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Interview : Considered Dead Zine Vs The Stygian Oath

Via Considered Dead Zine : "He's in literally all of your favourite bands, and he’s one of the best guitar players on the planet right now. PHIL TOUGAS has released a staggering number of albums with his array of projects in the last year alone which cover a variety of sounds from one end of death metal with the highly technical death metal of EQUIPOISE to the most spooky and atmospheric end with CHTHE’ILIST, and much much more…

CD - Hi Phil, how's it going? First off thanks for doing these questions for Considered Dead!

You recently got back from a tour with First Fragment in Europe and as well as some shows with Funebrarum in Mexico right?

PHIL - Thank you for the interview. Diluvium Europa was a huge success. Touring on a nightliner and playing 23 shows in 10 different countries with no days off is the ultimate experience. The pressure was immense at first because the bands we toured with (OBSCURA, FALLUJAH, ALLEGAEON) are all world-class shredders with years of touring experience. The pressure died down pretty quickly though, because everyone were easy-going, pleasing to be around with and we had a blast every night. The tour routine was very easy to adjust to. You wake up in a different city every day, load in, eat the catering served at the venue, chill for a bit, soundcheck, go on stage and play, get off stage, meet fans, sign autographs, sell merch, load out, party/chill in the tour bus until 4 am, go to sleep in your bunk, then repeat. I’d have no problems doing this for 6 months straight. I left Europe with many amazing memories and stories that I will remember all my life. Following Diluvium Europa, I went home for a week then I flew to Portland, Oregon to record my parts for the new FUNEBRARUM album. Immediately after, we flew to Mexico to play a festival called “Total Death Over Mexico City” and we played several shows in the surrounding regions. Despite how short that mini-tour was, it was actually even more memorable than Europe. I got laid almost every night, ate delicious food all the time, discovered sick new bands, scored some rare vinyl and I visited some truly awe-inspiring places. We stood amongst the ancient ruins of Teotihuacan and Tenochtitlan and we could barely grasp what was before us. One thing I love there is the metal scene too. They’re so goddamn dedicated to metal it’s unreal. Of course, aside from the HDX Circus in Mexico City, the venues were pretty trashy compared to what I had just experienced in Europe. In Queretaro for example, we played in an outdoor squat right next to some train tracks. A train rode by during DENIAL’s set and obviously we were all very amused because we couldn’t hear anything else and it amped up the crowd even more. Of course, the guys in DENIAL laughed back at us too because that same train came back as we started our set with “Dormant Hallucination” ! The conductor blasted our ears off and threw the horns at us while we were playing. I had to watch Charlie (our drummer) to guide myself through the song and get back into the rhythm because the train was louder than all of our amps as well as the PA and the drums combined. The fest in Tultepec was rad, too. We played in a huge backyard and the people that lived there made homemade tacos for the bands and attendees. CD - What did you think of the UK? PHIL - Wasn’t crazy about it, and neither were the rest of my bandmates in FIRST FRAGMENT. The weather was consistently horrible and the gig in Bristol was easily one of the worst shows I’ve ever played in my entire life. We were much better received in Glasgow, London and Manchester for sure but the crowds were nothing like Paris or Milan for example (no offense to our UK fans, we love you). We had a special connection with the French audience and I think it’s because we’re a Quebecois band and we sing all our songs in french. We sold more merch there than the headliners in french cities if that tells you anything. It was the same in Italy, Portugal and certain parts of Germany too, for some reason. It was like playing in our hometown, but in a different country...quite surreal. On the other hand, in other countries like Spain, Switzerland or East Germany (Leipzig), people didn’t give two shits about us hahaha. Even if you’re part of a huge tour package, being that one unknown band that opens the night is always a huge gamble and crowds never have the same reaction to your music from one city to the other. We all gotta start somewhere, and at least we made all our money back. It was a good taste of things to come. We will start recording our next album sometime this year and there will definitely be a lot of tours happening after it drops that’s for sure. It’s a total shredfest yet nothing else sounds like it. CD - What's the lineup for Funebrarum? PHIL - Daryl Kahan - Vocals / Sam Osborne - Guitars / Phil Tougas - Guitars / Winslow - Bass / Charlie Koryn - Drums

