Harnessing Anguish: Ciaran and Eoghan McCloskey Detail Aduanten’s Origin and the Trauma Behind Sullen Cadence

Photo by Erik Bredthauer

Sometimes, things work out best from a clean slate. For brothers Eoghan and Ciaran McCloskey, that was very much the case. The brothers, formerly of the death metal band, Vex, decided to bring their project to an end. In its wake, the McCloskeys, along with Mike Day, built a new vessel for their evolving vision of death metal. The resultant Aduanten sees Eoghan (drums), Ciaran (guitar), and Mike (guitar, synth) as a core of an otherwise nebulous and evolving project that doesn’t keep promises for its sound.

Its current — and inaugural — iteration sees the trio joined by Obsequiae’s Tanner Anderson and Horrendous’ Damian Herring as co-vocalists. They are also joined by Adrian Benavides (synth, percussion) and Joel Miller (bass). Together, the seven minds built what they refer to as dark-textured death metal. Its sound stems from rich, melodic metal as well as experimental death metal and post-punk.

Their four-track EP, Sullen Cadence, captures this project at an intriguing early stage. Anderson and Herring greatly influence much of the energy of this release, but the secret to Aduanten’s uniqueness lies in the McCloskeys and Day. Their vibrant and richly influenced textures build a beautiful sonic landscape that ebbs and flows from atmospheric post-metal to folk-tinged death metal.

At the heart of the EP, Ciaran McCloskey’s lyrics speak to strange and unfamiliar feelings that stem from traumatic and life-changing events both personal and historical. McCloskey’s words add a poignant layer to already emotive arrangements. As a whole, Sullen Cadence signals a bold, bright origin and a brand new direction for seasoned musicians. The McCloskey brothers and Day’s fresh start as Aduanten’s results in a gleaming display of extreme metal that is only the beginning of what is to come.

Read an in-depth interview with the McCloskey brothers and listen to an exclusive stream of Sullen Cadence ahead of its arrival this Friday. Buy a digital download or CD from Aduantendirectly or a cassette from Eihwaz Recordings.

Aduanten derives its name from the Irish “Aduantas,” which roughly means “unfamiliar” or “strange.” How does that term fit into your band as well as the aesthetics or vision of this project?

CIARAN McCLOSKEY: When we decided that Vex was going to be no more and that Eoghan, Mike, and I wanted to continue making music, the first discussion—and sometimes really the most intense and painful discussion—is what is the new name going to be?

This was very extensively deliberated. We all had lists of names that we went through. I think it was Mike who suggested “Aduantas” originally and we were intrigued by that word in that it meant a strange and unfamiliar place. That was intriguing to us because we were trying to do something a little bit different musically. The idea of forming a new band, having been in Vex for so many years, was kind of strange to us.

We were going to go with that name but there was a Scottish electronic artist on Bandcamp who showed up about a year ago using the Aduantas name. So, we went back to our original list of some of the names that Eoghan had contributed and decided to take the “en” ending from one and make our own word with it.

That helps out with search engine optimization. It makes it easier to find if you just use your own word. [laughs] Once we settled on that, you’re correct, it did definitely grow into how we discuss the entire aesthetic and how we wanted to present ourselves.

The promotional approach we’re taking is we’re not doing full-on glossy band pictures. We’re doing very deliberately distorted pictures and deemphasizing the people in the band and making it more about the aesthetic, the image, the distorted images of us kind of combined together. That informed the visual aesthetic and it helped inform how we would approach the album art as well.

EOGHAN McCLOSKEY: As Ciaran said, it was kind of a practical concern at first just because the name we chose first was taken, but then it really just kind of took on a life of its own. I think in addition to what Ciaran said, lyrically, it was really interesting to see the ways that we could tie in that concept too. A lot of the lyrical concepts that Ciaran is exploring on this record have to do with traumatic events, life-changing events, that kind of thing.

