Black Pyramid - 10/10/2009

BLACK PYRAMID is a three-piece from Massachusetts with a stoner doom sound reminiscent of the band Sleep. The band was formed in 2007 and they released one EP which contained only two songs. Their debut album which is entitled ‘Black Pyramid’ was released in July via MeteorCity Records. The sound on ‘Black Pyramid’ can be compared with bands such as Sleep, Goatsnake and High on Fire but one can also hear elements along the lines of bands such as Mastodon, The Obsessed, Pentagram and Black Sabbath.

 

 

The band was willing to answer some questions and here you can read what they had to say to the readers of Metal-Experience.com

 

Congratulations on your debut album which was recently released. Of course we’d like to ask you a couple of questions about it.

 

Could you start this interview off with a short introduction of the band,  the origins of its name and how you guys got together?

 

Andy: I play guitar and sing.  Black Pyramid first got together after I had quit my previous band, Palace In Thunderland, and was looking to start a new one.  Clay was also looking at the same time to play the same type of music, and we found out we lived in the same area.  We started talking and conceptualizing what we wanted to do, and then we got together, and we did it.  The name came about rather quickly, because we had some demo material recorded, and we also had some gigs promoters wanted us to play, but we hadn’t really even thought about a name.  We threw around a few things that didn’t really work, then eventually I said, “What about The Eye In The Pyramid?”  And then someone else said, “What about just Pyramid?” And of course a million bands have been named Pyramid no doubt, so someone said Black Pyramid and it worked, so it stuck.

 

Clay: I play drums and twiddle knobs in the studio. I used to play drums in a band called Artimus Pyledriver a million years ago but then I moved up here and started Black Pyramid with Andy. We got together over Guinness and vodka. That about sums it up.

 

Gein: I was working with Clay in another band before I was in BP. Black Pyramid had already been playing out for a few months when I was asked to join.

 

How did you launch into writing material for your debut album and how much time did you spend on the songs?

 

Andy:  I wrote a lot of it in that period right after I left Palace, I knew I wanted to play in a new band that was heavier metal and doomier, and I knew that I wanted it to be a three piece.  The thing was, I didn’t have any songs, so I sat around listening to some of my all time favourite heavy metal records for inspiration, and then I had a marathon writing session.  That day produced the three completed demo songs, “Visions of Gehenna”, “Mirror Messiah”, and “No Life King.”  In addition, a lot of “Caravan” and “Wintermute” also came out of that session.  Clay and I worked out the arrangement and parts to “The Worm Ouroboros“ soon after, and he had a recording of some riffs he was working on that eventually became “Twilight Grave.”  “Cauldron Born“ was the last song written, besides the bonus LP only track “Macedonia”, which Gein brought in most of the riffs for one day at practice and we worked through the rest.  We spent a lot of time rehearsing the songs, but actually the ideas and arrangements flowed rather quickly, and a few small details that made the songs really shine were thought up spontaneously during rehearsal.

 

Which approach did you choose to create this album?

 

Andy: Well, we just tried to get down good basic sounds and tones that we could work with.  We wanted it to be raw, so that it sounded like how we play most of the songs live, but we also wanted to add some touches of studio magic.

 

Clay: We tried to maintain the raw integrity of the live sound while not not thumbing our nose at the sonic possibilities of  the recording studio. You obviously don't want an over-polished album that sounds vaguely like you but at the same time you don't want to sell yourself short and worry about being too polished. We recorded songs we can play live but we made them sound the way we envisioned them. If it's too slick for some folks, then gosh... that's really too bad. It breaks my heart it does.

 

 

How can we imagine you work on new songs, what's the typical writing process like for Black Pyramid?

 

Gein: One of us, generally Andy, will come to practice with a song more or less written. At that point it’s a collaborative effort to fine tune the arrangements, riffs, etc to get the song where we want it.

 

Andy:  Generally someone has a riff or song idea, and if it sounds good, we work on it.  At home, I work on coming up with one strong part or theme, and working a song around that.  If it’s too half-assed, I either discard the idea entirely, or I throw it on the backburner for possible use later.

 

Clay: Basically a raw idea gets thrown around and whipped into shape enough to be worth pursuing. Does the particular melody or structure lend itself to new possibilities? If so, we keep working until it's completed. If something deems itself as too 'stock', we just keep working on it until it's unique.

 

It seems natural for us to check our ego's at the door but I think many people couldn't handle the way that a song gets written with us. We all have thick skin so when so-and-so tells so-and-so that their idea isn't that great and to try a different angle, no one storms out of the room or gets pissy. You work to make the band sound better, not to see your stupid name next to a song title.

 

Did ideas come easily so that you just had to write them down or was it more of a careful composing thing?

 

Gein: For the songs I’ve written, the basic ideas came pretty quickly. Once the songs were brought to practice it took a little while to shape them and get them to sound the way we wanted.

