Aussie Feature: Cursed Earth

You know, we haven’t had an Aussie Feature article in a while. So, what better way to break that drought than with a piece on Perth’s Cursed Earth! Read on to find my chat with Cursed Earth guitarist Kieran Molloy about their stellar, now-complete ‘Cycles Of Grief’ record, the release’s lyrical content and creation, his thoughts on the vast amount of national and international interest Cursed Earth have received, coming up at just the right time in heavy music, touring, getting compared with their peers, and more. 

When it comes to the lyrics for ‘Cycles Of Grief’, Cursed Earth’s latest bleak, hard-hitting metallic hardcore record is backed up by equally heavy, equally dark lyrics detailing harsh tales of domestic and authoritative abuse, death, crushing loss, crippling depression, and trauma of the physical, mental and emotional kind. Whether it’s lines like “The violence, flee from the tyrant, pushing you away/so I don’t feel the force of your lust, rage and hate,” (‘Rage (The Cost)‘), “How can I live, knowing what happened/the body survived but the inside was blackened” (‘Broken‘), or “Dear mother, your dismissal is the root of all I know/dear father, the sickness you planted returns what was sown” (‘Greif‘); Cursed Earth do not pull any punches. Not with their actual music nor with their lyrics.

“There’s actually no soul lyricist in the band”, states guitarist Kieran Molloy, telling me about the creation process behind Cursed Earth’s music. “When we write songs, it will always be me, and while not so much for the new material, Jazmine [Luders, vocals] will also be in the room with another member collaborating together. We find that having a good basis of our band’s melody writers and those who structure vocals works out best. So usually, it’s half me, half whoever else is around”.

Hey, whatever works, right? Now, when the press materials were first sent out by UNFD for ‘Cycles Of Grief’ first instalment, the ‘Growth‘ EP that first arrived back in August, the guitarist was quoted as saying, “The record is as much a criticism of ourselves as it is the characters we write through.” This is something that leads me to wonder just how much of their lyrics are truthful tellings of past experiences or what could very well just amount to be exaggerated stories about said characters in order to help “sell” their music? Molloy explains.

“The point of the lyrics for this new record was to be 100% both of those things. We went a long way to create a narrative about these fictional characters that we could use to frame personal experiences we wanted to talk about. Without coming straight out with what the song’s and their lyrics are about. When it comes to the narrative of this record, I will say that there are three characters; a father, that father’s child – who most of the story is based around – and then that child has their own kid. But the songs that we write are not about telling a story as much as they are about describing personal and emotional situations for the characters in the story.”

Yet such explanation about the real-life experiences that spurned ‘Cycles of Grief‘ into life, even in just going skin deep on such matters, wasn’t on the cards for the band – in response to both the media and fans alike.

“The intention was to never explain the narrative of the record; it was completely all for us. I think that if you spend too much time explaining something it can take away from the journey of discovery of the person that’s listening to it. We wanted the people listening to consider it enough to open up the lyrics and figure it out by themselves – have their own ideas. We also told the label and the PR that from the very start, we didn’t plan on telling anybody about the story. That’s just not the way we want to communicate with our listeners.”

When the band first began piecing together ‘Growth‘ and ‘Decay‘ last year, the two solid EP’s that come together to create the larger beast that is ‘Cycles Of Grief‘, it was a time when the group were looking inwards more than externally. While such an approach has resulted in one of the year’s best hardcore records, that was no doubt difficult from a creative and emotional perspective, something that Molloy echoes to me.

“‘Cycles Of Grief’ is a product of what we were going through at the time. It was a period that was heavily reflective for all of us. Not just because we were writing a record but because of the tumultuous times in our lives. Things are better for us now in some ways. On some level, writing a record that has so many personal topics to us, we didn’t want to particularly talk about them. Sometimes, I wish we hadn’t broached all of these topics in public due to all of the questions we now have to answer about them… but you can’t compromise yourself artistically cause it might be difficult later.”

I couldn’t agree more with that last part, but I also had to ask: “Have you had a lot of other interviewers trying to pull out those finer details from you?

“Yeah, pretty much everyone has” came the response.

