Happy Halloween, nerds. I hope y’all were able to do whatever it is y’all do to celebrate the season. Me? Well, if all goes to plan, I’ll be dressing up as a penguin for the day at work. I also watched a couple of movies leading up to the holiday – Hocus Pocus 2 with the girlfriend, and The Thing because it’s one of the best films ever, but also to prepare for this article. It’s not very often that an artist, band, or their music makes me (re)visit film, but that’s kind of journey you might find yourself embarking on with a band like Fliege.
If they have a gimmick, Fliege have specialized in making music based on cult films, usually horror, for their five-year run of releases. It’s never quite as simple as retelling the story in lyrics, but fitting their cosmic industrial black metal atmosphere around the themes and tone of a given film like a blacksmith hammers steel to form across an anvil. It’s unique, truly so – I do not know of a band that sounds quite like Fliege, so when I reviewed their second album The Invisible Seam which is based on Ingmar Bergman‘s The Seventh Seal, the seed was laid within. Hearing of a new LP coming out on November 4 based on one of my favorite movies ever, John Carpenter‘s The Thing (you know, what the game Among Us was based on), was enough to make me salivate – it also motivated me to reach out to the group to discuss all things Fliege, and what follows are some awesome tidbits from band mastermind/multi-instrumentalist Coleman Bentley unfortunately separated by my own musings and bite-size rants – you get a treat and a trick today, y’all.
‘From the start, we were literally like ‘we just want to play one show,‘‘ says Bentley on the initial goal and intention of the band. ‘That was it. Sometimes I’m pretty critical about our music and get down about the futility of getting noticed in the hyper-saturated streaming environment, but if I think back to where we started and what we were trying to accomplish, it’s hard not to consider it a success.‘ Features on heavy/fringe music establishments like Decibel, NO CLEAN SINGING, and CVLT Nation have surely put some eyes on their work – I’d like to count Everything Is Noise among those as well, especially after this article publishes. It’s one of the many reason why Fliege is so ripe for coverage by us. Here’s a band that does something interesting, contorting the seemingly limitless pool of musical art to fit some very specific – and unspecific – guides they want. What I like about them also lines up with the onus of the band and what they hope people take away from their art – I’ll let Bentley take the lead on that:
‘As far as what I hope people take from it, honestly I don’t think too much about that. But I will say that the people who do spend the time with our music—those that go in with an open mind and actively listen—seem to really connect with it. We don’t have a big following, but those fans that we do have seem to be super passionate about what we’re making and that is really cool. If I had to get philosophical about why, I’d say that metal by its very nature is supposed to be non-conforming, and yet so many bands these days seem to have forgotten that. They’re writing to a sub-genre template or whitewashing their music with some production preset. You may not like us—maybe we’re too hooky for the extreme metal folks and too metal for the normies—but no one can say we’re trying to fit in or capitalize on a trend. For better or worse, we’re unflinchingly us, and I think that resonates with people.‘
Sometimes the most important thing you can do is something for yourself.
The linguistically astute/Teuton originated people out there will note that the band’s name is the German word for ‘fly’, as in insect. Aside from being a cool name, it also is rooted in the first music the band ever released – a self-titled mini-album/kind-of EP based on David Cronenberg‘s classic film The Fly. Bentley reflects on the choice of name for the band:
‘When we did the demo we weren’t sure if we would ever release anything else or, if we did, if we would stick with The Fly theme. In the end we decided to branch out into other horror source material, but kept the name. It’s tight. It has visual synchronicity. Singular noun band names are super hot right now. What more could you ask for? The only issue is pronunciation. We typically go with ‘Fleaj’ because we’re dumb Americans, but I believe the proper German pronunciation is ‘Flea-guh.’ Big problems for another day…‘
The Fliege project shows a band in its larval stage, though profoundly fleshed out and pronounced – walking before it even crawled, if you will. Elements and approaches established back then in 2017 are still keenly heard in their upcoming record (more on that later) and everything in between, though perhaps a little more rough. For black metal stalwarts, this is the where you’d start, as it’s the best shot you have with establishing a connection with the band. Quick and sturdy guitars build the melodic foundations while fuzzy noise and kvlty vocals round out the sonic palette. A dealbreaker for some, though I don’t know why other than being more of an elitist stance, the drums are programmed and they sound like it.
