“In Darkness Alone,” Scars Of The Flesh’s Blackened Death Metal Ignites (Interview)
Texas melodic blackened death metal band Scars of the Flesh formed in 2014 by guitarists Bryan Eckermann (ex-Wings of Abaddon), Derek Russell and vocalist Kobey Lange (Cerebral Desecration, ex-Wings of Abaddon). Their debut album Harvest of Souls was released in 2017 to a wide positive online reaction while their sophomore album Reaching into the Void furthered the band’s stronghold and allowed it to finally bring their songs to the stage.
However, due to the global pandemic, the band’s progress was halted for the past two and a half years. Finally, the band’s third album In Darkness Alone will see the light of day. Consisting of five original tracks and four stellar cover songs, the band has created a dark blend of atmosphere, melody and aggression. During a recent phone interview, vocalist Kobey Lange and guitarist Derek Russell talked about the new album, lyrical influences, their current touring plans, and more.
Scars of the Flesh is based in San Antonio [Texas]. What’s the current metal scene like there?
Kobey: It's alive and well. There's a lot of good bands, good friends of ours down here that are in some pretty good unknown projects. It’s a boiling pot, especially since we’re only an hour from Austin, so we get a lot of those bands too. Where we're at is a really good melting pot.
What’s the significance behind the band name? How did you decide on it?
Kobey: When Derek and Bryan were starting a new project, they had a different name in mind. And I joined because I heard the music and said they have to let me do the vocals. And of course with my long history with Bryan, I did a few tracks and I think the three of us all agreed that this is what we need. Now we just needed the correct band name. They asked me to think if I wanted to come up with a title. I actually coined the name, but I based it off of what ultimately the band was going to talk about, write about and be about. So if you notice, our mascot is death, every album has the Reaper on the front. And Scars of the Flesh is the story of our lives. The story of life and death, and how both are inevitable. So it's kind of just every single song is another scar from somebody or my own personal life. So that's why a lot of the titles and a lot of the times in the lyrical content, there’s a lot of deep, sometimes saddening thoughts and ways of thinking and phrases. It's because the true pain that comes with the scars of living. That's why the name was fitting for what we wanted. And once I said that to the guys, for them it was a no brainer. It was perfect.
The track “The Hooded One” from what I can gather through the lyrics is about the Grim Reaper or “Death.”
Kobey: I come up with a list of titles and that was a name I came up with. I always have an idea behind the title immediately before I present it to the guys. I like to give them a title so that way when they get into writing the music, they can really feel the vibe I'm going for. So with “The Hooded One,” I've never written a song about Death himself. It was always from the standpoint of the person meeting death, never Death being the person or why he does or what he's doing or what death is. And so it just was the perfect time to finally write about him, or it, and what it does.
You and Bryan are also in Wings of Abaddon and you’re also in Cerebral Desecration. How do you balance each band and how do you know instinctively how to write for each?
Kobey: I kind of have a persona I take over mentally whenever I write for those two bands. Scars… is the most personal of me you will get, that is as I always say, “the bleeding me.” While Cerebral Desecration’s more of the pissed off me; pissed off of what I'm seeing. I talk a lot of things about different stuff like politics and wiping the earth of pedophiles and stuff like that. With Cerebral… I can do whatever I want really, sing about whatever I want. But Scars always has a mission and a message and you know a deep meaning. I try to write very open to where anyone listening can interpret it their own way and come up with their own feelings on it. Because every single song is its own little story, in a sense. I just get into that persona and I know what I want to talk about when I hear the music in both bands. So for me, it's easy to separate.
What direction musically did you want to head with the new tracks, there’s a good blend of melody, aggressiveness and dark atmospheres, that seems to be the band’s m.o.
Derek: Talking with Bryan, I sat down and I listened to a lot of the stuff that we've already done. Even though we’ve already incorporated some, I just wanted to add a little more of a black metal vibe. Not a lot, a little more of that where we can throw some harmonies in there with that black metal vibe. Just to give it a twist that's not exactly the same as the previous stuff that we've already done.
How would you compare these new songs with the material off your previous two albums?
Derek: It's just another step forward, because now we're really using the two guitars as a way to make it sound like it's one guitar doing a bunch of different things. And then we even include the bass as almost like a third guitar on some of the parts.
For the cover tracks, was there a lot of thought of which songs to cover? Are these bands you cover been an influence on the band or you personally? (Behemoth, Dimension Zero, Amon Amarth and Metallica).
Derek: The Dimensions Zero cover was my choice, because I love that band when that first came out. All of us love them Amon Amarth; that was one that we were going to cover anyways. And then our drummer already was really into “Chant for Ezkaton,” which made it a lot easier for us to go ahead and decided to cover that because he already knew the drum parts. The Metallica one was Bryan's choice. He really wanted to do that song. We turned it more into a black metal version of that song. Bryan even said that this is going to be the one that we might get killed on just because it’s Metallica.
Lyrically, what were some of your inspirations for the other original tracks? There’s a lot of words throughout each track, but you have a strong focus on vivid storytelling.