CD - What's it like joining such a classic band that I can guess you already loved a lot prior? Also what was writing with them for the upcoming album like, did it seem natural as Funebrarum were already an influence in a lot of your own projects like Chthe'ilist etc? PHIL - FUNEBRARUM was my favorite band of the second wave of traditional death metal bands that emerged in the late 90s and early 2000s. I’ve been listening to them for 10 years prior to joining the band. Just one month before joining them, I was sitting in my room blasting “Beneath The Columns of Abandoned Gods” and playing Doom II and I was thinking to myself “I could totally play in that band”. A month later, I opened my inbox and Daryl messaged me to ask me to join the band. Last march, we recorded 10 songs that will be used for our upcoming album due later this year via PULVERISED RECORDS as well as a split EP. I wrote two of these songs, and contributed individual riffs, arrangements and structure ideas on all 8 other songs. I was extremely involved in the songwriting process and I’m glad I could leave my mark this way. We also recorded some tracks containing riffs written in the 90s by both Daryl and Nick Orlando - founding member of the band alongside Daryl and also the former EVOKEN / FUNEREUS guitarist. We made new songs out of these old riffs while at the same time bringing in some of my newer riffs to tie everything together. There’s also the songs that Charlie, Sam, Winslow & Daryl wrote before I joined the band. Sam’s riffs are utterly DEADLY, man. He’s only as old as me (if not younger) and knows more about making dark death metal riffs than a lot of death metal veterans out there. I also had the chance to leave my personal touch on these songs before going in and recording them. We brought these songs to life in the jam room and it truly felt like a full collaborative effort. In fact, we wrote so much material, we already have songs for the next LP. It is worth mentioning that the longest song and closing track on the album is probably the grimest and darkest death metal song I’ve ever written. That specific song has some nods to GOREMENT and ABHORRENCE but with my own personal twist. The songwriting style in FUNEBRARUM is completely different from CHTHE’ILIST. CHTHE’ILIST’s music is more complex, more eclectic, and evokes dark medieval fantasy and nightmarish otherworldly soundscapes. FUNEBRARUM is rawer, more crushing, more straight to the point and evokes images of ancient, bitter evil spirits lurking in the deepest depths of the darkest catacombs. We share similar sources of inspirations though, that’s for sure. Something worth mentioning also is that we definitely kept the grind/old school hardcore punk undertones of the early material and it sets it apart from CHTHE’ILIST quite a bit. It’s part of Daryl’s musical background. He was in the legendary hardcore punk band CITIZEN’S ARREST back in the 80s. Aside from his morbid lyrics and the dark riffs he writes for the band, there was always a little bit of those punk elements in FUNEBRARUM’s sound thanks to him. I also feel like this will be the band’s best album. It has the doom-laden, rotten feel and crushing mid-tempo riffs of the first album and the fast, angry, grinding riffs of the 2nd album, all combined together.

CD - So in September you are going to be doing double duty at Killtown Deathfest. What is to be expected from Chthe'ilist and Funebrarum? New material? I'm especially looking forward to Chthe'ilist as it's been much more a studio band before now with only a few live shows occuring. PHIL - Only FUNEBRARUM will be playing new material. Yes, CHTHE’ILIST is more of a studio band for now. I intend to change that after our 2nd album is out. We also have a session drummer now, as our main drummer Phil Boucher is rarely available to play any shows due to a very busy touring schedule with BEYOND CREATION. Getting to work with a session drummer will make a huge difference and will facilitate things for us in the future. It’s very ironic because our session drummer is also the previous drummer of BEYOND CREATION before Phil Boucher took over. CHTHE’ILIST is in the process of adopting a new and even more eclectic sound for the next album so things are going very slow in that department for now. It will be darkened, epic medieval death metal with bigger emphasis on doom, black and neoclassical metal undertones and with the same alien feel of the first album when it comes to the vocals, effects and atmosphere. CD - Do you reckon you will ever do live vocals for Chthe'ilist? Is switching from the cavern croaks to the more conventional growls very difficult?

