There may never have been a better time to be a death metal fan. Not only is more of the classic stuff more readily available than any other time in history, there is also a slew of worthwhile debuts from every genre coming your way with regular consistency. Between Bandcamp and the perpetual presence of social media and streaming, it’s easier than ever for a band to put tracks out to potential fans and try to scrape together a following. The only real downside to this glut of killer music (if it can really be considered a downside), is that it can be very easy to miss something completely worthwhile in the shuffle.
Hailing from Wales, Crypt Rot burst onto the international scene with their self-titled EP in October of last year and is a band that you don’t want to sleep on, particularly if you love brutal death metal or the slam genre. Although they really only have the small collection of songs to go off of, more is on the way as a full-length will be unleashed upon the public soon enough. If the debut is anything to go off of, this first LP is going to pulverize. I recently caught up with the band to talk about their debut, the upcoming record, and what makes Crypt Rot tick.
First off, how did the band get started? What drew you to each other and made you want to form this particular band?
Kyle Shaun Thomas (vocals): I’d been doing vocals for a long time just to be able to sing along to heavy shit (laughs). So when I met Tom, and he posed the idea of making some music, I was all in.
Tom Hughes (guitars/bass): I started the band with the intention of making a more modern style of brutal death metal; as my other bands Maimed and Blood Rage are more old school. Me and Kyle met through filmmaking and when I found out he could do gutturals, I immediately sent him the songs I’d been working on! Since the EP release Justin (Wallisch) has joined as our drummer, he also drums with me in Maimed so I already knew his skill level would elevate the songs for our debut full-length, and he’s a really easy guy to work with with a lot of cool ideas. He’s definitely the only “proper” musician in the band!
Justin: I work with Tom in Maimed and he asked me to join this project. He’s super easy to work with and writes some brutal riffs, plus Kyle’s vocals sound gnarly so I was in.
What got you guys into brutal death metal in the first place and who are some of your inspirations?
Kyle: Brutal death is more of a recent discovery for me in all honesty! Like, I credit Tom and Justin for showing me a lot of stuff like Stabbing and Fulci. I’ve also been listening to the free compilation album Frozen Screams put out, that’s been a great way to hear a lot of new stuff.
Tom: I got into it when I was like 15 through the old Relapse Contaminated samplers. I remember hearing Incantation, Dying Fetus and Suffocation and being mind blown at how heavy it was. Then House By The Cemetery by Mortician came on and from then I was hooked on finding the heaviest thing I could. I used to listen to Cannibal Corpse super quiet in case my parents heard and hid the album covers from them just in case they thought I was some sort of mad deviant! More recently I’ve gotten into the more brutal stuff like Gutted, Vomit Remnants, Gorgasm, Scattered Remnants, Malignancy….the NY sound was always a big influence for me with the Crypt Rot stuff; groovy bands like Internal Bleeding, Broken Hope and Fleshgrind; mixing that style with the more hectic stuff like Pustulated, Cinerary etc was what I was going for when I started the band.
Justin: I started getting into heavier music around ten with things like System Of A Down, Megadeth, and Sepultura. It honestly took me a while to understand what death metal was all about, but I started really getting into Nile, Behemoth, and Belphegor around 16 and that’s what really changed things for me. I’m a sucker for fast drums and George Kollias and Torturer were two very important people in shaping the way I drum. Once I got addicted to blast beats, I just wanted more brutal music. Now, the older I get the nastier and noisier I like my music to be.
What is your music writing process like? Has it changed any between the time you did the EP and now that you’re working on your first full-length?
Tom: It’s definitely advanced. With the EP I was just smashing together heavy riffs one after another with loose song structure, but with the album I really wanted to make something cohesive with a slightly different and more expanded sound. Content-wise it’s a concept album so I took inspiration from that, and used the groovy brutal death style we established on the EP and added a lot more leads, some more old school death doom influence and tried to create a more atmospheric sound to fit the subject matter. The writing process itself has stayed the same though; I write the songs alone and record the guitars and bass (and) then give them to Kyle and Justin to record on; and we share ideas and go back and forth about what works best for the songs to make them as good as we can.
Kyle: I mean for me, I usually wait for a song, then boot it up on the software and write and record simultaneously. The only thing that’s changed for me is upgrading my mic and recording software so there’s a big quality change, which I’m super excited about.
Justin: Tom sends me songs with an outline for drums and pretty much just lets me do whatever I want. For the EP, I was just a computer, but now I’ve become sentient and am trying to understand human emotion.
How do you come up with the lyrics for the band? Do you have any particular inspirations?
Kyle: For the EP it was sort of free reign of what I wanted to write about, which was a lot of fun once I decided to go with the serial killer motif. Then me and Tom decided it would be cool to do a concept album with a horror theme. Lyrically, it all comes down to the vivid, grimey picture in my head and how I can convey the disturbing scene with the correct description.
Death metal is obviously known for gore and horror inspired lyrics, which I think is part of the draw for a lot of us. What about horror/gore appeals to you and do you have any particular horror inspirations?
Tom: I’m a huge horror fan and make horror films and music videos for bands. It’s the escapism that I always loved about horror, which is ironic considering the first EP was all about true crime with serial killer samples! On the full-length, we’ve taken it back to a more fantasy theme, using inspiration from the Long Island Ricky Kasso case in the 80s to create a horror story about druggie, drop out kids, possessed cassette tapes, and portals to hell!
Kyle: I think horror is just a lot of fun overall, like you know there’s always going to be an envelope pushed at all times and vocally and lyrically I want to do the same with imagery and delivery.
