Word by Jon Garcia
There’s a fine line between dissonance for the sake of it and dissonance that actually taps into your emotions.
Nightmarer wield the latter.
The international collective oppresses the listener in a deliberate and claustrophobic maelstrom of sound, like a cement avalanche oozing over everything in its path.
They make extreme music, after all, and Nightmarer guitarist Simon Hawemann has been enamored with it ever since hearing the likes of Gorguts and Ion Dissonance. He even has a name for the litmus test he uses to measure whether his music – or any extreme music – meets his taste.
“I call it ‘the hum test,’” he said. “If I can hum along to the melodies they’re playing and it sounds nice, then maybe it’s not that extreme, you know what I mean? If you try humming along to Gorguts, it still sounds weird. I think that was kind of part of the appeal, I guess. It just sounded so ugly in a way, but trying to find that sweet spot where it’s not ugly for the sake of it but still kind of conveys an emotional, oppressive feeling.”
Finding their horrific sound
Nightmarer consists of Hawemann, drummer Paul Seidel – also of The Ocean Collective – vocalist Jon Collett, and guitarist Keith Merrow (Conquering Dystopia, ex-Alluvial) who joined in 2019.
Formed after the dissolution of Hawemann and Seidel’s previous band around 2013, figuring out who they were was tough at the beginning. They knew they wanted to dial back on the grindcore and hardcore influences while still maintaining a chaotic edge. They leaned darker and more metallic.
“It took a while for us to kind of develop our sound away from the old band and into the new band,” Hawemann said. “Because it’s kind of like reinventing yourself without really going too out of the way of what we were doing before. So it was kind of a challenge and we scrapped probably 10 songs before we landed on something we were really satisfied with.”
As the band prepare their sophomore LP, Deformity Adrift, Hawemann feels they’ve really tapped into what makes them Nightmarer. They’ve leaned into their influences even more, while also finding a writing workflow that yields results more efficiently.
Their first album – the appropriately titled Cacophony of Terror – took over three years to write. Hawemann composed much of it behind a computer, while saying most of the progress came when Seidel joined him in person. They were focused on forging their identity.
“It’s a very dense, coherent atmosphere throughout the album. That was the goal. With the debut we just wanted to create a statement of a very particular atmosphere and vibe. Having that much time to work on it, means you over analyze certain things and sometimes you maybe perfect things a little too much.”
The second time around things went much faster. Hawemann moved from Germany to the US. He didn’t do any writing until Seidel flew in and stayed with him for two weeks. After that, Hawemann flew to Portland and finished writing with Merrow.
Deformity Adrift and the companion EP Monolith of Corrosion were finished in three and a half weeks.
“What I think happened was two things,” Hawemann theorized. “A, we went at the song writing a bit more spontaneous. The other thing was that some of the influences you only hear a little bit on our first album, we dared to kind of dive into them way harder.
“‘Taufbefehl’ as an example, that song really has made me think a lot after we wrote it. It’s kind of all of our favorite song in a weird way. But the thing is we had such a specific mission statement with that song, and then it came easy to write it too. It took a couple of hours and the song was done, and we were so satisfied with it.
“So I would say the new album, as a result, is a little bit more diverse. Rather than weaving everything together in a subtle way across 40 minutes of music, sometimes we went all in, just straight ahead. That’s a big difference.”
‘The goal is always to create discomfort’
There was also a slight change in how the band approached the lyrical themes and story ideas that fuel the music, Hawemann said.
“I would say most of the time there’s a story or a conceptual idea of something and then we try to turn it into music. The goal is always… to create discomfort. Most of the lyrics are fairly destructive or self-destructive. I think it really is a vehicle for us to transport these intense thoughts and emotions and we want to convey that with the disharmonic content of the music. We kind of want to convey what the lyrics are saying.”
This time around, the album art influenced the music.
Though he usually works with artists on the specific type of artwork he has in mind, Hawemann stumbled over Jeanne Comateuse’s work on Facebook in 2018 and was “blown away.” When he showed it to the rest of the band, everyone else “immediately connected to it,” so they acquired the art and have been patiently waiting to unleash it on the world.
“We’ve been sitting on it since the end of 2018,” he said. “We’ve actually written two different lyrics based kind of around certain things we drew from the album artwork.”
The result is 32 minutes of horror that the band are extremely proud of. Not just because of the quality of the music, but because they’re also doing almost everything themselves. The band is self-releasing the album on Hawemann’s own label, Total Dissonance Worship, giving them freedom and flexibility to do things their way.
“I would say releasing this album, it’s a lot of work because now you are not only wearing the hat of a band member but a label owner and you have to do all of it. It’s definitely a full-time job to coordinate everything,” Hawemann said.
“Here in the US we’re just doing everything ourselves, including pressing the vinyl. I go pick it up from the pressing plant personally and just load it up in my car and then drive it home. We’ll pack and ship everything. Almost everything about this album was done by a band member.”
But the work is worth it, and Hawemann hopes that people can connect with the harrowing nightmare they’ve created.
“To me as a listener, the most important thing is to feel something when I listen to extreme music, that I’m able to zone out and get lost in it a little bit. I hope people derive a similar thing from our music. That it touches someone more on a level than like, ‘this shit is heavy.’ That’s great, nothing wrong with something just being heavy and satisfying in that way! But I do hope that people kind of feel the kind of intention we put into the music and especially the vibe we’re trying to convey.”
Deformity Adrift is available everywhere on May 5th via Total Dissonance Worship and Vendetta Records. Order the album - HERE