#PalaceOfWorms 🇺🇸 #Interview

8 min read

Originally started as a solo act in 2007, Palace of Worms is an Extreme Metal project drawing from a host of different genres such as Black Metal, Gothic Rock and Doom Metal. Hard to pin down, the project has evolved from one release to the next and in recent times has brought in various collaborators.

All orchestrated by songwriter/ multi-instrumentalist Balan, Palace of Worms will release its final full-length album Cabal next month on Acephale Winter Productions. I caught up with Balan to find out more about the project.

Hello and thanks for taking the time to do this interview for Blessed Altar Zine.

Cabal seems like quite a departure for Palace of Worms compared to how the project started. How would you describe the forthcoming album and how does it fit in with the evolution of the project?

Balan: The project in its early days was characterized by a very harsh and unrefined Black Metal sound. While I feel like each subsequent record after the debut “The Forgotten” could be considered Black Metal, none of them sounded alike, and all contained different themes and sources of inspiration. Evolution has always been a part of the philosophy of Palace of Worms and I generally get pretty bored with treading over the same territories of sound over and over. This is probably a big reason why Palace tends to alienate people….at least that’s what I’ve been told. The new record “Cabal” is just the latest fresh guise after a recent shedding of old skin. I simply wanted to make a record that reflected my attitude after 4 decades of life on this rock, shaped by a multitude of factors including fatherhood and my years spent working in the Funeral Industry. As far as the album’s sound is concerned it’s most definitely NOT a Black Metal record. I’m not sure what it is…Progressive Melodeath? I found my way to Heavy Metal not through Punk like a lot of people but through Progressive Rock. My first albums were Genesis, King Crimson, Yes, Rush, Gentle Giant, and my first show was Jethro Tull. “Cabal” is probably not as explicitly “Prog” as say a Kayo Dot record, but I just wanted to bring some weird and unpredictable elements into it where if I were listening to it for the first time I could say “Oh shit, well that was cool and unexpected”. At this point in my life, I’m not really that much of a Black Metal Warrior anymore. I mean, I will always love the feeling that great Black Metal gives me, but do we really need ANOTHER Black Metal record in 2023? There is so much Black Metal out there right now and it’s simply easier for me to ignore it than to try and sift through the countless Les Legions Noires clones to try to find something interesting. Everyone uses the same gear, same plug-ins, same drum programs, same everything and it’s just reached this point of complete homogeneity. I made a decision that if Palace of Worms were to continue I’d have to shed many of the tropes that the earlier records contained, much like I’ve shed much of the rage, hatred, and misanthropic behavior that was a big part of me during the early phase of the band.

Having started out as a solo-project you chose to bring in a number of collaborators on the latest album. What were the reasons for this and what did these collaborations add to the album making process?

Balan: On the previous album “The Ladder” I had a couple collaborators come in to do a few small things and I really liked the way it turned out. I made this big proclamation on the first full length that Palace of Worms would only be me forever, but I came to realize that this was not how I was going to get the diverse array of sounds that was necessary for the project to continue to grow in interesting ways. I really liked the idea of bringing in a couple dozen musicians whose work I admired and assigning them parts that would take advantage of their various specialties and strengths. Much of the thematic content of “Cabal” has to do with ego death, and the rebirth of a better, truer self. I’ve lived much of my life as an irresponsible and self-destructive fuckhead and after my daughter was born, I decided that in order to be the father that I needed to be to her I would do away with many of the childish things that had been a negative presence in my life for so long. Stepping back and letting others help translate my ideas was refreshing in that it allowed me to let go of a lot of the neurosis that I struggle with when I’m making a record and allowed for some objectivity, which is always missing when I’m creating a piece of music by myself.

One of the first things that struck me when I heard the track Through The Dark Arches was the great sound you constructed. The guitar tone especially stood out to me. Could you talk a bit about the rig you used and how you constructed the total sound of the album?

