A conversation with PHOBETOR
Interview by Meathook Mike
Hailing from England and producing Blackened Death Metal since their formation in 2018 are PHOBETOR. Having released two albums WHEN LIFE FALLS SILENT and THROUGH DEEPEST FEARS AND DARKEST MINDS making an impact on the extreme music scene, I decided to reach out and speak to the band about their origins, influences, future music plans and of course about some Horror too.
Debora Conserva - Vocals
Ross White - Guitar
Dredgewood - Bass
Marc Dyos - Drums
Ben Ash - Guitar (live)
HMS: Tell us about how the band came about? How did you recruit the musicians and were they known to you or did you put the word out to get them?
DEBORA: The idea to create the band started when I met Mitch Revy in London and we started discussing music and songs ideas. From there we started writing the songs which then formed our first album 'When Life Falls Silent'. After the first album Mitch left to pursue other interests and Ross White joined the band, and his songwriting brought the band towards an even heavier sound. Marc and Ross have been working together for years on various music projects which made the transition very smooth and exciting.
HMS: The band's name has Greek origins meaning "frightening". This is reflected in the songs and how they are structured and delivered. Who writes the songs? Is it a collaboration between all members or does the music writing fall with a specific member or members?
MARC: It starts with Ross structuring some riffs and sending them over to me to write drum parts, then once we are happy with that, Debora will write the vocals and Dredgewood will sort out the bass parts. We always fully demo the songs before we enter the studio.
HMS: You've had a change in line up since your formation, has this altered the band's sound and songwriting styles? Or were the songs already in place for the second album?
DEBORA: The introduction of Ross White in the band has definitely shifted the band towards a heavier sound with chuggy riffs and heavy breakdowns. The songs for the second album were not in place yet when Mitch left. All the songs for album 2 were composed after Ross joined the band.
MARC: Mitch was more into the progressive, groove oriented riffs and song structures, so when Ross joined he retained certain aspects of that but pushed it more towards a blackened death metal sound, which is the direction Debora and I wanted the band to go musically.
HMS: You've been on the scene since 2018 and released 2 albums in 2020 and 2021 How have they been received?
DEBORA: We've had positive feedback both from the recordings and playing the songs live. Obviously two albums in such a short space of time is quite unusual, but when we had the line-up change we wanted to start writing straight away, and the follow-up album 'Through Deepest Fears and Darkest Minds' came together quite quickly.
HMS: You have a settled line up now and recruited a second guitarist for shows to perform the songs. Was this a decision based on not being able to find the right guitarist being available full-time or was the musical balance already in place and a guitarist to play live a better choice for the band?
MARC: When Ross joined the band after the first album 'When Life Falls Silent' was released, the primary objective was to start writing the next album with the new line-up. Then we were in the throes of covid lockdown so playing live wasn't on the horizon, so we didn't need to rush into recruiting a second guitarist. When 'Through Deepest Fears and Darkest Minds' came out in December 2021 and the covid restrictions had generally eased, we were able to plan for playing live to promote the album, which is when we approached Ben Ash. We'd known Ben from the local metal scene for many years, and we also knew his calibre of playing, having performed with bands such as Carcass, Satyricon, and Strigoi. Having a second guitarist live always helps to thicken up the sound with metal bands, but Ben has also helped to develop certain riffs and lead parts for the live arena.
HMS: Who are your influences as individual musicians?
DEBORA: My favourite band has been Behemoth for quite a few years now and I appreciate their musicianship from the newer to the oldest releases; however one of my favourite albums from them (and probably of any band) is 'The Demigod'. My taste in music became more and more extreme over the years and have come to enjoy bands such as Nile, Napalm Death, Bloodbath, Watain, Belphegor etc.
MARC: My influences have always been quite varied, but in terms of metal bands Paradise Lost are probably my all-time favourite, having first got in to them around the Icon era. From a drumming perspective my biggest influences in metal through the years include Adrian Erlandsson, Dave Lombardo, Igor Cavalera, Pete Sandoval, Lee Morris, and many more.
