At its best, sci-fi is one of the most imaginative sources of creative storytelling. Not only can it reach far out into the depths of the universe to build escapist worlds and peoples beyond anything we could ever hope to encounter during our brief stint on this planet, but it can also tell us so much about ourselves and our own environment in the process. From utopias to dystopias, the genre is famous for its ability to comment on society or foresee how our lives might look in the near future. It’s a shame, then, that many bands who adopt a sci-fi-inspired aesthetic squander that potential in favour of using only the genre’s imagery.
Brighton’s Wallowing embrace the genre’s aesthetics, sure, even hand-crafting DIY space suits out of beekeeper outfits and LED lights that they occasionally wear onstage, but they also dive fully into its ability to tell a story and make you ponder. Despite a fucked-up sound capable of conjuring images of dystopian futures, botched space missions and otherworldly creatures, their music also tackles some of the 21st centuries’ most gripping issues, from discrimination and mental health stigma to the destruction of the planet and the current state of world politics.
Told in four parts, their debut release (due next year) is a single-track concept album dedicated to soundtracking the slow demise of our world. The five-piece features members of Aerosol Jesus, Herd Mover, King Goat and Prisa Mata/Surya, but Wallowing’s sound is much more than a simple coming together of these projects, boasting an approach that’s refreshingly forward-thinking but ruthlessly heavy. The currently untitled release drifts from chaotic Dystopia-esque frenzies and pummeling doomy riffs to proggy bouts of experimentation, seldom settling into a groove long enough for you to get comfortable and never allowing listeners to second-guess what might be around the corner.
For a metal fan, the most exciting artists are those who can innovate without needing to dial back the intensity, and Wallowing find an inch-perfect middle ground between ruthless barbarism and adventurous experimentation. For an insight into this ambitious approach to extremity, we’re thrilled to host a stream of the rough demo version of ‘Phosgene’ below, recorded live by Sam Lilley, who also handled the mixing and mastering. The upcoming release’s second part, ‘Phosgene’ focuses on homophobia, racism and the unfortunate prevalence of discrimination in modern society. Sonically, it’s a volatile cacophony of zealous noise that bounces thrillingly from one style to the next. Check it out below then read on to find out more about the band and their influences.
Your sound is pretty odd, time signature changes nestled amongst crushing doom riffage. What’s inspired you to create this?
Tom – guitars (Aerosol Jesus, ex-Grindhouse): Wallowing, from the get-go, was intended to have an obscure and out-there sound. Born of creative frustration, it was originally intended to be a one-man studio project, and essentially a way for me to riff about without any boundary. But the more I worked at the music the more it dawned on me that if I wanted this sound as big as possible I would have to have more people involved to really do it justice and create the frantic noise that seemed necessary. Musically I’d like to think we haven’t pigeonholed ourselves with genre. We take inspiration from all the styles of heavy music we personally enjoy, but I think collectively we have always been inspired by the extreme intensity of bands such as Dragged Into Sunlight, Hexis, Sunn O))) and Celeste.
Brighton’s scene is pretty fucking weird and distinctive, why do you think this is? How are you influenced by the local scene there?
Rauiri – bass (Aerosol Jesus, ex-Grindhouse): There’s so much going on in Brighton, it’s great. There are so many projects formed/being formed here and good bands passing through regularly, it’s just a melting pot of different styles and sounds to digest.
Tom: Brighton is full of creative people from all walks of life with something to say. I think the city’s history and connection with music and art has always appealed to creatives in general, which makes it naturally a great place for artists of all kinds to base themselves. It’s an incredibly cultured and expressive place and is booming for all kinds of music, so it’s no surprise that we are spoilt when it comes to interesting music. The heavy scene down here in particular is great, bands such as Kalloused, Watchcries, Solleme and Pascagoula are incredible and have put out some truly grim records.
How did Wallowing come about?
Mark – vocals/noise (Prisa Mata, Surya, Tokahontas): During the summer of 2017, Tom contacted me about a new project he was working on. I started on bass but realised I wanted to focus on vocals and noise/soundscapes (and Tom’s riffs are fucking brain-melters!). Rauiri stepped up on bass after having heard the songs being worked out and jammed for months and, given he has played with Tom for years, it made total sense. As always, drummers are the hardest to acquire but we eventually got Jon onboard. Zak (vocals – Herd Mover) had caught a sniff of the coming monstrosity and couldn’t be kept away. And so the mothership was ready for liftoff.
Rauiri: Tom had been getting this project going for a while by the time I jumped onboard. Like Mark said, I’d heard the riffs from their first incarnations, having lived with Tom, him asking my thoughts on rough recordings and lending Mark my gear when he came down to work on learning the bass parts. So Tom asked if I was interested after Mark expressed his interests in focusing on the noise and vocals. After jamming with Tom I was introduced to Jon, it wasn’t long until we had a set for Zak and Mark to screech and bellow over.
