‘Collaboration is an interesting challenge. It give you new opportunities to rethink how you work by sharing new ideas with other bands or band members. We always see it as pure benefit regarding the band’s evolution. It’s been quite a long time since we collaborate with other people/bands though… Maybe for a next release? Who knows.‘
This was Rorcal‘s answer to one of my questions when I interviewed them for a WFA feature in January last year, soon after the release of their highly acclaimed and adored album Muladona, which picked it’s central theme and narrative from a book of the same name, written by Eric Stener Carlson. Not only did the effort deservedly land a place on a plethora of year end lists and whatnot, it also quickly became one of my all-time favourites, in all of its grim and gloomy, devastating but fascinating nature. This avant-garde-esque blackened doom/sludge/noise unit has never strayed from their own path, which at times focuses solely on perfecting their own tone, and at times expands to unexplored territories by means of various and varying collaborations.
Today, we’re digging into a new addition to the ever-growing list of the latter, a collaboration between Rorcal and Earthflesh, titled Witch Coven. And I’m not getting absorbed into it alone either; I asked my pal and fellow writer in arms David to tackle this behemoth of a release with me, since I knew it’d be of interest to him as well. And I wasn’t wrong.
Eeli: Hey Pal! How’s life in your neck of the woods?
David: Not too bad! I’m on the tail end of a week-long break now, so very bittersweet. You?
E: Pretty much the same, actually. Spent the week at my old man’s cabin in the North, chopping away with some woodwork and related chores. Came back to the city yesterday, and going back to the regular grind tomorrow.
D: That’s awesome, get a whole new environment, away from the hells we’re typically subjected to.
E: Exactly. Plus we’ve actually had a proper winter this year, i.e. snow and cold, so it’s been a nice change of pace even though I’m normally not a huge fan of either of those. I’ve visited the place frequently in the past few months, so I’ve been able to also enjoy a ton of music on the six-hour drives back and forth, and over there especially. Also an obvious plus.
D: Very much so. I’m still kept home pretty much all the time, so I don’t get my long commuter listens in like I used to, but ADAPT and we SURVIVE. Is there something in particular you’ve been spending your drives with lately? Hmmm?
E: Definitely. Well, yes. This will sound like a staged bridge into the matter at hand, but it really isn’t. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying what I felt was the best album of 2019, and which has mostly beaten everything released since. You know, the one with the white textless cover with that awfully strange and twisted, four-legged creature from Catalan mythology in the middle. Does that ring any bells?
D: Hmm, this sounds an awful lot like Rorcal‘s absolutely brutal masterpiece, Muladona. Am I right?
E: That is correct, sir.
D: Yes! I’ve actually listened to it a lot lately too, both in preparation for what we’re going to talk about today and just because it’s one of the best heavy albums I’ve heard in recent years.
E: There is just something enchanting on that album. I keep returning back to it quite often, but now especially because of today’s subject. Pretty much sank into that hole right after they announced the new collaboration.
D: Same here. It was inevitable, really. Been waiting for something new from Rorcal for a while now, so naturally talking about this was destiny for me, and yes, they brought a friend this time!
E: Oh yes! I had a gut feeling that something would be coming out sometime soon, as they’ve been rather prolific in the past. I also had the chance to properly dig into them when I did that WFA piece on them in January last year. It really caught my attention that besides their ‘regular’ output, they also emphasize working and collaborating with other artists a ton, which is interesting to say the least, since their own tone also already varies so much on a case-by-case basis. Were you aware of Earthflesh prior to this?
D: I wasn’t, so I was immediately curious how they would meld with the sound or Rorcal because… how do you even infiltrate something as sonically dense as their music and expect to survive, right?
E: I think it’s like a ‘fight fire with fire’ type of scenario here. I can’t say that I would’ve been that familiar with Earthflesh before this, other than knowing that it’s a one-man operation focused on this kind of meditative harsh noise.
D: Exactly. And on paper, that sounds like an awesome mix, capable of really feeding into Rorcal‘s noisier proclivities and giving their sound even more layering. In execution though… well, actually, it’s pretty much the same as on paper to me. I’m pretty well-impressed by this, as I expected to be even with my small reservations due to unfamiliarity.
E: Yeah, I share that sentiment. Rorcal has always had that noisier side to them, so it felt like a match right from the beginning. And it definitely turned out to be one. It certainly brings new, fresh aspects and nuances to the sound to have more or less external people taking care of that particular department.
D: Agreed, and it’s great because it’s not a one-to-one match – my cursory exploration of Earthflesh‘s work revealed some really calm and light work using field recordings, ambience, etc., all contrasted with these harsh noise/drone elements. So, between these two bands, Witch Coven, while relentlessly loud and heavy most of the time, really became an exercise in how can the two complement each other and make a true collaboration.
E: Indeed. And I think Witch Coven exceeds in being just that: a testament to what a true collaboration really means. The two blend together as one single cohesive entity, and it’s all seamless, but so that you can still tell the two apart if you need to. But that kind of differentiation really isn’t necessary in the first place, in my opinion.
D: It really isn’t, and I’m glad, because it’s hard for me to see where one ends and the other begins. Like you said, that’s the mark of a good-ass collab. We only get two songs here, but they’re long boys. I have some thoughts on their synergy, but I’d love to hear what you took from them first.
E: Well, to be brutally honest, my first feeling when opening up the press kit was akin to disappointment, because of the fact that Witch Coven spans only two songs. And that actually remains as my sole subject to whine about when it comes to the release, as it could’ve just gone on and on and I would’ve been happy as a lark. But I can’t say I’d be short of that now either, as these long-ass tracks are truly astonishing, working in unison to create a bigger canvas shared between the two. While “Altars of Nothingness” takes its time to unfold and properly open up, it feels like a tidal wave crushing its way through the floodgates once it does. I do love its haunting choirs, droning doom beating, and abrupt rhythm passages as much as I do the black metal-esque leanings of “Happiness Sucks, So Do You”, which by the way bears an eerie resemblance to some of the material on Muladona. Either way, I think the two tracks really come together to form like this one grand song, each flourishing in movements and styles the other one lacks.
