TEARING DOWN THE PILLARS OF THEOCRACY
A CONVERSATION WITH OV SULFUR GUITARIST CHASE WILSON
As the integration of black metal, a genre built on defiance and raw blasphemy, continues to become prevalent in heavier music, the possibility to carve an identity in the brimstone narrows. The tropes may evolve yet the box remains firm, caging musicians to the demonic anthesis of society that was crafted by teenagers decades ago. Straying too far from the expectations this label brings can cause a band to fall in the eyes of fans, their blackened wings singed in flight. Yet Ov Sulfur is a group that is openly choosing to embrace that possibility of descent, keeping themselves branded to a style that is well defined in sound and message, yet allowing what they feel to carry the composition, even if it is flying a little too close to the sun.
Based in Las Vegas and consisting of vocalist Ricky Hoover (ex-Suffokate), guitarist Chase Wilson, bassist Ding, and drummer Leviathvn, Ov Sulfur delivers a style of blackened deathcore that is intentionally separatist from the current wave of bands in the genre. Growing up with a heavy religious upbringing, Hoover was exposed to the hatred layered in the actions of those claiming to save, so a message against religion was inevitably going to be the blood that fueled a future project, and it was the pandemic that shed that blood. Through the bleakness of 2020, Hoover was struck with a fervor to create after his new profession of barbering was virtually eliminated through county and city lock downs. The intention was originally to create music within the style of technical death metal, a subgenre that is incredibly analytical and near mathematical in structure. After Hoover was introduced to Wilson through a mutual friend however, the intention shifted not by some grand intervention but through the honesty that while desirable, it wasn’t a genre that they could easily keep pace with. A small moment of personal truth, but one that would prove to be the basis for the evolution of their sound. For instance, unlike most bands within the blackened deathcore genre, Ov Sulfur chose not to conform to the same tired, heretical verses that spew hatred towards God or a theatrical desire for darkness. The name showcases the bit of theatre that the band can portray, but the message within the music remains as honest and organic as the songwriting itself. While Wilson prefers to write within an established Pop structure, the music itself is not eclectic by design, but instead a stream of consciousness transfer of fingers to strings, letting emotion and mental state determine the trajectory of the song instead of focusing on the current trends. This perspective puts Ov Sulfur into the role of the apostate of blackened deathcore, a position that would carry into their lyrics as well. Normally, bands that make blasphemy their lyrical core can, at times, be a step or two shy of stage performances, yet Hoover chose to keep his experiences behind the question of “why” as Ov Sulfur’s meaning. Many bands before and after will continue to defy God to the masses in a strict “burn the church” fashion, but Ov Sulfur wanted to use their music to show the hypocrisy that Hoover witnessed, the abusive grooming, and the ugliness of the world that makes the existence of a God beyond insulting.
When the band released their debut single “Behind The Hand Of God” in 2021, they showcased their more melodic approach to deathcore while still utilizing the symphonic elements that permeate through the blackened subgenres. These orchestrations were composed by Johnny Ciardullo (Angelmaker & Carcosa) and the way in which they were used would further evolve their sound through the Oblivion EP. Many bands will incorporate symphonics, but Ov Sulfur wanted it to be seen as another instrument, as vital as a physical member of the band, to where if it was removed the void that it would create would be easily noticeable. While some will use this as a filler within the music or an added track to carry a bridge, the band wanted these arrangements to cradle the songs and allow them to play between downtuned, crushing heaviness that carries over to more melodic passages. The synths were to be kept as the skeletal frame, able to withstand the punishing breakdowns that follow grand, cinematic choruses. Yet the music wasn’t the only thing that the band decided to forgo expectations with, but Hoover’s vocals as well. His dynamic range and demonic lows would serve as part inspiration for their logo, a combination of the sulfur cross and the Sigil Of Lahad, the demon voice. And while these styles of vocals are the driving constant in deathcore, the inclusion of clean singing is something that is not, but when Hoover began incorporating this he was driven further by the insistence of his bandmates. The cleans brought intense emotion to the lyrics, and when placed into the hands of producer Morgoth Beatz (Michael Montoya of Winds of Plague) during recording, displayed the possibilities that could be brought to the debut. And yet the reception to the band already was intensely positive, something that none of the band had anticipated. When just the logo itself was released, the social media reaction was so strong that Hoover’s phone had died more than once from the onslaught of notifications. And once there was music behind the logo their path began, taking them farther than they thought possible in such a short amount of time.
Written within the course of a year, with much being written by former guitarist Matt Janz, the The Burden Ov Faith further excels the band deeper into seeing how far they could go within the genre. The writing process itself was a practice in distance, as only two of the members permanently reside in Las Vegas. Wilson would send files to Hoover who would then pick up on the emotional state that the music was created from, albeit in a more reverse osmosis style, and then craft lyrics and vocals based on what the instrumentals were reaching within him; all centered around the hatred towards religion, but this is what allows us to get songs that are from the more human perspective. The death of Hoover’s nephew serves inspiration for “Earthen” and begs conversation to the intense anger of loss. “Death Ov Circumstance” and “Befouler” show the abuse and horrors that are made in the name of God, which is used as the moment of clarity expressed in “Wide Open”, while “Stained In Rot” begs others to do the same. The refusal to keep themselves locked within their genre is integral to what the band wanted to evoke from the listeners, but allowing human experience to drive the sound unlocked the ability to keep the message as the band intended, a commentary on what is seen through open eyes.
While exploration of sound is something listeners can expect with The Burden Ov Faith, there is more than enough that dedicated fans of the genre will be excited for. With such prominent emotion carrying the music, the heaviness becomes amplified with crushing breakdowns that “tear down the pillars of Theocracy” alone. Oddly enough though, there is little talk of demons of any kind of the album, despite a vapid interest in Demonology within the band. And while setting off for a tour with Chelsea Grin, Carnifex, and Left To Suffer, on the brink of the album’s release, Wilson has already begun writing new material, keeping with the speed that has already carried them along the way. He admits that it can be overwhelming, the reception to the band followed by tours with big name acts such as Lorna Shore and Angelmaker, but just like to the heart of their music, they are seeing where else this can take them and enjoying everything it brings. No specific details on what is to come for the band following the debut’s release, but the idea of a concept album going through the narrative of Dante’s Inferno is something that has his interest and would be something that they have the ability to really bring into life. Ov Sulfur has only just begun but the perspectives that drive their art shed them of limitations, making any future albums as interesting and original as what they’re already set to release.