Wednesday, August 17, 2022

an interview with Predatory Light

Santa Fe's Predatory Light are part of a wave of bands coming from the Southwestern United States that are pushing the boundaries of USBM. The quartet (who share members with other notable acts Superstition and Vanum) make the style their own with their distinctive psychedelic twist on black metal. Their sophomore full-length, Death And The Twilight Hours, is out now through 20 Buck Spin. Guitarist/vocalist L.S. answered my questions with aplomb. [Special thanks to Dave Brenner from Earsplit PR for facilitating this Q+A.]

Dreams of Consciousness: Please introduce Predatory Light - who are you, where are you from, and how would you describe your music? If there's one thing you want people to know about your band, what would it be?

We’re a four-piece band from New Mexico playing a style of black metal that features a lot of classical tropes and heavy metal sensibilities. We make this music first and foremost for ourselves, but those who eschew the ego-aesthetics of the modern metal world and are just as happy listening to Diamond Head and Bathory or Flames of Hell and Wishbone Ash should find something appealing in Predatory Light.

DoC: For those who are not familiar with your band, please give a brief history of Predatory Light - when did you form, what brought you together, and what were your goals at the time?

Predatory Light really started around 2013… I think. The project grew out of a desire to play dark, weird heavy metal. We were influenced by unique regional sounds such as the plodding melodicism of the old Hellenic bands, the bestial thundering of the Brazillian cohort, and the macabre-circus heavy metal of the Italian peninsula. Our two demos, both recorded and released in 2014, paved the way for our own brand of idiosyncratic black metal. We did a fairly minimal amount of touring out of the Southwest, managing a relatively small tour up the West Coast and back down the Rocky Mountains with the original lineup.

After recording our songs for the split with the mighty Vorde, half of us went to the Northwest, where we recomposed the band with the lineup that would go on to record the self- titled record. We really lucked out and got the opportunity to open four shows for the legendary Mortuary Drape on the west coast in 2016, which was a total dream come true. For various reasons, two of us ended up back in the southwest and the project somewhat went dormant while Superstition took on its very nasty form. Still, riffs and ideas continued to slowly take form under the surface, and then the pandemic hit. This provided kind of the perfect moment to manifest a new version of Predatory Light.

DoC: Members of Predatory Light are also in Superstition. What would you say the two projects have in common, and how would you compare them in terms of their music and intentions?

Aside from membership, I don’t really feel like the projects have a lot of conceptual or sonic overlap. Of course, with the same people making the music for both bands, there are bound to be some similarities but we’ve tried to be very cognizant about melodic choices and rhythmic ideas to give the projects some separation. Superstition is very focused on creating death metal in the vein of Incubus (GA), Possessed, early Nocturnus, Necrovore, and Blood Spill. Pretty much chaos, chromaticism, and speed at full force. Predatory Light, on the other hand, is far more heavy metal oriented. Judas Priest and Amon Duul II find there way into riffs also inspired by Tormentor and Master’s Hammer.

Conceptually, the bands aren’t too far off from each other. Superstition focuses on damnation, spiritual warfare, and the process of physical unbeing (death?). Predatory Light centered its older content around mythology and transmigration/metempsychosis whereas the new material is influenced by concepts of death in the Middle Ages, especially how existential threats, such as plague and warfare, coupled with theology to create an especially apocalyptic, yet reverential worldview. At the core of both projects is a focus on death and the nature of the eternal spirit, if there’s such a thing.

DoC: Predatory Light's eponymous debut was released in 2016. What were your goals for this release? How do you feel about it now?

Compared to the demos, we really wanted to increase the heavy metal aspects of the band and make a record with parts that felt off-kilter, creepy, and hypnotic. Some of the riffs were inspired by a bizarre and heavily chromaticized jazz guitar score of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari I watched one night. I haven’t been able to find that particular score again. I guess the ultimate goal was to make a record that was unlike most of the black metal or death metal popular at the time. I’m not sure how successful we were in our endeavor. I think there are a lot of cool ideas, riffs, and parts in all of the songs, but listening back, I think there was maybe too much repetition and not enough genuine chaos. However, there are more elements that I’d like to draw from than do away with going forward. I think the record marks an especially important milestone for the band and I’m still very proud of it.

DoC: Tell me about your songwriting process - how does a Predatory Light song start? What inspires you musically and lyrically?

Our music is heavily driven by intermusicality. So much of the songwriting process is influenced by just listening to classic bands and trying to translate ideas and atmosphere into our own style. The first riff written for the first Predatory Light song came from an attempt to rework some of the rhythmic ideas from Amon Duul II’s “The Return of Ruebezahl” and “Eye-Shaking King". Not a typical reference for a black metal song, but his kind of thing is more or less what inspires my guitar playing. Sometimes strange hypotheticals enter the situation. For instance, I try to imagine a version of Bathory where Glenn Tipton wrote half the riffs. How crazy would it be to hear a version of “Sinner” or “Dissident Aggressor” played by Quorthon? Probaby pretty fucking awesome. Tormentor is probably one of the largest influences for us, just in terms of playing totally uninhibited, crazy, evil, heavy metal.

