Spectral Voice Talk Outer-Dimensional Horrors of the Mind
Spectral Voice: a Denver-based death/doom outfit that’s typically described using synonyms of "rotting" — like decaying, or putrescent. They’ve generated a lot of buzz for a band that has yet to put out a full-length, and it’s not just because they share members with Blood Incantation (read all about about BI’s new album here). If you like Finnish death-metal, Disma, diSEMBOWELMENT, or just slow, ugly death metal in general, this band is worth checking out.
Spectral Voice have released several demos and splits over the past few years, and they have a split 7” with Denmark death metal band Phrenelith coming out October 14, a joint release by Dark Descent and Iron Bonehead in Germany. While most SV songs are slow starters with long, doomy intros, new track “Peeled Veins” gets right to it. The doom part comes a little later, about halfway through the song, where the music slows to a crawl. The guitars ring out, the bass starts up again, and then the song slowly builds up to the pummeling mid-paced tempo they do so well, with some cool guitar harmonies and well-placed atmospheric accents. (The Phrenelith track is awesome, too.)
Below, Eli Wendler, drummer and vocalist for Spectral Voice, talks about the upcoming split and plans for a full-length album. He also goes deep on occult psychology, Facebook fan sites and molding his life around playing music.
On the Necrotic Doom demo, it says that you and Paul Riedl record all the instruments; you thank others for help with live performances. Does that mean that Spectral Voice is at its core only two people?
At the time, that was definitely the case. Paul [Riedl] and I started the band while we were at practice for a different band. Other people kept not showing up. He and I worked together and hung out all the time, and so we would be at band practice anyways, and when no one else would show up, we would just jam these ideas that we had for the first couple Spectral Voice songs. And then we tried a bunch of people out — we even put out a Craigslist ad, which I’ve never done before — and that didn’t work. Basically, we just couldn’t find anybody for a couple years that wanted to do the same kind of thing that we were going for and fill the lineup. So, we just decided to record the demo as a two-piece — it was kind of like, fuck it, we’ve got these songs. Paul and I wrote most of them on guitar together just in my room or his room, so when we went to record them, it just made sense. And it was easier to do it that way than to keep searching for other members. We probably had the songs to the demo written for close to a year before we recorded them.
We actually had Morris [Kolontyrsky, guitarist] and Jeff [Barrett, bassist] with us [as full band members] before we recorded the demo, but we were just like, you know what, let’s just let it be what it is. This is this era in Spectral Voice, this is the beginning, let’s keep it how it was. And we recorded two splits since then, and Morris and Jeff both play on those. It’s definitely more of collaborative songwriting process now.
Who writes the lyrics?
Paul and I both write lyrics. I think on the older demos it was split more 50/50. On the newer material, I have the majority of the lyrics — like the rough drafts, or at least the ideas or the feeling of the song — and then he’ll come over and say, “Hey, say this instead.” We’re pretty much on the same page as to what we’re dealing with lyrically for the full-length.
What types of things do you write about?
For me, the things that interest me are the aspects of katabasis, which in psychology means looking within, or going downward, like a descent into the self. So, the full-length will kind of deal with these outer-dimensional things that are maybe all around us. Sort of like a Lovecraftian From Beyond kind of thing, but more in a psychological sense. So that rather than singing about things that are scary, or about monsters or creatures or horrifying subjects, it’s more about diving into the genesis of those horrors and where they exist inside the human mind. Kind of like a journey into the mind, to the outside of our perception and our dimension, and looking at the terror and the unknown obscurities that are outside of us, but come from within. Kind of Carl Jung meets Austin Spare. I like those two guys a lot.
But in Spectral Voice we don’t get too into any one particular school or idea, or say, “This is the way it is, this is what we follow.” Because none of us are completely on the same page; we all have different lives, daily or metaphysically speaking. We all have different beliefs, so we try not to push any one over the other. Spectral Voice is definitely secular.
So far, Spectral Voice have put out several demos and splits. You mentioned something about a full-length?
