Exclusive Premiere: Glacial Tomb Stream Their Self-Titled Debut Album
Primarily known for his role as guitarist and vocalist of Denver doom metallers Khemmis, Ben Hutcherson is prepared to share something new, and deeply personal, with the world. Glacial Tomb reaches back to Ben’s death metal roots growing up in Memphis, Tennessee. For fans of Khemmis, a band many relate to good hangs and craft beer, Glacial Tomb’s intense and morosely personal themes might come as somewhat of a shock. The seven tracks on their self-titled debut LP rip across landscapes dark and harrowing, providing little other than existential dread along the way.
Composed as its creators dealt with loss beyond comprehension, the album reveals a collective exercise in coping not only with the toxic realities of modern global existence but also with tragedies of a profoundly personal nature. While many fans will simply be enthralled by Glacial Tomb’s musical dissonance, others will want to connect with the underlying roots of the album, allowing their own pain to be assuaged in the sludgy runoff waters of Glacial Tomb’s meditation.
You mentioned, when we first spoke, that this album is born out of a lot of loss and pain. Can you tell me a bit more about that?
Ben Hutcherson: Connor [Woods, bass and vocals] had just moved to Denver at the time so we got together and started writing what became our Cognitive Erosion EP. Right around that time my dad had a stroke while recovering from heart surgery and died pretty quickly as a result. It really messed me up because we were very close. I consider myself lucky to have had the kind of relationship with my father where we were friends and respected each other while also talking a lot of shit on each other. Like real friends. That hit me pretty hard. It just sucked.
A little bit after that, our drummer Mike [Salazar]’s mom passed completely unexpectedly. Then, in April of this year, my sister passed away without any warning at all. Then, literally the day before we went into the studio, Connor’s brother died. It was just one thing after another, and no sooner would one of us get back on our feet with a clear head than someone else would lose someone and we’d be going through that experience again. It became a manifestation in that when someone would lose a loved one the rest of us would re-experience feelings from one of our own losses.
Cover art by Nanda Dika of Violence Art
How did that affect the recording process?
First off, the lyrics. Sunless Dawn was written not long after my dad died. Those lyrics are an attempt to make sense of what a person’s legacy or what is their truth once they’re gone. How does a loved one deal with it? It was completely all consuming for me at that point to where I couldn’t do anything creative that didn’t feel like it was connecting to that experience in some way.
The last track that we wrote the lyrics for — Shackled to the Burning Earth — isn’t as explicit as Sunless Dawn, but those lyrics are, for me, very much the brightest point of the album. Just coming to terms with living in the wake of absence you are presented with the option to lay down and give up or to keep going in a different kind of way. I’d lost plenty of friends and family over the years to the point where pain was something I wasn’t caught off guard by. But, here, I was learning to live with an absence in a way that was very different from the loss of, for example, my grandparents. And, it would be really easy to just fall into cliche, ‘Well, this album is a tribute to those we lost.’ But it’s not that. If anything, it’s a tribute to the ability of people to keep going on when the rug gets pulled out from under you.
Have you thought about what you’re going to say on stage when you play these songs live? I mean, that’s a heavy burden, not only for you but for the audience.
Depending on my mood I might dedicate the set in a simple fashion. It’s much in the manner of the single we put out Fuck Nazi Sympathy. We wanted to make that the political statement. It would be easy to get up on stage and just rant, but we wanted to let the music handle it.
There was one show that we played and I said something quick and simple like, ‘This song goes out to everyone that has ever felt alone and afraid. This is the underground community and we can do better and love each other.’ So, we finish playing and this guy comes to our merch table. By all standards he’s your pretty standard Luciferian metalhead. He comes up to me and he says, ‘I want to talk to you about what you said up there,’ and immediately I’m ready to get told off — but instead, he goes on: ‘Because as a member of the LGBT community in the world of heavy metal, I often feel invisible or afraid, and when a band like yours, full of big scary dudes, says that, it really means a lot and makes me feel connected to everyone in the world for a few seconds.’ That got me all teary-eyed, and we had a hug. That sort of connection feels good, right? I feel that anyone with a platform is obligated to find a right way to use it.
You’re getting a PhD in sociology. How has that affected your view of the metal scene?
Being a sociologist intensified my anger and disappointment. People I liked a lot, it just took a couple of beers and some academic questions to find them using language I was very uncomfortable with. So I moved up to Colorado and, while everywhere has their own set of problems, the scene as a whole just simply didn’t tolerate that.
The Godfather of our scene is Ethan McCarthy [vocalist / guitarist of Primitive Man], a delightful, socio-politically aware, mixed-race man — so that helped inform our scene a bit more than the one I came from. That helped me, particularly being a sociologist, see that people here were actually putting in the work to make the scene more hospitable to women, people of color and trans people. I think part of that is because there aren’t a lot of bands around here, so there isn’t a separate death metal and black metal scene. Rather, we have an overlap of styles and people playing in bands that have different styles.
What does the future of metal in Denver look like?
Well, my dissertation is on the Denver underground, looking at not only how it came to be this way, but also how it’s changing in the wake of rapid economic development. This is really something unique. We all want the scene where we live to be good. That’s universal. But, here, there’s an active effort from a lot of men to give up privilege to ensure that everyone can go somewhere and have a good time.
Denver isn’t a particularly racially diverse city, but I would suggest that the metal scene represents a more diverse population than the city as a whole. To see a diverse group of people at shows, seeing them enjoying themselves, I would like to think I could appreciate that anyways, but having spent my life training as a sociologist and developing a set of lenses through which I see the world, it’s definitely allowed me to appreciate it more intensely than I would have otherwise. Like I said, every place has its problems but we’re really trying to make something here.
Check out Glacial Tomb’s self-titled debut below:
And if you’re on the West Coast, make sure to have your heart scraped out live at one of the dates below:
Glacial Tomb drops Friday, October 26th, via Gilead Media. Pre-order it here.
WORDS: Zachary Goldsmith
PHOTO: Alvino Salcedo
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