Interview with Ronald Jimenez of Necrogod
One of your musical projects Necrogod released “In Extremis” on Transcending Obscurity Records last summer. I noticed it’s received many favorable reviews and the LP Box Set has sold all its copies. Explain why you released it in different formats?
The album came out in 2021 via Transcending Obscurity Records, which I think is great because that label is a well-established name in the underground scene. They have released several killer albums from great bands like Master, Wombath and Paganizer. Besides their band roster their releases come in killer CD and LP versions, plus they have tons of merch, box sets, shirts, sweaters and so forth. It’s really cool to see your work treated that way. The decision to work with several formats is a call from the label and I think it helps to push their bands by giving the customers a high quality product accompanying the center of all, which is the music.
How many formats is “In Extremis” currently available in? Tell the readers about all the formats and the merch you have available for the album?
“In Extremis” was released in Digipack and LP 12” formats. For both there were some limited boxsets. The release was also accompanied by some cool t shirts, long sleeves, hooded sweaters and girl t shirts as well. The LP version comes in three colored variants gatefold and a metallic texture really cool. The same with the digipack which is five panels.
How long did it take to record, mix and master “In Extremis”? Was there outside assistance or was all the work independent?
I would say it was about a year to have music, the lyrics and the vocals ready for In Extremis. I must say the whole album was finished four years ago approximately, so it took longer than expected to come out. This time we went again with Patrick Bruss for mixing, then to Ronnie Bjorsotrm in Sweden for mastering. The sound at the end is what we wanted to be, you know, sort of modern but a bit old school without ultra-compressions and all those plastic artificial elements we don't like.
Describe the subject matter of the songs you recorded for the new full length. What inspired the lyrics and how relevant would you say they are?
Most of the lyrics in the projects I am involved, are written by me. Subjects may vary but in general terms I write about abstract concepts related with religions from a twisted perspective, mental ills and deviations such as schizophrenic disorders, psychopathic behaviors, etc. I like so much psychiatric/psychological themes. Sometimes I write about human behaviors such as envy, resentment, anger... all the things that make us what we are as species. Most of the time they’re in English but in recent years I have written a couple of songs in Spanish.
Why do you prefer recording with a compression-free old school sound to recording with artificial elements?
That’s how we feel this music should sound. That artificial/robotic approach does not represent us in any way and we try to stay away from it as much as possible. From an “artistic” point of view, when everything is over compressed, the chances to create or transmit certain atmospheres or textures get lost, and in the end those bands sound exactly the same and completely sterile.
Give some examples of bands that display the sound of the classic era.
There are many. Krypts, Void Rot, Sedimentum, Noose Rot, Rotted, Graceless, Rexul and Digrace Worm among many others. All these bands emulate certain “old school” approaches but preserve their identity which is very valid. I mean, it’s not just a matter of copy and paste a classic band's riff like Gruesome, which for me is a rip off of the first four Death albums.
Is digital recording equipment solely responsible for music that sounds thin and sterile, or can it occasionally create depth and atmosphere?
That's a good question my friend. Obviously the equipment plays a major role in terms of the final outcome when it comes to music. But I would add another element to consider, the "overall concept". I mean what are you trying to communicate with your music?
When you get that clear you can seek for that atmosphere fitting better your intention. One of the most common "mistakes" (in my opinion) is the need many bands tend to have to pay too much attention to "sound brutal and enormous". The problem with such approach is basically making the bands sound exactly the same.
Music is a form of art, and so is extreme metal music But it seems things have evolved to more technical aspects in detriment of the expression itself, which let me tell you is the foundation of all the rest of things.
How well does the classic/old school sound fit the material composed for “In Extremis”? Was it composed with that sound in mind?
At least in our case we don't say “let's make an old school album”. We do things we the way we know and we like. For me things have to sound heavy and brutal without falling in an excessive use of compression for example, because that takes apart the organic feeling we want. So as you see it’s not because we are old school. It's because of the way we think our music should sound.
How well-established is Transcending Obscurity Records as an indie label? Do you know bands who are signed with them or did you hear of them by word of mouth?
I think it’s a good label. Kunal has been working very hard all these years and now it seems that the label has gained a good reputation. Not only for the bands signed like Wombath, Master, Officium Triste and Imperialist to name a few, but also for the way he manages to release the stuff in different formats. That's some added value that makes the difference.
Where can people find Transcending Obscurity Records if they’re looking for new bands on the web? How well does the label handle mail order?
The label site is https://tometal.com/
. If you want to know some of the bands, there are label samplers with most of the bands they've released.
How many releases did Necrogod release before “In Extremis”? Before Transcending Obscurity, were you releasing material independently or through other labels?
