Today I spoke with up and coming Pennsylvanian Black Metal trio Dumal. We spoke about the metal scene in Philly, why Polish people create so much great Black Metal and the ignorance of organized religions – read on!
* Your first album came out January of this year – how’s the reaction been so far?
Hail! Thanks for the interview. Though The Lesser God was released independently on our home label and we did very little to promote it, the reaction has been surprisingly strong. The album was put out quietly, with only a few blogs mentioning its release at first. We were shocked to see it being reviewed so positively and at how quickly the first limited pressing sold out. We were caught off-guard by the attention it has been receiving and are glad that the people are receptive to our sound.
* If I am not mistaken it’s been 4 years since you guys formed – what do you think it’s taken you so long to release your first album?
A lot of that time was spent writing and recording the EP’s and splits that were released before the album. We wanted to get a few releases under our belt before we ventured off to make a full-length album, just to get our name out there and to get people familiar with what we’re trying to do. I don’t think we would have been ready to put out a full-length right away, as it took us some trial and error to find which direction we wanted the band to move in. At first we tried sounding a little more “raw”, but after a few months we realized it wasn’t what felt right to us. This can be heard on our self-released and live-recorded 2013 EP. Writing for the album began in 2014, alongside writing material for the EP’s and splits. The album’s main writing had been completed by late 2015, but we let the material gestate with us for a while. If we had recorded the album immediately after writing, it would sound much different than what you hear today. Those few months of tweaking the material made it what it is, I expect to do that for all our releases.
* The artwork is great on The Lesser God. Was that an old Medieval woodcarving or a new design done up to look old?
It’s an original drawing by Joshua Bowens, and that’s exactly what he was going for: a medieval wood carving. We found Josh through our friends in Helcaraxë when he did the layout for our “Raise the Hammer” split. He is a former member of Helcaraxë and several other bands, and has done fantastic artwork for numerous metal bands. I sent Josh the lyrics for the album and the title, and using just that as reference, he created what you see. I feel that it represents the album so well, and sums up a recurring theme on the album – the smothering of religion and the drowning of the world. I’m still blown away by how great his work is, and am thrilled to say that he will be designing a shirt for us.
* How deep into Pennsylvania are you guys? Close to Philly or out in the woods? I think Philly has a great music scene, it’s still affordable to live (Unlike say NYC or the Bay Area)
We live right outside of Philly in a town called Ambler. Philly has been on an upswing in the past few years as far as the metal scene goes. For a while it seemed to be slowing down, with a lot of big tours skipping Philly and just a general malaise in the scene. I’ve noticed a renewal in passion from the metalheads in the city, and we’ve been fortunate to play at many of the venues in town and will be playing Philly every chance we get.
“Philly crowds seem to take pride in being nasty to people they don’t particularly like and aren’t afraid to let them know how they feel”
* Have you played any shows in NYC yet? If so how do NYC crowds compare to Philly crowds? (I saw a band from Sacramento open for Deicide in Philly once, the singer said “We are With Passion from Sacramento California and one of the crowd shouted back “why don’t you fuck off back there!”)
That sounds like a typical Philly audience! Philly crowds seem to take pride in being nasty to people they don’t particularly like and aren’t afraid to let them know how they feel. We have played NYC a few times: at Saint Vitus, Lucky 13, and Tobacco Road. NYC shows generally have bigger turn outs and you get play with bands that are from all around the country, whereas in Philly it’s more likely that you’ll be playing with Philly/Jersey area bands. There’s nothing wrong with that, but NYC is just more on the metal radar when it comes to bands from New England and out West.
“It’s hard to say what exactly makes a show good, but it’s more than just quality bands playing well.”
* What’s been the best gig you guys have played so far and why?
The show we played at “The Fire” in Philly in 2016 I thought was a particularly good one. Skulsyr, Ominous Resurrection and Abazagorath performed as well, and the show just had a unique energy. There was a great turnout thanks to the solid lineup of bands. It’s hard to say what exactly makes a show good, but it’s more than just quality bands playing well. Some shows just have a special feel to them that make them more memorable than others, and this one certainly had it.
