When Oxalate roll through, you can taste murder in the air. The New York/New Jersey death metal quartet have quickly made a name for themselves within the scene by going full grotesque with their music. The band’s songs hit that beautiful sweet spot between atmospheric and absolutely crushing, with moments of looming eeriness quickly giving way to bludgeoning breakdown riffs and swirling, steely solos. It’s a goddamn shame that COVID-19 has grounded all live shows, because this is the kind of band you want to see in a sweaty room beneath a rippling banner featuring a moldering severed head.
The band’s new video for their track “Necrotic Descent,” featured on their new four-way split with Perpetuated, Blood Spore, and Vivisect that dropped last month via Blood Harvest, is like the stream of consciousness that most metalheads experience during the month of October. A flurry of horror footage and imagery, it immerses viewers in not one of the scary movies they loved as youth, but all of them at once. In that way, it’s a celebration of death metal fandom, as much about gore and death as it is about those of us who live for that shit.
Before watching our exclusive premiere of the video, we reached out to Oxalate to find out exactly what makes them tick, gurgle, and spew:
The “Necrotic Descent” video is an awesome horror montage — was there a method to which films you chose to include?
Zakk Gilbert, guitars: I had worked with Tage from Mind Decay Productions on our last video and we developed a good system. I just throw him a metric shit-ton of horror movies, scenes, and historical footage, and he puts it to the music and edits it to perfection. I am a horror movie and horror book junkie, and a lot of times I will see a scene and just be like, I NEED TO WRITE A RIFF TO THIS NOW. I just love how certain scenes from horror movies give the music a whole another level of intensity.
Do Oxalate go in for the classic death metal love of horror movies, or do you just enjoy the gruesome imagery?
ZG: A lot of riff ideas come to my while reading horror books by Thomas Ligotti, David J Schow, Clive Barker, Brian Evenson, Arther Machen, Gwendolyn Kiste, Richard Gavin, and JG Ballard. I am heavily inspired by literature, sometimes even more so then horror movies. There is something to a book where you can paint your own nightmarish image in your head that with the right author’s guidance can lead to unlocking mental doors so scary that even the best horror movie can’t compare.
Devon Ray, bass and vocals: Horror has influenced a lot of our lyrical content as well as some of our artwork. Movies can be viewed as an escape artform, and we love where horror movies, games, books, and other pieces in the horror genre can take you. “Necrotic Descent”‘s lyricism stems from a game I grew up playing called Blood (1997), and the lyrics are in the first person of the protagonist. That game is an over-the-top horror first-person shooter splatter gore fest. It’s chock full of references/homages to tons of horror movies like The Shining, Evil Dead, [Tombs of the] Blind Dead, and horror writers like Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, Clive Barker, et cetera, and so we’ve gone reference-ception with that song in particular. Other influences in our songs are from other movies like Cannibal Holocaust, the short story “The Outsider” by Lovecraft, Italian horror like Demons, and more.
What’s it like being a death metal band in the NY/NJ region? How do those places inform the music?
ZG: Our location informs our music for sure. NJ and NYC are gritty and real. I like to think there is nothing phony about our music — no rehash, no try-hard shit, no weak riffs. Just like NYC — ain’t nobody got time for any of that bullshit! I also am grateful to have been born in this area; the musical scenes and musicians in these areas are numerous and talented, and it’s a constant inspiration. Also, so many good local death metal, punk, and grind bands like Organ Dealer, Skullshitter, Replicant, Warthog, Pink Mass, High Cost, Dutchguts, Unhinge, Concussion, and so many others that keep the fire lit under our asses with their excellence.
DR: Being in between NJ/NY is sick because of how many bands there are. There are lots of places to play and bands generally go back and forth between both places. We’re not far from Philly either, so we do tons of local travel which makes things flexible during non-tour times, and we see a lot of the same people at other shows between both areas. We rehearse in NJ in a spot that was once a big industrial group of factories, so everything is very brick and mortar and kind of gets monotonous — aka zero distractions and 100% focus on getting there to rehearse/write all day. Traffic sucks too, so that probably influences our writing in some shape or form as well. There is also an element of escapism when we occasionally head up north into New York state, into the woods.
Is there a vibe or a tone you want every Oxalate song to have?
ZG: Evil and fucking heavy. NO WEAK RIFFS. NO THROW AWAY PARTS. INCANTATION, MORBID ANGEL, CROWBAR, CELTIC FROST IN A BLENDER, with a sprinkling of the esoteric and the occult.
DR: Dark and dank decrepitation.
Chris Albertsen, guitars: I’ve always wanted to sound as big as possible and almost outer-worldly. Music is a journey and we are glad to be able to write the soundtrack for people who enjoy it.
Jackie Betancourt, drums and vocals: As far as sound, I personally aim towards a more old-school raw death metal tone with an imperfect kind of deal, and influences of bands such as Purulence, Morbid Angel, Death, Pestilence, Skinless. As for vibes, I’d say we go for a sense of repugnant horror and a vile type of feel, but always with a bit of groove in that bitch for sure!
How has quarantine been for the band? Has the time been used to write? Have you guys digitally practiced?
CA: Quarantine for us has been tough as it has for many other artists. But there are also some pros about it. It gave us a lot more time to sit down and work on our craft, plus be able to sit and write all new music. It’s been challenging for sure without playing live gigs, but we’ve adapted to it and will continue moving forward.
DR: Unlike some other projects, Oxalate tends to write/rehearse better in person. Too much remote writing requires precise sequencing, and after a while it feels stale playing by yourself. That being said, just like pre-COVID times, whenever we come up with an idea or part of a song on our own, we bring it to the table the next time we see each other in person. That’s always helped us a lot, and we tend to just click and make things happen quick, so that’s super important. We’ve been doing a lot of writing on our own and I think the isolation that everyone in general experienced or is still experiencing has started to feel more collective, and it’s made us even more driven to get more written when we’re finally in person
How did the four-way split come about?
ZG: I believe Blood Spore got signed to Blood Harvest Records, and then they and Blood Harvest came up with the idea to do this four-way split, which we were so humbled to be asked to be apart alongside the cream of the crop of underground death metal, Perpetuated, Vivisect, and Blood Spore.
What’s it like working with Blood Harvest, a Swedish label, to put this out?
ZG: It was cool to have a song put out on a label that hosts our absolute fucking family, the Irish savages Zealot Cult!
Finally, what are you being for Halloween? What does an Oxalate Halloween look like?
ZG: A CANDY BOWL FILLED WITH ACID AND SHROOMS. I go into a dark, dimly-lit room with a plugged-in guitar and amp and Moog ready to go. OH WAIT, THAT’S A RIGHT NOW.
CA: I love Halloween personally. Although I haven’t chosen my costume, this year I’m leaning towards being the Slaytanic Star child, an homage to Paul Stanley from Kiss. But some freaks are out all year round. As for what an Ixalate Halloween would look like? Lots of booze, blood and death metal for sure.
JB: I honestly don’t know what a Halloween during this time would even look like since everything is quite dreadful as it is, but if I do dress I’d like to be some grim-looking nun with guts all out and about. But to be fair, I always end up being a Star Wars character or some nerdy shit.
DR: I’m starting to think I can pull off Jack Torrance from The Shining after being so cooped up this year indoors!
Check out our exclusive premiere of Oxalate’s “Necrotic Descent” video below:
Oxalate’s four-way split with Blood Spore, Vivisect, and Perpetuated is available for purchase on Blood Harvest Records’ Bandcamp.