Départe: Interview and Album Review

Tasmanian metal band Départe’s expansive sound draws on the most powerful elements of black metal, death metal, and even post-metal. While comparisons with bands like Ulcerate and Zhrine are inevitable because of the band’s penchant for dissonant, unsettling guitarwork, Départe carves out their own sound on their debut album ‘Failure, Subside’.

Stylistically the focus is much more on the atmosphere and flow of the songs than on heaviness or riffs, and the band frequently operate at a bulky, sludgy pace.At the core of their sound is unrelentingly heavy, technical death metal – in this sense, comparisons to Ulcerate are justified. Long sections of atmospheric doom offer some respite from the heaviness of their assault, but frequently simply seem to render the atmosphere even more suffocating.

The opening section ‘Grief Echoes (Golden Scars)’ is one of my favourite on any song this year, the incredibly heavy percussion and eerie melodic guitars working creating a deeply unsettling, brutal sound. And the use of clean vocals throughout the album are a real highlight. They don’t feel like an afterthought, they feel like a really strong tool to provide some release from the utter gloom of much of the music. Used towards the end of the ‘Ashes in Bloom’ they’re a really beautiful touch. The lyrics certainly invoke imagery of despair and grief, suffering and loss, but they also evoke a sense of hope and optimism. It’s in some ways a real treat to read lyrics in such a bleak, poetic style from a musician that has clearly put some real thought into them. It’s a very human, emotionally powerful album, and one very worth experiencing for yourself.

After enjoying the album so much, I reached out to guitarist, vocalist, lyricist, and songwriter Sam Dishington to talk about Départe’s music as well as the experience of being a metal band from Tasmania. Read on for the interview!

departe3‘Failure, Subside’ is surely one of 2016’s best albums. What was the process of writing and recording it like? Did it come together quite naturally, or was it a difficult process with lots of ups and downs? Any really difficult moments for the band leading up to its completion?

Thank you, I’m really glad you enjoy our work so much! If I’m honest, this album was actually quite painful to put together. I had been working towards writing it for quite some time but with no real tangible results, much to the frustration of our long time fans and probably the other guys in the band, though they would never really say so. Feeling like I was unable to write anything worthwhile really took its toll on my emotionally. Then we signed to Season of Mist and suddenly I had to work to a deadline, which was even more terrifying, knowing how much I’d struggled working on it previously. In the end though it all came together and we got it done just in time, thanks in no small part to the efficient and patient work of the rest of the band in the studio, as well as all the other people involved in bringing this beast to fruition.

It’s a very dark, bleak album musically, but the lyrics seem to offer some hope and optimism. Is there an underlying message? What is it that you hope listeners take away from your music? 

The lyrics definitely carry a message of hope, because that’s what I believe in. I wanted the lyrics for this album to be a true, honest reflection of my heart, on a very personal level, and I think we managed to achieve that. As dark as this music is, what I really want to do with the music I write is make people feel better – about themselves, their circumstances, whatever it may be, I just want to play a part in making their personal darkness seem less overwhelming I guess. The lyrics speak of things like loss, depression, grief, all these dark and heavy burdens that we all carry from time to time, sometimes for a long time, but they also speak of a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ for want of a better term. That’s what I want to show people. The light at the end of their tunnel.

On the lyrics, I really enjoy the way you’ve managed to use a very bleak poetic style but still retain that sense of hope. Reading the lyrics, there seems to be a Christian undertone. Is this accurate, and is this where some of the hopefulness is derived from?

That is accurate, most of my lyrics are informed pretty strongly by my personal faith. None of the other guys in Départe share my beliefs but I think we’re all on the same page as far as what we’re trying to do.

I think it would be fair to say that Tasmania is a fairly isolated part of the world! Do you think it’s influenced the kind of music that you play? Has your location presented any extra challenges as a band?

I’ve never really understood the premise of geographical isolation playing a part in shaping ones sound, at least in this day and age of social media and constant internet connectivity. I suppose it probably does affect it in some subconscious way, but it’s hard to measure. I am constantly listening to new music from all around the world. We’ve actually found being from Tasmania a blessing, because the rest of Australia pay attention when a band from our little South Island actually makes it over the Strait. The only downside really is the increased cost of touring because of the extra flights, but we don’t tour regularly so it’s not so bad.

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What’s your relationship like with the rest of Australia’s metal scene, as well as New Zealand’s? Is there a sort of spirit of comradeship?

Australians definitely have a patriotic streak when one of our own does well, and we are experiencing that at the moment. I know I personally get really excited and proud when I see Australian artists making waves on the international scene, especially when it’s actual personal friends of mine. For example, my good friends in Whoretopsy and Eternal Rest are currently on tour in Europe with Condemned, which is really great to see, they’re all great guys and it’s so good to see them doing well.

Do you have any plans to perform in Europe, perhaps the UK, in the near future? What’s your best memory from the time you’ve spent touring as a band?

Honestly at this point my favourite memory is our home town album launch we just had. The local scene came out in hoards and it was just such an amazing night, I’m still buzzing from it! Easily the best show we’ve played, as far as crowd response and general vibes. We definitely intend to return to Europe as soon as we can, we had such a great time over there last time. We didn’t get to the U.K. last time, so we hope to next time we’re over that way.

What are some albums that really inspired you to start creating your own music? Are there any albums or bands you hold very dear to your heart?

For me, if I had to name the albums that inspired me to make my own music and shaped the way I write I would have to say White Pony by Deftones, They’re Only Chasing Safety and Define the Great Line by Underoath, and Alive or Just Breathing by Killswitch Engage. Joining those at a later stage I think I’d have to add Catch For Us The Foxes by mewithoutYou and The Galilean Satellites by Rosetta. I’m sure there’s more but those definitely are the first that spring to mind.

Would you like to give a shout out to any fellow metal bands from Hobart that you think readers should check out and support? Anything else you would like to add?

Readers should definitely check out and support Hobart bands Ruins, Axe Giant, and Sanctify the Serpent, as well as our friends Zeolite from Launceston in the north of the state. I don’t think I’ve got anything else to add, thanks for the chat!

I’d like to thank Sam again for taking the time to take part in this interview and for his thoughtful answers. ‘Failure, Subside’ is available now on Season of Mist, and you can stream and purchase the album on Bandcamp below.

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