Since signing to UNFD in July, western oz rippers Cursed Earth have dropped two punishing EPs and toured them relentlessly around the country. And that’s just the beginning. Interview by Lachlan Marks. Intro by Matt Doria.
At a total runtime just grazing 24 minutes, the breakthrough record from Perth shredders Cursed Earth comes and goes in a violent haze of riff and roar. Front to back as an 11-track album, Cycles Of Grief does its job destructively well – it’s loud, it’s livid, and it injects you with an inescapable lust to crack a skull or two in the pit. But it’s when the record is split and soaked in as two distinct ‘volumes’ – the viciously reckless Growth and straight-up bloodcurdling Decay – that it takes on a new life and the unique elements of both halves truly shine.
According to resident axe-annihilator Kieran Molloy, the insidious duality of Cycles Of Grief exists to build a larger narrative of contrasting perspectives, both of which make their most potent impact when left to fester in the listener’s mind independently. It also exists to keep those listeners engaged for the whole ride, because c’mon, it’s 2017 – who even has an attention span exceeding five minutes nowadays?
What was behind the idea to release two EPs rather than an album?
The way music is currently presented and sold, shortening attention spans and the fact that we sell physical records on vinyl – all of those tend to create a situation where the second half of LP records fly under the radar. The second half of Cycles has very strong songs, a strong conclusion and a counter-message to the themes of the first, so it felt like we’d be doing it more justice by letting people consume those halves separately. We’ve never been a band that feels the need to do things like everyone else does. We’re going to experiment, find out what works for us and cut our own path.
What were the challenges – and conversely, the highlights – of recording the EPs?
It was a big learning experience. We’d lost our old drummer a couple of months before recording began, so I arranged with Chas Levi of Justice For The Damned to fill in. I flew from Perth to Sydney and spent two weeks living and jamming at the Justice house, before hitting the studio with Elliot Gallart of Chameleon Sound to track guitars and bass. Staying in hostels every night, hiring trucks that weren’t roadworthy and battling with Sydney traffic to rent a 1976 Ampeg V4 and Mesa Cab, only to blow the V4 up, were all memorable challenges.
Working with Elliott was a highlight – we both had a clear vision of what we wanted, and it was both of our first full-length records – and records on an international label – so we pushed each other very hard. We went all out with the production, smacked big, fat strings on the guitars and brought in tons of different amps and pedals to find the exact blend of sounds we wanted.
Why do you think UNFD are the right fit for Cursed Earth?
We went into our first meeting with UNFD never thinking they’d be on the same page as us. Their lineup is a lot more accessible than we are, and we weren’t planning on watering down our vision or pandering to anyone. But once we started talking, we realised that UNFD – and their bands – are where they are for a reason: they’re all hardcore kids from way back, just with a lot of industry experience and business skills. And most importantly, they didn’t want to make changes to the fabric of Cursed Earth.
What does your current live rig look like?
My current rig is a Silver Sunburst ESP EC-1000 through a Boss TU-3 tuner, a Boss NS-2 noise suppressor and an FX loop to my Abominable Thronetorcher and BBE Two Tone, and out through an Electro Harmonix Holy Grail Plus reverb. I love the simplicity of it, and the versatility of sounds I can pull with the Two Tone set to full oscillation. The Holy Grail also adds a lot of eeriness to the sound on feedback and leads.
What’s the physical toll like for you, playing intense shows night after night as an up-and-coming band that also has to face long drives between shows?
The first and last couple of shows of any tour are usually a nightmare, but you tend to adapt to it pretty quickly. Warming up and stretching helps to counteract stiffness from the day before and the long drive. We also really f***ing enjoy playing, so as soon as the music begins, all possible struggles are out of your mind.
Tell us a bit about your playing style!
I’d describe it as very meat-and-potatoes. The music we play is a lot of heavy and fast downpicking, palm muting and tremolo picking, which is where the grind-y buzzsaw guitar tone that I use really shines. The haywire frequency overlap can make some things less than ideal to play, like string-skipping or sweeping, but it forces you to play punchy and precise, and let the rhythm section do it’s work. I’ve played in bands ranging from 5150 hardcore to progressive deathcore, and I’ve always been moving towards a style that can be super heavy and aggressive, while not being so technical that I can’t wild out onstage.