A lot of it’s written from the perspective of feeling uncertainty or feeling unmoored from things that you take for granted whenever you go through experiences like that. It’s been really interesting to see the ways that we can tie in that concept of lyrics as well.

CIARAN McCLOSKEY: Yeah, exactly. The lyrics explore the different ways in which humans adapt to the unfamiliar and how it seems impossible and like nothing you’ve experienced before. It’s really traumatic experiences and how do you adapt to that as a human and how does that change you because of it.

You both mentioned these traumatic experiences that you talk about. The lyrics on Sullen Cadence address how humans adapt to these experiences. How do either your personal experiences or observations or even some of the things you’ve mentioned in the press like the 1900 Galveston Hurricane or the Irish Border Conflict?

CIARAN McCLOSKEY: Obviously, these are not things that I have personally experienced, but there are stories that I’ve always been drawn to—in particular, the human element in those stories. I like to read a lot of personal accounts, oral histories, things like that. You always read stories like that and you try to locate yourself in your own personality and you think, “How would I adapt to that?”

That was largely how I approach the lyrics. I think the one exception to that would be the title track, “Sullen Cadence,” which was specifically about the suicide of a friend of the band in 2017. I wouldn’t say this was a close friend, but it was someone that we all knew very well, and immediately after the suicide, we all kind of collectively wrestled with those feelings of guilt. “Could I have reached out? Could I have made a difference?”

Then, tying that back to the Aduanten concept, that’s very unfamiliar territory, if you haven’t experienced that before–if you haven’t lost someone close to you. Those are the lyrics that are most directly pulled from my own experience rather than a consideration of how I would function in those other instances.

Photo by Erik Bredthauer

The suicide comment you mentioned is very poignant. I found myself in a similar situation not too long ago as well. A friend of mine, as you said, we weren’t super close, but still friends. You find out that they’ve taken their own life and you do you start to wonder, “What could I have done? Could I have reached out? Could I have said something?”

It’s the first time that’s really happened for me as well and you can definitely feel that feeling of uncharted territory…

With some of these specific instances that you mentioned. Were there books, movies, other things that you read or watched that really piqued your interest?

CIARAN McCLOSKEY: Yeah, in particular, starting with the song “The Corpses of Summer,” my fiancé is from Galveston and is very well versed in its history. She was reading a book by Erik Larson about that whole time period in Galveston surrounding the storm. I was really fascinated by a lot of the stories that I’d hear.

In particular, what I focused on with the lyrics is how the poorest people on the island around that time were the ones who were responsible for body disposal. The idea was they would be rounded up by gunpoint and told to take the bodies and dump them in the ocean. But the bodies all kept coming back because the tide kept bringing them in. I saw that as a metaphor for how depression can work—these different extreme methods you can take to just put things out of your mind immediately and how they subconsciously come back. These groups were called “dead gangs.” They were one example I have.

Regarding the Irish border conflict, Eoghan and I are from Ireland originally. We just grew up hearing stories of the troubles. Our father lived in Northern Ireland at the time, and he would have all kinds of stories about friends of his being jailed or beaten up by policemen and such.

I think that factored into the same song as well. How despite the peace, progress, and different things you hear about, these old tensions and biases keep resurfacing, kind of like the bodies that keep coming back—like when generations of children still harbor these very deep discriminatory feelings.

EOGHAN McCLOSKEY: That’s another instance of where the connection is a bit more personal just because we were both born over there. Like Ciaran was saying, we didn’t really experience the troubles firsthand, but it’s such a recent history for Ireland. Ireland’s only been a country since 1916 and the Good Friday Agreement was only in the 90s. When you spend time over there, you really get a sense of how recent all that tragedy was, you know?

CIARAN McCLOSKEY: We lived in Dublin, but we go to see our relatives in the north and you have to cross through a military checkpoint to get there, which is kind of jarring. When we would get to our uncle’s house, for example, there would be British foot soldiers patrolling the streets just amidst these children playing. You see those things when you’re very young and those images just kind of stick with you.

