Going to Hell: Alpdruck Illustrates Ultimate Torment on Self-Titled Debut
When I first gave Alpdruck a spin, I thought to myself, “holy hell, this is a lot.” And it is without a doubt so. The self-titled debut from the Texas-based solo act cranks intensity to 12 when everything else is only 11; indeed, for an album about waking up in Actual Hell, the extremity is totally fitting. It may be one of those rare cases where such levels of noise, speed, and downright insanity actually make sense within an album’s aesthetic framework. I won’t fuck around about this, either: Alpdruck is nigh unlistenable. But if you’ve got the stomach, it delivers in absolute droves even considering its brief five-track format.
I was also extremely pleased to see Hydrus, the mastermind behind “experimental blackened deathgrind” outfit Estuarine, appearing on Alpdruck in vocal form. In fact, that overly complicated subgenre tag makes sense for Alpdruck as well: this project is definitely experimental, definitely blackened to the core, and definitely deathgrind to the word. That’s not even to mention the lyrics, some of which definitely require a content warning (though for what specifically it’s hard to decide):
A sensation embraces me – Cold while also burning – My senses return to me slowly as though they were a newborn gift – My ears fill with unbearable screams – Man, woman, & child – Their cries, desperate & pained – Longing for some form of release – As my vision slowly returns, the horror further envelops me – Surrounding me is a vortex – A portal of flesh & blood – I look to my person & see that I am stripped of all dignity – My body levitates as the vortex spirals & squirms around me – My sight clears further – I see faces, infinite – Molded to one another – Stretched apart & flattened – Yet still the light of life, or what is left, still sounds through their misshapen mouths – It was then that I knew – It was then that all logic left me – How could this have happened!? – This must be a twisted, demented nightmare! – It was then that I heard a voice speaking to me from within the void – “PECCATOR! JUDICARIS! VESTRUM MANET!” – As fear takes hold of me – Like a casket devoid of air – I let out a desperate cry – DEUS UT QUID DERELIQUISTI ME!?
— “Flesh Vortex”
Oftentimes, we sensationalize or glorify hell in metal music — either because we don’t take the concept of hell seriously, or we simply don’t believe in its existence and therefore can be light about it. But assume for a second that Hell Is Real (if you’ve ever driven through Indiana, you’ll recognize the billboards) — what would it be like? What if the real goal was to induce ultimate torment for all of eternity? Well, Alpdruck creator C.H. gives his very own horrific vision. To learn more about this sinister music, I exchanged a few words with C.H. — he talks about everything from DOOM influences to personal struggles which colored the music’s bleak vision.
Alpdruck describes the experience of being in hell — while a lot of metal might glorify hell (or Satan for that matter), this album seems to describe it as somewhere you definitely do not want to end up. Is there an underlying message here, or maybe Alpdruck is merely an artistic expression of what the experience might actually be like, if hell is indeed real?
You would be correct to assume it is an artistic expression as I am not saying anything profound as “do bad things you go to hell”.” I’m not nearly that “deep.” The album is the story of a man’s journey through hell wherein he ultimately meets his fate. To start, he is experiencing my interpretation of an “Alpdruck.” A nightmare brought on by a demon that thrusts the victim’s soul into hell. There he experiences all of his sins thousands of times (in this case, the sacrificial murder of his own son) until his spirit is completely broken down. He is then sacrificed to the hordes of tortured souls in hell. The demon then takes possession of the man’s body and takes his place on earth.
The way I interpret hell is it is a place devoid of anything positive. It is, quite literally, the realm in which everything wrong and negative about humanity resides. It is not a place you want to end up trapped inside.
What metal albums did you listen to during the writing/recording of Alpdruck? Has there been anything interesting on your music radar that you’d see as a compliment to your work, or at least an influence?
When I first conceptualized the project I was deep into bands like Anaal Nathrakh, Fukpig, Deathspell Omega, and Cattle Decapitation. The first phase was called Qliphoth, named after the border realm between the human and astral worlds seen in Berserk. From the start, I knew I wanted to create the most chaotic and overwhelming music I could write that followed a certain narrative. However, soon after, a friend of mine introduced me Vermin Womb with their album Decline. Once that happened I became deeply interested in the cavernous oppression the production had and I implemented it into the project. Suddenly ideas began to flow much more cohesively and full tracks were finally being written. Eventually, I landed on five tracks but had no lyrics. Throughout the writing process, I had ideas but none of them were really working out. At some point I recall taking a rip from my buddies bong and, while listening to what is now “Flesh Vortex,” allowed myself to not think about what I was writing and just let the concept flow out without hindrance.
