My Inspiration: Penance Stare – The Spilt (w/ Atvm) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Newcastle based experimental metal outfit Penance Stare drop The Spilt, which, as the name suggests, is a split release with London extreme-metalers Atvm, a band they met when gigging in Camden. The result is four tracks of snarling ferocity, doom-laden beats and screams that will claw down deep into the pit of your soul (Penance Stare) and four tracks of relentless, riff-filled rock frenzy (Atvm) which create quite a harmonious (for want of a better, more metal, word) balance in terms of tone and tempo. Get your four-panel digipak CD or download here.

Here, Penance Stare tell us more about what inspired the release…

The Split was first conceived in late January 2020, at a show in London. We were doing a weekend run of dates with our friends in Plague Rider, the final night saw us playing the Devonshire Arms in Camden with an unusual and intriguing extreme metal group called Atvm. The admiration was mutual and our friendship was immediate, and so, despite superficial genre differences, the idea for a split release was too interesting for us to pass up.

Unfortunately, lockdown hit just over a month later. As such, our side is a mix of older songs, and newer material honed from demos written in isolation. After a long period of self-recording, which stretched far beyond our initial deadline due to our own perfectionism, the songs were finally recorded earlier this year, in six frantic hours at First Avenue Studios in Newcastle Upon Tyne, with taciturn legend Dave Curle.

Seven Vials
This is probably my favourite song we’ve written so far, and also one of the hardest to play. It’s in a 7/8 time signature, which is something we’ve never done before. We’re big fans of technical and difficult music, whether that’s math rock or death metal or anything else, but playing it ourselves is a new challenge. The guitar part is an attempt to steal ideas from Plebeian Grandstand, Rolo Tomassi and shoegaze, and blend them all together. Lyrically this song deals with the idea of self-construction, or the plasticity of identity, and how that might clash against more tangible concerns like aging. 

The phrase “Seven Vials” is taken from some cryptic, pseudo-religious graffiti that I remember seeing as a child. 

A very sad song, which, over time, has shed association with the precise events which inspired it, and become relevant to other, newer situations. It’s a song about losing friends, not receiving the support and understanding you might need, the tendency for some to retreat inward when things feel too intense for them, and the hurt and frustration that can cause as a result.

It might sound strange, but I’ve come to realise that the blasts of feedback which punctuate this song are probably subconsciously indebted to Mayonnaise by the Smashing Pumpkins, a band we both listened to a lot as teenagers. 

Black Cat Petunias
This song is an endurance test for all involved. That relentlessness is reflective of the lyric too, which is probably the most direct on the record. It’s a song about womanhood, body image, the male gaze, the violence and physicality of gender. I feel this song lays bare the subject matter which almost all of our songs deal with in some way, only in much more blunt terms. Musically this one is the most straightforwardly black metal inspired track, the verse riff being one of my many (failed) attempts to write something that sounds like Mutiilation.

Towards the end of lockdown, I heard The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight by REM, a song that I heard countless times as a kid, playing in a supermarket, and for whatever reason, this relatively mundane nostalgia experience had an effect on me that inspired this lyric. Like that song, it also uses the imagery of a payphone to discuss a need for or lack of connection to others. As for the title, an oubliette is a sort of dungeon where a prisoner is simply abandoned and forgotten about. 

This song also has some time signature strangeness, the 5/4 feel gives the fast sections a sense of pace and motion that’s really interesting. We’ve been closing our live set with this ever since we wrote it.

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