We’re shining the Meet The Band spotlight on the Indiana death metal group Obscene. After an EP in 2017, they just released their debut full-length The Inhabitable Dark. Vocalist Kyle Shaw and drummer Brandon Howe introduce us to their band.
Chad Bowar: Give us a brief history of Obscene.
Kyle Shaw: We got together summer of 2016. Brandon and previous guitarist, Ryan Green, were both (Brandon still is along with our guitarist Mike) in a more technical death metal band in Indy called Summon the Destroyer, and were wanting to begin another death metal project that was more in the classic European style. I had mentioned online that I was wanting to front another band after my previous one, Boddicker (more of a crusty deathgrind band), had pretty much dissolved. Extreme metal (especially classic death metal) is my favorite form, and I was pretty burnt out on all the goofy grind stuff in the Midwest. So, the opportunity was a no brainer. We rode under the moniker Blood Chasm for about a handful of shows, and changed the name to Obscene. Recorded Sermon To The Snake summer 2017, signed with Blood Harvest later that year, they reissued the Sermon tape in early 2018. We later did some light touring, condensed the lineup from two guitarists to one, and recorded The Inhabitable Dark last summer.
Describe the songwriting process for The Inhabitable Dark.
Brandon Howe: The songwriting process flowed at a pretty natural pace. We didn’t really do anything special, to be honest. We’ve always been the type to just sit in the rehearsal room and improvise a lot of different things, some being already written ideas that we’ve dabbled with in the past and tossed in a dropbox folder for later use, and some being completely new to everyone. If it sounds cool, and has that heavy, punishing classic death metal feel that we all love, take it and roll with it. See where it leads you. Figure out structures and purpose. Play it over and over again to make sure there aren’t any parts that could be cooler with a little bit of tweaking. That’s about all I can really provide as an insight into how we do things. It’s pretty straightforward and always has been. We often have the shared mentality of keeping things memorable and catchy, and have matured a lot as a band since the release of the debut Sermon tape. Looking forward to sharing this one with the world!
What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
Brandon: Man, I don’t even know where to begin. The studio itself was beautiful. Being out there and working again with our close friend Carl Byers was great. Dude is a master of his craft. The recording process went so smoothly, and we were finished in just a single weekend. I think the strongest memory would be just sitting in the main room after all was said and done, after packing all of our gear back up, and listening to what we all had just created. It blew my mind just hearing the raw, unmixed, mic to console recordings of the entire record. Everything in its natural state sounded so big. My drums were punchy and full of that perfect reverb that I’ve always loved on the older DM records, the guitar and bass tones combined were crushingly heavy, and the maniacal howls of the vocals really added those final pieces to the puzzle. It’s moments like that that make you go, “Shit, man.” and really appreciate the dudes that you do this stuff with that much more.
How would you characterize its style/sound?
Kyle: traditional death metal running the gamut of the American, Dutch, Scandinavian, and U.K. scenes of the late ’80s/early ’90s. We’re not interested in trying to sound like a particular band or year. We’re just lifelong fans of classic death metal and are offering our take on a style we’ve cherished and loved throughout the years.
Brandon: Not for the faint of heart.
What lyrical subjects do you cover?
Kyle: the general death metal topics of horror and death. (laughs) Having said that, I want to stick with particular themes per release. With Sermon to the Snake, I had pretty much concentrated on end times and global catastrophe. Don’t call me a prophet. With The Inhabitable Dark I focused on more psychology of committing acts that intuitively are wrong but doing them anyways. The term was inspired by Jack Ketchum in his book Red, where the protagonist knows that revenge is his only option for inner peace. The lyric sheet for the record isn’t laid out in a traditional manner. More of a ranting and ravings of a madman without the song titles to guide you through.
How did you come to sign with Blood Harvest Records?
Kyle: We had essentially ‘cold call’ emailed underground extreme metal labels with rosters we liked to gauge any interest they’d have in working with us. Blood Harvest liked our demo enough to reissue it and want to put out a full length.
What are your goals and expectations for the album?
Kyle: I feel we reached our goal of releasing a strong death metal album that stands out among the current trending crop of ‘caveman riffs’ or Demilich and Incantation worship. As far as expectations, I’m going to keep them low. It’s underground death metal, no one’s getting rich off this shit. The best I can hope for is to play shows again with bands we like for crowds that want to hear passionate and true death metal. We’re not interested in appeasing anyone else.
What has been your most memorable Obscene live show?
Brandon: Tough one. They’ve all truly been great. If I HAD to pick one as a favorite, I’d probably go with the one we played with Necrot and Blood Incantation on their off-date from the Morbid Angel tour. Black Circle (one of Indy’s best local venues for metal) was packed for that one. It was a quick, three band bill. It didn’t go on all night, and everyone brought their A game. Crowd was wild, too.
How did you get started in music?
