Changing Identity

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Near Death Condition is a brutal Swiss death metal band who have just released their 3rd brutal offering, Evolving Towards Extinction. It’s one of the best in brutal tech death metal for 2014, for sure and the band has grown quite a lot since their debut album, Delusional Perception of Reality back in 2004. Their second album, in 2011, The Disembodied – In Spiritual Spheres, was one of the standout releases for that year. However the band expanded on that sound, became heavier and added a human drummer to the mix, the new cd really crushes

The mainman behind Near Death Condition, Patrick, is a super cool, down to earth individual who cares about the band, death metal and creating some ridiculous riffing, to say the least. So give it up for Near Death Condition and pick up their cds and merchandise. They are a wonderful band.

Ok Patrick, first of all congratulations on your new crushing album, Evolving Towards Extinction. How has the response been to the album as well as the new tracks going over in a live setting?

Many thanks Frank! The response has been very positive so far, we’ve got mainly very positive reviews and excellent feedback from fans all around the world! This new record is almost unanimously praised and it is very encouraging and almost unbelievable. Well, we’ve worked hard for it, but it’s good to see that our work has borne fruit! When we started to work on new songs and included them in our rehearsal setlist, before recording the album, we were right away very excited and looking forward to play them live. The new songs are really harder to play, more complex, but more groovy at the same time. We’ve immediately included some slower riff-based songs in our live setlist like “The Anatomy of Disgust”, “Anagamin” or “Pandemic of Ignorance”, because the public response to this kind of songs is amazing and it’s transcendent to play them!

A lot has transpired since your last album, The Disembodied – In Spiritual Spheres. You have since added a new drummer, Guido, however your bassist Wil left. How did you go about getting Guido and what made you go from having a drum machine, with your past 2 albums, to getting a human? How is he working out? Also you have a bass player, named Simon, for live gigs? Will he join full time and why is it tough to keep a stable line-up?

Guido joined us just after the recording of The Disembodied – In Spiritual Spheres, at the end of the year 2010. The album still wasn’t released. We’ve played with him for months to get ready to hit the road when the album would come out. He played fairly accurately what has been recorded, and honestly, he could easily have recorded drums on the album, but we had set deadlines and we went like that. About Wil, actually he wasn’t really a permanent band member, we’ve never played live with him, he has just recorded a couple of bass tracks for The Disembodied – In Spiritual Spheres, Stéphane and I did the rest, and he left the band just before the release of the album. Therefore we had to find a replacement urgently, and Simon, introduced by a common friend, joined the band. He did awesome work, he had to learn all the songs in less than one month, as I recall, and we started our promotional gigs with this line-up. He has been a full time band member since 2011, he just didn’t record the new album for some personal reasons, and since we had a deadline to meet, I did bass on that record.
Yeah, it’s tough to keep a stable line-up. The main reason is the musicianship level. Since the beginning, we’ve been working with different bass players and drummers; some didn’t meet our criteria, while others didn’t have the motivation to improve themselves to continue with the band. Stéphane and I know exactly where we want to go with the band, and we need musicians that are able to work on their own, we don’t want to waste time in rehearsal teaching others how to play the songs. This way, when we play together, we can focus on details, not on songs structure. This is how we want to work, and it works pretty well with Simon and Guido!

What went into recording the new album and tell me about the concept, design of the cover, how it ties in lyrically, and the chanting that is done on some of the songs, like on “Between the Dying and the Dead”? It really adds an extra layer of atmospheric evilness to your sound; will these parts be expanded upon on the next album?

One day, while I was reading a scientific paper, I came upon an article about exobiology where scientists were saying that there will never be any advanced society able to be sustainable. The initial question was about any possibility to have life on exoplanets with intelligent beings, advanced enough to have means to travel to Earth. And the answer was “no”! Because to be able to travel these astronomical distances, they should have reached such a high level of development and evolution that they would have to destroy themselves by consuming all their natural resources before being able to travel to Earth! The reasoning is rather complex, but it’s based on observations of mankind and its impacts on environment this past century. After this reading, the title “Evolving Towards Extinction” came to my mind, first for just a song. Then we came over this painting by Beksinski used for the cover, perfectly illustrating the concept and the lyrics of this particular song which portrays a society where humans have crowd in cities as a result of the rural exodus, building their own tombs and living in, having no hope of salvation to end as building-like piles of cadavers, and we started the process to get the rights to use the painting. At that time the album was supposed to have another title, but when we got the rights to use Beksinski’s piece of art, we changed it into “Evolving Towards Extinction”. And the idea became the concept of the album: the Earth has been endangered by human deeds for a while, and each song depicts with a very pessimistic point of view one of the multiple negative facets of what characterizes the human species, what our society has become, as well as thoughts about the sense of life and death. It kinda points what has been done wrong, resulting in some issues the least advantaged people are facing and evidence of our evolution towards our own extinction. When you see that some of us are complaining when they don’t have the latest trendy mobile phone for example, while some populations can barely afford to drink water, it’s a serious problem! How can we claim to be lasting?

