"The Bliss of Mortal Demise"

Interview by Dr. Abner Mality

Where would we be without death? Without that ultimate, inevitable end, would there be any spice or meaning to life at all? After all, without darkness, how can you appreciate light?

Heavy metal is particularly fascinated with questions of mortality and no metal sub-genre more than doom metal. And amongst doom metallers, no band is more morbid than New York's Rigor Sardoncous. Latin for "Smiling Death", these guys have staked their claim to be the slowest, most pestilential, most demise-obsessed of all musical bands. Listening to their crawling choirs of damnation is akin to waking up inside your own coffin, six feet under. This is doom that OOZES and drips, with incredibly distorted vocals and jarring drum machine clashes and clanks adding an even more dismal feel to the already depressing music.It will really put the listener to the test, but is capable of creating almost an alternate state of mind if you let it. This is what you might hear as you stagger through an endless plain of crumbling tombstones, in the foggy mists of a somnolent twilight.

I suspect that Rigor's mastermind Joseph Fogarazzo does not spend his spare time blowing up balloon animals at children's parties or delivering singing telegrams. Rather, one would imagine him working at an old-fashioned casket factory, lovingly creating the containers of earthly remains by hand. Perhaps he was hard at work when I recently reached him to query him about the gloomy grandeur that is Rigor Sardonicous and their latest masterpiece of melancholy, "Vallis Ex Umbra De Mortuus". Following are his somewhat terse and droll replies...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: First, a little background on Rigor Sardonicous, if you please. I understand the band has been around quite a while?

JOSEPH FOGARAZZO: Yes, the band has been around in one form or another since the mid 80's. The concept for the sound goes back a few years before that.

WC: What led you to create such monumentally slow and depressing music?

JF: They are the sounds of my childhood.

WC: The new "Vallis Ex Umbra De Mortuus" is overwhelmingly morbid in subject matter. Is there something in your personal background that leads to fascination with death or is it just an academic kind of interest?

JF: It is not a fascination, it is a realization. Death is the one thing that all higher life must experience. It is the common thread that sews the shroud of the universe. The sooner that death is embraced, the sooner one can bask in the primordial glow.

WC:The pictures of young girls in coffins that decorate the CD booklet...are those authentic or posed? They definitely have that "funerary" look to them.

JF: They are authentically posed.

WC: What do you see as the meaning of death? Do we totally cease to exist or is there something beyond?

JF: Personally, I think we cease to exist. It is nice to think that there is something more, but logically how can there be? There is no proof of either way, hence why people are still fighting and killing each other over it even after thousands of years of looking.

WC: Would you say it takes more discipline to play extremely slow as opposed to extremely fast? I believe this is something that doom bands are not given a lot of credit for.

JF: It probably does for those bands that put out 1 hour and 20 minute one riff songs. Maybe they staple their eyes open or something but it seems to me that one would fall asleep or die or something. We have some extremely slow songs and some extremely fast ones. The fast ones might take a bit more discipline because you cannot drink beer while playing. Slow songs can have "beer riffs", or what I like to call "beer riffing", included in them.

WC: These distorted, smeary-sounding vocals...what is the reasoning behind that style of singing?

JF: No reasoning other than they sound good and fit in with the music. We use them more as another instrument than just someone singing along.

WC: You use programmed drums. Was there ever any thought to using a human drummer and if not, why?

JF: It was more than a thought .Rigor actually has had a few meatbag drummers in its past."?!" gets the job done for the right price and without any arguments.

WC: One of the Rigor trademarks is that loud clashing of cymbals that breaks into the music. Is that done just to keep listeners in a state of suspense or is there another reason for that kind of percussion?

JF: Believe it or not, the cymbals' doing what they do was never a conscious effort, they just happen as they happen. We
don’t specifically set out to make the cymbals stand out but they do seem to grab people's attention.

WC: Would you say that with Rigor Sardonicous atmosphere is the ENTIRE reason for the band...or is there more?

JF: The reason for Rigor is, and I think Cronos put it best, (paraphrased) "it is most what I want to listen to." There really wasn't anyone out there doing what we do when we started, so it was born of necessity.

WC: What are some of the movies and authors that may have influenced the band?

JF: Herbie Goes to Hollywood...Mr. Magoo's A Christmas Carole...For a Few Dollars More.

WC: Do you guys ever play live or is this a strictly studio project? Are you involved with any other projects?

JF: We definitely used to play live more but there is only so much incompetence a person can take. Given the right show, at the right venue, at the right time, on the right day, with the right crew, giving us the right sound, the right lights, and the right smoke, more live play is not out of the question.

WC: You have a little bit of flute and clean singing on "Vallis...". Could you see adding more instrumentation to the band's sound?

JF: We use what the songs require. Nothing is out of bounds or off limits.

WC: You have achieved one of the bleakest sounds on Earth. Is there any further you can push the Rigor Sardonicous sound?

JF: Of course. There are always new grounds and new sounds to explore. The Rigor sound will never be compromised though. We have worked long and hard to develop what we have become and to throw it all away on a "whim of the day" will not happen.

WC: What was the last CD you got just because you wanted to check it out?

JF: Little Toby Walker.

WC: What was the last gig you went to just because you wanted to see the band?

JF: Victory Church of God Steel Drum Ensemble.

WC: Have you ever had any Spinal Tap moments in your history you'd like to share wtih us?

JF: I was once handed a sandwich where the meat was bigger than the bread. It was a complete catastrophe. Fortunately I am a professional and could deal with it.

WC: Any final words?

JF: Thanks for the interview. Check us out at Keep your eyes and ears peeled for new Rigor sights and sounds over the horizon.

Paragon Record's Website

Rigor Sardonicous' Official Website