PHIL - Switching between vocal styles isn’t that difficult. What is difficult for me is playing guitar and doing vocals at the same time. I’ve been practicing it for 8 years and I am not on the level I would like to be. I want to get better at it but in the meantime, having a session vocalist is preferable. We have two guys for that : Laurent Bellemare & François Toutée. Whenever either of them is unavailable, they fill-in for each other. They both sound quite different from one another but they both have crazy stage presence and extremely powerful vocals. I’d also be interested in working with different session vocalists in the future, depending on the country we play in. By doing so, I can fully focus on the riffs and bang my head non stop on stage as I usually do. I once considered just getting a full-time vocalist for the band’s recordings too but I am way too much of a control freak for that and it would inevitably alter the sound of the band way too much. I like to have our recordings retain a certain unique atmosphere and the vocals definitely contribute to that. For live shows however, CHTHE’ILIST is quite a different beast. The songs are played faster and more frantically. We play with more aggression, more dirt, we shred faster than on the recordings and we go over the edge more often. There are no costumes, no stage props or any gimmicks. It’s just a constant assault on your senses and non stop headbanging. I remember seeing someone online describing us as an atmospheric band, saying that we “probably use 15 pedals live” and that we sound “dissonant”. We don’t and we are not “dissonant”. These posers don’t know shit. I was already playing in fast as fuck death metal bands by age 15, playing shows with MARTYR, AUGURY, CRYPTOPSY and the likes, while these falses were in their metalcore phase or discovering shite bands like Burzum through I guess that’s my Canadian side showing and part of my musical background. CHTHE’ILIST doesn’t sound like Canadian Death Metal at all but the mentality is still ingrained into the roots of the band and it shows in the aggression we put forth live, both sonically and in the way we move on stage and present ourselves. CD - I love the lyrics for Chthe'ilist a TON! They read like short stories ascribed by Lovecraft himself and can be a breath of fresh air amongst many other bands who drown their words in complicated interpretations. Can you talk more about Chthe'ilist story concepts? Will the Majora Mythos return on the second album? PHIL - The Majora Mythos-themed lyrics will not return on the 2nd album. It will return on another shorter release. The lyrics on the 2nd album will be a continuation of the stories I created on Le Dernier Crépuscule & Passage Into the Xexanotth. All of these songs, save for “The Voices from Beneath the Well” & “Tales of the Majora Mythos” are connected together and they involve some of the same recurrent characters so I want to expand on the lore I created and go further in depth. CHTHE’ILIST's lyrics are tales of unspeakable horrors set in an alternate futuristic timeline where mankind has fallen back into the medieval dark ages. In this timeline, humans are on the verge of extinction as their kingdoms are in constant war with one another, living in the constant dread of the wrathful deities that reign over the lands and the horrific entities that lurk beneath the soil and the barren plains outside the castle walls at night. These same entities come from an alternate dimension called “Eil’udom”. Eil’udom is a dream world crossing over with the dimension that is perceived as “reality”. It is born out of the twisted minds and nightmares of men and women alike. Its very existence is fueled by the morbid imagination of mankind, as well as our fears, hate and perversions. As long as humanity lives, Eil’udom will continue to feed upon our subconscious minds and expand until the world is but a decayed wasteland entirely inhabited by unfathomable atrocities from the netherworld.

CD - I remember hearing some rumors about splits with Chthe'ilist / Blood Incantation / Zealotry circling about which would have been killer if they ever landed! What ever happened with those, was there some time constraints or conflicting schedules that hindered it? PHIL - ZEALOTRY was only supposed to make a split with PUNISHED from Mexico. I recorded a song called “The Black Folio” for that specific release even before recording the band’s third album “At the Nexus of All Stillborn Worlds” and it was never released. I am not sure what happened with that song and I am not sure if the band will ever release it. CHTHE’ILIST was supposed to make a split with BLOOD INCANTATION but I called it off. We had a song for it but it ended up being re-written and most of it was eventually scrapped. I decided I would rewrite it at a later point and include it on the album instead of a split as the 2nd album should remain a top priority for me. If your band is gonna do a split with BLOOD INCANTATION, your material better be special as fuck because they’re pretty hard band to top. All of our other songs were too basic in comparison. In the meantime, we had the song “Passage Into the Xexanotth” and our cover of CREMATORY’s Beneath the Crypts recorded. We originally wanted to include both tracks on a split with SPECTRAL VOICE, but they were out of songs by the time we had our shit ready so we went ahead and released it as a 7” EP with Profound Lore. I’m glad we did that because the 7” sold out so damn quick, it’s pretty unreal. Urban Skytt from CREMATORY even wrote me to tell me how much he loved the cover and our music. I was obviously very honored. One thing that is also funny to me is people thought the splits were aborted because of some supposed non-existent beef between I and Paul Riedl from BI. Fucking nonsense, mate! Paul is the fucking man. I’ve been following SPECTRAL VOICE / BLOOD INCANTATION since way back, when the band was unsigned and completely off the radar and no one here would even namedrop them. Their music was nowhere to be found online and the only reason I was even able to hear their music is because I corresponded with Paul regularly and he’d send me rehearsal tapes of his bands for me to listen to. He was a fan of the CHTHE’ILIST demo as well. It was Andrew of VELNIAS/I SHALT BECOME that put me in contact with him actually.

