Carving Greater Visions: and interview with Carl Whitbread from Lo!

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Australian noise violators Lo! made an impressive entrance upon the world two years ago with the release of their startling and riveting debut album Look And Behold, now the return with its successor Monstrorum Historia, a sonic beast of a release which took everything bred on the first album to new and scintillating heights whilst exploring greater expanses of invention. It is a corrosive tempest, a mesh of hardcore, black and crushing sludge, and prime metal which is ferocious and wonderfully exhausting. To catch up with the band and find out more about their new album we had the pleasure to talk with Carl Whitbread again.

Hi and welcome back to The RingMaster Review.

We last spoke about Lo! with you at the tail end of 2011 around the release of your debut Look And Behold. Bring us up to date to what has happened with the band since, apart from creating another thrilling titan in the shape of the excellent Monstrorum Historia.

Since the release of ‘Look and Behold’, we’ve been playing around Aus as much as possible. We’ve been really lucky to get a lot of international supports here including Doomriders, Eyehategod, Burning Love, Russian Circles and Rosetta. We have also just finished a 25 day European tour with The Ocean and Cult of Luna which has been the experience of a lifetime!

How would you say your sound and adventure has evolved between albums?

The first album was mostly written and recorded by myself at home before any members even joined the band. Once we had established our current line-up, we tweaked the demos and added a couple more tracks and that became ‘Look and Behold’. This time round, we had obviously been playing together for over 3 years, so we were more of a ‘real band’ and knew each other much better as musicians and friends. The rough foundation for most of the songs were still written by me but there was input from everyone this time round which I think really helped push us further into our own sound.

Was there anything you learned making Look And Behold which you took into the recording of Monstrorum Historia to help make its creation smoother or gave it a particular flame inventively?

Well to be honest simply recording Monstrorum properly in a studio as a band was a massive improvement over the way we did ‘Look and Behold’. That album was thrown together in bits and pieces over a long period of time, things were recorded separately, drums were added over demos, vocals were done at 3 different locations etc., so it was a very non-tradition way of doing things. This time everything was done all at once so it was a much more ‘organic’ process and I think that showed in the final result.

Your sound has always been varied and pushing its limits but Monstrorum Historia takes that to another level whilst still having 480910_10151509927407732_1756219004_na presence which is distinctly Lo!; Was there any particular intent or aim musically when writing the new release in that area?

There was never any particular aim, just to write songs that flowed well and sounded good. We didn’t want to stray too far from what we had already established, but at the same time, step our sound up a to ‘second album standard’. It was a bit of a balancing act but thankfully it seemed to come pretty easily to us.

Lo And Behold set a certain benchmark for your songwriting and sound which the new album has raised to another level, but did that early success and creative plateau give you any extra personal pressure when it came to this new release?

It certainly did. The ‘Look and Behold’ songs had been written so long ago, and at a time before the band even existed, so there was a casualness to the whole song writing process. Now as an established band with a release under our belt, we definitely wondered if we’d be able to step up what we had already done, especially as there was a really short time period to get the songs written. One thing we were very aware of during the whole process is not making the songs sound rushed or just thrown together – we even ended up scrapping a couple that just didn’t seem to have the ‘Lo!’ vibe.

Did you approach the songs and recording of Monstrorum Historia differently to its predecessor then?

The song writing was pretty similar to ‘Look and Behold’- most of it was written and demoed at home. The main difference was this time there was a great deal of input from everyone. We all worked together in shaping the final result. As mentioned before, the recording process was more traditional this time and a lot of it was tracked together live. When it came to sound, we tried getting everything sounding the way we wanted from the start, instead of relying on too many mixing tricks.

Once more you explore dark corners and shadows with your songs, breeding a sonic antagonism and caustic wash which is as enthralling as it is intrusive. Do you closely sculpt the balance between both types of affects or does it naturally emerge as you bring songs to fruition?

It feels like a pretty natural process to me, but I guess that comes with time and experience and having a range of musical tastes and influences. There’s always some conscious thought about the balancing act, and we’re always aware not to stray too far from our sound, but it never feels forced.

