Vitriol. Such a small word but one that can evoke a variety of meanings depending on the context and where it’s directed. Today, Vitriol takes the shape of one of the most staggeringly aggressive acts in metal and one of the favorite modern purveyors of extreme metal. I sat down with Kyle Rassmussen, guitarist and vocalist for the band, and talked about a variety of things from the upcoming new album, inspiration, and how he never wants to stop growing as an artist.

This is a band that has been in existence for over a decade at this point and while there have been a few changes to the band as time has passed, this is an act that is known for their intent, intensity, and constantly reaching for the outer edges of extreme metal without fully moving into another genre. This mission of sorts has led this band to borrow ideas from all forms of extreme metal with a foot in black metal, death metal, grind, and more. Many bands can identify with this, at least on paper, but Vitriol has forged their own path with no hesitation or compromise but still manages to bring a certain amount of heart to this kind of music that is often left out.

One of the cornerstones of Vitriol is the dynamic between the two mainstays of the band Kyle and Adam Roethlisberger, who holds down the bass duties as well as shares in the vocal duties making Vitriol a two-headed monster and further differentiates them as a unique act. When it comes to how the two work together and what that relationship brings to the band Kyle was immediately forthcoming about the importance of that relationship as well as how they challenge each other:

‘He’s kind of a grounding force in my life. Our connection and why it’s endured, we talk about it all the time is, there’s an x-factor that we can’t entirely identify, but as the years go by, pieces of it start to reveal itself. This is this thing underneath our musical taste, as we didn’t even really have the same music taste. We’ve grown together a bit over the years. You know, we’ve been playing music together for I mean…15 years? It’s more of our values – both in life and our creative pursuits and that intensity and passion and connection that we have to the stuff that we enjoy that we listen to and and we create. Adam and I both have really unconventional aggressive ways of playing, and that’s not a coincidence. It’s because over the years we kind of chased after each other.’

The intersection of these musicians’ tastes is clearly extreme metal but with nuances that are complementary to making Vitriol with what they are. What became clear is that the approach and point of view that these two have with heavy music is similar enough to easily communicate and collaborate. That point of view is less academic and more so derived from feeling:

‘It’s hard to connect with someone creatively when you’re not doing things for the same reason, you know? And I think for me I’ve always had that more artistic relationship with my music. I also think about music more abstractly. So, when I’m trying to talk about ideas I’ll say that I want something to sound like you’re spiraling into hell rather than I want like a minor…frigid, fucking descending arpeggio or what the fuck ever.’

Kyle summarizes the entirety of the idea with a simple analogy, ‘There are people that see their guitar as a calculator and people that see their guitar [as a] paintbrush. And I see my guitar as a paintbrush.’

With no slight to technical skills intended, perhaps this is one of the things that set Vitriol apart from many acts. Their material feels as if the point is how you feel when listening to them rather than the moment-to-moment fretwork or some other measurable component of the music. From their early demos to their debut LP, To Bathe From the Throat of Cowardice, this is a band that has embraced extremity but not just for its own sake but rather see it as an artistic reflection of emotions and ideas that isn’t just the music itself. This idea or mission statement is something that kept showing up during our conversation and at this point I think it’s somewhat safe to say this is in many ways the modus operandi of Vitriol.

Given the time that has elapsed since their debut there have certainly been changes to the band, not only in their personnel – with the addition of Matt Kilner on drums and Daniel Martinez on second guitar – the gap between these two albums was also significant due the events of the intervening years. Yes, the pandemic. While there were canceled tours and some loss of momentum for the band during this time I wanted to focus on what happened to the band creatively during this time and how it effected Suffer & Become:

‘I’m already like a pretty socially isolated person and I treat my social interaction kind of like medicine: It keeps me grounded. So the pandemic kind of had me a little unmoored in that way which was cool. It was a difficult place to be but I think it was a very fruitful place creatively. It wasn’t an inspiring place, it was very low frequency energy, but I let it rip all that shit out of me. Because one of the most popular misconceptions about depressed artists is that somehow depression inspires you to create. It doesn’t. If you’re inspired to create by your depression, you’re not fucking depressed.’

