Published Jul 25, 2010Decrepit Birth's debut album, ...And Time Begins, set the bar for technical death metal; it's fast, brutal and there are a million things going on at once. Then with their second album, Diminishing Between Worlds, something in their sound changed. The masters of tech-death evolved into a more progressive realm, complete with guitar solos and harmonious melodies. Now, the Santa Cruz, CA band have unleashed their third album, and Nuclear Blast debut, Polarity, and while it follows the same progressive path as Diminishing Between Worlds, remnants of the old Decrepit Birth still pop up from time to time. Polarity is filled with guitarist Matt Sotelo's luminous soloing, juxtaposed with explosive barrages of catchy riffs, as well as more technical interludes. But it's vocalist Bill Robinson who keeps the atmosphere crushing, with his signature deep gutturals, which ooze thought-provoking lyrical content and philosophical themes. As the only two original members left, Sotelo and Robinson have solidified Decrepit Birth's sound with Polarity ― this is death metal with soul and every second of the album confirms that. While ...And Time Begins remains the album that all others within the tech-death sub-genre are judged against, Polarity displays Decrepit Birth's growth and unlimited potential. It's a huge change that fans of the band will either recoil from or embrace. Hopefully, it's a change that will finally earn Decrepit Birth the recognition they have so long deserved.
Can you tell me a little bit about the musical direction for Polarity?
Sotelo: It's kind of what the last album was like: progressive death metal mixed with some brutal stuff and also some melodic stuff. But we're really not trying to pinpoint one sub-genre in death metal. We really like so many types of music that we want to fuse all different types of stuff, so it's hard to confine it to one type of thing. We're headed in a progressive death metal type of thing where we meld different fusions and styles in, if that makes sense at all.
Are there any concepts or themes behind this new album?
Well, all of out stuff sort of has a theme that we stick to from album to album. Our singer, Bill [Robinson], wrote most of the lyrics for this one and a lot of it is from some personal experiences that he wanted to put in there. It's really abstract ― the average fan is not going to read the lyrics and really know what's going on. But it's kind of cool for people to make up their own concept too. By reading into it they can come up with their own meaning. But it's a lot of sci-fi kind of stuff mixed in with a lot of apocalyptic things. We're not saying this is the way it is, it's just our take on what we think maybe the future holds or looking into the past to kind of get answers for the future, just that kind of weird stuff.
Polarity follows a similar path as Diminishing Between Worlds, but how does it differ?
Diminishing Between Worlds was really focused on a lot of guitar soloing, a lot of really tech-y stuff and a lot of layers. Don't get me wrong, the new album is too, but what I really wanted to focus on with the new one is songwriting and having people really get into the songs and maybe memorize some of the riffs. There's actually a lot of stuff that's a little bit simpler, like some of the riffing is, at times, some classic thrash metal stuff thrown in there, just stuff that when people come see us live, they get something that they can hold onto and riffs they can actually hear. These days, you hear a lot of the bands play with so much technicality it gets lost live, so I just wanted to have a good balance of a little bit of everything, but make the songwriting more cohesive. It's hard to say what the difference is completely, but it's just an evolution and progression.
How was it switching from previous label Unique Leader to Nuclear Blast?
Pretty good. Unique Leader is a good label for a band that's starting out. But, with all due respect, they just don't really have the kind of distribution and contacts that a label like Nuclear Blast has. [Nuclear Blast is] more of a real deal record label and they've been able to introduce me to certain people that have really been helping us, where before we were doing all that stuff on our own. It seems like, especially with the release of the new album, we've been doing a lot of interviews and they're keeping us busy. They're also helping us get better tours and, of course, the recording budget was much better than anything we were used to. We got to go into a better recording studio and we got to do things that we weren't able to do before and try different things because we had the resources, so that was a huge thing when it came to the recording process.
Why did you decide to co-produce the new album along with producer Zack Ohren?
