In the early 2000’s, one of Australia’s greatest metal bands decided at the time to call it a day and quietly left the scene after over a decade. Although it left many puzzled and questioning whether Abramelin would ever return, both old fans and new still had the sheer ferocity of albums such as their self-titled debut and follow up ‘Deadspeak’ to hold on to, albums that undeniably throw light on the power of a good old school death metal record. Twenty years later, and stronger than ever, the band returns with their third full-length, and a whole lot of brutal love for their fans through ‘Never Enough Snuff’. I had the pleasure of speaking with Simon Dower, vocalist and one of the founding members of the band, discussing everything from the stories behind their first record in two decades to his love for graphic horror.
With the sheer amount of time that has passed, I was curious as to whether there were nerves about this new album finally getting out.
“It does feel good having this album out, finally. But to tell you the truth, the only part I did feel really nervous was the very first rehearsal. That was probably because I was seeing them after ages. Only Dave, who I had met a few years prior, was there, setting up and so when I walked in, it was basically, ‘oh hey! You’re the drummer!’ Then the other boys rocked up, and we smashed out the first track which I believe was ‘Spiritual Justice’. The song finished, we paused, looked at each other and went, ‘F*ck that was actually pretty good! What else have we got?’ I hadn’t sung in 14 years so after about 4 tracks, I was toast. I wasn’t into it during that time even though I got a couple of offers. It just didn’t feel right screaming death metal without a backing band unless I did it at people on the streets or in my own home which felt a bit odd. I needed my boys!”
I was one year old when the band released ‘Transgression from Acheron’ in 1994. They’ve been around longer than I’ve been alive and it honestly blows my mind when I have the opportunity to speak to people who have kept that passion going for so long. Being one of, if not the biggest band in Australia at the time, I asked Simon just how it all was back then and how Abramelin rose to the level that they did, something I thought was important to know.
“The scene was a lot more vibrant back then, it was definitely more hands-on. We were playing all the time. Every other week, you could go down to a pub in Richmond and catch us playing a show with Christbait and Damaged, all the other bands that were kicking around. We were all friends, we hung out, partied, did shows together and went back and forth about who would headline what show. Everyone got along, no real drama, at least not until some of the black metal bands started popping up just because of different political views. For the death metal scene, the crust crew,the grinders, we all got along, it was really nice. The way we organised shows then? Wow. So different to now. No internet, let's start with that. If we had a show coming up, we would organise the flyers, one person would do gory images and band logos on them, piece it all together, copy it and that becomes your master copy. Then take it down to a local copier, smash out how many ever you needed, and then take it to all your local pubs and venues. Outside of that it was word of mouth, and funnily enough, we had more people at our shows back then than we do now. People really supported local shows and bands. Even with us, if we weren’t playing a show, we would go to shows because all our friends were there!”
Nothing stopped Abramelin going for gold. However, supporting Cradle of Filth on their 2001 ‘Midian’ Australian tour was one of the last shows the band played before they split, very organically, as Simon recalled.
“We were very cool with each other, and there was no reason for the split. It just happened. Normally after a tour and you’re back, you’d ring each other to start rehearsals again and book something in but no one rang anyone. It just felt like it was time. I certainly wasn’t missing it after doing it for almost 15 years. Now, having 14 years off and getting back into it, feels weird but great!”
While many of the band’s followers were under the impression that a reunion was more than unlikely let alone a brand new album, the latter half of 2016 saw members of the legendary act slowly rise to the surface like the Kraken after a two decade hiatus. What’s more is the very first show they played was a charity show which, if you ask me, is more metal than you could ever hope to be.
“Rob Wog, who used to play guitars for us and now bass, was actually organising this charity show called Metal for Melbourne and that’s when he reached out to me asking if I’d be interested in a benefit gig. So Rob being the sweet talker that he is, managed to rally the troops and sorted everything! I honestly think it was one of those moments where the stars aligned! I mean, Matt Wilcock had been overseas for about a decade and he had just returned, Tim had already had conversations with Dave several years ago and then it just came down to needing a bass player. That’s when Rob said he could do it. So he’s played guitar, was our mixer for a while and now he plays bass; more versatile than most, our Rob!”
