Wednesday, September 28, 2022

catching up with Deformatory (2022)

DoC friends Deformatory have been on this site enough times that they should get their own column. The duo have a new EP out now called Harbinger; vocalist/guitarist Charlie Leduc was kind enough to answer my questions about the release (and fix my dates).

Dreams of Consciousness: The last time you were on Dreams of Consciousness was last year (and not two years ago like I originally thought) when your third album Inversion of the Unseen Horizon was released. What have you been up to since then?

In the last year, we have kept ourselves quite busy with finalizing everything for the new EP - getting it recorded, shoot & edit videos, etc - on top of continuing to ride the last waves of the Inversion release. Personal lives have gone through much positive and difficult change for both of us and diving deep into this new album was the perfect outlet.

DoC: You have a new four song EP out now called Harbinger. What was the genesis of this release? When did you start working on these songs?

Once the recording of Inversion of the Unseen Horizon was complete and we were trapped in promo purgatory, there was a period of time where the Covid restrictions finally eased up (temporarily though), and we were finally able to meet up at the rehearsal space again. That first real jam was fucking nuts! We ran through the entire Inversion album about 10% faster than the album, and just completely destroyed ourselves in the process. We didn't know how much we needed to release all of this aggression and frustration we had inside of us from the pandemic, forced restrictions, etc.

So, we stayed tapped into that aggression and belted out the first song (Plagueworm) after we finished warming up with the album playthrough. Once it came out, we knew we had to channel the rest of it and release it, if not for anything other than a cathartic necessity. The next time we met up, we fleshed out the entire roadmap to the EP (lyrical direction, titles, artwork, release timeline and writing approach) and made it our priority to do so before the end of 2022.

DoC: Your last three albums were tied together by an overarching story/concept. Is there a concept behind the four songs on Harbinger? How much were they influenced by recent events?

Inversion of the Unseen Horizon was the final chapter in the concept series that tied it all back to our debut, In The Wake of Pestilence. Harbinger is a completely separate and unique force of madness. Lyrically, each song dives into my own opinions surrounding the global pandemic. The songs (lyrically and musically) are lined up to match certain key points in the Covid timeline. All lyrics are written allegorically so as to conceal and restrict the viewpoints for only those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

Fundamentally with Harbinger, people don't need to know the why behind it. They need to feel it for what it is and allow their minds and bodies to respond to it accordingly. And to that, we only give away insignificant secrets of this album in a calculated fashion as a point of misdirection. Sounds a bit familiar now, doesn't it?

DoC: You recorded this album with Topon Das (who also mixed and mastered Inversion). What were the sessions like? How would you describe Topon's approach as a producer/engineer? What would you say he brings to Deformatory's sound?

Working with Topon is a terrific experience from beginning to end. First, he's the most humble, down-to-earth and genuine person you will meet. He's incredibly easy to get along with and we have probably spent more time hanging out with him talking about music & bands than actually working on any of the albums we have done together.

He aims to create a comfortable environment for any band that comes into his studio. He's really good at determining what a band wants to do and works with them to achieve that. A notable example for us is that we didn't record any of the albums with him using a click track, or tempo map, or anything that is pretty standard for audio engineers, especially in death metal. We wanted to present ourselves in audio format to be as real as possible, and for us, that's without a click track, tempos going all over the place and us just "feeling" the song as we play. Fortunately, Topon understood exactly what we wanted to achieve and guided us through the best way to do it.

The way we have recorded these two albums with him has been like this:

- Set up and record the drums in the studio in real-time, with me playing the guitar with Neil in the drum room. This means that we're capturing the drum performance from full takes of songs as we are playing them in the moment.

- Once the drums have been captured, Topon sends over an MP3 of the drum files and the scratch guitar track that he records during the drum session. Then, I take the drum tracks to our rehearsal space, and record all guitars (2 rhythm tracks, 1 or two lead/texture tracks, and the bass guitar).

