Benighted in Sodom is perhaps most well known for its huge discography, with 2010 alone seeing the band release 5 full lengths and 5 EPs, and this year already seeing him release 2 full length albums. We talk to Matron Thorn, mastermind behind the band to find out more about Benighted in Sodom and the creative process behind the music writing.
HMT: Greetings Matron, thanks for giving us this opportunity to talk to you. Benighted in Sodom over the past 6 months has already released 2 full length albums and 1 EP. How has reception for the releases been so far?
Everything has been more or less positive, as far as I can tell, but then again, I try to limit my time online so I’m sure somewhere someone has a problem with something for one reason or another.
Before we move on, we would like to talk about the band in general. What does the band name represent, and how did it come about?
When I started the band in 2004, I wanted to choose a name that actually had some personal significance to myself and the music, instead of just browsing occult reference materials for names of demons that sounded cool. For the current incarnation of the band, Benighted in Sodom is a representation of a very dark side of my life, details of which are available to those that know me well and know the type of estrangement I have from ‘normal’ society. Lately I chose ‘Benzo’ as a fitting nickname :]
The band is known for having numerous releases every year, with last year seeing the band having 10 releases and this year already having 4 releases. How do you manage to come up with so much music each year?
I try not to set goals ‘musically’. I see myself pursuing each album as a separate piece of art, with a separate expression, and I am always working on something new for some project. I never want to stagnate, I never want anything to be ‘enough’, I never want to feel like I should just ‘take a break’ or whatever. Fuck that. What else should I be doing? When I would go to work, I would tab music and conceptualize future albums in my head, or something random would occur that would inspire whole new ideas for things. There’s so much inspiration to be utilized, it would be a waste to let it pass me by just for the sake of me being quiet for a few months. This partially explains my recent distance from typical ‘black metal’ conventions, because I’ve found that there are some things that just don’t translate well enough by simply screaming and yelling over tremolo riffs and blastbeats all the time. Since Benzo is art, and represents a concept, not a musical style, I feel that it could materialize as just about anything…
Have there ever been moments when you encounter mental blocks when writing music, and how do you cope and deal with these moments?
I only really struggle with writing when I get distracted by stupid things. And by stupid things, I mean anything that involves some kind of involvement with the rest of the world. As I’ve said in interviews before, I’m not some recluse living out in the middle of nowhere, pretty much the exact opposite of that, but when it comes to creating music, I limit my availability to the point where it can sometimes seem as though I’ve disappeared altogether. Human voices, to me, are intrusive and they pollute my thinking space. When it’s time to sit down and commit some ideas to the drawing board, I really don’t want to be bothered with anything anyone has to say.
Also, how have labels been reacting to the quick and numerous output of the band? After all, not many labels are willing to have so many releases in a short period of time…
Well there are three labels that have a sincere interest in what I do and they are very patient with me. Obscure Abhorrence has been there since the beginning and though he can’t account for every output, he has released what he can with his available resources. He deserves special mention because he’s really trying his best and he deserves the business to keep supporting the sincere underground artists. Solitude Productions has released some of my most well-received albums and they have really worked hard to promote my art. Truthfully, I’ve sent out albums galore to these ‘bigger’ labels and they appear to just laugh at me, but then they’ll turn around and sign some band with one full-length album that appeared that same year just because they play the flavor-of-the-week style or because they have some wacky gimmick and nothing else. Then people will criticize my use of a drum machine but worship bands like Lifelover who, and let’s face it, can’t seem to program drums for shit. I mean, I’ve spent hours programming tedious drum tracks just to strive, not necessarily for realism, but at least some variation. And it’s nothing against Lifelover, I just can’t seem to find a valid reason for these labels to reject my music so quickly when they currently support bands that do everything they hate about me. At the end of the day, it would be nice to have some tour support but I’m happy with the labels I work with now because they represent the underground with integrity, not capitalism masquerading as interest in the scene. I release a lot of music, and there’s no label on earth that can keep up with me I think, so I don’t mind making music digitally available sometimes. I grew up pretty much poor, and I never had money to go out and buy my favorite music on blah blah splatter vinyl / blah blah digipack / blah blah other obsolete format. That stuff is cool, but it’s not really relevant to me because I sympathize with the guy that truly loves music but doesn’t come from a life where they can just blow money on exclusive versions of the exact same thing. And let’s be real, mostly everyone is downloading all of this shit anyway, I’m just taking out the guilt by letting everyone have some of both worlds.