Again, unbeknownst to fans, or, in a way, to the band themselves, a new album was brewing, even though for quite some time, there was hardly any inclination for the band in doing so.
“If you had told me that a few years ago, I wouldn’t have believed you. It's just bizarre! I still pinch myself when I look at it and listen to it. It’s truly surreal. Musically, it has been kicking around for a while though; I’d say at least ten years or so. Tim had the bulk of the tracks written, and has had it sitting there and brewing away for a while. The arrangements changed a little bit especially towards the time of recording especially when Dave came in and got his hands on it and put a sick spin on things! So when we got back together in 2016 as well as started rehearsing for our first show back in 2017, we started smashing out a set of old tunes that we were going to do for that show. It wasn’t too long after that that we were ready to hit the road to take the setlist out there. That’s when Tim started dropping in some new tracks and that’s where it all really began. We just kept trying the new tracks along the way; Matt also brought a song to the table as well called ‘The Peeler’ and then that just sort of culminated in finally getting the recording process done which was a bit of an arduous task but we got there in the end!”
Abramelin, much to the joy of many old school death metal fans, had been dropping hints for a while before they announced their return which was indeed big news in the metal scene. However, I told Simon how I thought it was just going to be a couple of singles and not a full-length which seemed to be the original plan!
“Funnily enough, it was actually almost a single at one point because we had a couple of tracks; ‘Never Enough Snuff’ which is the first track that we wrote and then the second track ‘Full Gore Whore’ . We didn’t realise that we were going to keep writing music and that it’s going to happen. We were all excited about the fact that we had two tracks and then being all old school and shit we thought we should release a 7 inch because hey, isn’t it still the early 90’s! Or maybe even cassettes which have become a strange novelty item now.”
Speaking of art and dark minds, the album cover of ‘Never Enough Snuff’ has a whole story behind it and one that I was very eager to learn about. However, there was a lot more to it than I realised when Simon explained his whole thought process that led to the idea.
“The title track was actually the first song that we wrote and the first song that Tim started showing to the guys in the rehearsal room as well as the first one that was written. At that point when they had started playing, I didn’t have much to do because I’m just the singer so I started writing the song. I wrote it in 20 minutes and a few weeks prior, I had actually read two books about snuff movies, as you do in your free time, one of which was called ‘Survivor’. It was still fresh in my mind at that point and that’s when I thought I’d write a song about snuff movies. It was at that point too that an idea hatched to do the album cover as a portrayal of a snuff film which in my mind, I don’t think I had seen anyone else do, given that a lot of death metal album covers focus on actual fantasy art even if it is brutal and horrific. But no one does photography so I thought to do something really intense, like staging a snuff film and capturing that is something different.”
With the inspiration to do something completely unorthodox, gory and just downright terrifying, Simon figured out a way to get his ideas out there but there were things to consider beforehand.
“I wanted to do this and when I went into detail about the specifics with the band, they said how we wouldn’t be able to release the album with my ideas on the cover. So I had to give it some thought, and that’s when I came up with the idea of putting a cover over the secondary cover. The one that’s released is the artwork done with the help of Sally Moore who did the cover art for our first two albums. But here’s the crazy irony of it all. I set up everything to do the snuff cover I wanted to do, went all out on it, and we had the secondary album cover ready to go so we wouldn’t have any issue selling it at retail. Then this thing called f*cking COVID happened and all the stores closed! Every album we’ve sold has been online so no one would give a shit about the gory art anyway! But it’s good that we got Sally in to do the second cover because with the original, I knew we wouldn’t be able to get the album up on Spotify, iTunes, etc.”
The best part in all of this is not only does this album, released after a 20 year gap, have two album covers, but the original cover is only available to those that buy a physical copy of the CD. Abramelin’s gift to their fans!
“We were coming back with this brutal as f*ck offering, and even though we’ve done some pretty brutal stuff in the past, this really hits home. I’ve actually asked people not to post photos of the original because I wanted to keep it a surprise for people when they bought a physical copy but the other reason is if I posted it on our facebook page then it would be taken down. Also, the last thing I want was for people to look at that cover and say “its violence against women’ and thinking we’re some sort of misogynistic pigs which we’re not. Everyone has a crack on the album. There's men killing women, women killing men, children killing adults, werewolves killing people, it’s rife! But to those people I'd just say read the lyrics. You might be grossed out but you'll see I’m very fair. This album and the art is for the fans and I wanted art that suited how insane the music is because I don’t know if we’ve got another album in us. I guess never say never, right?”
