Hyper Hydrus: Estuarine’s “The Pain Never Dulls” Champions Spastically Feverous Death-Grind with Gritty Authenticity
One-man experimental blackened tech-grind outfit Estuarine has now returned following last year's hour-plus magnum opus Sic Erat Scriptum (which was so damn good I had to include it in my year-end list). This time, project mastermind has put together an EP of songs whose ethos echoes that of Sic Erat Scriptum but whose execution and structure diverge creatively from that road toward a newer, more mature sound. Back is Hydrus's signature style of groovy grind laden with heavily layered blackened tech-death, but now with greater focus on individual ideas versus the more kaleidoscopic approach of the prior album. Both directions see Estuarine topping the notches on extremity, speed, and technicality, but the Wisdom of Silenus EP shows us a Hydrus even more composed and agile than ever.
We've got an exclusive premiere of a song from the new EP (in guitar playthrough format to boot, using the album-recorded audio) below -- "The Pain Never Dulls" is the EP's briefest song, but potentially its most hard-hitting. So while each song on the Wisdom of Silenus EP holds its own special death-grind magic, with extra underground flavor due to Hydrus's dedicated DIY approach, it's perhaps this track which helps put them all into context with one another. In short, it rips, it moves, it grooves, and it grinds, and that's sometimes all I want from any sort of hyper-technical metal. Most tech-death bands could take positive note from Hydrus's raw and honest creativity, and the added benefit is that despite its idiosyncrasies, Estuarine's music still makes sense within genre frameworks we're already familiar with.
To get an update since I last spoke to Hydrus, I corresponded with him again about the Wisdom of Silenus EP -- what's new, what's to come, and what's been going on with the project as well as Hydrus's other musical activities.
Your prior album Sic Erat Scriptum seemed to resonate well with several metal publications. How did that make you feel with respect to writing new material? For example, it may have challenged you to take your music to the next level, or maybe it gave you anxiety about releasing a follow-up, or something entirely different?
Luckily I haven’t really stopped for long enough to feel the pressure or anxiety. The truth is that all of the guitar, drums, and bass on this EP were tracked by the time that was released so I had the luxury of already having a follow-up that’s completely untarnished by any kind of outside expectations. All I had to do was stay focused and keep the ship on course.
The response was really unexpected though and, I won't lie, I had to learn how to block it out to an extent. I have never liked attention. I write music because it’s therapeutic. Before I started playing music I was a disaster and I regularly question if releasing music to the public was a good thing to do for my state of mind. I’ve wrestled with those feelings every time I’ve put something out. Despite all that though the unexpected attention brought me more excitement than stress and ultimately motivated me to take the project more seriously. This album might still be unfinished without that extra push to continue.
What's new this time around with the Wisdom of Silenus EP? Have you improved your songwriting, technicality, or maybe you've taken a different approach altogether?
This is a different approach for sure. Every time I record a new release I see it as a piece of the discography more so than just a “this is me now” kind of thing, so every [release] needs to have its own character. The most obvious difference this time around is that it’s an EP instead of a full-length. EPs are a whole different beast, especially in metal. With such a short runtime every second has to count and the intensity needs to stay high with no room for breathers. I also think EPs are the perfect place to experiment with new ideas, and I took that opportunity to try a more groove-oriented approach to some songs. I’d say that this material has a lot more punk, sludge, and blues influences mixed in with my usual blackened tech-grind experimentation.
With Sic Erat Scriptum I was really trying to put as many different ideas into every song as possible with the main focus put into how I could make different parts work well with each other. With Wisdom of Silenus I put more focus on building up each individual section to be as memorable as possible and letting each song build its own identity. Both approaches have their own merit but completely different outcomes and I will continue to use both in the future. After three years of working on Sic Erat Scriptum though, the last thing I wanted to do was more of the same so I went in the complete opposite direction with this one.
What's special about "The Pain Never Dulls," the song we're premiering today? How does it fit within the structure of the EP, and does it have any special and/or personal meaning for you?
This song is the shortest on the album and the main guitar, bass, and vocal tracks were all recorded in full takes; as was the case with most of this EP. It’s just a high energy song that goes through a lot of changes and sums up the vibe of the album as well as any single track could. Lyrically, the EP is about how we’ve changed our ways of living so much through advancements in technology and medicine that it’s slowly become a detriment and each track represents a different step in that process. This track is about the pharmaceutical industry and is unfortunately inspired by certain people I’ve been close to who’ve completely ruined their lives on prescription drugs. Before beginning work on this EP, I had been out of Tampa for two years and when I got back home it was a complete shock to see how bad some of my friends and family had gotten. It was heartbreaking. Making this song helped me get through that initial shock but unfortunately most of those people are still struggling. Thus the title, “The Pain Never Dulls."
