An aural melting pot of some of the metal scenes most respected dark artists hit my ears a few weeks ago in the form of a début Ep from Australia’s UR DRAUGR entitled ‘The Wretched Ascetic’ and it pretty much hooked me straight from the off with its dark and engrossing collision reminiscent of Gojira and Behemoth on a very angry day.
Vocalist/Guitarist Drew James Griffiths, was lovely enough to quickly respond to some questions I fired across about this intriguing new project and at that point, impending debut album.
Ur Draugr recently however, suffered a horrible setback to their album plans. Due to a hardware failure – in which multiple hard-drives, including backups, were effectively destroyed in early December – the forthcoming Ur Draugr album has been postponed indefinitely. The band say that “The existing two tracks will be made available shortly, as an extended play release. In spite of this unfortunate setback, work has already begun on several new songs in anticipation of a full-length to be unveiled at a later date in 2015.”
Read on to find out a little more about the very exciting and highly eloquent new band from Perth.
How and when did the band all come together and what was your aim for Ur Draugr, artistically speaking?
Ur Draugr was essentially conceived as an experiment with longer, ‘progressive’ song structures that were written to retain the intensity and brutality of the typically shorter forms found in death and black metal.
I started writing what would become ‘The Wretched Ascetic’ in early mid 2014, and was quickly joined by Dean Lockhart (guitars) and Dan Grainger (drums) – both of whom I’d worked with before in various musical projects. They both integrated effortlessly into the writing process and we spent the next couple of months fleshing out the arrangements.
How long and arduous/easy was the recording and writing process for this debut EP?
The writing started very casually – primarily an antidote for my frustration during the collapse of a long-term musical project in early 2014 – but it quickly picked up speed as we started to see potential developing.
I was determined to write the rhythm section before any guitar tracking was even considered, so as to build the songs from the ground up. Later on, of course, there was a great deal of trial and error with harmonies and vocal arrangements that were cause for deliberation, but in the end I think we were all surprised at how naturally it came together.
Who created the gorgeous art, what does it represent?
The album art was designed by Jeff Christensen*, an amazing painter based in the USA who I think absolutely nailed the bleak, despairing undertones of the lyrical and musical content while still managing to keep a hint of the old progressive rock aesthetic – especially on the cover piece.
The artwork speaks deeply to the concept of the record.
If I were to suggest the band’s music is ‘for fans of’, which artists would you suggest? To me it’s a bit Gojira-ey and a bit Behemoth-y…like an angry bastard love child of the two..
There’s certainly elements of both of those groups, along with shades of Opeth and Enslaved’s folkier and bluesier sensibilities, and the dissonant, technical leanings of groups like Gorguts and Ulcerate. I’ve got a great fondness for the outpouring of incredible extreme metal bands based in France – Blut Aus Nord, Gojira, Svart Crown, and Gorod, just to name a few – so I think there’s definitely some common ground to be seen among those names.
What concept or theme is the EP and début album based around?
Where ‘The Wretched Ascetic’ was primarily concerned with the concept of ‘severance’ and the transition from covetousness and material fetishism into asceticism and existentialism – and all the philosophical ramifications of that transformation – the forthcoming full-length will trace back to the origins of that quintessentially human ‘discomfort’ which gave rise to said greed and idolatry to begin with. I’ll avoid too much further detail; suffice it say there will be equal parts philosophy and archaeology, so to speak.
Will the EP form part of the début album? or is it a separate entity completely?
It’s a separate entity entirely.
I’d call Ur Draugr ‘Blackened Prog’. Yet more innovation coming from the Oz metal scene! What is it like out there right now for a new ‘prog’ style band, exciting opportunities? Or getting to saturation point?
I really like that, actually – ‘Blackened Prog’ – and I think it quite accurately speaks to the way in which the music was formed. Progressive metal is a difficult beast: it’s a genre populated by obscure titans, with an unbroken legacy that stretches back well into the 60s, but in 2015 it is still portrayed primarily as a niche.
Thankfully there’s been a surge in interest throughout the last ten-to-fifteen years, perhaps due to a general fatigue concerning ‘cookie-cutter’ bands and/or the ever-more-vapid commercialisation of pop music. Whatever the case, I genuinely hope that upsurge continues – more artists taking creative risks can only be a good thing in the long-term.
So Black metal isn’t known for its smiley happy emotions, yet Australians are known as easy-going and fun-loving, do you enter into character to play/perform this truly evil sounding stuff or were you all just born in the wrong country and are all uber serious KVLTers?
I see the kind of aggression you’d find in genres like death and black metal as a salve to the isolation and bureaucratic horror of the modern world. For those Australians who consider themselves forward-thinking, this can be a frustrating country to live in. We have a particular problem when it comes to political apathy, which has exacerbated issues like institutionalised racism and ideological conservatism (both technological and humanitarian).
All things considered, of course, this is still a fantastic country to live in, but I fear that our cultural image of being ‘easy-going’ and ‘fun-loving’ often runs afoul of our simply being sheltered and ignorant.
Having said that, given the 45+ degree heat during summer, perhaps we’re simply the Sweden of the southern hemisphere (in this ill-formed analogy, New Zealand is of course Norway).
Will you be touring in 2015? When will we get to see you in the UK? WHEN?
Ur Draugr was originally formed as a studio project, but there’s every possibility of live shows at some stage in the future, if and when the stars are right.
I for one, hope these blackened stars line up soon and bring the incredible Ur Draugr to our shores. Check out their sound below and head to the band’s Facebook for updates.
‘The Wretched Ascetic’ is available now via a wide range of digital platforms and streaming services as well as on a ‘pay what you like’ basis from Bandcamp..
I think I’m in love. *swoon*
*Hit up Jeff’s DeviantArt page ( https://