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Formed in the winter of 2008 in the frigid northern woodlands of Arizona, Unholy Baptism was originally a guitar/drums black metal project. The goal was to blend mid 2000’s new wave black metal with the grim tone of the early Norwegian scene. The band eventually became a three-piece, as Moloch agreed to contribute lead guitar in 2009. A five track EP was recorded early in 2010 and was subsequently followed by multiple shows in Flagstaff, AZ. Later in 2010 the band went on hiatus due to a variety of circumstances, but was reformed in 2012. Mantus and Moloch decided that the project would be recording-only and began the arduous process of re-evaluating both the band’s sound and tone. While the tone has taken multiple turns, it was eventually decided to blend the ambient, haunting melodies commonly found in both black and doom metal, with the mid-tempo riffing reminiscent of the early Norwegian black metal scene. Currently, their first studio LP, entitled “…On the Precipice of the Ancient Abyss” is available as a free download at http://unholybaptism.bandcamp.com Read my interview with them below:
XS ROCK: Tell me about the latest band news? Any new projects coming out, live shows or announcements?
Mantus: Yeah, we definitely have a lot going on right now! We just released our first full length album, entitled …On the Precipice of the Ancient Abyss, and we’re already working on our next full-length album. We’ve been spending quite a bit of time over the last month or so really focusing our marketing efforts and really trying to get the word out about our music. We also got a sweet new webpage designed and have been trying to update the news section as much as possible.
XS ROCK: How long has the band been together?
Moloch: I joined the band in the Fall of 2009, taking over guitar duties so that Mantus could focus on Vocals and Bass, with Hate on Drums. The three of us recorded an eponymous demo in early 2010, with a very raw Garage-Black Metal sound reminiscent of early Mayhem. For the next 6 months or so, we played a handful of live shows in Flagstaff, AZ in order to promote our demo. However, due to the lack of an extreme metal scene and the fact that each of the members was in college and working a full time job, we had to put the band on hold for a few years. Upon resuming our work in 2012, Mantus and I made the difficult but amicable decision of changing the band into a two-piece project focused solely on recording. This change was primarily due to an evolution in our sound and direction. From then until March of 2017, we have been busy creating our first full album “On The Precipice of the Ancient Abyss…”, which has been a long and educational process. Developing our own unique sound and then writing, recording, mixing and mastering over an hour of deeply personal music has been difficult but extremely satisfying, and we are eager to share it with the world. Now that this album is available, we have returned to the most enjoyable part of the process and we are busy writing our next album.
XS ROCK: What was your main motivation for starting or being in a band?
Mantus: I have always been of the opinion that – for true musicians and artists – music is not something you want to do, music is something you have to do. Most human beings need some form of self-expression, and for me, music has always been a form expressing thoughts and ideas.
As far as metal music goes, I’ve always been a huge fan of metal. I bought my first extreme metal album when I was like 12, and I was hooked. When I first started getting into it, I would go to the record store we had in town with what little money I could scrounge up at the time and buy albums with just the most sick and twisted album covers I could find. I mostly listened to death metal for a few years, and once I discovered black metal, I knew I found the type of music and culture that would encompass the rest of my life.
I love the aesthetic of black metal and the DIY aspects of it. When you look back and some of the pioneers of the genre – Mayhem, Darkthrone, Burzum, etc. – those guys did a lot of their work on virtually no budget and created an entirely new genre with a couple of guitars and some corpse paint.
Moloch: I’ve played music since I was in elementary school, and I have always had a creative drive. As my personal perspective and philosophy has developed over time, I’ve just been drawn to expressing myself through the medium of Black Metal.
XS ROCK: What is your music background?
Mantus: I had been in choir throughout elementary school and middle school, so I have a pretty extensive background in vocals. I hadn’t really played too many instruments until I was about fifteen. I met a couple guys through some mutual friends, both of whom played guitar, and I think we initially set it up to do cover songs, but it became obvious very quickly that we should be playing in a death metal band. One of the guys had a non-brand specific bass and a 10-watt practice amp, so I decided to pick up the bass as well as taking on vocal duties. I’m entirely self-taught on bass, guitar and what little knowledge of drums I do have, which I think was important for me to do, as it allowed me to work at my own pace instead of someone else’s pace.
I was also the one who primarily recorded our most recent album. I am extremely serious about pursuing a career in music, be it audio engineering or performing, working at or owning my own label; music is something I am very passionate about. Learning how to record, mix and master my own music has given me an invaluable experience that has really boosted my understanding of music as a whole.
Moloch: I learned the basics of music in elementary school, playing Trumpet, French Horn, Piano, and eventually Violin. Nothing really stuck until the Violin, which I played in a regional orchestra through high school, but eventually dropped when I picked up the electric guitar. I became a fan of Speed and Thrash Metal, and the progression to Black Metal was a natural one as my playing matured over the next few years. Eight years later and I am still writing and playing Black Metal music constantly.
XS ROCK: What image do you think your music conveys?
