I was legitimately surprised when Pittsburgh sludgers Vulture‘s full-length debut, Oblivious to Ruin, came across my desk. Not that they weren’t due for a follow-up to 2009′s self-titled EP, which was one of the first releases ever reviewed on this site, but because of how much the band had changed in the three years since that EP came out. Vulture had a doomly appeal to start with, but what Oblivious to Ruin (review here) brought to that was a low-down, dirty feel. A big part of that was the inclusion of new vocalist Justin Erb, whose raw-throated screams, shouts and growls added not only brutality but also character to Vulture‘s sound, now more professional and altogether more lethal.
That’s not to say the seven cuts present on Oblivious to Ruin aren’t without precedent — one finds Vulture culling influence from Sourvein, High on Fire and Down (in that order of prevalence) — but their blend is far more their own than it was a few short years ago, and what’s more, they seem to have hit a starting point for further growth and development, and so the record becomes an essential beginning step in that process, as well as a nasty-as-fuck slab of sludge. They’re having their cake and smashing it with buzzsaw guitar tone too, if you will.
As such, it seemed the perfect time to harass Mr. Erb for some info on his background in the abrasive arts and how he came to be a member of Vulture, and just what Oblivious to Ruin might be driving toward in terms of the overall trajectory of the band. Par for the course for this kind of thing, I also asked about some other stuff as well, like any Pittsburgher recommendations he might have and what’s coming next for Vulture, and he was forthcoming on that as well, as you can see below.
Vulture is Erb, guitarists Garrett Twardesky and Gene Fikhman, bassist Justin Bach and drummer Kelly Gabany. Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:
I met Vulture while jamming with my other band, Reduce to Ash. Our guitar player, Quinn Lukas, who also plays with Icarus Witch, is good friends with Vulture’s old singer, Buddy Smith. Every summer Quinn has a few huge yard parties, and during one of these parties we made plans with Buddy to do some shows together. Through those shows I ended up becoming good buddies with Garrett, Vulture’s riff master. Anytime Reduce would do shows, Garrett would try to make it out and we would end up outside getting high and rocking out some Sabbath in the parking lot. After a show at Marlene’s Corner Bar in Connellsville, PA, Garrett told me they were having trouble with their singer and were planning on sacking him. He just wasn’t on the same page, musically. I told Garrett that if they fired Buddy, I would be interested in auditioning. Turns out they were planning on approaching me for the gig. The funny thing is that from the first time I saw Vulture play, I imagined myself fronting that band. In Reduce to Ash, I play bass and split vocals with Tim Weir, the other guitarist, so I jumped at the chance to front a band without worrying about playing an instrument. Especially a band like Vulture, who I had a ton of respect for from day one.
The songs for Oblivious were written over a pretty long period of time. It’s kinda hazy as far as the exact timeline. I was working out of town a lot and the guys made me demos of basic arrangements of the songs. I wrote all the lyrics and rearranged some of the structures to fit my lyric ideas a little better. Most of the arrangements were perfect before I even put my stamp on them. When I joined the band, Garrett gave me a demo with three songs that needed lyrics. The first song ended up being “Prick of Misery,” which we recorded for the Innervenus Music Collective‘s compilation disc, Iron Atrocity Vol. 1. The second song was the title-track, “Oblivious to Ruin.” We jammed on the third song but never ended up using it.
3. How was the band’s time in the studio? The recording seems to capture the songs perfectly, sounding natural and nasty. How long were you at Calfax Alley, and what was the recording process like?
The band’s time in the studio was brief but awesome. All the instruments were recorded live. With a few punch-ins for guitar solos here and there. What you hear on the album is a live take of the band jamming out with my vocals recorded separately. All seven songs, instrumentally, were recorded in one day. The vocals took three sessions. Without incriminating ourselves too much, I will say that we did partake in some illicit substances to capture the right vibe while recording. We are all about the vibe and atmosphere.
4. This being your first outing with the band, and the band’s first full-length after the self-titled EP, how representative is it of the direction you guys want to go in? How do you see Vulture’s sound developing over the next couple records?
I think it is representative of our direction as far as the heaviness that is captured on the album. I don’t think we could lose that if we tried. I can see us keeping with the sludge but also adding more groove and melody. Maybe even some acoustic stuff. We want to record the next album on analog tape. Like some old ‘60s or ‘70s gear. If that’s even possible these days.
5. I know Pittsburgh has a few really killer heavy bands – Argus, Vulture, Sistered, etc. – but is there anyone you guys especially enjoy playing shows with? Any other bands from the area you’d recommend for outsiders to check out?
I love playing with Mockingbird. They are from Ohio, but they do play Pittsburgh from time to time. Fist Fight in the Parking Lot is a badass ‘Burgh band with some deep roots in the city. Molasses Barge are labelmates and good friends of ours. They groove it down and rip it up hard. Gene and Garrett have a band called Grisly Amputation. They may possibly be the fastest and heaviest band I can think of in Pittsburgh. Plus they have hands-down the coolest name.
6. Any other writing/recording in the works, show plans or closing word you want to mention?
We have a ton of shows coming up in and outside of Pittsburgh. Vulture is also planning on recording new songs for a split with Ohio’s DeathCrawl sometime in the near future. Check us out at facebook.com/vulturedoom for all the latest info.
I’m really excited about Gene and Garrett‘s Grisly Amputation full-length, which should be done very soon. My other band, Reduce to Ash, just laid down guitar tracks for our first full-length. It is going to crush.
Tags: Innervenus Music Collective, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, Vulture