“It’s different from the last album; everything has gotten darker,” Ardo Cotones, drummer with black metal/hardcore quintet Calligram, says of the band’s forthcoming, as-yet-untitled album, due for release in early 2020. The London-based band released their first EP Demimonde in 2016, but it was their critically-acclaimed debut album Asekesis, released in 2018, that saw them truly gain momentum and a healthy fan following. So as the band prepare to hit the studio to record their sophomore album, Astral Noize had a chat to the band’s sticksman to find out more about their beginnings, how their sound evolved and where they plan to go next. The band were also gracious enough to send us the following video teaser of their time in the studio, as well as some images from the studio, which can be viewed below.
Although formed in London, Calligram consists of members from various backgrounds and cultures, something which has had a huge impact on the influences the individual members bring to the songwriting table. “In Brazil it was a lot of thrash metal bands,” explains Cotones, who along with guitarist Bruno hails from South America’s largest country. “I was also involved in the punk scene too, a lot of my friends were in punk bands and back in the late ’90s and early ’00s the scene was pretty mixed, you would play gigs with punk and metal bands on the same bill and everything would work. Brazil is really strong on the crossover type of thing too, with the fast, angry, political punk stuff. So for me that’s what I listened to and eventually when Calligram got together we sort of found this modern sound that is heavier but still trying to keep that same energy.”
Was there always a political undertone to their music taste then? “For sure,” the drummer tells us. “In Brazil, there’s plenty of punk bands. It’s always been there for me.”
With this, it seems the band members have an almost unwritten shared sense of political beliefs: “We don’t really discuss a whole lot of politics in the band, but when we do, we tend to agree on things, and everyone’s pretty liberal. We have to be really; with all our different backgrounds and cultures, we love to learn about each other’s cultures and political situations in our countries. It’s kind of a no brainer to us really, like you know – don’t be a prick *laughs*.”
The band even begun to be mentioned in the same breath as notable anti-fascist bands such as Underdark, Allfather and Dawn Ray’d. “It’s really great to be part of those group of bands and help spread that message around,” enthuses Cotones, “The scene is really strong, it’s really cool. For me personally, it feels like I’ve found what I’ve been looking for since moving to the UK, that sense of belonging in the scene. I’ve been in other bands where the focus has just been about outputting music and for me that’s not what it’s about. I enjoy the community sense of it and everyone sharing ideas and that inspires me to carry on and write music.”
Indeed, as the DIY scene seems to grow ever stronger it’s easy to forget that many of the bands we love and listen to now grew up without access to social media, something which Cotones agrees has made sharing ideas much easier: “It’s a lot easier now. Although, I think like-minded individuals will get pulled together somehow anyway and reach out to each other. Back in the day when I started out we used to just trade tapes via the post and that would work pretty well and everything still happened. We were still able to protest and put on DIY shows. Obviously, social media helps in terms of getting things done quicker and you find people a lot easier. It’s a great, natural evolution.”
Something else which is also evolving is the music Calligram are currently making. Having stated that the new album is sounding darker than previous offerings, Cotones also sheds light on just how far into the writing and recording process they currently are: “The new record is nearly done. We’ve got one more song to write I think, but we’re pretty much there now. So we’re just in the process of polishing the songs we already have and gathering some ideas for the final song.”
Fans of the band can also expect a much harder-hitting album. “We wrote less epic bits. There are some in there, but most of the riffs lean towards extreme black metal and grind, there’s lots of grindcore influence on this record. Everything’s got a little bit faster. We’re trying to do things we haven’t done before.”
This refusal to stagnate and to keep pushing the boundaries of their sound is obviously important to the band – working within genres but not being limited by them. “I haven’t been listening to much black metal,” explains Cotones. “I’ve been on a punk rock thing for a few months and that has definitely influenced the way I’m drumming. So I kind of bring a punk beat and then we layer black metal guitars on top, there’s a lot of that.”
With the music getting darker, it’s fair to assume the lyrics may be taking a similar direction. “What usually happens is we write the songs and then Matteau our singer come up with melodies,” Cotones explains. “If you can call them that *laughs*. He takes very much an abstract approach, he writes about personal experience and all of that goes into one universe.”
This time, however, there seems to have been a more thematic approach: “We’ve been chatting about getting all his lyrics and tying it all together so it’s a story about a character. We’re going to try and tell a story with this record. And obviously that journey will be like everything we go through in terms of personal feelings, struggling with mental illness and stuff like that. Yeah, we’re just going to try and create a universe that’s crumbling.”
With a winter election on the horizon, climate change becoming an ever prevalent issue and the threat of more unrest as Brexit looms, one imagines this crumbling universe may have more than a few similarities to our own. As Calligram’s world grows darker just like our own, their new, increasingly aggressive and blackened sound may just provide us with the musical catharsis we need.
Calligram’s new album is due early 2020. Keep scrolling for a sneak peak inside the studio.
Words: Adam Pegg