MPM: We took the time to speak with Paul Riedl the lead vocalist and guitarist of Denver, Colorado’s death metal band Blood Incantation!
First off, how are you feeling today during these pandemic events?
BI: Hi Jake. Things are fine here, just waiting out this quarantine, same as everyone.
MPM: As someone who’s been following the band since 2016’s Starspawn, Hidden History Of The Human Race is getting massive acclaim across the metal world. How’s the reception and overall progression the album took in terms of songwriting, progression, atmosphere and soundscapes in comparison to Starspawn?
BI: Both albums have been well received, but I think the “long wait” between our releases allowed people to be especially enthusiastic about the new album. For us, Hidden History of the Human Race is a natural progression from Starspawn, following the evolution that began with our demo EP Interdimensional Extinction; the songs are continually more complex, the arrangements are more epic, the riffs are more brutal, and the atmosphere is more cosmic. To that end, the production needed to expand in order to accommodate the growth in sound. For the recording itself we returned to World Famous Studios here in Denver, where we’d done our first album. Not wanting to make Starspawn Pt. 2, we needed to mix things up in order to feel justified in making another recording. We wanted the guitars to be tighter, the kick drum to be more up front in the mix, and really just tried to emphasize all of the experimental components. We all loved Pete deBoer’s production on Starspawn, but I believe for HHotHR he really stepped things up and just nailed it.
MPM: I got to see you guys live back in October of 2019 with Immolation and without a doubt your performance, stage presence, and sound quality was beyond incredible and became one of the top ten best live acts I’ve ever witnessed. Could you go over your thoughts on what your stage rituals are and how the music speaks volumes to people who have never seen you live before?
BI: Thanks a lot man. I don’t consider us as having any sort of stage rituals, though. We just go up there and do our thing. We like to play out of full stacks, enjoy headbanging, and just try to bring it as hard as we can for the people who came to see us play. Before going onstage we’ll drink some yerba maté, do some stretching, maybe smoke a joint – nothing exotic, just loosening things up and hoping to play well. Luckily, on the last few tours we’ve had the privilege to play for a majority of audiences who aren’t familiar with our music, and to be honest I think that’s one of the best environments for us. While it’s great to have people familiar with the band getting super into it, when you dive into twenty minutes of lava like “The Vitrification of Blood” (Parts 1 & 2) right out of the gate, it usually gets an unsuspecting audience’s attention. Our songs have a lot of dynamics between fast and slow parts, atmospheric clean parts and wild guitar solos, all of which helps us to stand out to the crowd at an average Death Metal show. People regularly comment that our live sound is very consistent with our recorded sound, and that makes us really happy since we rely more on our actual equipment than we do on the venues or sound-people. With the exception of a few samples, everything we do in the rehearsal room is how we do it in the studio, and consequently how we bring it to the stage, so we try to keep things as transparent and streamlined as possible.
MPM: Hidden History Of The Human Race has a lot of lyrical themes from Outer Space, Astral Death, Anunnaki Mythos and Science Fiction. What was the inspiration in terms of writing the lyrics and who are your biggest influences in writing such intelligent and comprehensive songs?
BI: The lyrics aren’t Sci-Fi at all, actually. People just live mundane lives and presume concepts like the multiverse, non-human lifeforms and the infinite cosmos itself to be the exclusive turf of “Science Fiction”. One of these days all of the squares on Earth are going to get the shock of their lives when they are presented with unequivocal proof that human life is nowhere near the center of the material universe, and I have greatly looked forward to that moment my entire life. Personally, I just want the lyrics to be otherworldly, surrealistic, and above all to spark the curiosity of the reader. I appreciate bands like Lykathea Aflame, Formulas… era Morbid Angel, and post-Obscura Gorguts, all of whom incorporate mystical, introspective and unusual lyrics based on genuine philosophy or ancient metaphysical sciences.
MPM: You’re also in another band called Spectral Voice that plays a very horrific, murky and disgusting style of Death and Doom Metal. Is there any word about the possibility of a new Spectral Voice album coming out in the foreseeable future or is it classified to discuss?
