Untimely Demise – ‘Black Widow’ (Interview + Album Stream)
Canadian band Untimely Demise creates a unique hybrid of thrash metal and the dexterity and aggression of death metal. They've shown steady improvement with each new release, and nearly a decade after their debut they sound in full command of their craft. Following a pair of albums and an EP recorded in collaboration with former Megadeth guitarist Glen Drover, the band, led by brothers Matt and Murray Cuthbertson, worked with producer Justin Bender (formerly of Into Eternity, now of Third Ion) on their third full-length Black Widow. It’s easily their most varied and accessible work to date, finding an impeccable balance between blinding speed, classic heavy metal dynamics, and the searing guitar work of Matt Cuthbertson, who is rapidly becoming one of the finest soloists in Canadian metal today.
Self-released, and featuring some typically wicked artwork by Ed Repka, Black Widow was partially funded by a very successful Kickstarter campaign, and includes guest appearances by former Megadeth drummer Shawn Drover and Matt’s Into Eternity bandmate and leader, guitarist Tim Roth. It will be released on May 28, but can be heard in its entirety below. In addition, the brothers Cuthbertson were kind enough to answer a few questions about the new record, which can be read below.
Pre-order Black Widow here.
How well did the Kickstarter project go? Did it live up to expectations?
Murray Cuthbertson (bass): Our Kickstarter crowdfunding project by far exceeded all expectations. We are a very pragmatic group in terms of doing whatever it takes to take our artistic and business vision from conception to fruition. The band was fortunate enough to have received funding from Creative Saskatchewan (a wonderful arts funding agency based in our home province) which provided us with about half of the capital required to undertake our recording and release.
My brother and I weighed all of our options and put some feeler posts out on our social media to consult with our fans and see if they would be interested in partnering with the band in raising the rest of the money needed to get Black Widow off the ground. After some invaluable consulting from our friend and mentor Terry Butler (bassist of Death, Obituary, Six Feet Under, Massacre, Hideous) and his wife Jill, we had the tools and advice required to launch our campaign. We set the funding goal at a very modest $2500 Canadian, even though we needed more than that. The band came up with some perks that were tantamount to pre-ordering the album and also offered an exclusive tee that was only available to album backers. In the end, we raised $3400 (take home of about $3100 after Kickstarter fees) through 61 generous fan and friend backers.
What did you learn the most from this crowdfunding campaign?
Murray: The band came out of this experience with nothing but positive vibes and results. We were able to finish our album, garner buzz and support for the new recording and most importantly we saw the love and support that Untimely Demise fans have for us, to which we are eternally grateful and indebted to them. As a DIY independent thrash/death metal band in 2016 it is paramount to use whatever means necessary to fund your art/business – labels won't do it for you, they only want to eat the bread after all of the blood, sweat and money has been invested by the band themselves. After manufacturing, commissioning t-shirt art and mailing out all of our t-shirt and CD packages to fans around the world we didn't come away with a ton of money to go strictly to the recording but nonetheless it was nice to give our backers good value for their hard-earned money that they so selflessly donated to our album. All we can say to everyone that helped, thanks so much for your 'timely' support – this album is by the people for the people, literally.
Record labels aren't exactly flush with money anymore. What would you rather have, a 360 deal as a lower-tier band on a well-known metal label, or be fully in control of your art and any revenue you make?
Murray: Absolutely, they definitely aren't in the financial position to sign, develop and support bands as they used to back in the heyday. I won't go into all of the obvious factors that have put labels and artists in this position but it is evident that the landscape of the 'industry' has evolved. At this point, necessity dictates that we initially release this album independently. Like with City Of Steel, we know from experience that a larger label reissue will likely occur after we have released on our own and put in all of the touring and groundwork that would attract a suitable label. Especially because of our Creative Sask and Kickstarter funding we had an obligation to get the album out by a certain time and can't wait around like hopeful optimists expecting to be whisked off to the ball like Cinderella by a Prince Charming metal label.
