Once More “Upon The Gravehill”: (The Infamous) Gehenna Talks Reissues (Interview)
Some time ago I was in Portland, Oregon, wandering around with a mission, almost entirely due to the fact there was a dispensary on every corner and I had no responsibilities that day. My mission was to find a record store that had a copy of (the infamous) Gehenna’s first full-length album, Upon The Gravehill or my entire trip out West would have been a gigantic waste of time. I came across Black Water Records and shuffled my way in to discover there was no air conditioning and I was dehydrated because I can be a real fucking moron sometimes. So, I made my way around the store, trying not to drip into their excellently curated selection (seriously, if you ever get the chance, go to this store) and, through an act of providence or whatever you want to call it, came across a well loved copy of said record. The combination of a massive loss of bodily fluids and a poor tolerance for medical grade cannabis turned this into a religious experience.
And that was before I even put the record on.
If you’ve been too poor to pay attention the last few decades, Gehenna has been blurring the lines between hardcore and black metal well before that kind of thing was en vogue and en books (it works phonetically, just try it). Notorious for exceptionally violent live performances to match the fury of their music, their first full length offering Upon the Gravehill feels like The Age of Quarrel sharing uncomfortable car sex with Apocalyptic Raids while the car is speeding downhill towards a crowd. Everyone is screaming and no one is cumming.
Fast forward a few decades and, while we continue to wait patiently for the Negative Hardcore record (which will finally see release next year), King of the Monsters Records, the original home of Upon the Gravehill as well as a lot of other very crucial releases across genres, is giving the original a much needed reissue. I caught up with vocalist Mike Amaral to toss him a few questions about the reissue, the future, and the past.
How has the pandemic shaped the band's trajectory the last two years?
As bizarre as it might sound, the pandemic has had a massive impact on nearly every musician in the world apart from us. With shows canceled and bands unable to monetize their "art" they all seemed to suffer. People were forced to sit alone and try to wrap their heads around the thought of dying for once instead of showing up to make a performative spectacle of themselves. Instead of getting 25 emails a day asking why we never respond to low ball offers from promoters, we got 25 emails a day asking for handouts. People who once took a pay day at our expense, lost their business. So that was kind of interesting.
To be clear, I don’t think Covid-19 changed anything about Gehenna. We were already paranoid head cases that isolated ourselves and often wore masks in public to not breath filthy germs from other people.
So while musicians and artists got affected by things like this, it didn’t impact us because Gehenna have never been “musicians” or "artists."
Why now for the reissue?
Upon The Gravehill had been out of print for a bit and [King of the Monsters proprietor] Mike Genz had an interest in seeing it come out again. It seemed like a reasonable thing to do, and it will allow us to get things figured out and have it available digitally as well.
When you look back on that first record, what do you miss the most about those days?
I’m not an especially nostalgic person, but if I were to pinpoint what I miss the most it would be the somewhat amniotomy of those days. In the late 90s and early 2000s, we could still punch random strangers in the face for making a stupid comment or walk away with anything we wanted. We could self-regulate and ignore so many more laws back then. Dare I say we acted without a "Karen" the world. Now systems are in place with "concerned citizens," dry snitching idiots, and cameras and cellphones recording every movement, all to feed the industrial prison complex and add "likes" to a person’s social media. I genuinely enjoyed how less public everything in the world was back then
Similar theme: what do you think has changed the most about yourself and the band since then?
Nothing has changed about Gehenna. We still don’t give a fuck.
While I can't speak for anyone else, I can say I got tired of financial desperation. I developed a bitter hatred for the situation I was in, and it drove me to reevaluate what was important. I learned to ask myself "What the fuck am I doing to myself? Why am I working here? Why am I wasting time with this shit?"
What do you feel is most important for someone to get out of the record?
Upon The Gravehill is a record about cruelty. It’s a record about an unrelenting urge to give back what's been given, without care or concern for your own well-being. It’s about retaliation to the point of complete annihilation and potential self-destruction.
If there is one thing anyone can take from this record it’s that we have an agenda, and you won’t find "fucking around" on that agenda.
What’s the next twelve months looking like for Gehenna?
We have a mixtape in the works that will feature some rarities and unreleased material as well as a B-side that features some unlikely co-collaborators. The new LP Negative Hardcore, which has been at the plant since last November and will be released on Iron Lung Records in August. I think it’s the most spiteful material we’ve ever recorded.
D.C. has stayed busy and release 4 volumes of "Bleakness." It’s a video series that shows a harsh unfiltered look at Skateboarding in the desolate wasteland of Reno, Nevada. He’s also released 6 new deathrock songs under Nocturnal Hands.
Tarzan is doing an industrial dance noise project called Source Of Love.
Payton has knocked out the Boiled Cortex demo.
Upon The Gravehill is reissued through King of the Monsters Records today. While you’re there, be sure to check out some of their other releases including the killer Boreal Battle for VOSAD LP from last year that, for whatever fucking dumb reason, hasn’t sold out yet. Negative Hardcore will finally see release through Iron Lung Records next summer after nearly ten years of threats.