For the recording of the album, we’ve done it in a pretty simple way. We’ve recorded all tracks in our home studio, Guido did his tracks in his own studio, and we’ve sent them to the Hertz studio in Poland for the mix. We had already worked with them for our previous record The Disembodied, they did the mix and the mastering for that record and we were very satisfied with it. But this time, we’ve worked with another studio for the mastering; we’ve sent the mixed tracks to the Iguana studio in Germany. They have worked with Necrophagist for example. For the recording process itself, actually we’ve recorded all instrumental tracks first, without having worked on vocals. We’ve tried to keep a certain natural and live feeling on it, to make it sound organic. Then Stéphane and I started to work on vocals and recorded a demo with vocals patterns and rhythms. And we’ve distributed the vocals parts between us, decided how each part would sound and worked on vocals orchestration, and finally we’ve recorded the vocals considering what we had planned. Working this way allows us to dissociate vocals and guitars, since we are both playing guitar and singing on stage, and to use vocals as an instrument all of its own. For the chanting parts in “Between the Dying and the Dead”, “Intelligent Design” and also the end of “Praise the Lord of Negation” with its Gregorian chanting, we have worked with a home made choir: we’ve asked some friends able to sing if they were ok to do that. Six singers, three girls and three guys, Stéphane and I included, were present. We had already done things like this on the song “Trinity” on the previous album, but the chanting was done by Stéphane and I only, and we had added some samples to enhance the whole. This time, only real singers in those chanting parts! This is definitely something that we’ll do again in the future, maybe expanded but we’ll see, it’s not an obligation…we do it when we feel it’s necessary.

Hearing your last album and than the new one, it seems like there is no drop off in the drum department. Your drum machine was expertly programmed, but Guido is almost like a human drum machine-the guy is a beast, but adds that little bit of organic influence that is impossible to achieve with a drum machine. How long has he been drumming for and it seems like you guys got faster with him even, I notice a little gravity blasting on the new cd?

Guido has a solid musical background; he has been playing with other bands for years before he joined us. He’s still doing drums in other projects, by the way. He really has a lot of potential, but he needs to be…how I can say…tamed! It’s funny because, as I recall, the first times we’ve played with him, we didn’t use any metronome, and he was always speeding up the songs tempo, some songs which were supposed to last four minutes were reduced to two minutes and a half, it wasn’t just possible to go on like that, songs were losing clarity and interest! As a result we’ve started working with a metronome, and things have righted themselves. All this to say that we weren’t restricted at all by his involvement in the band. And when we’ve entered into the composition process for the new album, we’ve worked as before: when I write a song, or when Stéphane writes a song, we record a demo with guitar tracks and programmed drums, and the others learn and adapt their parts. And Guido has played accurately his parts, the organic influence in addition, and he has enhanced a few parts with his own ideas, like the gravity blasting parts you were talking about. In short, we’ve composed what we wanted to, what we were feeling at the moment, without being constrained in any way.

How is the death metal scene in Switzerland and do you go to shows to support the scene? Do you know the awesome thrash band, Algebra, from your neck of the woods? Even run into Triptykon? Is it tough to get an opening gig for a national act when they come through?

Yeah we know the band Algebra, the drummer is a friend and a supporter! They’re an awesome thrash band, for sure! There are some great bands in Switzerland, definitely. However, the majority of death-metal related bands in Switzerland are rather doing deathcore or slam-death, we deeply respect these genres but we have sometimes the feeling that people who support these bands are not really into the kind of death-metal we’re doing. It is rather tough to get gigs here, things are starting to change now but we have the feeling that we have been ignored for a while. It seems that we are sometimes more awaited outside of Switzerland than in our own country and it’s frustrating. It’s always the same national bands who are booked for gigs in Switzerland! Take for example Algebra, they don’t do lots of gigs here but they’re talented and internationally known, while less ambitious bands often get gigs but will never be known over the borders of Switzerland. Why? That doesn’t make any sense! Near Death Condition has attracted the interest of Unique Leader Records, one of the most coveted independant labels in the death-metal scene today, and they’ve signed us for a three-album deal, both our albums released by this label so far have received a lot of complimentary reviews, but it’s still hard to be booked in Switzerland ! We have done some mistakes in the past for sure, but we have also worked a lot and improved ourselves. Fortunately there are people, who believe in us and help us a lot, and as said before, things are changing now, and we’ve just signed with the booking agency Tenacity Music! About Triptykon, Tom G. Warrior has become a legend with his involvement in Hellhammer and Celtic Frost, and what I’ve heard of Triptykon sounds really awesome, definitely, but to be honest I’ve never seen them on stage.

