Interview with Seattle Death Metal Purveyors ORATOR

Orator are technical death metal unit from Seattle who recently launched “Kallipolis” — an album inspired by Plato’s work “The Republic.” Singer and guitarist Isaac McCormick and lead guitarist Matt Stecz spoke for Rocking Charts about this ambitious effort, local scene, influences, and more.

Hey guys. How are you doing?

Isaac: Doing well, hope the same for you too.

Matt: Excellent, thank you for asking.

You have recently launched your debut full-length album entitled “Kallipolis.” How do you feel about the release?

Matt: We’re proud of it, we wanted to come out swinging and feel like we achieved that. We were kind of torn between calling the thing an EP versus a full-length; we went into the process very aware that it would be a learning experience, and wanted to commit an appropriate amount of resources as a result. And of course later you always hear things you know you could improve or tweak a little, but that’s just how it goes.

Isaac: I’m very thrilled with how it manifested. I remember sitting down for preliminary-brainstorming with Matt thinking “how the fuck are we going to accomplish this, maybe I’m being too ambitious.” It was very fulfilling to almost watch it grow from little more than “idea-vomit” into the finished product, and though there will always be sections one would want to restructure or rewrite post completion, I believe we succeeded to the fullest of our capacity at the time and gleaned priceless lessons in the process that we’ll surely apply in the future.

Orator - Kallipolis

How much of a challenge was it to work on the album?

Isaac: We live about two hours apart and I work full time; Matt is a full time student and works part time. Though ideas can be bounced digitally we work best in person explaining ideas and teaching or learning parts, so it was very difficult for us to clear time for each other. Much of the grunt work was done when he had to juggle schooling finals! On top of that, all of the music was written without a drummer’s perspective, so in hindsight there are some transitions that seem miserably blatant to me in that respect. Seattle seems to have a lack of capable drummers, though we aren’t exactly asking that one joins us for a walk in the park either! The individual we were working with had the potential but neither the ambition nor professionalism that we needed, so rather than grind away wasting my time with someone that refused to commit their all I chose to commit that time to writing the best music possible, but I wonder what would’ve been had we had a competent drummer.

Matt: Writing the music was mostly fine, we were without a drummer for much of the time that Kallipolis was being written though. Probably the biggest single challenge was actually going into the studio, Marco had already done his drums so that was no issue, but we did all the other instruments and vocals in about twenty hours total as our budget couldn’t allow for more. Isaac, having to do his vocals last, had about four to six hours max to record all of his vocals; the studio attendant couldn’t believe it. But the time crunch was just more incentive to nail that final product down.

What other artists similar to your genre that are coming from Seattle are you friends with?

Isaac: Voidthrone has been very good to us, so has Gallows Hymn from up North in Bellingham. Our current drummer’s other project, The Devlis Of Loudon, are good friends of ours as well.

Matt: Voidthrone are cool dudes, they just had a release feature on No Clean Singing a couple months ago, Thou Shall Kill, Born Without Blood.

What is your opinion about the current metal scene?

Matt: I see people complaining about all kinds of things in the scene online all the time. Musicians in metal (and most other genres for that matter) are having to work harder than ever to make it, but for fans? There has never been a better time to be a metalhead. New bands are forming all the time, current bands are putting out great releases literally all the time. And you can just pull it up on Bandcamp or Youtube and listen for free with almost no strings attached. It’s never been better to be into metal.

Isaac: I think the metal scene is at a very if not one of the most pivotal moments thus far in that whether the scene thrives or dwindles is entirely dictated by the fans more so than ever before. It’s never been more difficult to be an emerging recording artist, and yet it’s never been easier to release music to as many people as possible, and should an upcoming artist release an excellent album they’ll never get the recognition or momentum they need if the fans choose to listen to the same established classics and refuse to explore beyond that. It’s rather infuriating listening to people complain that there’s no good new metal, as those are the same individuals who would sooner listen to those same established or even disbanded groups, buying multiple copies of the same album because it’s a different edition or some nonsense, than explore to find at least one upcoming band. Furthermore, bands carve their mark through gigs and touring, and I’ll hear mother fuckers complain about dropping 20 bucks on a show twice a month when theyll gladly piss away more on garbage food or garbage alcohol at bars. Though the scene might feel oversaturated, especially with bands that are merely going through the motions, it has never been easier for excellent music to find it’s way to willing ears, and it’s never been more important that fans discover artists they love and support them to the fullest of their capability.

Can you tell me something about your influences?

Matt: I came up on the Swedish melo-death style riffing: anything from At the Gates, Darkest Hour to Unearth. Behemoth – Demigod was a landmark album for me, Anaal Nathrakh – In the Constellation of the Black Widow, Nile, Vader.