Our debut work was an MCD called “Inexorable Deathreign” which came out right after forming Necrogod as a project. It was released by IBDC Label from México in 2015 and served well to present the band. Later, in 2017 if I'm not wrong, we released a 7” split EP along with Morbid Stench (another project I'm involved with) and this came out through Morbid Skull Records from El Salvador and Evil Domain Prods from Ecuador. It’s called “The Bifid Tongue Of Doom And Death”. It is a special release for us because was the first one in such format and the overall comments were pretty good. For that release Necrogod contributed with a brand new song called “Burning In Disgrace” while the Morbid Stench track is “The Malodorous Crucifix”. To the last part of your question, we've never considered self-releasing Necrogod’s stuff. If we put something out it’s because there's a label behind it. Why? Doing it ourselves is very time consuming and expensive, and at this point in our careers, we don't see ourselves in that position.
How much has Necrogod evolved as long as they’ve been an active band?
I think most of the evolution comes in the voices. The music is strong and catchy and that's what we need. As for the voices and having thirty years doing it. I want not only to make great voices. Also I want to bring new elements in terms of phrasing, vocal combinations and some other additional elements that I think will help to make things more interesting and at the same time, develop my own style. The Master Butcher style ha ha ha. You know, brutal, sometimes intricate sometimes simple. Much more rhythmic than US or European vocalists due to my Latin American background.
I have nurtured my style mostly from US/European vocalists but I add additional elements to make it real and not just an imitation of other's voices. I want to reflect my inner self through my voices and style. That explains how I live this music I guess.
I don't want to be in a position like this guy from Behemoth, Nergal who instead of improving his vocal skills decided to take the easy path of focusing on his cheesy costumes on stage. That's pathetic. When one succumbs to that kind of things he is not an artist anymore, just a mere entertainer. Nothing wrong with that but don't confuse concepts.
Mexico and South America have long had die hard underground scenes. How well known has Necrogod become there?
Both places have cool scenes and through the years we've seen some interest in Necrogod. In México, we have many metal heads that know about us, given that our first release came out through a local label called IBDC Label. In South America we've seen people from Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador and Peru writing us to find out how to get our stuff, but we've seen interest from folks in the USA and countries in Europe following up on Necrogod.
Despite the differences in styles, do bands you’re in touch with from different countries transcend those boundaries through their love of extreme music?
The passion towards this music is the common ground connecting different cultures, countries and backgrounds. It is some sort of a tribe with its own distinctive characteristics.
Is “In Extremis” available directly from the band? Where can people go to order your vinyl release of “In Extremis” and how many copies will be available?
We have copies in digipack format available through our Facebook. We are taking preorders for the LP 12” version which comes gatefold in three different splatter options. The LP version has been limited to 255 copies.
How much of a comeback is vinyl making based on the amount of preorders you’ve seen? Can underground bands still benefit from vinyl releases?
Based on what I've seen, it seems that format has been growing. For example I've been asked for the vinyl version of Necrogod’s album more than the CD. How can benefit bands from such format? Well, it will depend on how the band can distribute it. Many bands have problems with that because they self-release it and later don't know what to do with the remaining copies after selling some to friends and taking few others in consignment to shops. It's possible to end up sitting on a pile of LPs, CDs or tapes and scratching your head asking what to do with all that stuff?! That's why I feel it’s so important to know the “underground neighborhood”; the labels, distros, webzines, etc, so you know where you are in the scene. Who are the main bands in that niche and what are the trends? That's the kind of questions bands need to ask themselves more than focusing on X or Y format.
How much research do you put into which labels, distros and webzines support audience trends from country to country?
In my case as well as Morbid, we're both pretty active due to his label Morbid Skull or my distro TMB Metal Distro. With that said, we pretty much know what labels are doing. So I wouldn't say there's a research process in a formal way. It’s more interactions we usually have as part of our activities with several people.
Are Morbid Skull and TMB Metal Distribution part of the label network supporting all your bands? How long have these labels been active and how far reaching are they when it comes to correspondence and orders?
Not that much to be honest. Morbid Skull is a full label while TMB is an extreme underground distribution service. From time to time I get some of the Morbid Skull releases, but not always.
TMB exclusively supports classic death, black, doom, grind and thrash bands. Some people might say this is a narrow minded and elitist attitude while others may say it’s sticking to one’s guns and placing emphasis on the diversity of each of the genres mentioned.
The way I see it, TMB is an extension of my personal taste and that's why it is strictly focused on specific genres. If someone is looking for classic or underground extreme metal, this is a good option. If someone is looking for emo melo death core, power metal or mainstream cheap artists should go somewhere else.
I noticed TMP deals in vinyl releases as well as CD. Do you receive sufficient vinyl orders to continue offering them? How many labels do you know of that likewise sells vinyl?
Both formats have good reception. Not only for the format itself, but also because of the item. I am very careful with the music I import from several labels from around the world.
Name some new releases from TMB and describe how well they’ve been received.
We’ve recently received copies of the Necrony demo, the Severe Malignant Postule reissue in slip case digipack, the Demigod 1992 promo and the Centinex demo End of Life, both in tape format. Also the Necrogod album in LP 12" and Digipack versions. The reception has been good because I know these are interesting stuff for metal maniacs and collectors.
Another band you were involved with, Insepulto, released their last full length “The Necrodex” in 2015. Is this band still active today or have they parted company?
