The following is an interview with Prague, Czechia-based death metal band HEAVING EARTH conducted in May of 2022 with guitarist/songwriter Tomáš Halama speaking for the band. It was originally intended for a print-only zine project which has since been cancelled. This band had long been a name passed around between me and my original death metal tribe, obsessed folks who love bands that sound like Morbid Angel and Immolation, when their first demo and subsequent albums continued to make deeper, more devastating impressions upon the underground. I’d definitely wanted to capitalize upon a chance to ask a few questions when I was able to premiere their latest full-length ‘Darkness of God‘, one of the best albums of 2022, and dig into what is their most original and impressive record to date. Thanks goes out to the band, their label and representation for the interview opportunity. As always do your best to support the elite death metal underground coming out of Europe these days and grab a physical copy from Lavadome Productions’ Bandcamp and webstore.
G.B. — It might be an exaggeration to suggest that six years is a long time between albums, especially considering world health remains at high fragility for a third year running, but I think what most fans are curious about up front is the process of developing ‘Darkness of God’. It seems that the body left but the brain stayed and the flesh of HEAVING EARTH took several years to reinstate beyond about 2017? What were the major challenges you’d faced beyond putting a band back together?
T.H. — One of the major struggles was to keep on working on the new material no matter what circumstances were. The time period where I have realized that it´s not working with the Denouncing the Holy Throne line-up and few years after the breakup were pretty difficult. It´s paradoxical, but doing something else at the time and only occasionally looking at some HEAVING EARTH stuff, making slow progress, really helped the outcome a lot. Breaking point was a deal with Giulio Galati (HIDEOUS DIVINITY, NERO DI MARTE) about recording drums, after that disembodied creature of HEAVING EARTH started to grow some muscles again.
Upon returning to your discography with new context the skill progression from album-to-album is obvious enough with a notable leap made in between each record but you’ve hesitated to consider/label this latest album technical death metal outright. Should we considering tech-death a reactionary definition, as in it should be used on current terms and relative to the norms of present day? Or, at this point does simply calling HEAVING EARTH pure death metal suit your intentions best?
Yes, I think I´m completely fine writing pure death metal stuff without any adjectives like technical, avant-garde or progressive. I don´t think it has any special value and I also doubt that HEAVING EARTH fits “technical death metal” category as it´s perceived these days by most metal fans.
From my point of view HEAVING EARTH fits an classic death metal ideal in the sense that there are no filler statements on a band’s resume, each release seems to happen because there was something special about the next wave of songcraft, or you would only make songs official when there was something new to say. Does ‘Darkness of God’ feel like something new for HEAVING EARTH? Was there some personal pressure to produce something bigger, more developed, or more distinct than what you’d made in the past?
Whether I like to admit it or not – some kind of personal pressure is always on with each new release, especially with HEAVING EARTH. Many times you have to find some kind of compromise within the band, simplify things, to keep the mechanism going. But that´s not the case with HEAVING EARTH, because compromise is maybe good in politics, but in case of music and artistic expression it kills with maximal efficiency any kind of value or message the music could have before “compromise” was applied. If I would not feel that I´m bringing something new, fresh and a bit exciting to the table, I would probably quit.
Each HEAVING EARTH record seems to have has its set of muses, not in terms of a facsimile but we can pick up on what Tomáš likes about guitar work from Bob Vigna and Trey Azagthoth on ‘Diabolic Prophecies’ but also the next level of brutality which many attribute to HATE ETERNAL, ‘Denouncing the Holy Throne’ has a more technical but atmospheric aspect to some degree which caught my ear somewhere between ULCERATE and DEAD CONGREGATION in a similar way. The point I’m attempting to make is that you can tell when a musician is a fan of the genre they play and not just filling a role without inspiration. For ‘Darkness of God’ have all of these elements and influences over the years become additive to your own voicing? Is the passion to play this type of music just as strong as your earliest inspirations?
I´m not sure if it´s more a passion or curiosity. While writing material for “Darkness of God” I came to the point, where I´ve found out that any song structures that relate more to our early period, more traditional 90´s death metal, sound horribly dated and pointless. I´ve made an attempt to write some more “Denouncing” and “Diabolic” era sounding song, to keep (still) Denouncing era line-up together, but I´ve never presented it – it was such a failure in all aspects and eye-opener for me. I´d agree that all those mentioned death metal names/bands/influences become one of the ingredients that we base our music upon. It´s much more enjoyable to shape your own way of expression, think about all the possibilities ahead, seeing the sonic horizon expanding and finding out zero truth in saying “all has been done”.
Lyrics have always been an important aspect of the best death metal records for my own taste and I am glad you have upheld the irreligious aspect of HEAVING EARTH on this new album. Is there a general theme beneath the obvious disdain for the illness of religion on ‘Darkness of God’?
I would not say that there´s a concept behind all lyrics presented on ‘Darkness of God’, but the lyrics in general deal with the transformation of a faith and hope, things that have been promised by numerous religious systems, into hopelessness, abandonment and misery – that´s why we chose “Darkness of God” as a title.
On the previous album you’d worked with the maestro Leon Macey (MITHRAS) for the mix/mastering process and for this one you’ve sourced AD NAUSEAM’s Andrea Petucco, both a nicely dynamic result but was the sound design quite a bit different this time around? What was your general ideal when informing the sound design process? Did you have and specific notes in mind for the ‘feeling’ and atmosphere of ‘Darkness of God’?
Leon Macey (MITHRAS) was again in the talks and I´ve sent him some raw studio takes, but in the end we have decided to ask Andrea Petucco to mix and master our new record. I had a some kind of a vision of how we should sound, but the funny thing is many times you have to find how you should not sound first, to realize how you actually should sound. Andrea is a great dude and really cares about every little aspect, wants to know your vision and the more detailed and precise you are with your notes/suggestions, the more accordingly to it he can work and nail the mix. If I would send some of the emails that we´ve exchanged to some other studio producers I know, I would get very surly answers – type of “why don´t you do it yourself?”
Perhaps tours and festivals are still a bit of a risk or, a needlessly difficult task these days but are there any future plans for HEAVING EARTH to tour, or play live in the future? Giulio Galati is a real beast on this album but are there any plans to find a live drummer? Has it been a challenge to find a drummer with the right skill level in Czechia?
You´ve nailed it with this one. We are still looking for a (at least) session drummer to play some tours and festivals with us. I´ve pretty much gave up on Czech republic, maybe we´re missing something, but I don´t think so. I hope things would be better with the release of a new album, so it won´t be that difficult to find or hire somebody. Until then no planning of tours or festivals makes any sense.
What is the best way that fans can support HEAVING EARTH? Where is the best place for folks to reach out or just give their thumbs up?
Currently you can reach us on Facebook, the only social platform that I´ve agreed to be on so far, through our recording label Lavadome productions, you can support us on a Bandcamp and that´s about it. Some more platforms are in the talks, but I would let some other, probably younger, folks manage it. I´m way much better songwriter and musician than a dude managing things around the band.
Thank you for your time.
Thanks for interest. Have a good time.
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