The opening sound of Body Void‘s fourth album, Atrocity Machine, is a low, distorted rumble, brief but ominous. It feels like an eerie warning of something harrowing to come, or perhaps the sound of an act of destruction itself. At only 30 seconds long, however, it’s only a brief taste of the kind of aural intensity that the New England doom metal band can conjure.
Atrocity Machine, recorded with Ben Greenberg (Uniform) and released this month via Prosthetic, sounds on first listen like Body Void’s most intense listening experience. Still rife with the distressing low-end and heavy roar of guitars they employed on previous albums such as 2021’s Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth, it likewise employs a heavier layer of electronics and noise, leaning into more industrial-inspired textures and frequencies they previously hadn’t explored at such length. It’s all part of the group’s pursuit of creating an element of terror, which they intensify through lyrical threads about grotesque body horror and state-sponsored violence as an aspect of everyday entertainment.
“This band is 10 years old, and we’re about as heavy as we’re gonna be with just guitars and bass. The tried and true doom approach,” said guitarist/vocalist Willow Ryan via a Zoom call from Vermont. “We wanted to find a new angle on heaviness and general. So with this, we really wanted to lean into the scary aspect of music. To sort of approach this like it’s a horror movie.”
We spoke to Ryan about Atrocity Machine, documenting disturbing truths, and creating an audio horror movie.
You worked with Ben Greenberg of Uniform on this record—as a producer, did he have a pretty hands-on role?
Willow Ryan: Yeah, it was cool. We had always worked with people where we go to the studio and they record our songs. But Ben was a resource. When we were writing songs, I was like “what gear should we use to get these sounds?”, and he’d say, “try this or try this.” And we’d send demos back and forth and he’d send suggestions. When we were in the studio, he’d suggest things in terms of the writing and stuff. So it was the first time we’d really worked with a producer on a record. That was really nice and I hope we get to do that again.
In making a record with a heavy noise and industrial aspect to it, did you end up looking at songwriting differently?
WR: Definitely. On our last album, we kind of had a layer of power electronics, but we wanted to do something more involved. Not just like an intro with a synth on it, but something more rhythmically involved. Writing with synth, it was almost like writing another layer of riffs. That was definitely a new approach, really. And we kind of had to wrap our heads around that, but it was really satisfying to figure that out.
The title Atrocity Machine seems like it could apply to a lot of things. Was that an intentional ambiguity?
WR: In general it’s kind of referencing the United States, society—very explicitly American capitalism. But yeah, we also wanted to approach it like a horror movie. We were inspired by cyberpunk stuff like Tetsuo the Iron Man and Akira, that imagery of humans turning into machines or metallic figures, and I think that’s reflected in the music. So it was kind of a jumping off point to mean one thing. I’ll come up with a title for an album almost halfway through writing it and then it helps ground things thematically. And musically, how we want to express that theme in the actual music.
There’s also an element of pain or cruelty as entertainment to some of the songs, particularly on “Cop Show”.
WR: Yeah, it’s weird how that’s a very American thing to consume news or world events like they’re entertainment, just because I think that’s how we engage with things. And I think maybe that’s something an academic would be better at exploring than I could, but I find that dynamic so fascinating and definitely really rife for exploring thematically and musically. In terms of the album, it was really seeing the way police violence…the immediate reaction to it is horror, rightfully so, but even the people who are—and when I say this but I’m not judgmental at all, because it’s kind of a coping mechanism to abstract it out—to reduce the horror of it. You’re trying to engage with it in this way, the way we engage with something that’s intended as entertainment. There’s so many layers to that because there’s the element of news using those events as a way to make money and to make users click on the article. And on social media, we’re sharing the video as if it’s raw entertainment, but we talk about it as if it’s not happening to a real person but an event that happened, like something that happens in a movie.
Do you see Atrocity Machine as being any more or less pessimistic than your previous albums?
WR: We definitely wanted to get at the absurdity of all this. And I don’t know if that’s more pessimistic, but it was definitely a different approach. I have a tendency to write sincere lyrics, and that’s part of this record, but I wanted to get into the feeling of living with all this stuff because it starts to make you feel a little crazy, and the only way to engage with it is on this level of being so prevalent that it becomes absurd. In a way that’s darker and more pessimistic, but I never want to go down the path of nihilism to the point of not caring or distancing myself from it. So I don’t know, that’s a balance we tried to strike—how absurd can we get, but we still want to take these issues seriously?
Some artists will say that working through some of these things in music, especially when it’s a bigger societal problem, can help people make feel less alone, and sometimes it’s just something you have to kind of purge. Where do you fall in terms of your own songwriting?
WR: It’s definitely a little bit of both. It’s hard to even put a kind of coherent intention behind why we want to write the stuff we do, because it’s purely a “this exists internally, these feelings, and we want to get it out of ourselves and get it on tape to kind of therapeutically exorcise it.” It’s not for everybody, and it’s totally valid if people say “I don’t want to engage with this kind of darkness.” But you always hope that people enjoy it or find something in it, and hopefully that process of catharsis and getting that out of your system, can come across in the music itself.
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