Published Feb 05, 2019Despite the progressive values espoused by his metalcore band xServitudex's recent EPs, January's Bringing Your Hell and 2017's Path to Amnesty, guitarist Ben Brodie emphasizes that they aren't exactly warm and fuzzy.
"We don't want to be a soft vegan straight edge band," Brodie asserts to Exclaim! in a Skype interview from his home in Glasgow. "That's not what we're interested in. We like heavy, scary music. There's not been a scary vegan straight edge band in a while. We're not interested in trying to balance a soft message and heavy music. We want it to be as extreme as possible."
Par for the course with a vegan straight edge band, Bringing Your Hell's lyrics touch on drug abuse ("Wicked City") and the environmental impact of animal agriculture ("Dark Nation"), tempering their provocative social commentary through a less-than-hopeful lens.
"The aim was a pessimistic approach to the society we live in, especially towards veganism," Brodie says. "There is a social change happening. People are starting to act more consciously. It still sometimes feels like a constant battle and a negative output. We are personally doing the best we can, but there comes a point where you wonder if things will ever really change."
The sounds of Bringing Your Hell provide a welcome addition to a lineage of vegan and straight edge acts including xCanaanx, Earth Crisis (performing with them in London last summer was a "bucket-list move" for Brodie), Congress and Prayer for Cleansing. Brodie says the band have more profound intentions than simply pulling at their sound's roots.
"With vegan straight edge music, it's so easy to do Arkangel and be done with it."
"We're just trying to make our own mark instead of looking completely to the past," adds vocalist James Fisher from his house in Leeds, England. There has been a clear-cut evolution from xServitudex's 2017 EP Path to Amnesty to now.
"When we wrote Path to Amnesty, we hadn't even practiced together as a band," Fisher explains. "I'll fully admit that I couldn't really do vocals well during those recordings."
"We can play our instruments better," Brodie cheerfully adds. "We'd get heart-eyed over a section of a song and keep it in for longer than we needed to. There's an extra seven minutes of material that we didn't put on Bringing Your Hell. A song can't be four minutes for the sake of being four minutes long."
"It's important in hardcore to make a release digestible," Fisher continues. "I'm at a point where I can't listen to a 40-minute record unless it's completely amazing. It bores me. I can't finish a long record unless I know it's a fucking masterpiece."
Fisher imagines that the group's next release will "probably be even more militant" than Bringing Your Hell, a doubling-down on the message at the centre of the metalcore troupe, who were "friends first, before musicians.
"Ben and I have known each other for seven years at this point. We were the first vegan straight edge people in each other's lives. We met Shaun [Alexander, guitarist] and Ryan [Machray, drums] in Glasgow shortly after that. Dan [Wilson, bass] lives on the other side of the country in Birmingham. It's literally difficult, but it's about friendship."
Despite the precision and temper that oozes throughout their music, most members of xServitudex are fairly new to their instrumental roles in the group.
"We didn't know any vegan straight edge guitar players. I basically learned to write for the first EP," Brodie confesses. "It makes it more worthwhile. We are so receptive to each other's ideas. We don't get possessive over the way that we write, because we are all learning as we go. If Shaun or myself writes a guitar riff and it sounds shit, we don't get defensive over it."
xServitudex will tour Europe with Year of the Knife this spring, and intend to tour North America before the end of 2019, as they continue working on their next release.
"We're not at liberty to say much else, but it's absolutely in the works," Fisher remarks. "We are doing nothing unnecessary and everything as long as it feels good."
Bringing Your Hell is available independently now.