I've always been into doing audio production. Personally, I've recorded a couple albums for some smaller death metal bands in the past, so I've always had an interest in doing that. I just like to know that I can be a part of all of it and know that I can help call some of the shots when it comes to production. But, to be honest, I did leave a lot of it up to Zack. He helped me a lot and he and I think a lot alike, in terms of what we're looking for when it comes to sounds and tones. I think it's good that we worked together and I'm really happy with what we came out with. I think that in the future, I would always like to be in on the audio production of our recordings just so I can have that sense of knowing that I got to help do the sound and just be in on it. That's important to me; I don't know why, it just is.
You mentioned that Polarity is a little bit simpler, in terms of technicality, compared to your previous albums. But, when it comes to placing Decrepit Birth in a genre, would you say you're still a technical death metal band first and foremost?
People like to say that, but it bothers me; I don't know why. I hate being technical just for the sake of. That doesn't make sense to me; I just want to write great music that, hopefully, people remember in the future. Our music is technical, at times, yeah, because I do enjoy playing technical stuff; it's boring for me to play super-simple stuff all the time. We play stuff that people can sink their teeth into and remember. It is a little bit offensive to me when people always categorize us as just a tech-death band because I just don't see us that way. I'm trying to break that mould ― that's just part of what we're doing. The technicality is an ingredient, but that's not the only thing in there.
The main change in Decrepit Birth's sound from your first album, ...And Time Begins, to Polarity is the guitar sound. Was that a conscious decision or more of a natural progression?
A little bit of both. I think, with the first album, the guitar playing was really linear and there weren't very many harmonies. There were no guitar solos, the riffs didn't repeat very much and there were songs where I was trying to do the whole run-on sentence, riff salad kind of thing. I wrote some of that stuff in the mid-'90s; I was just a kid and at the time. I wanted to make something that was more technical because I was really into the whole technical thing back then. I wanted to make something that was more technical than anything, at the time. That was my intention. And I think I just grew up and I just realized that's not what music is about; it's not a competition, it's not about how fast and technical you can be. And so the guitar playing now kind of reflects that and I enjoy having the band actually sound like a band and not just some big giant machine that's just crushing you all the time. I think the guitars breathe a little more; you can hear what the guitars are doing now. You can actually pick up on the riffs, where before it was just so grinding and so fast and so teched-out, you just couldn't pick up on much. But don't get me wrong, I do like the old stuff too. I think the intensity and the brutality are things that very few bands, in my opinion, have been able to do. There are some really cool bands out there these days, but it seems like a lot of it is just rehashing. For being something brutal and really over-the-top, I think that first record is a pretty original record. I think it still stands up and we have a lot of cult fans that would totally agree with that; they don't even like the new stuff and it's all about the first album. And that's cool, I respect that, but we're moving on as a band. We're growing up and influences change and what I listen to changes and that just comes through in what I'm playing on my guitar.
Do you think those cult fans just want everything you do to sound like ...And Time Begins?
Yeah, definitely. There's a difference with our fans: there are some fans that like everything we do, but there are some fans that are just brutal-only death metal heads that don't like hearing guitar solos and they don't like hearing melodies. They just don't get into that; they don't get into melodic death metal, which is part of what we do now. They just want to hear nothing but really fast blast beats and crushing vocals all the time and ...And Time Begins does have that and so they want us to go back to something like that. But we weave in and out of that stuff. I think we still have the potential to do some of the most brutal stuff ever, but it's just that we don't want to do it all the time. I want to mix it with different styles, because that's what's fun for me as a guitar player. I've read it online and I even get messages from kids around the world saying, "Your first album was the best" and "why don't you guys play like that anymore?" Some people even get really angry about it and are like, "You guys suck now" and I don't know what to say. You can't please everybody all the time and we're really not trying to. I'd rather play this music because it makes me happy as a musician, not for other people, but I do want to share it with other people. Hopefully, they pick up on what we're doing and like it, but if they don't, oh well. (Nuclear Blast)