Out of the steaming necropolis of the Texas underground comes an onslaught of roiling hate otherwise known as Humut Tabal. Describing themselves as “epic thrashy technical black metal”, they released their debut album “Gods ov darkness, hate and flame” onto an unsuspecting world earlier this year following a rough demo and a few live performances.
For those who wondered, Humut Tabal is the Mesopotamian equivalent of Charon in Greek mythology, ferrying dead souls into the underworld. Would you say there is a distinct mystical or mythological theme to your music?
Grimzaar: No, at least not a consistent one. Several of our songs are inspired by mythology, particularly Greek and Mesopotamian mythology. We have also been considering writing a short concept piece consisting of several songs that highlight scenes from the Sumerian underworld. That aside, we use myth to emphasize certain emotions and philosophical concepts; myth is not our main focus.
Njord: I would consider most of our lyrical material seeped in vague mythological, Pagan themes. A reoccurring idea is the prospect of self identification with the universe, namely achieving a sort of spiritual Demi-god type stance in regard to the exterior world and the human experience.
Your debut release is being distributed by The Dread Lair out of Houston. How else have you been able to spread the word about Humut Tabal?
Njord: Mainly through local means such as small zines, blogs, radio play and interviews like these. We are constantly in search of new mediums however, good press is always welcome. We are also fortunate being backed by The Dread Lair. Cryptos, the main coordinator, is a sort of artist in his own right. The bridges he constructs allow bands from around the world to get a physical copy of one another’s music and keep in touch through this Houston based center. With the Summit events, the local community is invited to gather and discuss means in which to improve the overall quality of metal within their reach. It’s all very innovative stuff happening down here.
As well as more recognized bands such as Absu and Vesperian Sorrow, Texas seems to have a bourgeoning underground scene. Do you socialise with other bands, and how would you say the “hill country” has shaped the band and its influences?
Grimzaar: We have solidified bonds with several bands from around the state, most notably in Houston and San Antonio. The hill country has definitely influenced me as an individual as well as having an impact on our music. Some of our songs are direct impressions of various wanderings.
Njord: You are quite correct. Texas, this oddly sort of centered place in the Continental U.S., is constantly producing some really awe inspiring movements in scene. Vesperian and Absu are a good example. You can also look at bands like HOD, Averse Sefira and Devourment that are just really pushing forward with astounding momentum despite the current trends and challenging location. Y’know, we try to make an effort to network when we play events, we have met some really amazing bands and individuals through our music and that list is always growing. Particularly within this sort of abstract, underground genre of music bands really have to combine their efforts and unite in a professional sense because there frankly isn’t a huge demand for this music within this region and working together can often lead to wondrous benefits. Personally, I love the Hill Country. As far as how it has shaped us, I can only speak for myself. It’s true that if Grimzaar lacked the looming, crag filled mourning hills of Blanco that his lyrical inspiration might be harder to achieve, but it would still be there. If we lived atop the mighty cliffs of Nordkapp, we might have different perspectives, but the same sort of sound of playing would be there. Wherever we are, we are but our selves.
Hravan: I would say the hill country is one of the most influential parts of the music we surround ourselves with. We are all products of our environment; and were surrounded by ignorant oppressive Christians. Though we may have thought so a year ago; we are not alone. Every where this band has taken us we’ve found a rich diversity of the music we live for.
There are some pretty large churches in the Texas area: has there been any reaction from the “conservative” population to Humut Tabal and your music?
Grimzaar: We don’t attract much attention from them. There was one funny instance early on in which some dolt of a promoter had decided to put a Christian metal (don’t get me started) band as an opening act, with Humut Tabal second, but nothing particularly noteworthy happened. We were amused, and they were standoffish.
Njord: It really is funny that HT was conceived and continues to mature in a hotbed of traditional, Anglo Saxon, conservative ways of life. We are located within the “corridor” or liberalism in central Texas (Austin area), so we have never been faced with a direct political accusation of radicalism. For the most part we tend to be humble people, and while we take our music very seriously, we are not the sort of band to antagonize, provoke or otherwise tempt the head of blind hatred/ignorance. We tend to ourselves, but that’s not to say a variable defense could not be provided in times where one might be necessary.
Hravan: the first venue we ever played had a Christian band open for us. They refused to take the stage with us ever again. As far as the churches go, not yet. We keep a fairly underground status. As well as keep the hate crimes to a minimum.
Your bio lists four members of the band. Has it always been this way? How do the responsibilties split up between you guys?
G: No, in the early days it was Hravan, Njord, and me. We tried a couple of bassists before settling on Bek (known to a few as Valgrid or Scathrath). She recently decided to leave the band in favor of a career in the film industry. Fortunately for us, the mighty Zvs of San Antonio’s Plutonian Shore has agreed to fill the void. As for responsibilities, I focus on composition and songwriting.
Njord: We were plagued with bass player issues for quite some time, thankfully that is not the case as of right now. Four is a nice number, but things can always change. However, I believe the core and center of HT will always be us three. We just got used to it in the beginning, and unlike some older bands, we are a close knit group. You can expect us to always incorporate other individuals or ideas to enhance our sound, but were really just three guys from the Hill Country. We went to high school together, we know each other, it’s definitely hard to replace that. Grimzaar is our main composer and often times I’ll rework the percussive elements or simply just add my two cents to any given track near the end of the songwriting process.
Your lyrics are full of imagery and brutal word-pictures. Could you elaborate on the songwriting process?
Grimzaar: Typically, I start off with a completed lyric or a completed musical composition. I strive to find music that conveys the same emotions the lyrics do and vice versa, writing new music or lyrics to conform to the initially completed work as need be. Once I believe I have found a suitable match, I work out a rough demo and send it to Njord to jam for a while. We then all try learning it as a group, making whatever changes we deem necessary.