CD - You have been very active on the internet through your social profiles for a time. For me personally I have discovered bands through you that I now adore, and I'm sure for others too you are a channel for that discovery. Obviously it's become such a standard part of today's music scene and affects how everyone does business, some might say that music has become such a passive activity in today's over saturated environment. What are your thoughts on the influence of social media? PHIL - Social media and the influence it has causes more harm than good, but it has its perks. You can discover tons of amazing bands through there if you have the time for it, but everyone has such a short attention span because of the over abundance of bands on the internet these days. The result : The musicians that get noticed the most are the ones that post daily shred videos of them playing random licks for 30 seconds, while those who spend more time crafting songs, doing playthroughs, making albums and shows, do not have the same reach on social media. I call it “musical fast food”. It’s totally good once in a while, but man, guys like Rock N Rolf Kasparek of RUNNING WILD or Will Tsamis of WARLORD are way more inspirational to me than Instagram shredder #43243 covering some tech death song at 10% over the original tempo of the song. As for me, I do my own thing. I’ve put my name as many as over 35 different releases and I am continuously creating new music. I think it’s always a good idea to show-off and promote what you do, but a lot of what I do is done behind the scenes and it’s fine the way it is. Thanks for the kind words by the way. I’m honored that there’s people finding bands through me because, that’s what metal is all about - spread sick riffs around. I’m passionate about the music I enjoy and get my inspiration from. Someone sent me a message the other day, to thank me for making him discover JOEY TAFOLLA, just because I mentioned him as my #1 inspiration in the thanklist inside the EQUIPOISE - Demiurgus album booklet. That put a smile on my face because JOEY is my favorite guitarist and he should be heard by more people. Barely no one talks about how fucking amazing Out of the Sun, Infra Blue and his guitar work in JAG PANZER are. There are so many sick ass musicians out there playing sick riffs and I want to discover them all and spread the word about them. Trevor Strnad does the same thing and he’s awesome for it. On the other hand, I loathe how so many “famous” musicians act like they’re above their peers and literally everyone else, not caring or knowing jackshit about the older guard that laid the groundwork for them, or the upcoming generation of sick bands that will dethrone them in a few years. I don’t care that your band is signed on Metal blade or Relapse and that you have 40 endorsements, you’re still a poser if you’re like that. If you’re not a passionate underground maniac at heart, chances are your music is devoid of passion. It reflects on your riffs, the quality of your solos and how inspired you are.

CD - Do you reckon it's a good thing with older extremely obscure bands like Timeghoul now being so accessible? Or has it taken away something special? PHIL - Depends on what you mean by “accessible” but I’m somewhere between the two. By all means, I think it’s great that a band like TIMEGHOUL can just be discovered more easily through the internet now. I had to dig pretty deep to find TIMEGHOUL though, because I was looking for a specific kind of atmosphere other bands didn’t have. They were not talked about as often as they are now and it made the search more challenging yet more rewarding. I’m thankful that someone out there dug into their old cassettes tapes and uploaded digital files somewhere on a random blogspot for me to find. Shortly after, I sent the digital files to my former SPHERES bandmate Frederic who cleaned up the tape-hiss from the demos and he did a remaster of the files. Only the two of us had that version and it sounds just as good, if not better than the version Dark Descent put out years later. I still like to try to find old, forgotten bands I’ve never heard before, whether if its trying to hunt down a rare vinyl/cd copy or trying to find some obscure demo on the depths of the internet. Sometimes it’s not even on the internet! I found bands like STEEL ANGEL, EN FORCE and TIMELORD (Not the same genre as TIMEGHOUL, but equally as obscure) by randomly buying CDs that aren’t even on youtube or on blogspots. STEEL ANGEL is one of those bands no one ever talks about. Imagine CRIMSON GLORY mixed with The Warning-era QUEENSRYCHE but with extremely technical solos. Fucking badass band. Finding stuff like this makes me feel like being on a treasure hunt.

CD - Did you hear that new band Desolation Realm from Norway? PHIL - Oh yeah, they’re SO great. One of my favorite demos I heard in a while. TIMEGHOUL doesn’t need to reform when we have these guys around. And please DON’T reform, guys. No offense, Jeff and Tony!

