Louder Than War interview – Dying of the Light
We grab a chat with New Zealand metallers Dying of the Light and get an in-depth look at the video the band created for their Monolithium EP.
Di McCauley reports.
While New Zealand was quietly shivering its way through winter, industrial powered duo Dying of the Light were out and about in the cold silver weather, working on both their Monolithium EP and producing an amazing video of the title track.
Dying of the Light’s music tells of bleakness and dispiriting doom for mankind, warning us of technology inexorably taking over while society disintegrates, the breakdown of social awareness and our individual rights and freedoms being eroded without us even realising. The songs on their Monolithium EP grab your attention and make you sit up straight and listen. They won’t release you, setting both your mind and heartbeat racing to keep up with the relentless drumming, powerful guitars and unsettling vocals.
The video tells the story of two battle worn, travel weary survivors on their journey through an unforgiving and desolate post-apocalyptic landscape, searching for salvation – or at least an escape. When I saw this beautifully realised video, I wanted to learn more about the band behind it, and what they had to say.
So I tracked them down …
Dying of the Light are Chris Rigby (vocals/ bass) and Rangi Powick (guitar/ programming/vocals) based in Auckland. The band’s name “Dying of the Light” is referenced from the Dylan Thomas poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” – which Rangi happened upon while watching the Dr Who episode “The Shakespeare Code.” They had already spent a fortnight ‘constructively arguing’ about what to call the band. They both agreed Dying of the Light sounded good and that was that.
Although they have registered their music as “Metal” this is simply to comply with the internet categories. Personally, they dislike genre labels, stating that a neat pigeonhole label runs the risk of limiting their potential audience.
Chris and Rangi have known each other for absolutely ages, meeting at college, then as bandmates in Christchurch sludge band Chapel of Gristle. They still kept in touch after Chapel of Gristle disbanded, and when they both wound up in Auckland they automatically formed a new band. Their long-term friendship has the easiness and love/hate elements of a sibling relationship – they seldom agree on anything, and argue frequently, but they’re both okay with that. “It helps to have that bit of creative tension, that edginess” explains Chris “because we’re both pushing for perfection, rather than just giving in and compromising on the one idea we both half like.”
Citing their formative influences as Ozzy Osborne, Iron Maiden and Metallica, the pivotal point for their particular music came on the day they discovered both Nirvana’s seminal debut album “Bleach” and also the album “Streetcleaner” by UK industrial behemoth Godflesh. As Rangi remembers it, that was a distinct “holy sh*t” moment, hearing these two bands for the first time and thinking “Yeah, now this is what gets me going”- the whole heavy, brutal, stabbing percussion and the sparse, bleak atmosphere conveyed. “We absolutely thrashed those albums. They had such a huge impact on us, and still do to this day.”
Lyrically, their songs contain dire warnings should technology, politics and consumerism be taken to extremes. This band thinks a lot, and the overall theme is their attempt to address their observations of current issues and their impact on modern society. The darker aspects of human nature, the impact of difficult situations, confrontational environments, and predominantly, the idea of evolving technology presenting to us a paradox.
We rely on technology for our way of life, but we are ultimately being superceded by it. We have the ability to become more connected to each other, yet we are also becoming more distanced from each other. Easier access to our personal information and preferences also gives rise to the power to monitor, influence, or restrict our choices.
As Rangi explains “Extrapolate this to the future and we ask “if we carry on this way, what will it be like for our kids, our grandkids, and their future?”
They confess, however, they didn’t consciously plan any overall theme, it simply became apparent after they’d decided which songs they would use.
The first song “Monolithium” takes the viewpoint of downtrodden people, crying out, raging against oppressive leaders and over vigilant technology which has reduced them to slavish dependence in a crumbled world. Their second song, “Tribulation” switches it up, adopting the voice of the faceless overlords, seeking to keep the masses in their place. They are bereft of morals, devoid of humanity, and ultimately they will win. “Privatise the Sun” takes privatisation policies to the extreme, asking what happens when the world’s resources become so polluted that conscription to a corporate entity is our only way to gain access to the sunlight. The final song is a cover of New Zealand band Shihad’s “Factory” -chosen as a local, historic reference point for the themes of the previous 3 songs, and also because Chris and Rangi are big fans of Shihad’s debut album “Churn.”
The video for Monolithium brings the whole EP to life, underscoring the themes by outlining a grim story. Born out of a lifetime spent watching loads of sci fi and horror films such as Braindead, Battletruck, Mad Max, Toxic Avenger and reading comic books like 2000AD, the music video is a tribute to all things post-apocalyptic. The band found the perfect setting for this apocalypse road movie in the tundra landscape of the North Island’s central plateau, complete with ominous, moody, forbidding power pylons. The vision for the story expanded further when they were granted access to film in the nearby Rangipo Power Station, including the strictly off-limit tunnels. One tunnel featured in the video is 200 metres below ground, literally bare rock, dripping water and ferns, where truly anything could be lurking.
The style of the video pays homage to Albert Hughes’s biblical parable movie The Book of Eli and especially John Hillcoat’s movie The Road. Monolithium conveys that same sense of a long weary journey in a bleak hostile environment, emulating the bleached out minimal colours and burnt skies, the threat of radioactivity and the absence of any other living thing.
Completely self made and funded, the actual video shoot took place over two crazy days: their friend, Steve Hogg, filmed them walking the Bethells Beach dunes, and then at band rehearsal. Later that evening they drove down to the central North Island, in order to film the Desert Road power pylons in the cold light the following morning, and later on that afternoon they filmed inside the Rangipo Power Station. After Steve had edited and graded the footage, it was handed over to Rangi, who single handedly created all the special effects and extras in the video, an absolute labour of love.
Their friends all pitched in and volunteered with the photography, costumes, and access to locations. It was a lot of goodwill and they are all absolutely appreciated, the whole Monolithium package wouldn’t have been made without them.
Equally, the recording and production of the Monolithium EP was totally DIY and completely self-funded, another labour of love. The tracks were predominantly created and recorded in Rangi’s inner city flat, timing the sessions when they hoped people were not about, so they wouldn’t be scared by the sounds of Chris screaming and ranting, laying down the vocal tracks. They suspect the neighbours wondered what was going on, but thankfully they seem pretty liberal so far.
Khomatech, album designer for recording label Ohm Resistance, came on board to collaborate with the logo design, while Dying of the Light kept creative control over all other aspects of the Monolithium EP design. The end result is a simple but extremely effective cohesive identity throughout the cd graphics, band photos and video.
Dying of the Light’s goal is to use the Monolithium EP and video to announce their presence in the wider music scene, and to find a music label that recognises their intent, and is prepared to help them further, or as Chris puts it “It would be good to have Monolithium released in vinyl, even license it for overseas.” Even better, a label prepared to put funding into an album.
Should you get the chance, a Dying of the Light gig is not to be missed. Live, their music is just as menacing, broody and loud as their EP, assaulting your senses and rattling your spine, while the accompanying stage visuals perfectly enhance the songs but don’t distract your attention.
They’re a thought provoking band, and I look forward to hearing more of their distinct sound and other concerns they have to share, hopefully very soon.
Listen to Dying of the Light on Bandcamp.
All words by Di McCauley.