, I recorded the first album myself, hence why it sounds like it does. I really love the atmosphere on that album but I wanted to record in a proper studio for the second one. I knew from our old bassist Peter that Devon lived in Austria and so I contacted him around February I think. It was around the time that the Corona situation was getting serious and Psychotic Waltz had just released their comeback album and their subsequent tour or shows had to be cancelled. It was a good opportunity for us, particularly with the vocals. Devon had a lot of interesting ideas for the vocal melodies and gave me a lot of performance tips. He is also a really solid engineer, great at capturing a performance and knows when something isn’t quite right or when you can do better.
You’ve been jamming just you and Michi on drums for two albums now. How does that work, and do you prefer fewer musicians in your band?
Michi didn’t play on the first album actually, he joined shortly after it was released. This band has been a little unfortunate in its line-up changes I feel. The first album had a different line-up which dissolved because of some personal issues. I am not opposed to bringing in more people and for live shows we will have to have new members or session musicians anyway, it’s just for the last year or so because we haven’t been able to play shows, working and writing as a two-piece has been easier. It’s hard for every band right now, particularly since everyone thought this year would bring the return of shows and normality. If that turns out to be the case then we will get more members for playing shows and stuff, if not then maybe we will just stay as a 2 piece and write another album. I’m not sure yet.
You deal in riffs like magic spells conjured suddenly from some ancient mortar. Can you reveal some of your influences when it comes to writing your riffs—not necessarily talking about other guitarists, but feel free to interpret the question however you see fit.
Haha thanks! I think it’s less about influences and more about whether ideas or riffs are good or not. I don’t listen to bands I like with the intention of being influenced by them or reinterpreting their ideas. I just come up with an idea or a riff and think about if I can use it in a song. At this point I have a pretty good feeling of whether something is good enough or not. It’s as simple as that really.
As far as album covers go, you’ve maintained a consistent theme and aesthetic. Is this something that’s important to your overall appearance then? What is it about these century-old illustrations that speak to you?
The aesthetic is intentional. I’m just trying to use art that has an otherworldly atmosphere that can set the mood for the music. I was also conscience at the beginning of the band of not playing into these traditional heavy metal clichés that a lot of other ‘new’ traditional heavy metal bands were doing. It might also be because I’m slightly pretentious, I have read a lot of Shakespeare and classic literature and somehow think that the imagery that goes along with that suits our sound, which in a lot of ways it probably doesn’t.
You self-released your new album on vinyl is that correct? The band has a strong independent streak. You seem to understand that your sound is killer even if it’s not necessarily trendy. How do you feel about going it alone in today’s scene?
Yes that’s correct. I did that mainly because I wanted to control the timing of the album release myself. Going alone is hard, time consuming and stressful. Trying to manage all the vinyl orders myself was and still is a bit of a nightmare to be honest. Dealing with the Post Austria constantly is really annoying, particularly with the Corona situation where every week the countries you can and can’t ship to change. I don’t think I’ll do it again for the next release, I’ll just hand it all over to a label to deal with. On the other hand, it’s been cool to see the growth of the band firsthand, I mean I know exactly how many vinyls we have sold and to which people which is cool.
What has Molten Chains been up to since completing the recording for Torment Enshrined? What can we expect next from the band?
Well, apart from managing the Torment Enshrined release I have started writing for the next album and have around thirteen minutes of material. I’m not sure at the moment where we should be directing our focus, whether we will be able to play live this year or whether we should record again. I would personally really like to tour, like an EU tour and a US one would be great. I suppose these are the questions facing every band, it’s still a very uncertain year. In any case, I’ve been in contact with a studio in northern Germany where I’d like to record the next album.
Anything else to add, Brenton? Thanks again for taking the time to answer these questions and honestly, thank you for creating and releasing such refreshing and absolutely kick-ass music.
Yeah, labels Postmortem Apocalypse and Night Rhythms Recordings will be releasing cassette versions of both In the Antechamber Below and Torment Enshrined as well as stocking vinyls of Torment Enshrined, so any US fans should get our stuff from them as post prices to the US from Europe are insane right now. Thanks a lot for your interest and support!