“Days of Wrath,”, the latest offering from Richmond, Virginia based metallic hardcore band PRIVATE HELL, masterfully amalgamates influences from the raucous energy of the ’80s punk to the profound depths of ’90s crust and hardcore. This six-song EP, which acts as the successor to their 2021 demo, reflects profoundly on themes such as the loss of time, life, and hope.
Notably recorded and mixed by Jordan Greenough at NFTW Records and adorned with Heather Kelly’s evocative artwork, this release captures the soul’s quintessential essence. The resplendent red shell cassettes are a nod to collectors, with only 200 copies up for grabs. Yet, beneath the alluring packaging lies the soul of a band that’s endured and evolved.
Having extensively toured the East Coast and shared the stage with stalwarts like Cro Mags and Brain Tourniquet, PRIVATE HELL‘s credentials extend beyond the confines of the studio. These seasoned tours and collaborations have undoubtedly refined their sonic identity, evident in the maturity and depth of “Days of Wrath.”
“Days of Wrath” will see its cassette release through Persistent Vision Records, a testament to the label’s commitment to championing authentic alternative voices.
The voice behind the poignant lyrics, Mikey Kent, gives us a haunting glimpse into the inspirations and emotions behind the album. In a candid teaser of an upcoming interview, he shares: “Days of Wrath seems to encompass a range of emotions, predominantly reflections on loss.”
Mikey sheds light on how the tracks became an outlet for his personal grief and struggles. The isolation of early 2022, coping without alcohol, and dealing with family tragedies made the essence of “Days of Wrath” more than just songs but fragments of lived experiences.
Distinguishing the progression from their 2021 demo to this EP, Kent highlights a shift towards collaboration. Whereas their demo bore the brunt of individual efforts, “Days of Wrath” flourished in collective contribution — a testament to the evolved synergy within the band.
Further emphasizing their varied influences, Kent nods to iconic bands and tracks that have informed PRIVATE HELL’s unique soundscape. From the macabre tones of Integrity’s “Humanity is the Devil” to the raw energy of Poison Idea’s “War All the Time,” the lineage of inspirations is as vast as it is profound.
Yet, Kent acknowledges the challenges of drawing from giants, especially when emulating bands like Tragedy. Their goal? To distill the broader musical and thematic ideas that make such bands iconic, while crafting a sound unmistakably their own.
Check out our comprehensive conversation with Mikey Kent, delving deeper into the layers of “Days of Wrath”, available below.
“Days of Wrath” seems to encompass a range of emotions, predominantly reflections on loss. Can you provide some context on what drove this theme for the EP?
The majority of the lyrics for the EP were written in early 2022 during a period of grief where my family and I were living in an isolated rural area, and we were personally dealing with a series of deaths in our family that were pretty difficult at the time. At the same time, I also was reaching my breaking point with my relationship with alcohol, which was a fairly dependent one for the last decade.
Without the crutch of booze to cope, it left me reflecting a lot on my pain, as well as the sense of loss felt by so many other people in the wake of recent history. Whether it was losing loved ones, homes, careers, or even just losing vital time, I think the vast majority of people coming out of that period were feeling pretty damaged.
Like so many others, it took me a while to come to peace with that.
The evolution from your 2021 demo to this current EP – how would you describe the band’s musical and thematic progression in that time?
I think the biggest difference between our demo and Days of Wrath is the sheer collaboration that we did on a lot of these songs. The songs on the demo were written by me as fairly finished products, without consideration for cohesion or what the individual members would contribute since we had never played together before.
Whereas on Days of Wrath, we were able to all contribute much more to the songwriting process. I think the song Progress is the best example of this, with Nick writing the music, our drummer Sam writing the lyrics, and our bassist Erik (who had previously only done backup vocals for us) singing lead on the track. On a more broad level, I think we also leaned a bit more into our metal influences on this EP.
Bands like Sepultura, Sacrilege, and Metallica have been a big part of my life since I was a teenager, so it was exciting to embrace those influences for the first time, while also still being influenced by the same punk and hardcore that we always have been.
With influences cited from 80s punk to 90s crust and hardcore, can you share any seminal moments or records from these eras that directly inspired the sounds on this EP?
I’d say a few that come to mind that directly influenced these new songs are:
- Integrity: Humanity is the Devil
The 90s Cleveland hardcore scene is a cornerstone of influence for this band, especially Integrity’s run of albums in the 90s and the way they blended stompy hardcore punk with the metal edge of Celtic Frost and Slayer is a big part of what we try to do. I’m also incredibly influenced by the way they mixed this heavy music with a macabre and esoteric tone that is so mysterious and dark.
- Corrosion of Conformity: Animosity
I was born and raised in North Carolina, and like so many other punks and metalheads from there, I have an immense adoration for this band, especially this album. The way that it approaches blending thrash metal and hardcore punk is so different than any other band from that time, with a sense of rawness and mania that I really tried to harness on the EP, especially on the title track.
- Neurosis: Souls at Zero
Neurosis is one of those bands that completely changed the way I perceive what music is capable of being. I think they often get more associated with post-metal and sludge than they do punk, but the album Souls at Zero to me is such a logical extension of what a band like Amebix was doing, but just way bigger and more apocalyptic. Much like Integrity, there is a lot of esoteric mysticism at play with Neurosis that is extremely influential on the themes of our EP, especially the concepts of cyclical loss and renewal. Neurosis has a real sense of musical freedom that I find inspiring.
