Guitarist/vocalist Kyle Rasmussen details a track-by-track breakdown of the band's latest effort Suffer & Become and shares how braving dark territory on this record came with a sense of personal catharsis.
Photo by Peter Beste
For the last decade, Kyle Rasmussen and musical conspirator Adam Roethlisberger have set out to channel the bleak, brutal ethos of death metal and level up the artistry. In 2019, Portland aggressors Vitriol was hailed for their full length debut, To Bathe From the Throat of Cowardice - an effort that furnished all the requisite technicality of the genre, but also spoke to the progression of the sound.
The dark, menacing source material that compelled such musical savagery, was the result of principle songwriter Kyle Rasmussen's experience in a world that translated as abysmal - thus fruiting such a spiraling record. "Living in the world of that first album was very difficult for me," says Rasmussen.
While going to such a dark place ultimately added to the authenticity of the record, there is the personal wear and tear that can come with existing in hell. If Rasmussen was going to suffer for his art, the idea was to come out better on the other side for having done so.
Working on Vitriol's highly-anticipated follow up, Suffer & Become is an album that much like its predecessor, still dares to traverse hellacious corners of Rasmussen's psyche. Yet this time however, there is a sense of personal, therapeutic purge in doing so. "The record feels a bit like a Jungian Dante's Inferno," Rasmussen explains. "Plumbing the circles of my personal, psychological, and spiritual hell and then purposely refocusing it so it's not the unhinged, dark catharsis of the first album. This record is a lot more vulnerable."
As for the presentation itself, Vitriol's prowess as death metal's emerging vanguard is evident in the 10-track pummel of Suffer & Become. The complex compositions that masterfully source blast beats, intricate fretwork and the vocal attack of both Rasmussen and Roethlisberger make for a hellacious listening experience. Vitriol dares to brave the darkness less for spectacle, but rather to uncover some semblance of substance - combined with their well-established musical chops, that makes Suffer & Become the kind of album with plenty of shelf life.
Offering a more detailed glimpse into the headspace that spawned Suffer & Become, Vitriol guitarist and vocalist Kyle Rasmussen went track-by-track to lay out the album's roadmap to hell. In dissecting each entry, Rasmussen lays bare not only his own creative process, but explains how suffering for the sake of art has only made Vitriol stronger as a result.
"Shame and its Afterbirth"
Rasmussen - We set the stage with what I believe to be our most universal and anthemic song yet. My approach to lyrics is personal enough that I often sacrifice universal appeal in favor of an introspective and idiosyncratic voice. This song is a unique and exciting exception to that trend. However, it was not something I set out to achieve. In retrospect, I think it's due to the fact that Shame and its Afterbirth describes a beginning, and what is more universally relatable than the corruptible and vulnerable position of innocence? It tells the story of where we all begin and how one becomes alienated from their nature through the meddling and distorted state of modernity. It is a cautionary tale, warning of the dangers that arise when one fails to heed that wordless voice within them and accepts their spiritual castration.
"The Flowers of Sadism"
Rasmussen - There are many in-roads that lead to sadistic impulses. We have a very complicated relationship with this emotional state and disposition. It is dangerous and unflattering. Our ego and moral pride prevents us from wanting to confront its presence within ourselves. The relentless "othering" of sadism pushes it into the realm of the alien and opens every psychological backdoor we have inviting its rule of our subconscious. Most of us are mean because we don't know that we're mean. The road of self deceit is littered with flattery. The road to self governance is littered with identity shattering revelations revealing that we are not what we believe ourselves to be. This song is my attempt to confront my sadism and to provide an honest account of its nature along with the emotional environment in which the instinct breeds.
"Nursing from the Mother Wound"
Rasmussen - Each track on Suffer & Become deals with a different psychological sin. If "The Flowers..." is a meditation on sadism, this track is a meditation on rumination. In each investigation you will find the tone of a Devil's advocate. While these functions of the soul and intellect present serious issues in the long term, they often play a vital role in the survival of an individual who is seeking their liberty from an oppressive environment. I did my best to describe this experience from within and with a "heat-of-the-moment" perspective, to the best that my memory could serve me. This song and "The Flowers..." also share a similarly confessional voice over one that is glorifying or celebratory. This album is not in the spirit of answers or pride, it is in the spirit of questions, and important questions should be asked in the nude with all warts exposed.
"The Isolating Lie of Learning Another"
Rasmussen - Ego death is another fundamental theme of Suffer & Become and is the primary focus of this track. I describe the sense of endless reaching I've experienced throughout my life while trying to achieve intimate connections with others and the conclusions I've arrived at along the way. One of the most perspective shifting conclusions being that our inability to know others is a product of our inability (or unwillingness) to know ourselves. The distance between what we are and who we believe ourselves to be is vast. The closer any given person gets to closing that gap, the truer the self they are able to share. But until that distance has been eliminated entirely, we are watching one another from the privacy of our solitary homes. There is beauty in that, but one must first mourn the loss of companionship as they originally understood it.
