In Human Form Feasts Upon “Apocrypha Carrion”
Progressive black metal seems like it would be an oxymoron, and, for many, it is. However, black metal has always had a touch of the progressive, whether it be Satyr’s accidental experimenting with odd meters on Dark Medieval Times or the formless riff-fest of Darkthrone’s A Blaze in the Northern Sky (and those are just a couple examples, really). Bands like In Human Form, though, take the progressive nature to the extreme, writing long-form exercises in pure musicianship, odes to the instruments they play and the extremes to which they can take them as performers. Listen to an exclusive excerpt of the lengthy “Apocrypha Carrion” below.
Though unmistakably black metal, at least at first, In Human Form’s third album’s (III) transformation into a progressive metal epic is calculated, a quick descent into the strange and unique. Rife with guitar wizardry, odd chord voicings, and playful musical heroics, In Human Form’s “no fun” progressive black metal is oddly the opposite. Finding itself in the middle ground between the creativity of the “prog greats” and black metal’s rage, In Human Form’s III presents itself as a compelling argument in favor of black metal’s continued romance with the weird and uncommon.
Read a brief interview with guitarist Nick Clark below.
In Human Form has been a band for a while now, but what first drew you to the more progressive end of black metal?
Rich Dixon (drums) and I first got together in 2006 to write together. I had been writing for the band as a solo project for a couple of years at that point, from a very traditional Black Metal perspective. We both had black metal (and metal in general) as a common denominator, but he drew from a very progressive jazz background, and I was pursuing a degree in classical performance on the alto sax at the time.
When we began writing new music together, we were essentially putting classical and prog jazz ideas together in a black metal setting. I started listening to a lot of the prog jazz/rock fusion stuff that he had been into for years, and, together with my classical background, it influenced the traditional black metal writing in a more progressive direction.
We are very much into harmonies and counter-harmonies, and our writing style quickly moved away from traditional unison guitar parts to where it is now. We use unison guitars as an effect, just like everything else in the music, but feel that the riffs really speak with involved counter melodies.
I feel that we really found our sound with our second album, Opening of the Eye by the Death of the I, and this sound matured and was even more solidified on “III.”
I would like to mention as well that everything up until III was written entirely by Rich and I. When we started working with Shalin Shah and Dave Kaminsky on III, we really respected their other projects, ideas, and technical abilities, and wanted to allow them in on the writing process. So, this new album is truly a mix of all four of our styles, with Patrick Dupras writing and singing as usual.
III is bookended with two lengthy songs — what was the process like for these? Did you set out to create lengthy songs or was that just an end result?
I can’t say that we ever set out to write long songs, but things naturally went down that avenue. Upon review of our first release, Chapters I-IV, we found that the music sounded hectic and squashed. We weren’t letting each idea breathe like it needed to, and just went from riff to riff wildly. When writing for our next two albums, we focused on letting each idea develop fully, so the song lengths increased accordingly.
My classical background had a large influence on the song structures as well. We have never been into the idea of typical song structures, with verses, choruses, etc. The process begins with each of us bringing several ideas to the table, with harmonies already written on our own. Another effect that we employ is to have one member write a riff, and give it to another member to come up with a harmony. The task is to figure out how to make them work together without sounding like things were just placed one after the other. We usually end up writing what we call “transition riffs” together in the jam space with Patrick, which kind of act as the glue between each of our individual ideas.
Finally, we have also always been into what we call “long-winded riffs.” For instance, the intro riff to “All is Occulted by Swathes of Ego” from our second album takes almost 3 minutes to happen twice. We use lengthy riffs as an effect, just as we do short hectic riffs. Everything in the music is done with purpose for a specific aesthetic effect.
What goals do you set for In Human Form? That is to say, how do you push yourselves forward with each new release?
One of our main goals has always been to mature and progress. We get bored with doing the same things over and over, and playing the same songs again and again, and honestly, by the time we have played a few shows in support of a new release, we are already starting to focus on new music. We want to consistently challenge ourselves, and the band has always been more about the writing process that playing out.
We have always admired Frank Zappa’s idea of “conceptual continuity,” as well as his practice of xenochrony. We often bring back older lyrics and twist them into something new, or bring back previously used riffs and modulate, augment, and diminish them to create something new. It’s a lot of fun for us to mess around with these ideas. One of the riffs from the new album is actually a reworked version of one of the interlude tracks from our previous album.
We seem to always incorporate more of our influences with each additional release. Sometimes this shows directly in the guitar parts, and other times we introduce new instrumentation, like tablas, horns, Mellotron, etc. We are always pushing ourselves in the studio environment, with new recording or mixing techniques. We felt that this new album really needed to shine production-wise, and Dave did a fantastic job at getting the production to match the aesthetic value of the music.
At the end of the day, we just want to stay true to the music. We write for ourselves only, and it is just an added benefit that someone out there may enjoy hearing what we do together.
III is your third album — is there any reasoning behind the title other than the obvious placement in your discography? What made you choose this title?
The number “three” ended up becoming a repeating pattern throughout the writing process of this album, from its placement in our full-length discography as well as the fact that there are only three songs on it. Kishor Haulenbeek’s painting for the cover art has three main points of subject; the jaw bones, the hands, and the man. Also of note is the fact that, despite any lineup changes the band has gone through in the past, In Human Form has always consisted of the same three core members throughout its existence. So while we ended up brainstorming a lot of different ideas for a proper album title, we ultimately settled on III as it seemed the most fitting and significant.