Following their 2016 EP, the Skien, Norway based extreme metal trio DEVOID OF LIFE went into the studio in 2017 and worked hard on the massive undertaking that is their debut full-length. “Embracing Emptiness” was unleashed upon the world in late March 2022 and is a bleak, yet unrelenting extreme metal fest influenced by bands such as Ulcerate and Gojira.
The creation process of “Embracing Emptiness” spans 5 years. It is not to be regarded as a concept album at all as there is no direct link between songs, but rather a red thread, including feelings of anger, disdain for religious organisations, and existential dread.
The band is: Harry Nilsen – Vocal/Guitar, Emil Bringsli – Bass, Mikkal Navjord – Drums
Words by DEVOID OF LIFE:
We are absolutely floored from the amount of feedback that we’ve gotten on our album. We figured you guys would like to read a bit about the process behind this album, and to see a few previously unreleased pictures from the process.
We started off with a few riffs that our guitarist Harry had written prior to The Ablaze.
The sketches could barely even be called pre-production at this point, but more raw sketches, which consisted merely of guitar tracks recorded through Harry’s Zoom G2 into Reaper at Mikkals place. The absolute majority of the album was written here in this way.
The songs were all created at a time that involved major change for the band members. Emil dropped out of college, got a job and moved to Oslo to pursue music, moved to Drammen to work as a manager, and then got a new job. Harry was travelling cross-country for work, bought an old house, and refurbished it himself. Mikkal quit his job to work as an independent farmer, with all the struggles that making a living from a sole proprietorship contains.
While rewarding, the process has not been easy nor comfortable. Frustration and hard work has been abundant, and this is evident in the music.
From December 2017 to January 2018, Harry wrote Succumbed to Misanthropy, soon after came Falling Through The Abyss and Deprivation of All. He had come up with some riffs that he just had to show Mikkal. They then went through a refining process where boring parts were taken out or replaced. For Succumbed to Misanthropy, we wanted to make a good old death metal song, but Harry always seems to bring some black metal elements into it, one way or another. This song would later lay down the groundwork for drums on this record. Mikkal really started to pay attention to what the guitar and bass lines were playing and accenting that with cymbals and toms.
Deprivation of All is an outlier on the album. It was fully written by Harry at first, but all the band members felt that it wasn’t as strong all the way through as it could have been. Emil and Harry ended up finishing the song together, replacing and removing weaker parts etc. The opening riff is still one of Emils favourite riffs of all time.
Emil wrote The Grimness of Mortal Depravity at Mikkals place in december. He had just dropped out of college, and was only in Skien for Christmas vacation while in the process of finding a job and place to live in Oslo. During this time, Emil had gotten a new bass that he was trying out different ideas on after Mikkal had stated he wanted slower and more atmospheric material. Emil says: “It had this very particular thing with the harmonics, where if you held your fingers in a certain way at a certain spot it would sound like a bell of some sort. I realised at that moment that I would never be able to recreate that, so I recorded it lots of times, and it’s good that I did, cause I’ve never gotten close to that ever again!”
When moving to Oslo, Emil left his 7 string guitar at Mikkals place for Harry to try out, since Mikkal wanted to bring the 7 string guitar sound to the album. In February, Harry wrote Brutality Reigns, the fastest track on the record. He states: “This was the first time I tried a 7 string. Emil lent it to me and the opening riff was the first thing I played, me and Mikkal loved it so we just made a song using that starting riff as a foundation and throwing out ideas. Lyric-wise it’s basically about human brutality and the kind of scumbags that I feel we are.”
The album’s opener was written in Emils home studio in March of 2018. Mikkal had told him that he wanted a real dark and heavy album intro. He used his old Fender Precision bass as a rhythm guitar here. There is no guitar on this one other than the high drone lead. Emil says: “I just found that that bass had a real specific character that gave that grim and foreboding vibe. Being an instrumental, we spent a bit of time trying to come up with a title. Mikkal ended up with “Shrouded Graves”. Since it sounds like something that could have been from Dark Souls, which was a video game that we both played at the time, we thought it was cool and just ran with it!”
Ashes of the Past was written in April by Emil. He tried to keep with Harry’s overall atmosphere and vibe here, but their differences are evident. Emil comments: “Listening back to the interlude at around the three and a half minute mark, it’s no secret that I am a huge fan of The Faceless, haha!”