"Survival's Careening Inertia"
Rasmussen - Out of any of the songs, these are the lyrics I'm most proud of. Musically, this was the tallest order on the bill when we approached writing this record. The new territory of writing an instrumental for Vitriol brought me back to the horrors of the blank page. I went into it with only two guiding rules; no solos and no repeating parts. I knew that the lowest hanging fruit would've been to write a super self indulgent wankfest. I imagine that would've been as interesting to listen to as it would've been humble, and also, not genuinely difficult to execute. Writing a nearly five minute track with no vocals, no flashy solos, and no recurring hooks while maintaining an interesting and cohesive end result sounded like a far more difficult and valuable goal, but in turn, was one of the most rewarding! Without being able to use lyrics in the construction of a narrative, I took very seriously the responsibility of the music in doing all of the heavy lifting. This song is a bit of a synopsis of the story of Suffer & Become; a perfect and innocent expression of nature encounters a world of dissonance, it engages in a struggle to survive, and after succeeding is ultimately confronted by the destructive consequences of its unchecked momentum. The inevitable and ecstatic descent into Hell!
Rasmussen - Picking back up with the theme of deadly sins of the mind, this, along with "The Flowers of Sadism", were the most difficult lyrics for me to write, in the sense that they were very challenging to picture of the man I'd like to see when I look in the mirror. These are songs that describe periods of vicious and reckless coping. While I have deep love, affection, and understanding for the boy I was when I glorified these instruments of survival as values to live and die by, it is difficult to not feel a shameful dissonance while sitting with and giving voice to the smaller iterations of myself, even when I believe sincerely in their necessity and value. Not because I think they are worthy of shame, to be clear, but because I'm not far enough along in my personal journey to have overcome those feelings of guilt. This is why I write albums about this stuff, to expose and overcome. Weaponized Loss is a look into the mind of a boy who turned enduring sudden loss into a craft to master. When I found myself in a manipulative or an abusive relationship (familial, romantic, or platonic), I reached for whatever instrument of power I had available to me relative to the other person, and very often, that was my willingness to walk away, or more accurately, explode and insist that they fuck off. In these circumstances, I'm very grateful for that ability. However, it does present a big issue when I would default to it over conflict resolution when meaningful relationships became difficult. And further into Hell we go.
"Flood of Predation"
Rasmussen - Appropriate for its title, this is the most aggressive moment on Suffer & Become. It deals with the fury that follows disillusionment. In this case, it was a radical moral disillusionment leading to my belief that underlying many of our contemporarily championed values is a deep, uninvestigated vanity that corrupted the project of codex building before it ever left the ground. That this purely "celestial" relationship with the self justifying many of the beliefs separating us from nature is the product of unchecked hubris. This is a song about the reckoning that wisdom brought down upon me.
"Locked in Thine Frothing Wisdom"
This is certainly the most vulnerable moment on the record. It is a song comprised almost entirely of questions. It is the first instance of truly paused self reflection. A tremendous amount of hesitation, confusion, and fear can be found here. This sees me dizzied, trying to answer the question. "Why won't I take my hand off the burner?" Even in the wake of such suffering, what brings me back to this place? What is it trying to teach me? Ultimately, it is a song about the pain of devotion and choosing to see your journey through even after accepting that it might be killing you.
"I am Every Enemy"
Rasmussen - When I write for Vitriol, I try to approach it with a kind of journalistic integrity. This means I don't always write material that has an obviously positive or life-affirming message. That is fine. That is not what art is for. But, it sure is cool when I happen to make something that I believe has a one-size-fits-all message of self-improvement. I am Every Enemy is an instance of that. While it's not written in the rosiest voice, it encourages one to resist the gravity of dualistic fallacies. Many people find themselves halved in protest to the less desirable half, whether they happen to be confronting it within themselves or in those around them. Leaning into this method of self identification results in radical and woefully imbalanced lifestyles and philosophies, whether they be political, moral, or spiritual. Living a life of piety or endless decadence will see you become slaves to different masters. This song is about discarding your biases, investigating your uninvestigated values, killing your idols, and beginning to forge yourself in the crucible of your own doubt and judgment. It's an endless process, so it's best to get gettin'!
"He Will Fight Savagely"
Rasmussen - Part of me was really hoping to arrive at a nice, tidy conclusion that would put a big beautiful bow on the album. I mentioned earlier that I wanted to create a true "album experience," at least I think I did, I might not have, I've been writing this for way too fucking long. So, I was trying to create a true "album experience." Part of that responsibility felt like providing it with a clear and resolute ending. I was unable to do that. In hindsight, I think that a question was the best way to close out an album of questions. It maintains a tone of humility and curiosity while offering the commitment to endure this journey that I'm on. It says that while I'd prefer to be here for a good time, not a long time, it appears I'm gonna be here for a bad time, not a short time. Along with "Locked in Thine Frothing Wisdom," these are the most devotional lyrics on the album. It's about how my pursuit of truth always leads me back to the darkness, and that the tools of our self-overcoming will be found there.
Suffer & Become, the latest from Vitriol is now available via Century Media Records. Get the album - HERE
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