Sunday, October 1, 2017

An Interview with Nucleus

Chicago's Nucleus has been a band to keep an eye on for a few years now, playing a progressive style of death metal that hearkens back to Nocturnus and Voivoid, both musically and thematically. Their debut full-length Sentient and the follow up EP Fragmented Self were both impressive statements of purpose, and showed how far the band had come since their early recordings. As I love music that's both thoughtful and heavy, I got in touch with the band; guitarist Dan Ozcanli was kind enough to answer my questions.

Dreams of Consciousness: Please introduce Nucleus - who are you, where are you from, and how do you describe the music you make?

We are a death metal band from Chicago, IL. We like the early 90s Finnish death metal scene a lot so we make music heavily influenced by it with a bit of other things to make our own.

DoC: If you don't mind, please give a brief history of your band - what led to you forming, and what were your intentions at the time?

Started in early 2012 - There weren't many active death metal bands at the time in Chicago, mostly thrash metal. There are also no other bands that have their lyrical content about sci-fi in the are as well. So a group of people got together and did both.

DoC: Nucleus is self-described as "sci fi themed death metal". What interests you in science fiction and how does it correspond with your music? Are there any specific works/authors that you take inspiration from?

The endless imagination in the science fiction world is really something to behold. Every story is a trip of its own and the reader is always curious to see what happens next. Well, at least I am.

As of now, we have songs based on books from Frank Herbert, Dan Simmons, Peter F. Hamilton, and Robert A. Heinlein. Some other favorites of ours are Asimov, Michael Crichton, Douglas Adams, and way too many more to name.

DoC: There are a number of bands that are described as "sci fi metal". Do you see any in particular as peers or (in the case of older bands) influences? What would you say separates Nucleus from other sci fi metal bands?

For peers - or a better term friends - the obvious one is Blood Incantation. We both have technical aspects about our music, the lyrics are sci-fi themed, and we are on the sister label (Unspeakable Axe Records) of their label (Dark Descent Records). Our drummer actually went to college with their bassist, and their bassist hit us up early last year about touring with them, which we ended up doing 8 shows later in 2016. Other peers/friends in the same style are Chthe'ilist and Zealotry.

For influences, the biggest one is one of the biggest sci-fi themed death metal bands from the early 1990s, Nocturnus. We see their debut album The Key as a masterpiece and something we hold close to us.

I briefly mentioned it earlier, but what I think separates us from other "sci fi metal" bands is us adding our own mix of things into what we are mainly influenced by. We've also started coming up with our own concept that started in our last release (Fragmented Self), rather than having songs directly about a book or movie.

DoC: Last year you released your first full-length Sentient. How long had you been working on it? How would you characterize the changes from your first release The Colony to Sentient?

We started working on Sentient since early 2014 when Ryan joined on bass. Using the term "drastic" to describe the changes from 2013's The Colony to our first full length would be a severe understatement. The lineup was different, we all had progressed in our songwriting and musical capabilities, and we actually recorded in a studio rather than our old, awful practice space. Keep in mind, The Colony was recorded within a year and a half of the band forming, whereas Sentient was recorded 3 years after that, so there was a lot of time for us to figure out what we really wanted to do and how we would do it.

DoC: Sentient was released by Unspeakable Axe (a sub-label under Dark Descent). How did you become involved with them?

If I remember what Dave told me correctly, Bill Hansen, who runs a radio show in Minneapolis/St. Paul Minnesota (KFAI's Roar of the Underground) heard us and sent our music (the Hegemony EP after it was released in early 2015, specifically) to Eric Musall, the guy who runs Unspeakable Axe Records. He liked it a lot and asked if we wanted to work with him. He's done nothing but amazing things for us since.

DoC: Earlier this year you released a split with Macabra. How did the two bands decide to partner up? How do you think you balance each other musically?

I believe Mark Riddick contacted us asking to do a split a little after Sentient came out. We both had albums released that year with Dan Seagrave artwork so it was kind of fitting. His brother actually released it on his label - Morbid Visions Music.

DoC: Dan Seagrave created the artwork for both Sentient and the Macabra split. What direction did you give him for the album art?

I believe Dave emailed him with our music and a brief concept of what we wanted done (something sci-fi related, can't remember exactly what was requested), and Dan worked up something that ended up being one of my favorite things he's done since Carnage's Dark Recollections.

The artwork for the split with Macabra is actually a combination of the Sentient artwork and Macabra's full length album the Bone, both art done by Seagrave.

DoC: The Chicago area has a long (if somewhat underappreciated) history of death metal, going back to the earliest days of the genre. How would you describe your scene? What do you think unites the bands from the region, musically or otherwise?

I personally love the scene out here. Every tour stops here and people are always coming out and having fun. There's always something to do in Chicago when it comes to music, metal or otherwise. The most obvious older death metal bands from the area still active (to my knowledge) are Cianide and Macabre, and even then they rarely play. I know Dysphoria recently reunited as well.

Our scene (as much as I don't like calling it a scene) is strong because we all get along with one another. It's near impossible to go to a show and not see someone you know. It's a large city, and a lot of bands know this and will try to stop in Chicago if possible.

DoC: What's next for Nucleus?

We are currently writing full length album number two. We hope to have it written by the end of the year or early 2018 at the very latest. We have four shows left for the year:

November 7th - w/ Tomb Mold @ Ranchos Huevos, Chicago

November 30th - w/ Morta Skuld/Embalmer/Scorched @ Livewire Lounge, Chicago

December 2nd - Winter Wolves @ St. Louis, MO (details still TBA)

December 9th - Winter Hell III @ The Korova, San Antonio, TX

Nucleus on Facebook

Nucleus on Bandcamp

Sentient on vinyl through Unspeakable Axe Records