Up From The Grave: DREADLORDS’ “Reapers” roasts the beating, dark heart of the USA

Posted by Morgan Ywain Evans on Wednesday, September 27, 2017 at 9:34 AM (PST)

“Dreadlords is a black metal band (occult blues, grim folk, Satanic gospel), just not conducted in the usual format.” – J. Gannon

I found an old journal last night from about fifteen years ago and tore out a page in which I’d scribbled that ,“Life is like passing through a fogging yolk and maybe breaking loose into a heaven, but no guarantee?” Dreadlords, an experimental group from Upper Black Eddy, Pennsylvania who feature members of industrial flirting ritual occult act T.O.M.B. , seem to be searching out their own meaning to creation and our human experience navigating the perils of darkness and light’s perpetual tug of war with the soul. I’ve mainly been listening to them, Nate Hall’s lonely latest and the ethereal darkness of Lisa Cuthbert’s HEX TAPES the last few days and finding a lot of comfort in both during some quite shitty personal struggles.

In the garish glare of American mainstream culture, one could quickly be forgiven for wanting to pare things down to something more gritty, personal and close to the Earth. Blues, metal, gospel and – to my generally ringing ears, anyway – even some No Wave bordering punk influences combine with growling oral traditions and lonely campfire ritual soul-bearing to create a unique sound on the group’s 2017 release REAPERS.

Honestly, I ate a pot brownie and listened to this thing just last night out in the middle of the woods with a creative cohort, such is the return investment on these songs. It is taking the sort of wallop of the much more linear stoner rock band Lo-Pan’s “Marathon Man” to smack me back to reality this morning from my brain’s wanderings out on the edges of a REAPERS night time dream which transcends realms and archetypes like the musical equivalent of King and Straub’s The Talisman. If anyone wants to bring some strong black coffee and some hugs and kisses to where I am de-fogging in bed, that would also be appreciated.

But yes,  Zimimay, Samantha Viola and J. Gannon made a not too modest dent on the underground’s psyche with the uncompromising black psych blues release Death Angel , which featured some potent declarations of intent via the likes of “Dreadlords Cometh” and “Thieves Of Faith”. REAPERS expands the scope the mysterious act’s rising Mojo, personalizing the experience even further with a deep dive into the soul’s longings and laments.




How long did it take to get Reapers to feel “right”? Each song feels very alive but also well executed. Listening to it you almost feel like you are in a room with the band or at least a sort of mad storyteller, haha.


J. Gannon – It took over a year from start to finish to complete REAPERS. We started recording in Feb. of 2016 inside a chapel at a place called “The Convent” in Philadelphia, run by artist Jeremy Hush. It’s an underground art gallery that hosts monthly events and art shows. Artist and sound engineer Brad Omen (of Metal Riot faves Fad Nauseum) worked with us for the initial phase of the album and then we went to our historical location “Satan’s Palace” to complete the recording and mixing process. We then took the mix to West Westside in New York and worked with Alan Douches for the final production and mastering. Alan has worked with many artists like Chelsea Wolfe, Converge and Nile. He is a very talented individual and I liked working with him a lot! His conviction to the final outcome of the album was extremely effective. I believe recording at different locations with various engineers worked to our advantage.


Do you think that people take for granted that you can get great takes without needing the most high end gear in the world? Like, Pussy Galore or Stooges or early TurboNegro or even Yellow Eyes and Darkthrone come to mind as acts that the staying power of the material and vibe is more vital than a five grand guitar.


I would agree with that statement but I think it boils down to what the artist thinks is best for the material they are creating. You mentioned Darkthrone, coincidentally one of Dreadlord’s biggest influences; maybe not from a musical standpoint, but more from an attitude in our writing approach. Dreadlord’s style is quite simple – banjo, drums and vocals. I personally like the heavy old grim minimalism in our style (Ed. Note: Agreed!) and we’ve also taken a simplistic stance during the recording process on past releases. I feel this works well with the end results of each song and the impact on the listener.


What brought about this project? Did you want something spiritually aligned with T.O.M.B. but more linear? 


It started with Zimimay in 2012 experimenting with an electric banjo and writing some songs. Electric banjo was something no one else was really doing at that time. He presented the material to me and I immediately asked to do vocals on the songs. Originally, he had released material on his own through Prison Tatt Records, which was more of a noise/experimental LP. Then collectively we released a Dreadlords demo in 2013 that many people collectively seemed to enjoy. Afterwards, we decided to being Samantha Viola into the project. That decision made  a very positive effect on our writing style and material. Both projects are similar in the sense of minimalism and spiritual approach, though both are very different. Like two very different pens with the same ink.


A friend of mine and I used to talk about how Robert Johnson would always be much darker than Slayer on certain levels. Something about the starkness of the blues or even dystopian and discordant post punk comes to mind when I hear “Across The River”. I love the sort of insistent hacking away at the guitar riff.


