Corrupt Moral Altar have a brand new album out and Getintothis’ Matthew Eland chats with them about it, mixing Nepalese bands, saxophones in extreme metal and more.
After three or four years of line-up instability – during which guitarist John Cooke went off to tour with Napalm Death – Corrupt Moral Altar are back.
Southport’s grindcore/crust/sludge outfit released new album Eunoia on Bandcamp last year, and the reception to the record has been so favourable that they’ve just released it on vinyl.
The album, produced by the band’s drummer, Tom Dring, is a perfect representation of where the outfit – who’ve been together since 2012 – are musically situated.
Brutal, nasty and uncompromising, it charges out of the gates with Human Cry and doesn’t release its grip until the plaintive, building tension of Five Years. Along the way the listener is pummelled by the malevolent swagger of Rat King, with its Melvins-esque riffs and veering saxophone, and by the reverbing anthemics of The All Consuming Self.
Eunoia, a singular and accomplished piece of work, is also a furious and focused statement of intent. We gave Tom a call to discuss Bernard Herrmann, personal and political motivations, and the greatest music video ever made.
Getintothis: A good place to start would be the title of the album, which comes from the Greek word εὔνοια and means “beautiful thinking” or “well mind”. Is that an ironic title for the name of the record?
Tom Dring: “Yeah definitely, it’s the complete opposite of how Reece‘s brain was functioning when he was writing the lyrics. It’s taken a lot out of him emotionally and lyrically. It’s a fitting title I suppose, because we quite often act the complete opposite to the way our brains are working.”
Getintothis: How does he usually approach the lyrics? Does he write them to the music or does he fit lyrics to the songs?
Tom Dring: “He pretty much writes everything first and then he kind of…y’know, we’ll record demo versions and he’ll sit at home and think through them and see how the music actually makes him feel. It’ll always be music first and then lyrics after that.”
Getintothis: You’re just about to release the album physically. It must have done quite well on Bandcamp; did you find that people were paying full price for it?
Tom Dring: “Yeah, on average people paid maybe three or four quid or something, which is beyond what we would have expected for just a download anyway, but some people were paying between 15 and 20 quid for it, which we thought was mental.
But the overall reaction to it, and the amount of free downloads we got…like, we always intended to release it on vinyl, but we were a bit of a way off financially. Then we thought, y’know what, fuck it, we’ve waited for so long, it’s been done for a while, we just want people to hear it.
So we put that out for free, and the people who paid for the downloads have contributed to our ability to put it out. But it was always our intention to put it out on vinyl.”
Getintothis: I’d like ask you about some of the lyrical content of the album. I listened to Engineering Consent, which seems like quite a prescient song title, what with #metoo and the sexual harassment scandals in Hollywood; was that the intention behind the song?
Tom Dring: “It was written a long time before all that came out, but the lyrics are broad enough that people can take what they want from it.
Thinking back to when the Iraq war was pushed on people, it was about how the government will engineer the consent of people in their country and force them to believe that the particular action they’re taking is the correct one. I think mostly, individuals would not have agreed to the Iraq war, but the government forces the opinion of the general public that it’s the correct thing to do.
But Reece writes his lyrics broadly enough that it can apply to a lot of different subjects.”
Getintothis: Were any of the other tracks on the album inspired by recent political events?
Tom Dring: “It’s hard to say, because some of these songs were completed a good two, two and a half, almost three years ago. If you write something in one year that’s too relevant to something that’s happening, and it doesn’t come out for a couple of years, then it’s almost irrelevant if it’s too specific.”
Getintothis: Listening to the record I noticed that there are different bits of instrumentation other than the extreme-metal palette of guitar, bass, drums; there’s saxophone, violin…was that something that came through the recording or did you write with that sort of instrumentation in mind?
Tom Dring: “No, it very much came as…I wouldn’t say as an afterthought, because it’s my studio that we record everything in, and we have a bit more time to consider what can be added, whereas if we book a week in another studio to do the whole thing we have to think it through from the start.
It was recorded over such a long period of time that you can listen to the recording of a certain song and go “hmmm, what’s missing from that song?” So we call upon people such as Simon from Dawn Ray’d, because I’ve recorded them before and I thought that his violin style would very much work in the last track.
With the saxophone, that was…in fact that very bit of that song, Rat King, was – it almost happened by accident, because we were making demos from the album, and in between all the demo takes John kept playing this riff that he’d down-tuned with his whammy pedal, and I got so sick of him playing this riff that I said “Right, either stop playing that or just put it in a song.”
So we found a song that we could like stick it in, and found a drum beat that worked over it, and it kind of sounded like the intro music to Taxi Driver, if you’re familiar with Bernard Herrman, that kind of saxophone swell.
