“Darker Than Death Or Night”: Nequient’s Jason Kolkey Talks New Album (Interview + Album Stream)
Chicago hardcore band Nequient's upcoming album was, much like the rest of the music world, cursed. Cursed for years. First recorded in early 2020, global setbacks and individual choices delayed this album over two years.
"[T]his thing has been sitting around forever," says vocalist Jason Kolkey. "We went into the studio with Pete Grossman in January 2020 and did all the tracking then. Obviously the whole COVID situation happened, and every phase along the way got horribly delayed. From mixing to mastering to the artwork, everything got pushed back just because of various COVID related complications. By the time everything was pretty much ready just beyond the fact that it took forever, it was starting to look like we could finally tour behind the thing, so we pushed it back even further. This is definitely something we've been sitting on for a long time, so we're very excited to finally release the damn thing and get people to hear it."
Initially written in 2019, Darker Than Death Or Night, which is streaming in full ahead of its Friday release below, acts as a time capsule regarding Kolkey's own thoughts and emotions from that time. Political corruption, the failing planet, and threats against democracy are all ferociously spit into the listener's ears.
"All those things have gotten worse for the most part," Kolkey says. "Obviously it's great that Donald Trump isn't in the fucking White House anymore, but so many things which were scary about that moment have only become worse as far as the concerns of the decline of Western civilization, liberal democracy… all these things are getting increasingly terrifying and the ticking time bomb of ecological disaster behind it all begins to count down. I just feel like the things I was angry and scared about back then I'm only more angry and scared about now, so it will be interesting to go out and perform those songs for people in the current moment."
When asked how he feels about revisiting these emotions in the current day, Kolkey remarks, "I sort of feel like it hasn't stopped, so there is a catharsis every time I scream about that shit, but it's also like… the death of truth, the illiberalization of the American political system… all this stuff is just continuing to decline and get worse, so in many ways I just feel more angry and concerned."
It isn't all misanthropy and worry for Kolkey, however, who envisions a brief utopia whenever he's onstage.
"I'm having a lot of fucking fun when we perform, so that's also a key factor," he says. "I think the nature of hardcore especially, and we are a -core/hardcore band (though we delve into death metal and grind and these other directions) has to be about that very direct communication of feeling between the performers and the audience or else it really isn't hardcore. That's what defines it. It can be both this painful connection, but it's also a lot of fun to share that with other people. There is that sense of community there, even if you have this massive deterioration in civil society, there is a space for that. It is a shallow comfort in a lot of ways, which is too bad. I wish that could do more to translate into bigger movements, and obviously there are people out there trying to make that happen. I don't feel qualified, I don't feel like I have the skills to make that happen, but it does in that moment feel like you're building something utopian."
"Any time you roll into a town where you've never been before and you go into some ratty ass punk house to play in the basement and there's a whole community there of all genders, all races, who are there to enjoy themselves and connect through our music," he continues, "you kind of feel for a minute like hey… that could be the world. That could be great. Is it worthwhile to maintain that microcosm of a better world so you have some sense of hope of some kind? Maybe. This is a project worth pursuing, because I emotionally need to have it. I've been involved to some degree in DIY music from at least 2001 or 2002. Either I was booking shows in my house or writing because I need to have that connection, however fleeting it may be."
Darker Than Death Or Night features some of Nequient's most adventurous work to date. Though Kolkey insists on calling the band a late '90s/early aughts metalcore band, Nequient's approach follows many paths to get to that general conclusion. "I think something that we tried to do throughout the album," Kolkey explains, "is bring in a little bit more of some of that post-metally and sort of noise rock influence and try to sort of expand a little bit on textures while still writing cool riffs that you can mosh to."
Though the aforementioned noise rock moments are peppered throughout the album, it's "Death Bridge'"s, uh, bridge, which is a truly shining moment on the album. Pivoting to a melodic brand of post-and-doom metal, Nequient's idea of "crushing" changes from a short, sharp shock to a slow flattening.
