There a million and one bands playing in any one given country at the same time and sometimes it’s pot luck to discover a band that you think have the skill and musicianship to play at a higher level than they currently are. Supporting underground titans Grave Miasma, I had witnessed a band called Vacivus that played the dark, deep and atmospheric death metal that I love. There are some hugely talented bands in the UK and one such band released a killer album Annihilism which I also proudly mention in my best of 2019 article. Basically it’s that good and should move Vacivus into new territories and spread the word of Vacivus and with the backing of Profound Lore Records, this should be happening for them. I caught up with drummer Ian to get his thoughts on all things Vacivus.
Simple things first – where are you guys from?
We all hail from the North East of England. Most of us are Sunderland natives (including myself) but a couple of us come from a little further afield. We all got to know each other through the Sunderland/Newcastle scene back in the day.
How long have you been playing together as a band?
We’ve been playing together as Vacivus since around 2013, although Nick joined the band a little later. The rest of us had been playing together for a few years in a different band before Vacivus though, and so we’ve built up a musical chemistry over the last ten years or so.
Describe your music. What makes you unique?
If I had to put a label on it, I’d say that our music is savage, dark and atmospheric death metal devoted to the void. We tend not to worry about labels when we write though, and so our music incorporates elements from black metal, doom and other styles of music. I think our energy is what really makes us unique in the current scene, which is admittedly packed with some great OSDM bands. Nick has an amazing stage presence and our live shows tend to be high energy and savage without compromising on the atmosphere.
You have released your third album Annihilism in October. How does it feel to get the album out there for the masses to hear for the first time and how have the responses been thus far?
Annihilism is our second full length as Vacivus. It feels great to have the record out for people to hear, and the response has been fantastic so far. We really challenged ourselves to take a step beyond what we had previously done in terms of songwriting and musicianship on this record, as well as working on the overall tone and mix, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the results. Since we first unveiled “Shards” as the promo single for the album, we have been blown away by people’s reactions and couldn’t be more grateful to all the people that have supported us by buying the new record and coming to see us play!
This will be your second album released through Profound Lore Records which is a huge achievement in itself and must have been a dream come true being signed to the label. How did you end up getting signed to Profound Lore Records and how has the support been from the label so far?
Thanks, yeah it was great when Chris approached us about releasing our debut album as we already considered Profound Lore to be one of the best labels in the modern scene. He’s been hugely supportive and allowed us an amazing level of freedom and autonomy to produce the best album we can, which is a refreshing change from some labels which I’ve worked with previously in other bands. It’s also nice to be a part of a roster which is so consistent in quality while being so varied stylistically.
The cover art from Khaos Diktator for Annihilism is stunning. Out of interest, what information do you give the artist for them to create the cover art?
Stefan did an amazing job on the art for this album. I had a specific vision for the album cover actually, and so I worked quite closely with him during the process of creating the artwork. I had previously painted an image of a gaping void maw in an inverted triangle which I wanted him to incorporate into the piece. Overall I wanted the image to represent mortals throwing themselves towards an embodiment of death and Stefan brought a magical sense of dark mysticism to the piece. I couldn’t be happier with how he realised my vision for the cover.
Being active for a number of years now, how would you say Annihilism compares to that of your earlier material and do you think you have found the sound you strive for or will Vacivus continue to keep experimenting?
Annihilism is definitely the most ambitious and challenging record we have produced to date. We always try to keep pushing ourselves with everything we write though, as we play music because we have a real passion for it and wouldn’t want to just churn out riff salad which does nothing to help us grow as musicians. At the same time, we don’t want to reinvent the wheel with every release, just to push our limits in terms of our creativity and musicianship.
How often is the band able to get together and rehearse in the studio? Where do you get together and record?
We’re quite lucky in that we have a rehearsal room in Sunderland where we get together as close to once a week as possible. When it comes to recording, we’ve done both of our full-lengths with Greg at Priory Studios. He has a great setup and an incredible ear for detail, and he always makes us feel at home when we record with him. We’ve all worked with him in various different bands too, so there’s a level of trust and respect that we’ve built up through working with him for so long.
Are there the main songwriters of songs that take care of everything or is Vacivus now a band where all members contribute to the songs?
We’re quite democratic with our songwriting process, and a lot of our music is developed organically in the rehearsal room as a collaborative effort, but sometimes individual members might bring in fully formed songs which they’ve worked on in isolation. Even if a song was written by one member of the band, through the process of learning and rehearsing the song we will all add our own individual elements to the mix. We’re quite open to experimenting with new ways of writing music though, and definitely relish the blend of different influences and ideas that we can get through group songwriting.
Being a five-piece when the album was recorded and having different musical influences within the band, was there sometimes a lot of negotiating within the studio or do you feel you are writing the music you want to for the band?
