Travis Shinn

Suicide Silence’s ‘Old School Deathcore’

Resilience is built into the grain of everything that Sucide Silence does. Despite losing their vocalist in 2012, having their 2020 album cut completely short, and many other obstacles, the band refuses to be defeated. 

On March 10, Suicide Silence released their new album, Remember…You Must Die. For a band that has helped create an entire subgenre of metal, the need to constantly live up to expectations can be taxing. On the new album, though, a decade after the loss of Mitch Lucker, the band dives into a new sound… and this one is more compelling than ever before. Remember… You Must Die feels like a continuous heavy metal journey as the pacing is immaculate. It doesn’t feel like a second is wasted. Every track blends into the next flawlessly, making a seamless album-listening experience for fans. 

We had the incredible opportunity to catch up with guitarist Mark Heylmun. With the new album available now and the Chaos and Carnage tour kicking off this season, we got to talking about writing and recording, and even doing so in the Foo Fighters’ studio.

The new album, Remember…You Must Die, is here. How are you feeling? 

Feeling good! This morning, actually, there were a bunch of reviews out – and I have to read the damn reviews. I would be lying if I was impervious to wanting to potentially stroke my ego and find a positive review or find out who’s talking shit! 

Of course! When you put so much energy and effort into it it can be really refreshing to see a positive review that depicts exactly what you’ve been trying to do.

Yeah, it’s true! It’s funny because I feel like in the earlier days we would just get bashed, we would get crazy bad reviews. I’m pretty sure The Cleansing (for the most part) was three out of 10 and like two out of five – just super low reviews. Years and years go by and it’s like, “This is the most defining album of their career,” and it’s like… it wasn’t at the time… that’s not what you said then. You take it with a grain of salt, but it is nice. I also look at the reviewer and see what else they review. What have they given other bands? Shots fired right here: I feel like too many people review music they just already like. If you don’t like it, I want to read why you don’t like it. For the most part, if you read reviews, everyone is getting eight or nine out of 10s. 

To go back to what you said earlier about The Cleansing, it’s interesting, because I’ve noticed this trend with a lot of media and being in the industry for the last six years, I try to avoid this. A lot of people will bash something, but once it gets really popular will pretend like they were on board all along.

Oh, yeah! For sure! It’s all taste, you know? A critic reading/writer a review, why trust anybody else’s taste? It’s cool to get that other perspective about what other people think. It’s always fun to talk about music and why you like it. I wonder who reads reviews for music and actually goes, “Oh, I like what this person said – maybe I’ll like that, too!” I’ve never been that way. I’ll read an Amazon review of something and be like,”Oh, ok. That worked for that person,” but that’s a product. There’s no taste required for a meat thermometer. 

It’s interesting to hear you say that. I’m guilty of occasionally consuming music reviews to validate what I already feel about said record.

Right, right… I guess I only read album reviews of my friends’ bands or my band, and I’m just curious of what people are saying of Bad Wolves or something. They’re kind of a controversial band, so what are people saying? Yeah, you’re either validating or hoping your friends are doing good [Laughs].

Switching gears back to the new record, I want to ask, how long did this take? I know your last record was cut off due to COVID.

There was a long break we took in 2021. We did the virtual tour in 2020 and, long story short, that was a lot of energy and work, and then the pandemic didn’t end. We’re all just like, “Fuck…” and just chilled – didn’t do much as far as real Suicide Silence writing. We took pretty much all of 2021 off, really almost all of it, and we didn’t do anything. When it came to 2022, we saw the light at the end of the tunnel – we had already done a tour so we were like, “Let’s write an album!” Since we were all chilling at home during 2021 and we’re all writers whether it’s lyrics, riffs, or concepts, everybody was just logging their ideas. By the time we got in the room on January 20, 2022 and we started writing… we finished recording in April. Basically about three-and-a-half months to do [the whole record]. 

