Meet The Band: Sophist

Niflhel Records

This week we’re featuring the Canadian black metal/grind trio Sophist in Meet The Band. After issuing an EP last year, Dissolution is their full-length debut. Vocalist Davis Hay and guitarist Helge Lipphardt introduce us to their band.

Chad Bowar: Give us a brief history of Sophist.
Davis Hay: Sophist started in June last year, after I sent Michael (Sparks) a drum track just to see what he would come up with – mostly just for something to keep busy with. That turned into the song “Betrothal to the Stone: Conception of Mephisto.” Wasn’t long until we had the EP of the same name done and released in August. Before that one was even out I had already finished drum tracks for a full-length album. This turned into our new album Dissolution. At the beginning of the recording process we brought our friend Helge Lipphardt on board for some additional guitar work and riffs/leads writing.

Describe the songwriting process for Dissolution.
Davis: It’s a pretty fun project, we just hang out for a bit and work on songs. The drums are all laid out first, making the foundation of the songs and album. Then comes the guitar and bass. All very spontaneous and instantaneous, as it goes straight from writing to production. Michael and Helge can spit out riffs with ease to suit the drums and the song structures. The songs have always come together pretty efficiently. Lyrics are often written that night, vocals often recorded the next day or so. And – no surprises – drums for another full-length album are already done! We’ll start writing/recording the rest of that one relatively soon.

What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
Davis: There were some pretty funny moments while we were tracking Michael’s guitars, when he would be playing a new riff – watching him keep up with the drums was hilarious. (But make no mistake, he nailed it.)

How has your sound progressed/evolved from your debut EP?
Davis: One of the things I wanted to achieve with this album was to make a definite reference to ’80s and ’90s extreme metal production. So during mixing I tried to simulate certain conditions that would have occurred back then (such as bouncing tracks to reel-to-reel tape at different stages). This time around I had more tools to accomplish this vibe. In the future, I plan to keep pursuing that direction and keep improving it.

Musically, there’s quite a bit more going on with the guitars and vocals. The drums are at times way more complex, and at times a lot more groovy – and there’s a bunch of tricky little details that may or may not be noticed.

What lyrical subjects do you cover?
Davis: The occult and alchemical themes from the first EP have continued, and this time there is much more apparent nihilism and misanthropy. I tried to draw parallels between alchemical thought and pessimistic worldview, and so we have the ideas present on Dissolution. It’s a sardonic and bleak plea for the end.

How did you come to sign with Niflhel Records?
Davis: Jeff heard about us somewhere along the way around the time of our first release and contacted us. So we just kept in touch until about the time the album was ready to go.

What are your goals and expectations for the album?
Helge Lipphardt: To showcase what the three of us are capable of.

Davis: We had a sound in our minds that we were going for, and I think for the most part we are bringing a unique approach. I think that one can easily pick out the influences and totally see where we are coming from. Yet, at the same time, I don’t think anyone could accuse us of being a “worship” band. This album really feels like a distillation of so many deep-held influences for me, perhaps the others would agree as well. But I know I focused on several elements that I really wanted to bring out. Just want to get it out there for people to hear it. I think anyone who was a fan of our first release will enjoy this one even more.

Do you have any plans to play live?
Davis: In a vague sort of way, yes. At the moment there are no concrete plans. Currently, we just want to release albums.

How did you get started in music?
Helge: I started on cello when I was 5 years old. I came to play guitar because I was in a dirt bike accident that hurt my wrist. I didn’t break my wrist but at the time there was horrible bruising and it was very painful to use the bow for cello, but I could strum the guitar.

Davis: Just developed a metal obsession in my early teens, which turned into teaching myself metal vocals while listening to my favorite albums. Several years later I got into music production as well.

What drew you to extreme metal?
Helge: The sound of it. The possibilities of it. Seeing the bands play live and realizing you are watching some talented people change the idea of what is possible.

Davis: Well, let me try to think about my mindset back then. I guess it was like nothing I’d ever seen or heard before. I remember just learning everything I could about black metal, death metal, etc. Total fascination. I mean, it’s like nothing else in this world.

What was the first metal concert you attended?
Helge: Ozzy Osbourne on the Diary of a Madman tour. Randy Rhoads was a huge influence on me. By the time the tour passed through Edmonton Randy had sadly already passed away and it was Brad Gillis on guitar.

Davis: I might be wrong, but I think it was Paganfest ‘09 which had Primordial on it. All ages show. They were amazing, of course. Still one of my top favorites.

How is the metal scene in Edmonton?
Helge: I have been involved for some time now. Decades actually. We have some bands from here that are internationally recognized. It’s small but loyal.

Davis: I’d describe it as a small and tight knit community. We’ve got a number of really solid bands, but I think it is rare for any of us to break through and geographical location is definitely one factor of that. There are several which have gotten some good and well-deserved recognition though.

What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
Helge: Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, early thrash. Death Angel and Exhorder. 1349, Emperor, Gustav Holst, Old Man’s Child, Western Swing. All the shred guitar stuff. I try new shred guitar stuff every day.

Davis: Fukpig, Born to Murder The World, Darkthrone, Celtic Frost, Sarke, Midnight, Begrime Exemious, Repugnant Scum, Dead Kennedys, Shining, Ghaalls WYRD, Napalm Death, Razor, Satyricon, Anaal Nathrakh, Primordial, Rotten Sound, Mayhem, Slayer, Lo-Ruhamah, Idolatry, Pestilence, Aura Noir, Venom, Carpathian Forest, Sapremia, Dopegoat, Necrodemon, among other things.

Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Davis: Hit up our website to hear our stuff or get our merch. Check out Niflhel Records too, the roster keeps growing!

(interview published February 8, 2020)

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