ANDY CHATS WITH BLACKENED DEATH METALLERS ABYSSAL FROST
The Metal Age: Hi guys, thanks for taking time out to do this interview with me. Could you tell us a
little about Abyssal Frost?
John Stone: Conceptually, Abyssal Frost to me is essentially a dark opera, an ominous fable told through
music. The lyrics for the Antarsia EP are based on a tragic, epic poem I wrote shortly after college in
2010, which is about the time that we all met. It tells the tale of a doomed arctic expedition, and the
madness, isolation, mutiny and cannibalism the crew experience (while setting the stage for a larger
Kenan Kerr: John and I had been on each other’s radar for years, sharing the stage in a couple bands.
He played in a grindcore band called Columns at the time, while Scott (Shelton, drums), Sheldon (Smith,
vocals) and myself (guitar) played in a progressive death metal band called Wrath and Rapture back in
John: Fast forward to 2015 and I had moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, and was playing in a few
bands. I ended up filling in on guitar in a stoner metal band called Green Fiend, and in the first rehearsal
I saw that the other guitarist was Kenan lol. I ended up joining full time on guitar and taking over lyric
duty and we had great chemistry as a band. Kenan and I became instant buds and over the course of our
3-year tenure in Green Fiend together realized we had so much in common musically, emotionally and
spiritually that working together on artistic projects was almost like the call of divinity.
Kenan: John and I instantly clicked over our shared love of death and black metal. Around this time I was
not doing very well mentally, and was spending a lot of time very fucked up on drugs and alcohol.
Luckily, I still spent a lot of time playing guitar and writing riffs at 5 in the morning, which formed the
first few Abyssal Frost tracks. I had a pretty specific idea in mind for the sound and subject matter, and I
knew that Scott and Sheldon would be the only options musically, and John was the perfect person to
bring the story to life.
John: When we discussed what he wanted as far as intellectual content he knew that it needed real
weight and obviously a dark overall tone to the content but he didn’t want to get caught up in the
trappings of standard black, death, or power metal. We love songs about Vikings and dragons and
satanic black metal, but that wasn’t what we were going for. Besides, we are an American band, so why
not write a darkly metaphorical new American myth? A concept album that tells a story but also asks
questions about the depths a person will go to survive, the isolation of true loneliness, and the risks of
searching for knowledge, all set against the backdrop of American historical fiction. Then I remembered
the poem that I had never quite finished almost ten years ago, and when I told Kenan the synopsis his
head about exploded. We’re telling the tale of the Abyssal Frost.
TMA: What bands inspired you to play extreme music?
Kenan: I was into the “heavier” mainstream bands of the 90’s like Rage Against The Machine and
Deftones, and learned to play guitar while I was listening to that kind of music. In 2000 when I was in
high school a friend burned me Prayer For Cleansing’s album The Rain in Endless Fall and At The Gates’
Slaughter of the Soul. This was the first time I had really found what I was looking for musically. The riffs,
the speed, the aggression and the melody completely struck me and from that point I was obsessed.
Emperor, Dimmu Borgir, Ensiferum, Dying Fetus, Cannibal Corpse and Opeth were probably my favorite
bands. I always look for the melody mixed with the brutality. And RIFFS.
John: I was always drawn to the darker stuff even as a kid. I’m an 80s baby and I’ve always been a book
nerd and really into how language can be played around with. So honestly as a white kid from the
suburbs with a chip on his shoulder and a penchant for cool turns of phrase, my first musical love was
rap. And like I always do when I fall in love with a genre I tend to search out the darkest, most
controversial, “scariest”; or most legit sources of the style, so NWA, particularly Ice Cube, was one of my
early musical influences. It was also at this time when I heard my uncle playing a Sabbath record so that
started my journey towards metal. Stuff like Nine Inch Nails brought me to Marilyn Manson, but then I’d
hear Deicide or Morbid Angel and that would lead me to Suffocation or Cradle of Filth. Then you find a
band like Emperor and that opens a whole world of black metal bands…it’s all an evolution and a quest
for satisfaction. The combination of talent, artistic originality, intelligent content and theatricality is
what I look for in bands that influence me. And riffs hahaha.