Njord: While this is true, our lyrics often speak of higher matters. It’s all very allegorical, that’s where the symbolism and imagery come in hand, but our lyrics tell stories, analyze characters. Sincere thought is put into Grimzaars writing.
Your sound is firmly rooted in epic black metal but these do not appear to be your only influences. Do you think your sound will evolve over time, and are there any other elements you would like to bring in to your music in the future?
Grimzaar: There is no doubt our sound will evolve. I am particularly interested in bringing some choral concepts into HT’s sound. This does not mean dubbing a choir over our instruments, it means integrating what makes choral music effective into the compositions, adding more polyphony between the instruments and whatnot. We are currently striving to integrate aggression with despair, so we have been experimenting with thrash and death metal ideas in order to convey unreserved mania while at the same time looking into many forms of music to find whatever will convey the most profound sense of solitude and sorrow.
Njord: Of course; our sound is always changing. HT is a dynamic entity, not static. All of us have deep musical ties to things besides Black Metal. From the wide range of music that we encompass just through enjoyment, some of it does rub off on the tunes, absolutely. Looking at what we are planning for 2011, and then looking back at what we released in 2009, the difference is phenomenal. Through the middle half of 2010, we’ve been paying particularly close attention to our sound and how we want to improve it, guide it, etc. And we have really come up with some astounding material and ideas. It’s so disappointing to look at some bands and realize what great people they are, but at the same time they cannot evolve their level of playing to benefit the actual band. People stagnate, it’s easy too, considering how underrated good metal is, but pushing through that and always trying new things within your new music is an essential key to being a live, performing, in the game entity. Especially in metal, you’ve got to be variable because you have no excuse not to: were supposed to be pushing the envelope here, remember? That includes branching out sonically.
Unfortunately being a Brit I have never seen HT play live, but youtube clips show a band that inject a great deal of intensity and passion into their performance. What would you say is the key to keeping Humut Tabal fresh and invigorating?
Grimzaar: We keep our audiences supplied with fresh material. We are always composing and rehearsing new songs, and we have built up enough of a repertoire to always have older material in reserve. Thus we never stagnate, unlike so many bands that continue playing the same sets of 8 or so songs for years on end. Apart from that, we keep one thing in mind: if it makes us bored, it makes the audience bored. We try to put on shows that we would enjoy watching if we were in the audience.
Njord: I agree with Grimz, we always try to keep our sets surprising or at least different in presentation. The “show” aspect of performing, I think, is really important and in the future I hope we can begin to embrace more of it with a looser budget. I think that’s also what really attracts people to Black Metal, it’s mysterious and ethereal and the musicians literally paint themselves to employ an otherworldly sort of appearance and some people go fucking nuts when they see it. I’ve always been the kookier one, so I’ve been known to throw on a gasmask or ridiculous pants as well as the corpse paint. In this area atleast, not a lot of people see that kind of spectacle and sometimes we try to take advantage of that during live shows. It’s a balance as well, you cant over do it or it may detract from the intensity of the music.
Hravan: It comes down to endless hours of practice, and copious cannabis consumption.
All your recent gigs have been in the Texas area: have you any plans to spread your influence further afield?
Njord: No question and without a doubt. We are not really allowed to say much, but next year is the year I believe we will begin to dabble further around the country and overseas as well. All I can is, stay tuned. I’ve noticed that it’s almost our nature as a band to journey. We don’t have a weekly club or a home base that we play bi monthly in one town or something. We enjoy traveling and spreading our music as far as it will take us, and that’s how we have done it for the most part since we started performing together. We didn’t even play Austin, our general center of operations, until past our 5th show. This has also allowed us to get a nice, varied taste of what else is out there and to network with a larger group of bands, companies and individuals so I think we can expect to see this trend in the future as well.
Hravan: There is no stopping the potential energy we create.
On your myspace page you have put up a bold declaration, “The future lies with us who are unwilling to be ignorant pacifists and let fools dictate our destinies.” – what’s that all about? Where it the battle that needs to be fought, do you think?
G: The quote essentially states that people who retain a degree of skepticism and have the ability to act against their trespassers will survive and flourish. The “ignorant pacifists” will instead have their motivation drained and succumb to motivations that are not their own, such as the motivation of the human horde or the motivation of some dictatorial scumbag. Note that this is not a condemnation of pacifist concepts such as nonviolent resistance; despite being nonviolent, such activity is still resistance. The statement is instead a condemnation of those who remain inactive, those who do not resist. As far as the “battle” is concerned, it only needs to be fought where there is intrusion. Ideological aggressors should be neutralized. People need to discover how to live with themselves and others on their own. It is this popular concept of always “battling” solely for the sake of advancing one’s ideology that has gotten the world into so much trouble. Present what you believe, don’t attack with it.
Njord: The power of individual is a reoccurring theme in our work and lyrics. This power can be displayed as a productive means (non violent resistance, intellectual debate and provocation) or merely as a blind weapon (ignorant persecution, genocide, colonialism and imperial condemnation). We will always explain and respectfully defend our ideology, but never use the missile to eviscerate the small animal, by that I mean overbearing defense or even intellectual ridicule towards something wholly small and insignificant.
Finally, thanks very much for the interview. I hope that people will read this and get excited about Humut Tabal, and we look forward to what the future brings. Have you any last words for our listeners?
Grimzaar: Avoid idiocy wherever you may find it.
Njord: Big up Metal Cast, you guys are awesome; I very much enjoyed the interview! Keep your eyes on us the rest of this year because I can assure you massive things are in planning. Get in touch, add our multitude of online pages, buy a shirt, horns up and god bless the Queen.
Hravan: onward through the fog! Hails!