From the artist’s perspective (and I know you know this), you drop a record, you tour relentlessly over it, then you feel like the cycle is winding down before you kick off again. Become the Hunter came out in 2020. You dropped it, then the world shut down. You couldn’t do a lot with that. Was it weird to convince yourself to start writing another record again?

Big time. It’s kind of like we got the wind knocked out of us. We worked on that album and we were really proud of it and we had a lot of plans and tours lined up. It was going to be a busy couple of years and then, boom, the rug got swept out from underneath us. We were not about to immediately turn around and start writing another record and planning a roll-out.

It’s not just about writing a record. You’ve got to figure out the artwork, how you’re going to roll it out, what kind of promotion you’re going to do, questioning, are you going to drop it quick, music videos and singles for half a year and everything that goes into it? We were about to execute a whole plan and then that went to the wind. Yeah, it took us awhile to get back and actually want to work on new music. For us, we need a little bit of space between albums. We don’t want our albums to sound same-y, so to say, and we got some space so we can have some time to live and get more inspired and not release the same record over and over again.

That makes sense. I know bands that will do a record a year after they dropped their last one and it just sounds like a continuation of that other record. Sometimes if you spent three or four years really working trying to perfect one record, then you try to do the same thing less than a year later… it’s not going to happen. You already captured that lightning in a bottle. You’ve got to push forward. 

I’m a firm believer of experience is where your music is going to come from. What you lived through, what you’ve done in your life, whatever you’ve grown through; no matter what music you consume or where you go – new friends, old friends, loss of friends, stuff like that. If you just write an album, drop it, and then immediately start writing another one, you’re basically in the same writing session you were in on that previous album.

We all know artists take inspiration from their lives, but if you’re not living between record cycles, you’re going to make the same thing. 

Totally! I’m always looking at that, too – observing what I’m writing and seeing if I’m going in any other directions and being as self analytical as I can trying to find those new inspirations. 

Obviously you’ve got the Chaos and Carnage tour 2023 this whole spring throughout April. It’s super exciting. You’re headlining with Dying Fetus. How is it to take on this opportunity?

When I was young and getting into death metal, they were one of the first bands that I really fell in love with and made a lot of sense to me in that genre. It’s an honor to be co-headlining with them. The Chaos and Carnage tour, as a whole, we did it once before last year and it was the vibe. When people go to that show, they’re there for this whole entire experience and I haven’t seen that in a while in a branded tour. It’s almost like the culture has developed within it pretty well. [The] people going to Chaos and Carnage, they want to see all these bands, like, “Yeah, we’re there to fucking throw down.” We’ve got all these new songs to play and we haven’t played a show since December. We did it consciously – we knew we weren’t going to be out there so we’re going to hit that shit hard. We’re ready to do it.

That makes perfect sense. It’s exciting because with this new record, these songs are built for that live setting. Listening to this for the first time, I could see every one of these tracks ripping a pit open.

Thanks! That’s always been our goal: try to write music that is going to translate live. Also, in the sense, it’s been our goal to try to record the way that we know we can sound live. We’ve always been a live band. We’ve always been a group of dudes that get together in our garage-converted-studio that we’ve had forever and play together, then we go play shows. When you’re writing music it’s like, “Alright, what’s going to stoke the crowd at a show and how do we get this sound that we’re making to come out of the speakers when someone presses play on a new song?” It all revolves around live. We’ll always be that way. We built our identity around being a sick, punishing live band.

I feel like that’s the real talent of a good metal band. If you listen to a record and you can feel like you’re in the pit. As you said, bring the sound of the amp [to your headphones]. 

Yeah, 100%. We’ve always recorded with real amps, real drum tones, and as close to real, few cuts and vocal takes, so it’s like making sure the vocals can actually get delivered the way they sound on the record live. Especially with this one we recorded the drums… first of all Ernie [Iniguez] recorded the drums in two days because he’s a maniac. He got all of that done in two days. 

For the whole record?