ROSS: From my teens I have been a thrash guy so stuff like Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth etc were big influences on my early learning to play guitar. From there I branched out into heavier stuff like Carcass, Napalm Death, At The Gates etc as well as more Gothic stuff like Paradise Lost and Type O Negative and more groove based stuff like Pantera, Machine Head and Sepultura. These days I listen to everything from power metal to grindcore, prog to electronic, doom to acapella music. I guess it all subconsciously influences my playing and writing to some degree.
DREDGEWOOD: Much like Ross, very attached to the thrash scene from my teens onwards. I started out playing as varied as possible - Anthrax, Megadeth - I was also attempting RHCP at the time. I've got to show some love for Steve Harris of course! I grew into more extreme metal and became more influenced by my peers more than well-known bands. I met some magnificent Southern German death metal bands Fleshcrawl and Revel in Flesh while I was with MeatTrain who opened up new sounds. Nowadays I'm usually listening to Obituary, Lamb of God, and whatever Ben finds on his travels he's usually got some great stuff to show us. Tool put up a good challenge to play for practice with their rhythms. All sorts really.
HMS: Your vocal style is very guttural. Was this a style that you discovered you could do or did you work on it to get it where it is now?
DEBORA: I've learned extreme vocals by myself however my previous training in classical singing which was an important stepping stone to understand and use proper technique. I found that naturally I would gravitate towards lower growl vocals which were the ones that came easier to me. I had to work a bit more on my higher range over the years.
HMS: Do you have a routine you follow for your vocals and warm-up and care routine, or do you just go and do it?
DEBORA: I do have a very simple and brief warm-up routine. I always make sure I spent a few minutes warming up to make sure I do cause myself any strain as extreme vocals can be quite demanding.
HMS: Debora, You just did a cover of an Angela Gossow era Arch Enemy song We Will Rise. How did that come about and how did you prepare for the recording; was it a song you were already familiar with?
DEBORA: I was asked by Ollie from Kettle Brew Studios to do a collaboration on this song and have really enjoyed it. It was one of the songs I used to sing along when I first started learning extreme vocals due to its simplicity, so it was already quite familiar to me.
"The recording stage bring out your creativity, whereas the live stage represents both a connection to fellow members of the band as well as the audience."
HMS: I see that you are in the writing stages for a new album, what can people expect in terms of the songs, will they be a continuation in the style you have or will there be a change in style?
MARC: Having performed the songs from 'Through Deepest Fears and Darkest Minds' in a live setting, I think we all agreed on where the next release would take us musically. Not a drastic change, but an organic change from seeing what songs and certain parts work well live etc.
HMS: When you record do you rehearse the songs first or are they written and recorded as you develop them?
MARC: With the first album 'When Life Falls Silent' most of the songs were rehearsed and performed live prior to recording, but with 'Through Deepest Fears and Darkest Minds' that wasn't an option due to covid restrictions. Once all the songs are demoed I'd imagine this time around we will give them a play through before we enter the studio to record.
HMS: Which do you prefer the live stage or recording and why?
DEBORA: I enjoy both. The recording stage bring out your creativity, whereas the live stage represents both a connection to fellow members of the band as well as the audience.
HMS: The pandemic stopped a lot of bands in their tracks and the music scene in general, particularly the new or up and coming bands on the club/ underground circuit. How are you finding things now?
MARC: It is very tough these days, both for more established bands and newer bands. More and more venues are closing, less opportunities for touring, increasing expenses.
HMS: The internet is obviously a major part of life now and bands can benefit from the instant worldwide exposure, it can also be to the detriment of bands in as much as you release new music and it's out there for the world and usually available at no cost. What is your view on this; does it make it hard for you to break through and make a living from your music?
