Track By Tracks: Black Pyramid - Black Pyramid (2021)

1. …And The Gods Made War:

Gein actually wrote this, I’d had a different idea for an instrumental introduction, though it wasn’t a very good idea. So Gein ran with writing the intro, and it came out much better. He played most of the guitars on it, and we used a reverb tank, I remember that. I just played the distorted chords, nothing fancy. I love the backwards transition into “Visions”, the first time I heard that it was like pure sonic gold melting in my ears. 

2.Visions of Gehenna:

This was the first song that I wrote for Black Pyramid. I’d had the idea while I was still playing in Palace In Thunderland to have another project, a heavier, more straight- forward three piece band, a classic power trio that would still bring a psychedelic element to the sound. When Palace ended up dissolving, I immediately went head on into the writing process. To prepare, I spent about a week just listening to heavy three piece bands like Acid King, Sleep, High On Fire, Sloth, Warhorse and Electric Wizard. I was hoping to channel the sound and energy of those bands, to come up with something in that vein, though I really wasn’t all that confident in my ability to write this sort of material. 

I tuned the guitar down to A#, messed around a bit, and then all of the sudden BOOM! Inspiration struck like a bolt of blue lightning, and “Visions Of Gehenna” was the first thing that I pounded out. It definitely sounds like a product of its influences, I was just getting my feet wet when I wrote it, and it’s definitely been one of our more enduring songs. It just clicked with people when they heard it. I think the lyrics had a lot to do with it, they really sum up what Black Pyramid was all about - these weird, psychedelic and sinister otherworldly occult themes and esoteric, apocalyptic wars. The chorus is really catchy, I think that people grooved on the chorus. 

3. Mirror Messiah:

This was the second song that I wrote, I wanted it to be a little different, though you can tell that I was drawing from mostly the same influences. That main riff, I wanted it to be something like the riff from “Vinum Sabbathi”, just something that would really punch the listener in the face, then that descending line for the verses, that’s straight out of High On Fire territory. 

This is also where the Soundgarden influence comes into my writing, with the riff after the chorus that has an odd time signature and turnaround. I once read that Soundgarden didn’t really plan or count out the copious odd time signatures, and although I don’t use them as much, I never decide on a specific time signature nor even count to figure out what time signature it is, I just feel it out and do what comes naturally. I remember when I was first showing this song to Clay, it took him a little while to flesh out the count on that part, probably because I couldn’t even tell him what it was! The solo section, I’d had that riff kicking around for awhile actually, I like that it sets up a really solid groove that flows right into the 3/4 part - I know that time signature for that at least. That part reminds me a bit of Helmet, I always liked how they could make simple riffs groove, and they were another band that used cool time signatures, syncopation and clever turnarounds in their grooves. 

After the song breaks down entirely, this was where some of the more progressive elements of my writing certainly come out, with the guitar melodies that slide and ascend, building towards a final series of fast runs. I really like the rhythms that Clay and Gein laid down underneath, that whole section of the song really showed what we were capable of, even in the early days. 

The lyrics are about false prophets and how they are ultimately destructive to those who follow them and buy into their lies. I think that these lyrics still have a lot of power today, especially considering what we’ve been seeing in American politics. 

4. No Life King:

This was one of the songs I wrote in my living room before there really was a band at all yet, it was just an idea of mine, a concept, a vision. At that time, I used to work in a vintage clothing store, and there was often a lot of down time, so I’d read comics that I friend would bring me to entertain me. I read a Manga that referred to vampires as “no life kings”, which I thought was a really cool concept, so I put my own spin on it. The Manga took place in modern times, with guns and such, so I wanted it to be more Dungeons and Dragons-eque, a medieval vampire king with an undead army who wages war on humanity. 

Musically, it’s really channeling High On Fire - I like it because it’s so aggressive and explosive in the way that the riffs are delivered, the drums and bass, it’s all just so powerful. It’s not that they’re the most complicated or original parts in the world, it’s totally the attitude behind how they’re played and put together. 

5. Celephais:

There’s an interesting story behind this one, for sure. Believe it or not, originally, I had written this as the end to “Caravan.” Yeah, the original idea was to have it end on a more mellow, dreamy, major key psych passage. I was going to bust out of the final vocal part, “Release the pale destroyed!” and then just tone everything down, see, that was my original idea anyways. Clay vetoed the idea, told me to write something heavy and punishing instead, so we worked out the ending like it is now, and that’s some of my favorite riffing of any Black Pyramid song. This kind of led to the second phase of the band, when it wasn’t just me writing songs in my living room, Clay and I started writing and working out the arrangements in tandem. 

I adapted that original “Caravan” ending into this instrumental, using acoustic guitar and some electric leads overdubbed. Gein named the song after the city from H.P. Lovecraft’s Dreamlands. 

