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Interviews Purulency

Interview with guitarist Neal Williams

Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen

Date online: February 22, 2024


"Erosion of life I see, it makes the passion burn in me. Life it always withers away. Death will eternally stay..." I guess some of us have seen that mysterious part of a lyric somewhere, but let's not focus on that right now. Instead of that let's bring this 5-piece act all the way from Kingsport, Tennessee, to everyone's attention. The band is called Purulency and they play death metal as some of you can already figure out just by glancing at the band's name. Yes, old-school, heavily '90s Finnish/Swedish-tinged death metal to be more precise.

Purulency, originally started out in 2018 by the dynamic duo guitarist Neal Williams and drummer Alex Depew, has been working hard on their material released and now those prayers have been answered. The band is ready to release their 4-track demo, Transcendent Unveiling of Dimensions, in different formats and on a few labels in the spring of 2024, so that's definitely very cool news for all you old-school death metal hungry people out there.

What else might be in store for them? We'll let Neal enter the mighty iron door of The Metal Crypt and fill us in on recent news of the band and even more...

Hey, Neal! How's life in Kingsport, Tennessee? Steady and somewhat smooth, or hectic as hell?

Neal: Life's been steady and smooth. Kingsport is a small industrial city (population around 55,000), so nothing too crazy goes on, usually.

THE BEGINNING

We are here to talk about Purulency, which you formed with Alex Depew (on drums), back in 2018. First off, could you tell us a about your decision to start this slimy, rotten-sounding, and corpse-heavy death metal unit?

Neal: I had started to explore Swedish death metal more in-depth and took my first real steps into exploring Finnish death metal with bands like Sentenced and Convulse while in a previous band. There was something about both of those scenes that sounded filthier than the predominantly American/Floridian style death metal I was playing at the time. I wanted to experiment with that kind of sound more in my former band, but long story short, it didn't work out. After I was out of that band, I decided to start something that was predominantly influenced by the nastier and more atmospheric Finnish and Swedish sounds. I had some riffs I brought with me which provided a jumping off point for writing. It took a while, but an old friend and bandmate, Alex, and I reconnected. He started to learn to play drums. After a few months of watching his progress, it was a natural fit to bring him in. From there, we took our sweet time working out the songs. The riffs and song ideas I had were fine-tuned to fit the sound better, and this fine-tuning continued for many aspects of our songs over time.

THOSE CRUSHINGLY HEAVY AND DARK ATMOSPHERES...

Were there some clear starting points that screamed louder to you than others, like "follow this über-heavy riff and let the magic start happening!"?

Neal: There were certain elements from several different releases I took inspiration from. The crushing heaviness/tuning of Demilich's The Four Instructive Tales... demo, the dark atmosphere and keyboard usage from Amorphis' Privilege of Evil EP, the style of blastbeat that Convulse mainly used on World Without God, and I more broadly took inspiration from Abhorrence's demo and EP, as well as Grave's Into the Grave. Of course, there were other influences that factored in, but if I had to narrow it down, those are the ones that I would mention. The goal was never to emulate any particular band or release, but rather channel all those influences into my own writing style.

How did you meet the rest of your bandmates? Did they all share the same morbid vision of what this band should be about musically?

Neal: I've known Alex for many, many years and was in a few different bands with him over that time. We certainly have a musical chemistry between us due to that history and friendship. I also knew Garrett beforehand, as he was the vocalist of another band we had. I knew he played guitar and had a real appreciation of Finnish and Swedish death metal, too. We had talked about him being involved for a while, but once our other band ceased being active, that allowed focus to be put on Purulency. Carter was a friend of Garrett's that was brought in to play bass, and Harrison was someone I had known for years and jammed with before in previous projects. I asked him about filling in on vocals and he agreed to do it. Those guys started jamming with us in the summer of 2022. Everyone was on the same page in regard to the musical vision, though all the demo material was written by that point.

Do your fellow bandmates contribute to the songwriting process?

Neal: I wrote the material on the demo, but Alex was very beneficial to the writing process. It was nice to bounce ideas off him. Like I said before, we have a musical chemistry and I think it aided the process of writing. While I wrote most of the riffs and ideas at home before bringing them to jam with Alex, there were a couple of instances of on-the-spot jamming leading to something we used. The intro to "Xenolith of Ruination" is a good example of that. We just jammed it out of nowhere, and I fine-tuned it afterward after listening to the practice recording. Lyrics and vocal patterns weren't finalized until after the music was recorded, and that was a mix of my writing and Garrett's.

LOTS HAPPENING AROUND THE BAND

To me, it seems there's quite a lot of fuss going on around Purulency at the moment, and your 4-track debut demo, Transcendent Unveiling of Dimensions, will be released on different formats. Could you give us an update on what can be expected from Purulency, release-wise?

Neal: We have two labels releasing cassettes. The Caligari Records' tape release should be shipping out in early February. Morbid Cellar out of Finland is doing a very limited cassette run for Finland/EU, which should see release around spring from what I understand. There's another label that will be releasing the demo on 12" vinyl and CD, which should also be around springtime. I don't believe they've announced it just yet, so I won't name the label, but we're very excited for that, as well.

Are you overwhelmed by all the positive attention that the band has received thus far?