What I mean by that is there’s a clear, apparent industrial smack to them, stapling on a synthetic, inorganic feel to each song which is fitting because, well, nearly all the music Fliege have put out involves varying levels of inhumanity and body horror. It works on multiple levels, especially when you get to a project like their split they did with Wurmteeth based on Tetsuo: The Iron Man – I’m getting ahead of myself, though. Fliege runs the gamut from danceable industrial rock to black metal walloping to arena rock soloing (the intro to “Teleformation” kills). It’s just about a four-way tie for my favorite project of theirs for how daring it was, even if I didn’t hear it until well after I discovered them in 2020 with The Invisible Seam.
Bentley reflects on his own larval stage and how Fliege and Fliege came to be – as with most passionate projects, it’s made of humble beginnings and friendship:
‘I began like everyone else: Hearing the riff to “Iron Man,” thinking the Gibson SG was the most awesomely evil thing I’d ever seen, wanting all of that for myself. So I did the very cliche thing and mowed lawns to afford a shitty Squier Strat when I was like 14. After about six months, I hit a wall. I almost bailed on the instrument completely. I decided to try guitar lessons to see if I could make it stick, and figured if that didn’t do it, maybe it wasn’t for me. Looking back, that was a surprisingly mature decision haha.
From there I took lessons every Friday night until I graduated high school. I applied for Berklee and all that crap to be some shredder doofus, didn’t get in, and ended up going down a different educational/career path. After that, I played as a hobbyist for years. I was almost always writing my own songs (I suck so much at playing other people’s stuff), but I never had a concrete project, so most of those ended up half finished. Then Pete [Rittweger, Fliege vocalist] and I stumbled on this concept and were dumb/bored enough to actually try it. I found I suddenly had a framework to write around, and although I had to work to get my metal chops back, there’s no substitute for writing riffs that are a little too hard and then playing them until they’re not.
As for Pete, he had never even screamed before Fliege’s first practice. He promptly blew his voice out, but figured out a technique in land-speed record time and was quickly getting “is this dude serious!?” looks from all the other singers at our shows. Fliege is very much a first serious band for both of us and we started it in our late 20s/early 30s. Go figure.‘
As much as a story of ‘late blooming’ is relatable to me (and should be to others – not everyone is a savant by their 20s!), even more so is the story behind how Rittweger and Bentley met:
‘Pete and I were both music writers actually! I met him when he was an editor for a Brooklyn concert website called My Social List. They put out a call for writers (my day job is as web editor/writer, not in music), so I reached out. They liked my clips and we had similar taste in music, so I started writing for them. Pete and I began going to shows together and working on the blog all the time, and pretty soon we were just friends independent of the site. Then My Social List folded, and then FREEWilliamsburg invited us over to run FREEWilliamsburg’s music content, so we moved over there until that was shuttered in early 2020.
Sometime in 2016, the idea for Fliege was born as a drunk joke at a Diarrhea Planet show—something like ‘what if we started a nerdy black metal duo based on The Fly where we went as C. Brundle and P. Brundle like Ramones?‘ It became an inside joke after that, but I wasn’t joking haha. I wanted a musical project so bad. I quietly started working on some stuff, eventually showing Pete the riffs that would eventually appear on our demo while on a friends’ vacation together in Montreal. See kids, friendship pays!‘
This is the kind of shit that puts a smile on my face as I’ve met some really awesome people through writing for Everything Is Noise and beyond – even scouting for and hiring new writers here is partially influenced by how well we think they’d mesh with the existing team because we’re all caring and looking out for each other.