“One thing we didn’t expect from this record, as we didn’t have the international deal nor the UNFD signing at the time, was that we didn’t know just how many people would start listening to us. We also didn’t know that your Metal Hammer’s, your Kerrang!’s and your KYS’s would give a shit about it. So it all came as a bit of a surprise. We came in a little bit steadfast, saying that we wouldn’t really want to discuss this record’s personal stuff yet we’ve been jumping on the phone with so many people around the world, who are all wanting to know about ‘Cycles Of Grief’. It’s humbling but its also quite confronting to give a piece of yourself like that to someone else”.

With the brutally heavy thematic nature of their latest work, and with the obvious exception of others not simply laying a hand on their friends, their family or otherwise, I ask Molloy what he thinks can break such awful cycles of abuse and trauma before they beget more pain and violence? His answer, while short, leaves me wondering what lies deeper beneath the story of ‘Cycles Of Grief‘, saying:

“I don’t think that we as a band can speculate on solutions, so much as we can only discuss the problems. As we haven’t found the solutions to a lot of our own problems just yet. Maybe we will come to find those questions and those answers… but we’ll have to wait and see”.

One thing that Molloy mentions to me in relation to rapid, ever-growing interest his band is gaining is the risk that they may come to believe their own hype, which the guitarist has choice words about.

“It’s funny, being in a band that people are really psyched about… you can get into a pretty big echo chamber of positivity pretty quickly.”

That “echo chamber of positivity” has been cultivated with heavy national touring this year, an upcoming overseas tour in Europe, their killer set at last year’s Invasion Fest, this year’s most-likely-just-as-awesome set at Invasion Fest and through just releasing really fucking good music. However, due to the scene that Cursed Earth originate from and the genre they exist within, does that incredibly positive national and international media and punter hype rub them the wrong way at all?

“Well, we’re definitely so stoked that people are reacting those ways to us. But one of the main rules we have for ourselves in this band is that we have to treat things like that as a responsibility as much as they are a privilege. That goes for now as it did back on our first EP ‘Vae Mortis’. Some members of this band have been playing in other bands from here in Perth and no one on the East Coast gave a shit. We released that EP and within six months we got an opportunity to tour with Weekend Nachos. A lot of bands could’ve sat back and thought they were the shit because of that offer, done the tour, and then went nowhere. For us, we felt like we’d been given an offer we didn’t really deserve at the time, so we need to make the most of it. So we made sure we were practising three times a week before that tour and it eventually paid off for us. Since then, whenever something positive happens to us, that just means higher expectations on us to deliver.”

Then, in unknowingly imparting some rather smart wisdom, the guitarist adds to “Never treat it like it’s a battle you’ve already one.”

And that’s a great, truly motivational way of thinking for how to guide your band further, and one that I really respect. As that’s an answer I don’t hear from bands often either. It’s this very kind of thinking that will hopefully take Cursed Earth so much further from the isolation of Perth’s city limits.

Now, just like how their good friends in Justice For The Damned recently made the trip overseas to Europe with Thy Art Is Murder, Oceano and After The Burial, Europe will also see Cursed Earth touching down on their mainland in support of Novelists and Make Them Suffer later this month. Something that wasn’t even a dream or hope for the Perth band when they started out.

“When we started this band, going to our first European run with Make Them Suffer would be something that’d never happen. Having been from Perth and watching them play so much from around here in the scene. It’s a similar situation to our headline run earlier this year before the Thy Art tour. It didn’t strike any of us how bizarre it was that we were in a tour package that featured two bands from Perth – just us and Statues.”

Cursed Earth and Statues on the same damn tour? I’m still really pissed I missed that one!

Touring aside, I at one point mention that ‘River Walker’, the final song on Kublai Khan’s newest record ‘Nomad‘ being one of the few Khan track’s that isn’t just another mosh track but is a song that’s eerily similar to Cursed Earth’s own ‘External’ in tone, dynamic, delivery, and pace. Being big fans of Kublai Khan and having toured with them in the past, Molloy and the band are keenly aware of the KK track in question, also discussing the weird little coincides that spring up in their circle of heavy music from time to time.

