The Auckland, New Zealand located band Ulcerate put out its third album The Destroyers of All in January. The music on the album is somewhat atypical. Overall it is death metal, but with a murk and ambient tone. A few days ago I had the chance to ask the drummer Jamie Saint Merat a series of questions. It proved to be an interesting and elaborate talk about the music, the band, and many other things.

Jamie Saint Merat interviewed by PSL

How are things going in Auckland?
Things are going well man, we're preparing for upcoming tours, so we're just in full-time rehearsal mode.

How has the reception been for The Destroyers of All?
The reception has been consistently great across the board for the most part. It feels like this album has really capitalised on what we achieved with Everything is Fire, and I think people are slowly starting to realise that we're building a back catalogue that is really cohesive. We've seen occasional critiques on the stylistic shifts between this album and Everything is Fire, but nothing that's entirely negative or immature, in fact a lot of the time we fully understand the critiques.

Do you feel you've matured as song-writers on The Destroyers of All?
Yeah for sure, and it's definitely a case of us being able to faithfully execute the ideas we have a lot clearer and more precisely. Our ability to nail the subtleties of the sound is really starting to feel like we're not fumbling in the dark any more, and it's really making it a lot more pleasurable to write, record and perform this material.

How would you describe the sound of The Destroyers of All in comparison to Everything is Fire and Of Fracture and Failure?
With Of Fracture and Failure we decided to really blow things out and develop the linear style of writing we were experimenting with on our demos, and we were going for something that was fairly nasty / chaotic tonally. Everything is Fire is a refinement of that approach, and with a very deliberate injection of overall atmosphere and mood, as well as a lot more subtleties when called for. With The Destroyers of All, the idea from the outset was to push the atmosphere further, and really open up the sound, to get more of a crushing vibe than a suffocating / claustrophobic one. I think Everything is Fire and The Destroyers of All are definitely companions in that respect, particularly as both marked the return to a much more solid vocal approach, and a level of bleakness that Of Fracture and Failure really lacks.

It's obvious that Ulcerate is inspired by more than just death metal. What as motivates and inspires you as song-writers these days?
Honestly, as song-writing goes, we don't actually consciously take in too many influences, and as we've progressed things that's becoming more and more prevalent. We know exactly where we want to go with the material, so it's just a matter of molding that clay so to speak. Individually we listen to all sorts of stuff, and there's no doubt that different stylistic approaches creep in at some level, but it's never brought to the table during writing.

The band is credited with engineering, mixing, and mastering the album. You've even done the artwork and layout. Is there something that the three of you don't take care of yourselves?
Not album-wise no, the only areas where outside work is done is with touring and the physical production and distribution of the albums.

I know you've used MCA Studios in Auckland on both The Destroyers of All and Everything is Fire. What made you go for that studio?
We've actually used the studio for the last three albums, it's a great space that we can kind of just take over for a week or so and do whatever needs to be done. Mostly, it captures the sound we're after, and till now, that has really worked for us. We are always on the look-out for different rooms that we can use to track in, so the next album may end up being done somewhere else perhaps.

You engineer, mix and master the music yourself. Do you feel you get the best result that way?
It's seems to be that way, yeah. We're exceedingly anal when it comes to how we want to sound, and there's very few people producing metal these days that I think would get it as specific as we need it to be. Both for Everything is Fire and The Destroyers of All we had a couple of very reputable people take a look at the mastering, and both times we took a step back and ended up choosing to do it ourselves. We don't have the world's dirtiest productions, but there's something that both these guys did to the sound that just made it way too clean for our tastes. And at the end of the day, we've mostly only received praise for the production work, so go figure [laughs].

Could you say something about the artwork? How you made it and what inspired you?
All my illustrative work is done digitally as collages or photo manipulations. The art for The Destroyers of All is based off of photos I took while visiting the Sistine Chapel in Rome, there's entire rooms of these insane animal sculptures, and when I saw the elk being attacked by the wolf I was like "must use that for something!". I don't have any skills in traditional painting, so I try as best I can to still get a painterly feel out of my digital work. I have a Bachelors degree in design and it's what I do for a living, so I have sound colour and composition theory, it just happens that the tools I use are all digital. The inspiration is purely from the over-riding theme of the album and lyrical content, as well as providing a visual aesthetic for the audio.

Do you think it's central that the artwork fits the music and lyrics?
Of course - I think that's really the only job of the artwork - to set a visual tone for the music. It's absolutely critical that it represents the music and themes.

Who writes the lyrics and what type of issues do they deal with?
Paul our bassist/vocalist handles all lyrical content and themes. In Paul's words: "The Destroyers of All refers to human beings as a whole. We have a tendency to infect and corrupt a lot of what we touch. Many live extremely negative lives, with disregard to our history, the planet's history, and the planet itself. Due to this disregard, we have a tendency to destroy."

To me Willowtip Records seems like the right home for Ulcerate. I mean most of their bands don't just play straight forward music. Was that a part of what made you join them to start with?
Not so much - when dealing with a label it's very much a business agreement, so what we were looking for is a label that represents honesty, integrity and transparency, all of which Willowtip has. They have a loyal customer base, and are renowned for excellent service. In a sea of absolute rapists, this is a breath of fresh air.

It seems that you're happy with Willowtip then?
Yeah for sure, as I said before, in a working relationship like this you need someone that a.) you can trust and b.) actually maintains a normal level of communication. Anything above and beyond that is just the icing on the cake.

You've had some changes in the line-up in the past. Do you feel you have the right line-up now?

Since just before the first album there's been a core of three members that have total solidarity - guitarist Mike Hoggard, bassist/vocalist Paul and myself - it's always been the second guitarist position which has been the difficult position to fulfill with any longevity. But we're working with a close friend William Cleverdon now who has the same drive and level of proficiency that we've always looked for, so we're in the best shape we've ever been in.

What is next for the band? Are there any tours planned?
For sure, we'll be in the States next year for Maryland Deathfest, as well as a few other side shows, and at the end of this year it's looking like we'll be back in Europe as part of a fucking awesome package.

Have you begun writing for the follow-up to The Destroyers of All?
No not at all, we won't begin looking at new material to next year at least.

When you're not playing music what do you all do for a living?
I'm lead designer at a web studio in Auckland, Mike is studying full-time, Paul works in banking and William manages a gun shop.

What is the metal scene like in New Zealand nowadays?
Fairly fragmented, the extreme scene isn't really doing all that well. We play pretty sparingly and whenever we do it's always a bit of struggle to find support bands that are worth playing with. I can however recommend Witchrist, the now disbanded Diocletian, Creeping, Vassafor and Scaphist.

Anything you'd like to add to conclude this interview?
Cheers for the support!

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