 

Andy: I don’t write anything down until the instrumentation  is complete.  My theory is that if you can’t remember what you played, then it couldn’t have been very good.  There’s a bit of careful composition involved in order to get everything to work smoothly.  The ideas generally come easily, if I like an idea, I play it over and over again in my mind until I get it to sound right.  If the guitar is nearby I can actually play the parts, but I do some of my best writing just walking around randomly.

 

Clay: The idea of 'if it's a good idea, you'll remember it' is the cornerstone to good writing in my opinion no matter what genre of music in which you compose. If you have to struggle to remember a composition, chances are it wasn't so awesome.

 

What comes first, lyrics or melodies?

 

Andy: Melodies are always first, I never formally work on lyrics until all the instrumentation is finished.  If I have a melody, and a certain line of lyrics seems to naturally fit over it well, and keeps coming into my head as I work on the melodies, then yeah, I’ll definitely use that line of lyrics, because if it sticks in my head, it’s going to stick in other people’s heads as well.

 

What were the goals you had in mind when you started to record ‘Black Pyramid’, any elements you definitely wanted to have on the album?

 

Clay: The main focus was simply to convey the songs we'd written in a pure 'album' form. Sure we could have skipped an intro to the album or maybe an acoustic instrumental piece but we all come from LP loving backgrounds where an album is simply a sum of its parts.

 

It's what separates a compilation of singles recorded at the same time and calling it an LP from recording an album with a sense of cohesiveness; a linear beginning, middle and ending while conveying an unspoken theme. It's obviously not a concept album but we're definitely trying to present each song as a part of something greater.

 

Who was responsible for the lyrics on the album?

 

Andy: I wrote the lyrics.

Clay: He wrote the lyrics.

 

Can you give us some background information on the songs, is there a story behind them?

 

Sure, I can give you a little insight into them.  “Visions of Gehenna”, that’s about just getting into the world of Black Pyramid, it was the first song I wrote, and that’s what it’s about for me.  All the elements are there, the supernatural, the occult, the battles, it’s the call to arms, so to speak.  “Mirror Messiah” is the story of a false prophet, and the true prophet calling him out as such.  “No Life King” is about an ancient evil, an undead being of tremendous power, that will eventually awaken and lay waste to the world.  “Twilight Grave” is an interesting story, as it’s about a man who thinks that he somehow foresees a tragedy coming in his life, and his only way of dealing with it is to make a pact with demonic forces, but in the end, it is the demonic forces themselves that bring about the tragedy itself that he had predicted.  “The Worm Ouroboros” is inspired by the fantasy novel of the same name, if you haven’t read it, you really should.  “Cauldron Born” is based on Welsh mythology, and “Wintermute” is based on a character from the William Gibson novel “Neuromancer”, but I twisted it around a bit.  Instead of Wintermute being a computer program, I made him into an “artificial intelligence” of another type, a demi-god who thinks he has failed because he is in fact incomplete, and spends his life searching for the one thing that will complete him.

 

 

How important is it to you that people pay attention to your lyrics apart from listening to the music?

 

Andy: If you wish to get the full black Pyramid experience, then yeah, the lyrics are a big part, that’s why we printed them up and made them a part of the whole packaging.  If you really want to immerse yourself in the whole world we’re trying to create, the lyrics can’t really be separated from the instruments.

 

Clay: It's extremely important, otherwise it's incomplete to us. If you don't take your lyrics as serious as your 'riffs' then I'm not interested. It doesn't make sense to engulf yourself entirely in composing amazing music if your lyrics are simple afterthoughts or fodder.

 

What is the utmost important ingredient for a song?

 

Andy: Strong hooks. Most of the riffs and the melodies should be things that you can hum.  That’s always been my approach to songwriting.  Yeah, you have to mix things up every once in a while, use a little dissonance, a little syncopation, do the unexpected to keep the tension, but the basis for all great songwriting is just being able to write catchy songs.  Look at Black Sabbath, the reason they were so undeniably heavy was that their music was chock full of solid hooks.  Maiden, Priest, Motorhead, Metallica, all the classic metal bands had big catchy hooks in their songs.  It’s not usually the first thing that comes to mind when people think about heavy metal, but that’s what it ultimately is all about.

 

Clay: This will sound stupid no matter how I say it but 'honesty'. You have to seriously play each song like you love it, not just because it's your job. Passion and intensity are extremely huge factors as far as ingredients are concerned. If I can't stand playing a song, why bother? When I slam the shit out of my drums at a show, it's not to be a show-off; it's because I love every single fucking note that I'm hearing, playing and being a part of.

 

Gein: I think it’s important for songs to have a good, natural flow to them. It shouldn’t sound like a handful of miscellaneous riffs thrown together.

 

Do you have any favourites on the album?

 

Andy: It’s hard to evaluate your own music in those terms, and each of the songs holds its own special meaning for me.  Since “Visions” was the first I wrote, it’ll always be a favourite, and “Twilight Grave” is one I like solely because of how the vocals came out, but really my favourite would be “Wintermute”, since it sums up everything that the band is about musically in one song.

 

Clay: “Wintermute”, to me, is undeniably the best song I have ever had the pleasure of playing and recording. Hands down my favorite track.

