Thorns Of The Carrion
Surprise! I bring you more Doom! Though it is only natural to assume that the integrity of any form of underground music will be diluted when it reaches a more accessible surface, it is actually a shameful disservice to music lovers the world over to allow bands of such unquestionable talent to remain undiscovered. Thus is my intent in consistently bringing the doom metal scene to the attention of fans of dark music, whatever preference or persuasion in question. Until my efforts are all but exhausted, I hope to continue to shed light on this scene and hopefully acquire more faithful fans that seek to quench their thirst for something honest, dark, and gorgeously sinister.
With that said, I present Thorns Of The Carrion, one of the most ambitious dark metal bands active today. With an uncompromising dedication to their art and a sincere and old-fashioned intellect at the heart of the music they create, they are already and destined to continue to be one of the most important assets to the sustenance of the doom metal genre. They faithfully capture the dreary yet passionate essence of the ‘Gothic’ aesthetic in a brilliant, captivating manner. The band is responsible for the seminal release “The Scarlet Tapestry,” an impressive work of conceptual genius honouring the craft of not only music, but also Romantic poetics. Allen Scott, founding member, guitarist, and primarily lyricist for the Cincinnati outfit has graciously shared his insight upon the band and the various themes and philosophies that foster the continued growth and development of the band. Though the following interview is indeed a lengthy and dense account, Allen’s genuine enthusiasm and excitement animates his words and offers a fascinating analysis of the band’s heady past and promising future, not to mention a very generous and thorough analysis of the concept behind “The Scarlet Tapestry.” If you are looking for raw and unbridled emotion, melancholy and despair at its most beautiful and classic epitome, you have no further to investigate than Thorns Of The Carrion.
Starvox: Thorns Of The Carrion has been working very hard since the early nineties. Still unsigned yet with an unquestionably loyal following, how has the band managed to stay focused and stick it out all these years?
Allen: I guess we could have turned our back on the scene, or changed musical directions and cashed in like so many others, but we love music, and creating a passionate form of art is all the incentive we need. Creating the art is the most important aspect of the band, not compromising, and having the freedom to write the most depressing songs we can. Label or not, I could easily foresee Thorns becoming a band that continues on for many more years, making music for ourselves. Yet at this point, having a label is the best thing for the band, and we are actively seeking a deal right now. To make enough money to concentrate just on music and to expose the bands music to more people who would like what we are doing is important enough for us to be a signed act now. We'll see what happens....
Starvox: So far what has been the high point of Thorns Of The Carrion’s career?
Allen: Probably the "high" point for me is just the friendships I have created within the band and all the people we have met abroad. I take nothing for granted, and to be able to sit down and write music with the talented musicians in this band at any time is a high point in more ways than one.
Starvox: How is the project Estuary Of Calamity related to Thorns Of The Carrion?
Allen: I’ll try to brief, Estuary of Calamity started back in 1992 under the name Necrolatry (Thorns was called Carrion Lord then) and put a few demos out in 1993. I was doing mail with Ash Thomas of Necrolatry (bassist/vocals) and his brother Marquis was into Carrion Lord, which led to him playing keyboards and me changing the name to Thorns of the Carrion. Later on, Ash joined Thorns as well, and both bands did shows together from 1993-1996, practiced together, and hung out together, etc.
In 1996, Estuary split, and Leslie Anderson (keys/harp/flute) joined Thorns full-time, and much later Brad Howard (bass) did as well. In 1999, Estuary of Calamity got back together, put "The Sentencing" album out, and to this day still features three members in Thorns of the Carrion. Just as we always have, we practice, party, and tour together like one big family, which later on included The Vladimirs, which features Ash and Marquis Thomas as well. All three bands sound completely different, and we all support each other to the death...
Starvox: The band released an album by the name of "Gardens Of Dead Winter"back in 1993, which was an excellent and quality release for the time it was written. Yet that release is often not acknowledged. Why is that?
