Fresh off the release of their amazing debut LP “The Shackles of Birth” on Dog Knights Productions, we sit down with chaotic, grindy screamo band SETSUKO to dive into its core and see what’s behind its dark and disturbing cladding.
After years of evolution of grindcore and spastic hardcore / screamo hybrid forms, the commonly held conceptions beg for more coscious understanding of song craft, and finding a band that is capable of composing a set of heavy tracks that resonate in a variety of contexts and arrangements, is always a miraculous event. “The Shackles of Birth” is exactly that. Pushing the edges of the already charged and well-explored genre and making a rich and cohesive piece. An enduring and rewarding listen. We asked the band to take us through the record track by track and here’s what we’ve got (scroll down to see the full feature).
We recorded a demo called “Live Life/Die Happy” in May 2017, but we weren’t really that happy with it. It was recorded live on a single room microphone in about 20 minutes. Because of that we decided to try recording something more “professional”. Although we didn’t want it to be as raw (shit-fi) as the demo, we didn’t really want to have a clinically polished album either. We usually write our music pretty spontaneously without planning it out, so it would feel weird to capture it in a way that doesn’t reflect that. We were all in various states of emotional confusion and depression both during the time we wrote the songs and during the time we were recording them, and I think it’s important to make sure that the recording is raw enough to reflect that turmoil. Because of that, this release was recorded without any click tracks or other studio tricks over the course of a few days last summer.
SETSUKO are teaming up with IDIOTEQ featured grind powerviolence act PRESCRIPTIONDEATH for a tour this June and they need some help with filling the dates! If you book shows in the following areas, or know people who do, please get in touch with them via setsukoband at gmail.com: 11/6: Gothenburg, 12/6: Denmark, 13/6: Hamburg, 14/6: Hannover/Bremen, 15/6: Berlin, 16/6 – Prague, 17/6 – Vienna, 18/6 – Czech Republic/Bavaria, 19/6 – Leipzig/Central Germany, 20/6 – Northern Germany, 21/6 – Malmö.
It’s what it says on the tin, a song about losing a parent when you’re young and having to grow up way earlier than you should.
We chose to have it as the first track because I guess we love when albums don’t have stupid long intros and just get to the point directly. The point is blast beats. What I like most about this song is that it has one part for every aspect of our sound, it has the full on grindcore sound in the beginning, the dissonant screeching guitar riffs in the middle and a more melodic line at the end. That’s also part of the reason we chose to put it first.
We rerecorded this song because we weren’t happy with the approach we used to record the demo (one room microphone, live) and we thought it deserved better treatment. It’s a fun song to play as a drummer because of all the emoviolence-y spastic snare patterns.
Lyrically it’s about lacking empathy and having no motivation to do anything about it. Growing up, you see more and more people having problems and the more you see, the less you feel like doing something about it.
Luxurious City Life
Our speed test song! We just wanted to do a really fast and compact song. It’s about how the beauty industries established norms that made people dress a certain way and wear certain types of make-up just to distance themselves from the people who couldn’t afford to do that over a century ago, and this has become the standard today, to a point where we never even think about it, even less question it.
A Year Defined
We call this one “The Entombed Song”. It’s really weird how death metal and screamo never seem to be genres bands mix. We wanted to do these stupid but really heavy blast beats you don’t really see outside of death metal, and things like dissonant lead guitar melodies that rarely show up in screamo too. I don’t think screamo bands should be afraid of experimenting more with metal, our favorite bands are bands like Combatwoundedveteran who went pretty far in that direction.
This song has one of my favorite riffs we’ve ever written. It’s all fast riffs and blasting up until the final seconds. It’s about how Jakob (our vocalist) locked himself in his room during a fairly long period of time when we were recording this album at the peak of an I guess psychotic episode where he was afraid of going outside. We had a compromise during the recording process where he tracked vocals on the condition that he could wear a sleeping mask to avoid seeing the world.
Child Without Brain
The name is an inside joke based on Jakob’s irrational fear of videos involving children born without brains. The song is not about children born without brains. I think it doesn’t even have lyrics except for the last lines. The scratchy atonal riff in the middle of the song was originally an attempt to rip off “None More Black” by Orchid, but it didn’t really turn out that way. We still liked it a lot though and I think it makes “Child Without Brain” one of the more interesting and cohesive tracks on the album!
This is the first song we wrote! It’s about the biblical limbo of infants, or what happens to children who die before they have the chance to be baptized according to christian tradition. Of course we’re not a christian band so it’s not literally about that idea, but about general thoughts on how much of our remaining lives that are already determined for us when we’re too young to think for ourselves. Could our lives have turned out differently even before we were born?
Blast1.mp3 is about developing thoughts ranging from simple thoughts on solipsism to full-blown god complexes and completely disassociating from reality and the people in it when attempting to deal with a psychotic episode. I can’t really go into much more detail. We make lots of jokes about the “death beat”, and this song has the first recorded death beat in it. It’s really just me alternating between D-beat and blasting every bar or so, but every stupid beat has to have an equally stupid name!
This is also one of the earliest songs we wrote, and it was written when we still wanted to try out some start-stop riffs. We had an earlier version of it that just sounded like an old crust punk song, but we decided to switch the final part of that version out for the storm of noise we end it with now. The guitar plays in a different time signature than the drums and bass during that final part, but we didn’t actually notice that until we’d finished recording it. It worked out anyway!
Allt Går Sönder
“Allt Går Sönder” is Swedish for “Everything Falls Apart”, but we chose the title because it’s the Swedish title for Chinua Achebe’s classic book “Things Fall Apart” from 1958. To record it we basically picked apart the guitar and drum setups and combined some of the parts, running the snare drum through a HM-2 and the kick drum through a fuzz pedal. Then we did a live improvisation with the distorted drums, vocals going through the HM-2 via the snare mic and a broken home-built drone synth and removed the parts of the improvisation that didn’t sound like warfare.
The Shackles of Life
This is another song that’s very inspired by death metal and sludge metal. I think the opening riff sounds really chaotic with the blasting underneath the spidery guitar lead. We have some of the most extreme tempo shifts we’ve ever written in this song. It goes from being so fast I could barely play it to being so slow that it’s hard to not get lost.
It’s also about Jakob’s experiences with psychosis, and believing that you’re stuck in an actual time loop. You don’t eat because you believe you’ve already eaten. You don’t drink because you believe you’ve already drunk. Everything you see, feel or do just seems like something you’ve already experienced, so you just don’t want to see, feel or do anything.
This is just a straight up death metal song. It’s really inspired by Revenge, especially with the first part that sort of just hammers you with the hit everything at once-drum approach and the muted guitars. We were thinking about doing something close to a breakdown at the end but we decided to just stick with some more blast beats, and a sample of a screaming pig (no fake pig squeals, real style only).