Exploring the striking craftsmanship that combats an ideology and comprises the entirety of the Las Vegas band's debut album.
Words by Luis (@HeaviestOfArt):
On March 24th, Ov Sulfur released The Burden Ov Faith via Century Media — a staggering entry that served as both a cathartic conduit for channeling heartfelt emotion and a moving audiovisual experience carried forth by the artistry of Missy Munster (MM Fabrications). Known for masterful mic stands, intricately detailed masks, and creative direction for the likes of Cradle of Filth, Mercyful Fate, and more, Missy's work paired well with the vulnerability and strength channeling throughout The Burden Ov Faith, resulting in one gruesome deathcore vision that serves varying yet intersectional purposes. It's horrific at first glance, but engrossing once its layers begin to unfold with each passing listen and scroll, encouraging repeated concentrated visits.
Read through an insightful Behind the Cover Q&A with Ov Sulfur guitarist/vocalist Chase Wilson and creative mastermind MM Fabrications to learn of the inner workings behind one of this year's strongest deathcore outings, The Burden Ov Faith:
"The Burden Ov Faith", which serves as your initial statement, has circulated across the world and in live stages throughout the country, allowing you to see it under a new light. In what mindset did the debut find you in, musically and personally as people?
Wilson: This album kind of takes people on a roller coaster of emotions we were all feeling during the process of writing this album, from the sadness of “Earthen” to the fast-paced anger-fueled journey that is “Befouler”. This was our best year yet as a band, but also one of the hardest for us as individuals all going through our own personal struggles. I think we kind of just collectively poured all of that into this record subconsciously.
It's a strong entry point and sets the tone for what is an exciting next few years. You took what you did on the "Oblivion" (2021) EP and multiplied it ten fold. With such strong support from the fandom and an equally strong support system in the studio, what role did camaraderie play in the record’s development?
Wilson: It played a huge part in the creation of this record. As mentioned before, the last year of our band has been the best since our inception, and half of that was before we recorded "The Burden Ov Faith" last August and September. Just a couple months before that, we’d done our biggest tour up until that point — supporting As I Lay Dying, Whitechapel, and Shadow of Intent — plus recorded and released “Wide Open” and announced our signing with Century Media.
The excitement of all of that was met only by the challenges of writing a record while growing so quickly, but it brought us all together. I’ve got to give a special shout out to Leviathvn, who joined not that far ahead of the tour and had to learn a full set, straight into writing and recording the drums for a whole album.
The recording team was an extension of that camaraderie, with Josh Schroeder tracking Leviathvn’s drums like a champ not long after they were finished writing. How they managed to track everything so cleanly is beyond me, but we’re lucky to have them. Before that, Morgoth produced with us remotely, which helped us improve our communication by doing everything over the internet. He also pushed Ricky vocally, especially when it came to singing; before we went into the studio, we weren’t sure we were going to have much singing at all—definitely not from Ricky, who really came into his own. And of course, Logan Mader killed it tracking guitars for us.
It’s a Schroeder sandwich, with his mixing and mastering wizardry bringing it all together. Without the team we had working on this record, I don’t think we could have captured the sound we did. We’re definitely lucky to have worked with such talented people while making this record.
Would you say that, in some sense, the release and completion of this record was cathartic with how much went invested into every element of this release? "Earthen" is of course a very heart driven, emotional composition and we touched on how the record's development came about at a difficult time for you all personally.
There was a lot of pressure to make this album what it was, resulting in a lot of blood, sweat, and tears put into it. I’d say it’s very safe to say that Ricky put everything he had into writing the lyrics for “Earthen,” and it came out as a beautiful tribute to his nephew Dristin who passed three days before his 16th birthday from the monster that is cancer.
The title track came from a similar place. It was the last song we needed to write, and our former guitar play Matt and I had a writing session set up. Tragically, our friend Jerry Dominguez had passed away from complications with a surgery. We almost cancelled the writing session, but we knew he would want us to make the best song of our career, so we put everything we had into it. It became an epic closer to the album, and I think he’d be proud to have inspired it.
