Interview with Black Anvil

New York’s Black Anvil might come from a far different background than most black metal acts, but these guys make it very clear that there are no set rules for black metal and they’ll play by their own rules. I spoke with Paul Delaney (Bass, Vocals) about the new album, ‘Hail Death,’ as well as the flack it’s been getting from other reviewers. I also spoke with him about the odd choice to cover a Kiss song, his influences and the meaning behind the band’s name.

Hail Death is a much different album then your previous disc, Triumvirate. Though the feeling of black metal is still apparent, you’ve also ventured into broader territory. Tell me a little bit about the disc, if you will.

The feeling of “black metal” is always apparent if you read our lyrics & understand where we come from. Black Metal to us isn’t what we should “sound like”, you know? It’s a bit deeper than that. As for Hail Death, I think that with every release we should be venturing into different territory and pushing our boundaries. What’s the point in continuing if you’re not gonna grow? This record was a huge step forward for us. Even at its minimalistic moments, it’s just way more thought out and we’ve achieved the next level.

What was the writing process like for Hail Death? I’ve noticed that the disc contains more hardcore elements, which seem to make it slightly grittier than other albums in the genre.

I don’t notice any hardcore elements really. It’s been brought to my attention here and there, in reference to some gang vocals, even to the fact that there are a lot of power chords. I can show you records from many “genres” where these things take place. To me this is a heavy metal record from front to back. I think having been in a hardcore band years ago, that we will just be forever linked to it and will be something that’s always “looked for” in our sound. I don’t take offense to this by any means; just don’t really see the connection. Especially coming from the brand of hardcore we played. Two completely separate entities. That said, the writing process for this record was a long and caring one. We put a lot of time into it and let it all fall into place very naturally. So, the process was not really different from the writing of past records. We were just focused differently as this is a different time in life.

Where did you record the album and how long did that take? What was the atmosphere like in the studio and did you ever run into any issues during the recording? Finally, are you happy with the final release of the album?

We recorded the record in Baltimore, Maryland with J. Robbins at his studio, Magpie Cage. We were there for two weeks. As for the atmosphere, there are times when it is magical and there are times when it is stressful. Making an album isn’t always fun and games. It requires work and also patience. But we were very focused and very patient. The end result to us is perfect. This is everything we imagined it to be.

Explain to me a little bit about the lyrical content. There are some really interesting track titles here like “Seven Stars Unseen”, “N” and the closer “Next Level Black” which sound like they’ve got some interesting meanings behind them. Is there any interlocking concept for the whole disc?

Of course there is. The title of the record says it all: Hail Death. To get into detail about the lyrics is almost like telling you who the killer in a movie is, or who dies at the end before you’ve even seen it. Just takes the adventure out of it. They are very personal to us, so to disclose certain aspects is something that we do not wish to do. Rather, we prefer they be open to interpretation. It is our gift to the listener. I don’t know how many people sit home, throw on a record and sit down with a lyric sheet these days, but that is the way to listen to this record properly. It’s not about us, as much as… it’s all about us. Which maybe makes no sense? To us, we are all we care about, this is all OUR shit and we would do this if our band had no attention from anyone. So we prefer to not share directly. There is a very close bond within the walls of Black Anvil that goes beyond music. Try to read between the lines and if it means something, anything, then it has worked.

I also noticed that you recorded a Kiss cover of “Under The Rose” as a bonus track. It’s definitely not something you would expect a black metal act to cover, but with this record you’ve proven that you’re way more than just black metal or thrash or hardcore.

This may seem like an odd choice. We’ve done stereotypical covers in the past. But it isn’t that odd of a choice. We are all big Kiss fans. So, the fact that there IS a song off an obscure record that fits us, well… we just decided to give it a try. There are not many songs we could cover by them that would make sense. It would be silly to cover “Ladies Room” or something with no meaning for us. “Under The Rose”, I can interpret lyrically my way… Or we can interpret our way. I for sure can relate that to my life. And luckily we have that connection. It helped us pay homage to an important band and an underrated record in my opinion. I don’t think having chosen this song makes us more than black metal, or thrash or hardcore; but I’ve explained my view on the sonic value vs. the spiritual factor within the band/lyrics etc. We do it for ourselves. This just means we wanted to cover a Kiss song and had no fear in doing so. Kiss never really gave a fuck and always did what they wanted to do, regardless of what anyone thought.