Benighted in Sodom’s lyrics deal with a wide variety of matter, ranging from cosmology and science fiction to death and chaos. Where do you draw such a vast range of lyrical influences from?
When I write lyrics for Benzo, I try to write very vividly, trying to paint a picture with words to accompany the music. Influences range from anything to The Outer Limits to classical medieval literature to the occult to everyday horrors I witness to the Bible and the list really goes on. For various albums, I have written lyrics based on sick or tragic stories told to me by various types of unusual people such as strippers, prostitutes, the mentally ill, convicts, drug dealers, etc. Simply hatred and misanthropy and grimness and strife are just don’t really do it for me.
Also, what is the songwriting process like for each album? Do you come up with the music first before laying down the lyrics for the songs, or is it done with a particular theme in mind?
It’s never the same. The music really almost wills itself into being sometimes.
In the album Fort Lauderdale, you called out to fans to submit stories to be included into the album liner notes. What was the reason behind doing so, and how were the reactions to this call for submissions?
I didn’t get the best response from this idea, which is a shame because I attempted to do something which would give the music a level of validity and honesty that was missing from other music with the same theme. I wanted to incorporate a disturbing element of reality to transcend the realm of just being ‘sad black metal’ into something closer to a mysterious piece of graffiti or a love letter found in an insane asylum.
The band’s latest release, A Resplendent Starless Darkness, as already mentioned by yourself, displays a different side of Benighted in Sodom. Instead of the black metal influences, the songs on this album display an overall more electronic influence. What was the reason behind writing this album, and having it different from past releases?
This album was meant to be a physical release, with the booklet containing a 40 page story to be read with the music. The music, in this regard, is closer to a soundtrack than just a black metal album, and I wanted to really paint the landscape of my imagined future of rainy city streets and alleyways, the prosperous, spoiled wealthy towering over the drug addicted, hopeless below in a dismal neo-noir, post apocalyptic era. I’ll still release this album, one day, but for now I’ll let everyone come up with their own idea of what the story actually is. And I chose to incorporate various electronic elements because hopefully the future is like Blade Runner and their are hover cars, and I don’t think Deathspell Omega would ever make anything that reminds you of hover cars.
How have fans reacted to this new release, and will this be a one-off thing or will fans of the band see a shift in direction for future Benighted in Sodom releases?
Apparently people really dig this, which is totally not what I expected. I was counting on this album to kill my marginal ‘success’, but it’s popularity has inspired me to experiment even more and I’m currently in the finishing stages of an EP entitled “God Will Not Forsake Me”, which explores these themes and sound even further.
While the album itself has little vocals, you mentioned to fans to treat this as a soundtrack to “a dystopian film noir set in a technologically advanced future world of religious cult elitism, supreme artificial intelligence, and glorified drug addiction from the desperate gutters of an industrial wasteland.” How did the concept come about this time round, and how does the music blend into the concept of the album?
I thought of this concept over the course of a couple of years, while I was working on trying to write a short novel in the same vein. I wanted to try to make some music to listen to while I wrote and this album was the result of that.
You are also now involved in atmospheric death metal band Evangelist, along with your live bass player. How did the collaboration come about, and can fans expect to see a string of releases similar to Benighted in Sodom?
Ævangelist was my response to all the “sounds like-but-isn’t-quite-Portal” bands I was seeing everywhere, and I always wanted to try something unbelievably heavy and, dare I say, metal. Ascaris is one of the most talented people I know, and during some rehearsals for Benighted in Sodom, he and I goofed off with some random death metal riffs and himself improvising vocals. So I sat on this experience for a while until I really decided to try something out and see what it would be like. We were both blown away by the result and now we have one 3 track EP and we are finishing out first album. This is something I’ll keep separate from Benzo by all means because unlike Benzo, it’s meant to explore a certain idea all it’s own but nothing more right now.
You have also mentioned on your website that the recording of the new album has been completed. Would it be possible to give a sneak preview of what’s to come?
Well there’s actually like 4-ish new albums more or less completed, all are different though. What I’ll say is that they definitely mark a transitionary period for the band, yet again. These albums will see some improvements in production (respectively), even more electronic elements, and some special guest appearances from some friends of mine overseas. Very exciting stuff!
Finally, the last words are yours!
Album Review: Benighted in Sodom – Reverse Baptism