NY/NJ Experimental metal band Black Table turned a lot of heads with the release of their first EP Sentinel in 2012. However, they have been seemingly dormant for nearly two years, after finishing up their last round of shows – a full US tour with Germany’s Downfall of Gaia, in fall of 2013. Despite outward appearances the group remained active, meticulously crafting a debut full length record intense and jagged enough to saw through your bones. The forthcoming work, entitled Obelisk is a testament to their painstaking attention to detail and ability to craft complex and dynamic sonic textures that few other bands are capable of. Today, they have released their first teaser for the album, in the form of a two minute long video featuring an excerpt of the track Cromagnon. We were fortunate to speak with vocalist and guitarist Mers Sumida about Obelisk, and the making of the video, which can be viewed here:
First and foremost, what has Black Table been up to since 2013? Obviously, the new record has been in the works, but I understand there was also a lineup shift in the band as well. Can you flesh out what’s been going on while you kept a low profile?
Haha, yeah. After our month tour with Downfall of Gaia we returned to our previous lives and dealt with life. I had to recover from a shitty lung infection that took a few months, and we all had major changes and challenges to attend to. Mike joined Downfall of Gaia, Ryan joined So Hideous, bassist DJ Scully from Dead Empires joined us, replacing Matt Mellon and I had moved to upstate New York from New Jersey. During that time it was a lot of transition for all of us as individuals. We also all live pretty far from one another now so that was difficult. Meanwhile we have been working on the new album.
There have been no live appearances during the time that Obelisk was being written. Was that an important part of the writing process for the band, an uninterrupted block of time to work on new ideas and approaches?
Yes definitely. We wanted to focus on just writing. We were in agreement to take as much as time as we felt we needed. I had started the preliminary song sketches in December of 2013, but it took time for the songs to become what we wanted, to flesh out and start breathing on their own. We don’t jam when we write, instead so we sit down, record riffs, sections, bridges, motifs and compose, refine, edit – ad nauseam. Then take it to the practice space to refine more. It’s tedious and laborious…I love it all but it requires huge blocks of time and patience.
Can you talk a little bit about the content of the video and the excerpt of Cromagnon? There seems to be a strong narrative at work; is that indicative of a theme in Obelisk or is it specific to just this song?
“Obelisk” is an expression of ancient mythology, the early existence of humanity and suffering as lost ritual. CroMagnon is inspired by a Mohawk Indian fire legend. It’s basically a myth about the creation of fire and the ritual of a boy becoming a man. The video is a young man in the throes of a ritual, an altered state and his final spiritual transcendence with his fathers fathers and The Great Spirit. I chose Mohawk Indian especially because New York used to be their homelands and sometimes when I stand outside my house, when the air is thick and hot, exploding in green and bird song, the rustling of animals, I get this vague sense of what it was like hundreds of years ago – and it’s sad and fragile. I saw a bear near my house and because of that I chose the Fire Legend. In the myth the son prays and abstains from food waiting for a vision. He gets 6 days to accomplish that goal but five days go by and he fears he is going to fail. But a bear appears and validates his identity as part of the tribe. Many other things happen too but it was the bear that pulled me to that story.
How did the Cromagnon video come about? It appears to be a collaborative effort including members of the band and several other individuals, can you give some detail on who was behind it and how the process unfolded?
We wanted to share what we had been up to and what the new album is going to be like so we thought a video was a great way to do that. We sent it to everyone who downloaded our EP on bandcamp (as long as they gave us permission to email them) at 8 am this morning. We have received so much support on there we wanted to send a small thank you.
The Son in Ritual is Paul Butler, the guitarist and vocalist for Yesod and Hellkeeper. He was wonderful to direct. This video came from an image I had carried in my head for awhile. I can’t tell you where it came from, just one of those things that materialize in your mind and hang around. I asked Mark O’Brien who plays drums in HUSH, and does video for his project Scum Couch to help me make the video and he was really down with the concept. It was collaborative but Mark set up the shots and filmed while I directed. Later he sat down with me for a few hours and taught me the basics on how to use the editing program and let me go at it. Mark is a wild and unique dude, I loved working with him.
Is there a timeline for the release of Obelisk, or a return to live performances for the band? What can listeners expect from the current incarnation of Black Table?
We have our first show in over 2 years coming up at the Shadow Woods Fest in September. I’m really excited about it because the setting of playing in the woods (hopefully at night) fits right in with the theme of “Obelisk” – feral, primal and shamanistic. After that we will be back to the regime of touring and playing shows. As for the current incarnation…I’d say it’s heavier but still focused on thematic narratives and odd timings. We’ve grown a lot in these last few years and I think, I hope, it shows in what we’ve done. We have also added an element to our live shows that is going to change how we play and interact and we hope create a unique experience for the audience and us. Ryan has been getting into building arduinos so he’s building the device. For us Black Table is a living environment that we are always trying to expand upon and that is a challenging and fun experiment.
Thank you to Mers for her time. Be on the lookout for additional details regarding the making and release of Black Table’s Obelisk at www.facebook.com/blacktableband and stream their 2012 release Sentinel here.