Moving on from Fliege is the band’s biggest gap in releases yet as they prepared their debut LP, The Invisible Seam. As I said before, I reviewed it so I will spare the details, but it’s important to cover in the story of the band. In retrospect, after hearing all the band has to offer, it’s an incredible step forward for the band, imbuing their sound with more of a layered, cosmic sentiment. The cover art alone is ethereal, transdimensional even, not particularly thematically in line with the movie it bases itself on (at least as far as I can tell – I haven’t seen The Seventh Seal in whole), but it beckons forth an existential ambience that does mesh with The Seventh Seal. It begs the question how far the band went to create a sound that couple complement these films and subjects:
‘Man, that’s such a tough question because so little about this band has been preconceived. We couldn’t find a real drummer when we started, so we decided to use programmed drums. Pete and I were both obsessed with drum-machine era Uniform at the time. Bam, there was a sound. I hadn’t played metal in forever, but had been listening to black metal obsessively for a couple years. When I picked up the guitar this weird amalgam of my storytelling songwriter-y stuff and the black metal riffs I had unknowingly internalized over the years came pouring out. There was a sound. We needed something else to round it out, and we were like, well, how about synth? Summoning rules, right? Most importantly though, we weaponized our limitations. We didn’t try to hide them. We put them right up front. We used them as features not flaws, and I think that really helped us carve out our sound.
So I’m not sure we created the sound as much as it sort of created us. That’s corny, but not altogether untrue. Since then, I’ve gained a greater understanding of that sound. I have authorship of it now. My process is more intentional these days. Things happen less by accident or happenstance these days. No matter what elements we add or what story we’re telling, however, my guiding mantra is to write for myself. Would I want to listen to this? Is this doing something other bands do that I love? Is this doing something that other bands don’t do that I wish they would? As long as I tick those boxes, I know it’s going to sound like Fliege.‘
Sonically, The Invisible Seam is just more full than Fliege was. The melodies are more substantial, like “Four Suns” with its dark industrial structure and post-punkish chorus. Clean vocals done by Bentley himself are much more prominent and give songs like “A Confession” and “Die Raval” a different kind of punch. Bass is an institution all its own, and songs feels shrouded in a forlorn mystery thanks to the shadowy synths (played by Chris Palermo) that drape over them. Another element of the four-way tie I mentioned earlier when the issue of my favorite Fliege project comes up.
Next is an underrated project, a split EP from last year with New York death metallers Wurmteeth based around Tetsuo: The Iron Man, a body horror classic I’m led to believe is one of the more abhorrent, comically revolting things to come out of Japan and the ’80s, which means I must seek it out posthaste (someone got a Shudder account I could use?). Even just reading a film synopsis and seeing the cover art is enough to frame what Fliege achieve on the split.
Lyrics are the darkest yet (‘Fatten the maggots/Let the hammers sing/Cast out the man/Become machine‘; ‘Life is planned obsolescence/Unto the scrap we all return‘) as we get the sonic equivalent of man’s three-act merging with machine, leaving humanity behind to wallow in its self-destruction. It’s the most mechanical the band has sounded yet, which works perfectly. “Ensnared in the Circuitry of Being” is my personal favorite, but each of Fliege‘s three songs serve a key purpose in the arc. Wurmteeth‘s side of things can only be found on the limited cassette release for the split, but there’s a live performance of its songs on YouTube – it’s good.
Fliege‘s love for films is apparent – to base your whole body of work (thus far) around other bodies of work is passion unbounded. It goes beyond just picking cool films to write music about like a sort of sugar-coated fan fiction, though many bands do that, and more power to them. I asked if this was the plan from the beginning and though the answer was alluded to in the band’s origin story, Bentley expanded on it a bit along with contemplating potential films to cover in the future:
‘This has been our concept from the very beginning. Both Pete and I love horror movies and have spent countless hours discussing and debating them, so it made a lot sense for us. More importantly, it gave us parameters to work within, a center to build from. It also solved the very real problem of ‘what the hell do you write metal songs about?‘ That question has resulted in a lot of cringey answers over the years. It’s tough. So we opted for pure fiction rooted in true human emotion and it has worked well. It has given me a lot of great visual and symbolic material to work from lyrically.
