Demo:listen: Ootheca

The particular timeline in which we find ourselves sees death metal getting not only stronger but more relevant every year. As the world turns and turns to shit, new generations of desensitized, highly adept extreme metal musicians are continuously answering that sempiternal call to conjure forth death metal from the black cosmos. Likewise, as the death metal keeps getting stronger, the inspiration flows ever on. 

Enter Ootheca, a death/doom/grind duo from Salt Lake City who come riding the latest wave of death metal destruction as if on a raft made of bones, skulls and the discarded egg shells of the insect nightmares from which they take their band’s name. After setting Excretions of Lore, their five-song demo back in September, loose into the wild, Ootheca proceeded to scale to the top of many a death metal fans’ ‘Bands to Watch’ lists. 

According to Mike, the Utah-based duo’s guitarist, bassist and synth player, “Ian [drums, vocals and also synth] already had the idea to do a death metal project called Ootheca a while ago before we ever met. He drew up the logo before we ever jammed. At first it was going to be both of us on guitar when we started it back in 2019. We wrote a few songs as a guitar duo and then the COVID Pandemic happened in 2020.”

Mike continues to explain Ootheca’s origins from his point-of-view: “I live in Ogden and [Ian] lives in Salt Lake City which is about 35 miles from my apartment so we took a step back from Ootheca and I started Egregore by myself to stay busy while trapped inside at the beginning of the pandemic.  Egregore ended up getting signed to Sentient Ruin Laboratories after a few cassettes demos and I released an EP, Thought Form with them which had some of the riff ideas from the early Ootheca days. The full-length Egregore album that will come out whenever this vinyl record shortage is over also has a few older Ootheca riffs on it. After Ian and I did a few split cassette tape releases of our solo projects on my ‘fake’ joke label, Astral Tulpa Records, Ian messaged me and said let’s do Ootheca again but this time Ian was on drums since finding a drummer is difficult around here. People out here don’t like to blast like we wanted so Ian said fuck it and taught himself to blast well enough for Ootheca to happen. So it’s kinda like Ootheca was always there in the background while we worked on our solo projects Throat Breach and Egregore.”

For his part, Ian remembers: “Well, I’d moved to Salt Lake around the last quarter of 2019, and I believe Mike and I had talked previously on Instagram before meeting officially at an Ulthar show. From then on we just kinda hung out and jammed every now and then, but we were sort of deep in our own projects at the time, and when the pandemic struck things were uncertain for a while. After that stuff died down and we started hanging out again. We tried jamming some more, and we tried finding a guy to play drums for us since we were both writing guitar parts, but nobody wanted to do what we wanted to do or they were too busy. One day I think I’d had like too much to drink or something, and I said ‘Hey man, what if I just played drums? Give me like two months and I’ll be able to do the stuff we want.’ I’d had an electric kit for a year at that point, and I was only sort of familiar with playing drums. But he came over and we started jamming that way and that’s basically how Ootheca happened. This was probably during the summer of 2021 I think? So as we jammed, the more I got better, and honestly it fast tracked a lot of how I developed as a drummer in that regard. As for the name, I’d already drawn the logo for the name as like a fake band logo for a portfolio piece, so it naturally stuck.”

According to Mike, the sound we hear when we press play on the Excretions of Lore demo is the result of admitting to yourself what kind of music you really want to make. He says, “In the beginning we wanted to have a death/doom sound similar to Anatomia, Autopsy, Disembowelment, Rippikoulo, etc. However, as we began jamming a lot more blastbeat parts got added in since I love Carcass and Repulsion. Ian is way into noise/art rock so he found a way of adding those groovy sections into Excretions of Lore. I also wanted to have a bit of ‘70s dad rock in there since that’s usually what I play and learn the most of in my freetime. The solo at the end of ‘Excretions of Lore’ was my attempt at doing some Uli Jon Roth dive bomb madness from his days in the Scorpions but if he played in Anatomia or Autopsy. The finished result of the demo was way more atmospheric and full of all these layers I didn’t hear in my head ‘til I recorded the guitar tracks. It’s hard to see/hear the full vision when the writing process is just 2 dudes on drums and guitar. Know what I’m saying?!”