To directly answer your question, yes the band would like a lower-tier 360 deal from a respected metal label that can give us the worldwide distribution and exposure that we need. Being on a label allows the album to be heard in wider circles, promoted, reviewed in the high-profile publications and creates the opportunity for opening tours for the juggernaut bands that we have always looked up to. We would rather be small fish in the biggest pond than the whale in the paddling pool. Ultimately, the band wins fans by playing on the road on tours we have usually set up and connecting with fans directly onstage, and off. If there are any cool, forward thinking labels out there that want to sign us please do, if not, we are still gonna be doing what we do best and keep making opportunities on our own. Luck is the residue of design.
What specific improvements did Justin Bender help make on this album?
Murray: One of the main differences that we experienced with Justin was his sonic approach regarding vocals. We spent a lot of time stacking the lines with powerful thrash cleans and Matt's traditional harsher death metal timbre, similar to the stylings of Carcass, Death, or Arch Enemy. Additional harmonies were implemented which augmented the overall sound of the finished album. The end result was a fuller and more complex vocal component to the recording. On days where Matt's voice was getting stressed from too many takes we could simply quit for the day and come back later and take another hack at it; this was a luxury we didn't have when we were recording 3300 km away from home.
Matt, how have the past couple years in Into Eternity influenced your writing and performance on this record?
Matt Cuthbertson (guitar/vocals): My brother and myself have been disciples of the Into Eternity sound since first hearing their records in the mid 2000s, such as The Scattering of Ashes, Buried In Oblivion, and Dead or Dreaming. Speaking to my guitar playing specifically, Tim Roth's neoclassical guitar approach, harmonizing, tapping, modes, picking and dynamics are elements of Into Eternity that is clearly evident on Black Widow. Tim's virtuosic playing is reflected in some of the more epic solos on our new record, such as the two-minute plus lead at the end of the album opener “Forgotten In Time”. The insanely wicked guest solo that Tim plays on “Calling Me Back From The Light” leaves an Into Eternity mark on the album as well. I also am inspired by the Halford-esque falsettos of Stu Block, which show up on some of the Black Widow tracks. Lastly, the incorporation of blastbeats and the extended drum and guitar solo 'trainwreck' at the end of 'Holy Man' is something that is directly influenced by my playing experience with Into Eternity.
What's the one song that best defines this album in your minds?
Murray: If I had to pick one song I would say 'Cancer of the Heart' in that it juxtaposes our thrash and death metal sensibilities and tastes perfectly. There are many brutal, heavy parts that quickly volta towards melodic 'simpler' sections. It mirrors that Rust In Peace meets Death feel that we have always been enthralled with in our songwriting perfectly. I feel that this collection of songs each have their own unique qualities and that is why (we hope) this album is interesting to listen to.
Matt: I can't fairly say that one particular track can define the whole album or the direction of our band. It is always our goal to incorporate all the different types of metal subgenres and music that inspires us. "Calling Me Back From the Light" is more classically influenced, as opposed to an "Enslaver" that is more of a traditional take on the thrash genre. Then you have the title track "Black Widow" that clearly is influenced by the Florida death metal scene. All in all, the album is tied together with the technical thrashy riffs in every song and the brutal vocals – and solos...lots of solos.
Do you have any plans to tour this year? Any chance of hitting the States again?
Murray: Yes, we plan to tour in support of this album as much as our finances as an independent band permit. On May 20 and 21 we are playing Calgary and Edmonton as support for Zimmers Hole. Then our Cross Canadian Tour officially kicks on in our hometown of Saskatoon on May 28, which is also the official release date of our new album. Including Saskatoon, we are playing 5 shows as direct support for Act Of Defiance (ex-Megadeth/Shadows Fall/Scar The Martyr) from our hometown to Eastern Canada. Then we are playing the remainder of the tour as a headliner for 6 shows in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Sherbrooke and Trois Rivieres. In total that is a 9488 km journey. From there we are working on setting up additional support or independent touring opportunities, which may include the States later this year. Europe and other international tours would be great but there is a lot of planning ahead before anything can be announced. We are proud of what we have created here and are eager to unleash its sonic wrath upon the world.