What drives you to create your music? Any particular reason that your brand of technical, thrashy/grindy death metal makes sense for what you're looking to achieve musically?
Like I said earlier, making music is therapeutic for me. I got my first guitar when I was eight years old but really started taking it seriously at around 15 and haven’t looked back since. It’s just something that I have to do to feel complete. As far as why my music is the way it is, I really couldn’t tell you. I don’t even feel like I’m the one writing it sometimes. All I can say is that the speed, technicality, and chaos in the music feels right to me. I’m a chaotic person by nature so it wouldn’t make sense for me to sit around writing ballads and pop songs. I have way too much pent up energy to not write this way.
What's been on your playlist recently? Not to say that any particular band/album influenced your new EP, but maybe there were some albums which put you in the right mood to create Wisdom of Silenus?
I’ve been too broke to buy as much new music as I’d like to lately but there’s some really good up and coming bands out there that I can totally connect with, many of which are independent. These include Torched Ebony Skies, NYN, Isa, Alptraum, Atlas Entity, Nakhiel, Sectorial, Arbalest, Imperial Conquest, Ulcer, Lost in Eternal Sleep, and Alpdruck who I was lucky enough to collaborate with earlier this year. A lot of these bands are locals that I grew up watching live during my formative years in Tampa, and I’ll take those influences everywhere I go.
We’ve had an amazing scene that really deserves more attention from the outside. As far as signed bands that people should know by now I could go on and on, but here’s some of my favorites: Deathspell Omega, Cattle Decapitation, Krallice, Sigh, Cephalic Carnage, Dødheimsgard, diSEMBOWELMENT, Thergothon, Solefald, Spawn of Possession, Necrophagist, Funeral Mist, Progenie Terrestre Pura, Skinny Puppy, and of course all of the classics from Florida and Norway in the early 1990s. You know the ones.
Describe your experience so far self-releasing music and being a (mostly?) DIY musician in a topsy-turvy heavy metal scene. Is your goal to one day transform Estuarine into a live/stage band, or will it remain a personal one-man project? Do you feel any resistance against your progress toward a goal you may have for your music down the road, say one or two years from now?
I really don’t know that I’d be able to do what I’m doing with this project if I wasn’t DIY. If I’m being completely honest, this band is the one thing in this world that I actually have full control over and it would be really hard for me to relinquish that to a label or something. I could have better promotion and a way bigger audience, sure, but at the end of the day what’s the point? I know I suck on social media and promoting myself but if that’s who I am then fuck it, I’d rather people not listen to me for who I am than have a bunch of random fans that latch on to some kind of promotional image of me that I don’t even connect with. Plus it’s just a great feeling knowing that I can do whatever I feel like with my music because I still own it. For example, the physical release of Wisdom of Silenus is going to include the entire instrumental version of Sic Erat Scriptum because the fans have been wanting those instrumentals. A label would never let me do that when they could make more money splitting them up into separate releases. I literally give away my music for free on Bandcamp, I can do whatever I want. It’s awesome. So to answer the question, no, I have absolutely no resistance keeping me from my goals. Within the next year or two I plan to have out my next full length as well as remixed and mastered versions of my first two albums.
It’s not like I lock myself in a room all day not talking to anyone either though. I consider my recording engineer, Jamie Amos, a second band member in a lot of ways and he’s been here since the beginning. He makes the songs sound so much better than I ever could on my own and helps me get everything sounding the way it does in my head. If I needed a label to keep me from sounding like trash then maybe I’d be more open to signing a deal but I’m totally happy with what I have.
As far as playing live, I’m totally open to it but the right line up would have to find me because I don’t care enough to look for members. I know a ton of musicians who could do an amazing job but most good musicians want to write their own music and I can’t even be mad at that because I’m the same way. Plus I have a band called Led by Serpents with a full line-up that plays live so I still get my live fix. I have contemplated doing a couple one man shows with a drum machine à la Insidious Decrepancy or Putrid Pile but I don’t know if it’ll ever happen because I always wind up just working on new music instead. Long story short, I’m not trying to force anything. Playing these songs would be amazing though, so if anyone around central Florida wants to jam, hit me up!
The Wisdom of Silenus EP releases November 28th. Follow Estuarine on Bandcamp.