In an age where mainstream record shops seem to only stock “mainstream” metal, where is the resting place for the selective connosseur of true underground metal? In times of old it was a battered C90 cassette with photocopied cover and a hastily scribbled insert that promised dark, forbidden metal from some new unheard-of talent in the underground. But now in the age of digital media, THE DREAD LAIR stands as an alternative to the mainstream; a consortium of underground bands committed to promoting each other’s material, grown from humble beginnings and gradually evolving into an ever-increasing, ever-expanding source of Underground metal for those in the know.
Cue Cryptos Grimm, drummer with SPECTRAL MANIFEST and AXIS IN COLLAPSE, and one of the brains behind THE DREAD LAIR:
THE DREAD LAIR
In a world of super-produced music, what do you feel underground bands have to offer the average metal fan?
CG: Honesty, for one, I suppose. By saying that I mean they haven’t been diluted by A&R guys trying to mold their sound to achieve stardom or whatever it is kids are looking for these days. I think some of the most exciting time in a band’s career occurs during the demo stage and thus the reason why a lot of the groundbreaking stuff is always heard first on demos.. That and everyone likes to have their own unknown band that is their little secret to spread to their metal brothers and sisters. I remember quite well during the 80s how much I enjoyed telling people about thrash metal and during the early 90s death metal and later black metal. At the time, these were all underground, extreme for their time. Anybody can buy a magazine at Barnes and Noble that will give you all of the latest big metal label advertisements and whatnot, but if you really want to see what’s happening out there, dive deeper into your own research. There is a vast ocean of metal out there in places that most wouldn’t even think twice about.
Where did the idea come from to pool your resources and promote each other’s material?
CG: I’d say that came from growing up tape trading more than anything else. Our approach to distribution is similar. Find music in far away territories that we won’t be able to reach to play live for some time and build those relationships, also bringing their music to the States. I also must give some credit to Leo Tchort of Peru. A lot of the bands we work with outside of the US I initially discovered through Leo and his Legion of Tchort series, which The Dread Lair proudly presses to this day. The main idea though is to keep overhead low, a lot of the reason the industry is in shambles is due to unnecessary excess. If we can create our own distribution pipeline amongst bands, zines, distros, etc., why bother with signing our lives and music away to a label that already has a shitload of priorities before us? The ironic end result of this philosophy is that ultimately, The Dread Lair has become a label/distro hub of sorts for those who think the same way. The challenge for us is keeping it feeling like real family, which I think we achieve by keeping everything at a manageable level.
The Dread Lair now promotes bands from all over the globe. How do you determine whether a band should be included in the “family”?
CG: First and foremost, I have to enjoy their music. That is a huge difference right off the bat between us and a lot of traditional labels. As the curator, I can say with supreme confidence that there will be no flavor of the month type of thing from The Dread Lair.
The Metalcast represents a whole range of metal genres. Do you feel that the bands represented by The Dread Lair offer anything new to the metal scene in 2010?
CG: I am really intrigued by metal from the Middle East, like KUSOOF, whose members were from Bahrain and Kuwait. Unfortunately, they broke up as just playing this type of music in that region can get you in serious trouble. But their approach to black metal was definitely unique, and we will be putting out a compilation called “Transmissions From the Abyss Bizarre” on 11/19, which will feature tracks from their four releases. We also have BAHT, from Turkey, and their take on death metal is awesome. I mean really, we have a little bit for everybody, if you like your metal more old school in vibe, we’ve got SPECTRAL MANIFEST and IMMOLITH, if you want some cutting edge black metal, we’ve got HUMUT TABAL and PLUTONIAN SHORE, both are from central Texas. You like funeral doom? We’ve got POENARIAN MIST from Spain, and a spinoff project DOM. You didn’t know there was black metal in Puerto Rico and Argentina? We’ve got FALGAR and CATHARSIS NOCTURNA, respectively. And CATHARSIS sounds like fucking EMPEROR, it’s amazing…
If listeners are new to the underground metal scene, where should they start?
CG: As far as The Dread Lair is concerned, start at our myspace page, www.myspace.com/thedreadlair All bands involved are in our top friends list. Outside of that, zines, whether they are web based or actual print zines, podcasts like those carried on Metal Injection Radio are also good.
Spectral Manifest are just one of the bands promoted by “The Dread Lair”. How and when did the band come about?
CG: Well, Depravis and I have known one another since 1985. We started jamming together in ’87-88, continuing for a few years under the name BLOODSHED, but ultimately for a large part of the 90s, we were separated by life’s circumstance. It wouldn’t be until ‘97 or ’98 before we saw each other at a MORBID ANGEL show and reconnected. The actual band and concept of SPECTRAL MANIFEST would be realized in 2005. But the essence and spirit, in my opinion, has been there since the late 80s, just in different form. Took time to marinade, so to speak.
In January 2009, you released your first release “In Shadows Unseen”, and your brand of death/black metal was branded “Wraith metal”. Is this a new musical genre in the making? And did the music scene in general “get it”?
CG: I don’t know if it’s a genre in the making, but it describes what we do and the feeling we get when listening to our music. I think at first people are taken back by the fact that two guys make this racket, but the response has been really good.
Within a few months you released your first DVD of a live performance, “Wraith Insurrection: Live @ Sound Exchange”. Was it easy to get gigs in the early days?
CG: Yes, the dvd captures our very first live performance in front of a crowd. I think it’s an important piece of documented history for SPECTRAL MANIFEST. It wasn’t terribly difficult to get gigs, thanks to Luis and Jess Carlos of the Adversary, who had faith in the band from the get go. Our first show with them was opening for NINTH KINGDOM for their cd release party for “Where No Kings Shall Roam,” which is where I also met the guys in HUMUT TABAL and THE NEPHILIM TERROR and the brotherhood between us was forged. We’ve been able to share the stage with the likes of underground legends IMPRECATION, new school thrashers VEKTOR and EXMORTUS, it’s been all over the place and we like that.
Your newest release “Wraith Horde Assault” (2010) presents quite a confident picture of a band who are at home with their sound. How do you see that sound evolving in the future?
CG: Thank you. It’s great that you say that, as there is a story with this release to be told another time… Well, one thing is for certain, anything that you see with the SPECTRAL MANIFEST logo will sound like SPECTRAL MANIFEST. There can be no deviation, otherwise it is something else and cannot be labeled as such. If anything, it will become more intense, more insane, yet somehow more refined. That makes no sense, nor should it… haha!
Finally, where is The Dread Lair headed in the future?
CG: Only time will tell. Here’s to hoping that we’re given enough to get the job done. Thank you all for your support thus far. Thank you Si, we hope to one day get overseas to perform for those who would truly appreciate it! Wraith Metal Tyrants Unite!
The Dread Lair can be found at The Dread Lair