D: Hell yeah, I agree with pretty much all of that. I think the beauty – if you can call it that – with Witch Coven is that it really lives up to the name. “Altars of Nothingness” basks in more ambient and stage-setting affairs, like it’s preparing for, and executing a ritual of some sort. The chanting feels vaguely occult and spiritually powerful, a part of a whole that conjures up a hell that’s fully realized in “Happiness Sucks, So Do You”. That is truly the unleashing, definitely reminiscent of other Rorcal material. Just blackened to the max with some really good drum work in particular. It’s like the first track opened a portal for the second track to escape from and just lay waste to all manners of life.
E: I agree with all of that, basically. The ritual-like aspect you mentioned takes the spotlight multiple times I think, which given the name is more than fitting. Both bands also have a strong sense of spirituality to them, so it’s only reasonable the result here follows those lines. I appreciate the instrumental execution on the tracks wholeheartedly, as each artist shows nothing but prowess on their own positions. Still, I’d say that the vocals bear maybe the most significance to me when it comes to the overall impact. I’ve said it many times earlier, in my reviews, articles, and whatnot, but Yonni’s (Rorcal) vocals are just shiver-inducing in all of their beautiful dominance.
D: Yes! Definitely wanted to mention that as well. There’s the chants, wallowing yelps in the background of some areas, particularly in the middle of “Happiness Sucks, So Do You”, and then the blistering harsh vocals we know and love. Just a myriad of pain, anguish, and dedication in all of the vocals. I only wish, as always, I could pick apart more lyrics here, but perhaps in the future I’ll get that chance.
E: Yeah, one can only hope that they will be put up somewhere, as they of course bring in a lot of additional substance to everything, especially when we know that the matters that are being dealt with here, have meaning and therefore significance and weight to them. Actually a side note about the vocalist: I don’t know of you knew, but Rorcal originally had a different vocalist. The band’s second release, a collaboration that came out in 2008, titled Ascension, was with another Swiss band called Kehlvin, where Yonni was handling the vocal duties. The two parties stayed in touch since, and when the time came to pick a new vocalist, the choice was obvious. That has very little to do with anything, but I think it ties in well with the idea of collaboration and showcases the possible beneficial yields of one from an altered perspective.
D: Didn’t know that! That makes sense and definitely shows the spirit of collaboration that Rorcal have always had. I think it’s safe to say they made the right choice there given how strong the material’s been since. What a great band.
E: Couldn’t agree any more with that. Per my experience, they’re also exceedingly nice people on top of that, so what’s not to love, honestly? Also, not to get too caught up to only one half of the act at hand, I need to underline how Earthflesh has done a magnificent job with everything as well, from compositions to execution, and to merging together with someone else.
D: Yes, true, shouts to Earthflesh for always seemingly being present, whether it’s with a tinnitus-like hum in the background or a tsunami of noise that drowns you. I have since looked into their other stuff like the recently released CONCRETE and while it’s not particularly for me, I can see the applications of it here more clearly and appreciate it way more.
E: Absolutely. I also looked into their recent works, and what struck me was that albeit tonally very different from Rorcal of course, the both still share a similar, experimental mentality when it comes to their quite singular sounds. Like what you mentioned earlier, about Earthflesh uniting together harsh noise walls and mangled field recordings, driving natural sounds and ambiances through distortions and feedback. That’s definitely a novel approach to me.
D: It’s like looking at the same harsh reality through different lenses that color it a certain way, but the end result is similar enough.
E: Exactly! And to think that Rorcal in particular have pulled the collaborative approach together and succeeded at it on numerous occasions is notable. What’s also a nice touch to that whole aesthetic is that time and time again, Rorcal also usually focuses on and then elevates a lesser-known artist, in both aural and visual realms, to a wider audience via these conjoined works. That’s a highly respectable move to me.
D: Definitely, I think that’s something all of us at Everything Is Noise can get behind. Because of that, I’ll be looking out for future collabs – with Rorcal AND Earthflesh – just to see what new ground is being tread and be introduced to new artists doing big things in their realm.
E: Keeping an open mind is key to discovering all sorts of amazing things, isn’t it?
D: Truly, And hey, can’t like it all, but there’s something to be said for expanding your sonic palate and learning about more stuff that’s out there. That’s what we’re all about, and I think literally everyone out there that listens to music can benefit from trying out that mindset. I would have never gotten into Rorcal had it not been for the hundreds of heavy music artists I found prior that allowed me to enjoy a band like them.
E: Absolutely. And taking such a trek is probably integral to be able to enjoy these kind of releases, them being quite far from easy listening. But it’s indeed rewarding in the end.
Well, I’ve certainly exhausted all my phrasal pipes regarding Witch Coven as of now. I think it’s safe to say that we both found the release one hell of a ride, both an enjoyable amalgamation of dreadful tones and immersive atmospheres, as well as a true accomplishment for both artists. While my only complaint is still that there could’ve been more music here, the content it’s just too damn pleasant and complete to get too caught up to such a thing. That’s it to me, do you have further thoughts to add?
D: Not much besides I’m just thrilled to have more Rorcal this year. They’re one of those bands that can put out just about anything in their wheelhouse, and I’m going to enjoy it. Linking up with Earthflesh was a mutually beneficial endeavor and I implore all of our blackened sludge metal and noise fans to check them out. I cannot overstate how good they are at what they do.