CD - I've seen you talk about this online a bit, you have yet another band called Atramentus. This is a funeral doom band right? You have a lineup and have started recording? Tell us a bit more about this. PHIL - I formed ATRAMENTUS in 2012 to create the most miserable music possible. I kept it under wraps for a long time. 5 years later, I got my keyboardist buddy François Bilodeau to join the band. Immediately after, Claude and Antoine of CHTHE’ILIST both joined the project to help bring my vision to life. After many setbacks, we recorded all of the stringed instruments in the winter before I left to tour Europe with FIRST FRAGMENT. I am at this very moment working on the drum arrangements with our drummer Xavier, who also plays in GEVURAH. It is nice to finally have a drummer almost 6-7 years later after I wrote the songs. It’s one thing to want to play something this slow (45-70 BPM are the average tempos), but it’s another to want to play something so depressing to listen to, so it took a while to secure a line-up. ATRAMENTUS’s material is so soul crushing and miserable, it will either make you weep or it will ruin your day after you’re done listening to it. It is a short LP (40-45 minutes) and a concept album about the death of the sun and the extinction of the entire human race, save for one warrior cursed with eternal life after making a pact with the gods. The events are described from the perspective of the main character as he endures the loss of everyone he has ever known, until he reaches his breaking point. Musically, you could draw comparisons to 90s US, Finnish and German Funeral Doom/Death metal. Truth be told, I fully expect people to inevitably compare us to certain bands as the scene for that genre is so small but I think we have our own sound. I cannot write Funeral Doom if it doesn’t come from a deep, dark, personal place. It comes in short bursts and during traumatic events only. I do suffer greatly from anxiety, and have been all my life. Writing for this band was the only way to express what was going through my head, in a more abstract way. It is safe to say that it won’t be a long-lived band, as I want to put away behind me the negativity that has fueled the composition of that album. I intend to make traditional doom metal next. I want to make something based on SOLITUDE AETURNUS’s first album, SCALD, early DOOMSWORD and MANOWAR’s slower songs on their first 4 albums. Epic doom version of early MANOWAR maybe? One can dream.

CD - Most people just form one band and focus everything on making that the best they possibly can. However I think it's great you have so many outlets for your musicality by being a part of many. Why did you make the decision to be in so many acts, or did it sort of happen by accident? PHIL - It was 100% by accident. Even back in 2008, I was already in 4 different bands. Everything just happened all at once. I met Gabriel in 2007 and we both created FIRST FRAGMENT. Soon after, he had me replace his bandmate in his other band SENSELESS SHELL, then I joined a band called SALVATION while I also played in a pop band from my school as a session musician. In 2010, SENSELESS SHELL disbanded and we kept the stronger material for future FIRST FRAGMENT releases as both bands had the same line-up. I joined an experimental/avant-garde death metal band called SPHERES a few months later and then as it disbanded the same year, I created CHTHE’ILIST. In the spring of 2011, I left SALVATION only to join ZEALOTRY while doing session work for various montreal bands. At the end of that year, I joined VENGEFUL. In 2012 I joined SEROCS, formed ATRAMENTUS, did live work for a Montreal black metal band and at this point I told myself “Damn, I guess this is the way this is gonna be” and it never stopped. I am now in 8 bands - FUNEBRARUM, CHTHE’ILIST, FIRST FRAGMENT, ETERNITY’S END, ATRAMENTUS, COSMIC ATROPHY, SEROCS, EQUIPOISE. Actually, the count is 9 if you count DDT. It’s an old heavy metal band, perhaps the very first to ever emerge from Quebec in the late 70s through the 80s. My father and my two uncles also played in that band. We re-united for one show only, when we played with EXCITER last year. We did a live DVD and it was probably one of the greatest shows I’ve ever played in my life. I’m not sure if the band will ever play other shows or record new material but let’s hope so because I’m all about playing traditional heavy metal. I always keep my main projects alive as much as I can, but I’ll always join more and more bands. At this current time, I have more projects with people from outside of my country than local musicians. There’s just so many bands and musicians from outside my province that I deeply admire. I want to play music with as many of them as possible, regardless of how far away their country is or how different their scene is from mine. I am fortunate to be experiencing that at the very moment. FUNEBRARUM is one of my main bands now as it is a band I write for, record for and tour with, and it’s a US based band. They were a band I listened to for years prior to joining them. Another example is COSMIC ATROPHY. I used to jam Codex Incubo in 2009 and 9 years later, I ended up making an album with Cory. And If you told me 10 years ago that I’d end up playing in a German Power/Speed Metal band with former NECROPHAGIST, HIBRIA and SYMPHONY X members I would’ve laughed in your face. Just shows that everything is possible now. Who knows who else I will end up collaborating with in the near future.

