Interview w/ Ryan Henry
~by Matthew Heilman
Necare has been making waves in the relatively small and still firmly underground Doom Metal scene for a couple of years now. Based in Lynchburg, Virginia, the project is the work of Ryan Henry and Greer Cawthon and the contributions of various session players for the odd violin or female vocal passage in the past. A self-produced, four song EP entitled Ophelia appeared in 1999, followed by another self-released full-length entitled Appassionata in 2001. One of Necare’s ever-present formulas is the manner in which strong, opposing contrasts are explored lyrically and musically. Romantic love is merely a preface to spiritual torment, beauty is but a mask for ugliness, youth will wither and decay, and life is a part of death, rather than the other way around. There’s can’t be light without darkness, and the light can be truly valued only after experiencing darkness or becoming aware of its imminent threat.
These relatively bitter (though rather matter of fact) existential themes are scored by comparably contrasting musical accompaniments. Fluid guitar riffing and resonant, rhythmic chord-crunching overlap to achieve a pensive melodicism and primitive, raw directness necessary to drive the point home. Ryan’s vocals fluctuate between poetic narratives and stark growls, while Greer’s rhythms are delivered at a sluggish, lethargic pace—Doom Metal to put it simply, and of the current crop of newer Doom Metal projects and bands, Necare might be one of the most direct and easy to digest in the entire genre, next to My Dying Bride or November’s Doom. The band’s latest release, Ruin, is regarded by the band as their first ‘official’ release and is their first for the up and coming Firebox label (based in Finland). Necare has opted to take their contributions to the genre back to its early 90s ‘doom/death’ roots. As the years have gone by, new and more grandiose elements have become part of the Doom and Gothic Metal genre. Some of these elements have done wonders in adding to the emotional depths of the style. Other elements have become exhaustive and clichéd, after being overused and misinterpreted, so that the genre has now reached a point of dilution. Whatever emotive powers the genre had once been capable of, are now mostly absent. Necare has sought to preserve the more basic qualities of the ailing genre, and stripped away the experimentation, the progressive arrangements, and nixed what the metal community has as of late misconstrued to be ‘Gothic’ for something much more arcane and ultimately, effective.
Necare is a band that I have respected and appreciated for a number of years and I hope that the following Q & A session with Ryan will attract more like-minded fans to the band. Their music is honest and genuine in its inspiration, its effect, and its intention. It is simply dark art for the sake of it, and it is ultimately a cathartic expression for the musicians involved and serves as a beckon of musical solace for a vastly outnumbered pocket of dark metal fans. While there are currently a handful of groundbreaking and astonishingly dark bands active like Esoteric, Evoken, Mar De Grises, and The Funeral Orchestra that are pushing Doom into new and majestically oppressive pastures, Necare reminds us why we started listening to this music in the first place.
StarVox: Was there any conceptual goal or intention for Ruin?
Ryan: The only overarching concept, if you might call it such, is an exploration of faith and religion and their failure to provide comfort or answers in the face of mortality.
StarVox: Anything that you attempted to avoid in particular?
Ryan: We didn’t really set out to purposefully avoid anything, per se…if by that question you mean “stylistic” avoidance. On our demos, we used female singers. On Ruin, that was no longer appropriate. Not only is that “style” completely overdone, it does not suit the raw, unpolished, and ugly atmosphere we wanted to bring to prominence therein. I would like to say we successfully avoided some genre-specific clichés, but there are some in the metal press who might say otherwise.
StarVox: Why Doom/Death Metal? Why does this particular style appeal to you more than say, Gothic Metal or Funeral Doom?
Ryan: Well, that is a difficult question. Doom/Death just makes sense. It made sense to me in 1993 when it was at its “peak” and it makes sense to me now. The problem is that there are very few bands “doing it right”. We may or may not be a band that has captured a true Doom/Death feel, but we can admit that our motives are pure and our creation is one of nostalgia. The growing antipathy toward Doom/Death by many in the genre doesn’t bother me in the least. I play Doom the way I want to. You don’t have to listen, nor do you have to like it.
StarVox: I want to talk a bit about the lyrics, “Celia” in particular. Where did this idea come from? It’s a very unusual topic for a dark metal band to explore.
