With May 2016’s II: For Mankind, Haast’s Eagled’s second full-length, the Welsh doom purveyors have shown themselves capable of a calibre of noise on par with legends such as Sleep and Yob, but also at putting their own unique stamp on a genre that is, with its recent influx of activity, somewhat in danger of stagnating.
Despite plenty of moments of peacefulness not usually associated with doom’s heavier acts, Haast’s Eagled are a menacing trio of distinct power, with a predatory instinct much like the extinct eagle after which they are named. The biggest to ever exist, said eagle is said to have fed on animals the size of cars, so suitably, Haast’s Eagled’s riffs are gnarly slabs of incomprehensibly heavy savagery.
As one of doom’s most exciting bands in a burgeoning scene, we wanted to discover more about the Newport triad, so asked them some quick questions in the wake of their imposing second album.
In what ways would you say Haast’s Eagled have progressed since the self-titled debut?
This question isn’t really the best for me to comment on due to only being involved with the band from writing II: For Mankind. This second record became a bit of “let’s play whatever feels right” in the practice room and in the studio – at least for me. The whole process of the album was just getting used to playing with each other and playing with the sound created from the first lineup. I feel it’s a natural progression for the band comparing it to the first release. I was a fan of the band and the first record before I was even asked to be a part of the band.
Was the experimentation (sax solos et al) on II: For Mankind a planned route or did it all come about more naturally?
We have discussed the band having an open door policy with different instrumentalists/musicians playing on our releases. Adam [Wrench, guitars/vocals] had a few friends in mind and he mentioned getting Joshua Jones to play some saxophone and we went for it. We’re all really happy with how it sounds. I hope we can get more experimental with future material by introducing some interesting instruments.
What are some of the themes and lyrical meanings running through the album’s four tracks? For example, you’ve previously said that ‘Pyaaz Bhonghi’ has a similar concept to Sleep’s Dopesmoker, is that true?
With ‘Pyaaz Bhonghi’ I was talking another level of shit at band practice. Super stoned and showing off. I asked what onion translated too in Urdu, which is pyaz. During the writing process the track was code-named ‘Pyaz Bhaji/O Bhaji’. Due to the stoned nature of the band most of the time, Bhaji turned into Bhonghi and pyaz got lost in translation during finalising the album track names. I kind of liked it so I didn’t mention anything at the time. Keep it wavy.
From that the lyrics were written about a stoned travelling man walking through the desert with a fat sack of marijuana, a weedian rip-off or homage, however you look at it. Sleep are one of the best bands ever so no apologies. Hungry, dehydrated etc., the travelling man meets Pyaaz and learns about the important elements of life and caring for the world around us. If I’m honest, it’s all a load of bullshit but we enjoyed creating the folklore that is now the almighty wisdom of ‘Pyaaz Bhonghi’.
‘The Uncle’ ended up being written about – and questioning – the acceptance of paedophilia within politics, religion and the BBC. We got the track played on the BBC Radio One Rock Show a few weeks back due it being our shortest and most ‘radio friendly’ track. We were happy with that result.
‘Zoltar’ was Adam’s creation; I can imagine everyone thinks of the film BIG starring Tom Hanks. Sadly it’s not about that, this was written about a man on a time-travelling suicide mission, pretty much. Where do you want to die? If you could die anywhere, at any point in history, what would you do? Imagine a Zoltar-style machine that could take you on that adventure.
With ‘White Dwarf’ this was version 2793.9 of the song Joe [Sheehy, drums] and Adam had been working on this with former bass player Greg [Perkins] before I joined. The rest of the band just wanted to get it written and recorded before it became a four-hour concept album. It ended up being an ode to the end of all things. Not much more to it than that.
What concept for the album did you have going into the studio? Did it turn out how you originally pictured?
We went into the studio with very little practice and very little equipment and just went with all these ideas we had written, each piece of music we wrote in the practice room evolved into its own concept. We normally create something out of nothing, which kind of helps with creating atmosphere and emotion in our songs. We didn’t have a solid final product in mind really, we knew it had to end somewhere. That’s when we ran out of studio time because we we’re already out of money. You know how it is.
What’s the doom scene like in Wales? Was it a hard place to make a name for yourself as a metal band?