As far as future films, I’m not sure where we go from here. I’ve always wanted to do a Fulci—City of the Living Dead or The Beyond—but there’s a band literally named Fulci haha. It’s a crowded space as you can imagine. I have an EP idea that shakes up the formula a bit and definitely tackles an overall aesthetic that I would like to explore, but time will have to tell.‘
Which leads us to what I will consider the marquee topic of this WFA. Fliege just so happen to have a new album coming out this week. It’s called One Day They’ll Wonder What Happened Here, an LP based on John Carpenter‘s 1982 soft sci-fi horror masterpiece The Thing. I’ve been lucky enough to hear it in full in preparation for this article, and while I won’t be writing a full-blown review of it here or elsewhere, it’s a phenomenally realized interpretation of the film and a progression for the band that’s a must for the discerning metal fan. I say ‘metal’ without another qualification because it seems Fliege are more into broadening their stylistic forte this time around – as if it wasn’t broad enough already. This time, more death metal bleeds into the mix, especially with a song like “Glaciers of Eden Pt. 2”.
Really, you don’t need more than the album’s two singles – “Jaws of Life” and “Man is the Warmest Place to Hide” – to see what they’re going for. The band tout a Thin Lizzy-esque approach to the solos here and make good on it. Though they have never eschewed a prominent ’80s influence, both sonically and in terms of film subjects, it’s on the sleeve here. One Day They’ll Wonder What Happened Here has by far the longest average song length here, and the extra time is filled with newer ideas and fascinations from the minds of Bentley and Rittweger, now a duo sans synth player Palermo – ‘Chris just had a bunch of other stuff going on in his life and didn’t feel he was going to be able to give the project the time and focus it needed.‘ It’s all good though, he stresses; ‘We’re still homies. He’s a photographer by trade, so he even helped us with our press photos haha.’
Bentley takes on synth duties this time around and while you can’t tell much difference from song to song, there are some inclusions here on ODTWWHH that are wholly his take on the instrument. He explains:
‘Two things happened to the music as a result, however. A. It gave me a chance to explore some of the synth sounds I had been wanting to explore, namely big dungeon-synth melodies that occupied a much higher place in the frequency spectrum. A lot of the ‘80s bounciness remains—Chris and I definitely have a similar ear there—but I feel these synths are more of a melodic tool than a rhythmic one, as they were in the past. B. Synths are not omnipresent anymore. Not every section of every song has synth bubbling underneath it anymore, for better or worse. I simply didn’t have the bandwidth for that and also felt that, with the addition of bass and a lot more guitar layering, it wasn’t necessary from a mix standpoint.‘
Absolutely no disrespect intended to Palermo, who was indeed integral to earlier Fliege work that I loved, but the changes on this new album are, for me, a net positive. In making the synth a little more scarce and changing how it appears when it does not only sounds cooler to me, but also finds ways to bend the actual soundtrack fundamentals of The Thing (famously not composed by Carpenter, but rather by fellow legend Ennio Morricone) for its own uses. Tetsuo: The Iron Man was met with metal-banging-metal industrialization – it makes sense for The Thing to be met with haunting, alien synth-driven dread and an overall aesthetic as ’80s as the wardrobe used in the film.
A familiarity with The Thing serves well here. This album hits many of the same beats of the film in addition to its themes, referencing the ship that exiled biologist Blair built in secret to escape the doomed Antarctic research station (“Blair Built a Spaceship”) and the boiling paranoia that infected the station’s inhabitants long before the feared alien parasite did. Maybe I’m biased – with recency or love of the film – but the lyrics here are some of the best Fliege has put down yet.
