Interview: Zealous Hellspell of Ordeals
New York City’s Ordeals came blazing into existence in 2011, but didn’t release anything until 2016’s Apotheosis,which was a malignant piece of black/death released originally as only a run of less than a hundred cassettes on a small German record label. Now they have their first release out since then, a split on much larger label Blood Harvest Records, but the sound has changed to a very out-of-vogue old school melodic death metal sound more akin to Intestine Baalism. Following a triumphant appearance at Covenant Festival in Canada, Zealous Hellspell (shortened through the interview as ZH) has been kind enough to answer a few of my questions about their past, their future, and their ongoing ascent to greatness.
BW: Since so little information is available about you guys, what’s the origin of Ordeals? Had you and longtime Ordeals multi-instrumentalist Illuminated ever played in a band together, and how long have you known each other?
ZH: Illuminated and I happened to meet on the way to see the Japanese band Sabbat play a gig in Brooklyn in 2005, so we’ve known each other for quite some time. We had talked about starting a band for awhile, and he had shown me a piece that would eventually become “Goddess of Time.” On that spark, Ordeals would hurtle forth from the void. In the period between 2011 and 2015 there were long periods of deathlike silence, but everything became aligned, and the coffin could no longer remain shut.
BW: Were you ever frustrated at the lack of activity in those years?
ZH: We always knew that we would eventually get to where it was meant to take us. From the moment the first notes were written, there was no way back.
BW: Fair enough. Still, it strikes me as a bit odd that after years of silence from Ordeals’ inception, you put out Apotheosis and then immediately changed directions into a style that’s nearly dead; what was the thought process behind putting out a great release that took so long to come to fruition and then changing spirits so completely with another?
ZH: Well, the songs on Apotheosis are some of the first songs we ever wrote so for the most part there is a period of many years in between those songs and our more recent material…but there was never really any discussion about changing styles. It’s what felt natural at the time.You may find some of the other upcoming releases we have planned may sound different than the material found on the split with Daethorn even, but it’s still Ordeals, as always.
BW: What appeals to you resulted in some fucking awesome music. How well do you feel like your new stuff has been received compared to the older material, and how did you end up getting in contact with Blood Harvest Records? How much time on an average day do you guys spend geeking out about Intestine Baalism?
ZH: Feedback has been positive..absolutely it’s a step forward in aggression and variety from the older material…and the new songs are well received live. Blood Harvest contacted us after he had heard Apotheosis and was interested in releasing the newer material we were writing at the time, and we feel fortunate to work with a great label like Blood Harvest and value their belief in us.
Speaking for myself, Intestine Baalism is an incredible and criminally underrated band, and anyone still unaware of their existence should buy all three mandatory albums or play in fucking traffic.
BW: Other than Intestine Baalism, do you guys have any particular influences that you’d like to pinpoint to readers, or do you feel that your music speaks for itself?
ZH: Not particularly. I think people should just listen to Ordeals and make up their own mind. We aren’t out to try to be a copycat of any kind, or to mirror any popular scene gimmicks. Intestine Baalism is a great band but I wouldn’t say that a huge influence made its way into what we have done. At least not consciously, but if you dig them maybe you will dig us.
BW: As far as I can tell, you guys have never had a consistent drummer, instead relying on a rotating cast of session drummers and live guns. Is that intentional? Do you think it’s at all changed how your music has been released from the goals that you had before sending the music to the session musicians?
ZH: No it’s not intentional, finding a permanent drummer is something we are looking to do. On the Apotheosis EP is X.T. of the band Gevurah. He is one of our longtime comrades, and perhaps we will collaborate again in some capacity. On the current material, we used Shawn Eldridge who is obviously one of the best drummers in the country. His work in the past with Disma and Funebrarum is fantastic, and in this case it definitely advanced our music with his frantic relentless battery. The choice was clear to embrace the work he did. We have been fortunate to work with such great musicians live and/or in the studio, and we will see what the future brings.
BW: You guys recently played at Covenant Festival in Canada- who played drums for you live at the gig, and how did it go? Make any useful connections there?
ZH: Our live line up for that particular gig had Conor Lawless and R. from the band Worthless, playing bass and drums respectively, and Impurifier Vilethroaat from the band Throaat on second guitar. I felt the gig went very well, much better and smoother than the first one. Montreal is a special city to us, and it was great to go to pry open the gates onstage in front of them. There were definitely some interesting characters there, which could lead to collaborations in the future. All hail Covenant Fest for having us on and giving us the space, despite it only being our second show. One of the most organized and passionate group of individuals who make such insane lineups possible. Also, don’t forget to check out Suffering Hour and Azothyst which were a revelation made clear to me at this unholy gathering. Look for big things from Muertos as well. Dead Congregation closed the fest and left the venue with just broken limbs and dismembered heads everywhere, they take the death part of their metal very seriously!
BW: Now that Covenant has gone so well, do you plan to try for more regular gigs for Ordeals?
ZH: We enjoy playing live, but we will only do shows that make sense to do. Our first gig, under the banner of Signature Riff in NYC, was with Acherontas and Gevurah. It was the first US shows for them and the first ever show for us. This was special. In Montreal we played with Ruins of Beverast and Suffering Hour, so really, we intend to keep this kind of momentum going, and play gigs of this quality.
BW: That’s fair. Do you feel that this sort of selective attention to your craft is what’s gotten you where you are now?
ZH: I certainly don’t think the perception hurts, and this goes for every aspect. We will demand better, and thus, acquire it.
BW: Given your uncompromising attitude and belief in your music, do you see yourself working with genuinely big labels in the future, or do you want to continue working with kings of the underground such as Blood Harvest (or other similar labels)?
ZH: We will see how it goes, the beginnings have definitely been a learning experience, and we see more and more what we want and we would like to avoid. Whatever it takes to fulfill the ultimate vision. We are working on something truly abominable in its ambition and we will need the right channels to let it spill forth with its full potency and forced down the throats of as many souls as possible!
BW: I’m looking forward to hearing that new material, man! Anything else you’d like to say to readers, or bands you’d like to give a nod to for readers to check out?
ZH: We have just released a split with Daethorn on blood harvest and some unreleased material we hope will see the light of day later this year. Apotheosis EP can be obtained through us. As far as bands? You should definitely destroy your life and burn all your belongings to Epoch’s first LP Sacrosanct. Hail Gevurah! Hail Throaat! Hail Antaeus and Aosoth! This should be enough for the feeble and uninitiated. Live wrong and perspire.