The Love and Terror Cult

So I find myself getting to an age where I’m becoming increasingly more cynical about music. The euphoria surrounding the discovery of a new band, that was once so prominent in my youth, has dwindled heavily with time it would seem. Perhaps I’m simply not looking hard enough, but I see album chart shows sponsored by KFC and a relentless barrage of ideals being sold and resold on a daily basis (a copy of a copy, I guess is the echo here), and I weep for what was. Not literally. I am a man. But once four chords have been laid down, my mind begins to wander midway through the second bar, and even math fails to reach its full potential unless I’m rendered comatose by herbs.

As a result, I’m beginning to tread a path that I assume has been wandered by many of my elders before me; I have become a rubbernecker for metal. To many this is such a dirty word, but please leave your stereotypes at the door for a moment. I’m using the term loosely here, what are genres anyway but a means of pigeonholing for the indolent? In my opinion, for what it’s worth, anyone willingly wishing to adhere to a certain genre is missing the point somewhat.

So it’s now in the schizophrenic structures of Converge where I currently find a fresh thrill; the sheer unabating pace and malice leaves little or no time for my temporal lobes to dwell. And this is good. Instead of boring with the repetition and melody, my brain is caught up in screaming, ‘Christ on a crossbow, what the fuck is going on here?!’. It’s new and it’s exciting and I believe that ought to be the essence of music as a whole. That and the fact that an open Drop C on a guitar is probably the closest man has come to harnessing what would be, for illustrative purposes, the ‘white’ note.

Albeit untidily, with these opening paragraphs I’ve hopefully gone some way in explaining how I came about The Love And Terror Cult. Although, quite shamefully, how I actually stumbled across them was via a torrent site, searching for the earliest release by Alexisonfire on the recommendation of a trusted friend. Reaching my desired download (having assessed the peer rate in the erudite style that has become embedded within our modern culture), I noticed amidst the comments a modest note from TLATC, words to the effect of ‘check out our album, it’s similar in style’. And so I did, in doing so abandoning my initial quest completely. I am now rather appreciative of that fork in the road, as what it led me to has extinguished my musical pessimism wholeheartedly.

Despite being Alexis’ compatriots, the similarities end there I’d say. The cult’s self-titled debut, available for free download from the pirate bay, is a raw and ruthless affair, akin to a spontaneous combustion of the brain. It’s brimming with guitar girth and fortified throughout by a thunderous drum boom, all the while utilising that beauty of beauties, a female who can scream with the kind of ferocious fury that will satisfy the most antagonistic of moods. Positively sublime in all. Now three years on from this, the band are ready to release their latest anti-craft, ‘We Are You on Fire‘, and by gawd does it smart.

Brief update: Ryan Naray (Soft Floors) is a new addition on guitar this time around, and having had two years to cut his teeth, his contributions to the creative process seem to have aided the rounded and redefined sound the band as a whole can now confidently boast. In no way aiming to discredit the first, this sophomore release portrays an added intelligence altogether; there’s a distinct method to the madness here. For instance, special care has been taken with regard to the track listing and overall flow, an almost palpable consideration which has engineered a saga unflagging from the off. Furthermore, their characteristic complexity and stable bearing of discordance is now coupled with rhythmic cohesion, respite if you will, but never venturing toward the tame and uninspired. Atop all this, Justine’s vocals are merciless beyond riposte (as ever), alluding to the tongue-in-cheek in ‘Boot Tricks’, itself acting as a brief reality check. What this album has achieved as a whole is an enviable growth and shrewdness in sound, surely for what all musicians aspire when approaching that tricky ‘follow up’.

To add a human element to all the superlatives I’m shamelessly spouting here, I contacted Collin Young, responsible for half of the guitar silliness that comprises this band, to get his first-hand take on the record at large.

First off, how are you today?

I’m fine thank you, how are you?

Well I’m swell, thank you. Just out of interest, as a Canadian what are the first three things that come to mind when you think of the UK?