Your most ferocious collection of songs to date would you agree?

Definitely. I think we just rolled with the vibe a bit more on this album and let the songs be what they should be. I also think the contribution of everyone this time led to a more ferocious sound, especially in the drum department. On the first album, Adrian was playing more or less what I had written, but this time as we wrote together he really let loose. Lot’s more double kick and blast beats \m/

Is there a particular moment or feel within Monstrorum Historia which gives you the strongest satisfaction?

Everything about it gives me satisfaction, haha. The fact that we wrote and recorded the whole thing in about 4 months, in amongst jobs / wives / girlfriends / kids, was a massive achievement (albeit a stressful one!). I also have a soft spot for the intro track ‘As Above’… the first half of that song was actually written for a trailer for an Australian horror series, but got rejected. I had always really liked it and thought it would make the perfect intro to this album, so I’m glad it got to see the light of day.

loTell us about instrumental Haven, Beneath Weeping Willows, a piece of music which for us provides a rapacious canvas for evolving imagery and thoughts to explore and be inspired by. What was the story behind it and its aural narrative?

This piece of music was the last song written for Monstrorum. I felt the album needed a bit of breathing space in the form of a quieter track. I had that bass riff lying around for a while which I hadn’t used for anything so we basically jammed it out in the recording studio and all the layers built up from there. We also got in our good friend and fellow drummer Ben Ellingworth to help out with the extra percussion pieces.

Once again also there are mischievous shadows within the album as with your last; is this a particular Australian trait of character do you think as you seem not alone amongst artists from down under in having that kind of humour in their music.

I think it’s very hard to grow up in Australia and not approach everything you do with a bit of humor, no matter how seriously you take things. That’s what we love the most about Australia. Everyone can completely take the piss out of themselves, but still do really awesome shit at the same time.

Tell us about your upcoming tour.lo2

We’re about to head around the east coast of Aus to promote the album. We’re bringing High Tension along with us – an amazing band from Melbourne who plays ballsy Mark of Cain style rock with a crazy screaming female singer. We also have killer supports in each city too.

Any plans for the rest of 2013 and beyond ready to be revealed yet?

Nothing set in stone yet, we’d like to possibly release a 7″ later in the year, and hopefully we can get back over to Europe!

Many thanks for taking time to talk with us again, and good luck with the tour etc. Any final thoughts you would like to unleash?

Cheers for the interview Pete, always a pleasure!

www.lookandbehold.net

Read the Monstrorum Historia review @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2013/04/22/lo-monstrorum-historia/

Pete RingMaster

The RingMaster Review 25/06/2013

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Lo! – Monstrorum Historia

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In 2011, Australian violators Lo! seized and exposed raw nerves within the senses with their debut album Look And Behold, at the same time they lit a furnace of passion towards their sonic creativity for a great many such as us. Monstrorum Historia sees the return of the Sydney quartet but would it have the same power and enslavement as its predecessor. The simple answer is yes and then some. The band once again forge their own distinct form of invasive metal through a merger of the most insidious strains of hardcore, black metal, and crushing sludge metal, but this time the resulting corrosive tempest is even more impressive and ferocious, and wonderfully exhausting.

Released via Pelagic Records, the new album unleashes a brawl of violent imagination and creative intensity which makes its predecessor’s vicious beauty seem almost lightweight in comparison. Their breeding of sonic antagonism and contagious invention has found stronger potent depths and the imagination of the band a greater open malevolence which leaves only undiluted sore pleasure and invigorated intrusive satisfaction in its caustic wash.

The opening track As Above is a slowly dawning menace, the dramatic keys marking its arrival suggesting danger soon lo_MH_cover_squareaccompanied with the same intent by the sonic commentary of the guitar. As thumping rhythms from drummer Adrian Griffin bring their intimidation to bear upon the brewing event, the bass of Adrian Shapiro unleashes a predatory prowl which only increases the stature of the compelling intimidation. It is an instrumental which taunts and plays with the fears and punctuated by accumulated crescendo of all elements, it is a stirring and impossibly strong hook to start off the release.