Ryan: It’s hard to explain, really. The protagonist, no more or less alive than a piece of statuary, is kept breathing and conscious when she should be allowed to die.
StarVox: The lyrics for “Gethsemane” are also very interesting. It’s not often that you come across lyrics that express sympathy toward Christ in the world of extreme music. Would it be fair to assume that you harbour more negative feelings for the Church as an institution as opposed to the teachings of Christ?
Ryan: There is no proof that those teachings were really his to begin with, as they are quite Aristotelian in nature and were penned in “Gospel” form years after he died. And, yes, I harbour a lot of negative feelings toward organized religion, especially in light of the Catholic Church’s unwillingness to deal with pedophiles in their clergy. The Church is about earthly power. If Jesus had intended any belief system to follow his death it would have been Gnosticism.
StarVox: The final dirge “Touching Eternity” seems to express a violent reaction to faith’s unfulfilled promises, if not an outright rejection of traditional religious faith (“Death is my religion”). Lyrically, if there is one theme that seems to underscore the entire album, I suspect it would be one of searching. And it seems that each track offers a different perspective or point of view, all culminating in “Touching Eternity.” The prior songs are examples, points of argument to support disdain for religion. How could one believe in a just god? Just ask Celia… Am I on the right track?
Ryan: Yes, you completely figured out the overall message of Ruin. Except add to searching “ending up lost, faithless, and empty-handed” and you’ve got it in a nutshell.
StarVox: Necare’s work has always been
influenced by literature to a degree.
Ryan: I have been reading a lot of poetry from the First World War. Especially Wilfred Owen (whom Darren White often cited in the lyrics to “Serenades”). He was a British officer on the Western Front, and, for a time, was in Craiglockhart Mental Hospital behind the lines for shellshock. Returned to the ranks, Owen was mowed down by a German machine gun a week before the war ended. All of his poems were published posthumously. He saw horrible things and it is reflected bluntly in his poetry, whereas other so-called “death-poets” never really experienced hell or torment first-hand. The imagery of his work was an influence on “Ruin.”
(To read Wilfred Owen’s work, please follow this link: http://www.hcu.ox.ac.uk/jtap/ )
StarVox: How did the deal with Firebox come about? Have you been satisfied with the results of the signing?
Ryan: I talked to Kostas of Pantheist, who are signed to Firebox, and asked if the label might be receptive to our music. He encouraged me to send them samples. This put me in contact with the label owner, Rami, and after hearing our full length CD he offered us a one-release contract. We have definitely been satisfied with the support from Firebox. It is a professional label by all means.
StarVox: What is the status of Necare’s two previous releases (“Ophelia” and “Appasionatta”)? Are these available in any form for new fans?
Ryan: These are no longer available. There are mp3s of those tracks still floating around on the Internet, I’m sure.
StarVox: Is performing live still completely out of the question?
StarVox: That’s really a shame. I have to say its very disappointing that so many bands are confined to studio projects. Obviously there are many obstacles—the scene is still small and spread too thin, its tough to find like-minded or skilled musicians, etc. And of course, we are all supposedly maladjusted hermits that never want to leave our houses, but seriously, it really sucks that so few Doom bands ever play out or tour! Its personal music, yes, but I can only imagine how powerfully emotive it would be to hear a band like Necare perform live with a full-band.
Ryan: It would probably be more chaotic than anything resembling emotive. I am no entertainer.
StarVox: With playing live out of the question, what are some of your plans or goals for the future of Necare?
Ryan: It’s really too early to tell at this point, but we are already planning another recording.
StarVox: How is that shaping up? Any insight you would be willing to share?
Ryan: We haven’t started writing anything yet, but we were recently discussing an “EP” with one or two full-length songs and a cover song, perhaps Saturnus’ “I Love Thee”, if we can get the rights to do it.
Since this interview took place, Necare has sold nearly 700 copies of Ruin since April. Ryan has also recently contributed vocals for the forthcoming Draconian release. http://www.draconian.se
Additionally, Ryan has just finished work on a solo studio project of Funeral Doom metal under the moniker Reclusiam. The album can be downloaded here: http://www.necare.net/reclusiam/
Greer has also been busy at work on his
own progressive metal project, called Vanquish. Apparently, the band
will be playing live in the Virginia area in the near future.
Necare – Official Site: