Most pop culture built around the city of San Fransisco is fixed upon the hippie boom of the late 60s. Lots of typical day-glow fantasies that conveniently end before 1969. Psych rock has every right to be a cultural touchstone, but keep in mind that Jefferson Airplane was also competing with Blue Cheer. Decades later, San Francisco became the mecca for thrash, which later extended to the surrounding cities and metal as a whole. Genre legends spanning from Possessed to Neurosis to High On Fire all came up through the scene. Most recently, Deafheaven have risen through the ranks and conquered the world. Needless to say, you have to stretch yourself if you want to make a ripple in a city with such a rich history and present.
Why don’t you go ahead an add Succumb to your list of Bay Area bands ready to turn the whole city over on it’s head? The band formed and released a demo under the name Cloak in 2014. Cloak played a crawling kind of death sludge, but the name change also brought about a stylistic shift. Now, the band plays a filthy and laser focused take on tech death. Swirlingly unpredictable riffs fill out the mix alongside relentlessly pulsating blast beats. But, that’s not everything. Succumb’s fresh take on the genre can be attributed to the black metal atmosphere and their ability to seamlessly merge with Cheri Musrasrik’s punk inspired howls. The band is gearing up to release their self titled debut album next month, which is bond to be one of the year’s most intriguing metal listens. So, dive bomb through this Lovecraftian death cavern, but make sure you bring your Crass t-shirt.
I spoke with members: Derek Webster and Cheri Musrasrik. We discussed Succumb, Yeats, and Grindr.
Succumb’s music has a strong death metal foundation, but it feels very punk with a black metal atmosphere. I’m sure there’s a lot of people out there, like me, who have never really heard those three genres mixed to together in such a way. How did that sound come about?
DEREK: It all happened very organically, seemingly by accident you could say. When we started as Cloak, it was sort of a love letter to bands like Blasphemy and Teitanblood with our own spin on it. However, since all come from distinct musical backgrounds, we all left our own mark on the songs as the band progressed. We recruited Cheri from Pig DNA, who are just the ugliest sounding punk band, and she was an instant fit. We liked the martial bark she utilizes in that band, and figured it would lend itself well to what we were doing. Speaking for myself, I’m the grind/tech death nerd of the group, so that style is always prevalent in the songs amidst the black metal march that characterizes our music thanks to Harry’s drumming. In addition, when Harry joined the band, we immediately got to work on the album so we were getting used to each other’s styles as we were writing the album. In the end, what we all agreed on is our mission to create the most violent album we could.
I hear more influence from bands like Demilich and Gorguts in Succumb then in the Cloak demo. What caused the shift toward tech death?
DEREK: Honestly, when Cloak formed, I approached the writing process as if I were a hired gun. Our former drummer Nicole was explicit in the sound she wanted to achieve, so I was writing to the template that was presented to me. However, as we started working on the album I felt more comfortable in taking my own approach towards writing, and Harry definitely had the chops as a drummer to achieve the faster, more violent sound that I was searching for.
Writers like Yeats and Emile Zola have been cited as influences. What about their work informs Succumb lyrics?
CHERI: Through the influence of these writers the process of finding poetry in the bleakness of death, destruction, and total annihilation was affirmed. I appreciated their not just superficial use of the word as a vehicle for a greater message.
Your lyrics focus on topics ranging from dystopias to BDSM. How do you approach writing for such a wide array of topics?
CHERI: I’ve been told to write what I know. My sources of inspiration were usually from books that had some element of timeless relatability–and so I read about perversity and the horrors of war and coal mine collapse.
I love the album’s very cavernous sound quality. It doesn’t sound like anything Jack Shirley has worked on recently. Why did you all choose to utilize that production style?
DEREK: As a band, we’re influenced by Canadian & Australian war metal bands that tend to utilize a more cavernous production style on their recordings. Jack has a very organic, yet professional recording process – most of the album was tracked live in one room. However, he doesn’t normally work with bands that play our style of death metal, so when he applied his own techniques it was instrumental in creating a relatively unique listening experience.
As I’m sure you know, the yellow stone super volcano is due to erupt any day now. What steps have you taken in preparation for the coming ecological catastrophe? Further more, what effect do you think the eruption will have on the San Francisco metal scene?
DEREK: Well, if it happens hopefully I’ll swiftly reduced to a carbonized husk of a man instead of having to survive whatever fallout ensues from the blast. As for the Bay Area metal scene, as long as The Golden Bull withstands the disaster everything will be alright unless you count everyone being dead as a setback.
Tinder or Grindr? Which app do you recommend our readers use to fill out their various noise projects?
DEREK: Grindr obviously.
Steve Bannnon has been pulled off of Trump’s national security council. Where do you suppose he’ll end up now that our reptilian overlords have found his performance unsatisfactory?
DEREK: As a band comprised entirely of reptilian humanoids we’re pretty disappointed in his performance in overthrowing humanity. Hopefully he makes up for it with a worthwhile black metal project.
In a sense, human beings are a collection of subatomic particles adhering to basic fundamental natural law as we maneuver through an environment while we’re subconsciously conditioned by outside forces. Taking that into consideration, is there such a thing as free will?
DEREK: If I remember correctly, we never had any free will, heavy metal is the law.
What advice can you give to our younger readers to ensure they have a safe and memorable prom night?
DEREK: To all the young guns out there, I’d say try piggybacking on the plans of the cool kids who have more party leads than you. Also, try and find a kid who is wealthy yet gullible and convince him/her to have the party at their house. They’re likely to have cool parents who are conveniently out of town with a liquor cabinet that is open to be raided and probably have vacant rooms for you to crash out on.
What were you listening to while working on Succumb?
DEREK: A lot of different things: Nuclearhammer, Napalm Death, Voivod, Archagathus, Sulaco, Knelt Rote, Adversarial, Ripping Corpse, Defeated Sanity…the list is too long.
Succumb is out 5/5. Pre-order it from The Flenser.