Allen: The band had changed from Carrion Lord to Thorns of the Carrion in Sept. 1993, and with a new line-up we finally had the music direction we wanted, yet not the skill or time to develop it. Thus, "The Gardens of Dead Winter" was written and recorded in less than 3 months. The basic premise of Thorns is all there, but not until "The Willow Weeps for Me" demo from early 1995 did the band pull it all together, and we consider "The Willow..." demo to be our finest moment back then. It featured the core line-up of "The Scarlet Tapestry" era, which is still together to this day.
Unfortunately, "The Gardens of Dead Winter" didn't die a quick death in the scene like we should have let it. In 1994 it was licensed to Wild Rags Records in California, and found a new life, which is odd, but it’s still available from a lot of places today. It’s really basic doom/death metal, very poetic, entirely our style, but very primitive. It’s not an album, just a really long demo that got re-released on CD. It’s not horrible, but like I said, we were very young then (Marquis was 14 then, he's 22 now) and didn't know how to play very well. We all grew up in this band over that time, and we have progressed tenfold over every year that passes.
Starvox: The 1997 release "The Scarlet Tapestry" is hailed an underground doom classic. Though you have said that you wished to leave the concept of the album open ended for a fan's personal interpretation, could you be convinced to elaborate at all upon where the band was mentally when the album and lyrics were being composed, now that many years have passed since its release?
Allen: The basic idea for "The Scarlet Tapestry" began in 1994, and in actuality is based on my fascination with history and literature, and in particular, the story of Ivan the Terrible from the Moldavian/Wallachia area (Transylvania).
Ivan the Terrible was a prince (much
like Vlad Tepes) that tried to rid his people of the Tartars, and various
hordes that ran his country. He sent his wife away, fought his last
fight, and then was drawn and quartered. It began as my appreciative nod
to Bram Stoker, Sheridan LeFanu, E.F.Benson, August Derleth, Lord Byron,
Mary Shelley, etc. To try and write a short story or novella based on the
vampire myth, and in our case, write a whole album of dark, passionate
music behind it.
Yet it’s not that simple. "The Scarlet Tapestry" (and our current project "The Shadow Masque") does follow a storyline, but it also contains very personal comments. It is a very detailed and complex album, but looking back, it is basically a story of life, and the myriad of emotions we must endure. Life in its nature is a very tragic endeavor, we all must perish, no matter how poor or famous we become. We endure because the alternative is nothing (that is for another time to discuss) and the joy that is intermingled within all the bad times is enough for us to keep grasping for more. "The Scarlet Tapestry" is the fulfillment of this philosophy, and every single member of the band put everything they could into it. With Thorns of the Carrion, you must remember there is always a story behind the story.
Starvox: The band had at one point planned to release a short novel to accompany the release of "The Scarlet Tapestry," but the idea fell through. Has there ever been any more discussion regarding the novel and if it will ever see the light of day?
Allen: Was there ever a finished, actual written novel for "The Scarlet Tapestry?" No. The plan for the novel is the album outline, the lyrics are my narration, and the CD cover is the book cover. I poured my heart and soul into "The Scarlet Tapestry," and could have easily finished the novella. But I feel the album says it all. I don't think every idea can translate well into different areas of art. The idea for "The Scarlet Tapestry” as a book was good to mediocre, but it could never compare to the album, Thorns of the Carrion is what made that idea complete for me. For "The Willow Weeps for Me" demo (1995), we combined literature and metal together to form a unique experience, which fed off both the short story and the music. I look at music, art, literature, and even new technology as tools in the creative process. Everything is a means to an end, an idea may not be completed with only music, it may need art to enhance the feeling, or a story to tell it’s tale.
Starvox: You must believe that literature and metal can overlap. The track "Carmilla" is based on the original story by Sheridan Le Fanu. Where and how long ago did you discover the story and how did you go about making a musical counterpart to it?
