[METAL] Spectral Tombs don’t look much like they enjoy being interviewed.
Though three-fourths of the black-metal band—bassist-vocalist Chris Carter, guitarist-vocalist John Edwards and drummer Mark Nunziata (second guitarist Justin Kay was at his job cooking at a vegan restaurant)—gladly agreed to join me at Hilt on Northeast Alberta Street, all three carry themselves as if they had just been called into the principal’s office or the interrogation room at the local cop shop.
To that end, they choose their words carefully. When asked about being part of a thriving metal scene that is getting national attention, the rail-thin, soft-spoken Carter stiffens up slightly and stares into his whiskey for a full minute before saying, “I definitely feel like there’s a high caliber of good bands here, but I also feel like there’s a high amount of not very good bands that get by on the basis of popularity and just who they know.”
It’s a ballsy statement, but I would expect nothing less from Carter. His nihilistic lyrics foresee the end of all humanity, and—as he wails on “Noli Timere” (Latin for “be not afraid”), a track from the quartet’s newly released album, Carrion—his own “hatred, disgust, growing sickness towards life.”
At least, that’s what I grabbed from the lyrics sheet. As is typical of most black metal, Spectral Tombs’ vocals—traded off between Edwards’ low growl and the high screech of Carter—can often be indecipherable.
I suggested as much to the band, wondering whether getting across the message of the lyrics was harder because they were so difficult to understand when sung. Carter bristled at the idea. “The vocals are a part of the aesthetic,” he said. “I don’t think we can do away with that aesthetic. If the people care enough to read the lyrics, then they’ll know what we’re talking about. And if you listen close enough, I sing clearly enough, even with the screaming, you can understand what I mean.”
What is easily comprehensible with Spectral Tombs is how much of themselves the members put into their music, especially when it comes to live performances. The band’s brutal instrumental attack is almost symphonic in its smooth transition from slow melodic passages to furious blast beats and strumming. But, as any good metal band should, the quartet thrashes about the stage, headbanging and getting completely lost in the swell of the music. The effect is absolute catharsis, leaving everyone—especially the band—spent by the end.
“It’s definitely draining,” Carter says. “It’s like, stop playing, break down the shit, and get away from people.”
Maybe that’s why
Carter, Edwards and Nunziata look so pained at the idea of explaining
their band’s sound and approach to anyone, let alone a writer. Spectral
Tombs pour everything—frustrations at the Portland metal scene, fury at
the state of the world—out onstage, pushing their physical limitations
in the process. What more need be said?