Cult of Sorrow Interview

17 min read

I´m not that comfortable right now. My internet connection is down. I was told by the band that we should try an alternate “channel of communication”. Instructions came by a black crow (no crows like that in Uruguay of course).

I was instructed to get a black goat, and draw a pentagram in the ground with salt…  My wife looks at me like I’m crazy and my girls are chasing the goat up and down the apartment while the crow keeps yelling “Praise Satan” nonstop. My girls love that goat and call it “Black Phillip” and even say that the goat speaks to them. My nerves are on the verge of exploding because I feel like I’m in the movie The VVitch (I wholeheartedly recommend that one). So, this is the mood this interview sets me into.

 Join me as we get to know how and why Cult of Sorrow can produce such massive riffs and entertaining music that speaks of pagan and occult rites in some forgotten dark woods.

Damn! This Goat has a foul smell, now I must cut its throat, bathe in its blood and have a chat with Cult of Sorrow…

– Hi Joe and welcome to Blessed Altar Zine! How are you doing today and how´s the weather in Ohio? 
– Hey, guys! Thanks so much for having me. I’m doing great at the moment. Just gearing up for the album release. We’re only a month away now and we’re so excited to get this beast out into the world. Enjoying the calm before the storm. As for the weather, we’re at the point in the Cincinnati summer where it’s so humid that you can’t breathe when you step outside and the sun melts your skin within 2 minutes. Jerry is a big fan of Summer, but it’s not my favorite. Definitely looking forward to some cooler weather.

– OK so let´s get this party started. How did Cult of Sorrow summon itself into existence?
– Jerry Lovett (guitars/vocals) conjured up the idea for Cult of Sorrow around 2012 when he started getting into the retro Doom scene. He wrote the four songs that would eventually become the self-titled EP and started recruiting friends to record the songs in 2013. Jerry and Pete Contreras (guitars) had been friends for years, going back to childhood and Pete was happy to jump on board. Bob Smith (original drummer) played in bands with Jerry for 10+ years, so he joined up. They found me on Craigslist. I was phasing out a cover band that I was working with and looking for something short-term before I went to grad school. Jerry sent me the riff demos and I was hooked. I have been a huge fan of Doom Metal since the late 90s and I didn’t know anyone in Cincinnati who was doing classic heavy stuff like that, so I was impressed. The project was supposed to be a one-off release, but while we were recording the EP, we started talking about keeping the band going full-time and everyone was having a great time, so here we are over 6 years later prepping for our third release.

– You guys, or the main writer (Jerry Lovett, vocals, guitar) seem to feel very comfortable speaking about the occult. I figure this comes from Jerry´s personal interest, does the rest of the band share this view or interest?
The occult stuff is pretty much all Jerry. He’s really knowledgeable about all of that stuff and he’s been studying the occult for years. He always has about a dozen occult books laying around on his coffee table at any given time. We don’t sit around and talk about it as a band. I assume Pete and Nate Bid (drums) are okay with it all, because they wouldn’t stick around if they weren’t. It’s not really something I’ve ever investigated myself, but I do find it interesting. Baphomets and pentagrams and inverted crosses and all that stuff – it’s just classic metal imagery. I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic school all the way through high school, so I did my time in that world and I realized that it wasn’t for me. The church that I attended growing up has now been featured on Cult of Sorrow t-shirts and patches, so at least I got something out of it. I’m not a big proponent of organized religion as a whole, but I don’t go out of my way to condemn friends and family who are still into it. Cincinnati is very much bible belt territory, so I’m constantly exposed to religion at work or out in the community. It’s frustrating, but I guess Cult of Sorrow is my way of speaking out against that nonsense.

This lyrical approach is present in both the EP – S/T (2014) and your first album – Ascension (2017). Having heard the promo for your new full length – Invocation of the Luciferand written about it. Lyrics continue this dark path, but I think music wise the album might be tighter and more leaning into “metal” so to speak (heavier?).