* Have you guys done any national touring yet? I always say National touring is either going to make you or break you? It definitely separates the men from the boys
I’m sure it does. National touring is something we will be considering in the future, but it hasn’t happened yet. Until we can sort out the logistics of a large-scale tour, we plan on doing 3-4 day stints in New England and the Mid-Atlantic region later this year and early 2018.
* You guys are heavy and aggressive yet there is a real melodic sense about the band..is that deliberate or did it just come naturally?
Everything we do and play comes naturally. We don’t force melodies into songs where they don’t belong, and likewise we don’t make songs heavy and aggressive just for the sake of being aggressive. We craft our songs one riff at a time with what feels right for the mood of the song. Most of our songs are collaborative efforts. Each of us has his own style and method of writing, and I think that’s what helps Dumal sound a bit different than a typical Black Metal band.
“The Polish Black Metal scene is great these days”
* Your last name is Siatkowski correct? If I am not mistaken that is Polish…why do you think so many great Black Metal bands are coming out of Poland these days? (Batushka, Mgla, Behemoth etc)
My last name is Polish indeed. Philly has a sizable Polish population and my grandparents lived in the very Polish “Port Richmond” section of the city when they immigrated here. The Polish Black Metal scene is great these days, but I’d argue that it has been good for a long time. Unfortunately, some of the better bands have NSBM leanings, and have been making great music despite their idiotic political ideologies for 25 years. My personal favorite Polish Black Metal band at the moment is Wędrujący Wiatr. Why exactly does Poland seem to be an epicenter for great Black Metal? I wish I knew!
* Where does the name Dumal come from? I know there is a castle in India of the same name..it also sounds like a French name too (perhaps one of the 3 musketeers type of thing)
You’re correct, the word Dumal has both Indian and French meanings. It has an English meaning as well. It is the name of a caste of people in India where it means “a coil of rope”. It also means a thorny pathway, and is the name of a book of poetry by French poet Charles Baudelaire, “Les Fleurs du Mal”. It is mostly from the book that we take the name (which translates to “The Flowers of Evil”). The fact that it works on three levels is something that made us like the name right away when it was suggested by our drummer Evan. We take inspiration from cultures and music from all over the world, so it fits our style perfectly.
“It always makes me laugh a little inside when I see all the anti-Islam rhetoric coming from the Christian right “
* From what I can tell a lot of your songs are pretty anti-religious – are any of the band pagans? if so what faith do you follow?
To me, for one religion to have power, they all would have to have power. Judaism begat Christianity, and both begat Islam. All three of the big monotheisms worship the same god, and are all equally false. Since I do not believe in any form of god, I cannot believe any real form of Satan, or any other deity period. That’s not to say that Satan doesn’t have great power as a metaphor and symbol for the opposite of god, it works great for me on that level. Every religious myth, from Greek and Nordic to Christian and Muslim, must have its nemesis – an opposite of the good benevolent gods for people to believe in order to scare them into being good, easily controlled people. No members of the band are pagan for this reason, though I would bear the title of heathen, blasphemer or infidel proudly. I personally am not only atheist, but strongly antitheist. What that means to me is that I not only do not believe in any god, I also believe that they are actively harmful and must be extinguished in all their instances. It always makes me laugh a little inside when I see all the anti-Islam rhetoric coming from the Christian right in America, how they have somehow tricked themselves into thinking they do not believe in the same exact god that Muslims do. That is just one easy example of the willful ignorance that the religious people of the world partake in every day.
* What plans do Dumal have for 2017?
We were just featured as one of the bands on a compilation for ViaOmega magazine. We live-recorded to tape a new song (one that will appear on our second album), and are proud to be part of a great compilation for a very cool magazine. Since then we have been busy writing more songs for a second album. Our plan is to take the first half of the year off from shows to focus on writing, and spend the second half of the year playing shows to promote The Lesser God and preparing to record the second album. This may seem like a backwards way of doing things, but we wanted to hit the ground running and keep the momentum we gained from the release of the first album and foray that into writing. It’s not easy for us to both write and prepare for shows at the same time, so we typically separate the two actions. We are tentatively planning to have the second album out sometime in 2018.
* Any final words?
Thanks for the opportunity to be interviewed, and thanks to everyone who has checked out the album. Look for a cassette version of The Lesser God being released via Underground Soundscapes in summer 2017. Cheers!