- Sarah Stubbs
Mancunian wrecking crew Ingested talk newly-remastered 2006 EP, touring plans and turning 15
One of the few silver linings of lockdown has been the opportunity to stick something brutalising on the stereo, roll up our sleeves and finally go full-on Marie Kondo on our homes. Stuck indoors, we can get around to that spring clean, get rid of the usual pointless detritus accumulated over the years and what’s more, have a proper rummage through our music collections.
For British death metal legends Ingested, an epic clear-out proved way more fruitful than just tossing a few once-beloved, now cringe-worthy old albums on E-bay and deleting some long-forgotten tunes. A collective deep dive into their digital memory banks yielded a gem that was crusty with age yet no less of a treasure - the crude first recordings of their debut EP, 'Stinking Cesspool of Liquefied Human Remnants', originally part of a split CD in 2006 with fellow bands Crepitation and Kastrated. With spit and polish and a whole lot of dedication, this pulverising slice of abrasive early death has been lovingly remastered for release and marks the 15th anniversary of the formation of the band.
The band’s drummer Lyn Jeffs explains how it happened. ‘During quarantine we were going through the backlog of all our hard drives, because we’ve never had time before to do this sort of thing, and while we were going through stuff we got talking to the bass player from Crepitation. He said “I’ve been doing the same things as you guys and found all the original files for the recordings.” I was like, no way! He said, “Do you want them?” We said, “Yeah, send them over, we’ll have a look and see if there’s anything we can do with them.”’ Due to the poor condition of the recordings, it was clear it wasn’t going to be plain sailing to plan any kind of re-release. ‘We had a look and they were horrendous. We were like 17, 18 years old, we had no idea what we were doing, it was just a shit-show.’ Luckily, help was at hand. ‘A friend of mine who lives round the corner owns a studio and has kind of become our studio producer. I got talking to him and asked him, “Is there anything you can do with these tracks? They’re not in great condition but we’re 15 years old next year and we’d like to see if we can do something.” We’ve always had a lot of fans asking about our original recordings, because the sound has kind of developed over the years. You’re always going to get a lot of fans who like the original sound more, not so much the modern sound, so we thought it would be nice to do something for those guys really. So that’s how it came about.’
That savage early sound is certainly very distinctive, and stands out from other releases at the time through borrowing elements of deathcore to add to the mix. ‘We only listened to brutal death metal until the whole deathcore scene picked up around the UK. We were kind of dubious about it at the time, we were into the heavier style. But we wanted to have the brutal death metal sound with the polished deathcore production because all of those bands back in the days had a really kind of raw production. So we wanted to go for something a little bit cleaner which is how the first album came about. It’s just a little bit more over-produced than some other releases around that time.’ The result is pure, rage-fuelled ingenuity, a skilled yet deliciously barbarous assault on the senses and it’s unsurprising that nostalgic fans are clamouring to hear more of it.
Hailing from Manchester, Ingested are one of the main drivers of the British death metal scene, and with some other notable acts helped pioneer a corrosive, vicious style arguably born of the grim, industrialised cityscape they knew so well and the wild, foreboding moors that surround it. ‘If you go back 20 or 30 years, all the original bands are from the Midlands. I think we obviously cemented a very unique sound in metal at that time.’ The release of the EP proved to be a real trip down memory lane, the momentous 15 year marker leaving the group reminiscing, misty-eyed, about how it all began. ‘Sean and Sam, the two guitarists, started playing in bands together around 2002, they tried to get a band started for a while and settled on a band in 2004 and they named the band Age of Suffering.’ Lyn explains. ‘They then met Jason Evans, our singer, through our original bass player Brad Fuller. They were having some trouble around 2006 with their drummer at that time so that band kind of disintegrated. Around then I moved to Manchester and became friends with all the guys so we formed Ingested in 2006.’ And the rest is history, with Ingested being one of those rare bands to retain their original line up. ‘We’re all the same members, apart from one change when Brad left around 2019 because he couldn’t fulfil touring obligations (not that that matters anymore!) We’ve been the same members for 15 years now.’
While the line-up has stayed pretty much the same, Ingested have refused to remain in stasis and continually evolved their style. In recent years, the band have moved away from the flesh-rending brutality of the harsher early material and added a little more drama, creating something more majestic and meaningful in later albums. Their most recent release, 'Where Only Gods May Tread', is a tempestuous, whirling death metal odyssey into ever-deeper territories of extremity; its wind-whipped paroxysms of pent-up rage accompanied by delicious layers of velvety, darkest melody. ‘I think the new sound is a little bit more blackened than before.’ Lyn muses. ‘When you’re young you go hell for leather to the extreme, even the lyrical content. But I think now we kind of found a comfort zone. When you’re younger, you try and emulate the bands that you like, and try and see what sticks. You try things that sound cool, and some things work and some things don’t. It’s helped us being the same members for 15 years. We’ve kind of grown up together, and experienced the evolution in the metal scene in the past 15 years together, so we’re kind of always on the same page. We’re showing our age now!’ Indeed, Ingested have always been difficult to pin down. ‘Even when we first started, between 2006 and 2010, we used to go on forums and people always used to argue about us, always. No they’re deathcore! No they’re not, they’re brutal death metal, nah they’re slam! And we thought, looking back, isn’t it great that people are talking about us, they can’t pigeonhole what we sound like. I’d like to say we’re just a straight up death metal band, but I guess we’ve got more to our sound than that. I guess it’s just modern extreme metal, really.’ Their success is perhaps due to their willingness to be open to adaptation and natural patterns of change in the music.
