Cromlech out of Canada just released their first album through Italy’s My Graveyard Records. The band is far from the finished article yet, but the strong self confidence they seemingly possess as well as their desire to do things their own way, resulting in a quite original form of epic metal, are reasons good enough to warrant a feature here at Metal Squadron. The five guys gathered at band practice to answer my questions.
Cromlech was formed back in 2011. Under which circumstances did this happen? Brandon Keddy (bass), Jacob Jezovit (drums) and Roman Lechman (guitars and vocals) were already at Into Oblivion at that time, how did you hook up with David Baron (guitars), and has he played in other bands before Cromlech?
– Roman and Baron met at an Into Oblivion show and discussed Solstice, Bathory and other bands of massive testicular fortitude. About a month later, Baron asked Roman if he wanted to join his epic doom metal project. He agreed, having long since desired to write music more visceral and earthy than the abstract and esoteric themes of his original group (as well as having had discovered a long dormant classic heavy metal addiction). They originally practised at Brandons shed, which was the current Into Oblivion practice space, and Brandon joined after hearing the massive testicular fortitude of Baron’s riffs. We had a different drummer at first, Tharles Cownsend, a friend of Barons, who moved away. Jake, returning from his ten year stint as a Croatian mercenary, filled in on the drums.
While you are at it, please also fill us in on the incidents that led up to the recording of your first demo titled “Ancestral Doom”, it must have been during the spring/early summer last year?
– We recorded the demo in the practice shed ourselves. It was a cramped toolshed filled to the top with several amp stacks and a drum kit – no heating, no insulation or sound dampening, Do it yourself all the way! There was also a lost demo, “Lair of Doom”, featuring a blackout-drunk Baron solo extravaganza (a re-recorded version may be included in our next release).
What was the purpose of the demo, to hear what the band sounded like in a studio, to spread the word or to secure a record deal pretty much straight away? Was the demo distributed?
– The “Ancestral Doom” demo was a pre-production recording of the tracks featured on the Into Oblivion/Cromlech/Shoor split “Under the Banner of the Serpent Sun”. It featured Baron on vocals on “For a Red Dawn” and was intended to promote the band and of course a record deal would’ve been great.
The songs on the demo, “For A Red Dawn” and “To See Them Driven Before You” are both to be found on “Ave Mortis” as well. As the versions on the album are both a little shorter, I guess we must be talking about rerecorded versions?
– Yes, they were of course re-recorded in our studio space instead of in a toolshed. Both were played at a slightly faster tempo and include additional arrangements and embellishments not present on the demo or split, such as the cinematic intro to “To See Them Driven Before You”.
You mentioned the split release with Into Oblivion and Shoor. Was this a release that was mainly distributed locally? Did it help you spreading the name?
– It was self-released and distributed locally. It helped spread the name through Into Oblivion’s following, and secured our deal with My Graveyard Productions after we sent them Cromlech’s side of the split. They expressed interest in releasing a full length. This was also around the same time that Kevin joined the band on vocals, so that just sweetened the deal. We are very happy with our arrangements and would like to give a mighty hail to Giuliano!
The description on your Facebook page says that the band is the antithesis to all that is trivial and banal in heavy. Can you clarify what you mean, and maybe give some examples of things that you feel are trivial or banal in today’s heavy metal?
– We’re referring to retro throwback metal bands with lyrics about beer, pizza, and high-top sneaks. Also, too much rock and blues influence (in bands other than the early incarnations of the genre). Generic heavy metal in general. It’s something that has always existed of course, not limited solely to modern metal.
How do you feel about your own scene in Toronto, with bands like Axxion, Skull Fist and Cauldron who in many people’s view are the face of Canadian heavy metal today? Is this statement aimed at these bands, or do you respect these acts for what they do?
– Cromlech is the face of Canadian Heavy Metal. Our aim in creating music is very different from the aforementioned bands if lyrics and music are any indication.
“Crushing the false and destroying the weak” is a sentence that can be found on your facebook page. Do you have some kind of mission with Cromlech, that goes beyond just making good music?
All this implies that Cromech offer something else, some kind of alternative. What do you offer instead, that isn’t banal or trivial?
– A varied sound, and dynamics reminiscent of older heavy metal such as Mercyful Fate, Iron Maiden, Fates Warning and Helstar. As opposed to being a W.A.S.P. tribute band (not that W.A.S.P. isn’t fun), crafting epic structures and proper songwriting is our aim. Simplicity is not something we’re against however; a poem can be simple but beautiful and so can music. We just take a stand against genericisms and copouts that many perform in metal, and art in general for that matter. There is so much dead “culture” in our era; a consequence of the mass availability of technology. Everyone can say something whether or not it is worth saying. Let them! Our music and themes reflect their influences: heroic exploits in history and literature. At the end of the day, the music speaks for itself better than our descriptions can. We would prefer people just listen to the music, read the lyrics, and draw their own conclusions.
