“When we went to record this album, originally we were going to go to a world-class studio but something happened last minute. Basically, we got bumped out by Motorhead.”
There are few American black metal bands that have a legacy like Inquisition. Travelling around Australia as part of a double headliner event with fellow genre mates Marduk next month, founder, Jason ‘Dagon’ Weirbach, talks style, production and gear with JESSICA WILLOUGHBY ahead of their show on Monday, January 12 at Amplifier Bar.
The face of black metal has changed dramatically over the past 15 years.
From stripped-back origins, most recent times have seen lush soundscapes take over – all the while keeping the classic raw interior preserved at its core. Many bands have tried to make this transition and failed, but Inquisition is one that has weathered the storm.
The past 20 years has seen this US-based outfit go from strength-to-strength. Emerging from turbulent times in Columbia in the late 80s, the ’90s saw founder, vocalist and guitarist Jason ‘Dagon’ Weirbach head to Seattle where he hooked up with drummer Thomas ‘Incubus’ Stevens to create some of the most compelling music in the genre.
Even though the duo are no strangers to controversy, with links to the occult and other more nefarious activities, it was their sixth album that caused a division between fans. Obscure Verses For The Multiverse(2013) was the first album released through Season Of Mist, signaling Inquisition’s major label debut. This move had been a long time coming, but split longtime fans. Despite this, Dagon believes the change was warranted.
“It really, honestly, has been a good move,” he says. “On one end, it did better than I thought it would. There was mixed feedback from the old fans. Some old fans loved it, some others thought we drifted away on to some other path or realm. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“I mean, you cannot get any more classic Inquisition than this – it’s no different. Maybe the production changed a bit – we did try to keep things very flat. The last thing we wanted to go was to go onto a bigger label then, all of a sudden, come out with an overproduced album. We wanted to keep things very toned down, very organic. Borderline under-produced, with just enough so the music really stood out. We’re happy with that and we’re happy with the response. That was a nice little experiment we did there.”
The production was definitely a standout on their latest. Crisp and dense, without intentionally heading into the lo-fi territory like countless black metal bands do, the pair ended up working with Philadelphia native and longtime roadie, Arthur Riszk, in the studio to achieve this sound.
“We talk a lot as friends, almost every day,” Dagon explains of his relationship with Riszk. “The main topic is always sound. We’ll listen to old productions; releases that are far beyond anything close to black metal. We have really good communication and that’s the key to achieving anything, right?
“When we went to record this album, originally we were going to go to a world-class studio but something happened last minute. Basically, we got bumped out by Motorhead. You can kind of forgive that a little bit, but it was very frustrating because we were ready to fly down there. It was either we wait a whole month and record later or go to a stripped-down, bare-bone studio that’s owned by the Fear Factory drummer. I thought ‘…hell with it, let’s just do this and something unique will come out of it’. We still got all the gear we wanted and we did it.”
This album also opens a new chapter for Inquisition sonically, with an emphasis on major chord progressions and ‘uplifting’ listeners. Although Dagon admits this is slightly out of place for a black metal release, he had his reasons.
“I’m a gear-head,” he says. “I’m a tone-chaser. There are times when I just play for the amplifier, believe it or not. A lot of your great, classic rhythm guitar players will always tell you they seek the tone they want and they write for that tone. I really modeled my playing after the tone I was after for this album, which was the classic old school Marshall sound paired with the Soldano SLO. It’s one of the most beautiful, harmonic sounding amps you will ever find. I wrote around that, but always under the veil of black metal.”