‘We used to think what we knew worked, but when we started going out there, and playing many, many shows across the year, we kind of realised that certain songs that we really liked didn’t really work well live. So we kind of started changing our writing style slightly, making it more of a standard structure song - bringing riffs back, bringing hooks back. So we’ve kind of just evolved as we’ve played shows as well. We always try and vary our releases, we don’t want to write the same album over and over again, we don’t really see the point in that. We have a lot of people who say “we love the first album” but it’s not going anywhere! You can listen to it forever, that’s why it’s recorded. You don’t have to write the same album over and over again, what’s the point? There’s not many bands who can get away with that. Cannibal Corpse can get away with it because they are Cannibal Corpse and I wouldn’t want them to write a different album but they’re a unique band. Not many bands can get away with that. And we wouldn’t want to do that anyway.’ Their longevity is also perhaps due to really focusing their energies on the emotive qualities of the music, as well as ensuring the technical execution is spot on. ‘There a lot of bands and musicians who are super, super talented, unbelievably skilled, but it doesn’t always make for good songs. I think you have to find a balance.’
Lyn is in awe of the creativity of songwriters. ‘I don’t look for drummers who are technically skilled because there’s thousands of them that are infinitely better than me but what I find interesting are the people who can compose songs, how do they make the songs interesting and make me want to go back to them over and over again. To have that passion and create that atmosphere makes it a little more unique.’ Part of Ingested’s success is also due to their willingness to learn from others. ‘All the bands that we’ve toured with, peers of ours, have been massively influential on the way we’ve behaved as a band, especially on how we’ve become more professional, not just on tour but how we bring that into a studio, the way we conduct ourselves. It’s good when you tour with someone and you see how they are, they’re like this well-oiled machine, and you want to take a little bit of that. Bands like that have really helped us along the way. In the extreme metal genre, I honestly think Behemoth have just set the benchmark for about 15 years now. I think every single band is looking to them. They’ve kind of hit the nail on the head in every aspect.’
Like everyone in the music industry right now, Ingested are not immune to the impact of the pandemic. Due to tour this year, plans are still very much up in the air due to the ongoing situation, particularly as Lyn currently resides in the sunny climes of Spain. ‘I had a conversation with our agent last week, as soon as we know for sure what’s happening, everyone else will know. That tour has already been postponed from December. We are hoping it will go through in May but you just don’t know at the moment. It’s so difficult to tell what’s going to go on in the next week. We’re bringing a band from America, South Africa, as well, so… we’re staying positive, but…’ The inability to play live at the moment is keenly felt. ‘We live for touring. We really miss it. It’s what we do. Since we went full time with the band in 2018 we did about 300 shows in two years! We were actually on tour when all this happened. We started in Russia, then headed over to America, then went straight into a European tour, but we only did seven shows out of a four week tour. We played the first show in London, the UK hadn’t gone into lockdown but we had two American bands on the tour and Trump at that time had put a travel ban so they booked their flights straight away, then I returned to Spain, and then the day after the Scotland show the whole tour was cancelled. The problem for me is, there’s just no end in sight and it’s been nearly a year. And it’s like we’re taking one step forward, two steps back all the time. Sport, for example, is a good indicator of where we are. In the Summer fans were let back into stadiums - but not any more. So I can’t see there being any festivals this year.’
However, like many artists recently, the lack of a gruelling touring schedule has, at the very least, allowed more space for creativity. ‘We’re in the studio at the moment. We’re going to announce something in the next few weeks. But I don’t think I can say anymore! We are writing for a new album as well. The one positive thing about this Covid situation is that it has given us a lot of time to spend in the studio, writing, bouncing ideas off each other, and being creative without the pressure of being on tour. You can’t get organised when you’re on the road. To be honest if there’s a band that hasn’t done anything over the last year in terms of writing, I don’t know why they’re in a band. I mean, what is the point? If you’ve got all that time on your hands and if you’re not being creative you’re wasting it. I think the important thing is to set new targets, all the time. We’re always thinking ahead. Even before the last album is released we’re already working on the next one. We always stay keen and set new targets. Obviously that has been a bit difficult this year with the touring situation but we’re trying to stay fresh and do new things.’
And Lyn is very hopeful for the future of the metal scene, despite the huge blow it has been dealt over the past year. ‘I think a lot of the bands that tour more relentlessly, the full time bands, they will carry on no matter what. They will always be on tour.’ At the same time, he believes it will hit the smaller bands the hardest. ‘I honestly think some of the more part time bands, who maybe just go out once a year, I think it will be ten times harder for them. It’s pretty sad, you don’t want that to happen to any band, you want there to be as many bands as possible.’ But it's Brexit red tape, rather than coronavirus, that is particularly concerning for Lyn. ‘I think Brexit will be the main thing, you don’t know what the visa situation is going to be like, its not looking fantastic. I mean we will pay for visas, a lot of money for visas to last all year but bands that don’t tour Europe that often are not going to pay through the nose for a visa.’
Even if it all feels a little demoralising right now, as metal fans we can still play our part in keeping the music alive and kicking until the show can go on. ‘It’s been a difficult year, not just for us but for the entire music and metal scene in particular. Keep buying merchandise, the EP, the latest album. We really need the support at the moment. Every band will tell you there’s a reason why we go on tour and it’s to play for people. And if we can’t bring anything to people in a live situation we’re going to keep writing music.
‘If you keep buying merch, we can keep writing.’
Words by Sarah Stubbs