With their emphasis on atonality, claustrophobic tension, and unrelenting assaults of sound, Nightmarer crafts the very cacophony its debut album Cacophony of Terror suggests. Although it is less than 40 minutes in length, Cacophony Terror traps listeners in a seemingly endless barrage of disfigured instrumentation that churns and writhes as they are dragged further down into the abyss. It’s complex without being overindulgent and its use of spacing and atmosphere adds to its frightening presentation. As far as “technical metal” is concerned, Nightmarer stick out from the pack.
In this recent interview with Svbterranean, we sat down with guitarist Simon Hawemann to discuss the new record and dissonance.
Could you please introduce yourself and your role in Nightmarer?
My name is Simon and I compose and play guitar for Nightmarer. I’m from Berlin, Germany originally and currently live in Tampa, Florida.
That makes us a predominantly US-based band at this point. Our vocalist John[Collett] lives in NYC, but Paul[Seidel, drums] still lives in Berlin. John and us have been friends for almost 10 years – we met when our old bands toured together in Europe and always kept in touch over the years. We always talked about starting a band together and my move to the US made it a no-brainer.
When Nightmarer was first coming into fruition did you have a basic idea of how the band would sound or did that change over time?
Our vision for the band’s sound was clear from the get go. Our drummer Paul and I started Nightmarer around mid 2013, so we’ve been working on actually fleshing it out for a few years.
It took a while to really reinvent our formula, because both of us played in a fairly dissonant band prior to Nightmarer and didn’t want to do the exact same thing again.
From War from a Harlots Mouth to Gigan, you have all been involved in some pretty complex projects. Compared to your other musical endeavors, what were some of the challenges in writing and recording with Nightmarer and how do you feel it pushed you as a musician?
Living so far apart definitely comes with some challenges. Luckily I’m somewhat used to writing songs in the studio, but Paul came over to visit me here in Florida in 2016 and we wrote at least half of the material during that time.
I gotta admit that I don’t like writing in the studio as much as I used to, but we came up with a couple of solutions for that. One of the last songs we finished was entirely written by Paul on drums at first and I merely composed the riffs over the drum tracks. That proved to be a great way to go about it and we will utilize that process more in the future, when ever we can’t be in the same room together for the songwriting.
Doing vocals with John was pretty easy, on the other hand. He lives in NYC, but came down to my studio here in Tampa for two separate sessions, to write the lyrics with me and record his takes. It was an extremely creative, fast and smooth process. We had merely bounced back and forth some ideas prior to the recording sessions, so the lyrical concept really became clear while we were working on everything here in the studio.
Dissonance has always been a part of heavy music and over the years it has been used more extensively and in very interesting ways. When it comes to Nightmarer, how do you utilize dissonance differently than others and what do you think it adds to the overall listening experience?
As much as I love to emphasize how much atonality dominates my musical world, it’s not a means to an end for Nightmarer. It serves the purpose of creating tension, to achieve a sense of discomfort throughout the listening experience, but without becoming over the top and unlistenable.
I think what differentiates us from other bands in this realm is the more heavy approach. Because as much as we love the frantic, chaotic and unhinged side of dissonant extreme Metal, we are also influenced by more simple and crushing Metal bands such as Celtic Frost/Triptykon, Godflesh or even older Gojira. Primitive Man are also a great example for utilizing low end atonality in a really heavy context.
Making dissonant Metal can be a slippery slope and you’re risking to sound a lot like either Deathspell Omega or Gorguts. Both are favorites of ours, but we don’t want to sound like them. Some bands are too good at copying for their own good, but I often find myself even digging those kinds of bands, haha.
We also went for a full on wall of sound type production. I’ve seen people criticizing it as being “overproduced”, but I strongly disagree. There is a method to the madness. Funny enough, one of my main inspirations for the mix was Shape of Despair’s ‘Monotony Fields’, which sounds massive and monumental. We obviously needed to tweak that kind of approach to make it work with the faster elements of our music as well.