Brandon: I always dabbled in music one way or another, whether it was messing around with some cheap guitar as a little kid, or beating up some taped up drum kit with broken sticks, not knowing what I was even doing. I had this magnetic pull to the hobby that was pretty inescapable, and still is to this day. All throughout the years of schooling, it’s all I wanted to do, and nothing else really interested me. I wound up dropping out in my teens because of it, which is not necessarily something I’m proud of, but whatever. It allowed me to gain tons of experience in the world that I was striving to be a part of, and it helped me further expand my musical knowledge/chops and build up better sense of professionalism as the years passed. Ultimately led me to numerous gigs, local or out of state, small tours to longer ones, playing out of the country, just doing what I enjoy and what I’m good at in life, which is rocking in a band with the people I consider brothers. I wouldn’t change a thing.
Who were your early influences and inspirations?
Kyle: The initial goal was to shoot for something in the vein of Edge of Sanity with some Hail of Bullets. The scope has broadened since and I think that’s salient when even listening to our demo to the full length. Personally, I go for the more acidic and torturous delivery in vocals. I’ve seen people describe it as hardcore, but that’s pretty off base. Vocalists whom have inspired my style would be Martin van Drunen, John Tardy, Tomas Lindberg, Marc Grewe, Chris Reifert, Chuck Schuldiner, Killjoy, Brett Hoffman, Paul Speckmann, etc. Also, a lot of Johnny Come Latelys need to really look into their history before running their turd tractors. Bands like Bolt Thrower, Carcass, Entombed, and Napalm Death all have roots in hardcore punk.
What drew you to death metal?
Kyle: The atmosphere and intensity for sure. My first exposure was Morbid Angel’s “God of Emptiness” video scaring the shit out of me when I was 10 and staying up late. Later in middle school I got into Cannibal Corpse which led to Suffocation which led to Autopsy which led to Dismember and on and on.
Brandon: It’s definitely the intensity. The live release of aggression, the crowds, the extremity behind the music itself and lyrical content. All of the horror themes, being someone that was raised on blood and gore, they both go hand in hand. Add some wild shredding and fast double bass on top of the content, and the end product will most certainly rip.
What was the first metal concert you attended?
Kyle: Slayer/Sick of it All/Meshuggah in either ’98 or ’99.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected the band, and you personally?
Kyle: We’ve had to cancel a few local shows and our touring and festival appearances are very much in flux. We had just paid off our van about a week before the shit hit the fan, so impeccable timing. I also moonlight a bit as a local promoter for metal gigs, and having nothing to really look forward to doing is a drag. But we’ll all get through this together through strength and wit.
Brandon: It put a halt on rehearsals for a few months or so, and put a lot of upcoming gigs into question or caused cancellations. Personally, it’s given me plenty of time to sit down and work on my craft, and actually get some solid solo practicing in. Haven’t normally been able to outside of the routine band rehearsals due to working all of the time and having minimal time at home. We got together and jammed last night, and it was great. I feel like everyone has had an adequate amount of time to recharge so we can come back full force once restrictions are lifted. Prepare yourselves.
What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
Kyle: Let me give you a 5 album playlist classic style: Blood Incantation – Hidden History of the Human Race, Blooming Carrions – Sisters in Blooming Flesh, Fuoco Fatuo – Backwater, Mortiferum – Disgorged from Psychotic Depths, Sempiternal Dusk – Cenotaph of Defectuous Creation.
Brandon: My home playlists are a little all over the place. Depends on the mood, I suppose. Current mix of LPs and CDs sitting around my stereo system from recent use: Savatage – Sirens,,Forbidden – Twisted Into Form, Morgoth – Cursed, King Diamond – Conspiracy, Autopsy – Mental Funeral, Morbid Angel – Blessed are the Sick, Queensryche – Self Titled.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Kyle: I’d like to ‘stan’ for a bit on the power of Midwest death metal. We don’t necessarily get the praise past or present like the coasts do, but without bands like Master, Necrophagia and Repulsion, death metal and grindcore wouldn’t be what it is. And we’re still killing it. In Indiana alone you have us, Summon the Destroyer, Legion, Hatesong, Mother of Graves, and Shroud of Vulture. Regionally, I’m giving a shout out to Centenary, Pig’s Blood, Rotting Kingdom, Dismemberment, Mutilatred, Rotted, Molder, Phobophilic, Faithxtractor, Absconder, Cryptual, Ara, Sanguisugabogg, Cardiac Arrest, Nucleus, Nak’ay, Karkosa, Throne, The Lurking Corpses, Embalmer, Kurnigia, Nunslaughter, Nothingness, Void Rot, Lectularius, Well of Night, Ossuary, Cianide, Temple of Void, Valdrin, Shed the Skin, Mindloss, Maul, and plenty of others that are escaping my mind at the moment.
Brandon: Hail and Kill!
(interview published June 13, 2020)