Fish and Chips, Soccer, Def Leopard

Fair enough. So, what do you reckon to Charles Manson then?

I’ve always found him amusing because I never believed he had malicious intent, he was just misinformed and a little crazy, which can be said of a lot of people really. It’s funny because Manson is sort of a figurehead for a counter-culture, he’s just what happens when your revolutionary ideas aren’t good ones.

How would you describe your sound to those who would call it aggressive? You’re not really pissed off as people are you?

I don’t see our music as aggressive as much as I find it’s excited. We’re not loud because we’re mad at anything really, it’s more of an expression of enthusiasm and energy. Like a big loud annoying party. We like things that are abrasive and hard to listen to, like dissonance, off kilter rhythms and feedback, but we also like things that are cohesive and accessible, like hooks and repetition. We wrestle with these two ideas for about two or three minutes, and call them songs. It’s five people playing pretty standard rock ‘n’ roll instruments and trying to make them sound as loud and irritating as possible. With choruses.

Talk me new LP

I guess we were trying to take the general sound the band was capable of making, and make it sound more like something we would like, and less like something we wouldn’t. There’s plenty of moments we’re happy with, but everyone digs their own band, right? If I had to pick one moment I would say the ending of ‘Boot Tricks’ is a favourite. It makes me simultaneously want to mosh, and laugh, which is usually a good sign. We spent a lot of time making sure there was nothing we would regret about this album. I hope it still stands out as something we’re proud of several years from now.

How was the recording process this time out?

I have a quasi-professional recording set up, and I’ve been recording the band since the beginning. I brought all the equipment to my friend Paul Hammerton’s loft (nearly getting him evicted in the process), and did all the tracking with his help. I sat in a basement with Jon and argued about mixing for a couple months, and then we mastered it with Greg Dawson. Justine wore a gorilla suit while doing many of her vocal tracks.

Do you prefer writing songs or recording them, and how do you generally approach the writing process?

I find the recording stage to be just as crucial as the songwriting stage. That’s one reason we’re so heavily involved in recording our own band. For the style of music we make, the snare drum sound is just as crucial as the drum beat itself. We get very involved and very obsessed with both facet’s of the creation process, so it’s hard to say which I’d prefer. When writing, usually someone starts with an idea, either a skeleton of a song, or a riff, then the rest of the band tears it apart and builds it back up again. Everyone’s on the look out for parts that suck and should be replaced with parts that don’t suck. Eventually we feel we’ve strung together enough parts that don’t suck, and we record them, then try again.

How would you say the new record stands up against the old?

I think it’s better. Straight up. I think every aspect of the new album is superior to the old one. We’ve never expected much as far as wide spread recognition or commercial success are concerned. If the same people who liked our first album like our new album, then we’ll be completely satisfied. Of course, we’re not opposed to gaining any new fans either.

What of your experiences as an unsigned band?

Working on a local level, it’s been pretty easy for us to accomplish things. We’ve just played shows, which got the word out and led to more shows. Using the internet, we’ve been able to make our music available, and keep our shows publicized, without ever having to go through any kind of media outlet. Overall, I don’t feel we’ve gotten very much if any external support for this band, short of, say, friendly promoters who will take a risk on us, this entire venture is internally motivated and funded. I don’t think bands necessarily need anymore support though. I see any musician as a hobbyist, and if you want to be so bold as to actually expect people to pay to watch you doing something you love, you’d better be prepared to walk uphill in the rain.

Are there any artists you’re particularly digging right now?

ZU are probably the best band on the planet right now. I think we can all agree on that. After that I think we all have some pretty different ideas about what’s good, and what isn’t, so we don’t need to write up a whole long list of bands.

Finally then, no vinyl releaseā€¦ Do you feel vinyl really is a dying format?

I believe that all physical storage units for music are dying formats. Since CDs are just as much an irrelevant collectors item as vinyl is, it’s quite possible for vinyl to start to make a comeback. So far, no one’s really asked to buy our music on vinyl, so we’ve never printed them.