EOGHAN McCLOSKEY: Because it’s so recent, I think a lot of people really carry that history with them still today, you know. Not to divert the conversation too much, but now with Brexit and everything, a lot of it is coming back up to the surface in really ugly ways.

Eoghan, for you, is there anything more personal or specific for you that kind of ties into Aduanten’s music?

EOGHAN McCLOSKEY: I don’t really contribute to the lyrics, so not really in that sense. From a musical sense, I started playing drums because I got into metal. Metal is really what turned me into a serious musician. Since then, I’ve gotten interested in a lot of different styles of music. I play a lot of jazz and prog and other stuff like that.

To be totally honest, I don’t listen to a whole ton of metal anymore. For me, what’s really special about Aduanten is it’s allowed me to reconnect with the things that I really emotionally connected with about metal when I was much younger–when I first got into it–even though I don’t really connect with it as much as I used to as a fan or as a listener.

It’s been really great to get that connection again because really playing metal is completely different from playing any other style. It’s completely unique and it gives me a kind of musical satisfaction that I don’t get anywhere else.

In the same vein, I think it’s it’s really interesting to try and figure out ways to incorporate all those other not metal influences into what I do with Aduanten. That’s really where that personal connection comes from for me.

Going back a little bit, you guys were in Vex for such a long time. For Aduanten, the biggest thing — and you even commented on this piece with Invisible Oranges — is bringing in guest vocalists as a way to discern yourself from Vex.  You brought in Tanner Anderson and Damian Herring. In what ways did you three as core members work to build this new unique sound for Aduanten?

CIARAN McCLOSKEY: That’s a great question because, in Vex, we found ourselves in kind of an odd position where I would say probably about two or three years ago, we were really happy with how we were progressing musically, but we had hit a lot of dead ends in terms of our profile business-wise. It was actually Tanner from Obsequiae who suggested to me, “How about just a rebranding?”

Originally that was our approach. “Why don’t we just change the name and try to create actual new social media profiles and see what that looks like.”

We deliberated about that pretty extensively and thought, why not just take the opportunity to completely start over. What that meant for us is, where we left off with Vex, we were trying to get a lot more concise. We were trying to write shorter, more aggressive songs that still had a lot of atmosphere and exploration. We decided to really home in on that, try to get the sense of urgency that we all love in extreme metal.

We thought, “Let’s bring in guest musicians to really spice it up, to bring more distinctive flavor and ideas that we couldn’t necessarily come up with on our own.”

I think that really helped build out some of the textures, especially on the title track. A lot of what’s happening in that song has to do with Adrien Benavides, who contributed percussion and synth and helped out with a lot of the effects.

EOGHAN McCLOSKEY: The songwriting direction was where we were moving with Vex anyway. I think for me, the biggest thing that contributed to it being a different sound was the guest musicians, particularly Damien and Tanner.

You think about metal, it’s such vocal forward music. The vocals are such a prominent part of any kind of metal that’s not instrumental. They both have such a distinct sound, and we really had a good feeling that bringing them in the fold would have a really dramatic effect on the sound and it did.

CIARAN McCLOSKEY: I would absolutely agree with that. It was when we heard the vocals that Tanner and Damian tracked that I think the project really came to life and how we really gained a sense of the identity of Aduanten with this very primitive, aggressive vocal style. Specifically, the way Tanner approaches vocals felt very distinctive to us and it was very exciting at that moment. It was at that moment that we realized that this was an entirely separate entity musically.

Artwork by Adrian Benavides

From what understand, outside of you three, anyone else that contributes to the band is sort of a revolving door. How does Aduanten from Sullen Cadence take shape as this potentially amorphous, fluid idea with you three at the middle of it?

EOGHAN McCLOSKEY: It’s a good question. Maybe the most honest answer is we don’t know yet for sure. [laughs]

We’ve talked about a lot of different possibilities for how to handle the guest musician thing and a thing where we have a period of an EP and an album with the same guest musicians. Then we have a new cycle with new guest musicians where it’s another EP and album cycle.

