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Interviews : “Something a bit different” – An interview with Rob Brens (Hadal Maw)

By on August 2, 2018

Hadal Maw – Rob Brens

Hadal Maw is an Australian progressive death metal band who are moving from strength to strength. Following up two solid albums in Senium (2014) and Olm (2017), Hadal Maw is about to release an EP titled Charlatan (2018) before embarking on a national tour with Psycroptic and Archspire. I caught up with drummer Rob Brens to chat about the EP, tour and the current plans for Hadal Maw.

The first thing that a listener might notice when giving Charlatan a spin is that the production is somewhat rawer and more intense than previous releases. “[It was] definitely conscious, there’s definitely a drive for it,” Rob told me. “I think we’re all very much into the sludge thing as well… I had always been into bands like Neurosis and Sumac and Full of Hell and The Body but we became increasingly enamoured by that sound and it made more sense to make it a part of what we were doing. It seemed like a way to achieve what it is that we’ve been wanting to do with the music… it’s also because we’re much more interested in doing something different, it’s never made sense to do the same thing twice. So we did the clean production thing, but we sort of wanted to take it to that next step and do something a bit different… I’ve been trying to get across in a lot of interviews that we weren’t getting away from Sam [Johnson, previous producer] who we’ve worked with on the past few releases, he’s absolutely excellent so we just wanted to mix things up a bit and I think that’s probably what it was: the idea of doing something a little bit different.” This shift in production style is mirrored by the underlying lyrical theme as well, with Rob commenting: “Lyrically – and I mean this is all very much Sam’s [Dillon, vocals] domain, being the primary lyricist and everything – but he’s very much centred around modern institutions and, not just their general failings, but how, as time’s progressive, they’re starting to… come apart in a number of ways.”

The other impression I took from my listening to Charlatan (2018) was that there was a sense of identity embodied in the record, something that set Hadal Maw apart from their contemporaries and resulted in 5 tracks that sounded like nobody but themselves. Part of this is due to the shift in the songwriting process of the band: “Usually, either Nick [Rackham, guitars] or Ben [Boyle, guitars] will compose most of it themselves… and then they’ll get sent to me and I’ll sit here and compose all the drum parts for it and then I’ll shoot the programmed drums back… Nick especially is very much a producer in his own right, so he’ll pretty much produce a demo out of all that so we can get the best idea of how the song is gonna sound on the other end,” Rob explained. “The difference perhaps is this time, Nick and Ben were working a lot more collaboratively… probably, just because of having played together for so long, it sounds the most like the mash of all of us writing together.”

Rob also expanded on some of the different influences that were worked in to the new EP that have made for a change of pace for the band: ” [Nick and Ben] wanted to draw in a lot of the black metal sort of stuff which is probably why there’s a lot more blasting on it… I’ve always been a massive Meshuggah fan, not so much from… the typical Meshuggah do, but more so the way they achieve a united front kind of sound and the way each album has been stripped back further and further. So, when I was writing all the parts… I was just going through and cleaning it up as much as possible and I found the more I was doing that, the more the music was breathing, getting bigger and bigger and bigger. I was like ‘Oh man, I’m totally on to something’ so I took every opportunity to simplify the drums and let the music breathe and it served it well.”

The band are clearly proud of their efforts with Charlatan, rightfully so, and are appreciative that their musical identity as artists has been recognised. Rob, in particular, was quite happy with this result, explaining to me that “There’s been a couple of reviews that have said something like ‘Oh, this sounds like Hadal Maw’ and to me, that’s the biggest compliment that anyone can pay an artist. I reckon when it’s like ‘Oh that sounds like them’, yeah, that’s a very high compliment, I appreciate it.”

Rob also related the band’s excitement about their current tour: “We’ve done a bunch of things with Psycroptic in the past and that’s always awesome, because you know that when you’re on a bill with Psycroptic you’ve gotta bring it, you know that they’ll be the tightest band on the bill, you know they’re just gonna own it so you know you’ve gotta deliver… Archspire are just gonna bring an awesome flavour to the whole thing. I’m just more excited for the [laughs] ‘diversity’ of the line-up, everyone’s got their own little thing that they’re doing in the same sort of vein. With Dave [Haely, drummer for Psycroptic], he knows how to put on a great tour and he knows how to run a great tour, so we know it’s just gonna be easy and it’s just gonna be fun and hopefully the crowds are sick, which I’m sure they will [be].

Hadal Maw is clearly not a band to rest on their laurels. When I asked Rob about the plans for the future he was keeping things under wraps for now but there was clearly something in the works. “This EP pretty much came out of nowhere and we fancied ourselves an ‘album band’ just doing these big bodies of work. And we have like, an album’s worth of material kicking around in various shapes or forms… all the new material we’ve got is different again.” Things were similar when talking about the potential of touring overseas: “We’re definitely looking at it and there’s a lot of different ways to go about it and that’s probably as far as I can go with it… One thing with us from day dot has been longevity, so I think that’ll factor into the decision just to make sure it’s not the kind of decision that just grounds us for X amount of years and makes us not want to do it again. But we don’t want to wait on it too long either.”

The new EP Charlatan is available for pre-order via the band’s official website. Click here to secure your copy today.

The EP is due for release on Friday, 3rd August with a national tour to coincide with the release alongside Psycroptic and Archpire from August 16th.

August 16th – Brisbane, Crowbar 
w/ Kaerulean

August 17th – Sydney, Bald Faced Stag 
w/ Heathenspawn

August 18th – Melbourne, Max Watts 
w/ Primitive

August 19th – Canberra, The Basement 
w/ Inhuman Remnants

*August 24th – Hobart, Brisbane Hotel 
w/ Zeolite, The Absolution Sequence

*August 25th – Adelaide, Fowlers 
w/ Voros, In The Burial, Oath Of Damnation, Temple Of Athena

**August 26th – Perth, Amplifier 
w/ Grotesque, Unravel

(*Hadal Maw not appearing)
(**Archspire headline show only) 

Tickets via Soundworks Direct Touring.


Ben is a metalhead originally from Sydney, who has now moved to Hobart to pursue a PhD in Australian extreme metal. When not studying, writing about or playing metal, he can be found playing video games, browsing Reddit, knitting, fending off his cat or helping out at his local church.