The whole record. We had four days booked to record at 606, the Foo Fighters’ studio. It’s got a big drum room, huge ceilings – it’s massive. It’s professionally put together, you know? It’s Dave Growl, of course! Then there are rooms you can put guitar cabs in, so we set up, had our guitars running, and we all were surrounding Ernie with guitars and bass, we recorded the songs, playing live, and you’re hearing live drum takes and a flowing jam. It was a real take, the way we were actually playing in a room together. There should be some push and pull if you’re listening to it. If there are repeats, maybe we’re playing it faster, maybe we’re playing it slower, but it’s us

What is so exciting about that is everything you did in the studio that you’re describing pays it’s dividends when you play these songs live. They are going to sound exactly like the studio version. Myself, I’ve been to shows where there is a song I love on the record, I’ll hear it 30-40 times and it’s my favorite track, then I see it live and it doesn’t sound the same. It didn’t quite hit the way it should have. 

There’s another school of thinking: you can record, be in the studio, have this thought of what you want and of what you want to get something out of, you record it, you’re able to use tools in the studio/gear. Then you’re like, “Wow, ok. We just created that sound. Now I have to learn to recreate that on stage.” Sometimes that’s way harder to do than the opposite – it’s harder to recreate things you do in the studio on stage than vice versa. 

Sometimes, even, you’ll get the adrenaline on stage and do something new that you never even thought of studio. In that moment, that spontaneous feeling of connecting with the crowd, you’ll do something crazy that will become something totally different.

I sometimes go too much on that [Laughs]. I pinch harmonics and dive bombs and wild shit. That’s always the way we’ve been, too. It should be fun. I’m sure you’ve heard people say, “You’re never really done writing the song. You have to just say, ‘Ok, it’s finished.'” Most people could just keep writing; I pretty much finish writing a song once we’re playing that song live all the time. 

It’s funny, sometimes the difference between bands that take 10 years to write a record versus three years is the hard deadline. We could work on this for 10 years, but we have to put it out so people can hear it.

Yeah! We stopped doing the deadline thing. We used to want to put an album out every two years and look at that. Now it’s just kind of allowing everything to breathe and grow the way it should and not live by a calendar. In our reality there is no such thing as a deadline. It’s a label that wants you to pump a product out – more than likely.

Even what we were talking about earlier with life experience, if you have a deadline, you’ll feel more crammed to get stuff in versus if you’re just naturally experiencing life.

Very true! I do think pressure is good, though. If you’re working on an album and you’re like, “I want 10 good skeletons that are done,” maybe only three of those are good songs, but if you’re giving those deadlines and work towards it… I feel like I thrive in that kind of thing of [having] just honest goals that you can reach for. 

A lot of people say Suicide Silence invented the deathcore genre. I know when you came out, there were 1,000 bands that tried to sound like you. I think of it almost like when Thursday first arrived in the early 2000s, there were a million bands that tried to sound like Thursday. What’s your thoughts on people telling you, you created this new subgenera of metal?

I mean, it’s really cool. It’s easier in hindsight to look back at it and think that actually was really reminiscent of all of these sub-genres that have influenced all of us from thrash metal to death metal to nu-metal and everything that has come about, so to be kind of echoing history in that way with deathcore and part of that scene… I think it’s really cool now. It was difficult in the early days because you were getting called something that’s ‘new’ and you didn’t really want to be something that’s ‘new’ you wanted to be part of the scene. You wanted to be a death metal band or a metal band. That was what we were really trying to go for back then and it was difficult growing into that. It was – and still is – the truth: we didn’t go out and try to start anything different. We just tried to start a heavy fucking band. If we had a hand in starting a genre it’s almost – I try to say it not in a pompous way, but if there is a deathcore sound, I can never hear it from those objective ears. I hear what Suicide Silence sounds like, I hear what the rest of deathcore sounds like and I’m like, “Wow, we’re really different that that.” If we had a hand in it, that’s fucking awesome! Deathcore sounds like Suicide Silence then; that’s the simplest way to put it without trying to sound like we are deathcore. There are so many ways to sound like deathcore now. If anything, we’re old school deathcore.