Portland Oregon Death Metal outfit Vitriol have unleashed their debut album To Bathe from the Throat of Cowardice on September 6th via Century Media (order here). This record has instantly ranked them with bands such as Hate Eternal. Their debut effort is THAT good (read our review here). With that being said, you may have seen this group already perform live, or at least planning to see them when they hit the road with Cattle Decapitation next month. During the group’s hectic schedule, we caught up with vocalist/guitarist Kyle Rasmussen to discuss more about the album, the Portland Metal scene, signing to Century Media, and more.
To Bathe from the Throat of Cowardice is vicious, and it reminds me of a lot of Hate Eternal. What was the process like for you working on the album as a three-piece?
There’s a lot. I mean, the album itself, it’s almost hard to talk about the timeline because the materials for the album developed so organically, truthfully over the last eight years. I mean, not entirely the exact songs that ended up on there, but the sound that resulted in those ten songs.
It took that long to find the voice for what we were trying to do, and with us working with us, knowing that it was mainly one guy trying to flesh out what that sound was, it was going to take some time. And then Adam [Roethlisberger] and I haven’t been professional-level vocalists either, so we had to train ourselves to do that. And yeah, it was a lot of work.
After listening to the album, it sounds like you guys have been doing this for so long. Knowing this is your debut, it instantly put you guys right on top of with bands such as Hate Eternal, and I find it funny that you guys are touring with them. I wanted to know more about how you signed to Century Media?
The playthrough video for a song we have called “The Parting of a Neck.” We posted a video that Adam and I made of us demonstrating how that song has played on YouTube, and that was our first, I guess, break-through moment, where it was the first thing we put out though that went viral, so to speak. That was the moment where everyone started caring about what we were doing. We had a few offers coming in, and Century Media, Philipp specifically at Century Media, did the best out of all of them to make clear to me that he had a shared vision for what Vitriol was, that he liked exactly what we were doing, and not what he thinks we should be doing, and so we couldn’t be happier.
Because you’ve said that you’ve been working on the album within the past eight years or so, are there any specific themes that you can talk about?
The lyrical stuff speaks for itself in a lot of ways. I have been asked questions on is there an overall theme, and it’s something, like I said, that this whole album just came together organically. And especially with my writing style, lyrically, I never sit down. I never sit down and think to myself, “I’m going to write Vitriol lyrics.” I’ve always been a free writer since I was very young. I just write, so I’ll do that. And when something has an appropriate voice for Vitriol, it will then be adapted into lyrics. And then at the end of it, at the end of 10 songs, I looked back at all of the pieces, trying to find some cohesion. And it really is just an exploration of the human capacity for indifference and malice and fear, both inward and outward. I think that’s probably the most truthful insight I can give without being too revealing about a lot of the content. I write my lyrics very deliberately. I don’t like to divulge too much about my personal relationships with them as to not paint other people’s relationships with them.
You said earlier that you and Adam had to train to become vocalists. How did that come together and why didn’t you pick a separate vocalist, or why are there two vocalists
Great question. When Adam and I started, we took a very utilitarian approach. We knew what we were doing was very ambitious. We knew we weren’t setting out to be just another band that’s just trying to have a good time and see where it goes. We knew when we got together seven, eight years ago, that we wanted our first album to sound like it could sit with Hate Eternal. And so I’m very appreciative of you saying that because that was the goal. And we knew that we couldn’t, at that age, it’s hard to find someone that’s that relentless in their pressure and their drive and their ability to practice self cruelty in the creative process. I also knew I wanted to be writing the lyrics. To have the lyrical control of the band, like the narrative control of the group, and not be responsible for the vocals seemed like a tall order. I saw that being problematic down the road with other vocalists. So for me to take on vocals was a pretty organic decision. Since I knew I was developing my vocals anyway, I may as well have Adam develop his alongside mine. I don’t see any sense in not having more variety if you can have it. If you have the resources in your band that are permanent guys like Adam’s, my right-hand guy who’s going to be in Vitriol until Vitriol is done, why not use it. Having his boys be a texture in the Vitriol Sonic template was just a really obvious choice. And I’m a big Nile fan, so I’ve always romanticized the idea of having the whole callous Karl-Dallas dynamic, so that’s cool too.