Not quite sure to be honest. I mean, I recorded the vocals for the album plus four additional tracks for an MCD or split about a year ago and nothing happened. In practical terms the band is dead. We just haven't made an official announcement I guess. The stuff is good and hopefully gets released some day because these are probably going to be the last recordings for Insepulto. Unfortunately the band was going nowhere and I just didn't have time to invest in something like that.
How active was Insepulto in the 1990s and 2000s and when did their activity begin to slow down?
During the 90s there was not much activity, just a photo session that at the end got lost. The band remained “forgotten” until 2012 when it was resurrected and we released our debut album “Morbid Spawn Of Resurrection” on Psycho Records from Poland. A reissue the next year took place by Concreto Records in Mexico. Later we had the opportunity to release our second album The Necrodex through Memento Mori Records in Spain. After that all the activity stopped, unfortunately.
Is Insepulto’s material still available in physical and digital formats? Do you think a comeback of sorts would happen for the band?
Not through us. We haven't spoken with the labels. I guess maybe they still got copies of the first albums. Maybe if someday the new stuff gets released that would make people feel interested in the previews stuff.
Morbid Stench just completed mixing and mastering a new album. What is the working title and how soon is it expected out?
With Morbid Stench we've just completed the recording, mixing and mastering of our second album called “The Rotting Ways Of Doom”. After our debut album in 2019 we released a 7” split EP with a Dutch band called Anarchos through Blood Harvest Records/Morbid Skull Records. All through 2021 we kept working on different aspects of it, like the cover (which was brilliant) and the overall layout. We expect to have it released sometime this year.
Is Morbid Stench's debut album and split with Anarchos available on CD or digitally?
Not sure about the digital format. I've never liked it too much, but the album and the split are available in physical format. It's called “Doom And Putrefaction” and is available in LP 12”, CD and tape. It actually has a reissue with an Argentinian label called Alkolic Holocaust. The split with Anarchos is available in digital format with Blood Harvest Records.
Do your bands usually have the same artist working on your covers and layouts or do you work with different artists?
Usually that changes depending on what we look for. Sometimes we need a color cover, some others a black and white one. We’ve even started to use not only drawings but also photos. That's what we did for Morbid Stench’s first album and for the upcoming one.
How much does singing to multiple independent labels, no matter how small, help a band make a name for themselves?
That’s pretty much the approach with Morbid Stench. Instead of looking for a bigger label, we want to have the chance to work with several labels that could help us have the material released in different versions through different labels. Bigger labels tend to be more rigid in terms of conditions. They give a percentage of royalties (usually some copies of that release for the bands to sell) and that's it. Let me give an example between Morbid Stench and Necrogod: with the first we have released a couple of reissues with labels from Poland and Argentina. Probably there will be other deals with a Mexican label and a Brazilian label. With Necrogod some time ago a guy from Chile wrote to know if we were interested in re-releasing “In Extremis” so, being Transcending Obscurity Records a “bigger” label than the ones who released Doom and Putrefaction, I said for the guy to talk directly with the label, and that was it. Never heard back from him. I am not complaining at all; it’s just how things differ from label to label. I am really happy with the way both bands are being worked.
How often did labels discuss distribution with you only to never contact you again? Do you think labels that are more consistent with contacting their bands last longer?
We have never had that problem. Usually when we get an agreement with a label it’s because they are interested in the stuff.
Do you make a point of choosing labels that work well by word of mouth (spreading fliers, promoting online) as well as distribution?
I think it is important to find a label who knows what they're doing no matter what format they prefer. I say this because there's a bunch of new labels getting into business because they think it’s “cool” to have a label but after a few releases they end up with a pile of discs in their bedroom and don't know what to do. Then again if you have a new band and get an offer you should definitely take it!
Are labels that release their bands on streaming platforms becoming better known in other countries, due to accessibility and reduced shipping costs?
That's a good question. I think it all depends on the type of the customer. For example let’s take Memento Mori Recs from Spain. They are out of any audio streaming platform and their clients seem to prefer the physical CDs. In other cases, labels go the other way but if you ask me, due to the type of people I interact I don't see much benefit to have my work in Spotify or places like that. Millions of other bands are doing the same so what's the point? But I am a bit “old school” in this aspect and I must confess I don't use any streaming platform other than free Youtube. If I want something I try to buy the item in question.
In what ways is your bands’ latest releases lyrically relevant to current world events, as well as being musically relevant?
About the lyrics, I've never had any message to give. They are more introspective and conceived to remark and enhance certain music moments. However in certain moments I've written about humanity like in Necrogod's song “Human Misery” from our MCD 2015. More than the message for me is the cohesion of lyrics, vocals and music all together should make synergy.
What lasting impact do you want to see your bands have on extreme music in general?
I want to think that I will be able to develop certain particular style for extreme vocals and people will note it. I've had access to US, South American and European stuff so maybe all those influences will contribute shaping my style, which is some sort of mixture of brutality, catchy phrasings, sometimes with complex voices combinations, some others pretty simple. But at the end my own personal approach.