Its departure is barely a whisper past before the following Bloody Vultures swoops with its hungry ravaging. Persistent virulent riffs abrase the surface of the ear whilst vocalist Jamie-Leigh Smith adds his caustic squalls with equal intensity and spite to proceedings, the delivery and attack of the frontman also having taken a leap on in intensity, his malicious searing squalls as well as the control he exerts honed to reap their strongest effect. Snarling like a beast in heat, the song shifts its poise continually without losing any power in its attack but ultimately it’s intent to chew up the listener with crushing rhythms and carnally inspired riffing wins out.

Tracks such as the equally carnivorous Ghost Promenade and the sonically intrusive Caruncula work on the senses further, softening up their defences with enthralling invidious invention whilst the villainous temptation Haven, Beneath Weeping Willows takes the listener on a walk through a landscape of doom coated atmospheres and tantalising yet sinister dark avenues. The instrumental is a canvas for thoughts and emotions yet an open aural painting in sound which conjures an inescapable distrustful landscape expertly sculpted from the uncomplicated but inspired strokes of the guitar of Carl Whitbread and the bass of Shapiro.

Across its length Monstrorum Historia continues to impress and spark emotive hysteria towards its contents. Certainly it is an album which will not find a home with all but if its rapacious noise and intent makes that union it is instant ardour. Further songs such as Fallen Leaves with its suspicious dark atmospheres toying with the psyche, the fiery and brutal Lichtenberg Figures, and the deliciously hypnotic Palisades of Fire lay out further greedy grasping temptation for nothing less than full eager digestion in return, their continuance of the addictive sonic deviancy at large helping to provide as the only option by the end of the album, an instant irresistible return to its ferocious grip.

Monstrorum Historia is a barbed and spiky triumph with a ferocity and invention which leaves not only wounds and scars within its recipients but unbridled acclaim and passion. Lo! is one of the noise giants and just gets better and better.

www.lookandbehold.net

9.5/10

Pete RingMaster

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Interview with Carl Whitbread of Lo!

Lo! Interview

One of the more impressive and satisfying albums to see the light this year has come from Australian band Lo! Since forming in 2006 their crushing sludge/hardcore/ black sounds have found an ever increasing acclaim and audience, which the release of the album Look And Behold via Pelagic Records is sure to accelerate. With great fortune we had the opportunity to ask Guitarist Carl Whitbread all about the release, music in Australia and the band.

Hi and welcome. Many thanks for taking time out to talk to us.

Thanks for the interview!

Would you like to introduce the band?

The band consists of myself (Carl Whitbread) on guitar, Adrian Griffin on Drums, Jamie-Lee Smith on vocals and Adrian Shapiro on Bass.

Could you give some history to the band covering the early days and how you all came together to form Lo!?

So the band basically started with me writing a bunch of demos at home, over time and after having about 5 demos written and recorded, I started looking for like minded members to join the band. After a few member tweaks and changes, we finally had a solid line-up and were able to play our first show in 2010.

Your sound is deeply varied and nicely surprising what are your influences that maybe have helped shape the sound?

I guess our main influences would be bands like Breach, Old Man Gloom and Converge. We wanted the sound to be quite dark and in-your-face. Having said that though we also didn’t want to sound like we were directly ripping off those bands, we wanted to try and add our own flavour into the music. We all listen to quite a diverse range of music, so turning to those other styles for inspiration was also very important.

Do you think that it is in some ways it is important for bands to have members with distinctly different tastes and influences to bring something extra to a band’s chances of standing out amongst a wave of other artists in the same genre?

