I fully support all the conveyable methods and causes to destroy all imaginable -isms, phobias, and other way too prevalent human generated bullshit of the modern day, extending from religion and to politics; the two ruthless dictators of our measly world that more often than not seem to work in unison against the better judgement of humanity and all things humane. We follow our world leaders, the towering corporate shit stains of human beings, technological billionaires, and whoever else, fist-fucking this planet dry, until all we have left is a smoldering ruin, a ransacked hole left where our homes once were.
If you don’t prefer the image painted above, know that you are fully equipped to do something to stop it from happening. Fuck being a cog in the machinery of insatiable greed. Fuck being a mindless drone abiding to a set or rules laid on you by weak little men, living your day to day doing what you’re told to do. You can do better than that. You can be better than that.
‘The world is full of so much static and we’re only making it worse (whether that means humans or Americans, take your pick)… with the rise in consciousness there is also a major pushback against it. For every person fighting for basic necessities (healthcare, education, housing, etc.) there is another idiot fighting against it because of words they don’t understand. It’s weird to watch working class people shoot themselves in the foot because they don’t want to end up like (insert any country seen as a third world country that’s been exploited in some way by the U.S.)… The amount of fools that believe they are political experts is astounding here. It’s embarrassing. But all of this is mostly because of fear. Because of the fear of ‘other’ which is how we demonize the most vulnerable people. All the -isms and -phobics are created because of the fear of losing power and control. This is the American way and has been since day one. We need to do better.‘
The above words, albeit here localizing to the States, ring true globally, and were said by Peter Kovalsky, the vocalist/guitarist of our this week’s featured artist Ether Coven, with whom I had the pleasure to interview for this article.
Peter with a friend of his.
Ether Coven started their trek through the static a hair over a decade ago, forging together a concoction of hardcore, sludge, doom, post-metal, and whatever else, to be their singular image.
‘Remembering Never were on tour in like 2011 and brought our buds for some dates – our original singers new band, My Amends. I rode with them from VA to SC or something and me and their guitar player, Devin, got to rapping about New Orleans bands. We went on and on about Crowbar, Eyehategod, etc. etc… for hours and decided to start a band that was heavily influenced by those bands and a few others. Irreversible, Battle of Mice, and the Melvins were hugely influential on the first few records. We recruited Danny Burger (drums, Remembering Never) who played on the first 2 full lengths. We played a bunch of shows, recorded a full length, then went to sleep for 5 years or so.‘
Ether Coven‘s debut full-length Human Error came out in 2013, and was released independently by the band. Despite working with labels later on, some oddly big ones as well, the band has always had a strong vision and the means to push themselves forward through various means, in an independent artist fashion. But more on that later.
Human Error is by all accounts the embodiment of a debut, having a focal point on what later made the band flourish, albeit being rough around the edges, and understandably so. However, it’s still easy to spot the likes of “Trainspotter”, “Dirt And Dust”, and “Before Common Error”, and grasp the unbelievable potential the band has had from day one onwards. I personally enjoy the genre-bending aesthetic Ether Coven has put to use throughout their existence, in order to have a distinct sonic appearance. The pummeling instrumentation is obviously damn wonderful, but I must say the astonishing vocals are what initially drew me to the band. Unique voices don’t come around in the metal realms that often, but when they do, they hit like a ton of bricks, and such is the case here.
Like Peter said earlier, the band went dormant for a whopping five years after putting out Human Error. The follow-up There is Nothing Left for Me Here came out in the summer of 2017, also independently, and while the band’s own voice is very much recognizable on all fronts, the album was a definitive leap forward for them. The production value’s amped up significantly, the compositions feel more thought out, and the overall ambiance took a dive to the deeper end in all of its ponderous glory. None of this obviously diminutes Human Error, but mainly show and underline the natural progression and evolution of Ether Coven. I inquired if the band’s approach to writing has changed through the years, and what type of methods they’ve used to begin with;
‘It’s usually just coming up with some riffs, bringing them to practice, hashing the part out with Justin (Drums) and Devin puts the spicy touch for harmonies. Sometimes Devin will bring some key riffs and I construct the rest of the song around those riffs. Personally when I’m writing riffs, I try to only keep stuff that pushes and pulls me in directions emotionally. Anger and sorrow are my two main inspirations so I try to straddle that line a bit. It’s really been the same formula since the beginning, but we’ve gotten a little faster with each record.‘
That last note is interesting in itself, as I also paid attention to how Ether Coven has indeed gotten faster while the years pass. The sludgy and calm bits prevail to this day, but overall they’ve slowly shed the doom skin and exchanged it for more hardcore-oriented flavours. There is Nothing Left for Me Here started to bring forth these newer tendencies by means of some blast beats sprinkled here and there, and generally slightly more upbeat pace (like, strictly tempo-wise upbeat, mind you). In addition, the album also saw a plethora of guests providing some additional vocals, violin, mandolin, road drums, and such. Even though these guests never overstay their welcome and bring in a very certain kind of nuance, each have their place in the mix, and everything clicks seamlessly.