Allen: I was re-discovering some childhood favorites so to speak, and stumbled backupon "Carmilla" by Sheridan Le Fanu. I had been a fan of "The Hunger" movie with Susan Surandon and David Bowie as well, and when the music and lyrics for what became "Carmilla" was evolving over a period of years, I saw the movie again and finished the song. So most of it Le Fanu's story, and the other part "The Hunger.” The main part of the song was written in 1993 or 1994, but it never saw the light of day until 1998. It was an older song that had a gothic metal type of feel, and the mood of the song fit with the idea for "Carmilla" well.
Starvox: The metal genre is often portrayed in a very negative and clichéd light. Many people have a difficulty shedding the stigmas of eighties heavy metal and atypical satanic death metal. Yet your music is so overwhelmingly emotional and sports an intellect with the literary and mythological origins of the lyrics. In what other ways do you think Thorns Of The Carrion (and doom metal in general) supports the overlooked integrity of metal music?
Allen: I think of doom metal as a very honest style within metal, it’s meant to convey the sadness in our lives in a modern world. The coldness of despair and heartache, and the slow grind of life. Doom Metal will always exist as long as metal does, and I think any band that has supported the scene and takes the time to bring something new to it, will bring integrity to the scene. The thing with doom metal in particular, is that it has always existed within the metal scene, and outside of it at the same time. What I believe to be doom metal may not fall in line with what others believe. A lot of people would not even consider us doom metal, though we are not just a death metal band, or gothic rock, or a traditional type metal band. We have always fallen between the cracks. It’s a good point, yet I don’t see the "community" I saw back in the late 80's/early 90's with underground metal among the fans. Within the bands, it’s a closer-knit group than ever. But things changed over the years. Thorns of the Carrion is a metal band, we are all metal heads from way back and that we'll never change, but that sense of "belonging" to a scene kind of disappeared. "Metal" will exist with or without us, but hopefully when it’s all said and done, we can say we brought something new to the scene, made some quality metal, and maybe brought a little more integrity to the metal community.
Starvox: There are several members in the band, which leads to a dense and fairly complex sound. When performing live, is it difficult to recreate the atmosphere of the album? Does Leslie bring along her harp and recorders?
Allen: In late 1997 and throughout 1998, we performed concerts with the flute and harp pieces live, but it always presented a problem with sound. We had "metal" sound guys looking at us like we were fucking crazy; they had never set up a flute live, or a harp. So we changed the band around a bit, Marquis went from keys to guitar and vocals, Leslie took over all of the key parts, and Brad went from guitar to bass. We split with original vocalist Matt Chapman in 1999 after 7 years, but Ash took over his vocal parts while \on drums still. Though we don’t do the album live precisely to the CD, we have had many people tell us they liked us live a lot more than on CD. We still do the flute/recorder parts live, and we've beefed up our sound as well with a new keyboard synth. So though it’s not the album live, it is still very true to the originals, and we come across a million times heavier live.
Starvox: Throughout the writing process (which according to your CD's liner notes can take over a year before the band is satisfied with a particular song) is there a system that enables the band to smoothly write music? Do you ever argue about how to arrange a song?
Allen: In almost 8 years now since we started, we have never had an argument, were all friends who just happen to write really heavy music. There is no writing system per se, but it usually revolves around a guitar melody or riff. Marquis and I sit around and smoke a lot of weed, work out arrangements for the song or album, and then we go to the next practice to work it out with Ash on drums. Once we get it down, it goes on tape for the rest of the band to learn, and write their parts. Once it starts taking shape a title is hatched, we work out vocal melodies, and then lyrics follow. It’s about a three-month time frame, but some songs may drag for years until we are completely happy withthem.
Starvox: One of the most intriguing and overwhelming aspects to your music (and quality doom metal) is the guitar sound. How do the overlapping melodies and harmonizing of the guitar riffs develop?
