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Unsettling: it’s a word which can be used to describe a good swathe of the music which has come from the mind of Greg Mackintosh over the years, but in the context of Strigoi, it feels particularly apt.
Formed immediately after previous side project Vallenfyre had run its course, Strigoi found Greg and Vallenfyre bassist Chris Casket reconfiguring the aesthetics of that band. Their 2019 debut, Abandon All Faith, was a notable transition, taking the crust punk, death metal and grind influences which had defined Vallenfyre and deriving from those an extreme music amalgam which was altogether more...well, unsettling.
But if Abandon All Faith was a record where the memory of Vallenfyre exerted an inevitable, but important, influence, then second album Viscera is where Strigoi define and express themselves on their own terms.
“It’s the second album and we’re pushing those limits,” says Chris Casket. “The longer songs are longer; the shorter songs are shorter. It’s fully realising the concept. When we did the first album, there were certain expectations as we were coming from Vallenfyre. I felt that it was a really good transition from one to the other. But I feel that with this record, it’s more of a fully fleshed out concept. It’s pushing the light and shade further out.”
“The first album was us giving it its own identity separate from Vallenfyre, even though it’s kind of an obvious continuation, in a way,” adds Greg. “But with Viscera, it’s a combination of pushing the envelope a little bit, making it a bit less raw. Because, we had done that to the Nth degree with Vallenfyre. I’d also say there’s a bit of sound design in there, too, to make it very creepy and, yes, unsettling, sound wise.”
With Covid thwarting Strigoi’s plans to do shows to promote Abandon All Faith, Greg and Chris used the down-time to work on what would eventually become Viscera.
“We have a strange way of working,” says Chris. “I will send words, prose, whatever it may be to Greg. He likes that process, because he reads what I’ve written and it inspires the music he comes up with. I’ve never worked that way before. But that and the added time we had, the space away from things, is what I think has made Viscera what it is.”
Greg adds, “If it’s a song where Chris’ lyrics sound angry, I’ll do a song that’s more, I guess, grounded in the essence of early grindcore. Something that expresses that mood. But if it’s something more sombre or unnerving, then I’ll start with a bit of sound design and work towards riffs. I’ve always thought of music in terms of visuals, and that might come from the lyrics. The last song on the album, ‘Iron Lung’, for example: I actually said to Chris that I had an idea for a song where it feels that you can’t breathe, that it feels like you’ve got a weight on your chest. And the result is probably the toughest going song on the record to get through. But I think it does get that across.”
Viscera, then, clearly defines the Strigoi sound and vision – as Chris says, it’s a “mix tape of misery” and points at ways in which the band may develop in the years ahead.
“I get bored easily,” Greg laughs. “I’ve got a very short attention span. I love doom metal, I love funeral doom, crust punk, grindcore...all these things. But usually after two songs of each I’m thinking, ‘Right, what’s next?’ And that’s my problem, but it does determine what this band and this music is like.”
“There’s not much light on this record at all. If there’s any, it’s there just to emphasise how dark the shade is, really. And what I loved about early death metal, which is when I got into it, is that everything had its own feel back then. That was at the back of my mind the whole time when making Viscera – that I wanted to give it its own feel. But the listeners are going to have to decide whether that was successful or not.”
Recording Studio: Oregon Studios
Producer/Sound engineer: Jamie Gomez and Strigoi
Mixing studio/engineer: Kurt Ballou - Godcity Studios
Mastering studio/engineer: Brad Boatright – Audiosiege
Greg Mackintosh: Vocals and Guitar
Chris Casket: Bass
Guido Zima: Drums
Ben Ash: Guitar
Cover artwork: Brian Sheehan - Legerdemain Art