I think the first time I heard the instrumental song “Lyssa” it full-on melted my brain. Talk about absolutely psychotic neoclassical ideas smashed into a minute and half. This was one of the things that really changed my concept of how riffs could be written to be way more melodically driven and lead oriented. Riff concepts are pretty much born out of these ideas, but they truly take shape in the group setting. It’s a long process, sometimes endlessly toiling over riffs, rhythmic aspects and transition points to no end.

Lyrically, Death and the Twilight Hours is inspired by the premodern personification of death and specifically how this was depicted in art and literature throughout the Middle Ages. Evolving death iconography, such as transi tombs, statuary, and frescos depict how cultural relationships with death changed due to existential threats. Plague, famine, war, and spiritual discord turned death into a hyperreality that warranted meditation, self evaluation, and expression. To contemplate death was a noble pasttime. Death and the Twilight Hours is pretty much just that. It’s an examination of death personified in four acts that could be loosely looked at as:

I “Death Rides Down",
II “Death Brings a Great Plague”,
III "Death and the Finality of Being", and
IV "Death Speaks in the Churchyard".

Lyrical ideas came from Bocaccio’s introduction in The Decameron, Lucretius’ account of the Athenian Plague, Miltonic poetry and the darker end of some hagiographical sources. Beyond that, take a look at the Trionfo della morte fresco from Palermo and I think you’ll have a pretty good basis for where we’re coming from.

DoC: On May 20th, your second album Death And The Twilight Hours was released. When did you start working on this album? How would you compare it to your debut, and how has the band's music/mindset changed since then?

Some of the riffs on the record were created in 2016; so six years ago, there was already this idea to push the heavy metal aspects even harder. I think the Fall of 2019 was when things really started moving with the songs; then the pandemic hit in early 2020 and we had ample time to work on the record. It was kind of crazy to be working on songs inspired by the Great Mortality of the fourteenth century, only to be thrust into a plague of our own. Talk about a fucked up case of life imitating art or wherever you want to take that concept.

As for the record, I don’t think it’s so much of departure from our debut as a very nuanced progression from our older material. Superstition definitely fostered a heightened sense of musicianship and vocal confidence on my part and I think this really helped to propel the new songs forward. Changing up the vocal style on the new release was a pretty big decision but a necessary one that should’ve happened before. A lot has changed since the debut and a lot of our interests have gone in different directions since then. Life just seems more visceral these days and I don’t think I’m the only one who thinks that way. Playing this music seems way more like a representation of a world gone mad, the manifestation of humanity’s collective psychosis. We’re only too happy to take hold of this energy and continue making our own brand of mind-melting heavy metal.

DoC: Tell me about the recording of the album - where did it take place? What led you to work with Andrew Oswald and Dan Lowndes (again), and what would you say they bring to your sound?

We’ve recorded both PL records and the Superstition album at The Kitchen Sink studio in Santa Fe. This 70s style studio has a huge live room that really seems to offer a ton of vibe and bring some big sound to the drums. For us, the decision to bring Andrew in to record Death and the Twilight Hours was a no brainer. Aside from the demos we’ve recorded ourselves, Andrew has always been part of the bigger releases. We have an excellent working relationship and Andrew has an incredible ability to make some killer sounding records. Same with Lowndes. Dan is great at what he does, he’s really communicative, approachable, and he takes the time to ensure the masters are a faithful reflection of what the band and engineer are going for. I can’t imagine working with anyone else at this point.

This will be your first release for 20 Buck Spin. Why were they the right label for Predatory Light?

We worked with 20 Buck Spin for the Superstition release and couldn’t be happier with our sonic alliance. It just seemed like the right way to go. 20 Buck Spin is incredible label, top notch purveyors of the best aural filth and we’re honored to be part of it.

DoC: Santa Fe has a growing metal scene, and a few bands from there have been featured on this site. How would you describe the scene in New Mexico, and the Southwest in general? Who do you see as your peers, within your area or otherwise?

We’re a quiet and insular group, pretty focused on doing our own thing. There’s certainly a growing scene in our part of the Southwest but we mostly keep to ourselves.

DoC: What's next for you?

We have a couple live performances coming up in July, one in Albuquerque playing with Hulder and Skeleton on July 26th and another appearance at the 20 Buck Spin showcase in LA on July 29th. Not sure after that, we’ll probably get back to working on new material. Hopefully the next release won’t take six years to come out.

Predatory Light on Bandcamp

Death and the Twilight Hours through 20 Buck Spin

the curly fry with the Southwestern kick:

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Episode 167:
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Episode 156:
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