Torrents

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A few months ago, I reviewed the excellent debut full length album from Kansas City’s black metal act Lo-Ruhamah, entitled The Glory of God. The review was well received by the band and subsequently I have stayed in touch with the band and eventually an interview with another publication was set up. However, understandably, the […]

A few months ago, I reviewed the excellent debut full length album from Kansas City’s black metal act Lo-Ruhamah, entitled The Glory of God. The review was well received by the band and subsequently I have stayed in touch with the band and eventually an interview with another publication was set up. However, understandably, the band were unhappy with having an interview in such a limited scope (700 words or less), and ultimately felt the publication was trying to goad them into entering a ‘Christians in metal’ approach or as a novelty act. So, given the chance of interviewing the band with no text limitations and allowing the band to address their obviously important religious and thematic issues, we decided to reconvene and do the interview for this site, albeit via email. Drummer  Harry Frederick Pearson III and guitarsit Matthew Alan Mustain were kind enough to answer some questions from me…

Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way first. Give us a little background of Lo-Ruhamah.
Matthew: We all came together and started playing in 2002, but didn’t officially become Lo-Ruhamah for another two years. Noticing an immediate chemistry and similar musical goals, we began writing and rehearsing, trying to decide in what direction we really wanted to go. We initially intended to play a very brutal form of death metal, but after writing a few songs in that style it felt too regimented and restricting. We wanted a more dynamic premise that wouldn’t hinder creativity, so we eventually dropped an exclusively death-oriented sound in favor of a more melodic diverse direction. That led to the sound that we’ve been developing since 2004.

Right, now onto the meat of the interview- the most pressing issue that sort of killed the initial interview. I’ll come right out and ask it-what is the religious and conceptual backbone of Lo-Ruhamah? You had initially bristled at my suggestions of you being a Christian act, yet the band’s moniker, album title and song titles would seem to point to a Christian band to the casual listener.
Matthew: There is a significant degree of connection between the band and the Christian metal scene. This is primarily due to the label that our two CDs have been released through, as well as us participating in Cornerstone Festival for the last two consecutive years. Some of the bands on that label align themselves with Christian evangelism and proselytizing, and as a result the label’s distribution avenues often place us in retail outlets that are affiliated with Christianity. As you noted, add to that our exclusively religious lyrical content and esoteric imagery, and it’s quite easy to see how the confusion sets in. Without being too long-winded on the matter, we still often comfortably utilize Christian symbols and imagery when conveying communion with the divine, but we do not exclusively adhere to any particular conception nor seek to propagate the views that often accompany them. As such, we are not comfortable being grouped with the general aims of ‘Christian metal’ as a means to further any particular religious convictions. I say this not to skirt the issue or to try to be intentionally abstruse to avoid some obvious connections we have to those beliefs, but rather to clarify our intentions. In the end we simply want to use the music as a catharsis; a means to exorcise and articulate our most profound spiritual experiences, but the band as a collective entity isn’t pushing the agenda of any specific religious group.

I have to address this-why the fairly harsh response to my initial interview questions and eventual decision to not do the interview? It would have been nice publicity (a situation I know we have since resolved but bears addressing to readers wanting some interesting insight into your thought process).
Harry: Not really feeling that the initial interview was for us, we backed out. All the questions seemed pointed towards our being “Christian Black Metal,” which we couldn’t allow. The interview already assumed that was the case instead of asking what our collective philosophy was or even asking musical questions in general.

Why the initial reaction and aversion to being labeled as a Christian band or a Christian black metal band? Or are you even a black metal band in your own minds? Is there some fear of getting thrown out there as a novelty act?
Harry: It’s due to the simple fact that we don’t like being called something that we’re not. Labels like the ones under discussion tend to get in the way, drawing attention away from the art itself. To us, black metal is a very specific way of portraying sounds and ideologies. It’s not just about ‘sounding’ black metal. True black metal is a passionate endeavor with an all encompassing worldview that transcends the music. Although the music is important, we only borrow from the black metal construct, as we borrow from many other genres. We are not black metal.

Can there be such a thing as a Christian black metal band? Is that part of the issue -fan/press reaction to mix of the two?
Harry: That is another concern entirely. The very idea cancels itself out. Once a ‘Christian’ band takes their project past the point of mere allusion and paying homage to a great style of metal, the confusion sets in. Although we believe that a band can play whatever they want, we don’t agree with it.

What are your general feelings on Christianity/Religion in metal? It seems to have found a foothold in metalcore and hardcore but has not seemed to fully broached death and black metal. At least with the fans, despite a few quality acts (Impending Doom, Becoming the Archetype, Extol, Etc).
Harry: We are actually big fans of Extol, and several other bands in the genre, and we have no problem with it. In the case of metalcore and hardcore, many Christian bands were there at the beginning and helped pave the way, but with death and black metal, aside from a few stand-out acts Christian bands merely reproduce what’s already been done. Attempting to engage religious listeners who like metal, while simultaneously trying to break into the secular market, they play it safe and work off existing musical trends.

You seem reluctant as a band to promote yourselves. Why is that?
Matthew: It’s a label’s job to promote an album. Nobody is making any money off of our music anyway, the label included. We just avoid media exposure that will misrepresent the band, without concern for however little additional attention it might temporarily foster. The important thing in the long-term is that the band’s intentions are correctly represented, no matter how small the audience or exposure.

There’s also the issue of coming from Kansas City, MO-not really a hotbed of metal, let alone such enigmatic and esoteric metal. How is it getting local shows or any sort of local coverage?
Harry: Although we only play live a few times a year, we know it is a difficult industry to break into. It seems to work against artists instead of for them. That being said, live performances haven’t been an issue for us, due to the fact that two-thirds of the bad are involved in post-graduate study, and we don’t have much time to play out right now.

As a three piece, your live show version of the albums hugely layered and textured sound must be a bit limited, any plans to add a fourth member? Is it hard finding someone to come into such a unique musical and thematic entity?
Matthew: Everything we write and record can be and has been conveyed sufficiently in a live setting. It’s flattering that you’ve found the sound to be “hugely layered and textured” because all of the material has been written expressly for a three-piece band. I personally think that the depth of the sound comes from the interaction between instruments. We intentionally avoid too much layering in the studio, so what you hear when you spin the disc is a fairly solid indicator of a typical performance. We haven’t considered adding a fourth member because our chemistry doesn’t allow for one. It’s always been the three of us, and it will always be the three of us.

I hear a number of influences, at least musically in your sound; Opeth, Wolves in the Throne Room, fellow Missourians Scholomance (RIP), Exhausted Prayer, Rune etc. What are you influences both musically and lyrically?
Harry: We pull a great deal of influence from extreme metal that is more experimental in nature. We are also inspired by many post-rock acts. Lyrically, we are very critical of ourselves and of others, so we don’t draw inspiration from anywhere outside of our own immediate experiences.

Was there any other label interest or was it Bombworks Records all the way?
Harry: No other labels showed interest and have yet to show any. We are very grateful to the guys at Bombworks for their sincere enthusiasm and relentless support.
It’s a very unique cover art and layout-explain the theme behind it and how it came about.
Matthew: The inspiration for the pieces was drawn specifically from the song “Torrents”. The imagery in the song conveys the transcending, vast, and all-permeating presence of the divine as an ocean that we long to drown in. That theme then extends throughout the album in varied forms to portray the faith-doubt cycle inherent in all spiritual pursuits.

What’s next for Lo-Ruhamah?
Matthew: We are in the process of writing and rehearsing for our third release. If everything goes according to our current schedule, then we will hopefully record it this coming winter, with it seeing a release at some point in 2009.

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