The black metal/death metal/deathcore/insert-metal-genre-here outfit that is Carnifex will have a brand new album out this August. It’s called ‘Slow Death’ and it’s pretty damn cool. It’s also heavy as all fuck, but that’s kinda par for the course for these guys now. In the lead-up to this new release, I caught up with vocalist Scott Lewis over Skype to cover all things Carnifex as he made his way through Californian traffic (don’t’ worry he was in a car, calm down people).
With ‘Slow Death’, you stated that this would “reshape our genre”. How do you mean by that? As in the band’s style or with how this record was written and sounds sonically?
It was just looking back at our first album, Dead In My Arms. We put that out in a time where there were few bands doing that sound and then continuing that style afterwards. I envision the same thing happening with this record. I think it’s different for us and it sounds a lot different than a lot of bands on the current touring circuit. Once this gets out there, I think there’ll be a lot more bands following the path we’ve created with this record.
Well, I think you guys have become far more black metal sounding and have really branched out more since the endless blasting of ‘Dead In My Arms’
Well, none of us are trained musicians, we’re just fans and average people who started a band and got popular. Looking back at the first album, we didn’t know what we were doing. As you look through our discography, you can see us learning how to write in real time. We’re learning as we go, and that’s how it’s always been.
That makes a lot of sense for your sound, now that you mention it. With the sound though, what would you label yourselves as, just ‘metal’ or death metal maybe?
You know, that’s tough. I’m not exactly sure. It’s a few styles blended together. It’s that mix of metalcore and death metal and all those other genres, and now we’re pushing the black metal sound. I’m not sure where you’d go; it’s just Carnifex. [Laughs].
Right on, man. Now, I see a lot of people are seeing Carnifex as the natural progression of extreme metal when compared with the likes of Whitechapel and Suicide Silence. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Looking back then when us three bands started, there were a lot of similarities between us. Now, each band is on our own separate path. If you put the new Whitechapel, the new Suicide Silence record that’s coming out, and our new one together, you have three different albums. I do think kids are very attached to that first impression but things change. There’s that initial reaction when you hear the change, and over time, you can look back and go ‘Huh, that’s actually a pretty good album’.
Of course, art doesn’t exist in a vacuum anymore. I see the current growth and differences between your bands as a very coming of age scenario. I see it a lot in hardcore and metalcore with many bands incorporating nu-metal elements because those bands grew up on Deftones, Korn, Limp Bizkit etc. Now bands such as yourselves, Whitechapel, and Suicide Silence have all come to understand your respective sound.
Yeah, that’s really accurate! You gotta understand it. When you’re a new musician, you’re just trying to sound like what you initially like. As you write and grow into your own artist, you really develop your own vision. You just don’t have that when you’re a new band.
Exactly, man. Now, your song names always give me a good chuckle, as they’re always really metal sounding! ‘Six Feet Closer To Hell’, ‘Slit Wrist Saviour’, ‘Drown Me In Blood’, ‘Lie To My Face’, ‘Hell Chose Me’, ‘Hatred And Slaughter’. So I’m curious, with names like that, do you know what the band’s family members and friends think about your music and your lyrics?
You know, I don’t actually have many friends who aren’t in bands already, and that is just a product of touring for over 11 years. [Laughs]. Familywise…I think they act like it doesn’t exist a lot of the time. I think they’d rather just ignore it all. But yes, I always try to make the song names as memorable as possible!
Well, mission accomplished. I’ve often wondered what you would do if you weren’t in Carnifex? Would you be in another band or would you still be doing something musical as an outlet for yourself?
I don’t know if there’d be a good answer, honestly. When Shawn [drums] and I got together, I had given up on music. I had been in other bands before Carnifex but they never really went anywhere. So I don’t know that I’d have tried another band if this hadn’t worked out. I was in a bad place when this band started, and it gave me an identity and validation as a human being. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life and I didn’t think I was doing anything of value. It gave me a goal to strive for. I didn’t have that prior to this band.
It’s good to hear that the band could do that for you, man, and I’m sure you’re not alone in that. I actually have a Carnifex story from when I was a kid that I’d like to share. Back in high school, I was on YouTube going through songs, and when I was listening to ‘Lie To My Face’, a teacher asked what I was listening to and so I pulled out the headphones just before the “What the fuck!?” part.
[Laughs] and that was her first taste of metal?!
I think so! This teacher, she just looked so distraught that I was listening to that. That was probably her first ever experience with metal music. And I find it so interesting that there is still this archaic shock to metal music with so many people these days. You see it all the time on talent shows when some brave bastard gets up and starts screaming away.
Well, I think we live in a small bubble at times, as to us, we think metal is so big. But in reality, and in the context of the music industry and the entertainment industry, metal is so fractional it doesn’t get acknowledged. If you look at what the metal community sells, its nothing compared to some pop artists. Compared to maybe Slipknot and Metallica, no one has really gotten out of the underground. Even when you look at Slayer or Lamb Of God, they’ll sell in a two-year album cycle what some pop artists can sell in just their first week.
Yes, it is rather bleak when you put it like, but I think that those sales could be so much bigger if the fans mobilized, as they are just so dedicated sometimes. It’s this weird punk rock attitude among some people have that a band has to be broke to be “cool” or “good”.
[Laughs] I definitely see that. There’s that struggle of ‘Well, you’re an artist and you shouldn’t be paid’. But look at actors, they get paid for doing movies and no one thinks twice. When a musician wants to get paid, it’s ‘You should be lucky you get to make music at all’. It’s a very strange standard.
I agree as it is a very strange paradigm that needs to be changed and it’s a pretty fucked up mentality, honestly.
Yeah, and there are of course die-hard supporters who give you every cent. That’s what will keep you going. They say now that only ten percent of everyone who listens to your music actually pays for it. It’s that ten percent that keeps the wheels turning!
Which is just really sad! But anyway, we’ll leave it there. Thanks for your time Scott and hopefully the other interviews help you get through this traffic.
Hey thanks for having me man, and I hope so [laughs]. I planned these interviews around this trip!
‘Slow Death’ is out August 5th through Nuclear Blast Records.