Life itself is only a vision, a dream. Nothing exists, save empty space, and you. And you, are but a thought. –Mark Twain, The Mysterious Stranger
Everything about Leichenhaus is heavy – the music, the vocals, the lyrical content – which makes for an enjoyably gruelling and often frighteningly immersing trip into death and nothingness. Sounds fun, right? Well, it is.
Based in Los Angeles, Bereft is a four-piece doom outfit made up of an eclectic mix of metal innovators – Derek Donley (National Sunday Law, Graviton), Sacha Dunable (Intronaut, Graviton), Charles Elliott (Abysmal Dawn) and Derek Rydquist (ex-The Faceless). While you can surely find elements of each member’s other projects in Bereft’s debut Leichenhaus, you have to dig to find them. Bereft really is a whole new beast.
From the slow build of “Mentality of the Inanimate” that begins the descent into the dark world of Bereft, Leichenhaus (released April 24, 2012, on The End Records) is an album to be experienced in its entirety. “The Coldest Orchestra” brings you down a dank, smoky path of post-metal riffing and spacey atmospherics, crushing you then lifting you up to float off elsewhere. Built on the concepts of the waiting mortuary (or leichenhaus in German) and sky burial, Leichenhaus achieves a remarkable balance between assaulting, crushing heaviness (like that riff in “A Cruel Mirage”… damn) and more open, spacy passages that carry you along to the next deep cave.
I caught up with Derek Donley to get some insight into how and why Bereft came about, their future plans, and well… death.
Vancouver Weekly: How did the four of you get together?
Derek Donley: Sacha and I were in a band called Graviton and actually played youth hockey together. Sacha and Charles have been friends for years. I think they might have even been roommates when the songs that became Leichenhaus were written. And both Sacha and Charles know Derek Rydquist from playing shows together with their other bands over the years.
Vancouver Weekly: I heard this project was originally called Bewilderbiest. Why the name change to Bereft?
Derek Donley: Sacha and I had already recorded most of the album and called the band Bewilderbiest before Charles and Derek started getting officially involved. Let’s just say we weren’t all content with that name so we came up with Bereft, which we all agreed on.
Vancouver Weekly: How did you become interested in the concept of the “waiting mortuary”?
Derek Donley: My girlfriend was reading a book called Buried Alive by Jan Bondeson and kept telling me all sorts of interesting facts about the hysteria around being buried alive in the late 1800s. “The Coldest Orchestra” is about corpses laying in a waiting mortuary with bells tied to their fingers so that the watchmen would be signalled if they were to suddenly awaken.
Vancouver Weekly: Creepy. So what’s the intention behind Bereft’s music? What are you trying to put across to your listeners?
Derek Donley: Slow, dark, depressing doom metal.
Vancouver Weekly: There’s a sound bite from the stop-motion animation film The Adventures of Mark Twain from 1986 on the album. It’s eerie as hell. How did you find out about the film, and what’s the significance behind using that clip in Leichenhaus?
Derek Donley: I saw that when I was a kid but didn’t really understand how dark it really is until looking for it again a few years ago. That quote – “Life itself is only a vision, a dream. Nothing exists, save empty space, and you. And you, are but a thought.” – is so beautifully creepy and is an interesting perspective on life and death.
Vancouver Weekly: Now that you’ve checked doom off your project list, is that it for Bereft, or can we expect some new music in the future?
Derek Donley: We’ve already started writing new songs, they’re slow, dark and depressing, with the biggest difference being that all four of us are writing together. There will be new music but this band was formed with the intention of being a doom band. We each cover other musical territories with our other projects, so the new stuff is a more evolved, four-headed version of Bereft.
Vancouver Weekly: What other music would you recommend to fans of Bereft?
Derek Donley: I’ve been listening to Vaura’s Selenelion on repeat for weeks, and of course our related projects Intronaut, Abysmal Dawn, Graviton and National Sunday Law.
Vancouver Weekly: Any touring plans?
Derek Donley: We’d love to but a lot of things have to come into place for that to happen.
Vancouver Weekly: Last but not least – would you rather be buried, cremated, put in a crypt, or disposed of in some other fashion?
Derek Donley: I would like to be wrapped in a shroud and placed directly into the cold dark earth by my loved ones.
You can pick up Leichenhaus here or at your local record store… and if your local record store doesn’t have it, demand it. Make a scene. Just don’t break anything. It’s also available on iTunes and Amazon.