– With that in mind. What can you tell us about Cult of Sorrow approach to recording and delivery for the new record?
 – I don’t think it was an overt decision by the band to make Invocation of the Lucifer heavier or more metal. I think it’s just the natural progression of the band, having worked together for 5 years prior to recording the album. The debut EP was more rooted in 70s classic rock and proto metal and then on Ascension, we started to bring out more of the 80s Maiden and Priest influences. The first track on the new record “Come Infernal” is definitely the most aggressive song we’ve recorded so far, but the rest of the record is more along the lines of classic metal tempos. Jerry writes 95% of the riffs (and all of the lyrics), but we all have some input regarding our separate parts, so it’s really just a matter of everyone getting comfortable with the material and leaning on each other’s strengths. I’m really impressed with the lead guitar work from Jerry and Pete on the new album. The guitar solos are really incredible and I’m proud of the work those guys put in to really nail the feeling of each song with their respective solos. I think that certainly adds to the overall heaviness of the new material. We also tried to focus on more of the 5 minute tracks, as opposed to the longer songs on Ascension. That was driven more by the live show, because we’re usually playing 30-45 minute sets and it’s hard to work in a 10 minute song. That’s probably a big reason why Invocation of the Lucifer is our tightest and most cohesive work to date.

 – What are the band´s expectations about the new album in terms of reaching to more fans and touring? 
We’re definitely hoping to reach a wider audience with this release, since we’re working with a record label and have had the opportunity to do a pre-release PR campaign. With the EP, Jerry just put it up on Bandcamp with no official release date or any pre-release fanfare. We just kind of shared it on social media. There wasn’t a physical release at all, just digital. We got some orders from Europe and at the time it was just kind of amusing, like how did these people even find us? We didn’t tour or really even play locally in support of the EP, aside from a couple of one-off shows. We only played that material live two times, so maybe there’s some bootleg footage out there for the 30th anniversary box set. Ascension was kind of the same thing. “Hey, here’s a new album we recorded.” We did have some CDs and we started playing more shows locally and regionally. We started to get a handful of reviews and feedback with that release. That album was picked up by Southcave Records in Indonesia and released on cassette and they sold out pretty quickly. That was another mind-blowing experience. So now, working with Black Doomba Records and Dewar PR, we’re looking to get more exposure in online and print mags prior to the release and then hoping for some wider distribution in smaller record shops here in the States and internationally. It certainly helps to have a physical product right out of the gate this time around and the digital arena will be expanded to Spotify and iTunes and Amazon Music and all of that good stuff. With all of those tools in the arsenal, we’re looking to grow the Cult with the new record one fan at a time.

As far as touring, we all have the 40-hour day jobs and mortgages and family and whatnot, so it’s not easy to hit the road for extended periods, but we’re getting outside of our usual 4-hour radius this Fall with shows in Chicago, Wisconsin Rapids and Charleston, WV. We’ll still work in some local shows and continue to hit the region hard with shows in Columbus, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Louisville, etc. We’re hoping to get out to the east coast for an extended run next year. 

– How´s the response for the new album going, be it on social media, or Bandcamp?
– So far, so good. Reviews are starting to come in and they’ve all been positive thus far. Reviewers are definitely picking up on the heavier edge that you mentioned earlier. It seems like people are really digging that aspect of the new record. We’ve started sprinkling in some material from Invocation of the Lucifer in our live shows, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive in that regard. We’ve been able to get a few advance copies of the record out at our shows and everyone who picked up a copy is really happy with it.

– Do you feel that your local fans and the international fans react in different ways to your music or maybe the same experience is shared no matter from where the fan is?
– I think the only difference there is the fact that local and regional fans get a chance to see us live and connect with us in that manner. The EP and Ascension seemed to do a little better from a sales perspective on the international market, but we’re getting a little more notice from the States in anticipation of the new release. I think Heavy Metal in general is kind of a universal phenomenon. There’s no language barrier with good riffs. Bands are really fortunate to be able to connect to a worldwide audience in the 21st century and I think that’s really important for metal to continue to thrive going forward, with radio dying out and most of the classic bands nearing retirement.

– Tell me your favorite songs in the new album? (Mine are Come Infernal, Witch Dance and The Mirror. Wink wink 🙂 )
– It’s hard to choose a few because I really like Jerry’s songwriting style and his riffs always blow me away. Whenever he brings a new song to the band, it immediately becomes the new favorite. Haha. That being said, I really dig “Invocation” and “Satan’s Eyes”. Those two have some of the more traditional metal riffing on the album and I’m a sucker for classic metal riffs. If the EP was our 70s record and Ascension was our early 80s record, those two songs are where we start creeping into 1985-1987, the golden age of metal. “Satan’s Eyes” also has that wide open chugging chorus where I can throw in some Geezer Butler stuff, so that’s always a bonus. I think those two will become part of the live set going forward.