In May, Harry would pick up the 7 string guitar for the second time, and ended up writing It Never Ends. To quote the man himself: “This is the second time I tried the 7 string and I came up with this and I just wanted to make something sad, hehe.”
Euphoric Nothingness was finished in July 2018, making it the last song to be finished on the album. The intro on this took a long time to get right. It was initially a very different, very random pattern that Harry had improvised. During the drum recording of this, Mikkal ended up doing something completely different, and we agreed to just follow him here instead of the other way around.
In December of 2018 we did a drum pre-production/test run on all the songs to try out tones etc. We got a bunch of new equipment specifically for this recording. Most excitedly, Mikkal had gotten new crashes, chinas, and a gorgeous Pearl Masterworks snare. We spent a lot of time trying out different drum tunings, drum parts, and such for the songs. Emil had to travel for hours with all of his recording equipment, most of the time by public transportation. This resulted in the recording space for the drums being less than Instagram friendly.
The actual drum recording was done in April and December of 2019. During the tracking of The Grimness of Mortal Depravity, Mikkal broke a drumstick in half from frustration after two full days of not getting the song right. Despite this, it’s a track that everybody in the band really learned a lot from and in later days have become more enjoyable to play for us. Other highlights from the drum recording includes Deprivation of All, which is very different from the other songs in terms of playing since it’s a slower tempo and more triplet based.
The guitars were recorded in small sessions due to Emil and Harrys busy schedules, and thus took from November of 2020 to March of 2021 to record. We squeezed in time wherever we could find it. One session we even did while Emil was visiting his mom in Skien for a weekend, and we just set up a makeshift bedroom studio in their spare bedroom. Again, the process is absolutely not “Instagram friendly”, but sometimes you’ve just got to work with what you have.
The overall vibe and mood was completely different from when we did “The Ablaze”, which was all in all not a very fun time. This time around, we were all sober, focused, and in a much healthier state of mind, even if we were a bit overworked and stressed out!
Bass was by far the fastest instrument to record, and was done at the very end. Emil just did it all in a week or so in his home studio in April!
In October 2020, we went into Cantus studio in Oslo to reamp guitars, which is where artists like Norsk Råkk, Naga Siren, DePress have produced their albums. We ended up spontaneously recording vocals for Embracing Emptiness as well. Emil Bringsli’s friend and fellow producer Emil Reitan from Frostbitt also joined this session because they were both hyped about reamping with that setup and trying out new tones. The session went on until about 3 in the morning, and when we were done we got stuck in Oslo due to the parking-house closing. We were told by security that there was an entrance somewhere where we could get in and get our car, but it took us forever to find it. We were walking forever, it was hailing, Emil Reitan was probably wondering why the hell he signed for the session, and it was just a great time, haha!
Vocal tracking was done lastly back in Mikkals home studio. It all happened pretty quickly in November. Emil was there for the first song or so to show how he wanted the tracks edited and recorded, and they did the rest themselves. Emil says: “The dynamic between Mikkals systematic and focused work ethic and Harrys wild, colorful, and sometimes chaotic nature works great in situations like these. They’ve known each other for so long that they end up balancing out and getting the best of both worlds!”. The setup was dead simple, just a microphone, an audio interface, a main take, and a dub. Harry learnt a lot when doing vocals for these songs. Emils songs especially were a bit outside of his comfort zone.
All the special effects, mixing and mastering was done by Emil Bringsli in his home studio in December. He has been working very hard on his production skillset, and even started practising mixing specifically for this album already back in 2019 to be prepared for this album. Mixing extreme metal is very different from other genres, as the fast tempo and noisiness makes it tough to achieve clarity.
Press photos were taken by Emils girlfriend, Helene Engen, at Mikkals place. We wanted photos that were cliché, and spent a lot of time throwing ideas around, looking for equipment to rent, scouting and planning locations, etc. All the photos from that session were taken outdoors. The smoke photos were a peculiar experience to shoot, with the smoke photos being taken in a hay silo during a cold January night, with us being covered in smoke and lit up by a very strong LED spot.
All in all, creating this album has been one hell of a ride, and it’s safe to say that we’ve all evolved as people from it. There will definitely be more Devoid of Life material in the future!