The doom scene in Wales does okay, there aren’t too many shows or people compared to other places in the UK but it is alive and well. You have FHED promoting a lot of the shows, a lot of good grindcore and powerviolence too. Also the second Red Sun Festival is happening soon which is spread across two small venues in Cardiff. Last year was class, so I’m looking forward to that.
I can’t speak too much on this subject I spend a lot my time listening and watching a bit of everything musically. I’m no Dr. Doom with a master’s degree in local riff. Whoever I listen too or see live, if I like it I’ll support it.
As for local bands from Wales past and present you should check out mates and great riffs included:
Ivor Beynon, Spider Kitten, Tides Of Sulfur, Thorun, Lacertilia, Desalvo, Acrimony, Budgie, Dignity Dies First, The Judas Cradle, Chain Of Flowers, ATOMCK, The Death Of Her Money, Black Water Chemistry, Ghast, The Arteries, Ssssnakes, Taint, Venom Prison, The Kennedy Soundtrack, DJ Wyld Flame, Graveyard Johnnys, LUVV, Mind Control, Hark, Manic Street Preachers, GLC, Outrage CC, Bonnie Tyler. There’s loads of good stuff in Wales. I bet I’ve missed a load of gems. It’s class once you get your head around the place.
There a lot more doom metal bands around nowadays, do you think it’s good to see or somewhat ruins the whole underground vibe of the genre? Who are your favourite doom metal bands at the moment?
It’s great for me, this little boom in doom. I get to see loads of bands I missed out on because I was even born or too young and pre Internet, etc. Seeing Saint Vitus play all of Born Too Late on a 30-year anniversary tour blown my mind. I remember being on tour with an old band smoking dirty bottle bongs on deck chairs in a garage hearing that album for the first time, seeing that hard as nails pink cover. Man it sent me west in a good way, never looked back. So that stuff makes me happy. I have no problem with new bands coming through, everything musically has a snowball effect on people. We’re riding that snowball all the way down the hill. Keep the riff alive.
As for bands that do a bit of doom we currently enjoy at the moment: Cough, Yob, Bong, Conan, Uffomammut, Earthless, Slomatics, Bongripper, Rush. It’s never-ending really.
With there being such a big scene, it can be hard to stand-out, was this something you thought about beforehand? Is this how the various experimentations on II: For Mankind came about?
If I’m honest I’ve never expected to this band to break through into any scene, it’s all about playing and writing together in Newport, living the dream. Every little helps when it comes to people supporting the band and it does mean a lot. I think that’s because we didn’t expect anything. Infinite thanks to Phil at One Louder Studios and the people at Holy Roar Records for helping out too. I guess they helped a lot more than we’ve helped ourselves.
The record seems to have a lot of depth that rewards repeated listening; did you aim for this when writing?
We aimed to make it less repetitive than the previous S/T release but like I’ve mentioned we went in with loads of riffs and filled all the gaps until we ran out of time. I think this ethos of organised chaos we went into the studio with helped achieve that accidental need to replay the album. For Mankind doesn’t feel and flow as naturally as most modern records do recently.
At some point during recording we’d all look around and just keep playing… There’s one heavy section in there, it’s pretty sparse with Joe just playing whilst me and Adam just rode the warmth of the amps we got to record with. The reason for this was to work out what was next whilst recording live. We all liked it in the end so it made the record.
Some reviews have mentioned the ‘emotional’ element of your music; do you think this is something most doom bands stray away from? If so why do you think this is the case?
All music has some sort of emotion, it’s just we’ve stepped into addressing a few emotional sounds that just don’t make it through into modern music. Well not as much as it should. Everyone should play what’s right for them, sad, happy, brutal whatever. Even slam and goregrind bands party with euro dance music in-between the brutal songs. No boundaries, no masters. Play the riff if it’s right.
What have you got planned for the near future?
Be sound people, smoke, riff, more releases, we plan to do at least one release a year for our own sanity we have to many ideas for songs sometimes. We’ve started the third project and it’s the best stuff we’ve ever written in my opinion, it’s getting a bit more technical and not as repetitive but still holds the Haast’s Eagled sound from the last two releases. Hopefully we can put it out sometime next year [
two three years later and still no new album – sad 2019 ed.] if the support continues. We’d love to sort an actual tour out at some point. Mainland Europe would be amazing as it’s always great to tour around there.
Words: George Parr