Almost a year ago, after opening a Facebook page dedicated to the band, the drummer and founding member Oscar Clorio announced the reissue of the first two historical records of Cenotaph. It followed, then, an intense exchange of messages that, in a short time, has come to involve other members of the mexican band. The idea was to remember the story of one of the most interesting experience of the whole death-metal scene of the 90s, the creator of a work absolutely essential, Riding Our Black Oceans, an album that, as I wrote some time ago, is the real masterpiece of the "melodic" death-metal.
The reissue of the Cenotaph discography is a fantastic event for each death-metal fan. Who came up with this idea?
Oscar Clorio: Well, the idea to re edit our work has just due to the fact that people are still looking for it after all these years, I got some offers I could not refuse and today is a reality. In addition to this re issues, The Gloomy Reflection of Our Hidden Sorrows and Riding Our Black Oceans, came two other re editions unauthorized by me and who were the last 2 albums we did in the 1996, Epic Rites: 9 Epic Tales & Death Rites, and in 2002 Saga Bélica. This was Oz Productions under another name that purportedly occurred in Canada but production was made in Mexico... fuck them!!! They made these unofficial re editions with the worst quality and totally discredits the art object to be to appreciate these albums. Again, fuck them!!!
Oscar, let's talk about the early days... How did you meet?
OC: I formed the band with other members Rogelio Burgos and Mario Aceves in 1988 under the name of Damned Cross where we experienced the fact that wanting to do a deaththrash metal band and after several lineup changes the band was formed with Gustavo Sanchez (guitar), Guillermo Delgado (guitar), Daniel Corchado (bass, voice), Oscar Clorio (drums) and we change the name to Cenotaph in 1989. Three of us used to lived very close, actually Daniel and I were separated by two blocks and Gustavo lived about 10 minutes away. Guillermo was the one who lived farther as one hour from us but was never a real problem. Daniel and I met since childhood. I met Gus because his brother used play with me in the same football team and Guillermo used to play in another band called Masacre, so I ask him to join the band and he accept without thinking. So, it was pretty much the beginning of all. The other two members that I started left out in the process and that's how we started as Damned Cross, later renaming to Cenotaph.
And you, Julio... How you came in contact with Cenotaph?
Julio Viterbo: Well, Cenotaph and my old bands (Shub Niggurath or Tormentor) we were always a very good friends, I know this guys since 1987 so we were connected since then. But after the first rupture of Shub niggurath, I was doing anything and I told Oscar I was without a band and I was interested to do something with Cenotaph. He liked the idea, so I took my things and go to a practice with them and we start to work what becomes Riding Our Black Oceans.
What about the Mexican death-metal scene of the early '90s?
OC: It was a moment that will last a lifetime, as a third world country, it was always very difficult to buy a good equipment and almost all bands always did what we could, so to be in a metal band meant something very personal and powerful as all had an important meaning. We used to live this as a way of life. Today, in my 43 years old, is different, but there is still the will and the passion to do it. Nowadays I have three bands: one, a death metal band called Denial - I formed the band in 2006; another is a Heavy Metal project and soon we will record an album; and the 3rd band is a progressive art rock band: as you see I can’t stop. The scene of the early 90s were bands like mentioned that gave everything for the movement, it was a stage of knowledge, discovery, we were lucky to be the pioneers and inventors of our own death metal sound: Bands I remember are Tormentor (after Shub Niggurath Shub and always our brother band, Julio Viterbo camewith from this band and who played Cenotaph for several years). I also recorded an album with Shub Niggurath [“The Kinglike Celebration (Final Aeon on Earth)”, 1997; ndr]. Then, I remember Mortuary, Toxodeth, frightfull cross azmeroth, Anarchus, Blood Soaked, Black Thorn, Necrophiliac, Ripping Flesh, Argentum, Unholier, Hardware, Incubus, Darkhalf, putrid scum, Pentagram, Tenebrarum, Pactum, Noctambulism, Evil Dead, etc and many more that at this time I do not remember. It was a strong and worthy scene to represent our identity.
JV: It was the best scene we were living the born of many good bands including our bands before we appreciate more the music because you have to get all cds or tapes or t-shirts of your favorite bands by mail and it takes so long to get it. Also, there was more brotherhood. Nowadays the scene is losing all those things
As for "Riding Our Black Oceans", I think it is the greatest death-melodic album of all times... Why did you quit death-doom for a more melodic version of the death-metal?
OC: It is a truly an honor to hear these words about this album: Ok, this album is very special to me, as the conceptual part of the composition was a personal concern. At that time we improved our level as musicians and feel it was time to experiment with something more complex and structured sound. I've always been a person who does things like feel and I’m the type of person who throws to cold water at any time, each Cenotaph album is different and that was the original intention, to do what is born in the moment this is genuine and honest, we grew up with bands who started the death metal movement and that gave us the vision to take what had our attention and create a new style, we generate a new goal and commitment. The album was made from a very different perspective. Honestly there were influences but they were not used for copy or with the intention of wanting to sound like another band. The work was interesting because it was the time when the band sailed alone and we make a record that at least in our country no one had done and also innovate a style. It is melodic death metal but do not sound the same as At The Gates or any other band of that style that was in vogue. This album gave us important position in the world.