Patrick-you have been keeping the band going since 2001, a long time. How has the band evolved from your first release Delusional Perception of Reality, to your sophomore album, The Disembodied – In Spiritual Spheres up to an including Evolving Towards Extinction? How has each album changed you all and impacted the sound of Near Death Condition?

When we’ve recorded Delusional Perception of Reality, we did all by ourselves, but we had no idea of sound engineering at all! We did almost everything haphazardly. Let me tell you the story behind Delusional Perception of Reality: the album was composed years before its recording, a couple of songs, “Omega Prayer” and “Betrayal be my Name”, were even composed in the late 90’s for a previous band I was playing in, eventually joined by Stéphane. And I had recorded the whole album on a cassette, all by myself! It sounded really crappy, but I had been recording demos like that since 1993 and had no idea, and above all, no equipment to do it better or differently at that time. But Stéphane showed real interest for what I had done and joined me to record what is now Delusional Perception of Reality. He had a multi track home studio recorder and we went for the recording of the album with it. We did some basic mistakes, like for example putting a mic in front of the amp without working on the guitar tone which was coming out from it, recording all guitar tracks and being forced to drastically rectify the equalization afterwards, on the mix table! But we’ve learned a lot from our mistakes! Then we’ve built a band and did some gigs in Switzerland but we’ve known lots of line-up changes.

In 2008 we’ve recorded a 2-track demo called “The End of All that Lives” including 2 songs featured on our sophomore album The Disembodied – In Spiritual Spheres, “Trinity” and “Prayer to the Universal One”, which was only available for streaming on Myspace at that time, but I think that this demo sounded even crappier than the cassette version of Delusional Perception of Reality! It was time for us to really focus on our sound and to work on it until we would be totally satisfied with. I think that it’s the period where we did the greatest progress in our short career of sound engineers! And we’ve slowly but surely improved ourselves and prepared The Disembodied – In Spiritual Spheres, that we’ve recorded at the end of 2009, beginning of 2010. Where Delusional Perception of Reality was more like a first attempt than a real album, The Disembodied – In Spiritual Spheres was a real first album where we’ve defined our tone and the path we wanted to follow with our music and lyrics, and eventually helped us to get a deal with a label.

With Evolving Towards Extinction, we wanted to explore the atmospheric side of our music in greater depth, keeping the brutal side of The Disembodied – In Spiritual Spheres. It’s another important step forward, we’ve opened the doors to more diversity, and we’ve tried to show that death-metal can be dark and unsettling, with atmosphere, while staying brutal. After all, death-metal has to be disturbing, not just accelerated exercises. Technique has to serve the music, and not the reverse.

Any summer plans for shows/touring? What do you prefer, live, recording or practice? What are some crazy show stories that have happened at your concerts?

We have plans for shows, yes. But nothing concrete for this summer. We will play with Nader Sadek in a few days, as I write, and we’ve just signed with a booking agency, as said before, and we’ll see what they can do for us. At the moment we have just individual shows, no touring. But we are in good touch with some great bands, and we will surely do something with them. But everything remains to be organized.
Live, recording, writing new songs, these are different moments in a band’s life and it’s tough to say which one we prefer. When we’re in a writing process, it seems that it’s the best moment, the main reason to be in a band, but when we play live we are in a totally different mood and we’d say that to play on stage is the best. Personally, what drives me the most is to create music, work on it, see it evolve until it’s completed and recorded. And to play these creations live is the ultimate achievement!
I think the craziest show story is when we’ve played at the Silence Festival in Nepal. Fans were crazy, the craziest fans we have seen so far. And after the show, when we stepped down into the crowd to see the other bands, we were immediately stopped by kids who wanted to take pictures with us! We were like rock stars! It was amazing!

Unique Leader Records, seems to really be behind you guys, with promotions as well as a multi panelled booklet, on the new release, that many bands can only dream of, so are you happy with them and can they help with organizing tours for you all? Do they help with any of the recording budget?

Unique Leader Records does a lot of promotion, I guess that the promotion they did for our previous record was massive and helped us get lots of fans around the world and build a name in the international death-metal scene. They cover all pressing costs and send us CDs when needed. We didn’t have the opportunity to be part of a tour they’ve organised so far, we had a proposal for a US tour in June 2011 but it wasn’t possible for us because of our respective jobs.