“That shit happens weirdly enough. One of the big things we’ve had with this record – well, it’s blown out of proportion in our minds – but we’ve had so many comparisons to Knocked Loose’s ‘Oblivion’s Peak‘ with our song ‘War March’. We’ve also had comparisons to Code Orange’s ‘Forever’ as well. We recorded these two EP’s before that Knocked Loose album even came out. Like, we were in the studio a week or two before ‘Laugh Tracks’ came out last year. I think it just comes from a virtue of being in the same scene, being influenced by the same bands, having similar tastes – stuff like that.”

Molloy gives another example of this from much closer to home.

“Make Them Suffer released an album this year called ‘Words Apart’ and around the same time, a new band from Perth started up called Worlds Apart. Neither one is going to step back and change the name of their shit – it’s just a coincidence.”

The bold move of splitting their new album up into two EP’s – ‘Growth‘ and ‘Decay‘ respectively – could have very well risked the band losing interest from listeners as people moved on to other releases. Even with ‘Deacy‘ coming out only a month after its predecessor did and with ‘Cycles of Grief: The Complete Collection‘ digital and physical vinyl release coming out as one damn fine whole on October 20th. However, while Cursed Earth was aware they may lose steam in creating two separate volumes, it was a risk worth taking they felt.

“Of course, that is something that we thought about. But just because you’re nervous or anxious about something happening doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it and not take chances. That’s how we’ve always tried to run this band; we don’t want to be a band that operates like every other band.”

I’m also told that they actually pushed the release date for ‘Decay’ ahead of schedule due to the warm response of ‘Growth‘ and how excited he and his bandmates were about it.

“Originally, the plan was to release the first EP [‘Growth’], then the music video for ‘Rage (The Cost)’, and then wait a little while before we released the second EP. ‘Growth’ went over so well that we decided we didn’t want to wait much longer so we just surprised release ‘Decay’”.

And it all went over swimmingly well for them, thankfully. But surprise release or not, I think the great response to Cursed Earth’s new material comes down to another big factor – popularity. The kind of hardcore sound that Cursed Earth adhere to is a very popular sound right now. The very subjects of this piece and Justice For The Damned rule said sound over here in Australia. Over in the U.K., Holy Roar Records (who did their own local distro for ‘Enslaved By The Insignificant’) have Helpless and Employed To Serve – two great bands who have both dropped killer records this year. Then, over in the States, there are bands like Jesus Piece, EndVein, and good ol’ Nails, among others, are all making me think that there’s been a ‘right time, right place’ moment for Cursed Earth’s sound and recent upward trajectory. Molloy also thinks so.

“100%, for us, what we’re doing came at the right time for this sound that’s coming up right now. Most of the bands that are really killing, as you said, are on Holy Roar Records, and the guy who runs that label is good friends with the guy who offered us that Weekend Nachos tour back in the day. It’s all connected, it’s this very small yet worldwide group of people that support one another and a certain style of music right now, and those seeds are really starting to sprout. The movement where in right now is really growing.”

The phrase ‘high tide raises all ships’ really comes to mind here.

“While I don’t think I’m in a position right now to give much advice, if I had to give advice to any young bands, it would be exactly that. A band doesn’t exist in a vacuum nor does a band grow in a vacuum. Being a part of a community and supporting the scene is an important factor of growing your band.”

Funnily enough, at the time of talking, Kublai Khan’s ‘Nomad’ had just dropped. The week before that new album, Cursed Earth’sDecay’ landed. Then in a few weeks time, both Converge’s and Statues new album will drop (as just two examples). Now, music is not a competition by any means, but one must remember that their band isn’t the only one releasing new music or touring and people only have so much money and there’s only so many hours in the day.

“Well, it can and will be a competition for label managers, band managers, booking agents, but it doesn’t have to be for the bands. There’s no real benefit to us competing with each other.”

True enough: let the Luke Logemann’s and the Adrian Kelly’s worry about that overhead stuff. Cursed Earth is just here to write riffs and play good heavy music.

Cursed Earth’s damned solid ‘Cycles Of Grief’ LP is out now via UNFD. You can read our reviews of ‘Growth’ here and ‘Decay’ hereYou can pick up the new vinyl release of the full LP via 24HundredCheck out the below video for the details on Cursed Earth’s upcoming ‘Decay’ launch show in Perth: 

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