A devout fan of all things horror for the longest time, Simon shared some really interesting little facts about the basis of his writing for Abramelin as well as how both, his passion for death metal and horror, is significant in more ways than one.
“Yes to everything haha! I’ve been very, very interested in horror, books, movies, all of it, since I was a little kid. I’ve watched Hitchcock back in the day and read American Psycho as soon as it came out, was quite into it but I already had a very strong grasp on horror by then! I still remember seeing The Shining when it came out, so old school as well as a bunch of other really cool horror films from back then. There was this American Horror magazine that used to kick around called Fangoria, and my dad bought me Issue #8 in 1978, which had Cronenberg's ‘The Brood’ on the cover. I was so fascinated with this stuff and it wasn’t too long after that I really started reading a lot of horror. It got nastier and nastier which ultimately led me into death metal.”
“I remember when I was a kid Iron Maiden’s ‘Number of the Beast’ came out, and looking at the cover, getting hooked instantly onto Maiden for years after. Then I started discovering other bands and the music I listened to just got heavier and heavier. A big part of that was the imagery of the subject matter in the songs. It got me thinking about how, this was the whole package. This is how I can be into both horror and art. I loved drawing and reading about horrible things and watching horrible things and now I can sing about horrible things. Match made in hell if you ask me. This was a way I could express myself and to be honest, I don’t really think you can do this with any other genre. It wouldn't make sense, whereas in death metal, the nastier it is, the more it’s applauded.”
Getting so involved with this discussion of horror, Hitchcock, and gore, I was immensely intrigued. With tracks like ‘Sparagmos’ which is Greek for ‘ the act of tearing, ripping or mangling a living animal or human being’ and something as straight up as ‘Full Gore Whore’, I knew there was so much thought that went into the writing and was keen to know more behind the christening of Abramelin’s new songs.
“‘Full Gore Whore’ is a good one because that’s the track which we chose to do our first ever video for which is out today actually! So the vinyl going into production and this new video is a pretty sick announcement. The track is about a young teenage girl who is an absolute killing machine and just kills everyone including family and friends and then just gets locked up. They throw away the key and they should’ve killed her but somehow the government gets a hold of her. So they just load her up with weapons and amphetamines and drop her on foreign soil and then let her do the same thing over there! It’s gruesome.”
“Some of these have been inspired by books and films but others just come to me as ideas. I’ve always got a really big bank of notes. After I’ve read books, I’ll get some ideas and I just write it down, so when it comes down to the song writing process I have a base idea for what the song is actually going to be about and then I have this huge arsenal of bits and pieces that I can throw into it. It’s not gore for gore’s sake, I do put a lot of thought into it which is also the other hilarious part because people go ‘I can’t even understand what you’re saying’. Well I can and fans can, and that’s all that matters. With the lyrical content, cover and everything, if you don’t get it, it’s not for you anyway. It’s not for people to sit back and comment on how disgusting it is. Look the other way because this is for the people who get it.”
He also shared a funny little tidbit about the song ‘Moon Dogs’ which will quite possibly leave your brain attempting to leave the comfort of your skull. It goes hard.
“I wrote the track ‘Moon Dogs’ which was my little werewolves number and a few months later, Matt told me that there was actually a beer called Moon Dogs. I had no idea! I came up with it because you know, dogs under the moon, turning and all that. What’s more, another couple of months later and then Matt starts a band with Dave called Werewolves! What the f*ck! That was my double werewolves moment.”
Simon had one last thing to share.
“I would really like to thank everyone for believing in us and waiting so patiently for 20 years for the album to come out. For the new fans that we’ve picked up along the way too, going back and checking our back catalogue as well, this is an album written by people who love death metal for people who love death metal. No holds barred, we’ve really gone for it unabashedly. Blood and guts and ripping and tearing, but tastefully and from a place of dark art which is what it is. So thank you!”