“Flesh Vortex” is a reference to DOOM 3 wherein the portal to hell (or teleportation entirely) shows the player soaring through a spiraling heap of flesh. However, to add a little extra, I mashed it with the “Wall of Souls” texture seen in DOOM 2. The man experiencing his nightmare into hell describes being surrounded by a spiraling vortex of flesh with infinite faces stretched apart and molded together, still desperately screaming for their release from existence.
I honestly don’t think Id Software (pre-Rage) gets enough credit for their take of hell. It is bleak and disgusting and most importantly very violent. Afterward, the rest of the album takes cues from Berserk, David Lynch (most notably Twin Peaks), and even more DOOM references.
Something I find interesting is [that] I always knew that I wanted to end the album with a sort of choir of demons, first chanting something then finishing with them making the most horrid sounds they could make signifying them devouring the man thus ending his story. Then earlier this year I saw Mick Gordon was recruiting for a “death metal choir” (of which I was sadly not picked) and felt maybe I was on the right track with that. Whether it was good or bad is completely up to the listener, but I was really happy with how it turned out in the album.
Everyone involved did a good job. I can talk forever about DOOM so to stop myself here are some albums I listened to during the writing process and provided further influence that absolutely should be checked out.
Infernal Coil — Within a World Forgotten
Altarage — Nihl
Howls of Ebb — Vigils of the 3rd Eye
Misrule — Forced to Suffer
Gevurah — Hallelujah!
Are you excited for the new DOOM release? Could there possibly be a more badass lineage of video games than DOOM? Haha.
Haha, in my personal opinion and tastes no I don’t think there is anything more badass. After seeing all the footage Id Software has been releasing, from Quakecon of last year to the recent E3, I do not think I have been this excited for a video game. DOOM 2016 was ok in my opinion. I wasn’t keen on the “rocky” designs of the demons and hell. I also found gore nests to be boring real quick. Growing up with DOOM in the 1990s (DOOM 2 being my favorite game of all time), I and the rest of us late 20- to 30-year-olds have a different experience than all the newcomers to the series. Demons were already situated on the map, you had to use each weapon appropriately and strategically, traps were often and intelligently placed in the maps, demon infighting is at times an absolute must (and just fun to watch), etc.
DOOM 2016, to me, was just decent. However, it opened the flood gates. AAA shooters have been incredibly stagnant for I believe the last decade, and DOOM 2016’s success came primarily on the fact that it was very different. So my hope was Id Software used DOOM 2016 as a sort of “testing ground” to see if it would be a success. And sure enough, it was a smash hit. My hope following that was they would create a proper DOOM game, not only in its gameplay but in its look and use of colors. And not only have they delivered on that they passed my own expectations. The game is stunningly vibrant in color, it’s much more intense, the demons are already in the map and not just spawning in all the time, ammo usage is something you have to pay attention to, enemy and weapon prioritization is absolutely important, and not to mention the demons actually look like demons thanks in part to upholding the designs of the 1990s. I loved what I saw so much I preordered the collectors’ edition just minutes after it was announced. I have only one complaint though, I did not see any use of demon infighting but that is really just a nitpick.
However, there have been some absolute bangers released in the last year and soon to be released. DUSK is an absolutely stunning throwback to Quake with elements of Blood and Redneck Rampage (my personal game of the year 2018). Then there is the Blood Remaster released earlier this year that brings back the DOS shooter for a modern audience. Amid Evil has been in early access but officially releases this month. The use of color in this game is breathtaking. It is heavily inspired by Heretic so is medieval themed. One of the weapons fires miniature planets, how dope is that? Other games are 3D Realms’ (the creators of Duke Nukem 3D) Ion Maiden which uses a modified Build Engine and, again, looks incredible. Then finally there is Wrath: Aeons of Ruin coming soon from 3D Realms. I am looking forward to this game almost as much as DOOM Eternal. Just watch the trailer and gameplay, it is bleak, gory, and metal as fuck!