And we wanted a sound that worked with the subtle Industrial Metal-elements we incorporated in ‘Cacophony of Terror’. There will be more of those in the future, because we’re really drawn to a somewhat dystopian aesthetic and all think it fits well with our music. So sure, we could have gone for a “raw” and “organic” production like most bands in this realm, but plenty of that is already out there.
What can you tell us about the creation of your debut full-length, Cacophony of Terror?
As mentioned above, all of it was written in my studio. A lot of the album was recorded DIY as well, except for the drums.
I recorded the guitars and vocals at my own Sludge Studios here in Tampa, FL. The bass was written, performed and recorded by my friend Stefan Braunschmidt in his home studio in Germany. The drums were recorded at Ghost City Recordings in Nuremberg, Germany. Then the whole thing was mixed and mastered for CD and digital formats at MyRoom Studio in Switzerland and the vinyl master was done by Original Mastering in Hamburg, Germany.
So ‘Cacophony of Terror’ is quite the patchwork production, but everyone involved really got behind our vision and delivered exactly what we needed. I usually do the mastering of our recordings as well, but our schedule didn’t allow for it this time around. And I don’t think it’s a bad thing, either. Everything came out the way we wanted it to, if not better. I did happen to be in Germany while the vinyl mastering session took place and drove to Hamburg with Paul to be a part of that.
In a recent interview with Decibel the album was described as a concept piece of sorts that “tells a story of a person that doesn’t know whether they are trapped in a nightmare or if their reality is just extremely nightmarish.” How do you feel the music itself effectively communicates this concept and the album’s lyrical narrative?
We tried to let the music speak for the concept for sure. I think one of the most intense examples for that is the album’s final duo ‘Death’ and ‘Swansong’.
My inspiration for this song was very real: I had to witness a family member decease over the course of a couple days. I was there for it throughout this final battle and that experience is burned into my memory for ever. Some of the riffs and sounds in ‘Death’ reflect the heavy breathing, the tortured moans and the spasms of a dying human being.
But I wanted to merge this real experience with the story of the record and make it the final battle and inevitable end of the protagonist. It’s the only song that hints at the role of the Nightmarer as a more tangible entity, in the shape of Alan Dubin’s (ex-Khanate, Gnaw) guest vocals. His tortured and unhinged screams really serve as the perfect personification of that entity.
‘Death’ then seamlessly transitions into ‘Swansong’, which serves as a relief after that final battle is lost, but at least over. It’s not exactly an uplifting track, but there is a subtle amount of musical relief interweaved with the melodies.
What was the inspiration behind the album’s concept?
I used to suffer from pretty bad insomnia, so the topics of sleep, sleep deprivation, dreams, nightmares, etc. have always intrigued and affected me. That and an actual nightmare of mine inspired me to come up with the band name, which felt so ambiguous that we wanted to work with that.
That same nightmare was the foundation for the opening track ‘Stahlwald’ and what followed from there was just a creative flow of ideas. We wanted to tell a tale of paranoia, self-destructiveness and death, playing out between nightmare and reality.
So the Nightmarer could be both; an entity that infiltrates your mind, manipulates and destroys you – or it could be a manifestation of yourself, mentally deteriorating. That’s a pretty terrifying unknown to deal with and one way to describe that mental state would be a ‘Cacophony of Terror’.
What do you want listeners to take away from the record?
I don’t really have any expectations when it comes to that. I think if people are willing to dive into the concept of ‘Cacophony of Terror’, they will get and feel it.
What is next for Nightmarer in the near future?
We’re gearing up to tour the US later this year and hope to be able to confirm the package in the next couple of days. We also hope to work something out for Europe soon! On top of that, I’m already planning to write some material for a 2019 EP release.
Any final words or thoughts?
I want people to understand that Nightmarer is not just a “studio project” for us. There seems to be some confusion as to whether we’re going to tour or not. We are working on it, it’s gonna happen! I hate advertising for it here, but if you want to stay in the loop, swing by www.facebook.com/nightmarercult and keep an eye on the page.
Thank you for your time!
Thank you for the interview and review. Much appreciated!
Read our review of Cacophony of Terror here.