Once again The End Records has bestowed another gem of progressive brutality upon us. Similar to Arcturus or Opeth in their approach, but infinitely more brutal and violent in practice, Scholomances first album A Treatise on Love is a twisted conceptual journey exploring the madness and emotion of love. Jerky classical rhythms mixed with prog rock and death metal, its aptly described as "technical and violently progressive dark metal". I talked with guitarist and co-songwriter Scott Crinklaw about the album.
Heaven & Hell: Okay, first off, the album is killer. Being that it's so complicated and different, are you afraid that it will go over people's heads?
Scott Crinklaw: Well, if it goes over certain people's heads, those aren't the people we're trying to please. The target audience is one which appreciates a great deal of complexity in their metal.
HH: The music sounds very progressive, some of the keyboard solos remind me of stuff like Dream Theater and Genesis. How much of an influence does progressive music have on the album?
SC: Progressive music is a major factor in our lives, Id say Dream Theater were the one single band that first inspired me to strive towards ultimate musical mastery on guitar and song arrangements! I just got the new Liquid Tension Experiment (Dream Theater all instrumental side project) CD the other day and am loving it. I never got into Genesis, as I'm perhaps a little too young and may have missed the boat on them, but I do respect them. We will always have a large progressive style in our music.
HH: Well, I can see where a lot of your melodic ideas come from, but where do you get all these twisted, violent rhythms? I really haven't heard anything quite like it.
SC: It may be somewhat surprising but I get much of my rhythmic ideas from Russian composers like Scriabin and Rachmaninoff. I take their violent passion and transpose it onto piano and then add metallic elements. I also have to have an aggressive outlet in music. Progressive music generally lacks aggression and I am also into brutal music too, so I can incorporate some brutal grooves into extremely intricate riffing. You'll be amazed how heavy the next album is but none of the musicianship or orchestrations have been sacrificed.
HH: Is the reason you use a drum machine because you can't find a drummer to play stuff this difficult? It would be hell to try and teach a drummer all these parts.
SC: Yeah, that's why I started using a machine. Once I had gotten into the technological possibilities in drum sequencing, I began to rather love it. It lets me structure things in a way that a real drummer would not. I can have timpani, ethnic percussion, and I can program it in real time. Yes, it would be hell (to teach a drummer the parts). I would still require a real drummer to play to a click and none of them seem to like doing that.
HH: Do you think you'll be adding any more orchestration to your music in the future? Maybe more strings or brass through the synthesizer?
SC: Oh, God no. No brass. I fucking hate brass instruments. We do have more strings in the new stuff, but our main focus is on piano and using it as a primary instrument. The new stuff is definitely more orchestral all around. Its a pity that some of the layers got a little lost in the mix on A Treatise On Love. there's more going on than what you can hear clearly.
HH: Doesn't Rachmaninoff use brass sometimes? It sounds pretty good when blended with the strings and timpani I think, not in a jazz format or anything.
SC: Most every composer uses brass at one point or another but my preference is for Rachmaninoff's piano work and some darker pieces like The Isle of the Dead.
HH: The dialogue samples are brilliant. Are you going to increase the use of samples or keep it about the same?
SC: Probably about the same amount. I have some lined up for the next CD, one rather long one but it was something so dark that I couldn't resist. I actually have to write some music around the sample itself.
HH: What is A Treatise On Love about? It's definitely seems to be a narrative, and it is in a story line form, how independent is each song supposed to be?
SC: The album is broken into two individual parts, parts 1-4 of A Treatise On Love, and then rest of the album follows in a more loosely based theme. A Treatise On Love is about love and how it ultimately bleeds into hatred and borders on the edge of madness. Each part deals with a different aspect of the emotions linked to love's pursuit. It begins in confusion, builds to anger, leads to evil and hatred and ends, but does not truly end, in madness. The second half of the album is slightly unrelated. its more about individualism and self supremacy, dealing more with musical ideas and historical philosophy.
HH: So it's safe to say that this is, pardon the cliche, a "concept" album?
SC: Yes, its definitely a concept album!
HH: I feel like I'm the only person left who still appreciates concept albums in the old prog rock tradition. Thank God for you guys.
SC: You're not the only one. I feel lyrics are important and often are unattended to. The next album will be a concept of its own.
HH: Awesome! Have you developed the lyrics yet?
SC: Yes we've got several pages in ink. If the lyrics for the current CD went over people's heads, the new ones will leave them face down on the floor.
HH: Can you give me a little preview, or are you waiting to unveil them?
SC: As in some sample lyrics?
