Published Mar 26, 2010Vicious: the only means of possibly conveying the overwhelming force when experiencing ― not hearing ― experiencing the obliterating, violent, raw and embittered torment that erupts forth from gypsy sludge metal duo Jucifer with fifth full-length Throned In Blood. Abrupt yet exhaustive in its 36 minutes of wailing agony, beastly, dominant riffs, raging drums and the odd eerily sugary harmony to keep things chaotic, the album's nine tracks are ferocious in their apocalyptic abandon and composed unravelling. Lumbering with menacing power and haunting beauty, a relentless echo and reverberation underline and punctuate rhythmic girth reminiscent of Dave Grohl's early skin-pounding and the rich thunder of Metallica's "The Thing That Should Not Be." That is, when the band aren't ravaging with the scorching tempos and hyperactive rage black metal has yearned for since its calamitous formation. Dark, cryptic, artistic and provocative, Throned In Blood takes 2008's L'Autrichienne and amplifies it through a thousand Orange amps, possessed vengeance and guttural fury. While it's hard to believe such sonic overload could come from only two bodies, with its mind-numbing presence and impact, Throned In Blood is an overwhelming onslaught of metallic venom.
There seems to be a very dark, chaotic atmosphere on Throned In Blood that's not entirely common to Jucifer. Would you agree?
Guitarist/vocalist Gazelle Amber Valentine: Definitely, I'd agree. If you didn't pick that up, it would mean we had failed!
What issues are you delving into?
It's a concept record [about] power and victory being false ideals in which the conqueror paints himself in the blood of the vanquished and doesn't understand that, either metaphorically or literally, his own blood and his people's is also spilled. It's about some of the darkest parts of human nature: aggression, corruption and ways that the pursuit of power ends in destruction of the conqueror along with the conquered, war, betrayal, poorly excused atrocities and the inevitable end of humanity in extinction. It's set up as kind of a summary of civilization, with the end of it all implicit.
It's certainly your most imposing effort to date.
Yeah. We've always used our recordings to do things we didn't do as a live band: folk, shoegaze, even homages to hip-hop and jazz. Even though we also had at least a couple of heavy songs on each record, we never let that side of our band, which is our real essence, take over so much as we have on Throned In Blood.
What brought such heavy inspiration?
Death, war and violence are all constants in the world. We may choose not to think about them most of the time, and that's probably healthy, but this kind of behaviour is all around us in the present and in history, and will be in the future too. As composers and lyricists, we draw from that negativity. We've never felt a connection to "upbeat" topics the way we do with nihilistic ones. Some artists and musicians are very sunny, which scares me a little, because I got to wonder: where are they venting their dark sides? We address our angst, sadness and horror through writing, which sounds kind of depressing, but really makes it possible to feel hope; it's cathartic. The songs on this record, as well as our previous ones, are inspired by facts and stories we've come across that touched us and that we felt a need to do something with ― to free ourselves of the painful associations by sharing them. Some of the songs are specific and documentary while some are about more general ideas within the theme.
What part of Jucifer does this album introduce that wasn't previously obvious or possibly even there at all?
It's hard for me to know what this album will feel like to others, as far as being surprising or not, but for us, it's just finally making a record that represents our shows. Because of our diverse tastes and the way we've enjoyed playing around with sounds and production in the studio, we've created a situation where depending on what track someone hears, they might think we're a totally different band from what we are. I mean, we've done songs where we built string and horn sections by multi-tracking ourselves, acoustic songs and songs with Moogs and e-bows. None of that goes on at our shows. So, for people who've never seen us, Throned In Blood could seem different. But then again, there's never been a Jucifer album where the integral heavy sound is entirely absent either.
Given your experimental nature, do you feel there were aspects of the recording that pulled out parts of you that you didn't realize were present?
Not really any big shocks, but there are always challenges during the process. Actually, the difference for us with this recording was not being able to set aside time for rehearsal between tour and studio sessions. We were booked up until a day before recording, so we started adding songs we wanted to record into our set. Using shows for practice isn't ideal, but it was our only option. The nice part of that was seeing people react to the songs and knowing as we went into the recording session that our fans were going to dig the record.
What do you hope you'll be able to accomplish now that you've got your own imprint with Nomadic Fortress?
We want to release our own music at a little faster pace than we've been able to working through other labels. Part of that was just fate: things getting pushed back because the major label we were on went through a big downsizing, we were waiting for them to rebound and then dealing with the legal labyrinth to get free of that deal. But even when that stuff wasn't happening there was always some reason to wait longer than we wanted, usually because of industry standards for press and promotion. Being a small label means we can do things outside that framework. When we're ready to put something out, we don't necessarily have to plan a barrage of print ads and a radio campaign because we're not working with huge budgets that have to get recouped. We're stoked about that factor and also very excited to be in a position to do records with other bands. Again, on a small, fan- and artist-friendly scale.
Having already road-tested some of the material and seeing as you're naturally experimental live as well, will there much variation from what we hear on the album to the show?
Not as much as with our other albums, but some, for sure. We don't like to play the same exact show every night and we always leave ourselves open to do some improvising. We're going to be playing a lot off Throned for a long time to come, but not exclusively. We usually play something older and something newer than whatever our current album is. If we start to feel our set is on autopilot, we throw a wrench in it. That way, we're never just going through the motions. It's really important for us to feel challenged and engaged by what we play. And I think it's much better for the audience too. (Nomadic Fortress)