- Death Side: Bet on the Possibility
Death Side is another band that was a major point of influence when we started the band. The Japanese “Burning Spirits” scene that they existed in has a slew of incredible bands, but Death Side have a sense of Iron Maiden esque bombast to them that turns what could otherwise be pretty standard hardcore punk songs into epic feeling anthems.
- Poison Idea: War All the Time
Poison Idea to me are just the most pure example of a great hardcore punk band. Even when they got more ambitious sonically with their later records, there is a real “no bullshit” attitude that I always try to keep in mind when perhaps my ambitions get to be a little too high-minded.
Bands like Doomriders and Tragedy are listed under “For Fans Of”. Can you speak to any direct influences or favorite tracks from these bands that might’ve inspired your sound?
When we first started this band, Tragedy (and His Hero is Gone) was one of our biggest influences, and they still are to a great degree. They have such a real sense of melody in their guitar parts that is hugely influential on me. I think a lot of my favorite music is stuff that captures brutality and despair, while also having a real sense of beauty to contrast it, even if it’s not always obvious.
Their song “The Day After” is a great example of this contrast. Much like with Neurosis, there are so many bands that just try to sound exactly like Tragedy, and they never really capture what makes that band so special, so I think we try to think instead about the broader musical and thematic ideas of what makes them so powerful and translate it into something very different.
Richmond, Virginia has a storied music scene. How has being part of this community influenced PRIVATE HELL’s ethos and direction?
Richmond is a real anomaly in terms of music scenes. It isn’t a particularly big city in terms of population and size, but since the 80s, it has consistently had a flourishing hardcore/punk/metal scene that you normally wouldn’t find in a city this size. It helps there to be a really close knit music scene with so many different styles of music getting a chance to thrive.
This sort of sonic diversity gives a band like us a chance to play with a lot of different types of bands, whether it’s fast punk, death metal, hardcore, post punk etc, and I think that diversity is indicative of our own music.
Also, the world we live in is distinctly DIY, and living in Richmond gives us the chance to play to a good sized audience while also not getting delusions of grandeur that you often see in larger cities.
How was the experience working with Jordan Greenough at NFTW Records? Were there any unique techniques or approaches he brought to the table during the recording process?
Along with being a good friend of the band, Greenough is a joy to work with in the studio. We recorded our demo with him back in 2021, before we had ever played live, so this session felt like a natural evolution where we felt much more confident as a band with what sound we wanted to capture.
Greenough is a really barebones producer in the best way possible. He really hones in on capturing the essence of a band’s live sound, which for us included tracking the music live, with only the vocals and guitar leads being recorded separately. He does a great job of finding the middle ground of a recording sounding raw while also having every instrument standing out and not bleeding into a wall of noise.
Heather Kelly’s artwork for the EP is striking. Can you tell us about the collaboration with her and how the artwork resonates with the themes of the EP?
Heather has been a friend of mine for a while now, but more importantly I have always really admired the way they approach collage art.
It often has a sense of Dada-esque surrealism that I think you don’t see as much in punk art nowadays. They are also very collaborative to work with, where I gave them the lyrics, themes, and inspirations for the EP, and they would bounce ideas off me. Without telling you explicitly how the art should be interpreted, I think the themes of loss, isolation, humanity’s cyclical destruction, and yearning for hope is beautifully interpreted in their work on Days of Wrath.
Releasing music on cassette has seen a resurgence in recent times. Why did you choose this medium, and what do you feel it adds to the experience of “Days of Wrath”?
With this EP, we had the opportunity to release it with Persistent Vision Records, a new local label that took a chance on us that I appreciate. Being a newer label and us being a band that has thus far only released a demo, the cassette format felt appropriate for where we are at as a band.
We hope to do vinyl releases in the future, but releasing it as a tape appealed to us for how quickly we were able to get it released, rather than waiting 4-6 months just to get our hands on records.
Touring the East Coast extensively, can you share a memorable experience from one of your live shows? Perhaps with notable bands like Cro Mags or Brain Tourniquet?
On our recent tour this past summer, we got to play at a really wide spectrum of venues, whether it was in a cool club in New York or a city park picnic shelter in Rochester or under a bridge in Montreal.
Our show in Toronto was especially fun. It was my first day ever in Canada, and the fact that we got to spend our July 4th playing at a Sci Fi themed bar with ripping bands like Electric Chair and Imploders was a really great day. Additionally, our second year of playing at The Floor is Gone Fest in Roanoke was really special.
We got to play with bands like Mutant Strain, Killing Pace, and Reckoning Force who are not only incredible musically but also really good people who are so much fun to be around.
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Speaking of live shows, now that “Days of Wrath” is releasing, can fans expect a tour or a series of shows to promote the EP?
Late 2023 will be pretty quiet for the band due to a few different life circumstances going on with some of us, but once 2024 rolls around, we are planning on playing out a lot around the east coast. One of the major perks of living in Richmond is being just a few hours from so many major cities, so we’ll be hitting a lot of those up, with probably a longer tour in the summer.
Finally, as we wrap up, what message or feeling do you hope fans take away from “Days of Wrath”, especially given its deep reflections on loss and hope?
The final song on the EP, “The Final Torment” ends with the lines: “the eyes become flesh, as the blind lead the blind, inching closer to our demise. We’ll never learn to change our ways. The world will sleep, but then we’ll rise.”
In destruction and loss, there is always a chance for renewal, even when things could not seem bleaker.