Despite a fondness for intense atmospheres and antagonistic riffs, doom and sludge metal can be as much a tool for emotional catharsis as any other musical genre. Brighton’s Solleme understand and utilise this, deploying the pessimistic tropes of sludge as a means of exploring inner demons and personal struggles. On fabulous new full-length This Infinite Violence, the three-piece pair sludge up with the expansive soundscapes of doom’s experimental side, sometimes bordering post-metal territory as they blur the lines between ambience and anger. Showing remarkable growth since their 2016 demo, this seven-track autopsy into the darkest recesses of the human psyche revels in a consistently brooding atmosphere that proves less direct but infinitely more imposing than their past effort.
The album proves an ambitious but austere endeavour from a well-rounded trio of musicians. Dynamic in style as it happily drifts from eight-minute blackened sludge monoliths to one-minute noise interludes, the masterful pacing of This Infinite Violence would be almost elegant were it not for the group’s fondness for skull-caving riffs and wrathful vocals. And all this without a bassist.
For a band with such an accomplished debut album under their belts, precious little info can be uncovered about Solleme. So, in an endeavour to shine some light on an underappreciated cog in the UK doom machine, we met up with the group for an insight into their creative process.
Who are Solleme?
Frank: We’re a three-piece bleak sludge metal band from Brighton, formed in 2015 by Sam (guitar) and Fred (drums). Francesco (vocalist) joined in 2016; a couple of weeks before recording the 2016 Demo at Crow’s Nest. We released our latest effort, This Infinite Violence, in February of this year.
What is your mission as a group? Are you guys still playing as a three-piece?
Sam: Solleme quickly evolved into something whereby musically, we could both tackle and express difficult issues going on in our personal lives. Our first release was heavily influenced by insomnia, sleep deprivation, and the movement of people across states and from there on our writing just became more intense and emotive.
I believe that when Frank joined the band, our songwriting became less conventional, however, as it gained a unique structure and sense – it was exactly what we needed. As a band we never tried to write oddly or have such strange arrangements in our songs, it’s just how it comes out.
Frank: It was great to be invited by these guys to join the band. I feel as we’ve progressed with writing, playing shows and recording, it’s formed into something that we hadn’t really expected. When we get together to write, we keep delving further and further into something that we can’t quite control yet that makes us more inspired. The matters discussed from both a personal and indirect level is what, in part, focuses this band. It feels like that is what you could consider as a mission: to write honest, soul-destroying music.
Fred: We’re still a three-piece. Fred and Sam began writing immediately after meeting, and with a bit of decent channel-splitting and pedals to boost the guitar, we soon realised that we didn’t need a bassist to ‘complete’ the lineup for the sake of it. It’s no gimmick – we just began playing this way and it seems to work well, although that doesn’t mean that we will restrict ourselves to our core instruments alone in the future.
People who come to our shows often remark on our three-piece lineup and seem genuinely surprised by the sounds we can produce on stage. I’ll often refer people to a handful of bands out there that demonstrate the power that a guitar/bass-drums-only dynamic can have, and who continue to influence our approach (Jucifer, Mantar, Om etc.).
What other bands are you guys involved in?
Frank: I’m currently involved in two other bands, Bodily Fluids and Aerosol Jesus. Two pretty different bands in comparison to Solleme.
Sam: I’m in the process of starting another project and exploring other musical ventures. However, nothing has come from it yet.
Frank: As for the future, who knows. Once you’ve engaged with people on a personal level and you get to know each other, it’s impossible to resist creating music. Especially with the people who are in Brighton and how inspired they are.
Where do the grime/depressive/violent atmospheres of your sound come from?
Frank: It’s difficult to indicate where we draw these motifs from as they’ve come naturally from playing together over time. I believe that we’ve all drawn from experiences whether they be personal or indirect that have made us more in tune with the sounds that we create.
Fred: It is something that becomes quite close to the heart. I enjoy the purity and catharsis that Solleme gives to us.
Sam: We all have our own individual problems and it does cause some difficulty in the group, especially from me (Sam). Our own demons do guide the music down a certain path, but we never set out to be a bleak band, it just naturally came out that way.
