Misguiding Star: Dead Sun Rising’s Post-Metal Simmers on “Constellations” (Track Premiere + Interview)
These days, Chicago's underground metal scene is vast enough to have an underground of its own, and that's where Dead Sun Rising emerges from: a so-far well-kept secret lurking on the occasional show flyer or Bandcamp recommendation page. Though lineup shifts have kept the group, continuously helmed by guitarist/vocalist Eric Carley, from fully settling into their groove, both their first Hallowed EP and follow-up full-length As Above So Below are fascinating albums needing no further evolution, exploring the interesting territory between post-metal, shoegaze, and rock in fairly different ways.
Their upcoming A Soft Decay EP continues this inquisitive venture, in some ways departing even farther from what might traditionally be called metal, but growing darker and more pessimistic in the process. Post-metal can be bleak, sure, but Dead Sun Rising isn't simply expressing detachment or hopelessness. A Soft Decay feels like a reaction, a sprouting, spreading bloom of discontent. When I first heard the EP, I felt that it was mournful–and contemplative in its grief–but further listening revealed a simmering undercurrent: yes, this record mourns, but not peacefully.
Below, you'll find the album's first single "Constellations," which might have some of the, er, riffiest riffs on the EP, chuggy and delivered with a martial bent. That suits its subject matter well, as the first lyrics confirm: "We saw the signs / calling for your blood."
Listen to the track and read an interview with Carley below, in which we discussed the new EP, "Constellations," and the band's path up until now.
What's the story behind the upcoming EP's title, A Soft Decay?
Yeah, so we had a show at Metal Monkey [Brewing], early last year, and I put out a call for a flyer on DIY Chicago to see if anybody had any artwork. This local artist Natalie Sustaita hit me up with a pretty cool design, a skull ice cream thing that's pretty sweet. So I followed her. And then at some point in time, she posted that some other artist based in Sweden [Art of Maquenda] had this really awesome hare design, like the decomposing rabbit skull with the fungus growing on it, which I thought was really cool. It kind of grabbed me as soon as I saw it, I was like, "I definitely need to use that". So I got it, and I popped it into the program I use to do layouts for the album covers and stuff like that. For whatever reason, the phrase "a soft decay" popped in my head, which is a line from the song "Cudgel" on the Hallowed EP, the first thing we ever recorded, but it just seemed to fit. When something like that happens, I tend to not question it. I just went with it, so it stuck.
Is there any theme behind this album, or particular topics you wanted to explore?
I've noticed that over the course of my songwriting... career, if you want to call it a career, I've tended to sort of go more outward. I still do a lot of like inward stuff, but now I'm kind of like, writing about things that I see that are filtered through my own personal thought processes and distortions. So yeah, this one has a lot to do with things that have been in the news recently, a lot of fucked up things that have been happening in the world in general, that I'm kind of trying to come to grips with. Music, for me, has always been more of a way to deal with unpleasant things than to deal with things that make me happy. I just, you know, I sit down by myself and I'm writing lyrics or whatever, I tend to focus on things that are negative and kind of use songwriting as a bit of a cathartic way to get them out and somehow feel better about them. I guess. I'm not sure if that actually works, but that's the thought.
We're premiering the track "Constellations" - can you tell me more about the song?
Yeah, "Constellations" - I mean, the actual lyrics are just about a tribe of people that are reading the stars in the sky as a sign to go murder a bunch of other people. It's kind of like a questioning of religion. I'm fairly anti religious in general, I don't like organized religion, and that comes out a lot in my songs. To me, the concept of living in a world where there's so many people that are so engrossed by religion and use it as a means to sort of ignore facts of the world really blows my mind. That is a constant source of frustration for me and it comes out a lot in my lyrics. So yeah, "Constellations" is just about a bunch of idiots that see stars in the sky and interpret it as a message to go kill a bunch of other people and that they did the right thing by doing so. It's sort of a tribal view of religion, but it questions the whole concept overall, really.
Dead Sun Rising's releases have taken a sort of trajectory out of strictly post-metal into something a little bit wider - do you feel like you're changing your sound or getting closer to your original goal?