The science fiction themes running through your sound are pretty high concept. What science fiction writers/films etc. were you influenced by?
Rauiri: I’ve always found sci-fi so full of immersive experiences; rich backdrops, oil paintings, set design and camera tricks which all add up to a universe being so tangible the narrative unfolding before you becomes enthralling. I think the contrast between the vocal styles of Mark and Zak creates a sort of narrative quite naturally, coupled with the arrangements of the core instruments, set against the chaotic soundscapes. I quickly get swept away in the experience myself. I think this is a common thought among us which we want to share in our live performances. The Thing (1982), Alien and Blade Runner are definitely some of my favourite sci-fi experiences for their bleakness, existential themes and immersive qualities.
Tom: Of course George Orwell and Phillip K. Dick were a massive influence on the (still yet-to-be-named) concept album. Their ability to strike and shock using strong science fiction imagery to draw parallels to real-world political, social and economic issues is writing at its best. Our record uses a similar method of storytelling to talk about current day issues in the hope to make people realise that a lot of the ludicrous things happening in the world are closer to alien than human and an Orwellian dystopia isn’t that far away at all. Other worthy mentions would be Jeff Wayne, Harlan Ellison and of course George Lucas. We really try to capture the sheer terror and vast nothingness of the galaxy within our music, and having resources such as these musicians and writers really helped us understand what we have to do to give the idea justice.
Sci-fi is defined by contemporary social commentary, what themes and experiences that you’ve experienced run through the record?
Tom: The concept album is album is broken into four chapters. Each chapter within the half hour-ish track focuses on a separate issue. The first chapter, ‘Earthless’, is about the state of the planet through human carelessness. The second chapter, ‘Phosgene’, focuses on discrimination, homophobia, and racism. Part three, ‘Hail Creation’, discusses the current state of parliament and the American government and ‘Vessel’ is about the stigma behind mental health. Together, the whole song tracks the slow demise of the planet, human race and how easily all of it could have been avoided.
Mark: We are all utterly, undeniably fucked.
What the fuck is up with the costumes you wear live?
Jon – drums (King Goat): I think I was complaining about a band I previously played in, where nobody would let me use the title “Who Let The Bees Out?” for our B-side compilation… Next thing you know we’ve ordered five beekeeper costumes off the internet. Me and Rauiri spent an afternoon dyeing them black. We haven’t been wearing them every show. We’ll assess the risk of bees at each venue and decide based on that.
Tom: It started off as a joke after we ended up on a show at The Bees Mouth, with Calligram and Crimson Throne. Jon has apparently always wanted to play a show in a beekeeping outfit, so we figured it could be a laugh and took to making our botch space suits out of them and LED lights from the pound shop. After the show and a wierdly great response we discussed it being a permanent feature but came to the realisation that we aren’t a gimmick and we want our riffs to speak for themselves. That doesn’t mean you won’t catch us getting them out at the right show though.
What do you think of the current state of doom and sludge, it seems like the scene is beginning to burn out a little. How will Wallowing survive in this climate?
Rauiri: I personally don’t think it’s burning out; perhaps a shift in influence as you’re finding more and more bands combining different aspects of their favourite genres together, creating more unique sounds and pushing the envelope of extreme metal, doom and sludge. As much as we all enjoy doom and sludge, I don’t think we would put ourselves down to being specifically a part of those genres. When asked about genres we tend to just go with “extreme” or “noise” as, as much as we are a slow and riffy band, we would like to think we are equally as fast and chaotic, this demo of ‘II: Phosgene’ should hopefully cement that. Doom and sludge were the genres that properly got me into the really heavy stuff so I will always have a love for it. It’s easy to fall into the “Sabbath worship” side of the genres, although bands like Slabdragger, Opium Lord, Haasts Eagled, Bismuth and Torpor jump into the scene, shake everything up and blow everyone’s mind, which I absolutely love.
Obviously, this track is just a teaser for something bigger, care to elaborate on future plans?
Jon: I think the plan is to record a full release early next year. We’ll re-record this track as part of that. We’ve got a few shows already booked in for 2019, including Dreadfest which is gonna be rad.
Tom: ‘II: Phosgene’ is a chapter of the yet-to-be-named full track and debut concept album. We intend to record early next year and follow up with some weekenders up and down the country. We play Dreadfest beside Wormrot, Rotten Sound and FukPig in March and have other shows to be announced. We are hopeful for a vinyl release of the record early-mid summer followed by a tour and after that we’ll hopefully begin work on record number two.
Intro words: George Parr (@GeorgeJParr)
Interview: Rich Lowe (@Richard53237146)
Photo Credit: AMN Photography