Interview: OSSUARIUM talk influences and new record 'Living Tomb'

A death metal monstrosity is looming.

Photograph by Matt Pie

We've only started the year yet it seems that February is fast approaching. One can argue that this fucking sucks, however, we'd like to think otherwise given that there's something special in the works for the following month. What can possibly be that special you ask? Well, Portland's formidable death metal force OSSUARIUM is set to unleash their debut record Living Tomb on February 1, 2019 via the mighty 20 Buck Spin.


This juggernaut consists of guitarist/vocalist Daniel Kelley, bassist Jeff Roman, guitarist Nate McCleary, and drummer Ryan Koger, all who comprise an essential role in the making of the behemoth that is Living Tomb. OSSUARIUM joined 20 Buck in 2018 and worked with Greg Wilkinson (High on Fire, Necrot) to create what's expected to be one of this year's most devastating death metal compositions. Living Tomb will melt faces, we're damn sure of it.


We talk to Daniel Kelley about the band's new record, it's artwork, and the band's musical influences.

You’ll be releasing your debut record Living Tomb in February. How do you feel coming into the new year with the release fast approaching?


It’s a pretty awesome feeling to finally have it be out there and for people to hear what we’ve been working on so hard for over a year. It felt good to get the first single out there. We’re looking forward to pre-orders going up next week and when the whole thing drops, we’re looking forward to getting it out there to everyone. We’re highly anticipating it.


You said pre-orders go live next week?


Yeah, January 4th.


Awesome, I’ll keep my eye out for that. It’s been over a year now since the release of the Calcified Trophies of Violence demo and you also released a SPLIT with Draghkar this past Summer. Listening to both outputs, it’s clear that they both have a real authentic old school sound and musically, Blaze of Bodies embodies that same energy. Is this the direction you wanted to take with the new record?


Yeah. I think the new record takes the ideas we had on Calcified Trophies of Violence and just expanded upon them. There’s more experimentation, definitely a little more variety, and more dynamics on this full length. For all intents and purposes, it’s the same band and it’s the same sound, but just kind of expanded upon. We took the parts we really enjoyed writing on that debut demo and made sure to include more of those parts.


I was actually listening to Blaze of Bodies while putting together the questions and shit, this is just filthy. How would you describe Living Tomb?


It has a multitude of feels to it. I think the artwork really does a great job of summing up what the album is all about. You look at the artwork and Dan Seagrave did such a good job with it. You see right off the bat that it’s creepy and there’s a dark atmosphere. You look a little closer and you see the more weird, kind of out there pieces that are more detailed. I think it’s a good analogy for our record.


After the first couple of listens, it comes off cool on the surface and there’s some good head banging riffs. The more you listen to it, the more the nuances come out. Overall, I think the artwork does a great job at relaying what message the album actually provides. I think if that had to be summed up into words, I think that would be ‘kind of creepy.’


I’m glad you talked about the cover art, which is something I like to emphasize with Heaviest of Art. Dan Seagrave, who’s known for doing covers for some of the heaviest bands, took on Living Tomb and perfectly embodies the cavernous characteristics of the record with an illustration of what appears to be tombs surrounded by water and infested with skeleton like creatures. What was it like working with him?


It was a pretty organic progression. Dave (Adelson, 20 Buck Spin) and I began talking about artwork all the way back to February, maybe March, when we first began talking about doing a record together. Adam Burke was who we wanted to go with at first. We really liked that oil painting style. Both of them have great use of atmosphere, color palette, and they both do a really good job of getting really highly detailed without it being too realistic looking. We originally were talking about going with Adam Burke and were in the conversation about doing album art with him.


A friend of mine, who’s been good friends with Dave for a long time, kind of mentioned that 20 Buck Spin had a credit from working with Dan Seagrave by not actually using a piece of his art from a couple of years back. When I mentioned it to Dave, it all just clicked. He reached out to Dan and checked to see if it was still something he would honor. From that point on, it was the most fluid, awesome collaboration process. Dan is just so great to work with and was very open to our ideas and worked with us to get what we thought was the perfect final product.


It’s pretty cool to have someone like Seagrave front your debut record, and even more so have it perfectly embody what the record represents.


Totally.


Production wise, Blaze of Bodies is explosive. It’s a known fact that Greg Wilkinson is an incredible producer, having worked on Electric Messiah by High On Fire and Necrot’s Blood Offering on Tankcrimes. How’s it been having him take a stab at the record?


It was great. When we were talking about putting together a full length, working with Greg was our first choice. We wanted to work with him from the get go but were not sure if was something we would actually be able to make happen being a Portland based band. Also, all of our members have a pretty busy schedule outside of playing music. We weren’t sure it was going to work out, but we got enough time to set it up and make it work for everyone’s schedules.


