Having been around in one form or another since the very early 90's UKEM decided it was
about time to delve into the mind behing UKBM band Witchclan. Mainman Matt gave us
an insight into the vision behind the band!
For those unfamiliar with the band, please give us a brief history of the band?
Well the history of Witchclan actually dates back to 1990. The band was formed by Peter Leathley who was the original drummer and vocalist and Sharad Anand who played guitar. The band was originally called Crypt, then the name was changed to Curse, then to Hellgrind before finally settling on Witchclan in 1992. I joined the band in 1993 and two demo tapes were released. At this time we were all really young and pretty inexperienced but those tapes still sound reasonably good today - the sound and style back then was more of a mixture of Bathroy, Venom, Slayer and Possessed.
In 1994 Peter and Sharad left the band and I recruited Dave Howell on bass, Jon Lee on guitar, James Pruden on guitar and Nick Parton on drums. We suffered from poor musicianship and recorded one demo which was never released, then in 1995 the band split for good.
In 2009 I decided to exhume the band but as a solo project so I started to write new material and in 2010 I released the bands 3rd demo 'Descend Into Darkness' which was received pretty well and started to get the Witchclan name out there again. Come 2011 I had interest from a Canadian label called The Northern Cold productions who wanted to sign me for a full length but this fell through so I released a promo tape of rough demo songs which I sent to a few labels. In May 2011 I signed to Darkness Shade Records here in the UK and released the bands debut album 'Misanthropist' on 31st October which was limited to 500 CD's. That's just about the history of Witchclan so far.
You have recently released your debut cd, what has reaction been like to its release?
The reaction has been really good actually. I was a bit unsure of how people would react to be honest because I produced everything myself and it was the first time I had tried any kind of mixing or production. The only negative comments I have heard refer to the production and mixing, but musically everyone seemed to be really into it so that was a good result for me.
Are you happy with the album, or is there anything you’d do differently?
I suppose in hindsight I would have got someone else to do the mixing and production because that lets it down a bit, and the drums sometimes sound a bit too high in the mix but otherwise I am quite pleased with the way it turned out.
Are there any new releases on the horizon?
Yes. I have another band called Deadman's Blood for which I have been recording a new CD so my concentration and efforts have been on that so far this year but that's complete now and will be released later next month so now I can get back to Witchclan. By Winter this year or perhaps early 2013 there will be a new mini-album released via Darkness Shade Records and will contain probably five brand new tracks which will be a huge step up from the 2011 material.
Musically, who influences you, if anyone at all?
Well I suppose I draw influence from a lot of different bands but I guess the main ones who have been a strong influence in the last three years since Witchclan returned would be early Darkthrone, early Bathory, Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult, Urgehal and also Old Corpse Road from here in the UK.
What themes and topics do your lyrics deal with?
My lyrics are mainly anti-religious and that's not some cliche Black Metal thing, I write lyrics that are personal to myself and that reflect my own true views on life. I am a misanthropist and this reflects also in much of the lyrics I write. At the time of recording 'Misanthropist' I was feeling pretty anti-human due to a few things in my life and this came out in a lot of the songs such as 'Despised Existence'. Some of my lyrics occasionally lean more towards fiction though. For example, there is a song on the 2010 demo called 'Holy Cunt', which is actually a re-recorded version of a song we did in 1993. The lyrics in that song are about digging up the corpse of a nun and having sex with it before defiling and dismembering it. There is a song on the album called 'Succubus Of Dark Desires' which is about sex with a demon who then gives birth to a half human and have demon child. So you could say my lyrics deal with many different subjects, fact and fiction.
Composing songs can often be a frustrating process, how do you go about it?
Well one of the things I like about being a one-man band is the fact that I don't have to worry about anyone else's input. One of the main problems we had when we were a five piece would be that on some occasions we would turn up at rehearsal and we would be without a bass player, or a drummer so that made it very difficult to write and practice songs. I like to be able to take my time and do exactly what I want. I usually have most of the riffs and guitar parts worked out in my head already so I start with the drums and get those tracks laid down, then following with the guitar parts and the bass. The last parts I do are the keyboards and finally the vocals. Then it's just editing and tweaking of the final version of the song.
Being a one man band, gigging can be a daunting, if not logistical nightmare. Any plans to play live?
No, I never plan to play live. Initially I make music for myself. I play the music I like to hear myself and if other people like it then that's just an added bonus. I don't work particularly well with other musicians because I am quite a selfish person when it comes to music, everything has to be done my way and I think I would get frustrated with people if I were to have session members or live members. Withclan and Deadman's Blood are both studio bands and it will always stay that way. I have no need to play live.
Plans for the future?
Well this mini-album will be the initial focus for me over the next few months, and then I think there were talks of doing a split 7" with Unholy Deathcunt from Scotland but nothing has been finalized at the moment.
What merch do you currently have available and where can we get it?