Oh definitely, I think it’s very important. Things just get so stale and boring otherwise. As I mentioned we all have diverse tastes so that definitely does help. Personally I listen to a lot of classical music, as well as indie or rock bands such as Mogwai, Queens of the Stone age, White Stripes, Deerhoof, Bjork etc. Those styles of bands really have the art of songwriting down, and are always doing something quite interesting. We like to use that as inspiration for our writing, but still obviously keeping our heavy sound. I think at the end of the day, putting more thought into the songwriting keeps the songs interesting and fresh to not only our listeners, but to ourselves as well… and if it help us stand out then that’s a bonus!

Are there a strong following and base for extreme and other darker metal flavours in Australia?

The scene over here is quite small – at least compared to Europe or America. But there are a good range of awesome bands and there’s always a lot of support from the punters. There have been a lot of venue closures though – mainly here in Sydney – which sucks, but there have been a handful of smaller DIY venues / record stores doing shows now which is very exciting. I guess the other hard part is people seem to be very lazy about going to shows. If a bigger international metal band comes out, everyone comes out of the woodwork – there’s people there you have never seen at a local show even though the local shows can be just as good.

Is it limiting though and recognition beyond the shores essential for most bands?

I guess so, but then again it depends on what your intentions are. I think most heavy bands in Australia give up on the idea of ever trying to get big, because Australia simply doesn’t have the market for it. I know for us, the priority has always been to have fun writing and playing music we love, but of course, the chance to get international exposure and interest is a massive bonus and will help us continue doing what we love.

It was your debut EP that first brought wider attention outside of Australia?

Yeah, the EP was a DIY sort of thing we had in order to send to people and sell at shows so people could hear our music. All of the tracks on the EP were remastered and made it onto the album too.

How did the link up with Pelagic Records come about?

We basically sent the EP out to a whole bunch of people / labels overseas… not really with any intention of getting signed, but more just to get the music out there. Robin got back to us straight away and said he loved it and wanted to put an album out. Obviously we were very excited!

You have just released the great debut album Look And Behold on the label, did it come out as expected or did you surprise yourselves in any way? 

I guess we surprised ourselves that it came out the way we expected… haha. We ended up doing everything ourselves, which meant we had full control over how everything sounded.
As mentioned earlier, we already had a handful of songs recorded from the EP, plus we had about 4 more which we had done but not finished, so we really had to pull everything together, make it all sounds consistent and flow as an album. It was a bit of a challenge as deadlines were tight, so there were many late nights of mixing but in the end we were super happy with the end result.

The album consists of not only ferocious and intensely striking tracks but three instrumentals that play with equal power and effect though from an atmospheric and emotively different aspect. Were these written before recording or within and did you start out with these ‘breaks’ in the powerful intensity in mind or they evolved naturally?

It was a little of both. From the start I knew I wanted us to be a band who can experiment with ambient / electronic tracks. I think it’s a great way to break up albums and takes the listener on more of a diverse journey, and as you mentioned, they can be equally as intense as the heavier stuff. ‘Doth’ had been written a long time before the album was put together so it was a matter of fitting it in seamlessly in the play order. The other 2 tracks ‘Hath’ and ‘Seraphim’ were pulled together specifically to break up the album a little more. We will definitely be experimenting more with this type of style in the future.

There is defiance and anger openly felt within the album, how personal are the songs?

For me specifically, the music didn’t really have any personal agenda behind it. I’ve always been attracted to a darker style of music, whether it be metal, ambient or classical, so I wanted it to be dark, angry and powerful. Lyric wise, our singer has based most of his lyrics on the idea of someone realising that the world (and consequently their own world) is coming to an end. I can’t really go into too much detail as I don’t know the full story but he definitely had written a lot of it based on his own experiences.

There also feels a dark humour lurking at every corner or do I just have a warped outlook? Haha.

Haha, no you’re definitely right. We’re always joking around and acting like massive idiots. We definitely wanted this to come through, and not come across so serious about everything. Things become boring very quickly otherwise.

Do you feel the band is at its height right now or there are still aspects you would like to bring out in future releases?

As it’s just our first release, I feel we’re only just getting started. We’re still a relatively new band in the grand scheme of things, so there’s still a lot of goals we want to achieve. I think the most exciting thing is the fact we haven’t lumped our music into 1 specific category so it will be interesting to see what stuff we come out with for our next release.