Allen: Either Marquis or myself comes up with a riff, then we write a counter melody for that (for the most part) and then Leslie adds another keyboard or flute melody, then bass lines. Even though Ash is a drummer, he is probably the best guitarist in the band, and he also writes some solos for us, or counter melodies as well. A memorable riff is the key, or a really heavy chord progression to branch out from. We just try to be melodic, and make the songs make sense, no outlandish guitar solos or repeating a riff 5 thousand times just because it is good. I like the guitars to have that thick as mud, wide-open distortion as a backdrop to the keys, flute, and vocals, etc. That is going on in a song.
Starvox: "Eve Songs" is the latest E.P. from the band. The music is slightly more varied and of a faster pace then usual. Was this intentional?
Allen: I believe that no matter what we think it should sound like, it’s always going to turn out differently than we imagined. We wanted to be more over the top, with more of a live feel, but the music really dictates the sound and tempo. A song like "Naomi's Waters" or "Carmilla" wouldn't have had that same edge to it slow, and the song would have dragged too much. There's no sense taking a good 5 minute song, and slowing it down to make it more "doom" metal friendly.
Starvox: Some older fans were taken aback by the sudden shift of pace. Yet the mood of the music is consistently depressive and darkly seductive and the "faster" moments are rather sparse truthfully. Why do you suppose fans were at first skeptical? Could not a doom band stand for an occasional bout of faster intensity to accentuate the mood and still be considered doom metal?
Allen: Well, since day one on all of our recordings we have always had some “speed” elements. If Thorns of the Carrion played fast all of the time like older Immortal, it’s still going to sound fuckin' miserable, and be depressing, that’s just the nature of how we write music. I'm not going to mention names, but I think a lot of other bands abandoned what their fans thought they were all about. When our older fans heard "Naomi's Waters" I'm sure a few of them thought, here we go again. Yet, the sound from the bands past is there. Everything we record from here on out is going to sound different each time, but it’s still Thorns of the Carrion. I mean, just because we grew as musicians and people, we never changed who we are as a band or individuals. Our philosophy on life or music hasn't changed at all, 90% of the time Thorns of the Carrion is a doom metal band, but it's that other 10% that I feel makes us truly unique.
Starvox: You are planning a few new releases for later this year. The first is “The Story Of The Leaves” and later another epic full-length “The Shadow Masque.” How will these albums differ from one another? What can you tell us about their directions or concepts?
Allen: “The Shadow Masque” is an eleven track doom metal “opera.” It’s on the same scale as “The Scarlet Tapestry” but more complex, and with eleven complete songs, no interludes. It’s more involved than “Eve Songs” of course, but stylistically it is a mixture of both CD’s. We recorded “The Story of the Leaves” just a few days ago. It’s just a very old song that was supposed to come out after “Willow…” in 1996/1997 sometime, but it got pushed behind “The Scarlet Tapestry” and almost one year in the studio. It’s getting put on CD with “The Willow Weeps for Me” and “Darkness in the Elegy Season” demo tapes from 1995, completely remastered. “The Story of the Leaves” is the last chapter in “The Willow Weeps for Me” short story that came out with the original demo, and we should have it out by May.
Another new song we recorded called “A Relic of Joy” will be released though the mp3.com site, with a sort of “best of” Thorns of the Carrion theme. Just a sampler of songs from all of our CD’s and “A Relic of Joy,” which is a older song from a few years back as well. Unfortunately, “The Shadow Masque” is going to require a couple hundredhours in the studio just like “The Scarlet Tapestry” and won’t see the light of day for another year or so without label support.
Starvox: Though the process has been slow, it seems that Gothic Doom metal is currently starting to receive the attention it deserves. Do you foresee the genre expanding and coming more to the forefront of the metal underground in the upcoming years? Would you be uncomfortable if it started to gain a larger, less concentrated following?
