“I got Mike [Schiedt – guitar and vox of YOB] to sign all of my YOB albums like a big fanboy but he was so cool about it”
Words of wisdom here motherfuckers. Support your local scene. If you don’t have a local scene, start one. Introduce people to music from around the world, and start playing it in your garage/loft/torture dungeon. Baroness started in a garage, listening to bands they loved, Budgie started in a garage, Black fucking Sabbath started playing music in a scene. I’d go so far as to say, support your scene even if you don’t think anything in it is interesting – criticise it, big up the fact that your town/city/prison has music, but give the music itself a good kicking; challenge the existing bands to get better and the unformed ones to form; if people see that there are kids like you getting twisted to tunes made by local kids, they might feel more inclined to give it a go themselves; who knows how many accountants and lawyers out there could have been in crushing distorted bands if they’d seen their friends lovin’ some other local talent? Side note- if you live where me and Adam live (Edinburgh and Belfast respectively) you’ll have little choice, ‘cause the big guys tend to stay away. Remember that supporting your local scene doesn’t just mean strumming the strings or hitting the skins – you can also distribute promo, tunes, merch; run a venue, hold the after-party, support local venues and record shops, give the tunes some airtime, play them at work, wear a shirt, or write a blog; fuck man, just dig on the music ‘cause in the end, every great band you’ve ever loved only started because people just like you gave ‘em some love in the early days. I have absolutely no musical talent at all, so I support my local scene by writing about it (and single-handedly keeping several venues financially afloat with beer money), and boring anybody who is forced to be in close proximity to me with the latest news from the Edinburgh/Scotland underground music scene. And in that droney commuter suicide spirit I bring you news of Of Spire and Throne, a band that doesn’t need to get better because if they do it might form some sort of doom-metal singularity.
Of Spire and Throne have been around for a few years now in the Edinburgh underground metal scene but are really starting to make waves. The release of a solid self-titled debut mini-album (the length between EP and album I have just invented) last year and a sumptuous mini-album this year has cemented them as one of the most important and interesting doom acts on the rise at the moment. In terms of sound, try to imagine [the American band] Warhorse, minus any kind of calm, warmth or let-up. These motha’fuckers challenge even gods like Sleep and Earth for crushing sonic intensity from the first chord to the last. It’s the kind of original local sound I usually have to procure from transnational dealers, so it’s excellent to know if I were to swing open my windows and issue an impromptu hot-lead salute into the night sky out of respect for their record, these doom-merchants would probably hear the gunpowder crack.
I got in touch with Ali Lauder, guitar and vox for these heavy local heads and got down to bothering him something rotten. The fascination with Edinburgh’s plentiful gothic architecture was something that initially interested me about Of Spire and Throne when I started to dig deep. Doom metal is of course something that has been tied to the gothic city since Sabbath started to pound away those riffs oh so many years ago. Of Spire and Throne manage the trick of sounds so completely of the place, much in the way Electric Wizard is tinged with that kind of bog-myrtle night time peat hag lay line Dorset druidian flavour; Of Spire and Throne burn like the forgotten wick of a candle in a basement underneath the Royal Mile; that acrid musty ancient air that sweats in those basements, where no tourist treads and horrible things have been burning. Murder and plague and Burke and Hare. The cover of their latest opus, the Trail of Failure is the famous Edinburgh landmark the Scott Monument, taken on an ominous Edinburgh day and framed in the sharp, histrionic gothic architecture that so perfectly characterised the alternate world in the film Franklyn (check out the trailer, it’s good). Does all this gothic artificial landscape have an impact on the relentlessly heavy sound these guys are making in the cities basement clubs?
“Definitely. Edinburgh isn't exactly a traditional 'metal town' like Birmingham. However, it's got a dark history and some pretty grim features like the graveyards and vaults. In particular a lot of the gothic buildings are very imposing and foreboding but they have this human element. We once played a gig at the now defunct Ark on the east end of Princes Street on a balmy summer evening and I remember we played the songs from our demo and in the distance for the whole set I could see the Scott Monument. It was totally surreal to be spewing out this doom filth across town with this ominous looking tower in sight. Whenever I see it makes me think of our music.”
As the Of Spire and Throne star continues to rise, not only do they help bring more droning doom into the world by mercilessly whipping the backs of their own amps; they’re also instrumental in bringing killer doom acts to Edinburgh, most recently helping get YOB and Dark Castle to come play our little gothic sepulchre as part of the only Scottish date on their tour, (which I sadly missed)
“It seems to me that [other] metal scenes enjoy bigger and better supporting networks too - more bands, more fans, more gigs and all of that feeds into itself. You'd struggle to find a Scottish doom scene let alone an Edinburgh one. Maybe it’s just a lack of bands. It surprises me it is so underground. People who by their own admission "wouldn't normally listen to this kind of music" are totally into the likes of Pentagram, Yob, Eyehategod, Sleep and High on Fire (to name a few) when they hear it. There's a lot of people out there who would be into it I reckon... there's a taste for slow and heavy riffs out there”
Of Spire and Throne are one of the two stones propping up the Edinburgh doom metal scene (the other being Lovecraftian peddlers Jackal-headed Guard of the Dead). It isn’t really a scene all told, all of its constituent parts (musicians, press, fans and all) could probably fit into one of the cities smaller venues; but I’m glad this is a little clique in which I may now include myself. Because although it is really just a coupla bands playing some songs, both bands present something new and when you set one of their fiendish black records a’spinnin’, you might like it and you might not, but you aren’t going to be bored. Ali, as one of the leading members, is pretty proud too:
“Playing with YOB was a dream come true and it still hasn't really sunk in. I was one of the guys who promoted the gig, but when I started the band I never knew if we'd ever play live at all, let alone open for one of my favourite bands. For years I was messing about in the practice room and for all I knew I might never have done anything outside of it. Furthermore, I'm drawn to the chance to express things in the way that sounds like it comes from the brink, the extremes of existence. It's rare to find an extreme band that feels human; that can really move you and make you feel the music. That's the sort of thing I hope to put across, to make music that means something to people the same way my favourite bands' music means something to me.”
What Of Spire and Throne offer us is something new; standing on the shoulders of sullen black monolithic giants and playing a doom that really is unique, not pulled whole from a half-dozen lazy doom cliff notes copybooks. A doom that plays like a thousand-pound headstone on top of your coffin, an immovable force. They love what they do and they dig the sound – and they’re diggin’ the response; so if you’re a fan and haven’t yet told ‘em, go over to their Facebook and just tell ‘em what you love about their music. There’s one extremely encouraging thing I get from all the little local bands I interview and promote on here and elsewhere. They love music, they ain’t in this for anything except to make spinning black discs that are gonna improve someone’s life and play shows you’re gonna look back on when an out-of-town crew half-arses a show. The encouraging thing they say is: If you keep writing about our music, and people keep playing our records and wearing our shirts and going to our gigs – we’ll keep doing it.
Written under duress by Steven. Big ups to Ali for the interview.