SEISMIC “Oceanic Doom” 

By Lord Randall

Instrumental music be a strange beast, indeed, especially in its heavier forms. Many have bowed at the altars of NEUROSIS and ISIS, yet removal of the vocal element alone does not ensure quality. Pennsylvania doom trident SEISMIC does it right, though, its debut EP taking us through the depths of Lovecraftian lore on a journey, perhaps deeper – that of the mind. Lord Randall sat down with the three to discuss…

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: So yourself and Mike [Lang, drums] met six or so years ago, and slowly (because how else would a doom band operate), things moved into where you were looking for a guitarist. Much has been made – in this column, especially – of it being not as easy to play slow as people would think. There’s timing, mood, the space between the notes. With the rhythm section solidified, what were you looking for in a guitarist, and what caused you to put it on the back burner for a year? 

KEN MILLER [Bass]: Mike and I clicked immediately. He understands the pacing, timing, build up. When we’re writing, he’s often the one reminding us to slow it down. Make it slower. We’re always on the same page. When something is working, we know. And when it isn’t, we really know. We had tried out a couple different people, in various configurations of two bassists, or just me and another guitarist. During this time, I had joined EATEN ALIVE, and which slowed the search for a guitarist for this project.
ANTHONY MARIANO [Guitar]: Ken and I both play in a standard-A tuning for the songs on this album. The two-bass idea didn’t work out and I was playing in another band, PAINBODY, at the time that that didn’t have a bassist. I started exploring ways to thicken up my sound more as a compromise for both. As a result, my setup now includes playing through both a guitar amp and bass amp—the latter of which has my signal tuned down an extra octave to get myself in that bass range. 

MIKE LANG [Drums]: Although I’ve been playing in bands for most of my life, this is my first metal project, doom or otherwise. I was excited to approach a project where I got to play both more AND less in terms of volume and notes, respectively. Ken and I share a lot of the same sensibilities and I think that we found we agreed on not just what our band should sound like, but ultimately what it should feel like. Those shared musical values allowed us to lock in pretty quickly and tightly as a rhythm section, but we needed more to round out and develop the band. We really didn’t have a specific laundry list of qualities we were looking for in a guitarist. The most important thing in any new collaborator was going to be sharing that same musical sensibility and vision for the band’s sound. It helped that Anthony checked any boxes that we could have possibly wanted him to check.

WC: What about Anthony’s playing clicked with you two, and do you think yours and his coming from a more hardcore background gives you a different way of looking at doom? INTEGRITY’s slower stuff sounds nothing like SAINT VITUS, INCANTATION’s doom sounds nothing at all like EYEHATEGOD, but yet here we all are. 

KM: Anthony came in with the same mindset that we had for writing; start with an improv, a riff, and roll with it, and develop. I’ve always worked best off a guitarist who can bring that spark. I’m able to take ideas and direct traffic. But that initial idea is what Anthony is good at generating. I came from a metal background before I got into hardcore. I was into a lot of death metal growing up. I think the shift towards doom just comes with age. Wanting to still play heavy, but at a slower pace. A lot of my contributions do have a hardcore feel though. The breakdown, along with the anticipation and the build-up for it—The end of “Mountains” is essentially one really long monstrous breakdown. 

ML: Right off the bat, we connected with Anthony. He was just as interested as us in working onsongs that would focus on not just tone worship, volume or atmosphere, but on dynamic, unpredictable and purposeful composition. We found Anthony to be a natural songwriting partner and as a trio, we quickly coalesced around an open-minded approach to composition that would have us earnestly trying any idea that any of us brought to practice. A lot of songs would blossom out of open-ended jam sessions where we would take turns leading and really focus on listening to each other. We have enough shared influences to create a solid core of musical understanding, but we all also each have diverse tastes within and certainly outside of the realms of doom metal. Those influences allow us to each bring unique and different elements to our sound.

WC: Was the project meant to be instrumental from the start? In a world/sewer almost overflowing with PELICAN, HULL, Cult Of NeurIsis clones, and more “post-metal” garbage than you can throw a craft brewery covered in beard oil at, did you make a decision early on to trust your gut and what you wanted to do?

 KM: The idea I pitched the “two basses” idea to Mike, one tuned super low, and one tuned closer to standard to take the role of a guitar. Like we said, we couldn’t get that going. We just couldn’t get into a groove writing. There was one rehearsal we just kind of stood around looking at each other and made noise with our pedals while Mike beat the fuck out of his drums. When we started playing with Anthony, I told him this, and because he was playing a baritone guitar, we didn’t go back to the original idea since sonically it sounded like he was playing bass. And our thoughts on vocals was that when or if we felt it needed vocals, we’d figure out what type of vocals and then go that avenue. But honestly, we’ve been happy playing as a three piece. The first two songs follow a more traditional song structure. And we could probably add them. But with each song we’re heading in new directions, and I don’t think it’s in the cards. Where I think that might happen is in collaboration with other artists, something we’ve been discussing. 