That’s what we’ve been working on. So, we recorded for two splits. One should be out in October with a band called Phrenelith from Denmark. Both of those were recorded last July, so they’re over a year old. So, we’ve been working on new material since then. We’re probably a little over halfway in the writing process. And it’s kind of been a time when we were writing a lot, and then touring and playing a lot of shows locally, and with all the other guys being in Blood Incantation, you know, you can’t go full-time with both bands all the time, so it’s an ebbing and flowing of energy. So, it’s been a natural thing, but it’s maybe a bit slower than some people would expect. But it’s really important for us to not rush anything. I’m hesitant to say when it will happen. But we had practice last night, and we were pretty in the zone, carving out more songs. So yeah, right now we have more than half done.
How did the split with Phrenelith come about? I understand you do some guest vocals on the Phrenelith track — how did that work, since they’re based in Denmark?
David [Mikkelsen] — he plays in Undergang and also in Phrenelith — and I have known each other for about five or six years now, mostly through email correspondence. First time we met was at Rites of Darkness in 2011 down in Texas, so we got to finally meet then, and we’ve always talked about trying to do something together. Phrenelith started around the same time that we started, and we just said, “Hey, we should do a split together.” And then I went to stay with him for a couple weeks in Copenhagen, and it just happened to coincide with when they were recording their song for the split. It was his idea. He just said, “You came all the way out here, you might as well be on it.” So, I just recorded a couple lines of grunts and vocals and stuff. It was cool. Phrenelith is awesome.
Metal is a small world.
Yeah, underground metal is like 100 people. I’m convinced of it. It’s always like every place you go or new person you meet, you realize you know the same people. It’s cool; it shows the community aspect of underground metal.
So, when you record, do you record in analog or digital?
For the two splits we did, we recorded at the same place where Blood Incantation recorded their full-length. It was all analog, but then we sent it to Dan Lowndes at Resonance Sound to have it mastered. So, it was an analog recording, but a digital master.
For the demo, recording was hellish. It made no sense. We basically bought a bunch of gear at Guitar Center to record it, returned the gear as soon as we were done with it, and didn’t know what we were doing. We recorded at our friend Matt’s house up in the mountains, and just spent all weekend on it. It sounded great when we were listening back to it, but we didn’t realize that when we bounced it all down, it was insane, it was just too much. I don’t remember if it was tape or digital, honestly, but it was hell. We also sent it to Dan Lowndes to have it mastered, and initially he was like, “Dude, this is fucked. I can’t, sorry. You’re going to have to re-record this, I can’t do anything with this.” But then he was like “Okay, let me give it a shot, I’ll see what I can do.” And he totally saved it. If I could show people a before and after, they wouldn’t believe it. I mean, I have nothing but the utmost respect for Dan and what he does. Because he definitely saved it, and he actually ended up giving the demo a super unique sound that we’re really happy with; it fit the atmosphere perfectly. So, that’s why we chose to go with him the next time we went and recorded at a proper studio. We trust him, and he knows exactly what we’re going for, and we’ve talked for a long time. And since he saved the demo, I was like, we owe it to him to give him a decent recording to work with.
I noticed that SV doesn’t have much of an Internet presence. Your website is really out of date, and the upcoming shows section hasn’t been updated for over a year. Is that a conscious choice?
It’s not intentional by any means. None of us are very well versed in the Internet, and we don’t have an interest in having a Facebook or a Twitter or an Instagram. The music is kind of separated from that kind of human aspect. None of our art has any humans in it. I feel like the music is more linked to the intangible and these sort of outside forces. Not that there’s anything wrong with having a social media presence or anything like that; we just choose not to.
Our website is totally just my fault. I’m just really bad with keeping up on it. We don’t really do enough to stay up to date, but I’ve been talking to my friend for months now to try to get him to help me have a website because this is stupid. People email us and ask, “Hey, is this right? I saw that you were playing this show, but I don’t see it anywhere on your website.” And I’m like, "Yeah, don’t listen to us; we’re pretty irresponsible." But eventually maybe [our website] will be useful.
Speaking of social media, are you aware that you have a Facebook fan site?
Yeah, I actually just saw that a couple weeks ago and it weirds me out. I have no idea who made it. I have a bunch of friends on Facebook who “like” that page.
It has more than a thousand likes.
Yeah, that’s cool. I have no idea who made that. They have weird pictures from our personal Instagram accounts and Facebook and things, and I don’t know how they find it. And they also have pictures from shows that I’ve never seen, so they’re definitely more up to date on my band than I am. Which, I guess somebody has to be. So, I guess to whoever did that, thank you? I think? Maybe introduce yourself next time, I don’t know. I’m always really shocked and really humbled and grateful that people are so into what we’re doing. So, it’s cool to see, but it’s just strange. It’s hard to get used to people liking what you’re doing. I’ve been in bands for years that no one ever cared about, so it’s cool that somebody does, but I’m just not used to it, I guess.
Is this your only band right now or do you have other projects?
Yeah, I play in other bands. We’re all in multiple bands. I play in a punk band called City Hunter, and I have a couple random — I don’t want to say they’re dormant, but not exactly active — ambient experimental projects. Paul has a couple projects; I have a couple with roommates, and one with Paul. Morris plays in this kind of avant-garde post-punk band called Homebody. We’re all in different projects. But Spectral Voice is definitely a main focus for us. If we’re talking about traveling, it’s not with other bands; it’s about Spectral Voice. Or, for those guys, it’s also about Blood Incantation. So, yeah, we all play in other bands, but Spectral Voice and Blood Incantation are like THE bands.
How do you have all the time to do all those things? What do you do for work?
I mean, we don’t really have time; we just make time. I work six days a week, and then I’m at some sort of practice usually like four of those days. Ever since I was 13, I knew that I wanted to play music and be in bands and stuff, so I’ve pretty much molded my life around it, trying to make that work.
I’m a gardener. I do landscaping stuff during the day. And then I work at this restaurant that’s kind of fancy and posh — good money — a couple nights on the weekend. So, I have enough money to not have to really worry. I also don’t really go out. None of us really party or anything. We’re not the most social people, so it’s not like we’re going to bars every night. We’re usually just playing guitar and drums and jamming with each other every night.
You recently did a U.S. tour with Undergang. Is it too soon to be thinking about more touring plans?
Yeah. We’re playing California Deathfest in October, but that’s all we have outside of Denver. We’re just kind of going into hibernation to write the full-length and get that knocked out. And Blood Incantation just had [their new full-length] Starspawn come out, so those dudes have a lot on their plate, and I’m sure they’re going to have plenty of tour offers.
I just heard that recently. It’s really good.
It’s a great record. I’m proud of those guys. I’m proud to say I’m in a band with them. I mean, that record has been recorded for a long time, so I’ve heard it a bunch, and I’ve just known that it was going to take everyone by storm and blow everyone’s mind, and it’s really exciting for those guys, and really cool to see that happening. So, we’re just going to focus on writing and let them do their thing for a while, because I want them push the record as much as they can, because I think it’s really strong and I think they’re also proud of it. So, it’s Blood Incantation’s time right now, I guess.
Sharing members means that Spectral Voice and Blood Incantation are usually linked together.
People always ... I guess it’s hard not to, but people always mention one band in the same breath as the other. And we always try to just make sure that everyone know that they’re two separate bands — two separate entities — that have two completely different approaches to what they’re trying to convey. And some people don’t see that. It’s not like we’re ashamed of each other, obviously. The “members of” thing is a sort of advertisement that a lot of people like to use, but I guess personally I’ve always thought that that shouldn’t have anything to do with the music. When people start using it as a sort of selling point, I think it becomes kind of cheap marketing. I’ve just never been a fan of that.
When your full-length does come out? Is that going to be on Dark Descent?
Yeah, that’ll be on Dark Descent. We’ve already talked about it. We were talking to a couple other labels early on; when the demo came out, people approached us. But I’ve also known Matt [Calvert] for six or seven years or something at this point, and he lives like an hour away from us. It’s really cool to have the label be a personal friend first. If you have something to take care of, you don’t have to send an email to a guy you’ve never met; this way I can just call my friend and talk about it. It’s much more casual and feels way more natural to work with Matt than it does anybody else. We’ve worked with other labels, too. Iron Bonehead in Germany has been incredibly supportive. He actually did a European version of our demo just to get it in the hands of people out there. Patrick [Kremer] is the best; that guy is the man. He’s co-releasing the Phrenelith split with Dark Descent, too. Iron Bonehead is the only other label that we’ve worked with other than Dark Descent, and it will probably stay that way. Those two guys are very solid. I have lots and lots of respect for what both of those guys do, and they’re so easy to work with.