How Cursed Earth Came Back From The Brink
The Deathbed Sessions wasn’t meant to happen. At least, not in the manner things panned out.
Had things gone according to plan, 2018 would have been the year Cursed Earth tore their way out of Australia’s metal underground and onto global stages. Word of mouth and 2017’s double EP Cycles Of Grief – a one-two combo of uncompromising metallic bile and ingenious twists – had made the Perth mob one of the hottest names in modern hardcore alongside Turnstile and Code Orange. High-profile appearances in the spring supporting Parkway Drive and at Unify Gathering and Download Festival – two of the heaviest dates in Australia’s calendar – looked set to kickstart Cursed Earth’s ascension.
Instead, Cursed Earth started 2018 without a vocalist, as singer Jazmine Luders departed amid allegations of abuse made against her.
“Things changed pretty significantly about a year ago and everybody had been geared up for a good couple of years going forward,” explains guitarist and now de facto spokesman Kieran Molloy. A mixture of wariness and weariness dulls his soft drawl, calling us not long after landing in America, having just wrapped up a European tour playing in Sydney hardcore nuts Justice For The Damned. “We all had plans and everything was kind of established and set in stone, then it was all up in the air for a while. We all had to step back and reevaluate what we really wanted to do, work on some other musical projects and get our heads back in the right place before we even wanted to make another record.”
The details of the situation that led to Jazmine’s departure are personal, complex and, quite understandably, Kieran has no interest in picking over the bones. Contextualising and addressing the accusations as best they could in a Facebook post last February, the band explained that while they hoped Cursed Earth would be a positive force in Jazmine’s often dysfunctional life, she had overstepped clearly marked out personal boundaries and was therefore no longer a member of Cursed Earth.
“In the end, it didn’t look like [allowing Jazmine to remain in the band] was helping the situation in the way that we thought it would,” says Kieran of a decision he describes as emotionally testing, but not a complicated one to make. “If anything, it looked like we were creating a platform from which there was additional power to be exploited. Especially with such a busy schedule coming up, it makes it more complicated for us to enforce the boundaries that we had set.
“I would like to think that she has been treated fairly and I don’t necessarily want old wounds to be reopened,” he continues. “Her situation has obviously changed extremely, as all the rest of our lives have. I think that she deserves to be able to go on and live her life separately from the Cursed Earth stuff.”
For a while, the band’s remaining members went their separate ways as they worked out their personal relationships with one another. Kieran packed up his life and travelled cross-country to settle in Sydney, where he jumped in on the nascent Justice For The Damned. Bassist Bob Owens stayed close to Perth’s hardcore scene, while drummer Sam Forward formed grungy trio Dead Sea. From the outside, it looked like there might not even be a Cursed Earth any more.
As far as Kieran is concerned, though, the songs that appear on The Deathbed Sessions were always going to be for a Cursed Earth record. Most of the instrumental parts had already been written and recorded before everything went down, and everyone was united in their agreement that it would be a shame to ditch them. Continuing as Cursed Earth, he says, was an easy decision. Finding the right person to front the group, though, is something they were – and still are – understandably cautious about. “Coming out of the situation, we were not super enthused about settling on a vocalist before travelling in a van with them and knowing who they are as a person,” stresses Kieran. “But at the same time, we didn’t want to jump straight back into touring with a fill-in vocalist, without having released some new music.”
The Deathbed Sessions’ “mixtape” format, with different vocalists for each track, developed quite organically by reaching out to friends. As Kieran auditioned vocalists – 14 by his estimate, all across Australia – he got his friend Sean Harminas of Make Them Suffer to record fake vocal parts on the song that would become Deathbed, just to bounce around ideas and see what direction it might take. “Unfortunately, it turned out so good that we couldn’t bear to release that song with someone else on it,” grins Kieran. It seemed only natural to invite Nick Adams, Kieran’s bandmate in Justice For The Damned, to join and from there sessions snowballed. Longtime friend Matt Honeycutt of Texan bruisers Kublai Khan jumped at the chance to be of service. He then tipped off old Warped Tour buddy and The Amity Affliction vocalist Joel Birch, who contacted Kieran to say he wanted in.
“Everyone was excited about the idea of the project and still excited about Cursed Earth, which was nice for us,” enthuses Kieran, saying he could have happily kept doing the project for much longer. “Most of the people that are on this record we were already friends with, and some people that didn’t know each other are now friends. We all worked together and everyone did their part to make it happen.”
Mark Poida of Aversions Crown, whose caustic death growls scorch through closing track Burn, was an obvious inclusion, having stepped in at the eleventh hour to sing with Cursed Earth at Unify Gathering last year. Somewhat serendipitously, the fact the two bands share the same sound guy led to the appearance of Venom Prison’s Larissa Stupar on Tyranny Forever.
“He was working front of house for Aversion’s Crown when they were touring with Venom Prison and he heard Larissa was a fan of Cursed Earth. We were originally talking to her about coming over to help cover our tour plans around Download and Unify, but then those shows obviously vanished,” shrugs Kieran, before accentuating the positive. “It was pretty exciting to get her in on a song, at least. She was super into it and I’m really happy with the way her song came out.”
Larissa recorded the vocals for Tyranny Forever during the same sessions as Venom Prison’s own blistering record, Samsara. In fact, Kieran and Larissa didn’t meet in person until only a few weeks ago when Justice For The Damned were touring with Venom Prison, both bands in support of New Jersey thumpers Fit For An Autopsy. “Just by chance, we happened to be in the bus with them when Larissa’s song came out,” Kieran smiles. “That was pretty special, to be able to celebrate that together on the other side of the world.”
Once Kieran’s feet are back on home soil, though, his focus will be on Cursed Earth’s recently announced July tour – their first tour since 2017. The ranks have been shaken up, too. Sam has been replaced on drums by Elliott Gallart, who recorded, mixed and mastered the Cycles Of Grief EPs. Meanwhile, bass player Alex Wilson has been recruited by Paul Cottrell from their ‘partyviolence’ outfit 9 Foot Super Soldier. Taking the microphone on this run will be Jack McDonald of Cast Down, whose excoriating tirade on Operation is an indisputable highlight of The Deathbed Sessions – and is the only vocal take that made the cut from Cursed Earth’s auditions.
“We liked it so much that it stuck as soon as he sang that song,” Kieran grins, revealing that the band have made further recordings with Jack in recent months. “He’s a pretty exciting vocalist and a great dude. He’s been flying in from Melbourne to Sydney to come and write and record stuff with us, and we’re very positive about the dynamic between us at the moment. We will have another song coming out vaguely around the same time that tour happens.”
And beyond that, what is the future of Cursed Earth?
“Like I was saying before, we don’t want to make any concrete decisions on anything until we’ve had an opportunity to be around one another and get to know each other. At the moment Cursed Earth is almost like a side project, but it’s a side project we work on every day. We all have other bands and live in different parts of the country, so there’s more to work around, but everyone is super engaged and ready to play shows. I actually think things are going great.”
The future is still gently unfolding for Cursed Earth, but for the first time in a long while Kieran is cautiously optimistic about where it will lead. In the meantime, The Deathbed Sessions is a triumph of determination and friendship over bleak uncertainty. Or as Kieran neatly puts it, “The statement we wanted to make with it is that things have changed, but no matter the situation, we’re still gonna rip.”
Cursed Earth’s new mixtape The Deathbed Sessions is out now via UNFD.
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