HH: No, just the concept. The basics
SC: Hmm, its hard to sum up. where the 4th part of A Treatise On Love left a bit of sanity, the new album will leave no sane thoughts. it will be total madness and Armageddon. You'll find movie-like scenes in it. Maybe like Lynch's film ideas set to progressive metal.
HH: Ah! Very cool. I actually just saw Eraserhead last night. Is it kind of like a follow-up on the themes in A Treatise..., or is it a totally different thing. Is it a first person narrative again?
SC: In a way, its follows the theme but completely passes it. It is mostly first person narrative again. Ties will be made to A Treatise... but they won't be obvious and the listener will need to analyze the ideas.
HH: I love a challenge. Did you ever look to films as inspiration musically? Or does the new music just happen to be cinematic in the David Lynch vein?
SC: Film inspires me just as much as music, or art, or poetry. It can all be brought into musical release. The new music and lyrics are just sort of surreal and dark like Lynch's visions, nightmare-like, but a pleasurable nightmare
HH: What other directors do you like?
SC: Kubrick I think is great but I don't really follow individuals, just different movies. I dig all kinds of movies, The Shining, The Thin Red Line, sci-fi stuff like Event Horizon or Aliens
HH: I love Kubrick! Have you seen the newest?
SC: No, I'm going tomorrow actually.
HH: I think it is excellent. I think a lot of the critics missed many of the subtleties of it. Keep an eye out for objects in the background the change places or disappear completely.
SC: Sounds interesting. It looks extremely eerie.
HH: Yeah, I think it's great. Watch the ashtray that Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman use when they are smoking pot, it completely disappears in some shots. That's one of many instances.
SC: Ok, if I can take my eyes of Nicole.
HH: Yeah, she has some rather... revealing... moments. Anyway, what other bands do you like that are doing interesting an progressive things?
SC: Many of the bands I'm into border between scenes. I like SUP (Supuration), Arcturus, Ulver, Korova, Opeth, Nightwish, Mayadome, Gordion Knot, Dodheimsgard. There are so many.
HH: I think that many people who say that metal is past it's prime has obviously never heard many of these bands. I agree that there is a tremendous amount of excellent, intelligent and progressive minded current bands.
SC: Right, but ya know, fuck the people who think metal is gone. Its still here and it will always be here. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention Devil Doll. Pure genius.
HH: Definitely. What do you think of the other side of the coin, bands who are taking older styles of music and reviving them? As opposed to "progression".
SC: Which older styles are you referring to? Retro-thrash? Bands like Witchery or something?
HH: Well, you have the retro thrash thing, then you have the power metal revival, and then there's also stoner rock, which is basically ripping off Kyuss and Sabbath. (I love all of these types of music by the way, I'm just playing Devil's advocate here)
SC: Ok, I think many of the new power metal bands suck hard and are complete rip-offs. I kinda like Witchery but most of the other retro-thrash bands are boring. None of them can pull off, say, Bay Area Thrash, like old Forbidden or Heathen. I hate stoner rock because I think its boring and because I'm straight edge. Most of those bands are focusing on being what they aren't. If they are truly into it, then fine, but its lame if its not in their hearts.
HH: You mentioned Devil Doll, what are they like? I'm really interested in hearing them, I think the would be right up my alley.
SC: They are very classical at their roots, yet demonic, sadistic, insane. They are simply something you must experience. I sat riveted the first time I heard them, almost had a wreck while listening to them in my car because they distracted me so.
HH: What the best album to start with?
SC: Any one of them really. My two faves are A Girl Who Was Death and Dies Irae.
HH: What it like being on The End records? I heard they're awesome to their bands, plus the guy Andreas was one of the only label people to actually respond to my E-mails about promos.
SC: Its really cool man. Andreas is a great guy. Pretty much everyone in the US on the label is friends with each other and everyone can always talk to Andreas about anything. Andreas is very dedicated and he does everything he can to push the bands and make people happy.
HH: Are you guys touring at all? What's it like playing with a drum machine live?
SC: No tours yet, but we do play occasional gigs. The drum machine sounds killer live, plus we have to have some additional sequenced keyboard tracks. The only thing we require is a knowledgeable soundman who can get a good mix.
HH: Okay, I think that's about it from this end. You guys seem to be doing a lot to debunk the "dumb metalhead" stereotype. Any closing comments?
SC: Like, duh, dude. rock on? hehe Seriously, everyone into progressive metal and death metal with class and ripping musicianship should check out our CD! Our website is: www.angelfire.com/sc/scholomance/main.html
Oh, and the CD costs $12, $15 outside North America.
By Greg Northrup