Earlier I mentioned about the band also having worked with rather big labels, and I definitely mean their third album Everything is Temporary Except Suffering that came out on Century Media in 2020. It’s also worth pointing out that the ‘Coven’ part of their name was integrated only then, as earlier on they just went as Ether. I initially understood, alongside a LOT of other people actually, that this addition was more or less Century Media‘s doings, but Peter pointed me wrong on that. I also asked how they landed a deal with one of the biggest labels there is, in contrast to their independent roots;
‘An old associate of ours had like 4 degrees of separation from Michael Alago (A&R of Geffen, Electra, etc – Signed Metallica, White Zombie, and so many more, check out the documentary WHO THE FUCK IS THAT GUY?) and he got a copy of our CD (There is Nothing Left for Me Here). It collected dust with some other CDs people have given him and he listened to it one day and lost his mind. He wanted to work with us in some capacity and shopped the record to a few labels. We landed on Century Media. The label didn’t make us do anything, we opted to add the ‘Coven’ part because there were a few other Ethers on streaming sites so it just make sense. Our webstore address was EtherCoven (referencing Uncle Acid’s website, AcidCoven dot com) since the beginning of our webstore so we just went with that.‘
I keep speaking about the band’s independent ethos, so let’s dig into that more. Ether Coven has their own imprints Horned & Blind Unincorporated and Church Ov Inverted Hope. What does it exactly mean to the band to be able to hold their ground in the modern age where label’s importance starts to get quite elusive?
‘Coming from the hardcore scene, a DIY ethic is very important to us. In the same respect, there’s only so far we can take it on our own. I do enjoy the process making things, producing things, designing things, and releasing things on our own. If there’s a roadblock with a label, release it yourself. Horned & Blind allows us to release whatever we want with distribution thru RevHQ. It’s just a name to file anything we may release in the future and if any offshoot bands need a ‘home’… I would also one day like to release other bands’ stuff that I love through Horned & Blind.
‘While signed to CM they blocked us from releasing the EP (Language is the Instrument of the Empire), so we were going to release it under COIH, because we wanted it out before Everything is Temporary… it was a blessing in disguise, it gave us time to fix a couple mistakes on the recording and then properly release it.‘
The mentioned EP, Language is the Instrument of the Empire, is three tracks’ worth of dense and dark battery that came out last summer. The songs somewhat stray from the band’s artistic curvature, albeit still are a part of the bigger continuum. Overall the mood of these songs rely on a more sorrowful note, and while on their other releases the band thematically strives to rise and overcome, Language is the Instrument of the Empire feels more like embracing the inevitable defeat.
The artwork differs a bit from the band’s usual visuals, depicting the dogshit dogma of the perfect family, while the previous albums have had more abstract appearances, and in addition the EP also featured a more propaganda-ish angle visually than the others. It also feels natural that the art side is done in-house by the band;
‘Our march usually has something politically going on but our layouts are pretty tame. The one release that absolutely has a lot of political ideology (while subtle) is the EP we did, Language is the Instrument of the Empire. It’s a themed record about normalization so I wanted the art to reflect that. The cover is ‘the nuclear family’ which is bullshit in itself. The record labels have some old pro-American propaganda on them. To me, it’s so fascinating that America would need to sell the idea on being THE BEST… maybe just give everyone healthcare, education, a living wage, and a fighting chance and then the U.S. can sit at that table. Until then, somehow fool people that have never left their town or state that ‘WE’RE #1’… we’re #1 alright… in all the things you don’t want to be the best at. Most of our march designs are done by me, and I laid out the EP. No one can say things we want to say better than us, right?‘
Ether Coven‘s lyrical themes revolve mainly around the concepts of suffering and loss, without forgetting the at times politically charged spewing. The song titles give a lot of these angles away, while the lyrics themselves really open up the band’s internal world for the listener to witness. Peter kindly told me how are these subject matters chosen, what inspires them, and so forth;
‘There’s no box we stay in, just whatever moves us / me. It’s just that the most impactful things are the painful things, so they stick. Our new record actually has a *gasp* love song… but it’s still rife with tragedy… Nothing is off the table really, it just has to move us in some form or fashion. The new record has a few different things going on lyrically, it’s a lot of sad stuff, but also some positives, which is rare for us. The closer track “Consequences of Self” on our new record is a reflective piece about the benefits and harm of making choices. I guess this is growing up?‘
Oh yeah, the new album. Ether Coven are gearing up to release their new full-length and fourth overall, The Relationship Between the Hammer and the Nail, that’s coming out on August 5 via Good Fight Music. It seems like the band has undergone yet another step in their evolution, relinquishing the bleaker aspects slightly to bring in the more dire shades again.
