RINGWORM - Facing The Heat With The Human Furnace
July 26, 2016, a year ago
Here’s a quick primer on what you need to know about Cleveland metallic hardcore terrors Ringworm: they are heavy and the vocalist is named Human Furnace. I mean, there are other things—they’ve put out a bunch of records and have been on a couple prominent record labels—but those are the clinchers. Heavy. Human Furnace.
And, new album: Snake Church, on Relapse Records. And Human Furnace is feeling good about it.
“But being around as long as we have, I always have a ‘business as usual’ attitude towards every new album,” he says. “Of course, I'm happy with it, and for the most part, that's all that matters to me. It's kinda the same for people with a few kids, you love them all, of course, but I'm sure you have a favourite. This one's up there for me personally (laughs).”
To be honest, we’re glad to hear that Human Furnace is feeling good, because we wouldn’t want to cross the dude on a bad day. Just one listen to his screams on the album (or any of the band’s recorded output) and it’s clear that he’s angry about a thing or two. He says there are definitely common threads in his lyrics on the new one, which look at subjects such as, he says, “Life, death, love, loss, depression, suicide, religion.”
“They are all about my personal take, reflection, and experience,” he says. “Snake Church regards a way of looking at the world through a different set of eyes, the horrors that religion can bring, and at times the kinship that like-minded can feel if they share the same longing and viewpoints. It's glaringly obvious that there's a very dark side to organized religion. Even non-believers are enveloped by it. ‘Brotherhood Of The Midnight Sun’ refers to anyone who feels the same way as I do about certain things. Lack of forgiveness, loss, a changing of the guard, a ‘fuck you’ to those who try to hold you down.”
Human Furnace (James Bulloch, by the way, on his birth certificate) says that while the band has roots in hardcore they have been accepted by the metal crowd, and now that they’re working with Relapse, they’re only going to be more known within metal circles.
“Being on Relapse has really helped get our music out to a whole new audience that might not have ever heard us otherwise,” he says. “Our whole tenure at Victory, we explicitly tried to have them push us in a ‘metal’ direction. I've always thought that what we do really resonates with the metal scene. We’ve often been described as ‘too hardcore for metal and too metal for hardcore,’ but I think these days that moniker doesn't really apply. Despite our history, I've always thought that we have way more in common with metal audiences. Touring with more straightforward metal bands has really been the best place for us. It's enjoyable turning metal kids on to something new.”
The cover art for the album is very striking, a detailed piece that looks like it took quite some time to create. It turns out, it did, and when I ask Human Furnace if the band told the artist what they were looking for or if they gave the artist artistic freedom, his answer surprises me.
“In fact, I did tell the artist what I wanted, because I'm actually the artist that drew it,” he says with a laugh. “I also drew the cover for our last album, Hammer Of The Witch. This piece is part of an ongoing series that I had started a few years ago. It was actually quite an intense piece to achieve. I had very little done with it, and I had a strict deadline for completion if we wanted to make our release date. 90 percent of the piece was done in two weeks. I spent roughly 200 hours on it in that time. So, yeah, pretty intense deadline. But I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out, considering the amount of time I had to spend on it. The detailed style that I used on this takes fucking forever.”
That intense dedication is all over the songs on Snake Church, and even if there’s nothing on the album that’s going to surprise anyone who’s heard Ringworm before, Human Furnace says that’s not really the point.
“Well, in theory, we do kind of repeat ourselves,” he says when asked how the band manages to not repeat themselves from album to album. “But like they say, if it's not broke, don’t fix it. We do try to expand our sound a bit from record to record, so maybe in 15 years we'll have a few acoustic techno ballads by then. It takes time.”