That's heart-wrenching to hear, yet powerful at the same time to see how you were able to channel those emotions into this listening experience. It's always easier said than done, but here's hoping this album's rollout helped ease the pain. Shifting gears a bit, before one gets a chance to listen to "The Burden Ov Faith", we’re met by the twisted craftsmanship of MM Fabrications and the photography of Justin (Blaqk Rabbit), which is apt for the brutal nature of the record itself. What drew you to their work upon exploring options for the album’s visual component?
Wilson: Ricky was a huge fan of MM Fabrications before the band even started. After seeing her work and the photos that were taken, we were all blown away at how talented both Missy and Justin were. Honestly, we didn’t know how realistic working with them really was as we are still a very young band, but after some back and forth between Ricky and Missy, we were able to make it happen. Her balance of twisted darkness and beauty was exactly what we were looking for and we couldn’t have been luckier to have had Missy, Justin, Vicente, and the rest of the crew working with us.
Missy's craftsmanship. is at the forefront of the album's entire visual identity, which extends into videos for standout tracks like "Death Ov Circumstance". Missy, what does it mean to you, as an artist, to have Ov Sulfur find commonality with your work? As mentioned, the band was able to expand upon your artistry despite its creation having preceded their album.
MM: I think with the vision for the band in general, we share a lot of common ground in not only aesthetic but genuine human experience as well. You can look at these works and boil them down to just a simple disdain for religion, but it’s SO much more complex than that. It’s really a bond we share over trauma and the unique experience that is persecution and suffering, and being subjected to abuse for simply looking or living as we please — the price we pay for authenticity. It's also about being fed up with a belief system founded on lies and control that has been forced down our throats and caused so many so much harm.
We as artists just found our outlet to speak on this as well as heal ourselves through the process of our visual work and music. Finding commonality with the band is part of the catharsis of this work and I’m very glad to participate in that. This work is so much more than just an image or a marketing material. It really is a life changing and saving outlet for those of us behind the scenes doing the work. The fact that Ov Sulfur embraced that enough to let it be the face of their album means the world to me and I think it adds such a powerful visual to a body of music that is incredibly soulful and impactful.
Beautifully said, and it translates well as a reflection of the aforementioned human experiences. Beyond just the cover, there a mixture of creature designs created for this album cycle, which are showcased throughout the videos. Looking back at when you were crafting the designs, what did you look to envision?
MM: In creating this specific design, I was working through my issues with the pedestal that religious figures are put on. The pedestal is such an interesting concept because it’s a man-made fabrication that allows so many to do so much harm, yet we let that ideology infiltrate so many of our formative relationships. Some go so far as to handing over their children to obvious predators that are guised by that very pedestal.
I wanted to create creatures in the vision of how I see these figures: void of light and destroying purity in their path to control. There’s a patriarchal overlord almost puppeteering a tortured angel, representing how so many of the world’s most powerful men are put into positions where they can torture women endlessly while still being kept on that pedestal. We see it every day in so many situations. Just as much of the world is so obsessed with age as a way to control young and impressionable women, destroying them and leaving them casualties of a very flawed and abusive display of power.
I really wanted to convey my frustration with my own experiences with this in the arts industry and in religion, while also living through the trauma of seeing it happen to just about every woman I know. One of the uniquely feminine experiences we all share is suffering. Whether it’s our own or watching our sisters be casualties of these abuses of power, the divine feminine is always tortured because it’s what these figures fear the most.
It's not an easy or accessible subject matter to take on, but you excelled at embodying your viewpoint. Having seen these figures serve a different purpose than what they were initially created for, has your perspective on the pieces changed at all now that you've seen it be introduced to an entirely new audience?