TMA: Blackened Death metal seemed to have fallen off the metal radar for a while, why do you think
John: Oversaturation. Black and/or death metal will always have a place in extreme music even if the
form evolves somehow. But I think people just get burnt out on hearing the same sounding shit shoved
down their throats. I think they’re bored with bands not trying to evolve the genre or expand what
extreme metal can be. I love Watain and Gorgoroth and Behemoth. I don’t love 50 other bands
copy-pasting what those bands are already doing and trying to sell it as “TRVE LEGIT KVLT” black metal.
Kenan: I agree, and styles and influences will always ebb and flow. My favorite bands are brutal
American death metal and melodic Scandinavian black metal, so the music I like to write tends to be
somewhere in between the two. We didn’t really set out to write blackened death metal per se, it’s
just what came out and the term that best describes the sound. Something that sucks is the labeling of
sub genres for the sake of it, and I do think that a lot of people get a little too hung up on labels and
only “listen” to a certain genre while being put off on others, even though they are ticking a lot of the
TMA: What is the scene like in the US for extreme metal? Is it still a big thing to be extreme or have
things mellowed out?
Kenan: It’s almost hard to remember what the scene is like haha, this has been the longest period I’ve
gone without playing or going to a show since I was in high school. The scene is still going strong, I think
that doom is probably the most prolific genre at the moment (which I love) but I will definitely be really
happy to see a resurgence of brutal and blazing fast music come back to the forefront. There are some
good bands in NC right now that are getting big and leading the charge of blast beat based metal, like
Worsen and Aether Realm, and when shows are a thing again, I know I’ll be front row. And hopefully
sharing a stage as well.
John: Well, obviously the live scene for extreme metal is currently at a standstill since bands can’t really
play shows, though there is definitely still an audience for extreme metal or extreme music in all forms.
But the concept of what is “extreme” has totally changed due to the current state of the world. Take
amazing bands like Ulcerate or Portal; both incredible bands, and both certainly would be considered
“extreme” by any traditional understanding of what that used to mean. But now you’ve got really cool
acts like H09909 and Ghostmane who are aggressively fusing trap rap and hip hop with thrash and
almost Godflesh or Ministry-style industrial, creating a whole new type of extreme. Death Grips? Those
dude’s music is super intense, shouldn’t that qualify it as extreme? And if extreme means controversial,
right now it seems like the most “extreme” song on the planet is WAP by Cardi B and Megan Thee
Stallion. The search for extreme art will never stop and the forms of extremity art takes will always
evolve, so it’s like an ouroboros, an never ending circle of creation and consumption. It’s beautiful,
TMA: When the Covid pandemic is conquered (if that is even possible), do you have plans to tour?
John: we’re certainly currently discussing doing live shows and when and how that’s going to happen. As
for touring that’s all still up in the air I think but we are planning on trying to do some live performances.
Kenan: We certainly want to play live and do some regional tours and festivals once possible. Scott,
Sheldon and I toured pretty heavily in our former bands, and while I absolutely love being on the road it
can be brutally difficult. It’s strange releasing music without having played a show, and something I
never really thought I would do. Once we are able to play live it will probably get our gears turning, and
hopefully people will respond and want to see us on the road.
TMA: Has the Covid pandemic been a creative phase for you, meaning out of boredom been more
active with your songwriting?
John: I’ve stayed active artistically. I wrote a new EP with Green Fiend that we are going to try and get
recorded before the end of the year. I’ve been painting and writing quite a bit. And I’ve actually begun
conceptualizing the story and lyrics for the next Abyssal Frost album….it’s gonna be insane.
Kenan: I’ve been playing a lot of guitar, both practicing the existing Abyssal Frost material and working
on writing new material. I finally put together a desktop computer and have started learning Pro-Tools,
to hopefully expedite my writing process. I always just recorded riffs on my phone and pieced them
together in my head, which has turned out well enough but is a slow process. Working with the guys on
Abyssal Frost has inspired me greatly, and the continuation of the story John is putting together has me
really excited to keep weaving this tale, so I am trying to get more efficient in my demo and writing
TMA: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today, I wish you well in the future and congratulations
once again on your awesome new album
Kenan: I appreciate it! We’re really excited about the response so far, thanks so much to everyone who
has listened and enjoyed the record.
John: My pleasure. And thank you all for listening.