 

Gein: “Cauldron Born” and “Macedonia” .

Have you received any feedback on the album yet?

 

Andy: Yeah, we’ve had lots of overwhelmingly positive reviews, so somebody out there seems to like the album.

 

Clay: I don't let it go to my head. It's beyond surreal to take a song from the garage into the studio and then have the ears of the world give you a thumbs up. I'm always humbled by every single positive review.

 

Are third party opinions (press, fans, etc.) on your music important to you? Or are your music and band the only things that matter?

 

Andy: Yeah, they are.  Good press means more people will hear about us, and it gives us more opportunities to make music and to go out and play shows when ultimately more people are paying attention to what we’re doing as a band.  The fans are a big part of what sustains the music and the band, so obviously they matter.  I mean, if no one at all paid attention to what we were doing, and the occasional review we got was unduly negative, it would certainly be frustrating, and it would make things more difficult for us, but we’d still be playing the same music.

 

Clay: Reviews are simply a reflection of someone's point of view, to state the  obvious. That being said, they're wonderful when you can tell that they've honestly spent time analyzing your work. I'd rather have a scathing review from someone who respects the genre and has a strong background rather than a guy who just says he downloaded it from a blog and 'it rules'. Of course I'm all for anyone who says we 'rule'.

 

Gein: To me the most important third party opinion would be that of the fans. Of course it’s cool getting positive reviews from the press… but without fans at your shows and digging your music the whole thing is a bit moot.

 

Overall, are you pleased with the outcome of the songs or would you have liked to have changed anything in retrospective? Which element of the CD are you most proud of?

 

Gein: I’m happy with the over all heaviness and thickness of the sound… as well as the definition of the different instruments. 

 

Andy: I like how the songs came out, I would have liked the vocals a little more “wet” at times, and a few more effects here and there, that’s how I’m always naturally inclined, but we did a lot of that on the first 7”, and there’s plenty of room for that on the next album.  I’m particularly proud of how the vocals for “The Worm Ouroboros” and “Twilight Grave” turned out, I’m not generally an aggressive singer, so those were a stretch for me.

 

Clay: I'm stoked to have engineered an album like this so to be frank, you'll be hard pressed for me to find fault with the way this turned out.

 

 

Can you tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of things that motivate you in your writing, your poetry, and your lyrics?

 

Andy: I guess so…I like metal, psychedelic music, progressive rock, science fiction novels and movies, swords and sorcery movies, fantasy novels, mythology, the occult, and Symbolist artwork.

 

Could you respond to the following terms in just one word or sentence:

 

Andy:

Doom : More than a feeling…

Underground : Where the good music always seems to be.

Internet : A powerful tool.

Religion : Another powerful tool.

Politics : Having two parties that are basically the opposite side of the same coin doesn’t seem to have the public’s best interests in mind.

The Netherlands : Sounds like a great place to visit, I can get mushrooms there, right?

U.S.A. : Has its ups and downs, but no other country is going to want a bum like me living there.

 

Gein:

Doom : Should be bleak and dark.
Underground : Should stay underground.
Internet : Excellent way to kill time at work.
Religion : Unnecessary.
Politics :  Not worth getting worked up about.
The Netherlands : Open to different styles of music… I’d love to tour there again.
U.S.A. A bit closed minded when it comes to music, film, books… etc.

What is your opinion on the doom scene these days? What do you think about the overload of bands at the moment and is there anything missing in the scene?

 

Andy: I think there are a lot of great bands playing one form of doom or another these days, which is cool because it brings more notoriety to the genre as a whole.  One of the things that bums me out though is that some people seem to think that the point of doom is just to play as slow as possible, and that’s not really what it’s about for me.  I’d like to see more people take feel of doom, and bring it into the more mid and up tempo realms.

 

Clay: There is overload in every scene, it's not exclusive to ours. And like Andy said, some folks just want to play as slow as possible while in other genres, they want to play as fast as possible. Yeah, that's really neat and extreme....but maybe you might want to concentrate on writing a song that people can instantly recognize and remember....but surely that's just crazy talk.

 

What can we expect from Black Pyramid in the future, any touring plans for Europe?

 

Andy: Right now we’re going to focus on gigging out in the Northeast of America, and we’ll do at least an East Coast tour in the spring.  We’d love to tour Europe, but we’d need someone to step up and help make it happen…

 

Clay: We'll play anywhere, anytime. Ring us up and we'll work it out.

 

Where do you see Black Pyramid going within the next couple of years, and where do you see your musical direction going for the next album?

 

Clay: Trying to write another album worth putting out, playing shows to folks who want to see us and tour as much as possible. So far, the entire journey has been extremely serendipitous so we're essentially staying the course.

 

Anything left to say to our readers?

 

Andy: Thanks to all of you for your continued support, we couldn’t do it without you!

 

Clay: Eternally grateful to those who support us in any way they can.

 

Thanks for your time!

Eugene Straver

 

 

Members:

Andy Beresky  - Guitar, Vocals

Gein - Bass

Clay Neely – Drums

 

Albums:

(2009) Black Pyramid