While NOVEMBERS DOOM’s latest masterpiece Aphotic has been out since May 10, the aesthetic touch that these veterans put into their brand of doom/death metal should keep any listener coming back for more. I figured I’d go check in with NOVEMBERS DOOM drummer Sasha Horn to get the scoop on his 2 cents of the new album, the past, present, and future of NOVEMBERS DOOM, talk shop about the music in 2011 (as Sasha is also a writer over at www.MetalReview.com, and of course, his killer tour that he’s created. Aphotic is out now via our friends at The End Records. Read on…
Alex Gilbert (KILLER TOURS): Let’s kick off things with the new NOVEMBERS DOOM, your latest album entitled Aphotic. The album sounds great, and it’s definitely another one to add to the extensive NOVEMBERS DOOM collection, now your eighth studio album. You guys must be proud of Aphotic, huh?
Sasha Horn (NOVEMBERS DOOM – Drums): Yes, very proud. There were many circumstances with the writing and recording of this album, favorable ones, that added up to all of us being very, very proud Aphotic. I rejoined the ND line-up after a ten year hiatus, landed in the middle of the Into Night's Requiem Infernal sessions, and things felt a little rushed as a result. We loved the outcome of that album, too, but Aphotic is, for me personally, a true 'comeback' album; this one really felt like home. We all wrote together as a band from the ground up. We also welcomed a new bass player, Mike Feldman, and with a chance to lay out the blueprint with a renewed rhythm section, it felt like a much needed cathartic release.
“Dark Host” is one of my favorite tracks off of Aphotic. It’s dark, haunting, very heavy, epic, yet very gentle and ambient. Simply put, the mood swings are fucking great! It closest reminds of my favorite NOVEMBERS DOOM days with “Rain” and the The Novella Resorvoir-era. What are of your favorite songs off of Aphotic?
I'm glad that "The Dark Host" had that kind of effect on you... I think that we made a good choice in using that as the album-opener for those very reasons. Thanks for the reassurance! And as far as my personal favorite tracks off of the album, I always name-drop "Harvest Scythe" and "Shadow Play" out of pure selfishness :P "Harvest Scythe", because it's my favorite song to play, from a drumming perspective. I'm not sure if it comes through or not, but being an avid fan of punk for its 'looseness', I tried to approach this song with that same feel; off the cuff, from the gut, au naturel. There's a bit of that in "Shadow Play" as well, but not nearly as much. "Harvest Scythe" is my baby, if only because it's the song that I've been wanting to write with this band for twelve years! Both "Harvest Scythe" and "Shadow Play" were songs that myself and Larry chiseled away at in his basement as a dynamic duo. That's the first time that we'd done something like that, and it was taking it back to basics as far as a writing-tactic is concerned. I think that the finished product exudes a sort of workhorse fervor.
What are some of your favorite NOVEMBERS DOOM releases out of the extensive discography, and why?
Wow... putting me on the spot, bro! Well, I guess I'm expected to gravitate toward Of Sculptured Ivy and Stone Flowers, because I recorded on it back in '99. But it's impossible for me to listen to that album and not play the If-I-Had-Only-Known-Then-What-I-Know-Now game. I had that similar 'rushed' experience back then as well, much like how I spoke of Into Night's Requiem Infernal. I had only a few practices to learn the material and then it was off to the studio to record. So I'm a fan of that album, but you won't find me listening to it much. I've always wished that we could re-record that album in its entirety. I'd love to hear what we could do with that now. Anyway, other favorite releases from the ND catalog? I think it's just easier to say that I prefer the later-era ND stuff. I think that this band really hit its stride with The Pale Haunt Departure, and has continued to crush more and more with every release. I honestly think that INRI was slightly underrated; I still think that there's some truly killer material on there, and I still feel like it's the 'stepchild' album, rarely seen and rarely heard. Not enough people had a chance to dig into that one. But Aphotic is where it's at. I made no secret of the camaraderie that we felt with this latest offering, and I think that the feeling comes through the speakers when you press play.
When listening to NOVEMBERS DOOM, I can draw influences everywhere from Katatonia to My Dying Bride, even to the European death metal movement from Darkane to Scar Symmetry. NOVEMBERS DOOM is all over place,which is a-okay :) What a some your biggest influences when composing music?
This is a bit more difficult to answer than it should be. Since all five members of the band have a say in the writing process, we are essentially five cooks making something out of nothing, and that 'nothing' is under attack in those early writing stages by five musicians that draw from, sometimes completely different, points of inspiration. When we get into that room to start chipping away at ideas, we have everything from Celtic Frost to Coroner to Coldplay on the brain, because we're fans. I'm not saying that we use these bands as influences. More so, we're just fans of these and hundreds of others, and it's hard not to bring to the table other kinds of musical influences that we enjoy. It's effortless. It's like we're often not even aware of it. And I'd be doing a great injustice to old-school Chicago death metal if I didn't give it its due... Most of the band comes from a seriously heavy Chitown DM background, myself included.
Mr. Sasha. You’ve got other musical projects going on such as These Are They, Trials, among some others. How are those going, and how do you work on balancing all of this with your priority act, NOVEMBERS DOOM?
Well, one thing that helps is omitting one of those from the equation. I haven't been a part of Trials for some time now. Their album drops this month I believe. I recorded on that album, as well as helped write those songs. The other projects that I'm involved in are minimal time constraints, Novembers Doom included. It wouldn't work if it were otherwise. I now live 1,350 miles away from my bands, and we do whatever we can behind the scenes to make that distance disappear. So the balance isn't an incredibly difficult task. Band-duties just take on a different form, one that lends itself to the geographical hurdle. Promoting the new album takes up most of my 'band' time. Aside from that, I always have my sticks in something, to a fault probably, but I can't sit still.