Frank: Sam brings elements that are haunting through his playing, whilst Fred has a restrained aggression that he has nurtured over time. Francesco, both in content and in sound, draws from the other members as we explore ideas around the nature of suffering, abuse, environmental destruction and resistance/resilience. It feels truly collaborative between the three of us.
What do you think of people who would say that the recent upsurge in doom and sludge metal is over?
Frank: Hell, that’s their opinion. But in most cases, it’s fair to say they aren’t looking hard enough. It seems like there will always be people who are willing to say that there is nothing substantial coming out of new music and stick to their selected bands. We couldn’t disagree more. We’ve played with a plethora of strong and uprising doom and sludge bands that aren’t even necessarily moulding to the archetypes that sometimes restrict the genres. To name a few: Kalloused, Ba’al, Grave Lines, Kurokuma and Wren. However, there are a multitude of bands that are emerging that are smashing it; best thing is to get out and see what is actually happening.
Fred: I’ve been listening to this stuff for half of my life at this point – it’s my primary focus musically and probably always will be. The sort of music we’re associated with cuts deep and won’t be easily forgotten or pushed aside once you’ve experienced and come to understand it. In any case, it’s best to ignore people who make a fuss or complain about musical trends. I’ve heard people say things like ‘doom is over’ countless times and it always strikes me odd that they think anyone cares about what they consider out of trend.
Sam: I believe it’s a very close-minded opinion; to say that a particular genre is on the decline is to insinuate that the genre itself was a fad or isn’t important anymore. This particular style of music has been around for a long time and will continue to be, not necessarily in the same packaging but the influence and sound will continue. I don’t believe doom/ sludge has had its time. I believe things are becoming more transparent, genre gaps are getting smaller and this is what’s making new bands exciting, illuminating old material and generally making smaller niche genres more widely accessible.
What influences other than doom and sludge go into Solleme’s sound?
Frank: We’ve never been ones to restrict ourselves to one or two genres. We’re inspired by the fury that comes from other music that isn’t necessarily under metal and hardcore. For example, during the writing and recording of This Infinite Violence, I was mainly listening to Downtown Boys‘ Cost Of Living and Oxbow’s Thin Black Duke amongst other bands. However, the process of making music, in many cases, isn’t simply just what you listen to. It’s informed by the emotions that you’re feeling at the time and have felt, the experiences you have gone through and the stories that people have shared with you.
You guys have been playing in and around Brighton for some time. What’s the craziest thing that’s happened at one of your shows?
Frank: To be fair, up until this point, our shows have been what one might consider tame. It feels like we split the crowd when we play – some people really appreciate what we do and have said to be fully engrossed in our performance whilst a good amount of other people seem quite underwhelmed, which we’re not surprised by. We aren’t general crowd pleasers and we never will be.
How was it opening Mammothfest last year? How do you feel headlining a show and opening a show differ as a performer?
Frank: Mammothfest was really interesting as a festival. It felt quite unique as an experience but in many cases, it was simply a pleasure to have the people who turned up watching us and we personally had a blast playing, which we can’t say has differed from any other show we’ve played before. We’ve never headlined a show before but have opened many times and to be honest, there’s something quite special in opening up a show as you’re in part setting the mood. We love it, but when we have played further up on a bill, the experience has been different yet equally as intense.
What are your aspirations for Solleme? What does the future hold?
Frank: Since releasing This Infinite Violence, we already have many plans for future releases such as a split and an album which are currently in the works. We’ve also got a couple of tours in the works for this year, which we are really excited about. We’re currently blown away by being invited to play some excellent shows and festivals such as Dreadfest in Leeds and Desertfest in London, having the chance to play with some stellar bands. As for our aspirations, it’s to continue creating and being involved in a continuously flourishing community which we are proud to be a part of.
Sam: I feel at this time that bands aren’t taking the safe approach anymore, at least the ones turning heads. Musical styles are colliding and the genres are becoming more transparent. This has allowed bands to play what they want instead of what the genre allows. We will continue to write the way we do and experiment as much as we can.
This Infinite Violence can be purchased here.
Interview: Rich Lowe, Intro: George Parr (@GeorgeJParr)