Interview: Hallux Valgus (2022) | From The Bowels Of Perdition

Conversation with

Hallux Valgus

Just like Morbus Chron or Hyperdontia, Hallux Valgus is another disgusting health disorder that seems fitting to name a death metal band after. Why and how did you choose to go with it and was that decision perhaps a tribute to the aforementioned bands?

Horrorhammer: The truth is that it was a little bit of the latter, but mostly a coincidence. The name was chosen by my brother Lt. Nekroshit and me back in 2010. We were making our first steps as songwriters for this project. Back then, I was in charge of the drums, and to avoid some harmonics on our kit I used some old X-ray plates of our mother. Soon enough we were staring at the terrifying bony images of our mother’s feet and noticed that Hallux Valgus was written in the corner of the plate. We convinced ourselves that it served the purpose and we’ve stood by that choice ever since. That said, most people that don’t have a background in medicine would probably assume that such a name has necromantic or occult connotations. Also, back then we were very much into Morbus Chron’s first release which was obviously a source of motivation and more than an influence, especially for me. By the time they released Sweven, the majority of songs from Reflections Of Distant Dreams were already composed, but it motivated me even more to persevere on the quest for musical identity.

Neither Morbus Chron nor Hallux Valgus sound the way one would normally expect from bands with such repulsive monikers. Could you say something about that ambivalence in your case?

Horrorhammer: I’m positive that in Hallux Valgus’ case it reflects more of a risky bet if you will, to break the scene’s schemes and paradigms, besides proposing an artistic signature. In the first instance, the name was chosen because it landed well with our music composition-wise. Then the focus was more oriented around the listener’s imagination and trying to taint an average banger with some fragility. Back when we were starting out, people were approaching and asking about the name’s significance. Obviously, I played the mystery card and said every single time do some research and you’ll understand. They all went away thinking this got to be something totally mysterious and amazing. Ultimately, when I was to stumble upon them again, they were of course totally disappointed with the real meaning. Which is good, because I’m not into liking everyone nor being liked by everyone. As I stated earlier, the name was chosen when I was 13 or 14 years old, and back then I thought it was truly amazing. I remember at one point, one of our previous band members suggested changing the name because he felt it lacked seriousness and was childish, and I told him that that’s precisely why the name would stay. Back in the Death Will Prevail EP days, another guy also told me that the sound wasn’t right and he offered to work on it and master it all over again, which I refused. It sounds the way it sounds and that’s it. It reflects both that moment in time and the sound texture, but also myself finding that particular sound amazing in that particular moment. Sound for me speaks of memento, primarily.

The first CD edition of Reflections Of Distant Dreams was released independently, right? As for the vinyl re-release, has Edged Circle reached out to you for cooperation, or was it you who got in touch with them because you specifically wanted to release the album through that particular label?

Horrorhammer: There’s a detail. The album was not released independently, the first edition was released through two Chilean labels, with 500 CD copies via Ex Nihilo and 300 Cassette copies via Burning Coffin. Regarding Edged Circle, they contacted me after I sent a sample of the master to a friend In Norway, Salvador Armijo from the band Black Viper.

As your first official full-length after almost ten years of existence, is Reflections Of Distant Dreams an outcome of you honing these songs slowly and meticulously throughout those ten years, or maybe a result of some unexpected and intense burst of creativity that happened more recently?

Horrorhammer: As you stated, the album is well thought and meditated work and an outcome of a long compositional process, that went hand in hand with the search for our musical identity, which was the most difficult task of them all, I think. Besides that, it is also important to note that these days it is far more accessible to go into a studio to record a long duration album with good sound quality, which wasn’t really an option in my hometown before. I’m positive that from 100% of the bands from our city, maybe only 20% have been able to record an album. Chile is way too centralized country. For example, Satanic Ripper’s album, which is a side project in which I participate, consists of 11 tracks and was recorded around 2014 in only one day. What can you really do only on one day of recording? In most cases, you’ll tune, microphone everything, sort of adjust the drum sound, and hope for the best. That’s it for the technical part. It’s probably the main reason why most of the bands here only release demos and EPs.

Hallux Valgus Interview 2022 (Reflections Of Distant Dreams)

Could you say something about those distant dreams the album title refers to? Is that phrase perhaps a reference to something you went through in your private life?

Horrorhammer: The title is a tribute to the whole process of grieving my father’s death. A poetic on a cat enduring several stages of change and struggling through the birth of a new life, finally encountering a fox resting meditatively while contemplating its father’s stare achieving comfort in those faraway dreams. Art for the album was formed by several illustrations commissioned, reflecting the journey detailed above. As for the front and back covers, those are pieces by a renowned southern Chilean painter José Trivinho, and the cat one was my father’s favourite painting.

At first, that cat indeed feels silly and absurd, like something that’s completely out of place on a cover for this kind of album, yet the more one stares at it, the more it makes sense to have it there. Could you say something about that mysterious cat and its significance, in case there’s a significance to it in the first place?

Horrorhammer: Again, the main reason for all the elements to converge, from the cover art to the album title, is to pay tribute to my late father, all along with the poetic articulation of the concept. It’s a shared but essentially private search for the meaning and significance, and I do not care for anything else, let alone following rules, canons, or stereotypes. Besides all that, I think Trivinho’s painting is just a majestic piece of art, as you stated, illustrating a mysterious cat who grows stronger in meaning by the minute, and who serves on the album as a voice of perspective.