CD - I'm curious to hear what will become of Zealotry without your influence. Roman has now recruited Ray Brouwer, who's work with Garroted is sick! Could you tell us about your decision to leave Zealotry? PHIL - My departure from ZEALOTRY was necessary. I left the band so I wouldn’t hold them back in their plans. I also left to focus on current / new musical endeavors. I am in good terms with the rest of the band. I figured that after 3 albums, it was time for me to take my leave and give someone else with more time the chance to carry the torch. Ray Brouwer is fucking SICK and definitely the right choice for the band. The band’s 3rd album “At The Nexus of All Stillborn Worlds” was my best work with them hands down so I left the band on a high note. The first two albums sounded more like a weird, sloppy, deformed version of what finnish death metal would sound like but with Vigna-esque riffs. I have to admit that I have some trouble listening to the first album “The Charnel Expanse” nowadays. The songs on it are very special and unique, but we played very sloppily on it. Lille Gruber (DEFEATED SANITY)’s legendary drum performance on it made it awesome though, and Shaune Kelley’s (RIPPING CORPSE)’s sick ass guest solo on Apex Predator is the cherry on top of the sunday (I don’t need to say how fucking much I worship RIPPING CORPSE). The 2nd album “The Last Witness” has a special place in my heart. It’s even more unique and had more doom metal influences than any of our releases. It also has my favorite individual Zealotry songs ever, “Progeny Omega” and “Yliaster”. These songs are so goddamn ominous and solemn. Interestingly enough, I originally wrote the last half of Yliaster for VENGEFUL years before, but they turned it down. It was used for ZEALOTRY instead. Something similar happened with some of the riffs that ended up being in Voidspawn by CHTHE’ILIST. Let no riffs be wasted! Nexus, the third album, is a bit different but much more efficient and intense as a whole. It still has that dark vibe but it’s more punchy, precise and technical. It is inspired mainly by Florida Death Metal actually, ie BRUTALITY, MONSTROSITY, DISINCARNATE, EULOGY, MORBID ANGEL, etc. That’s also why I made my solos sound like JAG PANZER and RACER X - It’s all about that US Metal vibe!!! Some of my favorite leads I’ve ever done are on this record. The riffs were very challenging to record too, that’s for sure. An endless maze of contrapuntal insanity.

CD - What do you get up to in your spare time? Reading? Gaming? Fishing?! (If you have any with how many projects you're involved in!) How do you balance writing for all these bands? Is it simply a pure love for manifesting all the musical ideas you have and you don't even have to think about it? PHIL - I read a lot and I write short stories in my spare time. I’d like to expand on the CHTHE’ILIST lore and write an horror novel one day. I could do the same thing with the conceptual story that I came up with for the album “Unyielding” by ETERNITY’S END given how complex and eventful it is. But part of me thinks that one would fit in just as well (if not better) for a video game storyline instead. Keep this in mind also : The lore behind CHTHE’ILIST, ATRAMENTUS and ETERNITY’S END are all related to each other, just on a different timeline. There’s so many things I could do out of this. Speaking of which, I’m obviously very passionate about video games too. Video games is total riff fuel for me. I wouldn’t be the musician I am today without them. I do plan to work in the video game industry one day. I do try to keep myself up to date with what is happening in it right now, but truth is I haven’t played online games in a very long time and I don’t ever get involved in the online gamer community. A huge chunk of it is a cesspool of toxic masculinity anyway, assuming things haven’t changed since then. Never considered myself a gamer. I love hockey too, and I follow it when I can. I try to never miss any of Don Cherry’s verbal shitpostings when Coach’s corner comes on and I even watch past games from the early 2000s for nostalgia’s sake. That’s how nerdy I can get about it at times. My cousin is an Hockey superstar in France where he moved to after he was turned down from the leagues in North America. I used to play with him all the time when I was younger. My school friends and I also used to play hockey all the time in streets, school yards and etc. I eventually stopped playing sports following an accidental wrist injury that made me realize it could forever affect my guitar playing should it happen again.