JV: I'm glad that you think is one of the best albums ever of deathmelodic. I think so too, it really is and I think the connection with this kind of death was our influences as a musicians at that time and the courage to trying to do something really good in a mexican scene.
Oscar, in "Riding Our Black Oceans", your drumming is very great. It’s not marginal, but it brings a distinct contribution to structure songs.
OC: As I have said on several occasions, I am not the type of drummers that only was sitting on the drum throne receive indications of what I should do and how fast should play. My nature is so restless and I like composing guitar, usually arranger of the compositions: this has been since I formed my first band. As a drummer is still the same case, I have never liked to play just to fill up the music, I like being part of the expression. Even nowadays, with my band DENIAL, always try to work on creating an expressive and creative a drum work. Integrating the drum work to music for me is a very natural way but looking out of the limits that the song itself has that’s the best way to do it.
Julio, talk about your guitar performace on "Riding Our Black Oceans". You played together with Guillermo César Sánchez...
JV: It was a pretty fun album to play by it's complexity of the guitar work, we always look for a challenge to be done. And bring to the band more professionalism and tours out side from Mexico. We went to South America with this album: many awesome memories.
Guillermo and Me work the main parts of the riffs and then all together put all the ideas in process until we got a song finished. I remember we have alot of swedish influences at that time like Dismember, At The Gates, Sentenced or Dissection but also some USA stuff like Slayer, Metallica and heavy, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and some other weird prog stuff. All that did make our vision of the Riding Our Black Oceans grow in it.
The Cd’s liner notes mentions that the album was not mixed or mastered, and completely analog. What do you remember about this will to be “true”?
OC: Yes we recorded the album completely in analogous reel, mixing and mastered were done in the same way. In fact there is a video recording that I keep with much nostalgia and contains all these details, I have not published anything about these documents yet because I intend to make a documentary video with all these images. The studio where we recorded the album is called Oigo studios and the engineer was Tuti Perales who by then was one of the few engineers or dare I say the only with a special feeling for this music. The reel was 2 inches or about 5 centimeters. The experience was more than wonderful, everything was made in the same studio and the album was recorded entirely in one week all and mastered.
JV: Honestly... I can answer this. It was so long that I don't remember, but I think it was analog.
One of the most interesting peculiarity of the album is the voice of Edgardo González, wildly expressive and anti-technical. What do you think about it?
OC: When I decided to integrate Edgardo to the band I knew we would have to work on his voice in order to offer something different a new style in our music and a voice that no one had experienced at least in my country. When Edgardo joined the band, I started working with him, at that time and nowadays I really liked Joakim Bröms (Afflicted) voice and was a great inspiration to achieve the style of Edgardo. We weren’t looking for the classical guttural death metal or the classical swedish voice. I think we achieve something unique and definitely find a new formula.
Edgardo González: The expression of my voice is exactly what I was feeling in that time what I wanted to share to the audience, it was the most important goal for me and trying to get some empathy to our fans, achieve the work in our record and also in the live shows, I worked for something Unique and expressive.
What about the lyrics? Do they concern your "black oceans"?
OC: Definitely! As I mentioned earlier, all the lyrics were written by Edgardo, and he built passages based on their life experience and their feelings toward events that marked their path. It is also an imaginary what spiritual death means in a greay and dark conception, spiritual vs physical death leads to more suffering, ‘cuz will, faith and the sense of existence are gone, there is only hostility and misery. That’s all about the lyrics and the way of describing all the facts were in a very sensitive way and connected with the emotions and the music itself.
EG: The lyrics I wrote for Riding Our Black Oceans was an attempt to seek the deepest feelings not just in myself but in every human mind able to explore the darkest side of thoughts. I have always been interested in the topic, even before to be in Cenotaph I used to write about it. It was great for me to had the opportunity to show my lyrics to the band and generate synergy with the music, that for me is such an artistic master piece of death metal. I love that album.
Say something about each "Riding Our Black Oceans" track...
OC: "The Solitudes" - solid, powerful sound with great rifs fresh, innovative elements. We wanted to open the album with this track because it has a powerful start and the work of all the instruments is great.
"Severance" - deep, melancholy, proud, probably one of my favorite tracks
"Grief to Oscuro" - intensity, powerful, great rifs, big ideas
"Macabre Locus Celesta" - original, different, technical, powerful, disruptive
"Among the abrupt" - intensity, significant variations, different expressive rifs
"Infinitum Valet" - this was the first track we made when we decided to make a new sound for the band, is a disruptive and original song that combines the brutality of the past with new ideas - this track marked the before and after of the band.
"The Silence Of Our Black Oceans" - simply endearing work of Julio and Guillermo, this instrumental song gives to the album a more deep and spiritual personality.