Ian says, “We were going for something more in line with crusty, sludgy death metal like Autopsy, Anatomia, and Coffins. But I think the result was a little more different than those? I don’t know how to describe it, personally. It’s definitely death metal, there’s a little doom and grind thrown in, but I think it just took shape that way because that was the most fun way to play, and I think that shows on the tracks. We’ve always kind of just wanted to do whatever sounds best to us, what pushes us as musicians, and not really focus on what bands we take influence from.”

As for what themes Ootheca explores and where their lyrics burrow, Ian says, “It’s kind of funny, honestly. We’d already had the name Ootheca in mind when we started, so we figured a bug theme would be kind of cool.”

For instance, Ian says, “Proboscis” is about “[t]ranscending the mammalian impulse. I dunno, I feel like saying too much takes all the fun out of it.” Ian goes on to explain that ootheca are “the egg sack[s] of a praying mantis or cockroach. I dunno if you’ve ever seen a video of those things but watching them hatch is gnarly. We’re both fans of science fiction, and drowning whatever lyrical theme in allusive metaphors about interdimensional bugs seemed like a fun way to do it. I think the way our playing fits together meshes with that idea too. To me, the demo sounds kind of crawly, kind of slimy.”

“As for the music themes,” Mike says, “I wanted elements of late ‘80s/early ‘90s death grind with moments of me worshiping at the Altar of Dad Rock in secret when applicable to a song. Ian also showed me the philosophical works of Mark Fisher. He wrote about how parts of our collective musical/artistic past tend to creep up on us and repeat in slightly different ways. Almost as though they are ghosts from beyond that haunt us, hence the instrumental called ‘Hauntology.’ Not going to tell you where the idea came from but it’s a Bay Area Thrash band… So with ‘Hauntology’ in mind, I see Ootheca in the vein of the old school of death metal past but with some unexpected twists here and there.”

Surprisingly, Mike tells us: “The first Ootheca song we ever wrote isn’t even on the first demo.  It’s been a while so I’m not even sure what it was but for the demo? It was probably the doomy track ‘Excretions of Lore’ or at least most of it was written first before ‘Proboscis.’”

Ian remembers: “We’d written a bunch of songs ranging between black metal and death metal, but Ootheca’s first song was the title track ‘Excretions of Lore.’ We’d have recording sessions where we jam in big chunks and we’d pick out parts we like and throw ‘em together as a song, and then those parts would change as we played them.”

Reflecting more on the songwriting process for their demo, Mike says, “I came up with most of the riffs besides the guitar solo section and part of the groovy breakdown one night after Ian messaged me about bringing Ootheca back. I work from home at the moment so once I was off work I walked into the other room and grabbed my guitar, played a few ideas and BOOM! The riffs were there after the songwriting haze wore off. The idea was to have the doomy side of Finnish Death Metal meet the 2nd Carcass album. I recorded the riffs on my phone and then emailed them to Ian to let him know the general outline for the song. That tends to be how we write. In all honesty, the song is me trying to play one riff in a few different ways to get the most out of it. You notice Bill from Carcass doing that here and there on those early songs. It seems to be an effective method of songwriting. So as I was driving to Salt Lake City to jam with Ian on the ideas for the demo, I was listening to Abhorrence compilation Completely Vulgar a lot. I feel like that style of death metal influenced me quite a bit when we wrote the demo. There is something magical about guitars tuned to A that make it sick and twisted. Anyways, we jammed on the ideas and then eventually decided on the main structure after a few sessions. Usually we record each session and listen back to the jams to grab the bits and pieces we like to flesh them out  till we get the final version.  That would be how the groovy breakdown and the solo section ended up in the final version. Those were just some ideas that came to us at the moment and fit the song so we kept them. Sometimes the song writes itself when you least expect it.”

