Conjuring isn’t for the faint of heart. When you start playing around with supernatural forces and calling upon entities beyond our understanding, you risk letting something you can’t control or comprehend loose upon the world. Mess around with forces from beyond and you just might end up with a scenario on your hands that looks a little more like a horror movie than you’d want. When it comes to conjuration, leave it to the experts, experts like Conjureth.
After forming in 2018, Conjureth released two promising demos in 2020 before dropping their killer debut full-length, Majestic Dissolve, in 2021. Earlier this year, the band kept the hot streak alive when they put out The Parasitic Chambers, another aggressively ferocious death metal record that effortlessly combines a variety of influences into one seamless package. If you’re the kind of death metal fan that loves a little bit of doom sprinkled in the proceedings and unpredictable compositions, The Parasitic Chambers is definitely for you. I recently caught up with the band to talk about their new record and what’s next for Conjureth.
First off, how did Conjureth get started? How did you guys meet and what made you want to start a death metal band together?
Frankie Saenz: Conjureth started from a project Wayne [Sarantopoulos], who I met through a mutual friend, and myself had been in before, after Ghoulgotha ended I had joined just as Ian was leaving. When that project ended, it was Wayne and myself again so we decided to start a death metal band, different than Ghoulgotha but still in the same vein and eventually Ian [Mann] rejoined, thus almost reuniting the Ghoulgotha lineup.
Ian: I originally heard of the band from a good friend of mine who was planning on joining on bass. I had been living out of state for a while but now that I was going to come back, I thought us joining the band together would be a fun idea because I hadn’t been involved in music for several years and Wayne and I had worked well in the past when we were in Ghoulgotha. Well, it didn’t work out with my friend playing bass but I decided to stick around anyway.
What got you guys into death metal in the first place? Who were some of the important bands to getting you into the genre?
Ian: I think one of the first albums that made me start to appreciate death metal was Leprosy. It was close enough to the ’80s thrash and heavy metal sound that I already loved to pique my interest, but had an added element of savagery and darkness that I found really appealing. From there, I started to get into some more of the classic bands like Deicide and Obituary, but the band that really solidified my love for the genre was Morbid Angel. Something about the mystical atmosphere of the Blessed Are the Sick music video combined with the evil sounding music and Trey [Azagthoth]’s crazy guitar playing style really hit home for me.
Frankie: Well even as a teenager I had been always constantly looking for new music, the crazier the better. Being the early ’90s, grunge was the rage and I liked the usual grunge bands but I felt there was more out there. [I came] across a magazine featuring an article titled “The Death of Death Metal.” It discussed the possible end of the glory days of death metal. I took notes of the band names and searched for those albums at my local used CD shop…Carcass, Death, Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Deicide to name a few.
From what I can tell, it seems like you guys have had a pretty consistent lineup. What makes you all work so well together and how do you keep a healthy bandy dynamic?
Ian: The reason we work well together is because we are always focused on working towards some sort of goal. This might be demoing out new songs, preparing for the studio, rehearsing for a show, or a number of other things but the fact that we are always working towards something specific with each practice session is what I think keeps things consistent.
Frankie: Well no band is without a few members leaving but the core of the band has been the same. Everyone adds their bit of influence and I think that’s what keeps things interesting.
Wayne: As long as we don’t mind never having a bassist, the core will be the same. Every bassist we’ve attempted to work with has been too flaky.
How do you guys write the music for the band? Is there a typical process and has it changed at all over the years?
Ian: The process has been the same the whole time I’ve been in the band. Wayne writes a song, then brings it into the jam room where we will learn it, make minor alterations, then record a rough demo. From there, if we really like that song and want to include it on a release, it will undergo another revision to make it as good as it can be, then we will record another demo.
Wayne: Ian pretty much nailed it. I just write tons of riffs and songs all the time and I try to bring forward what I consider to be the best possible material that we can tweak. With that being said, more than half the songs get pretty major revisions before ever being recorded for an album. Sometimes multiple riffs are swapped out with other riffs from scrapped songs and things like that. Very rarely does a song make it to recording stages without being reworked in some way. The opening songs on both albums, “Wet Flesh Vortex” and “Smothering Psalms” are great examples. “WFV” was actually parts of two completely different songs that we blended into one song, and “Smothering” had two riffs cut out of the middle and I added back in four new ones.
How do you come up with the lyrics? Do you turn to anything in particular for inspiration? What appeals to you about writing about the darker side of life?
Wayne: I always enjoyed lyrics that show some kind of thought put into them and have kind of an abstract theme. It mainly comes from my love of 18th and 19th century poetry and plays. I’ve been writing that way for over 25 years and will most likely continue to do so. 90% of metal lyrics are pretty bad or unintentionally hilarious, so hopefully we’re part of the 10% that isn’t.
What was the writing/recording process like for the new record? What was the goal here with the second album? How happy are you with the final product?