They call Greg 'The Wizard' for a reason. He’s just amazing to work with. Going into it, it was the first time any of us had actually recorded a full length studio record like that, so most of the band was pretty nervous to work with someone of his level and with a catalog as phenomenal as his. He made it really easy. We stayed with him the whole week that we were down there in Oakland and had a great time with him and his wife. We owe him a lot. He did a great job on our record and I think it sounds pretty awesome.


Man, and there’s only one single out so far. I can only imagine how the rest of it is.


Yeah, I think the whole album has a really great sound to it. Like I said, there’s more dynamics and stuff. We might’ve thrown a couple challenges his way but he had no problem tackling whatever we were throwing at him.


Oh I bet. For those who want to hear more, I assume a new single is being released along with the pre-orders?


Right. There will be another song coming on the 4th.


Awesome, can’t wait for that. Are there any lyrical themes or messages you want to get across with this record?


The album is a tribute to my late father, so a lot of the record has to do with typical death metal themes like death and loss but also the mental anguish that loss can bring along with it. There’s a theme of not only death and mourning, but also being in the grips of insanity and kind of losing yourself, even if it doesn’t mean physically dying. You can almost die mentally and we kind of expand on that. Most of the lyrics are actually the drummer Ryan’s. A lot of that comes from him but we all agreed on similar themes and collaborated on those.


Thanks for the insight on the themes. Are there any bands or personal experiences that influence you as musicians?


Definitely. There’s no denying the influence that bands like Autopsy, Morbid Angel, and Grave have on us. Those are just classic death metal acts. We also really enjoy the more death doom leaning stuff when it comes to death metal, like Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, and Disembowelment especially. Those were all super big influences on the songwriting for this full length, in addition to Incantation, Cyanide, and the rest of those kind of bands.


I hear a little bit of Entombed in there as well.


Totally. A lot of classic death metal acts definitely went into this because it’s just what we enjoy listening to on a regular basis.


Most of the records that 20 Buck Spin put out in 2018 made it to practically every year-end list, including ours. Is this a sign that Living Tomb will be among the best of 2019?


The rankings and things are something I try not to really dwell on too much. I think if people are positively responding to the way our record sounds, then that’s great. If it makes it onto some kind of ranking album of the year list, then that’s cool. More important to us then ranking is having people connect with the music and having people feel it. We didn’t create the record looking to land on any lists or be the best of anyone’s. We don’t want to be the best death metal band or anything. We’re just trying to record the album we want and hopefully people enjoy it.


I’m only teasing but yes, you’re right. What matters is that you’re enjoying what you do. 20 Buck Spin does put out good records and you happen to be one of them. So who knows.


Definitely. We’re stoked to be a part of the label. Having label mates that constantly put out great records is absolutely more inspiration for us to keep pushing harder and harder, so it’s a great thing.


You’ll be celebrating the release of Living Tomb with a show in your hometown. How do you feel taking the new tracks for a spin?


We’re really looking forward to it. The plan as of now is to play the better part of the entire album all the way through. There are certain songs that we’ve played off of it, but the majority we haven’t played live yet. I think it’ll be interesting seeing how it comes out live and how people respond to the album in full for the first time.


I’d kill to see you guys play some tracks down here in LA. Any tours or exciting plans in the works in support of the record?


Following the release show in Portland, we have a couple more Northwest dates set up that we’ll be announcing shortly. No plans for the rest of the West Coast as of right now, but it could potentially be something that we do later on in the year.


That’s exciting. This is only the beginning of what we hope is a great career for Ossuarium. Any bands you’d love to tour with in the next months or years as you continue to grow?


You mentioned Tankcrimes earlier. Mortuous sounds like an up and comer to a lot of people, but these guys have been doing the thing for a long time now and have been a great consistent death metal band for many years. Their release ‘Through Wilderness’ on Tankcrimes is among my favorite albums of the year. On top of that, there are some really great dudes in that band. I’m really looking forward to playing some shows with them in the future.


We’re playing our Portland date with a Bellingham band called Cavern, who I’m excited to be playing with. Ascended Dead will be headlining that show, which is a great local band that I’m excited to be playing with as well.


I can only imagine how crazy a Mortuous and Ossuarium tour would be, even if it’s a short run.


Yeah, totally.


Well, one thing’s for sure. You’ll have a pre-order from me guaranteed and I’ll be eagerly waiting for the full release. Thank you for your time, Happy New Year!


Awesome, thank you so much.

OSSUARIUM's earth shattering debut record Living Tomb is now available for pre-order via 20 Buck Spin and will see a full release on February 1, 2019. Stream Blaze of Bodies below and check out our review.


Cover art by Dan Seagrave

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