From my perspective, it’s still a pretty new thing to us. As far as like where it’s going to go from here, I think we’re just going to figure it out as we go along and see what it is.

CIARAN McCLOSKEY: It’s a great question because we were actually just talking about this earlier this evening, the three of us. It’s very much a present-tense conversation.

I think generally that is the aesthetic we’re intrigued by—that prospect of having it not be a fully answered question—because we like the idea of it just being open to us where maybe the music can dictate what happens. We also want to make sure that the guest musicians don’t feel any pressure and that it’s mutually beneficial for everyone.

EOGHAN McCLOSKEY: Yeah, because that was really how it happened with this EP. We knew we wanted to work with Damian and Tanner because they are badasses, but we didn’t really know. It’s not like we had a sound in mind, and we ask them to deliver it. We were just like, “Do your thing, and then we’ll just see what happens.”

CIARAN McCLOSKEY: It was really a happy accident. The EP didn’t turn out the way we initially thought it would just because we had plans. We actually brought in a vocalist at one time who was going to be the new Vex vocalist, and then we were going to change the name as I mentioned earlier. That ended up not working out and then Mike, Eoghan, and I said, “Let’s just make records!”

And this was before the pandemic, so we just decided that becoming a fully functional live unit with a set of committed band members could set us back. It’s just a difficult thing and between the three of us, we have enough to make a great record. We’re fortunate to have very talented, very cool friends. I had been in touch with Damian for a while. It was already decided he was going to mix and master the EP. We just thought, “We know you’re a killer vocalist. We love Horrendous.”

Again, it was just a happy accident. It worked out really well.

You guys definitely got two powerful voices for this record. Horrendous. and Obsequiae are fantastic and very unique bands in their respective genres.

So, it sounds like for you guys—and you may not even know either—it might not always be this dark textured death metal. It sounds like you guys also have a lot of other influences as far as music that you play and like. It seems the possibilities and potentials for Aduanten are super cool and nebulous.

EOGHAN McCLOSKEY: Yeah. We think we like it that way. [laughs]

CIARAN McCLOSKEY: We love the Katatonias and the Anathemas of the world where you get this long crazy career with these drastic changes in between records. It’s a very intriguing prospect and it’s definitely open. You know, as Eoghan said, he very much lives in the jazz and prog world. Mike and I love post-punk and atmospheric, dreary rock music. That’s our favorite thing to kind of nerd out on. I can definitely see us exploring that in the extreme metal context for sure.

EOGHAN McCLOSKEY: Another band we think about a lot is King Crimson. If you look over their career, they would have a lineup, they would put out a couple of albums that have a certain sound, and then Fripp would just break up the band, and then you wouldn’t hear anything for five years. Then they would suddenly just show up with a brand-new lineup, totally different sound. We always admired that kind of thing.

Are we going to get some sort of Ulver thing where you guys are one day doing raw black metal and the next day you’re this crazy theatrical synth stuff?

EOGHAN McCLOSKEY: [laughs] It’s an open door, man! Who knows!

CIARAN McCLOSKEY: [laughs] We’re just along for the ride!

Well, let’s play hypotheticals here! So if you had an ideal guest musician for Aduanten, who would it be?

CIARAN McCLOSKEY: Oh, man. Oh, wow. Any instrument?

Any instrument, any vocals, anything like that.

CIARAN McCLOSKEY: Well, I would love to work with Brandon Perry from Dead Can Dance. If I could get him to sing on a track that would be extraordinary.

EOGHAN McCLOSKEY: I know one bucket list thing we’ve talked about before is Richard Barbieri from Porcupine Tree to play synth. He’s been a huge hero of ours for a while. You know, it’s probably a huge list. We could go on for a while.

CIARAN McCLOSKEY: Yeah, it’s a great question. We’re both going to sit here at 3 a.m. and think of dudes and say, “Oh! That’s who I should have said!”