Justin: I like campy gore. Flicks like Return of the Living Dead and Dead Alive…’80s horror is the best! Also the Feast trilogy is the perfect monster series.
What was the process of getting the self-titled EP written/recorded like? Were there any unique challenges to your first recording as a band and where did you record?
Tom: The only challenges on the EP were me and Kyle getting used to working with each other, the recording process was actually really smooth. We both recorded everything at home remotely and then I fit it all together in Reaper. I programmed the drums and did a rough mix to give to Cody from Sanguisugabogg; then he re-amped it for us and made it sound so much bigger and badder with his mix and master. I’m pretty green when it comes to home recording so having producers I trust to polish up the tunes and create the right sound for my stuff will always be an important part of the process for me…. at least until I pull my finger out and learn how to mix!
Kyle: I think the challenge for me was just working with music. I don’t have a lot of music experience so figuring out timing and finding a way to work with the track instead of against it was a challenge.
How has the process been for writing/recording the full-length? Has the process been any easier with an EP under your belts?
Kyle: Definitely easier now that I’ve invested in proper gear for sure! I definitely feel like I’m constantly getting better, which I’m excited about.
Justin: Writing drums has been fun. I’ll go by Tom’s outline and then add my own style, adding small nuances to spice it up a bit.
Tom: It’s gotten easier for me as I’ve been writing and recording for a few years at this point and I tend to work on multiple projects at once when I have a creative burst and it all just flows out. Although for the album I did spend more time going back and improving the transitions between sections and adding leads/harmonies etc. I really wanted to make it as musical as possible but obviously still brutal! The only thing I did differently was add solos. I’ve never really considered myself a lead player but wanted to play about with it. About a decade ago I used to learn Necrophagist songs and be sweeping and tapping all over the shop but I didn’t play for a few years and lost a lot of that skill set, so now I tend to just use more feel than technical ability and I guess I’ve found a solo sound that’s recognizable as mine, for better or worse.
What can fans expect from the new record, musically and lyrically? Does it share similarities with the EP and how does it differ?
Kyle: Lyrically, there’s some more metaphorical moments which help create an atmosphere that makes way for the type of horror that’s taking place.
Justin: Musically, it has a lot of faster parts and more blast beats, but still has the in-your-face slams. Lyrically, I imagine it’s got some murder, possession, and more murder in there.
Tom: Hopefully people that liked the first EP will enjoy the expansion of our sound on the full-length. We’re always pushing with every new song or release to be better than the previous, whether that’s technically or just from a songwriting standpoint. That’s something we all have in common and I think contributes a lot to how well we work together. Musically, I kept the heaviness and the riffs still slam, but tried to vary up the tone more, shift time signatures and BPMs a bit during the songs and between tracks (to) make it much more of a rollercoaster with peaks and troughs than the EP. It was written to flow as well as possible. I want it to be something people can put on, zone out to the artwork, and get lost in. Hopefully if things pan out we’ll have some cool guest vocals as well.
How affected was the band by the pandemic? Did it hinder getting music recorded or any live plans that you might have had?
Tom: Honestly, I enjoyed the reason to not go outside as much. It was the first lockdown we had in Wales that made me finally buy an interface and learn how to home record. Obviously, it was difficult financially and with mental health but I feel glad for it because I started a bunch of bands and they bring me a lot of joy and give me somewhere to put my energy that’s positive and productive.
Can you tell me at all what we can expect from the cover of the new album? Death metal albums always have such memorable covers, what do you guys try to achieve with yours? Who does them and how much input do you give them beforehand?
Kyle: Its a fucking cool one, theres no doubt about that, and I think it sets the scene for what the album is about.
Justin: The artwork is killer and uses an awesome color scheme.
Tom: We were really lucky to get the cover designed by Armaada Art, who has done covers for Aborted, Pyrexia, and Abominable Putridity. It was his reissue artwork for Sintury’s classic Disgorging The Dead that I saw first, and then the Acranius reissue he did was so sick (that) I had to reach out and commission him to do the cover. As the concept for the album was this big, overarching story, we tried to choose the most exciting moment for him to draw, which is where the main character opens a portal to hell using a possessed boombox. Apart from that, we gave him complete creative control. Whenever we work with freelancers, we always try to give them as much input as possible. Their knowledge and style is what you hire them for!
What’s the local scene like out there for you guys and how do you feel it has shaped the group?
Tom: There’s a really good scene here in the UK and a lot of cool bands…shout out to Seven Doors, Vulgar Dissection, Trenchfoot, Vacuous, Coffin Mulch, Body Asphyxiation Science, Celestial Sanctuary, Brainbath, and Charlie and Russell at Crypt Of The Wizard. As far as shaping the sound, I’m a huge Bolt Thrower and Carcass fan but aside from that I’d say I’m more influenced by American stuff if I’m honest, although I do think there’s a gritty nastiness that comes from living in a grey country with bad weather and a bunch of moaning cunts on the news everyday that makes you wanna play some slams and live in your own death metal world!
Lastly, besides the new album, what’s next for the band? Do you have live plans in support of it and what are your goals for the next few years of the band?
Tom: Once the album’s out we’re planning to put out two or three songs on a split with another UK death metal band. No plans to play live, Justin lives in the U.S. and I’m not really into crowds or being on stage as I’m autistic and find social events pretty taxing (to be honest). We may play live someday, I’d never rule it out, but I don’t really enjoy the gig experience as much as I do listening to metal at home, and I’m hoping with the album other introverted people like me will enjoy pulling on their headphones and getting a break from the bullshit of the world.
Kyle: Keep it going, keep grinding, get everyone’s attention, make it a full-time gig. So far the support has been mind blowing and we just want to give back to the people.