Cavernous death metal band Vacuous on the start of a band during a


Hailing from England, cavernous five-piece death metal band Empty was conceived during the global pandemic and had to record its very first demo during the lockdown in April of this year.

Just seven months after the release of their twisted demo on tape via FHED and Red Door Folders, the band released their first EP Katabasis which perfectly merges old school death metal (OSDM) with d-beat / grindcore. This fusion of the brevity of grindcore and the complexity of death metal ultimately results in an incredibly heartbreaking deathgrind sound that evokes atmospheric terror from start to finish.

While there may only be five songs that play in just 20 minutes, the sheer density of Katabasis is enough to satisfy any old school death metal fan. If you are looking for frenzied blast beats, roaring guitar riffs and throaty vocals, look no further as Vacuous will deliver all of the above in one EP.

The group which includes guitarists Michael Brodsky and Ezra H, bass player Damien Cerbo, drummer Max Southall, and singer Jo Chen, last played Black listeningt in London where they played with other death metal bands including Heavenly Sanctuary, Slimelord, and Death spawn.

With gigs now a reality for concert goers in the UK, Bandwagon caught up with the lead singer of Vacuous Jo, to see what they have in store for the future.

How was Vacuous designed? Tell us about the formation of the band and how you got involved in the music.

We were all in neighboring bands that were not going anywhere, and we knew we wanted to play some type of music so we decided to form a band together. I was playing drums and Michael was the guitarist, and the singer couldn’t come one day so I ended up doing the vocals, and it kind of went from there. It was actually supposed to be a Power Trip-y cross-over Trash type band with singer Seth from a local hardcore band called Stiff drugs but he was very busy with it so I stayed in a room with Michael, and we just started talking about death metal, and we basically bonded about it. It’s not the most interesting story, but that’s basically how we came together.

What influenced the unique mix of death / doom metal with elements of d-beat / grindcore? Are there any bands that have particularly shaped your sound?

When I was 15-16 years old, I remember being in Kennedys dead and Bad brains, that sort of thing, and I saw this guy wearing a Infest t-shirt in a skate park. I thought it sounded pretty cool so I listened to them and even though I felt it was overwhelming I really liked it. When I was 16-18 I was trying to absorb so many hardcore and powerviolence bands that I had literally never heard anything like it before, and at the same time I was listening to a lot of slower bands like Mourning and God of eyes. It was really the key too. Portal was a great band for me too, I was mega influenced by them, and strangely enough they were one of the first death metal bands I started out in.

Damian the bassist really likes grindcore and powerviolence. Michael, who writes all the guitars, is more into black, death and heavy metal. Collectively, we love groups like Autopsy, Obviously, Demilich, Dystopia, that sort of thing, and we listen to a lot of Black breath also. We are also inspired by more recent bands like Brain rot and Of feathers and bones.

I understand that you used to play drums and vocals simultaneously for the band before focusing only on the latter. What prompted the change?

Because we recorded the EP while in lockdown, I didn’t have to record both drums and vocals. I was able to explore the drums in a way that I had never done before, so it got pretty frantic and messy, which I really like, but when we rehearsed for the EP I had doubts as to whether I could play these songs fully live. That’s when we got Max from Hellripper and he’s super good. I can’t wait for everyone to hear the drums on the new album.

What inspired your Katabasis EP? Did Greek mythology have anything to do with the conceptual idea behind the EP since the term “Katabase” is essentially an ancient Greek term for the descent into hell?

The term Katabasis is Greek but is used in a way to replace depression. All summer Michael and I talked a lot about the caves and what it would be like to be trapped there. Deep in my mind, caves were always a metaphor for depression, but I didn’t want to open up about it at first. After this release, we got closer, so the themes of the new album are more open now. Again, it’s just about being in this really horrible place, just anxiety, depression and everything. I guess it’s pretty basic in terms of lyrical themes.

Your demo was recorded in the middle of the pandemic. What was it like to write / record music under such circumstances?

I’ve never been in any band before so I can’t really compare but I think it wasted less time because we knew we only had a little time to get things done so we have all prepared perfectly in advance. Guess it sucks not being able to rehearse for weeks. We feel like we’re all over again when we do this because all of our muscle memory has been reset by the time we meet. I just hope we don’t go into another lockdown because now we’re actually playing shows and stuff.

Tell us more about the new material the band has recorded. What can we expect from this to move forward?

There is a lot less punk and grindcore. There is like a d-beat section throughout the album. And there is a lot more black metal that I really like. I think it’s a lot more emotional, the guitars sound a lot more acidic, and there are some really sad chords and riffs. On the previous two albums I only do a deep voice, whereas on this album I sound a lot more like live because I was able to record in the studio and I didn’t have to worry about my neighbors. . . So basically less punk, more death / doom, more black metal and more high pitched vocals / screams.

The novelties are so much more what we wanted. It’s obviously, lyrically and thematically, a little depressing but there are some grooves there that will make you want to dance or bang your head or whatever. It’s a really cool album to listen to. The riffs Michael wrote are so good, and Max’s drums and Ezra’s second guitar are really great. I am very proud of it. I think people are going to like it so I’m really excited for everyone to hear it.

Jo too, you are from Malaysia, how do you think the metal scene differs from London?

In fact, I was born and raised in London, so I never really got the chance to experience the metal scene in Malaysia. I didn’t even know Malaysia had a metal scene until a couple of years ago, but it’s something I wish I could have grown up in. I am really grateful to the people I have met on the London scene even though they are more hardcore and punk oriented than death metal. It’s hard to compare because I don’t have any references for the current scene but I’ve done a lot more research on death metal bands like Brain death and they are all very good. They can defend themselves against all American and European groups for sure.

How does it feel to be an Asian musician based in the UK?

Honestly, I think I’m a lot more accepted in the extreme and hardcore metal scene as a minority than in real life if that makes sense. When I go to a concert, I really feel at ease. I still have social anxiety but much less than in college … it’s exhausting for me because I have to explain my tattoos or why I wear a The last days of humanity shirt or something like that. I grew up with a lot of racism in London, and I guess it always made me feel like a foreigner. When I was a kid, a guy at the park used to tell me that I’m going to leave my dogs on you if you don’t go out. It just made me a really antisocial person, but when I discovered this music it really changed my life and I think a lot of people feel that deep down.

Finally, does Vacuous currently have plans for upcoming shows? Would the group consider playing in Asia in the near future?

We have a few local gigs in London with other punk and death metal bands, and next year we’re going to step that up. We will take a three day tour of the North East of England with one of the shows with Convulse. They are such a sick Finnish death metal band. This will be the first OG death metal band we will play with. The promoter also presents a show with Dead congregation and Phrenelith, but unfortunately he didn’t ask us to play that. Obviously I understand he booked us for a different show but at the same time I really wanted to be on it. But we’ll also be doing a five day UK tour when our album comes out, so that will be fun. If anyone wants to invite us to Asia, we would love to play a show there.

Catch Vacuous in Newcastle at Byker Graves Festival in April 2022.

You can also stream their music to Spotify or better yet, snag a physical copy of Katabasis on cassette / CD / vinyl from their bandcamp.


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