I kind of don't know how to answer that question, necessarily. We're not trying to do anything, I suppose. You know, I think that I listen to a lot more Shiner than, you know, Metallica, even though I do listen to a shitload of Metallica. I came of age, musically, in the 90s with a lot of like math rock bands, and you know, Shiner, The Promise Ring, Jawbreaker, Jets to Brazil, Jawbox... Failure was another huge one for me. So those are the kinds of bands that I really sank my teeth into and still listen to very heavily to this day. If I had to compare it, the first Hallowed EP, was, in a lot of ways--I was listening to a ton of ISIS, and I think that that really comes through on that.
Strata was the single we did during quarantine. And that was the first thing that I just played bass and guitar on, and there's actually some Theremin on it. But basically, I just had a friend play drums, and that was it. I was kind of leery about putting that out, because I felt like it was a pretty significant departure. My joke was it was Jade Tree metal, because it sounds like some shit from Jade Tree, but like a metal version of it. But I really liked it. It's kind of funny, there's a lot of people who tell me that that's their favorite song of ours. Which is weird.
We're always very democratic about it, though. We've had a personnel change on every single record that we've put out. The Hallowed EP, the drummer quit immediately after that, to move to Oakland. And then we did Strata, which was just a friend of mine, who was technically the drummer in the band for a little while, but we never played a show together–he kind of joined right before quarantine and left shortly after. And then the third thing we did [As Above So Below], we had Pete Nocito come in on drums, and we also added a new bass player at that point in time, Nick. So, we're very democratic, I tend to write the all of the songs, like the ideas I start with, but then we bring it to practice, and we workshop it together. It's a super democratic process, everybody's allowed to, you know, form their own parts. And, you know, we make a lot of decisions in the group as far as like, how many times we're going to do this, do we need to go back to this, does this suck, you know, and I'll even show different guitar parts like, "Alright, I've got three different guitar parts in this one thing, which one should I do?"
Just by nature, then, with different people coming in, things sound differently from recording to recording. So it's not like we're necessarily looking at something, it's just that we kind of have the "if it sounds cool, let's do it" approach, which every person I've had in the band has had that same attitude. We're not trying to do anything specific, we're just trying to do something that sounds, you know, coherent. So we don't want to go too far in either direction. But we've always just been cool with fucking around with the formula and seeing what comes out. That's always like the most fun for me, when an idea that I write doesn't quite end up the way that I thought it would. That's just more interesting to me personally, right? Because it's got somebody else's fingerprints on it versus me just doing something that I kind of know that whole story from beginning to end. It's nice to have some twists and turns thrown in there by other people. That's what makes music interesting to me at least.
You and I talked just a few days ago, and you mentioned you're the primary songwriter for Dead Sun Rising. Can you tell me about how songs come to be within the band?
Sometimes I have a song kind of sketched out, like the beginning, the middle, and the end. I think another thing that has happened with our songs is there have been less parts thrown in there. Whereas, we used to maybe have seven different parts on the song, we've condensed that down to like maybe having four now. I don't know, I don't count these things, but it feels like they're getting more simple anyway. But yeah, sometimes we'll just bring it into practice and say, "Alright, this is what I've got." To be honest with you, we don't have a very set means of working it into a song. Sometimes we'll just workshop one riff over and over again. Once we've gotten that down I'll change to a different riff and people try to catch up, or sometimes we just really, really slow it down, and go through it meticulously, like one riff at a time.
People have opinions on it, right? That part should just go away, or we should do that at the end instead of now, or we should do that part for longer, or that should actually be like, the verse part. There's also a lot of where do I sing versus not singing and letting it be an instrumental passage. It's not necessarily consciously what I'm striving for, but I don't sing as much as a lot of people do. Like, there's not as many vocals on our songs as a lot of people's songs. It's definitely like a conscious choice, but I also kind of step back and say, like, alright, is adding a vocal here gonna really add anything, or should I just not sing. About half the time, based on our songs, I decide that it's better without vocals and I'm gonna leave it at that. Or sometimes, I have a vocal idea that I'm trying to pull off and it's just not coming together, and I'll just say, alright, rather than have a shitty vocal part. I'd rather have no vocals on this part. So we just go with that. But yeah, it's all super democratic. That makes it fun.
A Soft Decay is an EP, following up your last full-length from 2021, As Above So Below. What made the EP format make sense for your next release?
