Best of 2011 — 3. Batillus “Furnace” (Seventh Rule)

Not all debut full-length albums are quite as mighty as the one NYC’s Batillus gave us this year. The thing is called “Furnace,” which is a pretty good indication of what you’re in for when you sweat through these six songs of sludgy, slightly experimental doom. You’re bound to feel like you’re chained inside one of the things just minutes into the opener “…And the World Is as Night to Them.” It’s a leviathan of an album, a total physical challenge and, at the same time, a pretty brainy experience as well. These aren’t dudes just making noise. There’s a lot more going on in their heads, and by spending some time with the lyrics, you’ll find out that very fact.

“Furnace” is heavy as hell. It’s ridiculously heavy. But it also has nice pockets of melody that grasp you, it can be lush, it has some great lead guitar work that fries your senses (check the neat Kim Thayil-like whinnying on “Deadweight,” my favorite track on the album) and it has the presence of vocalist Fade Kainer, who truly has made his mark on the band. His vocals sound menacing and demonic in spots, downright authoritative in others, and he’s one of those singers you can’t help but pay undivided attention when he’s howling at you. He captivates, a quality that’s becoming scarce among vocalists these days, and he has a unique voice. Plus, he adds the keyboard and ambient elements to Batillus, which help branch out this band’s music even further. Check out his colorful work during the opening moments of “The Division,” for example, to hear what I mean.

While this is Batillus’ first full-length effort, I continually hesitate calling this a debut. Maybe because I’ve been listening to this band back to their self-titled debut EP, when they were an instrumental unit, that it already feels like these guys are well-traveled veterans. The band has such a full and impressive resume for a group that hasn’t been in existence all that long, so seeing “Furnace” as some sort of first salvo feels weird. It’s their first full offering, yes, but this band has been thoroughly bashing skulls the past few years now, so if this was your first experience with Batillus, go back and see what you missed. You won’t be sorry. They also put out a split 7-inch with Mutilation Rites over the summer that’s pretty meaty as well. I really can’t wait to hear what this band dreams up next. They’re already one of doom’s most impressive bands, and in a few years, with more releases like “Furnace,” they’re going to rule the  realm with an iron fist.

Drummer Geoff Summers and vocalist/synth player Fade Kainer both took time to answer some questions about the band and “Furnace” as well as what their future holds.

Meat Mead Metal: “Furnace” was a major step forward for the band — amazing full-length, powerful songs, crushing emotion. Obviously we loved it because it made our top 5. How do you feel about the record now that’s it’s been out a while, you’ve toured on it and had a chance to digest what you accomplished?

Geoff Summer: Thanks, we really appreciate it! We’re all very happy with the record and glad others seem to like it as well. I think it represents a big step forward for us since adding Fade to the band — our first attempts at writing songs with him seemed like Greg (Peterson)/Willi (Stabenau)/Geoff plus Fade equals Batillus. On “Furnace” it finally became Greg/Willi/Geoff/Fade equals Batillus.

MMM: Obviously the band has changed a lot over the relatively short time you’ve been a unit. Is “Furnace”more along the lines of where the band will go into the future, or can we expect more twists and turns sonically and philosophically?

Fade Kainer: I feel our new material is a more distilled take on what we did on “Furnace.” I think we are becoming more focused on aspects of our sound.

MMM: Fade Kainer has added a unique voice to the band since he joined a couple years ago. What does he bring to the band that Batillus was lacking before (except for, you know, vocals)?

GS: I don’t think we ever set out to be an instrumental band in the first place; it just naturally began that way and, at a certain point, we began considering ways to expand and develop our sound. At a certain point, we decided we wanted to add voice to our music, as well as other sonic layers and depth. When we saw Fade perform with his band Inswarm in late 2008, we knew he was the guy. As I alluded to above, it took some time after he started playing with us for the sound to really gel, but we could not have found a more perfect fit for the band. The elements Fade brings to the table as an artist (both sonic and visual) and a performer are a perfect match for us.

MMM: “Furnace” was released by Seventh Rule, who have a history of putting out heavy, thought-provoking bands. What led you to them, and is it a relationship you see lasting into the future?

GS: Well, I had been familiar with the label because some of my friends in New York had worked with Scott (Flaster) in the past. Curran Reynolds from Wetnurse, for example. Everyone I talked to had nothing but good things to say about Scott and the label, so when he expressed interest in putting out the record, it was really a no-brainer. Scott’s been very good to us– in a lot of ways he’s gone above and beyond the call of duty and we’re happy with how things have turned out. I certainly hope it is a relationship that will last into the future!

MMM: What does the band have scheduled for 2012? Thinking new record yet? Further touring?

FK: We are recording some new songs for a split with Australia’s Whitehorse , and will tour with them this summer in the U.S. 

GS: We’ll also be recording the follow-up to “Furnace” and we have our sights set on Europe. We’ll see how it turns out.

For more on the band, go here:

To buy “Furnace,” go here:

For more on the label, go here: