Until ‘As Was': Black Anvil on New York, Metallica and Onyx
You can see them around town — usually from across the room. Clad in black leather vests with giant embroidered patches, the foursome of Paul Delaney, Raeph Glicken, Jeremy Sosville and Travis Bacon are NYBM (New York Black Metal) team Black Anvil, a crew of musicians that also dabble in genres as disparate as melodic hardcore, EBM and traditional heavy metal.
Formed in 2007, Black Anvil's opening bell was sounded in the wake of Kill Your Idols. Delaney and Glicken joined longtime collaborator Gary Bennett to release debut LP Time Insults the Mind soon thereafter, and the band was in motion, dropping two more releases for Relapse in 2010 and 2014 (Triumvirate and Hail Death, respectively). Now without longtime collaborator Bennett, Black Anvil are readying their most ambitious effort yet, As Was. It's due January 16 on Relapse, and you can stream the title track for the first time below.
Considering the major shift in the band's lineup, we cornered Delaney to ask him a few questions about the new LP, the addition of guitarist Travis Bacon, his love for '90s rap and so much more.
The record is probably the most dynamic work that Black Anvil have done. It seems like a big step forward, with some chances taken and corresponding payoff.
It was what we wanted to do, and we tried to not think about it too much. The first record was basically the three of us psyched to be in a band again, so although there was a vision, the excitement was really steering the ship. The second record and third were where we tried to buckle down and move in a direction. I just realized that third record has some fat that could be trimmed. I’m completely happy with the progression; it needed to happen, but I don’t want to release the same record over and over. So, I try to listen from a fan’s perspective, too. Would I get tired of it?
When we were demoing, there was just a lot of room to sing in there. So, we just sort of looked at each other and said, “When is enough enough?” I would have pushed even further, but Raeph reeled me in a bit. I think the clean singing turned us into another band almost.
It’s kind of the same with me and hardcore. I love it, but I do get a little tired of it from time to time. If you eat pizza for lunch every day, you’re gonna get sick of it eventually. And you get ostracized if you do anything different in the hardcore scene, just like in black metal. But I don’t give a fuck. I just want it to be bigger and better.
Gary Bennett had been in and out of the band based on your touring and recording schedules. He is no longer part of Black Anvil. What part did he play in As Was?
Gary is on a few songs but we’ve decided to move forward without him amicably. He’s been focusing on Kill Your Idols with another lineup. Sos [Jeremy Sosville] and I played on the rest of the LP, where I played some guitar, bass and vocals. It was interesting because I’ve been playing with Gary and Raeph for 20 years, so it’s a bit of a change, but I think the results are pretty great. The demos were recorded at Raeph’s, and we did the LP with Colin Marston in Queens. Tore [Stjerna] mixed and mastered it. We’ve never not been involved in that process, but we trusted Tore, and when it came back, it was perfect. Literally only one change. He’s done excellent live sound and records that I love, so I just knew he’d get it.
Also, Travis Bacon was added to the fold. From the outside, he’s done hardcore bands and D-beat bands, and he has interest in / involvement with industrial and goth stuff. What made you confident that Travis was your man following Gary’s departure? Those are some big shoes to fill.
Travis is a great guitar player all around. He’s always had tremendous respect for the rest of the band, and we admire his drive and focus. We had a few “bro down” moments where he expressed his admiration with how serious we took the band, and I appreciate that. To replace my brother was really tough, but to do it with Travis was really cool. He did his homework, shifted his playing style, asked a lot of questions and put in the work. He was also really humble about it all, which he really didn’t need to be, but that just showed a level of reverence for us and the project. Attitude and work ethic are always the most important.
Let me ask you the same question twice, sort of. How do you feel about the state of hardcore right now? What about black metal?
I don’t really care or pay attention. I like what I like. It usually comes in waves with lots of great stuff, and then hardly any great stuff.
It's funny because, being in both arenas, there are a lot of similarities between the two. That sort of DIY aspect. Black metal is very much rooted in punk, [a] punk ethos, the way the guys talk about things and the way they approach the music. Listen to Bathory; it's like GBH on 45 rpm.
Outside of Kill Your Idols, Deathcycle and Manipulate, what else are you working on?
None More Black is always sort of circling, but when that happens, it happens. I don’t know if or when we’ll play again. If it happens, I’ll be there.
The drummer from Alkaline Trio is starting a very Nifelheim-y band, and I’m doing some vocals on it. He mentioned me playing bass, so I might do that, which is cool. He’s a maniac metalhead. Also, the occasional fill-in thing.
A band playing a style of music rarely listens to said style in their off time. How did you start really digging into a wider palette of music?
Raeph is older than me, and has always been sort of like a brother. So, growing up alongside him, he introduced me to so much cool shit that expanded my mind. I met him when I was 16, and he was always like, “You gotta hear this.” He opened my eyes to crazy shit early.
What was the first time you saw Raeph play?
Well, the first time I actually saw him, he was stage-diving during Murphy’s Law in Staten Island. I remember his mug, and he was wearing a shirt that said “Lacy” on it, and I thought to myself, “What’s up with this guy Lacy?” Turns out he was on break from rehab, and a couple weeks later he got asked to join the band that I was in, Down Low.
What do you think was your first really big musical triumph?
Getting to tell my mom I was going to Europe with Kill Your Idols. I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, this is like the Beatles,” but when I got there, it was nothing like that. [Laughs] More like crickets. [Laughs] Great shows and people. But yeah, that was the moment in my life where everyone who was against me were like, “Let’s give him a chance to see where he goes with this.”
What do you think about the state of live music in NYC?
Well, I have a bit of a hook-up where I live in Brooklyn. Otherwise, I'm sure I’d be living way out. It’s odd. The go-to term about NYC is “hipster,” but I feel like it’s so beyond that; it's closer to just “yuppie.” It feels like a lot of the creatives have been priced out of the city. This city is home to me, but it feels like there isn’t a strong hometown vibe with respect to other bands and a scene. And it’s not that we aren’t friendly and try and lift each other up, because we do — I think the city is just in an odd place.
What are your earliest musical memories?
I remember staring at the back of the first Van Halen album forever, thinking that David Lee Roth was doing something unnatural with his body. He was wearing these platforms, and he looked so fucking cool. That made an impression on me, and made me want to dig into my mother’s record collection.
I remember digging in and looking for stuff and not liking anything too “light,” like Iggy Pop and X-Ray Spex and all that.
So, your mother was into cool music.
Yeah, she’s younger. She’s 60 right now. So, she was also into Black Sabbath, Yes, Queen, Cream and shit that was heavier, and that was the stuff I gravitated towards. But Metallica made a huge connection to me.
When did you come into Metallica?
Garage Days is what I remember. But I got to see them on the Justice tour with Queensrÿche at Nassau Coliseum. That was crazy for me. I had seen Cliff 'Em All, and that video had such a punk attitude, and they were aggressive as fuck, which is so important. You see a lot of metal bands now and they aren’t really … powerful. So, seeing them really made me want to do something like that.
Being from NYC, how much did rap come into play for you musically?
I remember seeing videos of Run-D.M.C. and the Beastie Boys, and them being so NY-centric and everyone looking so cool. But I didn’t love rap until the first Das EFX record and LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out,” That’s when I swallowed my pride and just said, “This is so great.” There was so much great stuff at that time, like Brand Nubian, and that turned into the Stretch & Bobbito show, and me having tapes and tapes of freestyles. I would stay up and tape the whole thing, and then be bugging out at school the next day. I’ll take that first Black Moon record or Kool G Rap over almost anything.
How much of that do you think goes into your music? There was so much style and attitude.
A lot, because at the end of the day it always comes back to that. There’s always some sort of groove, and we’re always very New York in that regard. We took some chances with this record, but if you listen closely, a lot of stuff gets inspiration from New York, whether it’s the wording, approach or anything. If you listen closely, there is one part where I rip off Black Moon on the new record. [Laughs] It's just a moment, but it's there. That video for “How Many M.C.'s” was hard as shit. To this day, Onyx’s “Throw Ya Gunz” is hard as shit. Skinheads, army jackets … their first three records are really good.