Photography by Nadine Ballantyne at Eradication Festival, 26/04/15.
Ahead of their show at Manchester Retro Bar in support of Belgian black metallers Thurisaz, we sat down with the talented guys in The Infernal Sea for a chat about touring, their new album The Great Mortality and why The Infernal Sea Lego would be a great idea. Check it all out below!
Tonight you’re going to be playing a show in Manchester alongside Thursaz, Edenfall and Scryre. What can fans expect from a The Infernal Sea show?
Jonathan (guitars): Just an intense live performance, really.
With lots of smoke machine, of course!
James (drums): Lots of smoke, to hopefully make you feel uncomfortable – basically just true to what we record.
Dean (vocals): Yeah, we want to make the listener feel as uncomfortable as possible with an intense live performance, our masks, and just the smoke – the more uncomfortable everybody is, the better! It fits the music.
What’s been the best show you’ve played?
Dean: Probably Bloodstock, when we headlined the New Blood Stage. We’ve also played at a cave in Luxembourg – that was pretty cool!
Chris (bass): It was a cave in the middle of the forest, in the middle of nowhere. It was great. It was every rock cliché going, but in a good way!
James: We played just as it was getting dark. It was a man made cave but it was still cool as hell to play in.
Dean: You couldn’t see anything onstage bar the treeline and the moon – and we just thought “how metal is this?!”
What about the weirdest show you’ve played?
Dean: I don’t think we’ve played any weird ones, to be honest, have we?
Chris: We played a Halloween one, where we all dressed up. We had werewolf Jonathan, Dean was an executioner, James was just “trve kvlt James” and I was Hulk Hogan! Possibly an unwise choice, but it was fun!
Dean: We’ve played at a few pubs, where we’ve just played to some old people at the bar.
They must have gotten quite a shock whilst watching you!
Dean: Yeah, they were! I can’t remember where that was though, but other than that I don’t really think there’s been anything weird.
Chris: To be honest, aren’t most black metal shows pretty weird?
That’s quite true! So what about dream lineups? If you could play on a bill with any band, who would it be?
Jonathan: Should we do individual answers?
Chris: Go on then!
Jonathan: Well for me, I’d have to say Slayer.
Chris: Anyone else?
Jonathan: Maybe Manowar. Yeah, Slayer and Manowar. And maybe Maiden as well.
Dean: Yeah, it would be Iron Maiden for me too. And Burzum. On the same lineup, may I add – pretty impressive!
Chris: Burzum playing live?!
James: For the first time ever! For me it would be a show with Dying Fetus.
Chris: I think these guys have already said mine, to be honest. Maiden, Slayer, Manowar…and probably Metallica, because that would be fun. And Michael Jackson because why not?
Dean: If it was going to be an ideal black metal lineup though, you’d want all the greats. Mayhem with Dead, Darkthrone in the early years, Satyricon…you’d want them all! All the first wave and second wave would be perfect.
Sounds like a brilliant lineup! Moving on to the new album The Great Mortality, what made you decide to do an album about the black death, aside from getting the chance to wear the plague masks onstage?
Dean: Well, why not? It was just a grim time – a lot of horrible stuff happened and a lot of people were murdered. It was just a nasty time to live in! (laughs)
Chris: There’s a lot to delve into and the subject matter lends itself well to extreme music and to black metal.
Dean: I did a lot of research and I think it adds to the harsh nature of our music. It adds a more visceral tone to it and if you read up on the lyrics, you’ll see how grim that time actually was.
Can you describe the writing and recording process for it?
Jonathan: I wrote probably about 80% of the music, just the guitar work and riffs mainly, then we all got together and well, the music came together! Chris joined the band just as we were writing the album, so it was the perfect situation for writing songs and for everyone to work on parts together.
James: And then I recorded it in my studio.
Jonathan: It all went really well. It was a nice process.
Dean: We’ve all been in bands before and most of us have been in bands for a long time, so I think we just get the process all round and we really gel as a band so it was really easy.
James: Yeah. Usually what happened was that Jonathan would demo something, then we’d go to practice, work with the new arrangement and decide on whether it will make the album or not.