Mantus: We really set out to record an album that was an homage to the second wave black metal scene. We are both so enthralled with the aesthetic and the personalities involved with the Norwegian scene and we wanted to create something that was very reminiscent of those pioneers of the genre. We really want to create an aesthetic where we use the corpse paint, the recordings are all extremely raw and minimalist in terms of instruments used, and definitely a Satanic image. We’ve really embraced kind of a cultist look for our photos.
In the future though, we would like to break out of that mold a little bit and – while we will still maintain that orthodox black metal style – try to incorporate some atmospheric styles and really expand where our music can go, while still maintaining our occult and Satanic imagery and lyrical content.
XS ROCK: What are your immediate music career goals? (Next 1 to 3 years.)
Mantus: As I mentioned, our next album will be entitled The Bonds of Servitude, and it will be the first part of a trilogy of albums. We have progressed a lot as artists over the last year or two, and we feel confident that we have refined our production techniques so it won’t take nearly as long to produce another album. So, I would say, in the next three years, I would really like to see that entire trilogy complete!
I think I would also like to have the band gain some label attention. We’re primarily searching for a distribution deal for the time being, but eventually I would love to get back into playing live again. I don’t know if it’s attainable in the short term, but I’m ready and willing to do music full time, in some capacity. I love to perform, but I think I would also be happy recording music as an audio engineer or work for a record label.
XS ROCK: What are your long-term career goals?
Mantus: Long term, I want to open my own record label and recording studio. There is very little going on in our corner of the southwest, and I’ve met a lot of really talented people that either don’t know how to break into the scene or get passed over, and I would really like to change that. Having my own label and recording studio would give me a good platform to support some of these great bands, as well as promoting my own music. Really, whatever helps me to work with music as a career, I will be pursuing it!
Moloch: Ideally, we would like to be able to make music full time. In the current climate being in any band, let alone a Black Metal band, is not an easy way to make a living, but we feel that with sufficient drive, some talent, and a little luck, anything is possible.
XS ROCK: Which do you prefer? Writing new songs and recording or playing for a live audience?
Mantus: Definitely writing new songs. Creating new sounds is so cathartic for me and I really enjoy making new music. Of course, I also love playing live, and I’ve never experienced anything quite like the rush of playing to an audience full of people loving your music, but creating that music is what makes all of that worth doing in the first place. Writing songs can be a bit frustrating at times. When we initially started writing this album a few years ago, there would be days where we couldn’t get anything sounding good or fitting the aesthetic of the song, and when we split for the day it was just so discouraging. Then, other days, we could get like six guitar parts almost immediately. While it can certainly be frustrating, I really think that you have to hold on to that creative spark.
Moloch: The creative process is the most rewarding part for me. I really enjoy the theatricality and immediate feedback you get from live performance, but getting to put my thoughts and feelings into physical form feels like magic.
XS ROCK: What are your songs about?
Moloch: Some major themes we cover are things like Death, Occultism, and Satanism. We generally use heightened, metaphorical language in order to describe truths about real life that are otherwise indescribable.
XS ROCK: Do you have any outrageous tour stories from the road? If so, please fill us in.
Mantus: We used to have this strip club in town that has since closed down, but there was a front area where they had a makeshift stage and some of the most dangerous power outlets I’ve ever seen in my life. We were opening for Warbringer, and were told that we would have some time to prepare before we went on, so we get all of our equipment unloaded, start plugging in, and then we’re told that we have ten minutes until we get on stage. We were an hour early, mind you. We haven’t done our sound check, spikes and corpse paint aren’t on yet, so we asked if there was an area where we could get ready, and they told us we could use the bathroom. Problem was, it was a public bathroom attached to a bar, so we had people coming in and out giving us strange looks. Worst corpse paint job I’ve ever done.
XS ROCK: What’s the strangest request that you’ve ever received from one of your fans?
Mantus: We haven’t really gotten too many requests at all with this band. I imagine, given time, we’ll get them eventually, but really nothing out of the ordinary. Signing CDs and merchandise, primarily.
XS ROCK: Were your parents supportive of your aspirations to play in a rock band?
Mantus: Not at all! Looking back, my parents were surprisingly tolerant of a lot of the things I was doing. They let us use the garage to practice, and even our basement at one point. I think for them, it was kind of a “don’t ask, because we don’t want the answer” kind of thing when it came to what I was playing. My mother always used to call it my “music phase” and was convinced I’d come to my senses and get an easy corporate job, get married and have kids. But yeah, they tolerated it. I think being supportive is another thing entirely though.
Moloch: My parents are very supportive of my musical pursuits. In fact, my Mom bought me my first guitar when I turned 16. They can’t stand the music, but they understand the creative drive behind it.
XS ROCK: What are your favorite tracks to play live?
Mantus: I would love to play “Four Lords” for an audience. That song has such a raw aggression to it, and I’m sure people would go crazy for it!
Moloch: For The Glory of Satan is a personal favorite of mine. I feel a deep connection with the inner feelings of an audience when we play this song, whether they are repulsed or entranced.
XS ROCK: Which band or artist inspired you to perform? Why?