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Do you consider Alpdruck to be extreme metal? Did you have a particular artistic goal or thesis in mind while writing it, or was it something more naturally occurring?
Extreme metal is honestly the only solid definition I could give to Alpdruck. It has been labeled as cavernous death/grind, chaotic black metal, black grind, you name it. It unfortunately has made it a bit of a challenge to market it because of that. I hit up a few black metal channels on YouTube to feature it with one never replying and the other worried it may have too much grindcore to be featured. The channel called Gore Grinder, which also featured guest vocalist Hydrus’s solo project Estuarine, was the first to not only agree to feature the album but did so with more enthusiasm than I was anticipating. At this moment it holds 211 likes to (somehow) only 1 dislike which is crazy to me.
I do this almost entirely as a hobby and do not self promote myself nearly as much as I should. So to see the video nearing 3,000 views with this much positive feedback is new to me. Hell, someone left a review on Bandcamp claiming it made them “forget about Full of Hell’s new album.” I love Full of Hell haha. Reading that comment the first time had me smiling pretty damn hard. Really, all the user reviews have been great and I have read them multiple times. I still don’t know how to handle it haha other than to just say thank you.
I will end with this in regard to your [second] question. This album only became what it was because I was going through the hardest turning point in my life. This album is a reflection of my mental and emotional state throughout the time of its conception. I was angry and confused and in desperate need of an outlet. If you listen closely you can hear a progression in my vocals. This is because vocals for each track were recorded weeks and sometimes months apart. With each track my vocals slowly become more desperate and chaotic. By the last track I am, quite literally, ending the song screaming louder, harder, and with such pain that I honestly do not think I could replicate it. It was one of those in the moment things. This album helped me get through a very hard time in my life and I wanted the very last thing I gave vocally to be a one take capture of me expelling all the emotion I had left to give to this project.
I must also thank Chris Helton of Kujiiira Art for his absolutely perfect cover art, his interpretation of what the album is to him. Without him, I may have never completed the album. If I may, I’d like to just say that I am beginning to come up with ideas for a sequel of sorts which [may] be Alpdruck II. In the meantime, however, I am working on a full-length album under the name Suicide Pandemic, my longest running project but may not be released for some time. Sooner though I will be putting out a demo for a project much more aligned with Vermin Womb and Infernal Coil taking a harder hold on sludge and grindcore. I will also have a demo coming out with my attempt at raw black metal as well as another demo focused on atmospheric black metal with a “coastal” feel instead of a traditional “cold” feel.
Does the claustrophobia on Alpdruck (the cavernous mastering, the overwhelming noise, the suffocating atmosphere, etc.) reflect some claustrophobia you felt in real life?
Unfortunately, I would prefer not to get deep into it, but the suffocating atmosphere is a metaphor for the oppressive emotional state I found myself in. When going about the overall production for the album I wanted to make the listener feel as though the only reprieve they could feel was to pause the album. There isn’t any silence except for the explosions of chaos that occur in some of the tracks. For a couple of years, I had to, in a sense, rediscover myself. Things I believed in and the person I was all came crashing down in one instant. I broke. It is not an experience I ever want to experience again. It is because of that I am not 100% sure if an Alpdruck sequel will really happen. And if it does it won’t have nearly the same emotional input as the first. I may just focus efforts towards the other project that shares similar elements to Alpdruck. Time will tell.
Your black metal demos sound interesting — do you consider yourself a “jack of all trades” musician who can dabble in various genres, or do you have more specific focuses within metal? How about non-metal?
Currently, metal is what comes out of me naturally. It isn’t that I don’t enjoy other forms of music it is just when I write music it always comes out as extreme metal. I guess I could consider myself a “jack of all trades,” yeah haha. But the goal is for me to gather experience writing in different forms and becoming tighter as an extreme metal musician/ composer. Suicide Pandemic is essentially the project where I combine all that I have learned and create something completely my own. I share the project with my long-running musician pal Ivy Lance who will provide two tracks to the album and the lyrics. Like I said before though the album still has some progress to make. So, for now, it will be three demos from raw black metal, to atmospheric black metal, and finally cavernous and sludgy deathgrind.