WITHERED "In Touch With The Primitive"

Interview by Dr. Abner Mality

If you haven't experienced the overwhelming darkness and heaviness known as Withered yet, better ask yourself "why not"? Especially if you see yourself as a lover of truly heavy music. This Atlanta band is one of the most crushing oppressive in the US and one of the very few US bands I would mention along with the Swedish death metal greats.

Their latest effort is "Dualitas", a gloomy voyage through the shadowed forest of the human mind. Veering from gravel-crushing grind to suffocating doom metal, with brief excursions into ambient misery and black metal fury, this new record is truly awesome in its no-compromise attack. But is Withered as hopelessly pessimistic as the music seems to indicate?

According to band mainstay, Mike Thompson, not necessarily. Beneath the titanic murk, one can find some hope and a chance to reach the next stage of evolution. I was pleased to recently chat with Mike about the heart that beats deep beneath the blackened flesh of Withered...


WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: "Dualitas" is a much more brutal album that "Folie Circulaire". Where did you get the rage from that fuels the album?

MIKE THOMPSON: Well, I think the emotions have always been there. We take two primary approaches. One is the more direct & aggressive approach that you describe for "Dualitas" by incorporating more grind stylings. I think this is also present on "Memento Mori". On "Folie Circulaire", we wanted to take more of an oppressive/claustrophobic approach. For Dualitas, we wanted to balance the differences between "Folie..." & "Memento Mori.

WC:Was it your intention all long that "Dualitas" be so much darker and heavier or did it just naturally "happen" that way?

MT: We always intend for each new work to be darker to some degree as we get deeper into the subject matter and address issues more specifically.

WC: What's the story behind the title "Dualitas"? Is it the constant battle between good and evil?

MT: No, it's not about the battle between good and evil, it's the ultimate unification of all aspects of your psyche. It's about embracing good, evil and any other personality trait so that you can use each when necessary to your full benefit and ultimate quality of life.

WC: On the cover of the album, we have a face that's split in two. But both sides of the face seem pretty miserable and unhappy. Does that kind of reveal the band's worldview?

MT: Overall, I would say yes though I consider myself a pessimistic idealist. I think the potential for great things is definitely present in humanity but I doubt that we will achieve anything remotely close to our potential. At least not in my lifetime.

WC:. I hear a bit more black metal styling on "Dualitas" than "Folie Circulaire". Was that also a deliberate move? And what are some of the black metal bands you are most influenced by?

MT:That's interesting because, from our point of view, we made more of a black metal effort on FC. But I guess that depends on your reference point. For us, we really get into more esoteric American black metal like Weakling or Lurker of Chalice, for example. Those were larger influences on FC. For "Dualitas", I think we perhaps incorporated some slightly more Scandinavian stylings. I've always loved the Swedish approach to metal in general and that always reverberates through anything I write. Our first album leaned more towards the old Swedish death metal stylings. Perhaps the newer material is shifted more towards the black metal end of the spectrum. I've never really considered it much before.

WC: Withered has evolved from a sludgy band influenced by Swedish death metal to something a bit more unique on the latest album. What are the roots of that evolution and is there a certain "tag" you'd put on your sound?

MT: The roots of evolution are simply the desire for evolution. We strive to constantly grow and incorporate new elements along the way. I just call us an "extreme metal" band. We don't see the point in limiting ourselves to a particular sub-genre. Though we use the term "tortured blackened doom" a lot on a lot of promo items. I think that sums us up pretty well.

WC: Is there a consistent theme running through the new record or does each song stand on its own?

MT: There is definitely a consistent theme. There is so much to say on one topic that a single song can barely scratch the surface. There is so much to say on one topic that a single song can barely scratch the surface. There's no point in having a message if you're going to fully educate the listener on your point of view. So, "Dualitas" deals with turning inwards to challenge everything that has conditioned you through your life and had an influence on your personality. It's about getting in touch with your primitive self and pondering who you could be without external influence. Then applying that raw personality to your current reality to become a truer self.

WC: "The Progenitor's Grasp" is a pretty unique song title. What exactly is that tune about?

MT: It's about recognizing the grasp that fundamental social conditioning has on you and facing it to undo it and reassess how it has compromised your personality and your approach to life.

WC: The big epic is "Aethereal Breath". What's the inspiration for this tune and could you see yourself doing a really huge tune....ten, fifteen minutes or more?

MT: This song deals with crossing the boundary when you really know yourself and that first breath that is drawn from honesty and when you are purely content with who you are. It's about ascending beyond this reality and discovering your ideal reality. As for an epic song, yes, absolutely. We could easily write something twice as long, I think. We don't intentionally limit song lengths. We let them develop into what they are going to be and that is that.

WC: I sense some influence from "drone" type music on the "Interlude" and "Outro". Is that a sound you guys draw inspiration from?

MT:Yeah, there's some influence there, but not very directly. We never wanted to do samples as they are usually just stolen bits of audio. So we'd rather create something that projects the atmosphere and mood we're after. This is the best way. Plus, we can easily and organically perform these songs live. I think they are a good accent to our music and offer another layer of uniqueness to help establish the mood.

WC:. Is there room for experimentation in Withered's sound? How do you think the band's sound will stretch in the future?

MT: There is always room for experimentation. As a result, it's hard to know where our sound will go. Each album

represents a specific time period in each of our lives. Who knows where we'll be emotionally when it's time to write again? That's what will determine where our writing goes.

WC: What have been the high and low points in Withered history so far?

MT: The entire experience is a high point for me. The only real low points were to lose band members due to other circumstances outside of the band. Each member is/was like a brother to me and I cherish their friendships above all. It's very much like a family.

WC: What's the Prosthetic Records experience been like so far? The label seems to be trying to expand in some new areas.

MT: Yeah, we're very happy with Prosthetic. They have a great vision for their bands and are still very practical and rational in their approach. They give their bands creative freedom and so we work very well together.

WC: If there's one band you could share a stage with, who would it be and why?

MT: Excluding bands we've already toured with, I would have to say Napalm Death. They've always been a huge favorite of mine. That's why I invited Barney to do guest vocals on "Folie Circulaire". They're one of my all time favorite bands and one of the very few that make the hairs on my arms stand up when I watch them live. The energy is fantastic!

WC: Are any of the band members involved in other projects or bands?

MT: Currently, not really. We've been just too busy for other things.

WC:What's touring plans for 2011 going to be like?

MT: As much as possible. We're planning to do another North American tour in late March/early April. And we hope to finally tour mainland Europe in the early summer. No concrete plans yet, though.

WC: What was the last CD or record you picked up just because you wanted to hear it?

MT: The new Impetuous Ritual album. Holy shit , it's amazing! One of the best records I've heard in ages!

WC: What was the last act you saw live just because you wanted to check them out?

MT: That would probably be Boris, last time they played Atlanta. They played with us at the Scion festival but our set was around the same time on another stage so I didn't get to catch them. I saw them on their own tour and it was great.

WC: Is there any kind of "Spinal Tap" moment in the history of Withered you could share with our readers?

MT: Shit, there's thousands of those. Most recently, we played a fest in Dallas, Texas. Our hazer/fog machine went haywire and we could barely see our fingers to play. We had to wait until the end of a song before we could unplug it from the wall. That was pretty funny.

WC:. Last words to the faithful?

MT: Have faith in yourself and find YOUR path in life. Not the one everyone else is trying to lay out for you. Live a full and rewarding life full of memories and great music since it is the soundtrack to your life!! Cheers.