Vatican’s New Hardcore Doctrine
Hailing from Savannah, Georgia, Vatican have been pummeling the US with their vicious metalcore for a few years now. Possessing a sound both modern and reverent, Vatican have released their best to date with The Ache of Eternity, a five-song beating replete with bone-crunching breakdowns and gritty riffs. In honor of the EP’s release, I had a chance to discuss it and Vatican’s history and future with guitarist Tom Lovejoy.
Vatican has accomplished much in its mere two years of existence, to include heavy touring and a consistent rotation of releases. What ideas motivated Vatican’s formation and what aspirations do you have for the band’s future?
The main motivation has always been to satisfy ourselves. Writing and performing this music are the two biggest highs any of us have in our lives, and we're all constantly chasing that feeling. Before one tour ends we're already working on the next one, and before one record is out we're all working on piecing together the next one. That's our plan for the future, to keep that pattern going for as long as possible and hopefully elevate the band to a larger platform in the process.
How do you feel Vatican has grown between The Ache of Eternity and your previous EP, Drowning the Apathy Inside?
So much has changed since that EP, three of us weren't even in the band when that record was written. I think the first record put down a blueprint for the kind of band Vatican wanted to be, but when Josian, Mackey, and myself joined the band we were able to add elements that steered the band into a slightly more unique path. More melody, more complex rhythms, and more technically challenging instrumentation. We spent a year working on Ache Of Eternity, and most of that was just learning how to work with one another and learning how to play off each other strengths. Now that we've done that grind, we all feel like a fine tuned machine where every one of us is slotted into the perfect spot.
Listening to Ache of Eternity I heard influences from all over the heavy music spectrum, including Decapitated, The Black Dahlia Murder, On Broken Wings and mid-00s Killswitch Engage, among others. Personally, what other inspirations do you channel into your writing for Vatican?
It's funny you mentioned those bands, because they all got referenced a few times while we wrote Ache Of Eternity. My favorite band of all time is The Dillinger Escape Plan, and I'm always trying to inject little bits of their sound into any project I'm involved with. Our other guitar player Nolan and our bass player Mackey wrote a lot of the heavier riffs on the record, so I felt my strength was bringing in more melodic elements from bands like Dredg, Shai Hulud, and Mastodon to balance that stuff out. Gojira, Cryptopsy, Opeth, and Martyr AD we also big inspirations for all of us.
"Divine Ruination" immediately reminded me of "The Knife" off of Decapitated's Carnival is Forever. I've listened to that track the most. Which of the five tracks do you favor and for what reasons?
Up til the end that track is pure death metal worship, it's such a jam to play live. I think my favorite track right now is "Boundless Image.” It was the first song I worked on with the band and I feel like it has a lot of variety, a good ebb and flow. Lyrically it's about experiencing the loss of someone we were all very close too, the trauma of his passing, and learning how to move on without him. We don't play it that much because it's a hard thing for us to get through, but whenever we do it feels like we're sharing a little bit of what made our friend so special to us all.
I'm sorry for your loss. "Boundless Image" plays like a great tribute, it shows.
The cover art, by Spencer Guerrero, features a figure with their innards out, seemingly floating in space. Literally and thematically, what does this visual represent and how does it tie with the EP as a whole work?
Forever and the concept of infinity are something that none of us can really wrap our heads around. To some people eternity sounds like the worst torture imaginable, and the artwork is a visual representation of that torture, at least it is to me. The record deals with similar lyrical ideas, so we wanted to make sure the artwork and album title helped drive that point home.
On the subject of imagery, a video was released for "Slit of Creation." Of the five tracks, why was this one selected to be a video and, in your words, how does the video align with the EP's overarching themes of fear, eternity and the reconciliation of both?
We chose "Slit Of Creation" because it's an unrelenting track that never gives you a chance to breathe, it doesn't back down till it's over. Lyrically it's about finding hope in yourself, so you can persevere through life against the worst odds. The video personifies that struggle to keep yourself moving despite death lingering behind you.
Vatican began the year by releasing a four-way split between with Sanction, Iron Curtain and Funerals. How did a release with those three bands come about?
We hadn't released any new music since the "Paingod" single, and we knew the EP was still a few months off, so we decided to try to put something cool together to make sure we didn't lose our spots in everyone's minds. Sanction, Iron Curtain, and Funerals are all friends and like minded people that we felt a kinship with, so it just lined up musically and with every band's schedule to do a split. It was a fun project that was very collaborative between the bands and Bitter Melody Records, we tried to make everyone's tracks feel cohesive and give the split the same ups and downs you'd find on one band's full length.
Ache of Eternity is your debut release with Sorrow Carrier Records. How did working with the label come about?
I met Brad from Sorrow Carrier when we toured together in 2015. He was working for Like Pacific at the time, who were opening a tour for my other band Forever Came Calling, and we bonded over our shared appreciation for metalcore and death metal. Brad was into Vatican before I joined, so as soon as we started putting demos together for the EP I started sending them to him just because I wanted his opinion on the tracks. I honestly hadn't even thought about Sorrow Carrier releasing the record since Brad had kind of put the label on the back burner for a bit, but he came out to a show earlier this year and told me he'd love to put the record out if we wanted him to. Working with Brad is one of the best decisions our band has ever made because not only does he understand the band's music, he understands how important branding is to a band and he's willing to work just as hard as we are to make this record a success.
I've noticed several bands along the East Coast are resurrecting and refreshing the metalcore sounds of the 90s and 00s, among them being yourselves, and colleagues in Vein, Sanction, Heavens Die and many others. What do you think ignited this renewed interest?
I think something worth noting about most of those bands is they've all been playing this music for a few years, it's just taken until now for the scene to really start taking notice. While I don't necessarily feel like we want to be part of any particular revival, I think anyone in any of those bands would tell you they just want to be playing music that challenges and excites them, something more visceral and maybe more frightening then something you'd normally hear when you walk into a show at a VFW.
Agreed. Many of these bands are in many ways meaner, faster and heavier than what came before. Are there any albums this year in the same style that you'd recommend?
Sanction's new record The Infringement of God's Plan is an incredible record that just came out this month, and the new Employed To Serve album The Warmth Of A Dying Sun puts a really interesting twist on a lot of metal tropes that end of making it a really insane listen. I've gotten to hear a few cool things from friends’ bands that aren't out yet so I don't want to speak for them, but there's definitely going to be a few more metalcore bangers out by the end of the year.
Stoked to hear all of it. The new Sanction is insane, super heavy stuff. What are Vatican's plans for the remainder of the year and going into 2018?
In late September we'll be doing a brief run out to Texas for Hope For Shelter Fest, and those dates will be announced soon. We've got some loose plans for the winter that I can't talk about yet, but it's something that I know anyone who likes this kind of music will love. Going into 2018 we'll continue doing what we always have, touring as hard as we can and releasing as much new music as possible. We have a ton of ideas ready, and I know everyone else can't wait to get back to wood shedding new songs and finding more ways to push our sound.
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