Heavy metal owes a lot to Black Sabbath. Not only did the band first flirt with the heavy riffs that would become the genre’s focal point, but they introduced lyrical themes that would stick for generations – occultism/satanism (‘Black Sabbath’, ‘N.I.B.’), politics (‘Wicked World’, ‘War Pigs’) and fantasy (‘The Wizard’, ‘Behind The Wall Of Sleep’). However, the band’s contributions to metal didn’t end there, as third LP Master Of Reality offered the first hints at something new, and we’re not just talking about the proto-stoner metal vibes of ‘Sweet Leaf’. Closer ‘Into The Void’, which would become a staple of live sets and greatest hits collaborations, saw Ozzy Osbourne sing about space, more specifically a rocket ship “flying to the glowing sun, through the empires of eternal void.” This, arguably, was the song that took metal into the stratosphere, kicking off a partnership with sci-fi that would last to this day.
Tellingly, though, the track didn’t lust for the stars out of an imaginative desire to explore uncharted territory, rather, it saw doing so as a necessity due to the pollution, hate and violence that had plagued, and would ultimately destroy, the Earth. Indeed, heavy metal and sci-fi have long proven blissful bedfellows, but despite sci-fi operating in a realm of fantasy dictated by things that seem so alien to life as we know it, the genre has a knack for commentating on current events and holding sociopolitical undercurrents. Utilising this are Ontario duo Vile Creature, who are bringing sci-fi’s penchant for political allegory to their particularly bleak amalgamation of desolate doom, stifling sludge and disconcerting drone. Their latest album, Cast Of Static And Smoke, is their most ambitious release to date – it’s also their best.
Accompanied by a short story set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, the album is a sonic interpretation of said story, which deals with themes of oppression despite its subjects being robots. Vile Creature are perhaps the best band to approach this thematic subject – their emotionally harrowing form of doom has long proven both poignant and atmospherically heavy. To best capture this stark subject matter, vocalist/drummer Vic and vocalist/guitarist/percussionist KW recorded the tracks live with just one guitar and drum kit. However, the album’s tracks are also bolstered by guest musicians, with False guitarist James Claypool offering a solo to ‘Forests, Subsists As A Tomb’ and Chris Colohan (Sect, Cursed) offering his vocal talents to ‘Water, Tinted Gold And Tainted Copper’.
With four colossal tracks of multi-faceted doom metal and an intriguing sci-fi concept to boot, we felt compelled to speak to Vile Creature about sci-fi, pissing off metal bigots and, erm, their pets.
Your music is super dark and thematically complex but you’re also happy to post about your pets on the band’s twitter. Is it important to accept that metal shouldn’t be taken too seriously?
Vic: It’s subjective. Our personalities are super silly and we joke around a lot about being fake cvlt. We don’t take ourselves too seriously in life, but obviously care about the projects we are involved in. You can have fun and be cute and still be heavy and tough or whatever. We also have a dark, existentialist side. Humans are complicated, they have feelings and creativity can come from different parts of you.
Who/what inspires your music?
For me, I’m inspired by other women and non-binary folks doing their thing and don’t ask for permission. I love people who find ways to be the people they wanna be.
Tell us more about the post-apocalyptic concept behind the album – were the album and short story created simultaneously?
We wanted to write music that went hand in hand with a fictional story. The music is ideally the backdrop to the short story. We tried our best to write them in tandem. It wasn’t meant to be a strict soundtrack, but a loose interpretation. KW has a background in writing novels and loves to read fantasy. I have a background in journalist stuff and love to read sci-fi. We felt like we would be able to come up with something of our own that would be for folks who are into dystopic futures that are modern day fables for our socio-political world.
The short story seems to be set in a post-nuclear wasteland and deals with themes of oppression, to what extent is it inspired by modern politics and the looming threat of nuclear war?
The characters are machines who are sentient. They represent the dispossessed (human and non-human) and the feelings of learned helplessness/hopelessness from generational oppression. It’s a pretty bleak view of a desolate future where humans have lost so much, yet they still continue the cycle of oppression when they create their new inferior kin.
I think people figure out their own ways of understanding the world. People unlearn when they are emotionally affected by relatable injustice. A lot of people I know are radicalised through literature. I really enjoy subversive stories that make you rethink the current world and what could be.
Would you say the narrative is more optimistic or pessimistic in nature?
It depends on your perspective and how you interpret the ending and what the characters go through. What they sacrifice in order to gain their freedom. I’m sure people will have different opinions on whether they risked too much or it was worth it.
Your previous releases have been less politically minded and more personal lyrically, what inspired you to branch out into the ambitious realms of political allegory and sci-fi?
I think it just took a bit to realise we could create our own thing – that literature and music can complement each other. We like to listen to podcasts and audiobooks but also read, so doing something in that realm always interested us. We just didn’t think it would be connected to Vile Creature. We are super happy with what we created, and are humbled by the positive response.
Do you take pride in pissing off the prejudiced idiots that lurk at metal’s fringes or is it more of an unfortunate accompaniment to speaking out against the scene’s injustices?
I feel like as more people express their hatred and opinions about metal having a bunch of SJWs, the more it fuels us to be more outspoken and hopefully encourages others to be unabashedly brazen about anti-oppression. We also have a lot of privilege and support, so whatever people have to say, there are people who will have our back. We are white settlers who are financially secure, able-bodied folks who aren’t losing anything if people wanna trash us.
What can we expect in the future? Any chance of reaching the UK for a tour?
We are working on getting out to the UK later this year. Nothing is set in stone, but our plan is to do that as soon as it’s feasible. We are small business owners and so we are concentrating on touring at this moment for the next few weeks and have some other stuff planned with touring this summer. We are just taking it in stride and having fun. I think our next focus recording-wise is a split. Fingers crossed!
Cast Of Static And Smoke can be purchased here.
Words: George Parr