Daydreams on the Edge of a Knife

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New York’s So Hideous is the kind of black metal band that purists love to hate. No spikes, no corpse pain, no Satanic lyrics or imagery. Just four dudes in flannel shirts and jeans. Throw in some gorgeous orchestration and you get the perfect storm of supposed pretentiousness that linked to the likes of Liturgy and Deafheaven. But, for those willing to look past all of that bullshit and actually listen to So Hideous and their recently self released full length debut, the result will be fulfilling.

Featuring shrill and melodic, jangly blasts and an actual live, 10 person orchestra, the album Last Poem/First Light is a joy to behold with a regal, austere and hymnal back bone to the atypical black metal. So Hideous guitarist Brandon Cruz was kind enough to tell me a little more about one of my favorite releases of 2013, the band and being ‘pretentious’…

Tell me about How So Hideous started and who is currently in the band. 

Initially I was making orchestral/drone/post rock and sought to speed it up a bit and have somebody yell on top of it. This was around 2007 and it took about a year to get the first lineup together.  Since then we’ve had several line up changes but now we’ve settled in and hit a stride with our current cast of characters: Brandon Cruz – guitar/keys, Chris Cruz -vocals/bass, Etienne Vazquez – guitar,  Danny Moncada – drums

Why the name change from So Hideous, My Love? Folks think it was pretentious? 

This is nearly three years old… We received an injunction from the production company of the film our name was based on [a documentary about horror director Dario Argento] and being sued really wasn’t something we were into. If it were up to me I would’ve kept the name and added an additional paragraph to it, give these trolls something to do.

Speaking of pretentious, your style of metal, as well as your non-corpsepainted (how dare you!) looks, is bound to get lumped in with the likes of Deafheaven and Liturgy and get the awful ‘hipster’ black metal tag — which seems ridiculous to me. How do you feel about post-black or black-gaze labels and pigeonholing? 

It is what it is. These are things the closed minded metal fan and journalists expend their energy on. We don’t write music in the hopes of being associated with some burgeoning scene or on the other end, attempt to make some grand statement to subvert it. We make music we enjoy and look the way we look.

In my review of Last Poem/First Light, I thought you guys culled heavily from the likes of Deafheaven , MONO and Envy — is that accurate in your opinion or are you one of those bands that claim the whole ‘we forge out own sound’ and don’t have any influences?

Envy is absolutely a huge influence on this project and was in a lot of ways the benchmark for the guitar based aspects of So Hideous. All The Footprints… really changed my perception on how beautiful abrasive music could be. MONO is another band that greatly informed how the band compositions are approached. With Deafheaven it’s a case of bands with similar influences releasing material in close proximity and while it’s great to be compared to an act that is doing great things and releasing strong records; So Hideous released our first material prior to theirs and are striving to go our own way.

I absolutely adore the orchestral element of So Hideous, especially as it’s a live orchestra. How did you stumble upon the First Light Orchestra or were they created with So Hideous in mind? 

Thank you. The orchestra is comprised of a loose assembly of NY-based classically trained musicians. My friend Noah Gall is a performing violinist and I usually call him in a panic looking for additional musicians prior to recording our records and he goes away for a few weeks and comes back with exactly who we need. On a whim we named it the First Light Orchestra

How is that orchestral sound obtained live? I assume you dont have the First Light Orchestra travel with you? 

Short of a few loop, we perform all of our material as an extremely loud four piece. The band has talked about adding a live keyboardist but the person would have to be a decent fit and not jerk off with scales or virtuoso bullshit. We’d also love to bring a full orchestra with us on tour but we don’t have Olafur Arnalds’ budget just yet.

Your debut EP was released on vinyl by Play the Assassin Records, but the recent album was self-released — how so? Was there any label interest or was your sound too out there for most metal, or black metal labels? I thought a label like The End Records would be perfect for you guys. Any thoughts on that label? 

We self-released the record initially to have complete control and expedite getting it out. The band is absolutely open to working with labels in the present and future but it would assuredly have to be a mutually beneficial situation. Im not familiar with end records but I will definitely check them out.

In your mind what exactly is BLACK metal? 

It doesn’t really matter.

The last song on the CD, “Glory”, is by far one of my favorite compositions of 2013. It has a very hymnal/churchy sound. Is that what you were going for? 

Thanks! “Glory” was/is always a favorite of ours and good call, we were definitely going for the ecclesiastical Bach thing. That song was one chapel organ overdub away from being totally insane.

When composing music with orchestral elements, what is the writing process — does the song come first and the orchestral arrangements are filled in, or vice versa? 

We don’t really separate the song from the orchestrations in the writing process. They are all part of the same piece and unfold alongside each other. One thing we always say in rehearsals is that the music should be strong enough to stand on its own regardless of how it’s interpreted. So if we take out the screams, distortions and blast beats it should still have an impact.

It seems the NY black metal scene, for all its ‘post’ labeling, is pretty healthy. Why is that?

The NY/tri-state area is thriving musically regardless of genre. There are so many bands we play alongside that are doing exceptional work. Tiger Flowers, Meek Is Murder, Black Table, and East of the Wall are just a few the readers should look into.

Are you guys involved with any other projects? 

We are all involved in various other personal and professional projects but at this point we are focusing our energies on this and working toward our next release.

Thanks for the interview, any parting messages for the TOTD readers? 

So Hideous would like to thank everyone reading this, listening to the record, coming to shows, buying shirts, etc. The support is humbling and really makes it all worth it.



  1. Commented by: SRK

    Kudos to these guys for not taking the bait to take a few potshots in the “black metal culture wars”. Had a listen to a few clips from these guys, and it’s not my cup of tea. But they are right: there are clear dissimilarities between them and more “traditional black metal”, but whether that means they deserve to be called “black metal” is probably not something that has a single, once-and-for-all answer.

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