Hey! There’s a metal festival happening in Indianapolis! Have you seen this? Have you heard about this? It’s the Doomed and Stoned Festival and it’s happening right here in Indy. Some of the best doom and stoner metal bands from all over the great United States of America will be at the 5th Quarter Lounge on November 18th and 19th!
One of the bands on the bill is Ohio’s Witchhelm, which arguably may be the heaviest band on the bill, blending crushing down-tuned riffs with occult and pagan themes. Their critically-acclaimed last album, Jötunn, came out early this year, and they’re already finishing up their next one – Dead Nights of the Moon Fear. The extremely multi-talented singer/song writer Sean Deth was gracious enough to answer a few questions for us via email about the band, his other projects, and his approach to song writing.
Indy Metal Shows: First off, thank you for agreeing to this interview! The tracks released so far from Dead Nights of the Moon Fear have been phenomenal. They’re undoubtedly the heaviest you’ve produced. What’s the response been like so far?
Sean Deth: Thank you for the interview and yeah the response so far has been great. Every album got better with the more recording tools I purchased. For the first two albums, I didn’t even have an interface; I had to direct in my computer; it took some mastering but worked.
IMS: Witchhelm is a relatively new project, but has a pretty big following and you’ve put out two full–lengths, an EP, and three singles in the last two years. How did this project start and how were you able to create so much material in a short amount of time?
SD: Well Conjuring was recorded in 2012 and released in 2013 on YouTube and ReverbNation under the band name Urd, but was getting no response, so I took it down and re-released it in 2015 under Witchhelm. So it is basically an album a year. “A Song of Blood and Steel” is a remastered version from my Lucian The Wolfbearer project. Justin came in on guitars shortly after I changed the name to Witchhelm, and a few months later I asked Billy to do drums. The band name is supposed to give more of a feeling of another plane of existence where all magics dwell, like a domain of knowledge of the unknown.
IMS: I understand that you write most of the music. What instrument do you primarily use to write with ?
SD: Well I write guitar riffs first usually, every once in a while I will use bass riffs first. Gotta get song structure down and go with the flow, The percussion is always in my head, makes it easy to put drums too.
IMS: You also program the drums parts. How do you like programming drums? What software do you use? Do you use a midi pad controller? Are there any particular drummer’s that influence you?
SD: Yeah all the albums so far have programmed drums. I do not use a midi controller. I use EZdrummer, a basic beat to keep time then I go back when the song is finished and do fills and replace certain parts with more technique. We have been writing songs as a whole band also, only a few, which we will be taking our time on. I figured within the next year or so after Dead Nights and the Moon Fear, we all will go into the studio to record as a whole band all the stuff we’ve been writing.
IMS: You’ve worked on other projects that were collaborative, like for instance your thrash metal band Black April, and I understand that some of the tracks off of the new album you co-wrote with other members. Which approach to songwriting do you prefer – solo or collaborative? Does it depend on the project?
SD: Yeah, Black April was recorded and written as a whole band, but unfortunately we broke up. We had almost enough new material to record a second album, but all of us started not having time to practice and do it anymore. I like writing as a whole band with like-minded individuals. I know sometimes you can butt heads with some band members. Those are he ones I prefer not to work with, but I do like writing as a whole band, which after this upcoming album It will be a whole band effort to write new material. Justin has a crap ton of awesome doom riffs, same with the other guys.
IMS: I absolutely love Witchhelm’s acoustic tracks or when you include acoustic portions in songs like “And So Doom Begets Life.” Have you ever thought about releasing an all-acoustic album?
SD: I am in process of creating an all acoustic project, well mostly acoustic and some synth stuff kind of like Fever Ray, Wardruna, Agents of Oblivion inspired. The project is going to be called Osi, after my four year old German Shepherd Osiris, I already have half the songs done without vocals for he first album. This is a project I soon am going to be putting some time into.
IMS: What’s the metal scene like in Akron, OH? What are some of your favorite local acts?
SD: The scene is good sometimes and sometimes okay. There is a lot of different styles of music and more than half the time seems to be segregated unfortunately, some people bash genres they don’t like, some don’t, I try to keep an open mind, too me its not a popularity contest, and I can care less how big a band is; we’re all human. Bands I like a lot in my area are, Enhailer, Foul Spirits, Ravenna Arsenal, Midnight, Sparrowmilk, Astronomicon, Vindicator, Axioma, Vernomin James, Supercorruptor, just to name a few, there are much more.
IMS: We’re absolutely thrilled that you’re playing this year’s Doomed and Stoned festival–how did your involvement come about?
SD: Well, Doomed and Stoned have been promoting Witchhelm since we started. They are very involved with the doom scene and are awesome people to work with. They put a lot of work into what they do, and I have the utmost respect for them.