The dogs are dead, we’re now the dogs
Slaves of a higher species
Bred to do what we’re told
On the bonfire
Of our vanities
Even death is a lie here‘
Not that you need justification to cover a film like The Thing, but of course I asked. Why this film? Why now? His answer would lead him to name some of my favorite bands going right now (seriously, are you me?) and also makes the more spacy approach to recent music become very apparent:
‘Well, I was listening to a lot of Blood Incantation, Tomb Mold, Cryptic Shift, Altarage, Mesarthim, Mare Cognitum, etc. and I knew I wanted to do something generally ‘cosmic.’ The Thing was a logical next but we were worried that it was actually too logical—too on-the-nose, too well known. A lot of people have never seen The Seventh Seal… so that gave us some leeway. With The Thing, we knew there would be expectations and preconceptions. The film is near and dear to a lot of people, including myself, so there was some pressure to create something that we felt did justice to Carpenter’s vision while also putting our own spin on it. For all those reasons, we initially shelved it as an option.
Then COVID hit, and during that first big wave—from March to June, when nobody saw anybody and going to the grocery store was like a zombie movie—there was nothing to do but watch a ton of horror movies and start writing the new record. I said fuck it and revisited The Thing. I took copious notes on anchor scenes for songs, dialog for lyrics, and so on, and I was grabbed by the film’s themes of infection, isolation, and paranoia, which were swirling all around us in real life at the time. I saw an opportunity to write about an iconic sci-fi movie from one of my favorite directors and also about the brand new world taking shape around us. That was super compelling to me and I knew we had to do it. I pretty much texted Pete on the spot and was like, ‘this is the one.’‘
Having just rewatched the film and given the new album coming out, I asked Bentley who is favorite character in The Thing was and how he would’ve handled the events if he was there:
‘It’s probably R.J. MacReady, just because you can’t beat the Kurt Russell x John Carpenter combo. I got fascinated with Blair [played by the late A. Wilford Brimley] during the writing process, however. He’s the only one who really understands the stakes of the situation should the organism escape Antarctica. He’s then quarantined by the others based largely on suspicion, and you’re left to wonder if they made the right decision or sentenced a fellow human to death. It eventually turns out that we was infected and has begun to cobble together his own escape pod, and that’s where ”Blair Built a Spaceship” picks up. That’s the only song on the album told through the eyes of ‘the thing,’ imagining it as an almost sympathetic character, waking from a coma on a foreign planet, terrified, alone, and hunted, just wanting to go home.
As for how I would handle it? Hole up in my room with a bottle of J&B Scotch and some Chess Wizard, of course.‘
Lately, John Carpenter has fancied himself a musician, though to say it like that almost discounts all the music and sound work he did throughout the decades. Since 2015, he’s released three original musical works under the Lost Themes series. They’re great overall and, with help from his son Cody and godson Daniel Davies, show a stellar musical mind in a new prime at an old age. It’s inspiring and shows that a creative’s spirit can literally last a whole lifetime. I asked Bentley what he thought of Carpenter’s turn and it has some interesting Fliege parallels:
‘Pure nostalgia. Comfort food. It’s great to let it wash over you while driving or answering emails or whatever. I actually saw him live in summer 2016—right around the time Fliege was forming actually— and that was a really cool, cinematic experience. You could tell how much he loved being up there playing the role of rockstar. Watching him, it felt like that was always his dream, but life handed him a legendary film career instead. Tough break haha.