Balan: I recorded the record in a multitude of places and studios. For the guitars I recorded them directly at home, then had them re-amped by the great Greg Wilkinson at Earhammer Studios in Oakland using my 5150 head, Marshall 4×12, and Greg’s Sovtek Mig 100 and the same Marshall cab with a different mic placement. They were then mixed by Sammy Fielding (who also did clean vocals on the record) at his Berkeley and Nevada City studios. Originally, I was going to go for the typical HM-2 Death Metal sound but then decided that particular sound wasn’t appropriate for the style of the album, so I sought out something else. The HM-2 has been pretty beaten to death by now anyways.

It’s been written that Cabal is to be the final full-length statement from Palace of Worms. What’s the reason behind this and how would you sum up the life of the project? Are there any non-musical influences that have had a significant impact on Palace of Worms and the forthcoming album in particular?

-Yeah “Cabal” is going to be the final full-length for the project. The reason mostly has to do with a general lack of time and interest. My other responsibilities; parenthood, multiple jobs, school, just don’t allow me to devote the amount of time that is required when making a new record. “Cabal” took a couple years to make and was very difficult to organize. I’m fine with not continuing the project tbh. This is time that can be spent enriching my life by learning new skills, besides, I’m not going to be completely giving up on music. I’m working on a new project which is on a much smaller scale than what Palace has become and it’s nowhere near as invasive in my life. I’m going to be re-issuing the previous record “The Ladder” as a proper CD release and then that will be it for Palace of Worms.

You’ve been active in other musical projects over the years, how do you think your other music making experience has fed into your work as Palace of Worms?
What music first made you want to pick up an instrument and make and perform music yourself.

Balan: I’ve been in a few bands, and I think all of them have in one way or another had an influence on what I do as Palace of Worms, for better or worse. I think playing in Black Metal bands live kind of helped lead me away from wanting to pursue that sound any further since I started to view the heavy reliance of reverb, and incomprehensible levels of cheap distortion as a mask to conceal a general lack of interesting ideas. This is another way I wanted to differentiate the new record from the older ones; it needed to be more vivid and have more dimension and have less of a “it doesn’t sound like shit, it’s just the atmosphere” type of feel to it.

As someone who’s made a lot of music by yourself can you give some insight into how you construct your songs? Do you have a typical formula for how you take an initial idea and shape that into a completed piece?

Balan: I usually start with constructing the drums on my electronic kit and try to work out a rough framework of how the song will flow. At this point I won’t do anything else and will just sit and listen to the drum parts and try to come up with guitar and bass parts that I think fit in there. Then gradually I bring in other instruments that I think might bring something unique to the song like keyboards or a sitar, or horns or whatever. There are instances where before I do any recording at all I already have the seed of an idea in my head about the song’s sound. A good example on the new record would be the song “When the Stones Come Tumbling Down” which I wanted to sound like a combo of “Dance of December Souls” era Katatonia and King Crimson’s “Starless”. Of course, it never ends up sounding just like that, but it allows me to get a good start. I know, not very interesting! Lol!

With the album coming out soon, what plans do you have for promotion? Will you be putting a live band together to perform some of these songs?
Now that we’re passing into the new year, are there any releases that stand out for you as your favorites for 2022?

Balan: I’m pretty sure I’m not going to attempt to play any of these songs live. It would be too difficult with all the weird instrumentation. I tried out doing the live band thing a few years ago and it was generally a negative experience. I’m not good with dealing with people, and I found trying to work around everyone’s bullshit to be really tiring and frustrating. As far new records I’ve liked this year is concerned, there were a few I really enjoyed like Dream Unending’s “Song of Salvation”, Anal Stabwound’s “Reality Drips Into the Mouth of Indifference”, Tor Lundvall’s “Beautiful Illusions”, Devil Master’s “Ecstasies of Never Ending Night”, Carpenter Brut’s “Leather Terror”, and Doldrum’s “The Knocking”.

Thanks again for your time. Is there anything else you’d like to mention or promote?

Balan: Nope! Thank you for the questions!

interview by Tom Osman

Thanks to Balan for the interview. Cabal by Palace of Worms will be released on the 3rd of February via Acephale Winter Productions. Listen to the preview track from the album below and pre-order a copy from the label’s bandcamp page.

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