Neal: I'm pleasantly surprised, but not overwhelmed. I anticipated that it would get a decent response, but it's gone beyond my expectations. I suppose I didn't have a great read on it because I've heard these songs for so long, longer than most bands sit on their material before a first demo or release.

It's no secret that you adore and love old-school Scandinavian death metal, especially the Finnish style. Can you explain what makes that sound so special to you?

Neal: I alluded to it earlier, but there's a certain filth and nastiness to it. Combine that with the types of melody and atmosphere that are so prevalent within it, and it really is something special. Of course, each of those classic bands had their own sounds going on (no one would confuse Demilich and Abhorrence, for example), but there are elements that carry throughout. It was something I wanted to tap into in my own writing.

Have people mistaken Purulency for a Finnish death metal band due to your nearly identical sound to what we had going on in the Finnish underground metal scene some 30+ years ago?

Neal: It's funny you ask that. I just saw a comment on a Russian forum stating that our demo sounds like a lost '90s Finnish DM demo. However, people are just now starting to really hear it, as I'm answering these questions. So far, we've had positive responses in general, and I won't be surprised to see more comments making that connection.

Are there any bands, born in 2000 (besides Purulency, of course) who get that magical '90s Finnish death metal sound right, from your perspective?

Neal: There are some that touch on elements of it. Bands like Cerebral Rot and Mortiferum are ones that are clearly influenced by that sound in their own ways. I don't keep up with a lot of newer bands, though, so I'm sure there are many influenced by that scene that I'm not aware of. Whether those bands capture that magic is another thing, and much harder to achieve.

After this successful demo you are surely aiming higher and planning to record an EP or even a full-length album next. Besides these four demo songs, how much new material do you have ready? Enough to make a proper live set, for example?

Neal: We recorded a cover during the demo sessions that we plan to use for something soon. Beyond that, the plan is to record a full-length album. The demo songs with the cover have been enough for our previous live shows, but right now it's very early in the writing process for new material.

What about your plans for live gigs? What have you planned thus far to conquer stages in the coming months and what are your long-term plans for playing some shows around this dying, sick, and rotten planet of ours?

Neal: We played three shows shortly after securing a live lineup in late 2022/early 2023, but there were some issues that caused a hiatus from live shows. We're working on getting back to the stage as soon as possible, better than before.

WHAT'S ON THE BUCKET LIST?

My wild guess is one of your dream-come-true things might be a gig with one of your most influential bands, let's say, sharing the stage someday with either Abhorrence or Demilich or Convulse, correct? ;o)

Neal: Sharing the stage with any of those bands would be amazing. One can hope for the opportunity to make it happen one day. Right now, we're focusing on getting this demo heard and returning to playing shows to help build the Purulency name.

WHAT KIND OF PLACE IS KINGSPORT FOR METAL?

Does your hometown of Kingsport offer some cool venues for more extreme-sounding metal bands to play live, or do you need to arrange all of your gigs outside of the town?

Neal: Recently, there have been shows at a VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars – ed.) hall in town through some local promoters. I've not been there to check it out, personally, but they have extreme metal and hardcore/punk bands playing there regularly as far as I can tell. Typically, most shows happen in a nearby city called Johnson City at venues like The Hideaway and Capone's. Kingsport does have some other bands/projects doing death metal, black metal, and other extreme styles - the most notable being our buddy Arian's projects like Pissrot, Chunked, and others.

What about your local underground metal scene? Only a band like Pissrot comes to mind, but apparently, you have more on offer in Kingsport than just them and Purulency as far as the more extreme metal scene is concerned, if I am not mistaken...?

Neal: Pissrot and Arian's other projects are the main ones these days, but I've seen other bands pop up in genres like hardcore, punk, and black metal. If you zoom out and focus on our region in general (the "Tri-Cities" of Tennessee/Virginia), you'll see even more; bands like Obsidian Urn and Desiccated, both of which are fairly new. When it comes to local bands playing extreme music, it's surprisingly active at the moment.

What kind of a mark do you hope to leave on the underground scene with Purulency, let's say, within the next 3-5 years?

Neal: It's hard to imagine leaving a mark at this point, but the hope is to continue to keep working to improve and refine the Purulency sound. I don't try to think too far ahead, and instead just focus on the next task. We'll see what the future brings.

Alright, before I let you go, could you tell us what's been in your jukebox during the past 2-3 weeks?

Neal: Honestly, I haven't been listening to much death metal or heavy stuff in general. If I'm listening to music lately, it's usually old-time/traditional folk music. I even placed a small reference to it in one of our songs on the demo. Of course, I'll listen to many other styles and genres, but that's been my most consistent recently.

I would like to thank you, Neal, for your time in getting my questions answered and I would like to wish you all the best with all of your present and future endeavors with the band. If you have any closing comments to wrap up this conversation properly, be my guest... ;o)

Neal: And I would like to thank you, Luxi, for this interview, the awesome artwork that you allowed us to use, and your support of Purulency. If anyone that was previously unaware of us is reading this, you can stream and purchase our demo (digital and cassette) on our Bandcamp at https://purulency.bandcamp.com/album/transcendent-unveiling-of-dimensions as well as find us on Instagram at https://instagram.com/purulency if you want to stay updated on what we're up to.

Other information about Purulency on this site
Review: Transcendent Unveiling of Dimensions




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