I also have a soft spot for “The Mirror” because it’s the first time I wrote something for the band. I put that one together on an acoustic 5-string bass in a Dallas hotel room and then recorded a demo on my phone with a contraption that lets me plug the bass right into the phone. The original version was more straightforward metal, but then I put some Texas swing on it and I thought it sounded pretty cool. I put down bass and drums and then doubled the bass an octave up to simulate a guitar and put a harmony part on the intro/outro. It wasn’t really meant to be a Cult of Sorrow song, but I sent the demo to the guys and they liked it. I’m really honored that it ended up on the album. The demo version sounds like Uncle Acid, so I wasn’t sure it fit with the new material, but once the band put their spin on it, it sounded more like a Cult of Sorrow song and I think it fits really well as an album closer. 

– CoS are now working with Black Doomba Records. You are releasing the new album into vinyl (looks amazing! Props to the artwork artist and Black Doomba I guess) and CD. Is it important for an underground band to be signed to a record company that can handle this end of the “business”? Does that leave you guys more freedom to concentrate on the music alone?  
– First off, I have to agree with you on the artwork. Shout out to Waclaw Traier for the excellent work there. He really nailed Jerry’s vision and we couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. As far as your question, I don’t think it’s imperative for an underground band to sign with a label, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Anyone can get their music out nowadays, either via Bandcamp or Soundcloud or social media. As I mentioned, we made some inroads in Europe and Asia with independent releases, but we’re very excited to be working with Black Doomba Records on this release. Tommy Stewart at BDR has been amazing to work with. He’s all about the music and the presentation and he keeps us in the loop with everything that he’s doing on the business end. I think BDR is going to be a force in the underground Doom Metal scene sooner than later. On the same note, there is also more pressure for this album to do well, since we have an outside person invested in the band and believing in the band enough to put out vinyl and CD formats. We just have to make sure we’re doing everything on our end to make the release a success and Tommy and BDR will handle the rest. BDR hooked us up with Curtis Dewar at Dewar PR and he’s been instrumental in getting promos in the right hands and setting us up for interviews and reviews. That’s definitely a big step forward from our previous releases. Tommy is helping us out with setting up some regional shows, so that helps get the name out the there and gives us more opportunities to move records and merchandise. It’s been a great relationship for us and we just want help BDR justify that investment and boost the label as much as possible. It’s a very symbiotic thing and I think that’s the most thing for bands to consider when looking for a label. Find someone who loves the music as much as you do.

As music lovers (we metalheads)  take our music pretty seriously.  I´m always interested in the personal music journey of my fellow metalheads be it fans or musicians (we are all fans after all). You guys play some well cemented 70´s heavy music.

– What are the bands and sounds that set you, or the other band members, into this path of Doom music?
– I grew up in a smaller town in the pre-internet age, so there weren’t a lot of opportunities to hear metal outside of Metallica and Black Sabbath, so naturally that’s where I started. I actually learned to play bass by jamming along to Sabbath albums and then I spent years trying not to play Geezer riffs, but I just can’t stop. Once I got to college and was exposed to more of the metal universe, I was pretty insatiable and I was always looking for something that sounded like Sabbath. I read an article in a guitar mag about the top ten bands carrying the Sabbath torch and that’s how I found Kyuss and Sleep and Electric Wizard and I couldn’t get enough. Orange Goblin was huge for me. I loved those first two albums. When I got my hands on a cassette copy of Candlemass’ “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus”, that was it for me. I was a Doom guy for life after that. That album still gives me goosebumps.

Jerry is a big Zeppelin and Sabbath guy, along with the big thrash bands and the classic metal like Maiden and Priest. Like I mentioned, he started getting into Stoner Metal and Doom around 2012 and I remember Uncle Acid and Orchid being big influences when we started corresponding. Pete has more of an eclectic taste. I don’t think he’s 100% metal all the time, but he’s started going down the Doom rabbit hole on Youtube and he’s brought some cool bands like Elder to my attention. Nate has only been in the band since March, so I haven’t really had much time to discuss bands with him. I know he mentioned My Dying Bride in a previous interview and he hits the drums so damn hard, so I assume he’s into some heavy stuff. 