Explain your guitar tone, for these last 2 albums you guys have such a dirty and heavy sounding tone-how do you get that tone? What guitars/equipment do you use?

Actually, we’ve used different recording processes and equipments for these 2 albums. On The Disembodied – In Spiritual Spheres, we’ve recorded the guitars with a Digitech RP-1 multieffects into a Sovtek Mig100 head, which is basically a Russian clone of the Marshall JCM 800 head. As said before, Stéphane and I worked a lot on our tone, almost 2 years of writing and recording of demos to improve our sound and technique. I’ve been playing on the RP-1 since 1994, I was thus quite comfortable with this, and we decided to use it for the album. At that time we were very satisfied with this tone and Stéphane bought one for him and we went for gigs with this rig. Today I still think that the tone on this record is killer, but way much too compressed. As for the guitars, we’ve used an Ibanez Universe and an Ibanez S7320 seven-string. But after some gigs to promote The Disembodied – In Spiritual Spheres, it became clear that we could get and had to get a better live tone. And we got rid of these RP-1 and almost changed everything in our equipment. We’ve played for a while on Peavey 5150/6505 amps, in particular for the last few gigs we did before the recording of the new album.

For Evolving Towards Extinction, it’s a much simpler story! We’ve recorded the guitars at home, with a DI box to get a dry signal that can be reamped. Then we’ve sent the DI tracks to the Hertz Studio, and they’ve reamped them, considering our requirements. This time I’ve played on my new beast, a BC Rich Stealth 7, which has a more precise tone than my Ibanez S7320, and Stéphane has played once again on his Ibanez Universe. It’s funny, because when I heard the first mix test from the studio, I got the impression that the guitar tone was basically the same as on The Disembodied, which was kinda interesting since people who liked our tone on our previous record wouldn’t be disappointed with the new one! Ok, for our rhythm tone, it’s that simple. But something I really wanted on Evolving Towards Extinction was to work on my solo tone to explore different soundscapes on each solo. I’ve recorded all of them in stereo, with two different amps and a mic in front of each one, and I’ve added different stereo effects like Uni-Vibe, ping-pong delay, reversed reverb or rotary effects. On some solos the left channel has a normal signal and the right has just a reversed delay, which adds some weirdness, for example on “The Anatomy of Disgust”. On the solo for “Between the Dying and the Dead” I’ve put a fan between one amp and the mic which adds a dirty vibrato effect on the right channel. This has already been done by some influential guitarists, especially Trey Azagthoth. The last solo on “Nostalgia for Chaos” has been recorded twice, so you have four solo tracks with different effects! I’ve also fallen in love with the MXR Phase 90 that I’ve used on several solos, and more stuff like that!

 Where else can Near Death Condition go from here? Where do you want the band go and how do you feel your band impacts the death metal scene and you guys stick out from all the numerous bands out there?

Near Death Condition will continue to make dark, evil and brutal music. I think we’ll enhance the progressive and atmospheric parts of our music. But nothing’s really planned in advance. I mean, we compose music as it comes, with feeling and not constrained in any way. We’ll continue to work on vocals to have a wide variety of growls. We are two vocalists and have different tones of voice, and I think it’s one of our trademarks. I also have lots of new ideas for solos! Our solo work is preferably focused on atmospheres and there aren’t that many death-metal bands with this approach to their solos. It’s something really important for us. It’s not just doing accelerated exercises. Finally, we always set high standards and we deliberately add dark, heavy and tortured atmospheres in our music, and I think that it also makes us stand apart from the other current death-metal bands. This is actually something that many reviews have mentioned.

Was their a specific goal in mind when writing the new album? How do you guys write such brutal yet memorable music? Is it tough to do?

It’s hard to say, music came naturally, without being planned in advance. And what was coming when we were writing the new album were songs that are even more brutal than what we did before as well as slower songs. We have not felt forced to do anything, we just did what we were feeling at the moment, period. For example, when The Disembodied came out, we started to plan to do a lot of chanting parts and use way more keyboards on the following record, but actually there’s not that many of these parts. One thing we do when we are in a creating process is to avoid listening to death-metal. It helps open our mind and be more creative.

Any final comments for our readers?

First, I’d like to thank you, Frank, for the interview and the review. Then to all the readers, I hope you’ll know what you need to know about the band, about our vision. Support the band and don’t hesitate to contact us on our website or facebook page, we try to always reply to our fans and followers! See you soon on the road and thanks for your support!


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