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Ambiguous Chaos: A Conversation With Wretched Blessing

Updated: May 24

Diving into the Chicago duo's latest undertaking — a multi-faceted escapade.

wretched blessing interview, wretched blessing, death metal, black metal.
Photograph by Vanessa Valadez

Words by Luis (@HeaviestOfArt):


On April 26th, Wretched Blessing (Yautja, Immortal Bird, Coliseum) released their self-titled EP – an inaugural listening experience packing grandiosity within the compact EP structure. It's to be expected of a musical pedigree spanning all ends of the metal spectrum and a vibrant Chicago underground built from camaraderie and likeminded creative interests. At the forefront of it all is an alluring and interdisciplinary cover by Querétaro, Mexico's Kikyz1313, who excels at bridging distinct practices to form one comprehensive body of work, much like the EP it represents.


Despite the artwork having been created years prior to the EP's inception, it's the universality of the cover illustration and Wretched Blessing's introspective lyrics where common ground is found, resulting in one uncomfortably rewarding conversation being had within the two art forms. Varying emotions depicted through hand gestures and facial expressions, all while moments of atmospheric solace transition into black metal blasts and hard-hitting death metal passages from one track to the next, keeping listeners (and viewers) on their toes as layers continue to unfold. So much is expressed throughout the EP's 6-track runtime, so much that isn't immediately grasped upon the initial listen, and rightfully so. There's plenty to take from a Wretched Blessing EP that doesn't conform to genre boundaries, and we had the opportunity to dive deeper into this hard-hitting beast for your reading pleasure.


Dive through a Q&A with Wretched Blessing's Rae Amitay (drums/vocals) and Kayhan Vaziri (guitars/vocals) to learn more about the band's visual identity, community as a conduit for creative expression, and more:

 

Your self-titled EP is now out and in circulation, reflective of your years in and out of a variety of bands, as well as your own personal experiences. With Wretched Blessing being a boundless new project, what do you take from the freeing experience that is releasing a body of work without any expectations?


Wretched Blessing: There are expectations, to be sure. We hold ourselves to a certain standard when it comes to musicianship, and we also have a tremendous amount of respect for one another as people. Preserving and strengthening the quality of that connection through the music is a priority. It is very freeing to start something new that isn't beholden to genre tags or expectations in that sense. We both have a lot of shared musical taste but also our different influences come into play very naturally.



You've released an EP, and it’s an entry point to what is hopefully a fruitful discography for Wretched Blessing. Where did you look to take the release from a lyrical and compositional standpoint?


Kayhan Vaziri: Lyrically and compositionally, the main focus has always been on full collaboration. Whether or not that means a 50/50 "creative" split in a song or not, isn't really a concern. We felt free to write about whatever concepts lyrically, and wanted to see what our collaboration would be like musically. Rae has not played drums/vocals in a band for several years, and being the lead/sole guitarist & co-vocalist is new territory for me as well.


Chicago has such rich music communities, regardless of genre, and you’ve both had the privilege of sharing stages with your peers, influenced by your predecessors, and you continue to grow plenty within it all, hence the formation of this new band. What role, if any, does camaraderie play in Wretched Blessing?


Wretched Blessing: We are the closest comrades that you can get, so it plays a role there. We are lucky to call many talented musicians here in Chicago our friends, and in many cases, bandmates.


Rae Amitay: We have been treated like family by Kayhan's other band, Legion. We played our debut in Birmingham, AL with them and I borrowed all of my gear from their drummer, Carter Wilson (he also plays drums in Coliseum with Kayhan, and has a sick band called Null). I definitely felt camaraderie from the Birmingham community, and that is very much a testament to that city and the connections Kayhan has built.


Kayhan: We also have a tape release show coming up in Chicago with many friends, old and new. The band Stomach is playing, and that has John Hoffman from Weekend Nachos doing double-duty drum/vocals. We've both known him and the Nachos for years and this will be a very cool context to see him perform in. Blood Nymph and Pains are new friends but they make great music and this is a very varied but cohesive bill of buddies.



So many layers that shine with each passing listen are packed into this EP, much like the profound cover artwork by Kikyz1313 at the forefront. What drew you to this piece in particular, and Kikyz1313’s work in general? It’s always refreshing to see a cover that doesn’t follow the standard metal tropes.


Rae: I have always been drawn to her work, more specifically with Immortal Bird album covers. However, I wanted this band's aesthetic to be distinctly different from other projects we've been in before. Both Immortal Bird and Yautja have a penchant for similar dark artist friends (Caroline Harrison, Brandon Geurts, Marissa Paternoster, Bronwyn Lorelei, the list goes on) and we wanted to choose artwork that did not immediately stand out as being from one of our other projects. When I saw "eye rustle" I knew it had all of the wonderful and grotesque traits I love about Kikyz1313's work, but it also had a very different style and mood from pieces I've utilized before.


Where do you feel that the music and art intersect here? Both parts consist of distinct elements that coalesce into one multi-faceted being.


Wretched Blessing: I think you hit the nail on the head here. Both things can and do exist independently but when brought together they complement each other in a way that is greater than the sum of their parts -- At least, that's how we feel the artwork supports our music. We can't say that our music necessarily adds to the art in and of itself but hopefully the sentiment is understood. We have a great appreciation for Kikyz1313, she has been incredibly kind and generous in working with us.


Why take the licensing approach rather than commission a particular piece to fit the narrative you’re crafting? To me, you’re breathing new life into a piece that was created for a largely distinct purpose, which speaks to the power of art.


Rae: That is a really great point and a lovely thing to say. I've never commissioned artwork for a cover, but Kayhan has for Yautja (Brandon Geurts).


Yautja — "The Lurch" (2021), Cover Artwork by Brandon Geurts

I have done so for other designs (shout out to artists not aforementioned: Derek Setzer, Azeta, Zeb Truty). Even then, they never had much direction other than what "classic" metal visual themes/styles to avoid. For the Wretched Blessing EP, we had all of the music written and recorded before we sought artwork. When I saw "eye rustle" I was blown away, and Kayhan also loved it. Even though it wasn't created for our band specifically, we think it's a great complement to the music and fits our "vision".


kikyz1313
"eye rustle" (2017) by Kikyz1313

Speaking beyond just Wretched Blessing, how significant do you feel that the visual component is to your work? Whether it be Yautja or Immortal Bird, each of your releases sports a great cover to expand further upon the themes and atmosphere of the record embodied within, which I’m sure is very intentional. Your partnership with Kikyz1313 is among the best of them.


Rae: Thank you! As we mentioned before, we've used a lot of the same artists over the years and we have long shared a similar musical and visual aesthetic. Artwork is very important to me, and so is amplifying exceptional visual artists to the fullest extent of my ability. In the case of both "Empress/Abscess" and "Thrive on Neglect", the selection of those Kikyz1313 pieces as cover art were hugely inspiring when I was finishing lyrics and defining themes.


Kayhan: I think the visual components are incredibly important for representing the music and putting a "face" to the sounds. I've been very lucky to work with some amazing artists that have perfectly captured the musical and lyrical content of records I've played on. In terms of commissions, I value their abilities to interpret the material in a completely unique and visual way.

 

Wretched Blessing is available now (Listen).

Kikyz1313, fine art, mixed media, wretched blessing interview.
Cover Artwork by Kikyz1313

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