Kobey: That's kind of been my own way of mastering my ability to have my lyrics do that as I'm writing in Scars. Our very first album, Harvest of Souls, each song is its own story. And when you get to Reaching into the Void, which is our second album, all those songs were kind of linked together. We wanted to make this album be a little more a mixture of both where they all could be part of together, but really they are their own little stories. To explain my thinking, for example, the opening track “Only I,” that song is about the mental illness that we all have, and I wrote that before the passing of Trevor from the Black Dahlia Murder. He’s a very big influence on me. The middle verse in there, there's a part in there that I now dedicate to him. One thing that anyone thinks about when they know someone who has committed suicide, or exposed to someone who took their own life, that you think, “Why? You always want to know why, everybody wants to know why. I kind of said the same thing, “Why would one of the greatest vocalists and one of the ambassadors of our kind of music do this type of thing?” But then I really saw what I wrote in that song and it dawned on me. That's exactly the answer that I need to be able to find peace in what happened. And I just reflected upon suicide itself, because it's a very painful way to go, because it hurts and maims everyone around you and everyone who knew you. So that was my main focus on that song. The other songs on In Darkness Alone are very personal as well. “In Darkness Alone,” that's my depression; that’s my brain. And the fourth song, “Memory Unknown,” that song I wrote about the pain of losing time with my child. There was a separation in my household and I’m losing time and minutes and seconds, and it's the memory unknown. Each day that I don't have him, I wonder what the memories could have been. And I really needed to get that out. When I relayed that to the guys, that's when they gave me that really powerful sounding sad song. But I made sure to keep the lyrics cryptic enough where anybody can hear it and they can relate to that longing of missed time.
Your voice is very decipherable. You’re able to combine those harsh barks with a lower growl. How did you come about your range and what singers most influenced you?
Kobey: I take a little part of every vocalist that I've ever adored in a sense. The first vocalist ever make me want to pick up a microphone and sing when I was a child was Corey Taylor of Slipknot. I heard that first album come out, the self-titled, and when “(Sic)” came on and I heard him screaming at the top of his lungs, I wanted to do that. I felt it on a million levels. I just want to be able to do that. And then I started dabbling, getting into heavier stuff. For my high screams, I take a big influence from Randy Blythe from Lamb of God, as well as Phil Anselmo with a little bit of some black metal influences in there. And then with my low gutturals, Trevor (Strnad) of course. Then I like vocalists that have the clarity; the singer for Vader, that guy has some great clarity, and he's brutal, low sounding. And I've always enjoyed being able to understand what the singer has been saying. There's different styles and I'm not knocking anybody that does super brutal vocals that are almost indecipherable. That's cool in its own way with its own art, but I personally have always drawn towards clarity in the voice. It really translates the music better to me to understand what's going on. Those have always been my influences around what I'm doing and why I'm doing it and why I'm trying to be as clear as I can. Lately, Ben Duerr from Shadow of Intent is the GOAT. Then besides him, Travis Ryan from Cattle Decapitation, those two guys have been blowing my mind lately, and I've been really trying to get nastier with listening to them and getting into what they're doing and making my own out of it too. I’m always evolving.
The album was recorded, engineered, produced, mixed and mastered by Bryan Eckermann at Bonespill Studios. What were you going for sonically? The mix is great where you can decipher your vocals and clearly hear all the other instruments; one doesn’t overpower the other.
Derek: I think we tried to achieve that on all of (our albums), but on this one, we refined it. There were times that the bass stood out too much on other songs. We're always trying to get that two guitar thing going, but sometimes the mix doesn't lend itself, so we were careful of that while we were doing it. Because while we were recording, we would sit down and be mindful of what was going to be next or who was going to do what in which song and what instruments kind of stand out. For this one, we just wanted to make sure that everybody could shine.
Due to the pandemic, you recently returned to the stage for the Battle for the Wacken Festival in Texas as well as several other local shows. How did those shows go and what’s your upcoming touring plans?
Derek: At the Battle for the Wacken festival, we were pleased when that happened. We only had enough time for three songs and we couldn't be more proud of how we performed that night. We had a couple of others; the last show that we had was actually a really good show too and we had a really good turnout for that one. Coming up on the 24th of this month, we are opening up for Shadow of Intent here in San Antonio. Next month is when we actually have the CD release, and we're going to have the CD release show. In December, we're going to be going up to the Dallas/Fort Worth area and playing there. As of right now, that's all we have. Because everybody's got their own lives, so that's what we have planned as of now. But we definitely plan on booking more and expanding territories to Houston, possibly Corpus Christi, places like that where other people that we know will like our kind of music lives.
What’s next for Scars, what will you be concentrating on for the rest of 2022 and into next year?
Kobey: Just pushing it. Right now we're still working on getting all of our merch together for this CD release. And that's the focus, just to make sure that this one gets the proper attention it deserves because Covid did kill Reaching into the Void because it hit right after we released it.
Derek: Next year, our goal is to amp up the shows majorly and keep promoting this album and getting out there as far as we can and shake as many hands as we can so everybody can find out exactly what we're all about.
In Darkness Alone will release independently on November 18th, 2022.