Ian agrees, saying “Since it was the first one, I think that may have been the one we spent the most time on. Originally, it was supposed to be a lot longer, but we’re both pretty impatient guys. It’s hard to describe. We both love death-doom, but somehow when we aim for that it just doesn’t happen. Whatever happens, happens! I guess follow your instinct, follow the riff, and let the song sort of write itself and I think you’ll end up with something more enjoyable. As for what it’s about? The last two lines of the song are, ‘Excretion of lore/Pheromonal transcendance.’ So do with that what you will.”

“After we wrote the 2 songs, we recorded them at the same place where we have been practicing for a while, Ian’s apartment in Salt Lake City, UT,” Mike relates. “We recorded the drums and one guitar track at the same time. Later I went home to Ogden to record 2 guitar tracks over the scratch track from the session and then added bass plus a few sections for guitar solo stuff or harmonies. I then sent it back to Ian for him to add vocals. He then mixed and mastered it at that point. During the writing/recording process, the world was looking pretty bleak that summer. Remember,  this was when a lot of the world was on fire, so due to the part of Utah we live in being like a fish bowl because of the mountains holding in pollution, all the smoke from the fires ended making  the pollution in SLC, UT worse than China. No joke. Google it.  I couldn’t even see the mountains from the freeway as I drove to Ian’s during this time. It was a trip and felt way more dystopian than 2020 was. So maybe all the smoke pollution and lack of oxygen helped us write  these strange and twisted songs? Brain damage from this event can have it’s benefits I suppose.”

Ian tells us, “We both use the same recording software, which is a massive help, especially since we’ve both been doing solo stuff for so long now. We both love underground demos to death, but we both live in apartments half an hour away from each other, so doing stuff analog isn’t really an option for either of us right now. I didn’t get a real drum kit until a couple days before writing this, so he would just come over and we’d plug my electric drum kit and his guitar into a computer and just record it all into a DAW. So we’d get a take of us both playing our parts at once (drums and guitar), flesh them out with another guitar and bass part, then add vocals last.”

As for the synth tracks on the demo, Ian says, “The idea for synth bits came about as the songs got shorter. Mike loves synthwave a bunch, I have a deep appreciation for ambient music, so it seemed natural that we also shoehorn in this interest into the demo. It wasn’t about “How can we fill up tape time,” but more like, “How can we make this unique.” We both feel like many intro/outro/interlude bits on albums generally serve to just pad out length, but we wanted to make them specifically in a way where they add to the experience of listening to the tape all the way through, as well as serving as tracks in their own right. I wrote the intro part I think right after we’d recorded ‘Proboscis,’ and Mike did the interlude track ‘Hauntology.’ Once every other song was completely done we both sat down and made the outro track together.”

Mike tells us that since recording Excretions of Lore, Ootheca are back at work on more material. He says, “Well, since the cassette tapes we made sold out quickly after the release, we went back to work on making an EP with 3 full songs plus the usual synth/instrumental sections between songs. I saw a few comments online saying the demo was too short but that was the point. You don’t want to show your whole hand in a game of poker, correct?”

Ian says lately it’s been “lots of songwriting, lots of recording.” He says, “I’ve finally gotten my hands on an analog drum set, so we’re hoping next year we can take it live once we find a bassist and possibly another guitarist.”

Mike says the new EP “will most likely be out in January.” He goes on to say, “After that, we would like to play these songs live but we just need to find the other members who are down for the blastbeats and riffs. As for a full-length album? Stay tuned and find out. We don’t have any social media accounts for Ootheca so check out our Bandcamp page for future news or locate our personal social media accounts if you can find them. Also, shout out to the friends in Bloodstar, Deathblow, Barlow, Sacrilegion, Grave Disgust, Abstracter, Sentient Ruin Laboratories, and Sean from Desert Wasteland Productions.”

Ian likewise promises a new “EP, very soon, for sure. Then probably another EP or a whole album, we don’t know yet. But after said next EP, maybe a short little break so I can finish up some Throat Breach stuff, I’m sure Mike will make something for Egregore, and then we’ll see about playing live as soon as we can. The future is bright for us, I feel, and we definitely want to keep the momentum we already have going as long as we can.” 


Support Ootheca and keep an eye on their Bandcamp for the new EP out next month!