Frankie: Basically Wayne writes like a madman and he has tons of material so he brings the song outline and structure, we rehearse it and we do a rough recording of it for reference, and once we have enough for an album, we grade the songs on a scale [with] factors such as our liking of the song, the structure, the riffs, all come into question. Once we reach a conclusion as to what stays and what goes, we then rehearse and book studio time.
Goalwise we just try to do better than before and that usually comes with Wayne’s ideas. Our overall experience as a band and as our individual confidence regarding our instruments and roles, I think, as a band, we’re more confident with what we’re doing than our previous recordings.
Ian: The goal for the second album was to take the sound on the first one and make it more wild, crazy, and unique sounding. We feel that we were able to achieve this and are pretty proud of the final product.
Wayne: My goal was to push the boundaries of my personal playing ability.
Being that this was your second outing, was it an easier experience recording this one than the debut LP? What did you learn through making Majestic Dissolve that helped you on this one?
Wayne: We’ve been in the studio so many times for Conjureth and other bands that I think we know what to do at this point. I personally hate recording and I think it’s the worst part of being in a band that is active and productive. But, you gotta do it. I think it’s because we have to do scratch tracks for the drum tracking, then it’s right to me to do a left and right rhythm guitar track for the song, then vocals for it too. It’s just a few days of constant work and being under pressure to do your best in a short amount of time.
Frankie: Recording is fun and stressful at the same time. Fun once you’ve heard it all come together; stressful in overthinking it all. We tend to just try and get it over with as quickly as we can, usually in a matter of days. Luckily where we record and the guy who does it for us is very knowledgeable and knows what we want and makes it as easy as possible. I’d say the recording for Majestic [Dissolve] was trickier. I can only speak for myself on that end as I was more analytical and anxious over the recording. This time I wasn’t as nervous, I felt more confident in my playing.
I wanted to ask about a few songs on the new record and the lyrical/musical inspiration behind them. What is the origin of the opener, “Smothering Psalms?”
Wayne: Lyrically, it was basically a title I thought was cool, and I originally threw it out there for a possible album title. It ended up losing out to Majestic Dissolve, so I just kept it for future use because I liked how it sounded. The opening song on an album is tough because you have to throw the kitchen sink at it and show all your cards early on, so it better be strong. It’s also the first “single” the label releases, so again, it needs to be the best you can offer. Like I mentioned earlier, once that song became the opener, we gutted out the middle of it and added in a few more varied riffs to make it stand out to a casual listener that had never heard us before.
“The Ancient Presence” is a favorite of mine from there too. What’s the story behind that one?
Wayne: That is one of my favorites as well. I like playing that one because it’s relatively easy to play compared to a lot of the others and it has a “fun” vibe of sorts. I’m not sure why it came out that way, but ever since I wrote it and we jammed it, I’ve mentioned that one sounds kind of upbeat for a death metal song. We put it in the middle of side two of the album to break up some of the more technical and involved tracks there.
How did the closer, “The Unworshipped II” come about? Did you have that second part in mind when you recorded the first album?
Wayne: I had the idea to make it a trilogy pretty early on, but I didn’t know what it would end up sounding like compared to the first album closer. “Part II” went through a lot of revisions as well, as it originally had 20 seconds of hyper fast technical riffs at the beginning and end of the song with the main doom body of the song in the middle. The concept was solid, but we just couldn’t make it work and flow the way it needed to, so we dropped the fast sections and it became a straight heavy/doom track. “The Unworshipped III” is done and it’s different than the first two, and quite different than any other Conjureth song. But it’s a good way to end the trilogy.
What’s the scene like out there in San Diego for you guys? Is there a strong scene to be active in and do you feel it has shaped the band in any way?
Ian: The metal scene here in San Diego isn’t particularly strong, but we have played a decent number of the shows around here so I guess it could be worse. There are actually quite a few metal bands around here but not many of them feel particularly “underground” or related to what we’re trying to do. For example, if a bigger name band plays a show it’ll be packed full of metalheads, but at the same time it seems damn near impossible to find a fourth member that shares our influences and vision.
Frankie: [The] scene in San Diego is pretty small. I’ve been in the scene since 2001 and it used to be a lot bigger due to the scenes in San Diego and Tijuana, which were interchangeable then. The scene and bands came and went as many go up north to L.A. or elsewhere. However, lately there has been a lot more activity due to the resurgence of metal, more fans and bands. It is possible to be a member in various bands, sometimes just by changing a person here and there or not at all due to the shortage of musicians.
Wayne: They’re being nice. It’s terrible.
Lastly, what’s next for Conjureth? What are your goals for the future of the band?
Frankie: Well, our goals are just to keep playing and recording, playing more shows, small tours, fests are always welcomed as it keeps the name out there but with modern times, the internet does do a lot of that for you, podcasts, websites, YouTube, streaming and so on do a lot of the legwork so it’s a good thing.
Wayne: Take over the world. Just kidding.
Photo at top: Album cover for The Parasitic Chambers.