The band was a quartet until Kevin Loughnane entered the frame sometime last year. How long before you started the recording of the album, did he join? Where did you find him?
– Kevin joined about six months before the recording of the album, having been a friend of Roman’s and a long-time fan of Into Oblivion. Baron had been adamant about having a standalone vocalist for live performances if nothing else, and Kevin was eager to try out. From the start he would have at least been a live vocalist, but after a “sing off” of sorts we realized it would be a good idea to have Kevin do a few of the album songs and Roman do a few of the others.
Will the vocal duties be shared between Kevin and Roman in the future, or will Kevin do all the singing?
– Having learned their vocal ranges are different, we’re going to utilize the strengths of Roman’s rich baritone and Kevin’s soulful tenor. Essentially more focus will be given to properly utilizing each vocalists range, and not having Kevin sing low while Roman sings high for example. It’s not unprecedented to have two vocalists: new Darkthrone features songs on which Fenriz or Nocturno Culto sing alone, as does every Summoning release. Roman will however always monopolize the harsh vocals.
As the booklet of the CD doesn’t give any information, please share some information about the songwriting process in Cromlech. Who is doing the music and the lyrics, and what would you name as the most important influences for the lyrics?
– Both songwriting and lyrical duties were shared between Roman and Baron. The exact delineations of who wrote what are somewhat difficult to make. For example, Roman wrote almost the entirety of “Honor” (minus that one under the verse lead) while Baron wrote the lyrics and vocal melodies. Conversely, while Roman wrote a great deal of the riffs in “Amongst the Tombs”, Baron arranged the majority of them into the current song structure. Cromlech is largely collaborative between the two, and arrangements are always contributed by all. However, a broad generalization of who did what can be made as follows:
1. “Ave Mortis” (music by Roman)
2. “For a Red Dawn” (lyrics, music by Baron)
3. “Honor” (lyrics by Baron, music by Roman)
4. “To See Them Driven Before You” (lyrics by Roman, music by Roman)
5. “Of The Eagle and Trident” (lyrics by Roman, music by Roman)
6. “Lend Me Your Steel” (lyrics by Roman, music by Baron)
7. “Amongst the Tombs” (music by both)
8. “Shadow and Flame” (lyrics by Roman, music by Baron)
Again, this is a broad generalization. It does not take into account the key influence of both songwriters upon each other, and the fact that key elements in certain songs (such as the solo tradeoff in “Of the Eagle and Trident” or the main solo in “To See Them Driven Before You”) were mostly made by the person who did not write the song. Our lyrical and thematic influences can be found in the liner notes of the album.
You are not making it very easy for the listener, with most of the songs around the ten minute mark and a combined playing time for more than seventy minutes. Do you really think most people are able to maintain their focus for so long? I guess the album is intended to be absorbed as a whole, not in bits and pieces?
– Assaulting “easy-listening” is part of being against “all that is banal and trivial in heavy metal”. Isn’t heavy metal not easy to listen to in the first place?
Would you say that making music that demands something from the listener and is not easily consumed is part of what Cromlech is about?
– Our music is a series of battles that the listener must persevere through.
I guess most people will put you in the epic metal-genre. Are genres or categorization important for you? In a time were the term “epic metal” is clearly misused by many, how will you define what epic metal is all about?
– Genres are a relatively useful musical classification but, like many things, are a good servant and bad master. Slayer’s “Metalstorm/Face the Slayer” is epic, and largely heavy metal (and an influential archetype), but I don’t think most would call it “epic metal”. Our music, while being generally what most would call “epic metal”, clearly contains influences from bands in other genres, such as Celtic Frost and Bathory. Cromlech wouldn’t be Cromlech without the roaring chromatic power chord riffs which clearly indicate a heritage not limited to standard pentatonic heavy metal. The best bands are never limited by genre boundaries…Evil has no boundaries!
I don’t know if you have started thinking about the next album yet, but are there elements about “Ave Mortis” that you already have set yourself out to improve?
– As mentioned before, the vocal arrangements will capitalize on Roman and Kevin’s differing strengths. Both Kevin and Roman have vastly improved in terms of technique even since the recording process (the former taking proper singing lessons, and the latter taking benefit from his participation in a Ukrainian men’s choir). As always, songwriting will continue to improve in regards to composition and structure. Until you reach the compositional prowess of Richard Wagner there is always room for improvement.