The following is a short interview with Santa Rosa, California-based death metal band VILE RITES conducted in May/June of 2022 with guitarist/vocalist Alex Miletich answering a host of questions. It was originally intended for a print-only zine project which has since been cancelled. I’d first gotten in touch with the band as they were looking to premiere a track from the album, which ended up on Decibel‘s website, and shopping around labels (the release ended up on Desert Wastelands Productions). I’d been so impressed that I made sure to put in a bid for a review and interview coverage at some point down the road, the result being this and placement of their record among the best of January’s releases. Their self-titled debut EP features an elite brand of progressive death metal which is cognizant of the old ways yet also transcendentally minded enough to recognize the value of modern ways, the themes seemed to run deep and the music was brilliant so, check out the conversation and buy a copy of the CD/tape. Huge thanks to the artist for the opportunity as they’ve been truly kind and generous with their time and art. As always do your best to support the elite death metal underground coming out of Europe these days and grab a physical copy from their Bandcamp or DWP‘s webstore.
G.B. — Where did you start with VILE RITES? I figure you all encountered each other between various thrash and death metal projects in the North Bay/Sonoma county area but was this band spearheaded by one person in particular or collectively conceived to start? Where’d the name VILE RITES come from?
A.M. — Actually, the band was originally started in Portland, OR in 2016 with more of a blackened tech thrash focus. The idea was conceived in the wake of a thrash band that my friends and I started in high school, called Gladius. Originally, it was me and Tyler Becker (now the live drummer of Toxic Holocaust) and that is when the idea for the name came about. It wasn’t until I moved to Santa Rosa, CA that I met Aerin and Stephen and switched to the 7-string guitars aiming for a more death metal influenced sound. None of the songs written in Portland were used in the new iteration, so I basically reinvented the whole idea for the band because I wanted to stick with the name. I would say I spearheaded the project in terms of the idea, but Aerin and Stephen’s contributions have been absolutely essential to our overall sound.
There wasn’t a ton of context when you’d sent in the EP for review so, I appreciated figuring my way through the lyrical themes and symbolism of ‘The Ageless’. My head kind of went towards a broader comparison of the human timeline versus the universe itself for the bigger picture, of course there is more to consider but… What were you hoping to communicate with the listener in the span of this EP?
You’re absolutely on point with that assessment! A lot of my lyrics are essentially personification of elements of nature and the universe sort of commenting on the ways of mankind. The name ‘Vile Rites’ sort of encapsulates that whole theme of looking at our societal norms from an outside perspective and being disgusted with lack of empathy and understanding of the natural world around us. We will definitely be expanding upon this theme in the next album, and even continuing with some of the ‘characters’ from ‘The Ageless’. If we can make a single person consider their impact on this planet with our lyrics and music, we’ve had a success as far as I’m concerned.
Are the lyrics on ‘The Ageless’ at all inspired by the first year or two of global pandemia? Had any personal experiences during that time put that thought process in motion, or, influenced a more existential perspective?
I would say that the general idea for the themes of this band were conceived prior to the pandemic, I’ve always been passionate about this subject. But, the pandemic certainly provided me with the opportunity to spend more time out in nature, seeking out new inspiration and soul-searching. Also, the fact that a virus essentially shut down human society sort of made me double down on the idea of nature’s cold and callus ways and our complete lack of real control.
Did you end up engineering and mixing this first release yourselves? The sound is pretty damned slick and it has a sort of classic progressive death metal design but VILE RITES’ style is not necessarily stuck in the early 90’s. “Old school educated” is the way I’d put it nowadays but clearly you all are in touch with the elite prog-death and psychedelic death metal mutations of the last twenty years also. Did you have any ideals or references in mind when finalizing ‘The Ageless’ sound design? Do you all share pretty similar taste in music or, just similar goals with VILE RITES’ own sound?
The EP was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Greg Wilkinson over at Earhammer Studios in Oakland. Again, your assessment is spot on with influence of the sound and approach. We all have a super wide range of influences from old school death metal to more modern progressive death metal, to jazz and 70’s prog and psych. We definitely wanted to avoid the “modern tech death” sound and keep things super organic sounding, but we didn’t want it to sound like regurgitated 90’s death metal either and knew we needed good clarity for the riffs to make sense, due to their technical nature. This is why we stuck with all tube amps and didn’t trigger drums or anything like that. Greg immediately understood how we were trying to merge our modern and old school influences and absolutely nailed it.
What have you all been working on since the release of the EP? Can we expect more releases from VILE RITES in the next couple of years?
Yes, you can! We have music written for about half of the next album with plenty of riffs on the back burner, so I think realistically, considering all of our schedules, we will be looking at 2024 for a full-length release!
From what I’ve seen VILE RITES has been out playing shows and looking to get on more and more bills lately. How important is the live setting and the performance side of VILE RITES? Are there any bands you’d love to tour with, or that you’ve been stoked to play with already?
The live performance side of things is extremely important to us. Our goal is to play the songs accurately, while bringing in elements that you don’t get on the album. We’ve done covers at all our live shows so far and have introduced some psych’d out improvisation between songs, so the idea is to create an immersive experience that is exclusive to live performances, while still delivering the songs as they are recorded. We want every live performance to be just a bit different so that everyone gets a unique and intimate experience that isn’t too predictable when coming out to one of our shows. There’s TONS of bands we’d love to play shows with, but a few that pop into my head are bands like Aenigmatum, Ghastly, Bedsore, Siderean, and Cryptic Shift.
Are you all able to rehearse together regularly? Would you be content as a studio only project?
Our writing process is pretty organic, so meeting up in person is essential to us. We all bring ideas to the table and flesh them out by jamming and coming up with ideas on the fly. I don’t think any of us would be happy with being a studio-only band because so much of the inspiration comes from being around each other and working together directly.
What is the best way that fans can support VILE RITES? Where do you prefer to interact with listeners?
We are pretty much on all streaming platforms, but Bandcamp is of course the most direct way to buy the music and listen to it! We are most active on Instagram and we love hearing from our fans, so don’t be shy!
Thank you for your time.
Thanks for having us!
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