Have you read any reviews for your album? I just came across one a few minutes ago on Encyclopedia Metallum that gave you a 65%, which is the lowest score in your discography. Apparently people don’t like multi-genre experimentations with their black metal?

That is just one person’s opinion. I can take criticism, but with some of the more “negative” reviews, I honestly feel that people just miss the point. And I’m ok with that. To someone that just wants to hear black metal, I’d say go for it. Go listen to what you want. I read one today that said we have riffs that sound like Mudvayne. That shit makes absolutely zero sense to me, Mudvayne!? Are you BUGGIN? AND it’s a good review actually, go figure. So we just really can’t waste too much time on who gets it and who doesn’t. I’ve seen that it’s a “long record” and maybe there’s not too much negativity other than that in the review. Do you not watch movies that are sometimes long? Will you not watch anything more than ninety minutes? Take some fucking time to enjoy something. Not everyone is gonna like what you do. Like I said, I’m ok with it not being your thing etc. But I’ve seen some shit that I just shake my head at because people just really miss the point and would rather spend time making comparisons and cop-out shit because of the most minimal and external part of the picture.

Another thing I’ve noticed about this album is its meaty rock solos. This thing is chock full of memorable solos that span from rock to blues. Explain to me a little about the decision to throw what some would consider being non-black elements into black metal.

We have solos on every release of ours. Triumvirate didn’t always call for it at times, but there are always soulful leads in our songs for the most part. We’ve expanded on that a bit this time around as I’ve mentioned, as we did put more time and care into this one. But I don’t see putting tasteful leads on a record as being “non-black element”. Musically we are not going by a guideline of what black metal should sound like. We do what we want and are always true to ourselves. There’s no reason to follow a criteria.

Who would you say helped to influence your sound and style throughout your history as a band? Have you ever met any of your influences on stage?

We influence ourselves. Everything in life influences me. Bands I like and bands I don’t. I love music so I can be as influenced by Aerosmith as much as revisiting the second Onyx record, which I did today actually. I don’t give a fuck if what I listen to is acceptable or not by others. The influence mostly comes from within, as we dig a bit deeper than the surface to create our music.

What do you do when you’re not playing in Black Anvil? And when you’re not playing music at all, what do you do in life?

That is one of the least important factors to Black Anvil. We are all, we are nothing, we are one.

Where can we see you guys live and who will you be playing with?

We will play in New York on the 20th of July, 2014, performing Hail Death in its entirety. After that, we will hit the road in the fall.

So far, what’s the single greatest tour experience that you’ve ever had? Who have you been fortunate enough to meet and play with on the road? On the other hand, what has been one of the worst experiences that you’ve had on the road? What do you guys do for fun on the road, outside of touring?

Ah, we’ve played alongside many bands. The fact that we’re able to do it at all is what I’ll consider the best experience. We’ve done a lot of cool shit, played alongside many we respect, but overall I play alongside my brothers. That is the REAL reward. It makes me give less of a fuck who is playing before or after us when to my left, right and behind me are the human beings that mean the most to me in this life.

Who came up with the name “Black Anvil” and what does it mean? How does it represent your band?

Gary (guitar/vocals) came up with the name. It was a concoction between a Judas Priest song and Black Sabbath actually. But it made more sense than that. The anvil symbolizes the primordial forging of the universe, as well as new beginnings and strength. Black Anvil has been a rebirth for us. We’ve grown as people since the inception of this band. I’ve personally learned to embrace the darkness of life and to reside in the crevices of the society that we live in. I have learned to deal minimally with the everyday normal shit. I embrace being a wolf among sheep. We formed this band because we had to and there’s no return trip booked.

Thanks for answering my questions and for a really stellar record. I’m not sure what the general consensus on this one is, but I think it’s a pretty strong and very different album than other discs out there on the market. – Eric

The general consensus doesn’t matter. You like something that we feel very strongly about having created and that’s all that matters. Thank you! – Paul

Purchase Hail Death here: http://www.relapse.com/BlackAnvil

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