Isaac: It’s funny, I tend to cite albums rather than bands, as I don’t think there’s a band where I feel like I connect with their full discography. Fleshgod Apocalypse would probably be the closest, that or Inquisition. Behemoth – Evangelion was a landmark album for me, I very much connected with Cattle Decapitation’s- The Anthropocene Extinction, Anaal Nathrakh – Desideratum, The Black Dahlia Murder Nocturnal/Decorate/Ritual/Everblack, and I’ll cherry pick through Suffocation just to name a few. I’m also very influenced by Classical greats like Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, and Chopin.

What are you listening to these days?

Matt: Vredehammer is a band I discovered recently that I’m enjoying a lot, a nice mix of melody and atmosphere with death metal and a splash of the thrash. Both Infuriate and Engulf released music with Everlasting Spew Records recently and are absolutely killer. Man Must Die, Sulphur Aeon, Hour of Penance, Lost Soul; kinda shuffling around through all these guys at the moment.

Isaac: Aside from the Classical greats and my influential main stays… I cannot stop listening to Shrines of Paralysis by Ulcerate. Inquisition- Bloodshed Across the Empyrean Altar (etc) Also Time I by Wintersun, Illuminance by Virvum, Winter’s Gate by Insomnium. The Shape of Color by Intervals and V by Scale the Summit are always a pleasure to revisit. Solstafir’s last two albums are phenomenal. I also enjoy If These Trees Could Talk often. Also, Yes’ Close to the Edge and Tales from Topographic Oceans. Its become apparent that much of what I’ve been listening to is been very compositionally driven primarily, and churning out riffs the secondary. I’ve also grown very fond of a Japanese jazz pianist, Ryo Fukui.

Your 5 favourite records of all time?

Hidden Hands of a Sadist Nation-Darkest Hour
Thirteenth Step-A Perfect Circle
Adveniens-Hideous Divinity
Dark Tranquillity-Character
Thy Art Is Murder-Hate

What an impossibly difficult question….
Metallica – Master of Puppets (sue me)
Behemoth – Evangelion
Fleshgod Apocalypse – Agony
If These Trees Could Talk – Red Forest
Inquisition- Ominous Doctrines From the Perpetual Macrocosm.

Can you tell me a little bit more about the gear you used to record “Kallipolis”?

Matt: I used my live rig to record my guitar parts on Kallipolis. An ESP LTD with Seymore Duncan Distortion pickups, run straight into a Line 6 IV HD 150 head, through a Blackstar 4×12 cabinet. No pedals or anything, simplicity and efficiency are the ideas here.

Isaac: Nothing complicated by any means. My guitar was the Esp LTD Jeff Hanneman Signature with Semour Duncan Black Winter Pickups, my head was the Line 6 Spider Valve HD 100 through the corresponding Line 6 4×12 cab with Celestion Vintage 30s. For bass I used a Warwick RockBass Corvette and we just preamped and ran it directly in.

Besides the release of the album, are there any other plans for the future?

Matt: In the short term, continue playing shows locally and low-key start working on the next release. Long-term, we will be hitting the road and touring. There’s a lot of factors to consider, but it’s safe to say that touring is inevitable.

Isaac: Play as many shows as we can without spreading ourselves too thin or oversaturating ourselves. The goal is to tour, and once we start, to never stop, though we don’t see that materializing until the next album unless we get lucky. We currently don’t have management representation, and can’t afford to just throw ourselves out there taking the first opportunity that comes our way; we have to make sure our time and resources are spent wisely, effectively, and efficiently. I have already begun brain storming at Matt for the next release, and though I’ve needed to take a few months since Kallipolis to recuperate (much to my dislike), I’m chomping at the bit to begin the writing process again. As with before I am already asking myself “how the fuck are we going to pull this off? Am I being too ambitious??” But now we have Kallipolis to remind ourselves that we are capable, we have a full crew to work with, and I can’t wait to watch the “idea vomit” grow and manifest itself.

Any words for the potential new fans?

Matt: We have just barely begun. You can find Kallipolis in the ‘Health Foods’ section of the metal aisle; it’s raw, minimally processed, made locally, and thus ideal for moshing, circle pits, and even headbangs.

Isaac: We’re here to write metal that we ourselves would want to hear from an upcoming band. We serve the music first and our egos last. We know what it’s like to hear an album, and connect with it in almost a psudeo-spritual manner. Music is the hand that lifts you up when life tears you down. It is the friend that is always there for you, understands you in ways that no other seems to; True satisfaction is knowing that we’ve written something worth listening to for years to come that will engrain itself in another’s soul, not something that we can flaunt like a merit badge for a few weeks as the flavor of the month then have it fade from memory. We’re here to grow as musicians and artists, not find what works, habituate, and rehash it until we fade away from irrelevance. We wish everyone to know we understand and value the time and attention spans necessary for people to give in order to listen to and digest music, and we assure you we’ve only just begun.

“Kallipolis” is available from Bandcamp. Follow Orator on Facebook.