Some people don’t know, but you are also a freelance writer for the metal website, MetalReview.com. I love those cats over there! How did you get your start over there?
I had applied like you would any job... Of course, it doesn't feel like a job, most of the time. On the rare occasion that it does feel like a day-gig, the heart takes over. I've got the MetalReview emblem scarified on my soul at this point. You could never tear me away from that place. But not to veer too far from the topic... I started in '07 as a staff writer, and let me make it clear that it was never a 'freelance writing' position. I had never written for a proper publication before, and even now I do not share my time with any other outlet. I've since then taken over as Publicist, with a side of writing. You'll find that the people over at MetalReview, both staff and community, are very passionate. There's a real sense of 'family' inside of those walls. Especially within the faculty... I honestly do not think that there's another site or 'zine' in existence that has as tight-knit a crew as ours. We truly are best friends in there, as well as out in the 'real' world.
What are some of your favorite releases of 2011 so far that you’ve heard/reviewed?
Wow... Lucky for me I keep a list for when we do our annual Best Of's at year's end. Really loving the new Blindside album. Others (in no particular genre or order) would be the latest from: Nader Sadek, Omnium Gatherum, Foo Fighters, Neuraxis, Xerath, Decapitated, Lykke Li, Kvelertak, Svart Crown, pretty much anything that Give Praise Records puts out, etc., etc. You should know what you're getting yourself into when you ask this question of a journalist :P
While we’re at it, can you give me a rundown of some of your favorite bands.
Okay. The difficulty level just spiked. Shit... Of all time? Well, some of these are my favorites, because they just are. There's an overall energy about them that is unmatched. Others are my faves for selfish drumming reasons. The Police, because of Stewart Copeland. John Stanier-era Helmet. A Perfect Circle, because of Josh Freese. All three drummers mentioned have much to do with the 'less is more' approach. Think about it. It seems that 'Metal' drummers rarely do these days.
Some of my all-time favorite full-on explosions would be Naked Raygun, At-The-Drive-In, Quicksand, Forbidden, and Foo Fighters. There's hundreds more, man. Seriously. These are the ones that came to mind without spending waaaay too much time on this.
I know NOVEMBERS DOOM has quite the following in Europe, and the band does head over there from time to time. The one thing is I RARELY ever see any US shows, or namely, a US tour. Any chance of you guys picking up a handful of US shows or a tour in the near-future?
We actually did a small East Coast stint with Woods Of Ypres and Gwynbleidd in early May of this year, and that was a blast. We are trying to set up a West Coast tour for the end of this year, but as of right now, there are no concrete details. It's true that this band takes it overseas more often than stateside. Our core fanbase is far from home, but we know that there's plenty of fans here that would absolutely love it if we made it through their neck of the woods. And we're trying. We get asked this constantly by the stateside fans, and it feels great. And then when we actually do get out there on the road, on our own soil, the outpour of emotion from the fans is incredible. Sometimes these gigs aren't exactly overflowing in terms of turnouts, but I'll tell you what, the allegiance to the band is so thick in those venues that you couldn't cut it with a knife.
So when we come visit you in Chicago, where are some good places to grab a bite to eat, catch a show, party it up, etc.? I will also make it mandatory to name your 3 favorite deep dish pizza places in ascending order!
Well, even though I no longer live there, I was born and raised, and committed crimes on Chicago turf, so it'll always be 'home'. I had moved recently, and I'd lived in the Lincoln Square area before I took off. The wife and I had been seriously hooked on Thai food for years. If you want kickass Thai, look no further than about two blocks south of the Lawrence and Western Ave. intersection, on Western. There, you'll find a restaurant called 'Opart'. Take it about six blocks south from there, and you'll find a personal favorite, 'Sticky Rice'. There's about two or three other Thai joints along that stretch down Lawrence in-between the two that I name-dropped. It's insane.
Catch a show? There's a plethora of good venues. Some of my choice spots would be Empty Bottle, Bottom Lounge, the Metro, Schubas, Reggie's, etc., etc. Don't dismiss basement shows there, either. I saw a killer hardcore show at this basement venue on Milwaukee Ave. who's name is escaping me. I went to go see this band called Slang, from Japan. This is how all HC shows should go down. The 'venue' was probably only supposed to fit about 40 people, tops. And there were probably about 80, all pissed-off and ready to rumble. Concrete floors, concrete walls, concrete ceilings, and too many pipes dividing that one room gave it the feel of an actual cage. Fucking gnarly. And if you want to party it up, head over to Wicker Park or Logan Square. When you're in Wicker, have fun scaring the yuppies, because they still haven't completely dominated the place yet, and the natives could use your help. When you're in Logan, have fun, but if you're having fun into the wee hours of the night, please have a sharp knife on you. Not kidding.
There's only one pizza place for me. I'm a deep-dish dude, and 'The Art of Pizza' conquers all!
If you were to organize a dream tour, who would be on it?
Well, Novembers Doom, for obvious reasons :P At the moment, I'm daydreaming that I'm playing alongside Gojira, Ava Inferi, Vanessa Carlton, Decapitated, and Probot.
Thanks for your time brother, and it’s always a pleasure! Any last words?
Yeah, to the audience. Thanks for letting me put my finger on your brains for the last several minutes. Maybe go check out the new album, Aphotic, and let me know what you think. Feel free to bother me on Facebook. As for you, Alex... Thank you for your time, patience, and this opportunity. Greatly appreciated, brother.