CHRISTIAN DEATH AT THE NILE UNDERGROUND
5 | 18 | 22
Christian Death Is
Valor – Male lead vocals, guitar
Maitri – Female lead vocals, bass guitar
TOURING-Chuck Lenihan (Chains) – guitar
Pao – Drums
As I was headed to Mesa AZ It was a hot one as the highs hit 102 degrees. I was ready to experience Christian Death at the Nile underground and get away from the heat. My journalist and I got their early to have a sit down with Val before the show.
It was right around 10pm when Christian Death took the stage. They all came out one by one dressed to impress in the finest goth wardrobes. They set the tone with all blue lights and, with this being the Nile Underground, it created an intimate setting. This is death rock at its finest and Christian Death takes no prisoners. The vibe in the air was a beautiful one with Val and Maitri beautifully going back and forth on vocals. These two definitely complement each other. If there was one way to describe a Christian Death show, it’s the entire club in trance just dancing the night away completely consumed by the music and not having a care in the world. Maitri is powerful on the bass and with her operatic singing. It was beautiful, loud, and you didn’t want to take your eyes off of her. Val has his own stage presence that is both dark and beautiful. He reminds me of a dark poem that is so beautiful and dark it will fill your little black heart with joy all while sucking the soul from your body. I was exceptionally excited to watch them perform Blood Moon. This song is one of my favorites from the new album EVIL BECOMES RULE. Catch Christian Death on tour now!
We're not just dark - we're dark and light. So we try to encompass as maly frequencies as it takes to create those emotions, you know, from the darkness to the more uplifting things yol know?"-Val
To speak with Valor Kand of Christian Death is to find yourself submerged. He is a truly unique artist, one who speaks his mind candidly about any subject he finds himself discussing. While we spoke, his long fingers gesticulated and his eyes were shadowed behind oversized sunglasses under a mop of dark hair. A natural in front of the microphone both on stage and off, Val is one of a kind. In an interview that ranged from audio engineering to live performance to a discussion of the Book of Enoch, I came to learn that he is a true iconoclast, one who is unwilling to compromise when it comes to his musical explorations in the studio and the stage. -
Speaking a couple of hours before Christian Death took the stage at the Nile Underground, Val was candid about the challenges of translating an album into a live performance. -
“Well, the reality of audio engineering is that in every different environment, you have to deal with a different challenge,” he said. “And the more you can minimize that is the way most people approach it. The frequency responses of the room and standing waves and shit bouncing around the room, hard surfaces, soft surfaces, parallel surfaces - they're all an issue. So we figured the best we could do is start at a place where the album sounds great.”
Val went on to elaborate on the live performance and the challenge of translating this year’s excellent new album, Evil Becomes Rule-
Due to the nature of the Christian Death sound, a certain amount of technological assistance is necessary to portray the full vision for a live audience. “We wanted to translate live. We've taken out the guitars, taken out the drums, and taken off the vocals and left all the extraneous other elements in there,” he explained, describing how they play to a backing track of sorts. “And then we placed them in the same frequency field and level that the album is in. And ultimately, the theory is that we will end up with something vaguely close to the album, which is very, sonically full.
”Describing the recording experiences of the band in recent years, Val is candid about his increasing knowledge and the room for growth that he still believes he has. While a considerable amount of his expertise is due to experience, some is derived from time spent studying audio acoustic engineering at North London Polytechnic.
The knowledge gained from this education has given Christian Death new opportunities to sonically explore the world around them. Just listening to him explain the mixing process behind Evil Becomes Rule was an education in itself.
“We've heard it on every system and I mixed it mostly on a boombox first,” he told me. “Because then you're not getting coloring from anything in the room. And of course, you can use headphones. But I've never been a big fan of that. So that's an old school approach that a lot of old pros have used…So what we've done is we've tried to set a platform where we know that our sound, if it sounds good on the record, the songs are at optimum, and we're excited by it.
”Speaking about the changing landscape of recording and the rise in home recording, Val is incredibly candid.
“I mean, people kind of were doing that anyway, because the technology is available to them economically with, you know, software and stuff like that,” he mused. “But there's still a lot to learn. I mean, you know, you can have all the plugins in the world and still make it sound like shit if you haven't got a clue. You need to understand frequency, you need to understand the spectrum. You need to understand how it works and how to place it in a mix. And, I mean, there's some people that are naturals at it…And I have to say, even in the beginning, even after going to tech school and stuff like that, I still was struggling for a long time with completely understanding it in a three dimensional audio sense. You can understand everything from 20 hertz to 20,000 hertz, which is the frequency spectrum for a human being, but it doesn't mean anything if you can't put it together.” Luckily for all of us, Evil Rules All is a stupendous example of when songwriting and recording come together to create a dark and beautiful beast.
When speaking about the album itself, I asked if it was among the ranks of the many “pandemic albums” that bands released after quarantine and lockdown. The answer, surprisingly, was no.
“Well,” Val stated in his typical firm, authoritative voice, “it's important to me that, you know, we get the best story straight is that this album was recorded before the pandemic, okay? I mean, the lyrics were written before the pandemic. All we did is take that time to embellish it. We probably would have had a lower standard of record if we'd have done to rush, get the fucking thing out in May 2020. And in fact, it was only a year later that we were done with the mastering. So it's been a year since the album's actually been finished.
”While the album was recorded before the pandemic, its themes of good versus evil are just as relevant today as they were in 2019 and 2020.
What surprised me, however, was the almost occult background of the story of the album - something that perhaps should have come as no surprise because of Christian Death’s long standing anti-Christian views.
“So this is really a continuation of the concept of evil, which was the last album, which was the root of all evolution going on, and that the beginning of the record was heavily influenced by the Emerald Tablets, which nobody really knows where it comes from.” Here, Val morphed from confident frontman to confident academic, speaking about the Emerald Tablets and the Bible with aplomb. “It was like a tablet that was translated into several different versions, but the general gist of it is it talks about creatures coming from above and then going into either the earth or into the ocean. But eventually, they settled in the base of the Earth, either underwater or in the hollows of the earth. And then they come up randomly, and they would steal people. So they would abduct children and women in particular. And of course, these stories, you know, coincide with biblical stories. And this particular one, one of the books that was left out of the Bible, which is the Book of Enoch. That talks about, you know, the Nephilim, and more detail than the Old Testament does. So the stories of the Nephilim, and all this stuff are actually amazingly found in many cultures around the planet. And it kind of morphs from there. It's about polar opposites - juxtaposition, negative, positive, yin, yang, male, female, dark, light. And so that's right, it's in the middle of the albums, it's smack dab in the middle, because we start on one end, which is very dark. And then we come to a unification point in the middle. So positive and negative throughout the album.”
As we neared the end of the conversation and stood to shake hands, I told Val how impressed I’d been not only with his career output, but with Evil Rules All. To this, he smiled and thanked me.
“We try to at least have a psychological impact on people to come up with conclusions themselves instead of preaching, which is something I have a bad habit of doing.” He paused, laughing ever so slightly, before leaving me with this:
“But if you could come up with something yourself and we just give you subtle or you know, somewhat obvious sometimes, you know, signposts to follow the road. Let everybody take their own path, because together is how we rise and shine. Together, we will stand.”
Review and photos by: Michael Olivas
Interview by: Blake Carrera