A very honest and raw take.

However, that’s not to say that one cannot see the value of allowing that type of feeling to guide you to a new and different place and give it some kind of purpose. When listening to the new album I noticed a change in tone from their previous songwriting, not only in the atmosphere but in the lyrics and in the overall feeling that I was getting. There are shards of hope jutting from its surface. Even the title of the album – Suffer & Become – has a massively different tone than their earlier works and an easy observation to make is that it sends a message of purpose.

Having seen Kyle mention in previous interviews that he prefers to write with some constraints in mind rather than having a completely blank canvas, I asked what, if any, constraints were present for writing this new album and how they differed from To Bathe From the Throat of Cowardice:

‘The conceptual restriction I gave myself on this album was kind of like a really stark and contrasting dualism. Very high highs and very low lows. When you feel those moments of triumph and hope, we would call those the misty mountain top sections where you just feel very victorious and optimistic. And then I wanted a contrast by plumbing the absolute depths of the gutter. I try to do this musically and lyrically. There’s a lot of recurring themes of dualism throughout the album. Even the title was kind of this divine contradiction, this kind of alchemy between what is perceived as being self-destructive while you’re actually cultivating yourself.’

Along with this dualism that pervades the new material comes an attitude about the music that is being created. Vitriol is often marketed as a death metal band but they don’t quite see themselves falling cleanly within that niche and this is something that they wear with pride. Extreme metal is perhaps a more apt term to encapsulate their sound but more than that it summarizes their attitude about the music that they make. Extreme highs, extreme lows. Taking these contrasting ideas and finding complementary ways to mix these together into some kind of metallic slurry that is emotionally honest was the map for this new album.

Is this a change from the previous album? Definitely. Do they care? Not at all. The reason for that is that Vitriol has never planned on sticking to a single sonic identity.

‘When I talk to anybody about creative stuff, I encourage – I’m trying to think of a less pretentious word to use. I can’t think of one, so I’m just gonna use the pretentious one – I think the more transcendent you’re guiding values or your mission statement for your creative work is, the better it’s always gonna be. The goal of Vitriol was never to be a death metal band. And because that was never the goal, now we experience zero existential crisis, if we move away from what would be considered death metal. That was never what was important to us. I knew stepping into this world we weren’t going to get a seat at the death metal table and we never really wanted one.’

This is a sentiment that I fully understand. Death metal is wonderful – at least according to this writer – but not being death metal is just as cool. Variety is good and finding your own voice within extreme metal is a worthy endeavor, as many of the genre’s great can attest. Kyle puts a perfect bow on the thought with this quaint comparison: ‘You can love five star restaurants all you want, but if you’re telling me, that Taco Bell at 3am with a fucking ice cold Baja Blast, doesn’t get you hard as a rock… uh, you’re a liar.’

Though there have been plenty of challenges, borderline false starts, and more that have pushed back against Vitriol, they have never stopped pushing back. This is what has made them one of the most interesting and cathartic bands in the modern metal space. Dealing with obstacles that would have fully sidelined them were it not for their commitment has made them stronger, more determined, and perhaps put a bit of a chip on their shoulder along the way.

Everything that has come before has shaped them into one of the most exciting bands in metal. Vitriol boldly walks the borders of metal genres and crosses them whenever they choose and this alone makes them one to watch but it’s how well they ride those lines and blend them and blur them that set them apart from any of their peers.

Suffer & Become releases on January 26 on Century Media and you can pre-order your own copy of one of the most anticipated albums of 2024 right here. Be sure to follow them over on Instagram and Facebook to keep up with new songs, videos, tour, and more!

Vitriol is…

Adam Roethlisberger – Bass and Vocals
Kyle Rasmussen – Guitar and Vocals
Matt Kilner – Drums
Daniel Martinez-  Guitar

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