What is next for Lo! and what are the chances of European audiences seeing you live in the near future?

We’ve just finished up a small Australian tour for the album which was pretty successful. We’ll probably play a handful of shows and start writing some new stuff for the rest of this year. Next year we’re hoping to get over to Europe probably in May. We’re currently applying for an Arts grant so fingers crossed we can get some financial support for it!

Many thanks for talking to us, would you like to leave us with a last thought?

Thanks for the interview! We are very excited about all the exposure we’ve been getting in Europe, and hopefully we’ll see you guys next year!

 Look And Behold is available via Pelagic Records.

Review of album @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2011/10/16/lo-look-and-behold/

RingMaster Review 03/11/2011

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Lo!-Look And Behold

Australian rockers Lo! are not exactly newcomers having started in 2006 but it has taken a few years before their powerful sound has finally caught on. Everything has a time and theirs looks like being now with the release of their debut album Look And Behold via Pelagic Records, the crushing sludge/hardcore/ black sounds within ready to invade the senses of a much wider audience. The Sydney quartet came to the attention of the Pelagic owner Robin Staps with their 2010 debut EP, he becoming enthused with them after hearing its staggering sounds, now with his label unveiling the band to a much bigger arena it is hard to imagine anything less than wave upon wave of eager fans flocking their way.

The first thing apparent with the music of LO! is the diversity in the band’s music, their forceful sound a heady mix of thumping riffs and rhythms impregnated with creative melodies and intriguing directions and detours within songs. The members are no newcomers to music and it shows with a confidence and sureness to their songwriting and ability as well as the variety they bring.  Formed by guitarist Carl Whitbread after the demise of his previous band Omerata, he explains the diverse sound, “Having quite a diverse range in musical tastes (everything from death metal, to electro, to classical), I wanted to find a way to bring my favourite elements from different genres into the music, without it sounding like a blatant mish-mash of styles”. Adding the combined power and skills of bassist Adrian Shapiro, drummer Adrian Griffin, and the threatening intense vocals of  Jamie-Leigh Smith, the band have unleashed a sound that grabs more than just attention.  

A  brief atmospheric instrumental ‘Hath’ opens the album, the first of a trio (‘Seraphim’ and ‘Doth’ the others) throughout the release that bring a respite to the intensity elsewhere, not that they are interludes, they add an extra atmospheric element that brings the ferocity in the other tracks even more into focus. The first full track ‘Deluge (Carnivorous Flux)’, shows the aggressive tracks are not just about power and sonically hammering sounds. These songs are infused with melodic and striking elements that never become ordinary or expected and always engage as deeply as the tracks intensity delves. The track comes in with an immediate eagerness to challenge; predatory riffs from the driving guitars and the hardcore vocal attack show a band with intent to bring music that is unpredictable and testing but ultimately always satisfying.

As mentioned the songs come with their own distinct flavours with not one slipping below the band’s high standard. Though kindred in aggression and deliberation the distinctiveness to songs is very rewarding, whether the sludge/ hardcore blend of ‘Bastion’ veined with irresistible light grooves or the incessant sonic groove of ‘Aye, Commodore’ that teases and plays with the senses as pleading growls shout out, all songs gratify gloriously.

The musicianship is impressive, with groaning dark basslines and ominously heavy riffs alongside rhythms that crumble defences. The tracks often have a mischief quality to their energy resulting in something even more addictive and engaging. The dark aggressive ‘Indigo Division’ and ‘Moira Kindle’, which carries a wonderful melodic Faith No More feel from the start, are both stunning examples of their wicked intent with their wanton sounds.

   Look And Behold is a complete joy and though there is the feeling of much more to come from the band even within the release itself, it shows a band now and certainly ahead that will leave a definite mark on metal. Lo! have taken time to come into view but they are determined to stay there and with releases like this it is a formality.

RingMaster 16/10/2011

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