"[Death Bridge] was definitely written by Patrick [Conahan], our guitar player, and he was getting really into a lot of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and the idea of playing with the tones and sort of digging a little deeper as far as the instrumental parts," Kolkey says. "That was a big part of it, but I also always encourage delving into the doomy and black metally sections. Now, I'm the only one who likes black metal in the band. Chris [Avgerin], our drummer, will get into the thrashier side of black metal like Craft, and Patrick digs like Emperor, but he's not a serious black metal fan. However, everyone can appreciate when you bring in those explosive elements and the way they fit dynamically with those hardcore and grindy riffs we do more commonly. My own love for black metal gets to come in."
It isn't just noise rock and post-metal for the varied Nequient, however, as the band's hardcore roots find a stronger footing through powerful death metal and grind influences. For as stylistically complex the album is (and for how long it's taken to be released), Darker Than Death Or Night was written in a relatively brief amount of time.
"We did spend some time [on the album]," Kolkey says, "but not an unusual amount. There are a lot of things we do that are maybe not immediately aware to the listener, like bringing in those other genre elements. We always try to fold in a lot of influences from death metal, black metal, grind, sludge–all things we love–all into a song structure that makes sense as what we at our base are: late '90s/early '00s metalcore. Right? We're taking all that shit and being like If Converge played this type of riff, how would they fit it into their song? Not precisely like that, but you get the idea. We're going to have that center of thrashy, chaotic hardcore and then its going to venture into these other directions, but that gives us a center which ultimately has a structure which makes sense. We're not just, a term that Patrick uses a lot, riff salad. He has a problem with any band that maybe has great individual riffs but doesn't tie them all together. A way to explain this is Patrick's deep abiding love for Death. Death is clearly the biggest influence on his songwriting style and the thing about Death was: always heavy riffs, progressive influence, and very tight songwriting. Chuck always made sure he came back to the chorus, that each song had a hook. We're not there yet, exactly, but that type of ethic informs the whole thing."
Nequient covers a lot of ground on this new album, but what can be gleaned the most from it is an overwhelming amount of justified negativity. We're fighting a losing battle, and those who represent us, the people, simply don't get it. We're thrust into wars we don't want, dependent on fossil fuels which destroy the environment, and taught to hate one another for superficial and shitty reasons. Nequient is the soundtrack of our frustrations, this angry, chaotic sound of distrust, anger, and voicelessness now given a megaphone.
"We're going to keep going down this path of self-destruction unless there's something that dramatically changes, and I have no faith. Do you?"
Darker Than Death Or Night releases March 11th on Nefarious Industries.
Nequient will also embark on a two-week US tour surrounding the album's release, the chaos launching out of Milwaukee on March 10th, winding its way to the Northeast and back, ending in Cincinnati on March 27th. Along the way they’ll share the stage with Feral Light, Sarah Longfield, Plague Years, Somnuri, Juan Bond, Fed Ash, Pillärs, and many others. See current live dates below.
NEQUIENT Tour Dates:
3/10/2022 High Dive – Milwaukee, WI w/ Curbsitter, Emissary
3/12/2022 NorthStar Bar & Grill – St. Paul, MN w/ Feral Light, Witchden
3/13/2022 High Noon Saloon – Madison, WI w/ Sarah Longfield, The Central, Bashford
3/18/2022 Black Circle – Indianapolis, IN w/ L.I.B., Chaff, Indomitable
3/19/2022 Meteor Majeure – Murfreesboro, TN w/ Moru, Torsion, Scorched Vatika
3/20/2022 Boggs Social & Supply – Atlanta, GA w/ Plague Years, Somnuri, Hubris Cannon
3/22/2022 Planet Nova Bar and Grill – Fredericksburg, VA w/ Undesiccated, Betty Grey
3/23/2022 Century – Philadelphia, PA
3/24/2022 Gutter Bar – Brooklyn, NY w/ Juan Bond, Astrometer, Sploot
3/25/2022 Chaos Compound – Rochester, NY w/ Fed Ash, Holy Grinder, Hallucination Realized, Zero Again
3/26/2022 Annabell's Bar & Lounge – Akron, OH w/ Pillärs, Wallcreeper, Brain Cave
3/27/2022 MOTR Pub – Cincinnati, OH w/ Louise, Tina Fey