Mantus: When I was in my first band, Grim Blessing, I was really motivated by bands like Cannibal Corpse, Nile, Death and Immolation, just to name a few. I had seen Cannibal Corpse and Nile live and just the rush from being part of a wall of sound like that, the fantastic musicianship, I just knew that that was what I wanted to be doing. There’s something to be said for the amount of creativity it takes to make any music, but especially extreme metal. The talent and the drive that has to go into making it work is astounding. It’s a good way for me to channel that creative drive.
Moloch: I first started writing my own music after having heard Hellhammer. Thomas Gabriel Fischer has a talent for writing simple riffs and then pushing them into mythological proportions with the character of his playing. His whole style, from how he played to how he sang, convinced me that I needed to manifest my inner self through music.
XS ROCK: If you could design a dream tour for your band, who would be on the bill?
Mantus: Oh, that’s an easy one. Inquisition, Marduk and Mayhem. I would kill to share a stage with those guys.
Moloch: I would love to play with some American greats like Inquisition and Goatwhore, but since this is a dream tour why not add in Darkthrone and a re-formed Hellhammer? I think the secret to a really good tour is to not have too many great bands, or they will all be playing short sets.
XS ROCK: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far?
Mantus: Definitely recording a full-length album completely on our own. When you know virtually nothing about how to record music, the learning curve is extremely steep. Trying to figure out where microphones go, how to change the beats mid-song, it’s all difficult when you have no idea what you’re doing. Over the course of the last year, I spent almost every night on forums or searching for how to do the things I wanted to accomplish in my DAW. Once I got the recording part of it down – and some mistakes were made along the way, for sure – then I had to learn how to mix all of the music, which was also a really steep learning curve. Then, just when I thought I had it all down, I had to learn how to master as well. It was a struggle a lot of the way, but I truly am proud of the finished product and I think the reception has been pretty good!
XS ROCK: If you weren’t performing in a band what kind of career do you think you would have?
Mantus: Well, I work at a big manufacturing company here in Flagstaff, which helps fund all of the music that we’re making. I don’t know that I can say that I would just accept my lot in life and slink into a quiet manufacturing career, but who knows? I know if I weren’t making music I would be a lot worse off mentally than I am now!
Moloch: I am very interested in science, and in fact I currently work in Medical Device Manufacturing concurrently with the band. However, I would go crazy without having a band as a creative outlet, so I can’t imagine being focused only on a different career.
XS ROCK: What type of equipment do you use for live shows?
Mantus: I’ve got some really old gear that’s still alive and kicking!
I have a Legion 100-watt half stack that I use for my guitar performance. I bought it on eBay for like $300 about ten years ago. It was a cheap stack and it had a distortion channel, so that was good enough for me. I’ve been thinking about upgrading to a Randall Thrasher, but we’ll see. I use an ESP LTD EC-1000 guitar with Seymour Duncan Black Winter pickups and those things scream!
For my bass stuff, I’m a big Spector and Warwick guy, but I haven’t had a Warwick in quite a while. I’m running a Spector Legend 5-string with passive EMG pickups out of an Ampeg B2RE head that I bought fifteen years ago. Only had to repair it once!
Moloch: I have a very simple rig, just a basic Marshall half-stack with an extra overdrive pedal to clear up some of the muddiness. I currently play an Ibanez Iceman, but I enjoy Jackson guitars as well.
XS ROCK: What do you think of the current music scene?
Mantus: I’m not too exposed to much that gets radio play, but I can appreciate music for what it is most of the time. It takes a certain amount of creative energy to make music, and the life of a musician here in the States is tough. Statistically, a musician is very unlikely to make it in the business, even if you take out clubs ripping them off and promoters cultivating a pay-to-play culture, but as I mentioned, musicians don’t want to create music, they have to. I think the musicians that put up with all of the bullshit and still want to do it are the musicians we all should be looking at.
Moloch: The local scene in Flagstaff is crap, but with the prevalence of the internet and social media sites, the entire world can be your scene.
XS ROCK: For anyone that doesn’t know you, what would they be surprised to know about you?
Mantus: I’m surprisingly approachable! Sometimes musicians can be a little larger than life or intimidating, but I would be happy to sit down and have a couple beers with any fan of ours. I’ll sign your merchandise, take a picture with you, whatever you want. Just keep listening to Unholy Baptism!
Moloch: I’m actually a pretty nerdy guy. I really love math and science, and I regularly play tabletop RPG’s and board games.
XS ROCK: If someone had never heard you before, how would you describe your sound?
Moloch: We are a unique mix of the old, classic Black Metal harshness with elements of Ambient and Doom metal added in. Overall, our sound is designed to make you feel uncomfortable, but to enjoy feeling that way.
XS ROCK: Is there anything that you’d like to promote or say to your fans out there?
Mantus: Just a reminder that our album is 100% free to download! You can go to unholybaptism.bandcamp.com and download a copy. We’re really trying to get our name out there and we want your feedback!
Also, we try to update our main website, unholybaptism.com, at least once a week with news. You can also follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/UnholyBaptism and our Twitter handle is @UnholyBaptism!
XS ROCK: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us at XS Rock!
Mantus: Thank you for having us!