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Gravespawn - Interview

photo by Gronn Gronnland

GRAVESPAWN was Formed by Reaver in South Korea as a solo project in 2004 while he served his last year in the United States military. Now based in California. First releasing demos, "Thus Reigns the Imperial Order of Tartaros" in 2004, "Forged in the Malice of Stygian Fire" in 2005, and an EP, "Praetorian Maleficus" in 2010. With the first full-length releasing in 2012, entitled, "Woe to the Conquered". With GRAVESPAWN has also been featured on split albums beginning with INSDESIDERIUM (California, USA) in 2015, "Abysmal Storm"; and a massive 4-way split, "Infirmos Vocat Deus Fidei", alongside VESTERIAN (Califonia [early], North Carolina [current], USA), DIABOLUS (Texas, USA), and WORMREICH (Alabama, USA) in 2016; with a third split featuring VESTERIAN in 2019, "We Who March from the Black Gate". With a rich history of 2 more EPs in 2016 and 2018, "Inexorable Grimness", and "Sovereigns of the Dark Fortress",respectively. As well as, 3 more full-length albums, beginning with a remastered full-length releasing of "Re-forged in the Malice of Stygian Fire", in 2017, "The Elder Darkness" in 2020, followed by the latest release, "Scourge of the Realm" in 2022.

ViaOmega - What was the basis or inspiration for forming the band? How did you record on deployment; and could you explain any differnces over how you record today?

REAVER : "I think that most people who get into metal want to start their own bands, or at the very least have some kind of involvement. This is something that sets it apart from other music genres I think. The majority of people who listen to other types of music are content to just passively listen, whereas people who get into metal want to be actively involved somehow.

I’ve always been a bit on the morbid creative side since I was a kid. Teachers were always calling my parents in for meetings to try and figure out what to do with me. I started playing keyboards when I was 15 and guitar when I was 20. Starting a black metal band was really just the next natural step.

I recorded my first demo while I was doing my last year in the Army in Korea. I recorded all the drums and bass with my keyboard. Everything was very DIY in the early days. Obviously that’s a huge difference than what we’re doing now. We still record everything on our own, just with better knowledge and equipment, but now we prefer to leave the mixing and mastering to a professional, thankfully."

VO - When performing live, you play keyboards. But, I would like to ask; do you write your songs on the keys first, or, guitar first? Or, a little of both? What is your tuning of choice?

REAVER : "I play keys and vocals live, which isn’t something you see often, if at all. Usually they shove the keyboard player off to the side or in the back somewhere like the family embarrassment. I almost always write the guitars first. Gravespawn is a very riff-centric band. Keyboards are usually written after guitars and mainly just serve as background accompaniment or atmosphere. There are some exceptions here and there of course. Everything I’ve written for Gravespawn has been in E flat since 2005."

photo shoot by Al Sin

VO - Expounding further on the previous questions, what inspires your riffs, and how do you keep track of them? Are you a tab it out immediately, hum it all day or into a voice recorder on your phone, or, record it and hope you remember how you played it, person?

REAVER : "A lot of the riffs and melodies come to me at random and I have to stop what I’m doing to hum or whistle it into my phone. Other times I’ll write at home by playing around with various midi drum loops and see what I can come up with that way.

Most of my influence comes from other melodic or symphonic black metal bands like Emperor, early Dimmu Borgir, Naglfar, Gehenna, Hecate Enthroned, Bal Sagoth, Mactatus, and so on. Other influences could be anything from movie soundtracks, video games, medieval/renaissance music, classical or baroque music, etc."

Your Lyrical Inspirations have seemed to change over the past few years, using a lot of Medieval and Fencing Imagery. In the past we have talked about our mutual enjoyment of fencing. With myself being in the HEMA end of things, while you are a member of the SCA. Would you like to explain a bit about what you do in the SCA, your favorite weapon or fighting style, and what drew you to the SCA? Other than getting to play with Swords of course!!

REAVER : "Looking back, the medieval/fantasy battle imagery has always been a part of what Gravespawn is. It just didn’t become the focal point until later on. I was a lot more focused on being satanic and pissed off in the early years before learning to let that extra baggage go and focus solely on my own interests.

I got into this stuff at a pretty early age when I was around 10. My dad went to the video store, back when such things existed, and rented Conan the Barbarian. Been a fan of ancient/medieval history, mythology, fantasy/sword and sorcery ever since. Joining the SCA and getting into medieval combat sports definitely felt like adding a missing puzzle piece of my life.

I mainly fight with sword and shield, or sword and board as we tend to call it, meaning my primary function is to be a wall and occasionally stab at things after a charge. I usually do two main events a year, which we call “wars”. There’s plenty of different things you can get into at these events but I’m mainly there just to fight, eat, drink, and hang out with friends."

VO - Do you think that fighting in Armor made it a bit easier to perform on stage while wearing it?

REAVER : "Funny thing is, it’s probably the other way around. I started wearing the full chain hauberk on stage around the time we did the Dødsferd tour, which was in 2011 I think. I joined the SCA the following year in 2012. The first time I wore that thing on stage I’m pretty sure I was sweating buckets and my shoulders and back were sore for a couple days. Fighting in armor under the hot California sun for a few hours is definitely a lot more of a workout than playing guitar in armor for 30 minutes, but even still I think maybe it gave me a little more confidence to go out there and get the shit beat out of me."

VO - I know from my own experiences how hard it is to keep a band together, with you being the sole member and writer of the band, do you find it easier to have a full time line up, or, to hire folks as needed?

REAVER : "I have a hard time working with other people creatively. Whether or not I should consider that a personal fault of mine or not is up for debate I suppose, but either way, the current Gravespawn lineup and their individual roles seems like a pretty sustainable deal at the moment. Everyone in the band is sort of a semi-permanent session member. Meaning, they can stick around and help out as long as they feel inclined to do so without the obligation of being a full time member. This allows me to maintain full control of the music while still allowing for some added creative input and some semblance of a solid, dependable lineup. I write all of the songs first then hand them over to the rest of the band and they add on to the foundation essentially."

VO - Steelfest was honored enough to have you open this past year. How did it compare to playing in Finland over The USA?

REAVER : "Besides the pure adrenaline rush of playing the most infamous underground black metal fest in the world, I can honestly say it was the most professionally run show I’ve ever played in my life. Everything was so organized and ran like clockwork. It was impressive to see how it all worked. The crowd is definitely a lot less rowdy than the US metal crowd, but I’d rather see the audience actually listening than getting piss drunk and moshing."

VO - Would you like to share with us, some of your favorite books or historical accounts?

REAVER : "I definitely take a lot of inspiration from RE Howard’s Conan stories, HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, Warhammer books, and various other fantasy/sword and sorcery fiction. I also watch a lot of documentaries and videos on history and mythology, which could be on anything from early Bronze Age to Late Medieval periods. I tend to do most of my “history homework” this way on YouTube on account of my short attention span. I also draw a lot of inspiration from traveling to different places and delving into their history. My lyrics tend to be a weird mishmash of history, fantasy, mythology, and cosmic horror, which doesn’t really have to make a lot of sense to anyone else as long as it makes sense to me."

VO - Would you like to fill us in on what you have planned for the future of GRAVESPAWN?

REAVER : "Right now we are hard at work on our next album. Despite how much I would love to talk about it, I’m afraid this is one temptation I will have to resist for now. Thank you for your support and taking the time and effort to make this interview happen."

- Ashley Hanks : April 12, 2024

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