MM: Seeing my work introduced to a new audience is always exciting. I appreciate any and all who find interest in what I create. My perspective on the pieces is something really unique and personal to me. Every design is hyper-emotional and represents so many different parts of myself and my life, so getting to share that even though it’s quite public, is still very intimate. By creating imagery, it’s allowing anyone to take a glimpse into my soul. It’s so much more than just an image, so seeing people from all walks of life resonate with that or show any emotion at all over it means so much. It doesn’t just shift my perspective; the feedback pushes me to keep going, seeing that my art is necessary. I’m always glad to see my work is appreciated beyond just being a beautiful album cover.
Though the commission process is the norm for bands looking for a particular illustration, the image we see on the cover paired well with the album’s theme despite it having already existed. The masks and designs didn’t come about as a result of your lyrics and yet you build off of it to complete one cohesive composition. Chase, where do you feel that the art and music intersect and how did that commonality come about?
Wilson: There were a couple of ideas that were talked about at length, but we ultimately felt that nothing really matched the vibe of the record like that specific picture. This picture perfectly shows what we’re trying to convey in our music. The band’s sound is built upon extreme and brutal music, but also has beautiful melody interwoven throughout the entire album. This picture is dark, twisted, and maniacal, but also has a sense of beauty brought forth through the artists at work. Everything from the makeup down to the wardrobe and set choices completely envelops what this record is.
It's also ambiguous and could be interpreted in a few distinct ways. Is that the intention here, to invite a curious listener or viewer to immerse themselves within the composition? Both the art and the music is far from linear and I’d argue that the best art offers you only a small piece of the puzzle while encouraging viewers to finish it in their way.
Art is subjective and who are we to put a label on how something should be viewed? As a matter of fact, each of us have our own idea of what the album art means and how it relates to the record and title. That’s kind of the beauty in it: the mystery of what it could mean and how it relates.
It'll differ from listener to listener, too. Missy, there's a vast amount of detail and patience that goes into it all. How long did the designs take you to complete? Of course, it all starts with the idea, then maybe a sketch, and slowly materializes into a physical product, which can vary in time.
MM: My design process is rather haphazard and chaotic, despite the focused outcome. I don’t sketch anything out because I feel like sketch work makes me too married to a design, and I like working in an assemblage style, so I can have fluidity in my process. I like to let my designs create themselves as I go.
I start out with a general concept in my head of what I want to make. I take into account what I want to convey, the overall vibe of my creature and the aesthetic of the shoot. That’s where I select colors and in my head brainstorm the pieces I need to make for the creature’s unique costuming. From there, I work on the costume pieces, designing and assembling as I go, so each piece is completely one-of-a-kind and handmade. Then we get into prosthetic and makeup creation, which can take anywhere from weeks to months, depending on the designs.
So, there’s a ton of elements that go into a shoot. My creative process can take anywhere from days, to weeks and beyond, just depending on the complexity of the shoot.
For the album cover shoot specifically, I only had 5 days to completely create all of the costuming, which was an insane push, but I made it happen!
Amazing! So much goes into this to go unnoticed. I'm glad we could highlight the efforts here. In closing, one could consider Ov Sulfur to be more than a deathcore band, but a creative collective dedicated towards crafting experiences that convey a message through music videos, merchandise, artwork, and more. Chase, would you say that the goal is always to have viewers embrace Ov Sulfur beyond the music itself?
Wilson: The original goal of Ov Sulfur was just to create music that we all enjoyed making, so we could share it with people from all over. Since the inception, you could say that has changed into something a lot more. We do take pride in looking at everything down to the finest detail: merch, music videos, album art, and everything in between. In a way, we want to create something people can completely immerse themselves in, almost like having our own world or universe. We’ve been very lucky to collaborate and work with the talented individuals that can make all of our visions a reality and like I’ve said previously, without them or the team behind Ov Sulfur, we couldn’t have made it happen.
The Burden Ov Faith is available now via Century Media (Order).