CD - You speak extremely highly of the greatness of US Power Metal, which to some could seem unusual with most of your ventures being in the death metal genre. Why is it such a powerful influence on you, what qualities do you believe it brings to your playing? PHIL - It’s no secret Power/Heavy Metal is my favorite genre, regardless of the country it comes from. My love for German Power Metal is quite evident with ETERNITY’S END’s latest album, Unyielding. Not only is the band German, but the guy who mixed it is Piet Sielck - from the mighty german riff machine IRON SAVIOR. The album - musically and production-wise - sounds like pure late mid to late 90s German Power Metal with some outside influences (ELEGY, HIBRIA, CACOPHONY, JUDAS PRIEST, SAVAGE GRACE, etc). However, AMERICAN bands truly had something special and a lot of people take that for granted or completely overlook that. One thing I love about US power metal, is how varied the scene is. Like my buddy Marco from RIDEINTOGLORY.COM explained, there seems to be 2 schools of US power metal. There’s the more melodic, polished and technical bands like QUEENSRYCHE (their old shit), that in turn spawned bands like FATES WARNING, OLIVER MAGNUM, LETHAL, MAJESTIC RYTE, SCREAMER, TITAN FORCE, DRIVE, MYSTIC-FORCE, SLAUTER XSTROYES, HEIR APPARENT, APOLLO RA, PRODIGY, GLACIER, AVANT GARDE, etc. Then there’s the hard-edged, epic, testosterone-drenched, sword wielding maniacs like ManOwaR, OMEN, BROCAS HELM, MANILLA ROAD, LIEGE LORD, JAG PANZER, VIRGIN STEELE, and all sorts of bands that sit in between these two categories + other subgenres, from DEADLY BLESSING to WARLORD, LEATHERWOLF and OBSESSION. Shit, it never fucking ends and I haven’t seen the last of it. I didn’t even talk about the SHRAPNEL RECORDS bands yet. VICIOUS RUMORS, APOCRYPHA and FIFTH ANGEL are on a category of their own. These are just the 80s bands by the way. The 90s and 2000s produced so much good shit like CAULDRON BORN, ONWARD, SYMPHONY X, TWISTED TOWER DIRE and a gazillion other bands. The current state of European power metal is debatable, but there’s no question about it : America, Germany and Japan have always and will always reign over power metal with an iron fist. The Italians are pretty damn good at it too. It also seems like there’s an ongoing resurgence of heavy/power metal in Canada which is awesome. The Montreal area is not part of that movement of course, because all Montreal cares about is death metal and shitty black metal!!

CD - I always thought your guitar solos have a great feel to them and cut through every album really powerfully. Can you talk through some ideas around your guitar tone and what you think constitutes a good sound for or solos and rhythm too? PHIL - I’m on an unending quest to find the ultimate guitar tone and I am constantly trying to find new ways to make my lead tone sound better on record and live. There’s still a lot of work to be done and new gear to acquire however. Having a smooth lead tone with a lot of mids and a doubler added with some delay is something I always like to do. An album that influenced my usual tone a lot is Project : Driver by M.A.R.S., featuring none other than ROB ROCK & TONY MACALPINE. That’s exactly how a metal lead guitar tone should sound like : Tons of delay overlapping everywhere, with just the right amount of fat, juicy mids.