A lot of death metal bands have a very distinct sound and style. I couldn’t compare you guys to say, Jungle Rot or Cannibal Corpse. But yeah, Hate Eternal they were the first band that instantly came to mind when I heard the album. And now you toured with them. What were you guys expecting for the tour with Hate Eternal and Nile?
It’s going to be completely insane. It’s when people hear Hate Eternal in our work, it makes me very happy, because Vitriol, among many things, Vitriol’s many influences, but make no mistake. I make it very clear that Vitriol ultimately it was Conquering the Throne. Hate Eternal is a template for Vitriol in the philosophy of why it is. When you listen to that album, Conquering the Throne, it’s one of the most purely executed pieces of sonic art that has made it to just fucking level you. That album is so suffocatingly relentless. I mean, it’s death metal for people who listen to death metal. It’s death metal. You play for people that you want to scare who already listened to death metal. It was like that. And for me when I heard that shit, I was just like, the anger in his voice, the rage in this music, all mingling with the musical ambition. They’re not fighting with each other; he’s not sterilizing his rage with his musical technicality. He’s elevating it somehow. It’s precise, but it’s dirty. It was just like, there’s so much magic on that album that my intention wasn’t to go back and recreate it sonically. I intended to go back and explore the energy on that album and see how we could introduce that same spirit into our work. And I’m just so happy that we succeeded in that.
Exactly. I didn’t mean you’re copying their sound. I just, the production value and that ruthless, shitting your pants while you’re listening to it kind of energy. That’s what I hear from Hate Eternal. But you definitely have your own sound and as for a debut album, there’s so many death metal bands out there that it’s like, “Okay, this is all right.” But then you guys, it’s like, “Whoa, holy shit, this is really good.” You went up levels on your debut.
Appreciate that. I had another interview with a guy, and he asked me if I was worried that our first album was too good. That was a flattering frank question to ask me. He was like, you look back at like Morbid Angel and stuff like that. These are all incredible albums, but they still show their youth. They show the need for growth, and he’s like, “This is your first record. Where do you fucking go from here?” And I guess that’s a problem we’re happy to have, that’s for sure. We’re looking forward to climbing that mountain. And it’s just not how we work, man. I just never wanted to put something out that wasn’t done. We didn’t want to grow in the public eye. We wanted to grow privately until we thought we could sit with our heroes. And we very literally have the opportunity in Europe, and it’s fucking surreal.
I know a lot of bands, when they make an exceptional, flawless album for their first record or whatever, and fans tend to expect the same take on it. Would you guys ever drift or experiment in a different style for, say, another album?
Vitriol is always going to be throwing curveballs, whether we like it or not. I’m too eclectic of a person. I’m too restless of a person creatively. I’m always going to be doing shit, but Vitriol will never become something that isn’t purely motivated by creating a hostile experience. Vitriol will always be a death metal band. If the day ever came where I didn’t have that energy in me, I didn’t have an authentic voice to make this kind of art form. I’ll stop Vitriol. But yeah, we’ll never start fucking clean things in or some shit like that, that’s for sure.
Since you’re out in Portland, how is the death metal scene out there?
It’s tough. There’s a lot of cool shit. Like any other major metropolitan city, it’s so cliquey. Which scene do you want to talk about? You know, it’s like some are cooler than others in terms of community or musical output in Portland, we have a really cool thing that’s happening. We had a lot of the classic razorback death metal bands out here when I was younger, like Lord Gore, and we’re seeing them have a comeback right now. And we have younger bands like Torture Rack that are coming up that are really carrying the torch for these old school death metal bands in a positive way. But yeah, I mean it’s something, admittedly, we’ve been so lost in the sauce, as they say, with Vitriol shit that it’s … outside of the shows we’ve been playing, it’s been tough to participate when you’ve just been slaving away in the lab.
Do you guys have any other touring plans after the tour with Nile?
Yeah, we pretty much have the next six months stacked. After the full U.S. tour, we go back to Europe in early 2020. We couldn’t be more excited to get this album in front of as many people as possible.
Is there anything else that you want to add or say about the album?
If I had to have an elevator pitch for this record, the one thing that separates it from anything else, it’s the sheer devotion that was put into this fucking record. Explore the album honestly. Listen to the lyrical content and the intentionality of the music. Listen to it and explore it. Then accept it’s from someone who dedicated their lives to something that much of the rest of the world finds silly. I think you can find something really special there. It’s not just another collection of blast beats and death metal vocals. There are real love and hate in these songs.