WC: As far as the Lovecraftian theme of the EP, is this something you see yourself sticking with over time? Personally, you can never have enough Lovecraft in your life, but you can for fucking sure have poorly done pastiches, which are even worse. And metal, doom especially, is full to the brim of them. Not telling you at all what you “should” do, but maybe a different author next time, and the next. You could be the BLOODHAG of doom! 

KM: A friend visited us in the studio while we were mixing while we were having a debate about names. He likened the second song the ominous walk of the villain or monster in a horror film. That sparked the concept for my cover painting. And the next time in the studio, I pitched the Lovecraft story names. Mike and Anthony went along it.

 WC: Do you think SEISMIC would be what it is (or be at all) without the passing of Max (Moya, EATEN ALIVE) and Anthony’s dad? Grief and its “five stages” take different forms for different people, and sometimes, “stages” be damned, the ache just fucking gnaws and sucks. It’sall we can do to come out the other side intact, and if SEISMIC aided in that…

KM: Ironically it was Max who sparked my interest in playing doom. A few years before EATEN ALIVE, and before I met Mike, Max (actually I think it was Tommy, also from EATEN ALIVE)who hit me up about playing stoner rock with them. Max turned me on to IRON MONKEY, and Tommy introduced me to CONAN. We had a couple songs started but unfortunately couldn’t find a drummer. Then by the time I met Mike, Max had already began working on the songs that became EATEN ALIVE and had lost interest. We jammed once and I think that was it. But Mike and I kept in touch, getting together to try out a few guitarists till Anthony came along. I don’t like to think the what if, or how the band would or wouldn’t be without his passing. But it certainly means a lot more to me now, getting to finally make it happen. 

AM: Ken originally started talking about the project with me after randomly bumping into each other at an UFOMAMMUT show. It wasn’t until the second time this happened that things really started to move forward with us—right before my dad passed. I believe the three of us would still be working together regardless of my loss, and it’s hard to speculate if things would’ve ended up differently with our sound, but I can say that the band was the perfect outlet for me. It was difficult for me to find my bearings and make any sense of the surreality for a while—and in many ways life has only gotten to be more surreal—but playing music with Ken and Mike continues to give me something positive and enjoyable to focus on through it all. I’d like to think that this comes out in the music we’ve written together.

WC: How were those first shows in late 2019? My favorite live music venue down here in Nashville finally reopened (with limits) this past week, but the music on this EP just begs to be played live. Shit, I’d buy a ticket. What’s coming up on that front, or just adopting the same “wait and see” mode we all have to?

ML: The shows were really good experiences for us. Playing instrumental music can feel a little like forgoing a safety net. I’m extra conscious to bring a lot of energy and intensity to overcome any lack of a human connection anyone may feel without lyrics or a singer.It helped our first show was at Kung Fu Necktie, which is the best metal venue in Philly and we were opening for WORMWITCH and UN, who we really respect. We were really excited to continue to hone our live chops and play more shows, especially around the release of our debut, but 2020…

Unfortunately, we’re in the same “wait and see” boat. Live music has personally been my lifeblood in recent years. I was always a bit of a live music junkie, but I’ve really gone nuts in the last 4 years, going to easily over 100 shows each year. Since 2016 especially (for obvious reasons), I’ve really craved the power and bliss of spontaneous creation that live music offers, and just as importantly, I’ve also craved being around the community of like-minded people who support live music. Losing all of that in 2020 has been a major struggle. At least my last show of 2020 was seeing WEEDEATER. As anxious as all of us are to get sweaty at a crusty Philly metal show again, and even more so to play ourselves, we also have family and community obligations. We know we’ve just got to be patient and hope we can collectively get our shit together enough to be able to enjoy live music again soon. In the meantime, we’ve continued to work on new material. I can’t wait to debut some of the new stuff we’ve been writing whenever we get to play next. 

AM: Like many other bands and artists, we’ve been spending the time continuing to work on new material. It’s a shame that we weren’t able to play a proper album release show and I know we’re all looking forward to the day when we can play and attend live music events again, but I’m excited about what we have in the pipeline. This pandemic has been a challenging experience, but we’re finding ways to move forward.

KM: We filmed a video for ‘At The Mountains Of Madness’ which was a lot of fun. If we can’t play live, we’ll try to do more of that. We also have some ideas and offers for collaboration with other artists. As we navigate what we can do more of during the pandemic, I think these types of projects will take the space of live shows in the next year.