The first single cut from the album, “Psalm of Cancer” is a surprisingly dark piece, albeit this explains itself via the lyrics and the song’s background, recounting Peter’s fight with cancer and its often unspoken side effects. There’s a certain freshness and newfound rage component on the track itself, which extends to the rest of the album as well. There’s more discordance and dissonance to its mean than maybe ever before, which I personally like quite a bit.
What went into the creation of the album, what’s different in Ether Coven‘s internal machinery this time around?
‘We had two songs written before my cancer shit popped off (one of which will not be on the album), and the rest was written during my treatment except “Of Might & Failure” (which was originally a Remembering Never song we did a trade on)… any time I could sit up- I was playing guitar. It was the only light at the end of the tunnel for me, but it was daunting as well. About four months into treatment I had to relearn how to play because I was suffering from neuropathy so my hands barely worked and I could feel almost nothing. I figured I had to just fumble through it until the neuropathy wore off or learn how to deal with this handicap. I don’t know if what I was feeling was reflected in what I was writing, or it would’ve come out that way anyway but there is a certain sadness that touches every song I think. I do think a lot of sorrow and anger translated to a lot of the riffs, as that was the bulk of what I was feeling… the most impactful.‘
The mentioned “Of Might & Failure” was also released as a single last week, further emphasizing the oppressively strenuous and emotionally packed essence stemming from the sources explained above. These two fast-paced songs released from the album already include some of the best material Ether Coven has ever released. The impactful crescendos and unbelievably aggressive instrumentation paired with hastier rhythmics demonstrate that Ether Coven might very well be releasing their most refined and hard-hitting effort to date in a matter of a few weeks.
While the earlier albums have had guest features on varying instruments and vocals, so does The Relationship Between the Hammer and the Nail. There’s guest vocalists on six of the album’s seven tracks, from Integrity‘s Dwid Hellion to Zao‘s Dan Wayandt, and Howard Jones from Light The Torch, amongst others. I of course had to ask Peter where the idea of having guests on board, and so many of them at that, stems from;
‘Honestly, I’ve always loved guest features and being huge fans of all the singers that appear on the record, it was so fun to see what they came up with. We didn’t have the opportunity with the CM record because of legal issues so we made up for lost time. I think all the guest spots add something special to each track. I made a list of all the people I wanted to have and asked them all. Everyone that could work it out, did. A few couldn’t get it done in time, which is probably better because we would’ve had like 4 or 5 more people on it.‘
As the new record arrives, the band has their sights aimed forward;
‘We’re hoping to hit the road to promote the new record ASAP. We’re working out some October and November dates followed by a bunch of dates in 2023. Shooting for Europe as well if all goes well. It may be slightly easier as the record is being distributed through Deathwish EU. We just want to play and travel and see buds and do touristy shit like waterfalls and hang out.‘
Well, there you have it folks. Ether Coven are one of the more fascinating artists in contemporary music today, being a full-fledged, holistic act whose makings span beyond the music itself as well. Do yourself a solid and follow the band on Facebook and Instagram, and go listen to and acquire they’re wonderful music over at their Bandcamp. As departing words, I’ll leave you with a highly topical prompt lifted from the band’s Bandcamp/layouts;
SMASH: SEXISM, RACISM, CLASSISM, NATIONALISM, FASCISM, HOMOPHOBIA, TRANSPHOBIA, PRISONS, BORDERS, CAPITALISM, THE POLICE STATE, THE PATRIARCHY, THE WHITE POWER STRUCTURE, TRADITION
SUPPORT/DEFEND: MARGINALIZED PEOPLE EVERYWHERE, ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIVISTS, THE ALF, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVISTS, BLACK LIVES MATTER, FOOD NOT BOMBS WORLDWIDE