No, we generally work really well with each other when writing material, as we all want to produce the best music that we can. Sometimes we can get quite intense when writing, but in a healthy, creative way. It’s usually more a case of being inspired by other ideas coming from different members of the band, which set us off on creative paths which we might never have found on our own. We tend to feed off each other’s creativity in the rehearsal room in this respect.
I stated in my review for Annihilism that one of your strengths is the band having a steady line up and the continued strength to strength of the songs shows this. How do five maniacs from Sunderland stick together for so long?
I guess we all just genuinely love making savage music together! Seriously, I can’t speak for the other guys in the band, but music is hugely important to me and I can’t imagine a life where I wasn’t making music in some form. We’re a bunch of friends who share a genuine passion for dark, heavy music and I couldn’t ask for a more talented set of bastards to work with.
You have again used Greg Chandler and Dan Lowndes for the recording of Annihilism. Again the importance of a strong relationship on all formats shines through. How have Greg and Dan helped you as a band to move forward?
Greg and Dan are both hugely experienced in their craft and both fully understand what we are trying to achieve musically. It’s great to have people on board who really get what we’re trying to do, and they are the perfect people to help us realise our musical vision. Greg has really helped us work on filling out the tone on the new album, as he helped us to explore more crushing bass tones which brought a lot of power to the finished recording.
Is there a main lyricist within the band? What are the lyrics from the album based on?
I write most of the lyrics for the band, with contributions from Nick. Conceptually the lyrics deal with exploring the worship of a death as a universal entropic force. I like to think that human concepts such as demons and Satan are just poor attempts to describe and anthropomorphise this universal force of destruction which will eventually lead to the heat death of the universe, and so our lyrics will draw from spirituality as well as science. What lies beyond the gates of death? Where did our universe come from? These are questions which spiritualists and scientists have asked and answered in drastically different ways, and we try and merge the two philosophies somewhat when exploring these ideas in our lyrics.
2019 was quite a year for expansion on the touring front. How was Vacivus received in the continent in places such as Spain, Holland and France and do you have further plans for 2020 on that front?
Getting out into Europe with our brothers in Barshasketh last year was an incredible experience! We were very warmly received everywhere we played and were able to meet some amazing people and make some new friends along the way. SWR fest was definitely a highlight of the tour, but the shows we played in Donostia, Barcelona and Tilburg were amazing too. We are hoping that we can organise something similar this year as it would be great to get back to Europe, as well as heading further afield such as Canada and North America if possible. If any promoters want to help us make this a reality, get in touch!
How hard has it been to juggle the touring side of things with the everyday jobs? Do you have plans to go on more bigger tours and further afield in 2020?
This is always a challenge, and “real life” has a nasty habit of getting in the way sometimes. We would love to do more international tours though and are currently looking to organise something for later in the year. We will always try and do as much as we can with the band, but currently, the time we have available to tour is limited, so we sometimes have to prioritise the opportunities that we do get.
How hard is it for a metal band like Vacivus to survive in the current climate where bands have to tour non stop and sell merchandise in order to bring money back into the band?
If we wanted to make money we wouldn’t be playing death metal. We’re lucky enough to be in a position where we can produce albums with the support of Profound Lore and tour successfully, however, almost all of the money we make as a band goes back into the band somehow. This is our passion and, even though we may never get rich from being in a band, it’s about the craft and the music.
Before the internet, magazines and fanzines were the places to find out about new bands and trends. Now publications are replaced with thousands of websites catering for all genres. Do you think that some of the passion has been lost or do you think that the internet has been a good thing for music and Vacivus?
There are elements of good and bad in this. The internet means that people are more connected than ever before, and so a side-effect of this is that it’s easier to produce and publish your own music than it ever has been. As always, you have to sift through a lot of shit to get to the good stuff, but the gems are out there. Sites like Bandcamp have given musicians a platform where you can bypass labels entirely if you want, however, these are just mediums for the music. The key is finding the people who truly have that passion and that spark amidst the sea of mediocrity.
A fun question to end this interview. If you were a DJ and were allowed to bring 5 CDs to the party, what would they be?
Haha, that depends on the party! I’m a sucker for old school goth stuff personally and so would probably bring The Sisters of Mercy – Floodland to get the party started, then Judas Priest – Painkiller to ramp things up a notch. Then Wu-Tang Clan – Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) to change it up a bit before Aphex Twin – Richard D. James album takes everything into a very strange place. Finally nothing ends the night quite like Portishead – Dummy for some chilled out beats.
Any last message for our readers here at Moshville Times?
Thanks for all the support! Keep worshipping at the temple of the abyss!
Annihilism is out now