I’ve played saxophone since I was 11 years old. A couple of people have noticed the Taxi Driver reference. Listen to that song and listen to the start of Taxi Driver off and you’ll be like “Those bastards, they ripped Bernard Hermann off!””
Getintothis: Has having the producer in the band been an advantage?
Tom Dring: “It’s been a double-edged sword to be honest. With the album before, Mechanical Tides, we did that a lot quicker – we wrote it in a couple of months, recorded it over the next month or so, and it was done within three or four months of starting writing it. Whereas with this one we spent way – I wouldn’t say too much time but a lot more time.
I ended up doing three different mixes and then eventually reverted back to the first mix I’d done, thinking, y’know, the songs are more angry, with the rawer, almost worse-sounding production. But I think I’ll learn from that for the next time and not spend too much time honing in on it.”
Getintothis: How has being from Southport has influenced you? Is there a metal scene you can be a part of or are you quite out of the way?
Tom Dring: “I don’t really work with anyone from Southport to be honest. I think it’s an advantage to me that I lived in Leeds for 6 years. I used to record bands in basements and in my house when I lived in the middle of nowhere, so that’s – in inverted commas – kickstarted by career in Southport.
I don’t record anyone who’s actually based in Southport. It’s either people from Manchester, Leeds, as far as Edinburgh, Southampton, people just come from further afield. Because I’ve played gigs with people from around the country, so I just network with people that way.
Yeah, there’s no metal scene in Southport to speak of, apart from the occasional someone who sounds like Fear Factory, from the 90s kind of thing. There’s nothing really here but that’s fine, because it means that no one really knows about my studio in Southport, and therefore no one can break in and steal stuff.”
Getintothis: So you get quite a lot of bands travelling to you then?
Tom Dring: “Yeah, that’s all I do really. I don’t even have that many people just from Liverpool. I’ve probably had more people from Leeds over than I’ve had from Liverpool, but that’s just from past connections kind of thing. I’ve mixed some stuff from a band from Nepal; I don’t even know how they got in touch with me…I maybe should have asked!”
Getintothis: I looked at your website and it looks like you exclusively record extreme metal. Was it intentional to focus in on one thing rather than say you’ll record anything?
Tom Dring: “I have recorded other stuff, I’ve recorded indie bands in the past, but just from playing gigs in the metal and grindcore scene, that’s the people I’ve come across. I’ve never really paid for any marketing other than business cards and flyers, so everything’s been done by word of mouth.
I’ll do 20-odd demos for grindcore, hardcore bands and then that word spreads and then that’s how it happens really. That’s the kind of stuff I enjoy doing the most, so I’m not complaining. I’ll record anything, but I’d rather do heavy, horrible, nasty stuff.”
Getintothis: Another thing I have to ask you about is the Mother Ruin video you did for Magpyes (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fV9sjNwgjY). It’s still one of my favourite music videos of all time. Have you got any plans to do anything similar for CMA?
Tom Dring: “Well…actually….I wouldn’t say similar but I’ve just come back from Liverpool, me and Reece were talking to a guy about a couple of music videos we’re going to be doing. One will be actualised in a couple of weeks. It’s not going to be anything similar to Mother Ruin…but I would say not to expect anything that’s typical of a metal band.
There was talk of doing another Magpyes video in the vein of Mother Ruin, but a bit more theatrical, but the last discussion we had about that was probably 6 or 7 years ago.”
Getintothis: Are Magpyes still playing?
Tom Dring: “We were kind of functioning as a three-piece a couple of years ago but…we had Trippy from Horse Bastard on drums and our bass player Damien is doing Video Nasties now – very good actually, you should check them out.
I did speak to Damien recently about doing some more Magpyes stuff, maybe, over the next year or so, but…it’s never dead. We’re not split up, by any means.”
Getintothis: What’s next for Corrupt Moral Altar? Do you have any outstanding ambitions regarding touring or recording?
Tom Dring: “We’re playing Pittfest in Holland in April and we have a couple of gigs around that.
We’ve got a couple of tours in the works for this year, nothing confirmed as of yet, but if they come off they’ll be pretty exciting with some pretty good bands that we’ve been listening to for quite a few years.
As regards writing, we’ve already started writing for a couple of splits. I know John has written almost a whole album, so we might start rehearsing that this year, maybe start recording next year.”
Corrupt Moral Altar play:
- April 28: Pittfest, Erica, NL w/ Bloodbath, Rotten Sound, Zeke, Victims
- August 25: Riff Fest, The Alma Inn, Bolton, UK w/ Slabdragger, Pijn, Let It Die
- September 8: Chimpyfest, London, UK w/ Antigama, Extreme Noise Terror, Sete Star