Allen: I think quality bands get
the support they deserve, the ones that transcend a genre and create something
unique. A big scene doesn’t happen without a few great bands, and when
that larger scene dies those bands go on. When we started Thorns
of the Carrion there was no label such as “gothic doom metal” or “gothic
metal.” We were just fans of bands like Fields of the Nephilim, Sisters
of Mercy, old Nosferatu, The Cure, etc, but diehard metal fans. We do what
we like, and I think gothic doom metal is a fair description, but it doesn’t
describe the full scope of what we write or sound like. Bands like
Paradise Lost transcend their genres, survive past the initial “scene”
and continue to write great music, I mean [the brand new Paradise Lost
release] “Believe in Nothing” is fucking brilliant. If “gothic metal” becomes
bigger, and brings whatever success, fine, it would be great to make money.
Yet, I’m not holding my breath, the original fans of any scene will survive
with the bands, and grow with them. The people that are there just
for the “trend” will eventually move on, it never has nor will it
Starvox: In terms of your outlook on the world, how much of the lyrical depictions are fantasy (or theatrical) and how much of it is your own belief?
Allen: We all live in a very modern world, but my heart is of a poet. Dealing with all the shit in this world lends itself to me writing in a very elaborate, poetic style. As I have said, with Thorns of the Carrion there is always more than one story behind our lyrics. I write from the heart, and I pour as much emotion as possible into my writing, lyrically and musically.
In my world, the fantastical and theatrical always collide into raw misery, and I create music as an escape from this world. I think when you succeed in music, it is when you write something that takes another person into another state of mind, or emotionally touches that person in a sincere way. Everything I touch is in some way backed by my beliefs, nothing is fake or false. Everything can be reduced to its most basic, primal emotion. Like everyone else in this world, I know what it is like to lose someone close, or fight depression, or to be lonely, I just deal with it a bit differently. We are all bound by the tragedy we must endure in our lives. We all share a common thread. Even though I may write about a fictional character, say as in “Carmilla,” where you know the story, and it’s source. It conveys a feeling, whether it’s sad, beautiful, or grotesque. I tell the story from my perspective; I make it personal while at the same time telling the tale.
Starvox: Obviously, the emotion in this music as portrayed by your band and the other artists that are active in this genre stem from loss, fear, suffering, sadness: a wide array of personal grievances. I ask you then, through your eyes, what can save this world? What are some of the sacred things left on this earth that you cling to? What hobbies ormore personally, what hopes do you harbor that get you through the days?
Allen: Everything must die, you,
me, the person reading this interview, the earth, the sun, everything.
Who am I to say what this world needs to be saved? Because I am not really
a part of it. It’s going to end no matter what I say or do. As I go through
life, the only thing of importance is happiness. I find great joy in my
wife, my friends, music, drugs, sex, art, etc. My world revolves around
what brings me happiness; it’s what gets me through the day. I think true
art is sacred, because it offers us the chance to live beyond our years
for a time. Love is sacred, friendship, good weed, ha ha ha ha. Seriously,
I am an optimist, I look for the good in everyone and I always think everything
will be okay. A lucky man is one who finds true joy in life, and I feel
lucky. But my motivation is the fact is that it will end, that nothing
is forever. Thorns of the Carrion is the harbinger of that end, we revel
in the innate sadness of mortality. We play music for all the funerals
that will follow. The happiness I find in this world is my own, but the
heartache and pain I find is there for all to hear. In the
end, I can say I brought nothing but sadness and misery to this world.
Could there be a better way to be remembered?
Thorns Of The Carrion (2000 line-up)
Allen Scott: rhythm/lead guitar and backing vocals
Ash Thomas: drums and vocals
Leslie Thomas: keyboards, flute, and harp
Brad Howard: bass
Marquis Thomas: rhythm/lead guitar and vocals
Thorns Of The Carrion – Official Homepage:
Thorns Of The Carrion – Mp3 Site:
Thorns Of The Carrion
* Both the “The Scarlet Tapestry” ($12) and “Eve Songs” ($8) are available directly from the band. Inquire at the email address or web sites above!