Black metal band PERMAFROST is bringing their brand of music to Northern Virginia with the release of their debut album, Transitory. The three-piece group has firmly entrenched themselves into the local music scene, having recently played alongside their peers at The Pinch in Washington, D.C. Drummer Ethan Griffiths sat down to give us an inside look at their song writing process, what the album means to them individually, and what fans can expect from PERMAFROST in 2015.

Who is PERMAFROST? How did this band come together?

PERMAFROST is comprised of three people: Justin [Woodward, vocalist], Andy [Nees, bassist], and [I]. It started as a two piece, which eventually grew into a three [piece]. The core of the band has always been Justin and I, but Andy has been in this for a little while, and we consider him part of that as well. If I remember right, it’s been years. Justin was a mutual friend of another guy whom I used to play in a band with previously. He had been asking on Facebook about drummers being able to play a certain tempo, and I figured I’d inquire about it. [I] worked on early stuff he wrote back then, and everything has kind of just evolved into what it is now.

You describe your sound as “Blacken’d Death Doom.” How does that distinction guide your song writing process?

Honestly, not much at all. I think it’s fair to say that we went through various “stages,” in our sound, until we found a way to kind of blend them together. Even if they aren’t as extreme in one particular direction or another. I’d say we started off as a death metal band kind of trying to do the whole earlier DECREPIT BIRTH [and] NILE sort of sound. And then went through a doom phase akin to bands like WORSHIP, ASUNDER, and the like. And as we spoke more, I introduced him more to what I was most fond of: black metal. I don’t personally feel it defines anything though since we’re definitely not an orthodox band in the whole spectrum of “black metal,” I don’t think. Sometimes I even disagree with saying that much, but I figure it’s an easy title that people generally associate with us, and that’s fine. I always want to do something black metal like in nature, or at least have some sense of familiarity with that particular idea or sound. But that isn’t to say we let that shape the overall sound. I think it can be done in a lot of ways. Though, obviously we’re fans and not opposed to labels or going further in that direction stylistically either.


Your debut album Transitory was digitally released in December. What events inspired its creation? What does “transitory” mean to you?

It was difficult because we have been sitting on this material for a very long time. Maybe three years? We just wanted to get the material out there, and playing music for everyone in the band has always served as a sort of release. I can speak directly for the lyrics and say that there are statements within the songs that we felt obligated to say. I wrote the lyrics for “Oak” and “Collapse,” while Justin wrote the lyrics to “Nausea.” Being specific, “Oak” is about the idea of us as people lacking a real experience with the Earth. We try to place meaning to natural order so often, creating customs, religions, a lot of things. And despite this, we’re still inexperienced with the seasons, and understanding what they actually mean. That whole song just kind of personifies people with a fondness of the natural order of things as “Oaks,” and showing that even though there will often be a lack of interest in such things, there will always be others who tend to the trees keeping them youthful. “Collapse,” on the other hand, is more personal. The whole idea behind it is a conversation between [my] current self and a younger me. It has a lot more to do with perception as a younger adult and dealing with severe depression, suicide, [and] things of that nature. You eventually have to come to terms with the idea of living to do it. So it’s a conversation between part of me that does and another half that didn’t. But it’s also showing that there will always be a fondness for that old self, like an old friend, or family member. “Nausea” was written by Justin, so I can’t speak fully on this, but I know he wrote it addressing issues of severe anxiety to the point of sickness and inability to get out of bed. The song is written with the idea of struggling through it, but trying to overcome it as well. Transitory just serves as a means for release. This whole project is cathartic, and I think that’s always going to be the main release for us, outside of just a creative vessel.

Were you expecting the response from fans to be as overwhelmingly positive as it has been?

Personally, no. I feel like when you craft something for yourself, you really don’t even have the sense of perspective to even think about that. The fact that anyone was even interested at all was just nice; considering the whole thing was done with ourselves in mind, you know? If they align with that sentiment and what we do, what we say, then it’s always going to be great, but I don’t think that will ever stop surprising me in some way.

You just played at The Pinch in D.C. with OCCULTIST, ILSA, and CLADONIA RANGIRFERINA. How do you think it went? What made this show special?

It was great. We’re all fans of the bands on the bill, and the turnout itself was really good in a smaller place too. It [felt] intimate. It’s also kind of cool that everything has come full circle in a way. CLADONIA RANGIRFERINA has two guys I used to play in a band with years ago, [called] WOLVES GUARD MY COFFIN. I have a lot of support for them and the WOLVES OF VINLAND. They’re great guys and put out good material, so it felt like family. We had CDs for the first time that we were able to hand out. The whole show just felt complete. ILSA and OCCULTIST being on the bill made it one we were just so stoked to watch too.

Do you have any tour plans in the works to continue promoting Transitory?

It’s not off the table, but we all have jobs like anyone else, so if something works out, we can do a weekend here and there. As far as a bigger stretch of dates, it’ll depend on what comes our way and if there’s anything available that won’t leave us in complete debt.

What can fans expect from PERMAFROST in 2015?

This one is harder to project. Definitely some shows being announced soon. Beyond that, maybe another recording before the years end. We’re working on new material and [have] already been playing one of the newer songs [in] the past few shows we’ve done. So [you can] expect some new material and, if the writing comes together quickly enough, possibly a release.

For more updates on PERMAFROST, please “like” their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter, and check out their debut album Transitory via Bandcamp.

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