From time to time, I like to create effects on my own and experiment, like on The Void Engineers by COSMIC ATROPHY for example. I used various objects such as coins, various metal objects and even empty jars to create very weird, unusual sounds to complement everything. Listening to this album is the equivalent of watching an Eldritch monstrosity with cybernetic limbs puking acid into a black hole. What is just as crucial to me, beyond having the right tone, is producing the albums I’m on myself and guiding the engineer through each step to achieve and recreate the vibe I want. What I do is I sit with the engineer and work through automations and I send him timecodes with very specific reference points and we work through all the solos one by one this way. I’ve been doing that for 10+ years and that’s how I’ve retained my tone on almost every single release I’ve ever been on with every band I played with (with a few unfortunate exceptions…) Yes, the fingers and technique play a huge role in everything, but the tone itself has to be special too and the production process is extremely vital. I usually prefer having my lead tone consistently identical on most of my releases, but when it comes to making rhythm tones, my philosophy and approach is different. It ultimately depends of the sound the band in question is trying to channel. ATNOASW for example was Morrisound DM influenced so I used Screams of Anguish and Erosion of Sanity as a template. For SEROCS’s latest album, which is 2000s style Brutal technical death metal, I captured the essence of albums like Cabinet, Servile Insurrection, Fractured and the likes. Another example is Unyielding by ETERNITY’S END which is pure German Power Metal. We had Piet Sielck give us the authentic 90s German C R O N C H sound. Then there’s Chthe’ilist, which has its own unique mids-heavy rhythm tone. I wanted to have a tone that complemented the tuning we are in and the riffing style of the band since the riffs barely have any palm muting and chugging. It gives a really ominous timbre to the notes whilst keeping a certain level of clarity. It sounds robotic, slimy and DARK all at the same time. I think we really nailed that contrast well on “Le Dernier Crépuscule”. We used a discontinued Mesa-Boogie head and a discontinued Marshall cab with greenbacks that my father used in the 70s. Greg Chandler from ESOTERIC who mixed the album also put his personal touch into it and it came out awesome. For the upcoming FUNEBRARUM album, you can expect the signature FUNEBRARUM guitar tone the band has always had through the years - utterly harsh and disgusting, somewhere between Finnish and American old school death metal.

CD - So when are you releasing 'Love Of Lava' - Tougas edition?? PHIL - That’s Trey’s thing and it wouldn’t be cool if I did it too. If you want a Tougas wankfest though, I’ll give you one. I got a solo album in the works. I will of course produce it and make it sound like Mike Varney himself produced it. It’s gonna be straight-up 80s neoclassical metal - no prog, no crossovers with extreme metal, no downtuning, no extended range guitars, no influence from any modern metal whatsoever, etc. It’s gonna have an overproduced late 80s US styled aesthetic, that overly processed snare sample sound with too much reverb and with effects cranked up to 11, fruity ass 80s synths, constant soloing, dual harmonies and traditional US power riffing sitting on top. It won’t be original, but it won’t be a tasteless throwback either. Sometime after the 2nd Chthe’ilist and 2nd First Fragment albums are out, I will work on it full time. I only have 3 songs written for it right now and I haven’t wrote anything new for it since 2017. CD - Is there anything else you would like to add? Your upcoming releases, any other bands we should check out, what you're listening to at the moment?

PHIL - Oh yeah, I just ordered the vinyl re-issue of LEGEND’s timeless masterpiece “From the Fjords”. That album never gets old. Other than that, I’ve been listening to a lot of CAULDRON BORN and SOLAR EAGLE lately : Two blind purchases that utterly kicked my ass! Otherwise, I always keep my ears open for new up and coming doom and death metal bands. I heard a few snippets of the new ASCENDED DEAD material coming soon through Charlie and it absolutely destroys the material they had on their last album. Keep an eye on CHTHONIC DEITY as well. I heard some rough mixes and it’s gonna be very killer. As for what I’m up to next, here’s a list of upcoming shows and tours I’m doing : -Funebrarum festival appearances at Hymns to the Dead (Tasmania), CDF Pre-fest (Los Angeles, USA), Helsinki Deathfest (Finland), Morbid Catacombs Fest (Germany), Killtown Deathfest (Denmark), an european tour with Galvanizer this summer, some US West Coast Dates in the fall and a tour in South America in December. -Chthe’ilist festival appearances at Killtown Deathfest and Quebec Death Fest in September.

-Eternity’s End tour dates in 2020.

Here’s a list of upcoming releases I have so far :

-Serocs - The Phobos/Deimos Suite (vinyl version via Everlasting Spew)

-Cosmic Atrophy - The Void Engineers (CD version via Transcending Obscurity)

-Funebrarum - Album 3 (via Pulverised Records)

-Funebrarum - Split EP (Label TBC)

-Atramentus - Stygian (Self-release)

Otherwise, these are a few other recent releases of mine :

-Eternity's End - Unyielding (Ram it Down Records, 2019)

-Equipoise - Demiurgus (The Artisan Era, 2019)

-Eternity's End - Unyielding (Japanese edition, Avalon/Marquee, 2018)

-Zealotry - At the Nexus of All Stillborn Worlds (Unspeakable Axe, 2018)

-Chthe'ilist - Passage Into The Xexanotth 7" (Profound Lore, 2018)

-DDT - Still Toxic (Live DVD)

Interview conducted by Xander Bradley of Cryptic Shift for Considered Dead Zine

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