6. Macedonia (Vynil Bonus Track):

This was an instrumental track that Gein had brought to the table, it’s obviously very transparent in its Iron Maiden worship, though there’s that phased clean guitar part I threw in the middle that was inspired by the mellower moments of Judas Priest, like some of the stuff off of Sin After Sin. We did this one quite a bit live, it was a staple of our set, it really showcased our love and venerance for classic metal. The Dark Fairies and Psychedelic Skulls 

7. Twilight Grave:

Clay wrote most of this one, I contributed a couple riffs. Eric Beaudry was on bass when we wrote this, so we all arranged it together, though Clay brought in the idea. I remember Eric coached me into coming up with that little transition part after the slower break down. At first Eric said to me, “do something with the delay there”, though eventually we morphed that idea into something flashier. That’s what I liked about writing with those guys, sometimes they’d tell me what to play on guitar, and sometimes one of them would say “oh, do something like this”, and just describe a basic melodic idea or a certain sound, and it would inspire me on the spot to come up with a part. 

The lyrics are inspired by the Matthew Lewis novel, “The Monk”, although I put my own spin on the story, as I usually do. They’re pretty dark lyrics, for sure. I wanted the vocals themselves to have kind of a Lee Dorrian/Cathedral vibe to them, but also with a bit of the soaring quality of Solace’s first album. This was obviously a bit of a stretch for me at first. I remember the first run through the vocals, Matt Washburn was engineering, and he called back me from the booth “That’s what you want to go for on this one, huh? Okay, that’s going to take a bit of work.” It was a bit of work, it took me quite a few takes, I’m not a very strong vocalist. I’ve gotten somewhat better over the years specifically because I will go for it, I will stretch my limits, work on new things, try to grow.
8. The Worm Ouroboros:

This was the first song that we really wrote as a band together. We needed more material, because we had some shows lined up, though we didn’t have enough material for a set! The intro riff was an idea that I’d had kicking around for quite awhile, it was inspired by a part that I’d heard on Cathedral’s “Endtyme”, the beginning to the song “Requiem For The Sun”. It’s not so much the notes, more the vibe, with the wah and echo. So I probably wrote that part around 2001, and it eventually turned into this. It’s definitely not our most original material, I mean, it’s pretty much out of the Sleep/Sabbath playbook, but it’s such a fun song to play. I really like doing the two guitar solos, we should do some more songs with multiple solos, especially with cool moving bass lines like that snaking along underneath. I like doing that “Iron Man” homage riff too. Everyone always thinks we just ripped it off note for note - if you listen carefully and compare the two, they’re subtly different. I’m not claiming it’s an original idea or anything, it’s very intentionally written to sound like the Sabbath riff, and it’s also very intentionally written to have slight variations. 

The lyrics are inspired by the book “The Worm Ouroboros” by E.R. Eddison, who many consider the founder of modern fantasy. Tolkien was very inspired by this novel. I dig it, it’s really different and bizarre at first, almost like a fairy tale narrated in an old Greek epic style, it’s hard to describe. Once I got used to that mixture of classical epic saga mixed with whimsical wonderland, it really captivated me, and I tried to capture some of the story’s majestic quirkiness in my interpretation. 

9. The Cauldron Born:

This was the last song that we wrote for the album. When High On Fire released the album “Death Is This Communion”, one of my friends and I became convinced that Matt Pike was going to write a riff that destroyed the universe, there were just so many ridiculously good, original ideas for punishing riffs, it was very inspiring to hear. So that was really the idea for this song, to just write these riffs that could potentially destroy the universe. I think that it comes close, the drums and bass really lock in and pound the rhythms home like hammers into the heart of the galaxy. 

The intro was inspired by The Beatles, I’ve always seen them as hugely influential to heavy music, and they’ve had a huge impact on me over the years, even to this day. The really dig the ideas that I incorporate into the lead guitar lines in the beginning. People still will write to me about how they like my use of the Phrygian and Aeolian modes and whatnot, though I have no idea what modes I used. I mean, I roughly understand some of the theory behind modal jazz and such, though I didn’t consciously incorporate those ideas, I just played the ideas that I had in my head. 

The lyrics are inspired by the story of “The Black Cauldron”, which was a Lloyd Alexander novel based on Welsh mythology. The book was geared for younger folks, though it was quite dark. I narrated the song from the perspective of the undead warriors that the cauldron had brought back to life, which I thought was a really cool idea because they were mute in the story and never spoke a word. So the song is kind of like their collective thoughts, what drives them beyond death. 

10. Wintermute:

This was probably my favorite song on the album, and again, the idea and theme comes from the story “Neuromancer” by William Gibson, though I totally took the technological and cyberpunk elements out of it and made it purely about emotional content. If you ever watch the extended version of “Enter The Dragon”, there’s a previously deleted scene where Bruce Lee waxes poetic about how emotional content is the key to the power and depth of striking in his martial arts system. I believe that the same thing applies to music, that it’s the emotional content in each note that allows them to penetrate deeply into the psyche of the listener. This track more than any other on the album demonstrates this approach. 

I like that “Wintermute” travels between the different parts and segments of the song, that the music and the atmosphere is going to these other places. I really think that’s what our best songs do, and the newest material that we’re writing really focuses on that idea of traveling, of going to other worlds. 

The ending to this song, and to the album, was something that Clay and I had been doing since the early days, just these big noisy, spaced out hits with the guitar, bass and drums, just total Melvins worship.

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