 Zimimay took a lot of influence from Robert Johnson on the project. We also explored other elements of Delta blues music as well as Southern Baptist gospel music. From there we continued to expand on what we wanted to accomplish with the project. We took the path of writing music that could cross over into MANY genres like blues, blackmetal, doom, gospel, folk, 60’s rock, grunge, punk and country. “Across The River” is the perfect example of our vast influences in the writing style. Dreadlords is a black metal band (occult blues, grim folk, Satanic gospel), just not conducted in the usual format.


How did the band become involved with Urban Yeti Records? Is it hard finding “the right” bands to play shows with? Like, you are arguably on your own wavelength compared to a lot of bands. I mean, it feels like some Nick Cave comparisons could crop up but “White Sabbath” is way grimier than anything he has done in a long time. Has persistence sort of been the best way to make people get what you are about?

This album was originally scheduled to be released on Not Just Religious Music (NJRM). We started to work with Tj of King Dude on the artwork as he was in the process of expanding his label. It had taken us a good amount of time to complete the album and we were very eager to get it out. In the end there had been some miscommunication with NJRM and we decided to release the album elsewhere. Months prior to this I had met a really cool guy, Mario Rubio in NYC who is a sales rep for Peavey Amps. We had talked all night and he introduced me to several of his friends including Mike Gevorgian of Urban Yeti Records. Mike had started a new label and I was very interested in the integrity and direction he was taking. Once the release plan had changed with NJRM I reached out to Urban Yeti the same night about releasing REAPERS and Mike was interested.

When it comes to opportunities in the past we have had some great exposure to the project. Playing with King Dude has always been one of our highlights. We have done a couple shows this year. We performed at the Stardust fest and with Xasthur in New York City, both shows went very well. We did have the opportunity to open for Zeal and Ardor in Poland, but due to work circumstances we had to cancel that show. There are several acts I feel we would work very well with live – Those Poor Bastards, Me and that Man, Night Profound, Of Wand and The Moon, Zeal and Ardor, Them Pulp Criminals, Chelsea Wolfe, Ghost, 1474.

What made you want to cover The Doors a few years ago (Readers can listen HERE)? 

Personally, The Doors are one of my all time favourite musical influences on many levels with this project. We had planned on doing a couple different covers during the time we did “Five to One”, and it was just something for fun. The version we did really turned out well so Samantha Viola decided to do a video for the song and it turned out amazing! We have in the past worked with Cvlt Nation and did a Joy Division tribute for the song “Disorder” and recently recorded a Misfits cover for the song “Astro Zombies” for another Cvlt Nation tribute album that is coming out soon.

“War” is an interesting track. I like the way it opens almost like drifting through a fog surrounded by the dead. And that simple beating drum. Very effective. I am listened to it on 9/11 and it recalled to me how Hunter S. Thompson said afterwards ,”The towers are gone now, reduced to bloody rubble, along with all hopes for Peace in Our Time, in the United States or any other country. Make no mistake about it: We are At War now — with somebody — and we will stay At War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives.” 

There is a lot of debate if music should get political. I think it is a huge part of the human and inhumane experience. You can still summon the ghosts of war without getting that specific and it helps to de-fetishize it. 

“War” is an interesting track. It is one song that was completely written by  Zimimay. The song has to do with a soldier coming back from Iraq to find his wife had left him. The subject matter was personal to Zimimay at the time he wrote it and the sample used is actually taken from a 911 call where a soldier came home from Iraq and committed suicide. It is a simple song, but doomishly dark and grim. It has a cold feel, like our songs “Moonshine” or “Death Angel” from our previous album. Dreadlords give us a freedom to experiment with extremely different, dark subject matter and writing techniques that we are unable to explore when it comes to T.O.M.B. and it is one thing I really enjoy being a part of within the project.

Do you make videos for your own enjoyment more than a duty? The band doesn’t seem to feel the need to play by the rules? 

My brother James P. Gannon is an established film maker and did most of the videos we have done in the past. Combining my warped thought processes with his extreme talent has made the videos we have done very enjoyable and effective. It has also been great having Samantha Viola creating select videos for us as well. Samantha hasn’t done much film work in the past but has a natural ability to execute things to a highly effective level. Currently we are writing a new T.O.M.B. album for the remainder of the year. Since the release of REAPERS back in April, I have written several new songs for our next Dreadlords album that I am eager to record. Right now we are looking to get more live show opportunities to help promote our current album.

Any other bands in  Pennsylvania you feel the need to shout out? 

Philly is a very active area for bands in underground music right now. All three members are connected to many different artists and genres. Destroying Angel is always one of the local Philly bands we enjoy performing with, really nice guys and we make a good live bill. There is one band both our projects are extremely honored to know – ZUD from Maine. They just released a new album, A Wilderness Left Untamed that I would strongly encourage you to check out. Other than that, I really just would like to thank you for the interview opportunity!

Thank you for obliging!

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