We just got to a point where we were itching to record. I really like to put something out every year, or at least record something every year. I just get very antsy to record something. And, you know, every time we've made a record, we had to start again with at least one new member at the end of that process. It just took a while to get the old songs together. Some bands write new stuff and record old stuff at the same time, and we do that as well, but for this one, we really just started with the new stuff, and we're like, let's just work these songs up really quickly to get 'em together. We made that shift shortly after Jeff joined, which was like late 2021, and then we started getting these these six tracks up and running.
We actually wrote "Fleeting" two days before we went to the studio. We practiced on Thursday, and we introduced that song, and then we recorded it on Saturday when we went into Electrical. But the other five we had worked up, we were really confident and we decided to kind of cap it. Maybe around September, we said all right, we're not going to write anything more; let's just focus on really nailing down these five songs. Then of course, we broke our rule by adding "Fleeting" in at the last minute, but we had the other five done well enough. It didn't seem like we could do it, but it actually worked out really well. That song is a really fun listen, for me. I really like the way it turned out.
A Soft Decay was recorded at Electrical Audio. How was that experience?
Oh, man, it's awesome. That place is so fucking cool. So that's a bucket list item for me. It always has been. I've just always been really enthralled by that place. We used to practice just on the opposite side of the block from it. There was a place on Fletcher that I will not name--worst practice space I've ever had, I hated it. It was right by Electrical and so I'd always drive by Electrical.
Also, there's so many of my like favorite albums were made there. That I've just it's always been in it. I think it's really really fucking cool that they keep it affordable. Like that's really awesome that like they keep it affordable so that just any schmuck with a job can walk in there and fucking record an album or an EP with them, which is really cool. But yeah, we did it with Greg Norman, who was a super sweet guy to work with. He was really fun to work with. He's a super nice guy. It was a really enjoyable experience overall. You walk in, and we did Studio B, which is the big giant stairwell. So you walk in and he's setting up and they have like this bookshelf that's all these little gray boxes with handles on them. And I'm like, "Ehat are those, are those direct boxes?" And he's like, "No, those are just power supplies for all these really old tube lights we have and those are all like in this big like, dresser thing sitting next to it, but it's just awesome. He's putting these weird ass mics on the floor that look like just big like long wands. And he just puts one on the floor like facing the wall. And then he puts another one on the floor, under a chair facing the doorway at a 45 degree angle. Those catch all the reverberations. So there's a song that we did called "Slow Waves", and "Slow Waves" is pretty much all just those room mics, catching all the reverberations off the stairwell, which is really cool.
But it was super sweet. It's super, super nice in there. Everyone's really, really nice. It's very cool. It's awesome. Like if you you know, if you feel like doing it, and you can swing it, I couldn't recommend that more. It was fucking awesome
What's next for Dead Sun Rising? Any shows on the horizon? Merch?!
Yeah, I really liked the hare design that we got. So when I bought it for use on the album from the artist, I asked her if it was cool if we use it for a T-shirt design later on down the road. And she was like, yeah, if you can figure out how to put that on shirt, go for it. So we're talking about possibly doing that. As far as shows are concerned, we don't have anything right now just because true to format, unfortunately, immediately after we recorded, Nick Willis, our bass player informed us that he was quitting. So we got a new bassist, pretty quickly, actually, his name is Michael Klayman. And he actually is the bassist for another Chicago band, Numerical Control Society, who is recording and mixing right now as we speak, with I think Pete Grossman, which is fucking awesome because Pete's cool as shit.
So he's joined us and it's going really smoothly so far. But we still need to spend some time getting up to speed on the old songs and we're actually already working on new stuff. Just because, you know, anytime we get a new member, it's always nice to work on something new so that they can write their own part and at least have that. Although, nobody is beholden to the old material, as far as keeping it exactly the way it was recorded or the way the other person played it–everyone's allowed to make it their own. We do need to do a little work as far as getting up to speed, so we were contemplating holding on to the album until we had a release show scheduled and then I decided that was a little too much pressure that I didn't want, so we decided to put the album out sooner than later and then we'll play a show when we get there. We're working on it; hopefully around March or April we'll be able to play a show, but you know, no, we're not going to be too pressured about it.
A Soft Decay releases February 10th independently via Bandcamp.