- Once all of the guitars have been recorded to the drum tracks, we set up an in-person session at Apartment 2 [Topon's studio] to go on a Tone Quest. We try out all sorts of different amps, pedals and cabinet combinations to find the sounds we want for the strings. Once that is done, we re-amp the guitar tracks and then go over the songs together to make production & mix suggestions, etc. Afterwards, the vocals are recorded, which I do at our back at our rehearsal space with our own recording set-up. Everything is sent back to Topon who does a final mix of everything for us to review. We make suggestions, if necessary and after a few versions, we have the finished mastered product. The whole process is pretty quick and doesn't take more than a month or two, especially on Harbinger.

Working with him on these last few albums has really been an enjoyable experience and we look forward to working with him on future creations. He just gets it. He knows what we are about and what we want to convey. Topon has become an extended member of our outfit, whether he knows it or likes it. He pushes us to be the most extreme versions of ourselves, without losing sight of the most important factor: Having fun & being real.

DoC: In the "Creating Harbinger" video on Youtube, you talk about the physical strain that comes with playing as fast as you do. Do you and Neil have a warm up/conditioning regimen that you do before rehearsing/recording/playing live? What do you recommend for younger guitar players who want to increase their speed without accruing long term injury?

We definitely do not have a warm-up or conditioning regimen. The most I do is ensure I have a cup of coffee at the start of every rehearsal. That's my routine and Neil is very similar.

Here's the thing: Pain is fucking good for you. For me, it's one of the only ways I know I'm still alive! If I am not in physical pain or discomfort after rehearsing or playing live, I feel like I'm selling out.

Listen, I know we're labelled as a "tech death" band, and that should imply we have a proper technique with scale exercises lined up on our ergonomically efficient headless guitars and all of that shit. Fuck that. That is definitely not us. We turn on the lights, turn on the amps, crank it and fucking go until we can't. That's it!

My advice for younger players is to do the same. Feel every goddamn part of it, especially if it's uncomfortable.

[Take it from an old man who spent years training/sparring without warming up properly and now has joints like Rice Crispies... stretch everyday and your middle aged self will thank you - Dreams of Chronic Pain-lessness.]

DoC: In addition to the regular version of Harbinger, you also released an instrumental version of the EP (as you did with Inversion). What is the reason behind releasing instrumental versions of your albums and EPs? Who is the intended audience?

We release the instrumental versions primarily for ourselves. Neil and I get so used to hearing the songs sans vocals that we actually miss hearing them when everything gets tossed onto the tracks for an album. We're also big fans of getting bonus tracks, rehearsal demos, live rips and stuff like that on albums that we like. It's our own little way of paying tribute to that.

DoC: This will be your fourth time being interviewed for DoC; you've been on regularly enough that you should probably have your own column. So I'll turn the floor over to you - what do you want to talk about? What's something in the world of metal that you think people should know and doesn't get enough attention?

I was wondering when I would get my own column on DoC! Honestly, I have always appreciated our chats and correspondences over the last 9 years or so. It's always good to be connected with passionate, musically-minded people. Thank you for all of the terrific work you do for bands & fans like us. It's definitely a labor of love - that much we know! I hope you keep it going and growing for as long as we do.

DoC: What's next for you?

Harbinger came out on September 13. We've chosen to not release any advance tracks or singles; just like it was done back in the day! Instead, the whole EP is coming out as one complete music video and it premiered via No Clean Singing (another fantastic site dedicated to the underground scene). People are just going to have to wait for that to drop to hear anything off the new EP. After the release date, Harbinger will be available on every streaming platform that you can think of. Limited quantities of CDs and cassettes tapes have been pressed and can be purchased via our Bandcamp page.

As for us, well, we already have new songs written for our next full-length album that we're working on. We have the concept, lyrical theme, musical direction and all of the roadmap shit completed and now we're forging ahead with painful rehearsal & writing sessions whenever we can.

Thanks again for a great set of questions and another round of support for the crazy shit that we do. We really appreciate you, and your readers.

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I'm Crushing Your Head, I'm Crushing Your Head:

Episode 193:
checking in with
Deformatory (2016)
Episode 153:
Fuck The Facts