MARC: The growth in social media and the change in how we all pay for and listen to music over the last decade make it a very different music business to what it was in the past. The whole industry is trying to adapt and we are no different. Don't get me wrong, I don't believe the music industry has ever been easy to navigate and make a living from. We only tend to hear the success stories, but for every big name band who 'made it' there's always hundreds or thousands of others who fall under the radar. That said, we can all see that even established bands are now struggling to make enough money to survive, and are (obviously through management, labels and promotors) bringing out an ever-increasing range of merch, hiking up merch and ticket prices. The internet does give a step-up for getting your music out there to a potential audience, but because it is relatively easy to record and release an album 'at home' there are thousands of other bands all doing the same thing. A decent PR company is still as important now as they ever were, butthey are also evolving to suit the modern music industry.
HMS: What bands are you all listening to at the moment? Are there any bands that are grabbing your attention?
DEBORA: Lately I have been listening to more black metal, particularly Watain, Belphegor and Marduk.
MARC: The band that most recently caught my attention are 1914 from Ukraine. First World War themed blackened death metal. What's not to like? Otherwise I tend to listen to old school death metal bands such as Morbid Angel, Entombed, Obituary, At the Gates, but have also enjoyed the more recent albums from Strigoi, Napalm Death, and Bloodbath.
HMS: We love heavy music and Horror movies here at Horror Metal Sounds. Are you Horror fans?
DEBORA: Absolutely! I love sci-fi/horror especially movies that depict a dystopian scenario such as 'Annihilation' or 'Automata' because it forces us to think about the consequences of our own actions as species as well as highlighting contemporary anxieties and fears.
HMS: To each of you, what are your favourite Horror films and why?
DEBORA: My favourite sci-fi horror movie is 'Transcendence' because it plays on the fear of how technology could take over our humanity and depicts how the world could look like if overtaken by machines. It is very interesting because it is not that distant from the direction our society is moving towards and therefore makes us reflect on real fear and anxieties about the future.
ROSS: My favourite horror films tend to be more in the sci-fi/horror vein, for example the first few 'Alien' Movies, first couple of 'Terminator' movies, 'The Thing', 'Ex-Machina', 'The Platform' and 'Event Horizon'. I also very much enjoy the more silly horror films like 'Evil Dead 2', 'Nightmare On Elm Street' and 'American Werewolf in London' plus obviously classics like 'Exorcist', 'The Omen', 'The Shining' etc. I just watched 'Talk To Me' the other day and very much enjoyed that. One of the better modern horror films I have seen in years. I am a big fan of 'BlackMirror' (although that ' obviously a series rather than a movie) and I really enjoyed Guillermo Del Toro's 'Cabinet Of Curiosity' series as well. So looking forward to new episodes from both of those series.
MARC: Similar to Ross actually, the classic 'Alien' and 'Terminator' movies. Some of the Stephen King films like 'IT', 'Carrie', 'The Shining' etc. Debora watches quite a few horror films so I tend to glance them over her shoulder rather than watch them, usually whilst I'm reading, watching something else, or writing drums.
DREDGEWOOD: My guilty pleasures are the definitely the eastern horrors. 'The Conjuring' series etc are pretty good for fairly recent horrors, but I do like the tropey cliched of the series 'Sweet home' as well as 'Ichi the Killer', original 'The Grudge'. Psychological horrors are more my thing than outright blood fests, they wore a bit thin after 'Braindead' etc in my teens.
HMS: Do you have a guilty musical pleasure? For example do you like a genre of music that people would be surprised to know you enjoy or perhaps you like musicals?
DEBORA: Of course! I love love love Green Day and no matter how trash talked they get, I'll always love them. For me they represent a nostalgia for childhood as they are the first band I've learned to love during my childhood years.
MARC: As I said earlier, my music taste is quite varied, and part of that is definitely synth/electronic music. If you hear any piano or strings parts on the Phobetor albums, that's me tinkering with the synth.
HMS: Thank you for taking time to speak with us. Is there anything you'd like to say to everyone out there reading this?
DEBORA: I know we love to talk about the dark side of life through our music and lyrics, however those art forms are able to exorcise the demons we have buried in our minds, those experiences that have made us suffer in various ways, but music and the poetry of lyrics are a way to make sense of the pain and to channel it towards something beautiful, which is music. We are extremely grateful to everyone who has helped us and joined us on this journey.
Meathook Mike, HMS