BI: Spectral Voice have just released a new split 7” with Anhedonist, on Dark Descent and Parasitic Records. This split features the last known Anhedonist recording from 2011, and the first new Spectral Voice song since our debut album Eroded Corridors of Unbeing in 2017. Two previous splits with Vastum and Phrenelith, though both released after our debut, each featured material recorded in 2015, predating ECoU by two years. So, they were not representative of our current direction at all. “Ineffable Winds”, however, is a perfect indication of what to expect from future Spectral Voice recordings. We see it as a synthesis between the primitive bludgeon of our demo Necrotic Doom and the atmospheric qualities of Eroded Corridors of Unbeing.
MPM: Blood Incantation to me brings out many components of death metal from old school, technical, progressive and atmospheric. In your opinion, what inspired you to be a musician playing extreme metal?
BI: I’ve just always liked music, and have always gravitated towards dark, melodic, and atmospheric music. Starting with punk in my early teens, it was a natural progression into darker and more extreme forms of that music like crust, grindcore, sludge, etc. Extreme metal has dozens of sub-genres that satisfy all of those yearnings, so it’s ideal for me pursue them in that context. I’ve been playing guitar since 2002, but before that was in band and orchestra classes as a child. Growing up we had a piano in the house, my sister played violin, my mother sang. My dad also played guitar and would always have NPR’s Echoes, Mozart, or Enya playing around the house – I like to think my bands have always attempted to bridge these things. Anyway, my point is that music has simply always been a part of my life, and brings me my greatest joys and pleasures in life.
MPM: On the third track on the album you had Antti Boman from Finland’s Demilich for the song Inner Paths (To Outer Space). What’s it like to collaborate with one of the most recognizable vocalists in death metal today?
BI: While Antti is indeed a legendary cult figure in Death Metal, he is ultimately just our friend and a great dude. We toured with Demilich in 2018 with both Blood Incantation as well as Spectral Voice, but we originally met back in 2016 at California Deathfest. Obviously being massive fans already, I brought a care package of our merch over to him at their merch table and was simply aghast when I introduced myself and he told me he was already familiar with our music. Having since spent many weeks together on the road, joking and partying, we became good friends. Our collaboration for “Inner Paths…” was mostly spontaneous, and as easy as a text message. We were in the studio recording the song, and discussing options for the lone growl at the end of the track. Unable to produce the necessary effect myself, the first person that came to mind was of course Antti, so I just asked him directly if he’d have the time or interest to contribute, and the next day he was sending us tracks. We absolutely love his vocals, and they are just what the song needed. It’s definitely surreal to hear Demilich vocals on top of a Blood Incantation song, and we are very grateful. Cheers Antti!
MPM: When you started Blood Incantation back in 2011, what bands or albums struck you to become the songwriter and guitarist to become where you’re at today?
BI: I’ve been in bands since 2002, when I started playing guitar. Blood Incantation would not have been possible without the dozens of bands I went through on my way to meeting Isaac that fateful day in 2011, as I simply could not have played or arranged the material without all those years of practice and playing different styles like Black Metal, Funeral Doom, and Drone in the past. As a guitar player, I am really only as good as the most recent Blood Incantation song; I am always learning and growing, trying to evolve my playing to better translate the music I can hear in my mind onto the fretboard. I’ve always appreciated melodic playing, great melodies, dual-guitar harmonies, etc. Some of my favorite guitar players are obvious, like Chuck Schuldiner, Trey Azagthoth, Bill Steer and James Murphy, but others like Kody Keyworth (teamed with Donnie Stanley), Billy Corgan, Tom Verlaine, John Gossard, and David Gilmour are no less important.
MPM: With Blood Incantation and Spectral Voice being on Dark Descent Records, how’s the label been treating both bands and what would be your opinion on the current state of underground death metal band’s who are carrying the torch to bring the genre stronger than ever before?
