New Jersey technical death metal outfit Dystrophy released their second LP, Wretched Host, independently this past June, but they’ve recently teamed up with Selfmadegod to give the album a proper worldwide release. And thank you, Selfmadegod, for that! Because Wretched Host is quite the impressive slab of modern tech-death, mixing traditional influences with stunning technicality and a fresh, progressive approach. In this interview with American Aftermath, we chat with guitarist Peter Lloyd about Wretched Host, working with the label and how Dystrophy’s sound has evolved since their 2010 debut, as well as the challenges of writing complex, technical music and more.
What’s the story behind Dystrophy’s inception?
Dystrophy began a little over eight years ago at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. At the time, I was playing in my first band (a metal-core act named Contra Fate) and wanted to play music that was more aggressive and technically demanding. I recruited the other members through people at the local radio station and social media. After a lineup change that saw the original drummer and bass player depart, the current incarnation of the band has remained constant since 2008.
You initially self-released your second full-length, Wretched Host. How does it feel to have it get a proper worldwide release through Selfmadegod?
Working with Karol and Selfmadegod has been awesome. Ever since that first practice in 2007, I’ve been hoping to share this music with people all over the world. For that to finally be happening is beyond rewarding, especially this album – I’ve never been more proud of a piece of music.
What was the writing and recording process like for this album?
We began writing for Wretched Host in early 2012, immediately after New Brunswick Death Metal Alliance was released (a split cassette with our good friends Dethroned Emperor). The main goal in composing this album was to create an overall mood that persisted throughout each song, creating not a collection of individual tracks but one long piece broken up into movements. We were very meticulous in composition and structure, and made sure riffs and ideas made sense in the larger picture. I recorded and mixed the album at my studio/band rehearsal space over the course of five months. It was extremely demanding, both physically and mentally, but I couldn’t be happier with the final result.
Did you have a specific musical direction in mind for Wretched Host?
The first song written for the album was “Singularity,” and looking back now that song definitely set the bar for the rest to follow. It had elements of everything I was trying to accomplish: technically demanding death metal riffs, meandering/almost psychedelic interludes and slower groove parts with a healthy dose of skronk. During the writing of the album I was going through a lot of emotional and mental tribulations, and a lot of that came to fruition in the composition. I wanted to translate all of the negativity into this record; it was extremely therapeutic.
How does this release compare to your first album, Chains of Hypocrisy?
Chains to me always felt like a collection of ideas, a compilation or “best of” up to that point in time, rather than a complete album. There were aspects of power, speed, tech-death and melo-death throughout the whole album, resulting in a disjointed experience for the listener. The recording process was also very tumultuous, and resulted in a final product we weren’t totally happy with.
The band’s sound has definitely evolved since the last album. How do you feel you’ve progressed over the years?
At our inception we were focused more on writing songs that were technically demanding and difficult to play. This caused the overall structure and composition to fall by the wayside in favor of riffs and ideas that would impress someone visually. Starting with the NBDMA split, we really started studying the structure and flow of the songs we were writing. Meticulous attention to detail was key to crafting pieces of music that satisfied us both from a musician and audience standpoint.
When it comes to writing technical death metal, is it ever a challenge to maintain a balance and not go overboard with the complexity?
Definitely! We had this problem a lot in the early years, and still do at times. For me, this also has a lot to do with growing as a music listener. In the early days of the band, I was obsessed with Death, Pestilence, Coroner and Nocturnus: bands which put a great deal of emphasis on technical prowess and showmanship. I find it hard to listen to ultra technical metal bands nowadays, as I feel the music lacks emotion. It’s almost like a contest as to who can play a guitar with the most strings and how many sweeping arpeggios you can pull off in four-and-a-half minutes. I get the most enjoyment from music that elicits strong emotional responses, whether that is sadness, grief, aggression, or euphoria. If I can’t feel something from the music, it’s meaningless to me.
What are your influences?
Everyone in the band draws from a wide range of influences, which totally rules. Matt (drums) loves 311 and The Police, while Greg (bass/vocals) is totally into ’80s and ’90s rap. Pete B (guitar) is into everything, from really technical bands like Obscura and Beyond Creation to stoner/doom bands like Sleep and Yob. Personally, the guitar playing of Steeve Hurdle (Gorguts, Negativa, Purulence) and Denis “Piggy” D’Amour (Voivod) have had an ineffable influence on me as a musician. Bands like Gorguts, Voivod, Cryptopsy, Human Remains, Demilich, Deathspell Omega and Damonacy were all influential for Wretched Host.
Lyrically, is there a specific theme or concept behind Wretched Host?
The concept of Wretched Host loosely tells a narrative of the downfall of modern society and losing one’s humanity through the overuse of technology and self-destruction. Underlying themes of the album include mental illness, depression and alien manipulation.
What’s next for Dystrophy?
Writing! We’re taking the rest of the year off to start writing for our next album. There are a lot of ideas already flowing from the riff bank, and we’re all excited to get back into the rehearsal studio and build upon the monster that was Wretched Host. I’m also looking forward to seeing the response in the coming weeks to the album, and hopefully a European tour will be in the works!
Thanks for the interview! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
These were great questions, thanks for having us on American Aftermath.
Wretched Host is out now via Selfmadegod.