Dean: The Great Mortality took a long time to write and even when we started in 2010, we didn’t play any shows until about 2011 – we literally practised and honed our songs for a good year. Which is exactly what we did with The Great Mortality too. It took a long time to write because we’re very critical about the stuff we do.
I think that’s the best way to be. On that subject, were there any tracks that were more of a challenge to get right?
James: The Bearer, and Purification By Fire. They were quite simple, but it was just getting it in our heads.
Jonathan: A few of them flowed better than others. There’s a few older songs on there that we had the ideas for a couple of years previously. But some of the newer ones, like The Bearer, the second track, were a little more difficult.
Chris: That one is probably the most complex in terms of arrangement, like the different parts with the string stuff – so that one was definitely more of a challenge!
Have you any thoughts on the subject matter of the next album?
Dean: We do…but we can’t say! I’ve already started doing some research on the subject…it’s going to be quite grim. It’s going to be more original as to where we are, so it’s more history based around where we’re from – but it is a big part of history so it’s going to take a while!
With The Great Mortality and the releases previous to it, you’ve put out very limited editions and have put a lot of work into the presentation of it – will this be something we can expect from you in the future as well?
Dean: Definitely. It’s something we plan to do with every release. I come from a design background, so for me it’s all about the physical product and making sure it looks appealing, because if you have something that looks crap then nobody will want to buy it. We want something that’s limited, we want it to look good and we want to put the effort into it because it shows that we care about not only the music, but also the art as well. It will be something we continue to do and actually when The Great Mortality comes out, it will be coming out in several formats and some limited editions as well.
Will that release be different to the cassette version and the CD tour edition of the album that have already been released?
Dean: Yes. We’re doing a box set with the digipack when the album comes out, and it’ll all be very DIY and handmade. It will come in a box and it will come with a lot of cool stuff inside – and it’s all relevant to the album concept, so it’s all plague related.
Chris: Can we say what’s in it?
Dean: …Not yet! (laughs)
(Editor’s note: Off the record, I was told what was in it and trust me – it’s amazing and you’re in for a treat!!)
Onto some more random questions – if you could choose an animal to represent the band, what would it be?
Jonathan: Yeah, it’s got to be the wolf.
If there was going to be a movie released about The Infernal Sea, what actors would you want to play yourselves?
Dean: Arnie for me, just because I’m built like him!
Jonathan: You’re built like one of his legs, maybe!
Chris: Nicholas Cage.
Jonathan: Nicholas Cage? Well in that case I’ve gotta have Cruise, then.
Jonathan: Why not? I used to love Tom Cruise.
Dean: I thought you’d choose Wesley Snipes.
James: I think I’d quite like Triple H to play me.
Chris: Triple H? But he’s not an actor, he’s real! (laughs)
If The Infernal Sea could put their name to a product, what would it be?
Chris: That’s been done already! How about…the peppermint to go in a plague mask? Very topical.
Jonathan: Nah, that’s too obvious.
Dean: The Infernal Sea Lego! That’d be awesome.
James: Yeah, our own Lego set.
The bricks would all have to be black, right?
Dean: Yeah, of course! They’d all be black and it would come with four little Lego guys wearing plague masks, and a little banner with The Infernal Sea on! And it would come with some smoke as well.
James: We’ll definitely be talking to Lego about that!
Jonathan: I don’t know what else we can do…that’s a tough question.
To be honest, I think dildos and Lego is a pretty good answer!
James: What about Lego dildos?
Dean: Perfect, there you go! We’ve cornered the market there! And surely a Lego dildo would be ‘ribbed for her pleasure’ as well, right?
Chris: We could put our name to a food product, maybe? There’s always a band drink…
Dean: But everyone’s doing drinks, aren’t they?
Jonathan: We actually came up with names for some…The Infernal Brew…Purification By Beer…and some other lame names.
And finally what’s in store for the band in 2016?
Dean: Hopefully a lot of live shows! We’ve got some shows coming up at the start of January – we’re playing with Nargaroth in Glasgow on the 8th, and the day after we’re playing in Leeds. We’re also hoping to play Bloodstock again – we’ve got a facebook campaign running in support of that – and we’re really hoping to get the chance to go back.
You can read our review of The Great Mortality here.