"Soul Profundis" - for many the favorite song of the album; is an equally powerful and with a mixture of deep and acoustic sounds that give a different personality; whether that has several structural changes, track line was maintained and overall I can say that "Soul Profundis" is one of the tracks that people always relate to the album.
"Ectasia Tenebrae" - possibly the more rhythmical song of the entire album and well structured, this song really was a caprice by making more a marked change in the sound of the band; it has a heavy metal elements where both guitarist end the song with a spectacular game rhythmic solos; it is not my favorite song but is precious like everything we did. We played live this song only 2 times.
JV: I can't tell you about each one but I can say that the album is fast technical made for head bangers dark...
"The Gloomy Reflection of Our Hidden Sorrows" was an important work in the development of the death-doom experience, with very interesting "spacey" hints. How you approached to that sound?
OC: The sound of Gloomy Reflection... was a consequence of the sound we were working from the demo and the two ep's that were released before the album. The "Gloomy Reflection" sound was presented in a more refined manner while maintaining the wickedness and darkness of the previous material. It was the face of the inertia of the first sound of the band. Speaking of influences, obviously there were, I’m not going to lie and say that we were a band without influences and we were the most original band in the planet. We had influences and even today still inspire me with the work I do with DENIAL, all the time I still inspire to do things with the old spirit both in composition and in attitude. My most enjoyable bands are: Nihilist, Entombed, Darkthrone (early), Demigod, Disgrase, Funeral, Demilich, Dream Death, Abhorrence, Amorphis (early), Xysma, Immolation, Carcass (early), Merciless (swe), Crematory (swe), Belial, Bolt Thrower, and some more, all from those golden years.
Oscar, would you like tell something about the other two Cenotaph records, "Epic Rites" and "Saga Bélica"? I think, for example, that "Epic Rites" is a less creative version of "Riding Our Black Oceans"... Instead, "Saga Belica" was characterized by a less complex and more brutal sound...
OC: As l have mentioned in previous answers, Cenotaph was never a band that used the same formula for each album; each record has its own concept and its own magic. Why to move from one style to another? Simply because we were always looking for something different and new, we were a ventured band and that is the differential that has Cenotaph with other bands. Epic Rites actually is a highly creative album and do not think that is less creative than Riding, were simply different times, different needs, and different mood, is the album that has the best structure of composition. What I don't like of this album is the shitty cover design: I mean all the art design of this album is totally sucks.
About Saga Bélica, this album has an special significance also because it was the only album we recorded out of our country and with a new lineup. This was recorded by Harris Jones (Sodom, Celtic Frost, Assassin , etc.) in Berlin in the Spider house and only Edgardo and I participated as original members. It was a great album and great experience in which not trying to do anything new, it was simply merge multiple styles that likes us, like Thrash and Death Metal, that's it. It is a powerful album, full of brutality and excellent rifs that take you to feel the adrenaline.
What's your opinion about the death-metal scene of the last years?
OC: Death metal nowadays has a lot of variations, now is the thousand-headed monster and this creates too much confusion and misuse to name the different styles. In the 80's when we started all this, from the demo and ep's, death metal sound was just one and many death metalers could say today that death metal has an unique sound… that is the ancestral. Evolution has generated different paths or branches of style, now you can find bands playing old school, Swedish, Black Death, Death prog, Heavy Death, Death & Roll, Death doom, Death Whatever, etc. All this has been due to the search for musicians trying to do something different, transcendence is a natural sense of the human being, which forces the same bands to dare to do something different that separates them from others. I am one of those who thought the death metal is just one and is the one who was born and baptized with it’s homonym and no more, what followed it is a result of evolution but it is not death metal. Even for me, what we did after then "The Gloomy Reflection of Our Hidden Sorrows" album was no a death metal, it was a progression that came from the same sound.
JV: I don't know anything about it. I'm really living in other world with my music and roughly go out to concerts. I preferred to be in my computer making music
Ten albums to bring for a "desert island"...
OC: Una pregunta fuerte y difícil de contestar. Podría mencionar los siguientes discos:
Magma - Köhntarkösz (1974)
Il Balleto di Bronzo - YS (1972)
Banco del Mutuo Soccorso – Darwin (1972)
Present - Certitudes (1998)
Universe Zero - Hérésie (1979)
Black Sabbath - Sabotage (1975)
Saxon - Crusader (1984)
Sentenced - Amok (1995)
Dissection – ReinkaΩs (2006)
Demigod - Slumber of Sullen Eyes (1992)
Unanimated - Ancient God of Evil (1995)
Darkthrone - Soulside Journey (1991)
JV: Shit goot question...
Judas Priest - Defenders of the Faith (1984)
Iron Maiden - Piece of Mind (1983)
Slayer - Hell Awaits (1985)
Kreator - Flag of Hate (1986, Ep)
Destruction - Release from Agony (1987)
Morbid Angel - Altars of Madness (1989)
Eloy – Ocean (1977)
Pink Floyd – The Wall (1979)
Captain Beyond – s/t (1972)
Deep Purple – Perfect Strangers (1984)
But I don't think this are enough... I need more than just ten.