– What do you hear when at home or just to chill out?  
– I really don’t listen to music at home. I don’t even have a stereo setup or anything, though I might have to invest in a decent turntable so I can listen to our record when it comes out. I’m on the road a lot for work, so when I’m home and not tied up with house stuff, I’m usually on the couch watching a baseball game and absentmindedly fiddling with an acoustic bass. If I’m cutting the grass or working in the garage (building flashing upside down crosses for our stage show or Astroturf covered bass cabinets), I’ll reach into my old favorites like Queensryche, Death and Iced Earth. Anthrax is great lawn mowing music. Priest, Maiden, Slayer. You know, all the typical stuff. I’ve also been really into the Tony Martin-era Sabbath stuff lately.

When I’m in the car or on a plane, I’m usually just listening to super nerdy statistical-based baseball podcasts. Unless I’m in Texas, and then it’s Waylon Jennings all the time. I try to keep up with new metal releases, as well. I’ve been really impressed with the new stuff from Spirit Adrift, Gygax, Witchers Creed, Gatekeeper and Crypt Sermon. I’m really enjoying the renaissance of traditional metal, so keep that stuff coming. 

– Live shows. Is there a tighter scheduled rehearsing program now that the date of release is approaching,  or you just keep the pace you have been going for some time?  
– No, we’re basically sticking with the same practice schedule. When Nate joined the band, we doubled up for about a month to get him ready for shows, but now that he’s settling in, we just use practice to tighten up some sections and now we’re starting to work some of the new album stuff back into the mix prior to the release. Nate didn’t play on the album, so these are all new songs for him and we haven’t played some of them as a band since we were in the studio in November. It’s been fun knocking the dust off of those songs.

– Any touring plans under way?
– We’re doing a local tune-up show on Sept 4 and then we have some plans for an album release show on Sept 20. I’m not sure if those details are public yet. Then we’re heading over to Chicago and Wisconsin Rapids on Oct 4-5. Heading down to Charleston, WV on Nov 16. Those shows are all with Tommy Stewart’s Dyerwulf, so we’re excited about that. We might try to pick up something regionally in December to finish out what’s been a pretty crazy year and then, like I said, maybe try to get over to the east coast next year after everything thaws out.

– Is there a strong metal scene in Ohio for you to show your work? If not, where is a good place to lay some ol´ live riffing near you?  
– Ohio and the surrounding area (Indiana/Kentucky) has a surprisingly strong number of incredible Doom Metal bands. We’ve been fortunate to play the Ohio Doomed and Stoned Fest last year and earlier this summer and it’s just mind-blowing how many great bands come from the region to play that show. Band after band gets onstage and just blows everyone away and you’re standing there thinking, “All of this stuff is from Ohio? Damn!” So there’s really no shortage of great bands to play with. Cincinnati has a solid metal scene, but it’s mostly black and death metal, so there aren’t a lot of bands to play shows with in our hometown. It’s definitely an up-and-coming scene, though. When I first got down here, every band was a bunch of fat guys with camo shorts and spiky hair or masks playing bad Pantera or Mudvayne riffs. Now you can find a really good metal show about every other weekend and the bands are all really proficient and professional. I love getting out and seeing the local bands, but it would be nice if there was a little more doom or trad metal so we could be a little more involved. That’s why we started reaching out regionally and connecting with Cleveland, Columbus, Indianapolis bands and that’s really been a great thing for everyone. We all get out of our hometowns and play cool shows in cool venues and it’s really become a brotherhood. We couldn’t be more proud to be a part of that Midwest scene.

– Last but not least, I want to thank you, Joe, on behalf of the Blessed Altar Zine crew for your time.
– Thanks again for the interview, the review and all of the work you guys do to support underground metal!

 – Thanks Joe for the insightful answers and the band for their great upcoming album. Remember it comes out September 20th. Buy the album fellas, it´s a great one!

Ok, so I must say that when I picked up my ritual knife for sacrificing the goat, my wife started giving me hell because of all the blood that would taint her floors and carpets and the foul smell, so sorry Satan, I fear her more. The goat is still here, but it´s dark aura has gone, my girls have it dressed in pink garments and now call it “Lulu”. The crow just flew 200mts into the Cemetery across the street and lives there constantly singing Cult of Sorrow songs to passing mourners.   

The interview was done as usual. I just pushed the reset button on the internet router to write an email to Jospeh Owen the band´s bass player and after a couple days he answered back. Not that occult after all… 

Interview by Perrö


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