Yes there are patches, t shirts, longsleeves, hoodies, girlie shirts etc all available via the official website at www.witchclan.co.uk - and of course the album is available from the website too.
Any final words?
Thank you to you for this interview and for the valued support.
Darkness Shade Records 2011
1.Enter Darkness (Intro) 2.Through Nordic Lands
3.Of Hatred And Despair 4.Veil Of Darkness 5.Conqueror 6.Heaven Abhorred
7.In The Pentagram 8.Despised Existence 9.Misanthropist
10.Succubus Of Dark Desires 11.In The Shadow Of The Horns 11.Exit Light (Outro)
There’s a definite growing sense of anticipation as ‘Enter Darkness (Intro)’ slowly fills the speakers with an eeriness and gloomy feeling which is the perfect way to introduce ‘Through Nordic Lands’. Harsh, yet melodic riffing and rasping, screamed vocals introduce us to Witchclan’s brand of black metal, or ‘bestial Hell Metal’ as Matt (the one man behind this band) describes his band. Musically, this opening track is reminiscent of the first wave of Scandinavian black metal, under-produced and lo-fi and although the drums are programmed, they don’t sound out of place, too precise or badly programmed. ‘Of Hatred And Despair’ begins life very differently, extremely melodic keyboards introducing the track, with a melodic guitar solo leading the way, but that’s where the melody ends thankfully, the fuzzy lo-fi guitars and hellish screamed vocals taking over proceedings and once again it all has a very old school feel. The remainder of the track then mixes the melodic with the harsh, kind of losing its identity and never making its mind up what it wants to be, not necessarily a bad thing as it shows a willingness to experiment and incorporate variety. ‘Veil Of Darkness’ has a catchy ‘folk’ feel to it as it begins, almost ‘Mithoyn’ esque in its delivery, before the black metal seen earlier really lets rip, raging forth in a torrent of hellish blasts. Yet another track which sees a lot of the bands influences incorporated, the pace slowed right down, giving the track an almost death metal feel, the heavy guitars add some groove to keep it from being an all-out DM riff, not all bad, but the song does lack identity. ‘Conquer’ settles the ship somewhat, returning the album to its BM foundation, never straying from this formula, a massive hint of the groove to the guitars bringing a welcome return to form and really benefiting from the low production.
‘Heaven Abhorred’ continues in similar fashion, with added symphonic keyboard breaks, never pompous, more mysterious sounding, gloomy even. When the pace is upped and blast beats introduced, the band begin to sound devastating and dangerous and ‘In The Pentagram’ begins life in such fashion, creating a real harshness, Matt's vocals really adding to the overall black metal aesthetic with the early 90’s BM influence again on display and as evil as the band have sounded so far. The keyboard intro to ‘Beyond The Grave’ changes the whole feel to the album once again, injecting melody whilst the pace is slowed to a crawl with death metal style growls used throughout the majority of the song. As the pace begins to gather, the more familiar sound begins to show through, but then slower heavier guitars are introduced adding real emotion, especially when incorporated with the death metal growls. The problem is it sounds like a completely different band, beginning to sound somewhat like early Septic Flesh when they slowed songs down. ‘Despised Existence’ then changes the mood completely, returning to the harsh BM seen in earlier tracks. After listening to the previous track, the re-introduction of the harsher BM doesn’t quite work and feels a little flat, which is unfortunate as the band were beginning to sound quite devastating at times. Title track ‘Misanthropist’ is yet another example of two very differing styles being incorporated into one track, as seen before the song begins life as a melodic BM affair before the more death metal style is used and again, the track never quite making its mind up what it wants to be! The same can be said for ‘Succubus Of Dark Desires’ although the harsh BM does tend to lead the track, darting from slower paced sections with lightning speed in to the faster BM blasts. Adding variety into songs can sometimes be a bands downfall, as it muddies the waters, bringing a mixed message to the listener and can ultimately turn the listener off. That’s not to say all of these tracks do, it just makes you question the identity of the band, asking questions of them, which side of the extreme metal fence are they sitting, BM or DM? ‘In The Shadow Of The Horns’ is a classic Darkthrone song and is given the care and attention it duly deserves. ‘Exit Light’ is an eerie outro and would have probably been better suited closing the bands own material, with the Darkthrone cover following on, but that’s only a minor criticism. Summing up, this is not a bad album at all, there is a definite lack of musical identity throughout a lot of the songs, the difference between the lo-fo harsh BM and heavier death metal sections just ‘too different’ and not really mixing particularly well. The band may not thank me for saying so, but the highlight for me was ‘Beyond The Grave’, a real passionate emotion behind the track, sounding completely different to the majority of the music on display, but played with absolute conviction. If Witchclan are to succeed and really make an impression on the UK underground scene then maybe a little more planning and identity seeking is required. All the key ingredients are there, they just need absolute clarity. An album with a lot of interesting ideas, and Matt is clearly a talented individual, but his vision may not necessarily appeal to everyone.
6.5 out of 10