Is your sound a result of a conscious effort to distance yourselves from any of the presently existing tendencies and styles in death metal, or is it something that happened naturally and effortlessly, in a sense that you just picked up your instruments, started playing, and this album turned out to be the outcome?

Horrorhammer: There is certainly a conscious intent. When taking distance from tendencies and particular styles is where the real musical essence appears, you have to take chances for a different outcome musically and avoid being just another band from the lot. Also, this includes ignoring the famous voice inside that tells you what will people say and reassuring oneself constantly on such chances and risks necessarily taken. Regarding just the sound, it was creative liberty so to speak, the usage of low tones and a slight distortion while doing death metal. Any band playing on #B with a classic distortion can automatically sound like the most swampy, malignant thing in the world, but to achieve such heights with a subtle distortion, you have to hit the strings a certain way and be precise while performing. That provides a more rock and roll sound.

The opening melody line of Sensless Vanity, the closing sequence of Murderous Instinct, or that short, memorable solo at the end of Hot Puke are just a few of the album’s highlights that immediately come to mind. Do you see this album that way though, as a combo of highlights and merely regular songs, or do you see it as a consistent effort without any significant dips in quality?

Horrorhammer: You may think this is silly or ridiculous, but during the process of composing this album I made a friend whom I showed my demos. The only criteria this guy applied to evaluate the music were either it’s nice because it has a pop feel or it’s shit because it’s not poppy enough. I didn’t really understand any of it and just laughed along, but as the time passed, and I got to tell you, I cannot be more on board with the idea. Every song has to have a little pop moment or pop feel, otherwise it will never stick on you. So, from that realization onwards, I put effort into making it pop, pop, pop, pop! How many times is it okay to say pop before this interview becomes weird? Pop!

In the press release for this album, Edged Circle defined your sound as a head-on collision between Cadaver, Running Wild and Christian Death, stating that you actually play impossibly catchy heavy metal dusted with deathrock. Do you appreciate this definition? If so, how do you explain that your music still appeals the most to the death metal audience?

Horrorhammer: I find it pretty accurate. Maybe the intrigue on how the fuck can you possibly mix Running Wild with Christian Death? is something that actually helps us (laughs). Obviously, those are brushes at most, if you ask me. I would say that 75% of the album is death metal, only perhaps a bit more mature and thought through so it can hold up to those subtle, outside of the genre references.

Hallux Valgus Interview 2022 (Promo)

Would you subscribe to the notion that there’s something weird about you and your sound, considering that this album was also deemed a gleaming gem of weirdo metal magick? Do you feel alienated from everything that is happening in the extreme metal underground at the moment, or do you have a sense of belonging to it, despite how odd your music may seem to fans of the already established niches within the scene?

Horrorhammer: The truth is that I constantly struggle with this particular dilemma. I don’t feel represented at all by the Chilean niche that consumes metal. I’m not sure if it’s the same situation in other parts of the world, but here the huge majority of underground people (Molemen?) are just douches. Early on I managed to stay away from the scene but that was just on paper ˗ the urge to play is strong and has always been, that’s why I’m actively participating from this trench in a variety of bands. Lately though, I’ve been orbiting a little far from metal and currently I’m dedicating a big part of my time to a new death rock project called A Través Del Manto.

Could you say something about the correlation between the music you make and the things you go through while making it, either on an emotional or intellectual level? How does one affect the other?

Horrorhammer: I’m not afraid of stating that I’m a pretty sensitive and emotional person, and therefore, music for me represents a constant catharsis. I see composition as a resolution of emotions. It can start with tension, intrigue, and anger and culminate with more soft and joyful tones, or maybe keep you in a loop. I strive for manufacturing musically emotional stories, so that the listener can also find a personal significance in them. I’m not really a lyricist so composition is my arena, the place where I give everything I have.

What are some of the bands and artists that influenced the way you think musically, both inside and outside of metal? In addition, as much as you admire those bands, how important for you is to disguise their influence and make it inconspicuous?

Horrorhammer: The band that I feel influences me the most is Darkthrone. I admire them so much. The natural feel to take a walk on a variety of styles, while holding up their flag on each album, is something that I find amazing. I’m not really a fan of hiding influences, on the contrary, it is enjoyable for me when a listener can recognize those hints, it makes the whole thing more fun. I admire Siouxe a lot also. Love Depeche Mode. Basically, my days go by listening to gothic, death rock, and its variations. The last band I recall blowing my brains out was Corpus Delicti, it’s been four years under their spell and I can’t stop listening to them. The same thing occurred with She Past Away and Fields Of The Nephilim. I haven’t been that much into metal for at least several years now.

Which young bands in your opinion are shaking the status quo these days?

Horrorhammer: The last bands I listened to and liked were Malokarpatan, Antichrist, Ultra Silvam, that sort of stuff.

Do you feel that music and art in general have a higher purpose and are capable of providing answers to some of the most difficult existential questions, or do you see them precisely as a means of not having to deal with those questions, by offering intellectually, spiritually, and aesthetically acceptable alternative, in a sense that art may not make us gods, but at least prevents us from being savages?

Horrorhammer: I got to go with the second one, for it is precisely because of the art and music that me and my brother ended up playing songs like Hot Puke instead of hitting each other in the mouth with bottles of acid (laughs). For me, the higher purpose, taking it from what you said, is to learn to deal with inner beasts, develop ways to transform them, or just remove them from yourself, while giving birth to something meaningful. Once out, those things cannot harm or torment you… That much.

 

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