I think the thing I like most about Carpenter’s music, however, is what I was talking about earlier. You can tell he is writing for himself. He’s not pandering to an audience or trend. He is writing what he would want to listen to. That may sound selfish, but let’s be honest, the world doesn’t need another album. Nobody asks for them and still hundreds come out each and every Friday. So you have to write for yourself. To satisfy your own drive to create. To leave something behind. Because you’re bored and want something to do. If other people happen to like it, that’s just a bonus.‘
Cover art by Obsidian Pantheon
By now, it’s easy to see that Fliege are a one-from-many band, making some influences apparent while others become easter egg-like treats for fans who dig deep enough to find and cherish. Still, I got Bentley to drop some names, some of which are, again, my all-time faves and show the genealogy of how the band came to be:
‘This is a tough one for us haha. Our FFO always looks a bit haphazard, and musically that’s probably our biggest strength and promotionally our biggest weakness. I think it starts with the NWOBHM and ‘80s classics—Maiden, Priest, Ratt, Def Leppard—but we flip the metal chronology, and ask what if these genres came after the ‘90s extreme metal explosion? What if they were influenced by them instead of the other way around? Death, Carcass, and Immortal are all huge touchstones from that era for me, along with touches of Streecleaner-era Godflesh, early Nine Inch Nails, and my all-time favorite, Alice in Chains. There’s a lot of emotive aughts metalcore influence bleeding through too. Pete is a huge emo/screamo guy and got me hooked on all of this. There’s the causticness of Pg. 99, the drama of Zao, the spazzy songwriting of early Cave In, and the riffy corniness of Killswitch Engage. Then we dust all of that with gothy synths and interludes inspired by The Cure, The Police, and Type O Negative, and even some horrorcore, like Gravediggaz and .clipping, in our approach to percussion/samples. I listen to a lot more than that. Outlaw country and grunge make up the other big wedges of my listening pie, but we haven’t worked those in quite yet haha.‘
Yet – now I expect Fliege to cover A Fistful of Dollars or something in the future.
After it all, Fliege remain future oriented. They posted a call for musicians to help fill out their live lineup for a few tri-state shows they plan on having soon. Not even more substantiative touring is out of the question – ‘‘no preconceptions‘ is sort of this band’s mantra, so who knows!‘ – though Bentley maintains it’s more of a studio project as it’s where he gets the most out of it. Quite fair to be honest. The world feels exceedingly open to a band like Fliege. As long as there’s cult films to pull inspiration from and the spark is there for the now duo, there should always be a new project on the horizon. And hey, not here nor anywhere else have they ruled out the potential for truly original work as well. Anything can happen! I’m just glad it happened in my lifetime, as I consider them one of the more entertaining and unique bands I’ve found in the last few years. It’s music by passionate people for passionate people.
As is customary, we’ll close out here with some final thoughts from Bentley on everything from shoutouts to a favorite bird (I ask this to almost every band I talk to and hardly anyone ever gives me theirs):
‘I want to shout out Nikhil Kamineni, who has had a big hand in the production on every Fliege release to date. He mixed and mastered One Day They’ll Wonder What Happened Here and is pretty much an honorary member of the band at this point. Also big thanks to Calvin Cushman—AKA Obsidian Pantheon—who knocked our album art out of the park. Hit him up for a sick painting or check out his killer label Labyrinth Tower. Finally, just a huge thank you to my partner Noelle, who in addition to putting up with me being a stressed out mess of a human being trying to get this thing over the line, was a really essential sounding board and an important voice of positivity throughout the process.
P.S. I’m not sure if it’s the best bird, but loons are definitely the most black metal bird.‘
Coleman Bentley – guitar, bass, drum programming, synth, clean vocals
Peter Rittweger – harsh vocals
A hyper big thanks to Coleman for indulging my wild-ass and boilerplate questions alike. He’s super personable and has great taste in music. I’ll never get sick of having the opportunity to talk to artists that I like and see what goes into what they do. Another big thanks to Curran Reynolds of The Chain, Fliege‘s PR, for setting this all up and taking some time to talk hip-hop a bit with me while we worked on some of the finer details. I highly recommend delving into Fliege‘s small but mighty and growing discography on Bandcamp. You can also follow them on Facebook and Instagram. Go watch a movie.
Band photos by Chris Palermo