It’s challenging for any artist to get their work noticed despite the handful of tools that are available to us such as YouTube, Spotify, Facebook, Bandcamp, etc. However, the best thing anyone can do is to have fun with their creative journey and to not throw it all away due to the possibility of failure. There’s always a solution to drawbacks as change for any project is inevitable. With that said, California’s Witch Casket had gone through a handful of challenges before they released their debut EP Hatred Index earlier this year. The progressive blackened death metal outfit went through many lineup changes that included guitarist Neal Tiemann who left the band after joining DevilDriver back in 2016. However, after five years, the group has finally released new tunes that include two EPs – their debut as mentioned above and Punishment (order both here). We spoke to vocalist Drogoth about the band’s new music, their challenges, plans, and more.
You guys have been together for about five years before releasing anything, how has that process been?
Well, the very beginning of the project was five years ago, but it started very casually, with
guitarists Nylock and Neal Tiemann just getting together just to jam and write some songs in
Nylock’s studio. It wasn’t until late 2014 that I was asked to join the project and start writing and tracking vocals, and even then, it was always sort of a casual project, where we worked on it when we had time. As for the time between then and now, I guess you could just say
that LIFE happened! Nylock was involved in setting up a rehearsal and recording studio which took a lot of time, Neal was hired to write for Devildriver, and then eventually was hired full time to do guitar for that band and he had to quit due to his touring schedule. So, we had to find a replacement for him, and then hire and rehearse with other musicians, some of whom worked out and some who didn’t, prepare for live shows, plus booking and performing those. So it was just a bunch of time consuming issues that prevented us from releasing material at a faster pace. I think we learned a lot of lessons along the way about the best processes, and I think moving forward we’ll be able to release material in a much more timely manner!
What made you create two EPs within one year instead of a full-length album?
After completing the mixing and mastering process on Hatred Index we had already had a few more songs that had been tracked in the meantime, so we decided to immediately dive into mixing and mastering those tracks so that we would have more material to release as soon as possible after the debut. Since it had taken us so long to release the first EP, we thought that a faster sophomore follow up would help us keep the pace up and continue to build our name within the metal scene.
What are some of the lyrical themes for both Hatred Index and Punishment EPs?
My lyric writing style is what I describe as “dark poetry”. I don’t always deal with literal
themes, but instead focus on a loose subject, and write dark lyrical themes around that subject. You wouldn’t read one of my songs and necessarily get a “story” out of it, as much as get a general feel for something dark and aggressive. My connection with metal stems from the darkest part of my psyche, and it’s where I release all of my aggression. “Punishment”, “History of Violence” and “Hatred Index” are very much the rantings of a hatred-possessed lunatic exploding in a crescendo of aggression. Most of my songs have a somewhat anti-religion theme to them as well, as “Water” discusses the pointlessness of baptism. That said, I do sometimes take more literal subjects and explore them. “The True “Knot” is based off of a Stephen King book entitled “Dr. Sleep”, and delves into the exploits of a traveling gypsy tribe of psychic vampires that torture and kill children. “That Damn Devil” is about self-doubt, and letting your internal demons drag you down and prevent you from achieving your goals.
How would you describe your overall sound?
Witch Casket is extreme metal, influenced by Death, Black, Thrash, Melodic and Symphonic metal. I feel like we have a very diverse sound, in that our songs float through different styles of metal, but in the end, it’s all about aggressive, throat-punching metal.
Have you started working on a full length album?
We are currently writing and recording. Whether or not we release a “full length” album hasn’t really been decided. The music industry is different now, and since we have our own methods of releasing music digitally we’re not tied to writing a “full album”. Our #1 goal is build our audience, and I’m not sure that releasing a set number of songs at the same time will achieve that goal. We printed CD’s of our debut, and we didn’t sell many copies, so I’m not sure we’re looking to incur those kinds of costs until we manage to build our audience enough so that the sales justify the costs. Until then, I’m content releasing music at whatever cadence feels right, so whether that’s 3 songs or 12 songs, it doesn’t really matter until we decide we want to release music in a physical form as well as digital. We also plan to release singles, mostly of covers of other bands, just because we enjoy it, and it’s fun to put our own spin on classic songs. We just released a cover of “Screamin’ Jay” Hawkins’ classic song “I put a spell on you” and released that through Bandcamp on Halloween.
What are your plans for next year?
We’ll be focusing on writing and recording more songs, as well as booking and playing local live shows. I’d like to do some more music videos, but I don’t currently have any plans to do so. I want to see how our latest material shapes up before I decide which ones I think would work best for a music video concept.
The music video for “Punishment” is a great example that you guys aren’t afraid of stepping out of the box both musically and visually. Have you had any other unique concepts that you can share with us?
Ha! Thanks! Well, there’s never a shortage of ideas and concepts. As a visual artist I am constantly thinking of ways that we can deliver our music with compelling imagery, but it often comes down to what can be produced on a realistic budget. Music videos take a LOT of planning and a lot of people to execute, and so there are a lot of moving parts. The more ambitious the project, the more expensive and time consuming they are to produce, so I try to think about each project with realistic expectations. As I mentioned, I don’t have any music video plans currently, but as the new material shapes up, I’m definitely going to be figuring out the next steps in our visual development.
What challenges have you had so far?
Well, our first big challenge was losing Neal. He’s an incredibly talented guitarist, and an equally talented writer, so for me that was a tough hit. However, since recovering from that, I feel like we’ve got our momentum back, so our current biggest challenge is exposure. Or LACK of it, anyway. As any new band discovers, it can be REALLY hard to get your music heard. You can make 1,000 songs a year, but if you don’t have the connections to build an audience, no one will hear them. And so we’ve focused on investing in PR, but even then it takes a lot of time and a lot of releases before you really get the kind of press you need to increase your audience. So, the plan is to stay positive, and just focus on making awesome music. It can be daunting when you focus a lot of your time and energy into making music and then feeling like no one is hearing it, but I’m confident that we will continue producing amazing music and eventually we will build our audience enough to have a stronger voice within the metal scene.
Anything else you want to say/add?
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me, and helping us spread the word about Witch Casket. We are ALL OVER social media, Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Spotify, Pandora, YouTube, etc. so it’s not hard to find our music if you look for it. Horns up to all the metal legions out there, keep it fucking BRUTAL!