Outre-Tombe Plunge into Deadly Depths on “Abysse mortifère” (Interview)
Even with a late entry (a spooky Halloween release!), Abysse mortifère was an easy lock for my 2021 year-end list. Ferociously opposed to any sort of modernity in their ancient assault, Outre-Tombe take things to the next level with what is surely their best record yet: catchier songwriting, bigger riffs, and dirtier production combine to form a record that stands apart from almost all contemporary peers.
Every second seems calculated to provide the best combination of a huge goddamn riff and one that will actually stick in their listener's heads. It seems that even the most nostalgic modern death metal bands forget that genre classics were not just strings of dangerous but forgettable riffs. All of the best classic material was hooky in a way that modern bands simply are not, built on a framework not of death metal (because of course, death metal didn’t exist yet when those classic bands started pioneering it!) but of thrash, heavy metal, and hard rock.
Though Abysse mortifère's core is a stew of influences straight from the gods of death metal, with many riffs that sound directly like some classic band or another could have written them, the way it all comes together is not so derivative as to draw scorn and the way that they make each riff pop is like stepping back to my first time listening to Severed Survival. There is a sort of hyper-focus on the album to the construction of the riffs that creates an image of these mighty Québécois just sitting around individually scrutinizing each one: is this aggressive enough? Is this catchy enough? Is it powerful enough? Combined with the throat-ripping vocal assault and attention-demanding drum performance the end result is clear: death metal superiority.
Read an interview with guitarist Cobra below and let Outre-Tombe drag you down to the grave.
Abysse mortifère is drawing attention from fans for being the most grimy album yet, drawing a division between people who appreciate it and those who prefer something cleaner. What made now the right time to delve into a more organic sound? Will you do it again?
We always felt that our first two albums sounded cleaner than they should, even though we liked them anyway. The third album's rehearsal process was extra complicated because of the curfew we had in Québec. At that point, going to a studio was a risky thing to do and we had no idea when it would end. We had tried for many months to make the recording happen so we just thought the hell with it, let's record it live at the rehearsal space. I (Cobra), recorded this way several times with my other band Sedimentum, with our bass player A. Landry as a sound tech, so it was an easy process for us. We asked V. Kusabs to do the mix/mastering and went to it! To us, this album sounds the way death metal should sound, dark and hostile. It's the way we go from now.
What kept you from doing something similar earlier if you thought the previous albums were too clean?
I don't think we had the confidence as a band before to record all together without the possibility to correct anything without restarting the take from scratch. When you're in the studio the clock is ticking, there's time restrictions and money involved so if something doesn't come out as it should almost right away it can be an issue. Maybe all of us weren't sold to the live recording thing before too. It's after hearing some live bootleg from 2019 that it hit us, that's how we sound best. Also, most studios in Québec city have a "modern metal" mindset, so you could say it's not in the metal culture very much here to record the old school way. That always made it tricky to find someone who can record us the way we want. We had great experiences with Holywaves Studio though, the guy is a beast at what he does, we just wanted to go way more primitive with our third album.
Many of your countrymen and other bands around the world default to English for writing music. What keeps you singing in your own native tongue?
It's a matter of authenticity. Many bands in Québec sing in English and sometimes the lack of knowledge can make vocal parts sound off or weird. English is not our mother tongue and there are already thousands of bands who sing like that in the world. We try to make music "in our own words" you could say. French is not necessarily the language that comes to mind when it comes to death metal, but in terms of horror it's pretty rich. Be it Maupassant's novels or just violent Québec slang, we never lacked lyrical inspiration up to date.
There are some clear nods here and there to legends before you, such as a verse riff on the title track recalling a classic Bolt Thrower pattern or others elsewhere. Do these come through subconsciously or are they homages?
I would say both haha! Usually we don't do the homage thing much, to us what we do is more of a blob of all the bands we like best (Bolt Thrower, Autopsy, Swedeath bands and a couple US or Finnish ones). Certain times we may have done riffs that are clear nods to our favourite bands (notably at the end of Haut et Court) but we don't write music like a "tribute" band would do so to say. We obviously don't see ourselves as originals or anything, but we try to offer a cool experience to the maniacs of the genre. When we write a riff like those in the opening track, we're pretty conscious that it sounds like riff Bolt Thrower could have done, but if it sounds too familiar we just won't use it. I think our main focus when we write a song is the blending of the various types of riffs. It's what's give it an interesting sound. I love many «worship» bands though, such as War Master, Trench Hell, Hellbringer, Warhammer and I have nothing against that approach. Personally, I like my metal diversified if possible, but in 2022 pretty much every riff has already been done by some old band haha!
Could Outre-Tombe have existed in any similar form without the internet to expose you guys to that big variety of classic international bands?
That's a good question. We are in our early thirties now, so we experienced life without the Internet for a short time of our teenage life. We used to buy our music in stores and have very limited access to the metal underground so to say. On a personal level, I think what got me into the underground was partly through older metalheads who gave me burned cds, but also through Myspace and the sea of underground bands I not only discovered, but could be connected with. None of us are big social media users, but we sure discovered a shitload of bands via Youtube, forums and Bandcamp too and that certainly caused the band to be where it is now one way or another. I think it was a different time before, people used to take the time to dig way more into music, reading the sleeves, checking the promos the labels added, buying zines. That's how we discovered music before. I mean people still do it, but we are drowning in a sea of bands online now with advertisements, Instagram pages and all kinds of stuff. Death metal is pretty crowded, which is great, but along the way I think some bands get skipped because they keep it low profile. So to answer the question, we probably would have played pretty much the same music, since we don't have a very niched sound, but we may never have discovered the Finnish DM bands or the more underground stuff that inspires us too.
Putrid Matt has now done the last two album covers, and this is your second album with Temple of Mystery. Is consistency, of presentation and otherwise, important to the band?
I wouldn't say that it's a thing we aim for, but we sure loved Matt's work on the previous album and we naturally wanted to continue this partnership. Matt seems into the same metal as us and shares a certain affinity for old comics, hammer horror, sci-fi horror stuff that you can already see in his art. I can't speak about the future, but it clearly fits the band very much up to date and that collaboration may very well be constant! As for Temple of Mystery, I'm not even sure we'd be talking right now if it wasn't for them. They pushed us a lot when we were still a drunken unknown deadbeat band and that has kept a high morale in the band for many years now, they became friends by now. Some would say that our albums look very much better than they sound haha! We obviously like to work with people that we have a great relationship with and we'll try to keep doing many more records!
This is now the second Outre-Tombe album in a row to be about 36 minutes, and the third to be in that general range. Are track times and album flows intentionally calculated to be around that length, perhaps for vinyl?
Not particularly, we always do about 9-10 songs by album because we feel we can master as much in a recording setting. It also happens to be good for LPs and we tend to do songs of 3-4 minutes in general, so yeah it's naturally around that length. Most classic death metal albums are around about that much time and it forces us to trim the extra fat so to say. Also, I think our song structures are closer to thrash metal than death/doom so it may end up being shorter.
Is there any chance of a significantly longer or shorter release in your future with this particular band?
Longer, I don't think so. That's pretty much the format we can come up with for a full length. As for shorter, I would say the chances are very high! Since we can't play live for who knows how long, we will certainly write new music this year. Full albums can be long and expensive to create and it's harder for us to learn 9-10 songs perfectly than 2-3 obviously. I can't reveal anything yet, but keep your eyes and ears open!
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