BI: We’ve been friends with Matt Calvert (Dark Descent) since around 2011. We would meet at shows with our other bands and I would usually pester him with rehearsal tapes for new projects I was working on. At one point in 2014 he reached out to Eli from Spectral Voice for my number, and the rest is history. My opinion on the current state of the underground is not very flattering, to be honest. Luckily, it’s also irrelevant, so I will keep it to myself. However, some modern Death Metal bands who I respect and who I think are doing good work for the genre would be bands like Mortuous, Faceless Burial, Hyperdontia, Undergang, and Mortiferum. From the Old Guard I would say bands like Gorguts, Immolation and Defeated Sanity are absolutely as relevant right now as they were back in the day.
MPM: To me, Blood Incantation has major influences from Timeghoul, Demilich, Morbid Angel, Immolation, Gorguts, and Nocturnus. What makes Blood Incantation unique and creative that no other band sounds like you in today’s Modern era of Death Metal?
BI: We take influences from all of those bands, but also many more. I am genuinely surprised nobody ever mentions bands like Lykathea Aflame, Absorbed, Supuration, Atrocity, Disincarnate, StarGazer, Septic Flesh, Suffocation and especially Death. When Isaac and I started the band in late 2011, our intention was to merge the strange, mystical Death Metal of Gorguts, Lykathea Aflame and StarGazer with the classic brutal riffing of Death, Morbid Angel and Disincarnate. This strain of influences (and many, many more) still informs our playing today, but it’s less about the riffs themselves and more so how we respect and are inspired by these bands’ strength in their refusal to submit to the cookie-cutter palate from which most music (not just Death Metal) is derived. Additionally, I’ve been in over 20 bands the last 18 years, and an astute listener can hear echoes of every one of them throughout all of my current bands. Going back through those old projects, you can also hear many elements that now “define” my current bands’ sounds in their primordial stages.
MPM: What are some of your favorite songs to play live and are there any moments where you play a song that connected you spiritually when it’s performed?
BI: This is sadly an ignorant question, I’m sorry. The fact is that Blood Incantation exists BECAUSE of our spiritual connection to this music – that’s exactly why it sounds the way it does, and why we are so insane about everything involving our music, from the subtle components to the overall presentation, the overarching aesthetic, all of our merch, just everything man. The entire band concept, every single riff, each lyric, and all of the artwork exist in this manner precisely because we love ALL of it. It’s not a casual party situation, a local hobby, or something we merely think of as “cool” to do in our spare time: this band is our LIFE. We are here to bring this EXACT music to the world. The physical and emotional sensations while playing Blood Incantation’s music are impossible to describe with human words, so just listen to it (either live or on record) and you can hear exactly how we feel about it.
MPM: If Blood Incantation were to have its very own dream lineup tour, what are some bands you like to have on board?
BI: The ultimate tour we are trying to bring to the world is: Gorguts, Defeated Sanity, Blood Incantation and StarGazer. We have been working toward this goal for 8 years and we are always getting closer… so get ready.
MPM: Do you prefer being in studio creating music and writing lyrics, or going out touring and engage with people while being on stage promoting the album?
BI: I just enjoy the whole process, to be honest. From rehearsing and writing the material, either at home or in the practice space, to recording it in the studio, to hitting the road and bringing our music to the people. The whole process of simply making records is one of my biggest pleasures in life. Each aspect of the creative process requires a unique mindset, and I appreciate them all equally. Some people don’t enjoy the pressure of being in the studio and prefer the safety of the live performance, where mistakes are more easily forgiven; others love the studio mindset but can’t handle the rigors of the road – not me! My favorite thing to do in life is simply to play guitar, so however I get to do it makes me happy.
MPM: If you weren’t a musician right now, what are some downtime hobbies you like to do in your free time?
BI: I’ve been a musician for my entire life, so the answer to this question is the same as I have mentioned before. I don’t have a choice in this matter; this music is simply what I’m here to do.
MPM: Lastly to close the interview, I would personally like to thank you in doing this with me and have always appreciated your honesty, motivation and determination in doing the interview. Are there any final words you like to say to your fans and what they can expect for Blood Incantation and Spectral Voice in the near future?
BI: The Internet isn’t real life, social media doesn’t mean anything, and there’s no shortcut or substitute for actual experience and hard work. Support music, not rumors – and let the Metal flow! And remember, no death as known… only doorways. You are the stargate.
Interview by Jake Butler