Blackened death metal band Alchemy have unleashed a powerful new track and music video to acknowledge the tragedy of the recent horrifying Australian bushfires. The track is called ‘Gehenna 451’ and it features vocalist Duncan Bentley of South African death metal act Vulvodynia.
The song itself is highly emotive and captures a truly raw expression of the band not only paying respect, but also their musical expression towards the tragedy itself. The song is highly progressive musically, and whilst it commences melodically, and without overarching death metal, it slowly builds, and it brings you on the journey.
The emotive components of the blackened death metal track also lend a familiar ear to Scandinavian melodic death metal in a way. The song definitely develops, but it’s the video that’s coupled with it is truly powerful.
The video is set with scenes surrounded by fire-like effects, ember-coloured back-drops and some really confronting imagery that represents incredulous number of animals perished in the recent Australian bushfires. Of course, we had to find out more about ‘Gehenna 451’ from the horse’s mouth so we grabbed vocalist Nic Webb from Alchemy to learn more.
Alchemy is starting 2021 right, by throwing a massive new track into the mix, in the first month of the year. ‘Gehenna 451’ is a confronting new track with some incredibly visceral imagery. It was immediately clear to me how important it is for you guys to continue sharing the message/story about our recent Aussie bushfires. What urged you guys to get writing and put out the track now?
I’m glad you think so! Actually the track has been written for quite some time now, I think maybe almost a year now. We would have loved to release it earlier but we were confronted with some problems filming the video due to COVID and our videographer (Elliott Sauvage) not being able to come to Sydney, as well as getting the mix as close to our vision as possible.
What’s the meaning behind the track name?
Our drummer Mateja Ostrugnaj was the one to come up with the name ‘Gehenna’ and our bass player Daniel Saeed came up with ‘451’. Gehenna is a valley in Jerusalem spoken about in the new testament where the king’s of Judah would take their children to be sacrificed by fire to the god Moloch.
We thought it fitting as the fires took the lives of billions of creatures due to the poor preparation for the fire season by our federal government.
As for the numbers 451, when we had first written the song the death toll for animals had reached 451 million, however, since then the estimates grew dramatically. We decided to keep the number the same for aesthetic reasons.
It’s interesting that you guys are releasing the song now, in the midst of COVID. Throughout 2020, I felt like there was a bit of a silence on the outcome of the bushfires, as something bigger swept the world, did that make you feel like it was quickly forgotten? It made me feel that way. Are you hoping this track brings the tragedy back to the forefront of people’s minds?
Yeah definitely, I mean during the event it was spoken about a lot, especially in my personal household as my grandparents property was heavily affected by the fires. It’s understandable that it was so easily forgotten considering the pandemic we were/are in. I certainly hope the track and music video especially act as reminder of what can and will happen when the people we put in power place their own selfish needs before that of the land they are supposed to protect.
Tell us a bit about the music video itself. Obviously, it’s very visceral as mentioned before – we see firefighters, perished animals and more. What response are you hoping to achieve with some of the confrontational imagery we see?
I wish the confrontational nature of the video serves as true statement of what the creatures would have experienced during the horrific events that took place, it’s all fun and games to talk about the fires and how it destroyed the land, but I feel not many people really understood the gravity of the suffering these animals went through, I mean having your home and family burn right in front of you, being trapped along a fence line not being able to escape the flames. There were some very confronting images of the tragedy that emerged, our native animals having their hands and feet burnt so bad they couldn’t walk, eat or get to water to survive. I wanted to express that more than anything.
Curiously, I really appreciated the consistent return to that room with animal skulls. It’s interesting because it obviously reflects the number of animals that perished in the bushfires, but it also simultaneously embodies some really classic metal imagery like skull and bone – is this a coincidence, or exactly what you were going for?
No, definitely not a coincidence there, originally what was planned was to be a performance shot of us outside with fire and then us in the studio afterwards, but as I mentioned earlier, COVID ruined this.
Our compromise was to have the animals and mannequins burning outside, with a kangaroo skull held in the hand of one, attempting to portray how we held their fate in our hands and that we are killing ourselves at the same time, cutting back to the studio, the aftermath of the burning, everything desolate and destroyed, with the media coverage playing over the background.
So, stepping back from the video itself for a moment – musically, it’s very powerful, and incredibly heavy. What were you guys thinking and feeling when you wrote the song itself?
We knew right away what we wanted the song to sound like and the atmosphere it would set, definitely a lot of melancholy emotions that turned into anger and frustration as much of the situation could have been avoided. I hope we managed to portray this well for the final product.
The track features Duncan Bentley of Vulvodynia, what can you share about that collaboration?
Coincidentally Vulvodynia were on tour in Australia when the fires first really started taking off, I was lucky enough to be invited along and spoke a lot with the guys, they all expressed their shock regarding the fires and seeing the effects it caused on the environment and animals likewise, so after speaking with Duncan about the situation (and being a huge fan of his vocal style) it was only fitting we asked him to collaborate on the track.
It’s one thing for Aussie fans to connect with you guys and the new track, empathetically. What are you hoping to achieve with some of your fans around the world? Is this an awareness piece, or simply a tribute?
Definitely both I feel as we are again in fire season and seeing more and more fires emerge globally. I really hope the song and video can be a true eye opener to the climate change we are all witnessing develop at an almost exponential rate. I can’t say for certain, but I’m confident this won’t be the first we see of an event like this in our lives.
Obviously, ‘Gehenna 451.’ is a very big start to the year for you guys, is this the beginning of a lot more material for the year? What can fans expect from Alchemy in 2021?
100%. This is the first of what we believe to be our best work yet, we have very big plans to release an album and without saying too much we have some more very exciting things on the way.
If all manages to go according to plan, you can expect to see an album makes it way to CD and streaming services alike.
Interview by Ricky Aarons @rickysaul90