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BlightMass's Jesse Jolly: "One of my primary enjoyments as a musician is writing lyrics, because (like music) you can truly move people's emotions in any direction you choose. I hold the key. I am driving this vehicle…"

Interview with Jesse Jolly from BlightMass
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 07 December 2019, 9:53 PM

It might be possible that most would skip an opportunity for them to shine, even if it involves an off show offering. However, those who do rise for the challenge, they are granted with a chance that could may as well go big time. BlightMass, based in France, are currently an underground level Death Metal band, yet they are being fronted by an American vocalist, that has been involved in the legendary Tampa Death Metal scene. Together, they are a powerful unit that go forward strong. Steinmetal had a talk with Jesse Jolly of the band, going spiritual on their new album "Severed From Your Soul", lyrical, old school Death Metal, perceptions and more…

Hello Jesse, it is great having you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing mate?

Thank you so much for reaching out! Things are going well with me; and I certainly hope the same for you and everyone else at Metal Temple!

I have been tracking your early works in Amon and Diabolic, yet I never quite expected to find you singing for a French Death Metal band. Let’s go back a bit, how did you find these guys? Have you been dividing your life in the US and France in order to keep your bands going?

Actually it was Nattewolf (JP) who contacted me online, in reference to another project that I'm involved in. He expressed great interest in what I was doing in the states, musically, and we just hit it off really well; becoming really close friends over the subsequent years. In the case of BlightMass, my entry into the band was only about a year ago. My first official visit to France will be in January/February of 2020. We have a small tour lined up (8 dates in all) to support our debut release. Maybe following this event, my time back and forth to Europe will increase. This is absolutely a hope which I carry.

BlightMass is a fairly new moniker since the band had an earlier name, Purgatory Unleashed. Why it was decided to change the name to BlightMass? Was it some kind of a change of strategy or something of a considerable impact happened that made you change the name?

There are a couple of different elements that brought me to the decision to suggest the name change. My relationship with Purgatory Unleashed began when Nattewolf commissioned me to track vocals for one song on their upcoming album. From what I understand, once the lead vocalist heard my performance, he suggested that he wanted to then track the same song again. The other members of the band disagreed with him and at that point he became insulted and through some uncertain terms, resigned from the band. Shortly after, Nattewolf again commissioned me to perform vocals and rewrite the lyrics for the entire album, which I gladly agreed to do. Once the album was nearly complete, I realized that I was truly developing a great fondness of the material, and offered to be the lead vocalist for any and all future endeavors.

My only real condition with this was that we consider changing the band name to something a bit more ominous. I suggested this because of the mild response I was receiving, in reaction to the band name in the Tampa local scene. In the states, the word "Purgatory" doesn't tend to inspire fear or disgust; it's a place that is viewed more as neutral. Basically, the name at the time (to me) translated into "Spirits who aren't good but aren't really bad, being unleashed." BlightMass wasn't my first suggestion, but we settled on it because of the mutability of the concept as well as the words, themselves. Furthermore, the name matches perfectly with the lyrical content!

“Severed From Your Soul” is the title of BlightMass’s debut album, signed to the French Great Dane Records. Do you believe that you found yourself a home in this label? How would you comment the promotional process for “Severed From Your Soul”?

We were definitely thrilled to receive the initial offer from GDR. Being that the label is based out of France, Nattewolf is spearheading the relations between us and them. Generally speaking, the experience has been a positive one. As a unit, we are happy to be working with GDR and will be open to negotiate further releases with them, in the future. To address the promotion question, I believe the label has performed nicely in terms of holding up their end of the agreement.

How has the album been received up until now? Do you feel that the following of the band is strongly being gathered due to this deadly musical piece?

From my understanding, the album is receiving quite positive reviews in France from the fans and the media alike. I can speak for the states, in that the local Tampa scene has been very impressed with the finished product. We can only hope that the trend continues the upward trajectory and this album reaches the potential that we (in BlightMass) feel it is capable of earning.

I would like to hang around the title for a bit. “Severed From Your Soul”, well that is quite powerful, yet also enigmatic to some extent. What is being severed from the soul of whoever is listening? Is there any relation to a personal experience that inspired this title?

The title, as I intended it to be understood is as follows: We are generally taught to believe that a person is the construct of two primary elements: the body and the soul. We often hear that once the body dies the soul lives on. My idea for the title was simply to present an alternative perception where the evil and suffering which permeates many aspects of existence, can decimate our soul; leaving our body to live on until it expires from whatever conditions apply to the individual person, animal, etc. This concept is also referred to in the lyrics to the title track. So the concept was not exactly meant as if something is "being cut away" from your soul, however that is a pretty cool idea as well!

Continuing with the lyrical concept, what is the theme connecting the dots between the songs on “Severed From Your Soul”? If there isn’t, where does this release go in terms of spirituality and connection to real life?

The lyrical theme for this album is rather an homage to horror/sci-fi/history/religious-cult literature and film adaptations. The intro to the album (Pale Child) is devoid of any real lyrics, but the concept of the track is made clear once the track draws to an end, to signify the awakening of something treacherous. The album, as follows, is one assault on humanity after another. Each track bearing its own version of the apocalypse, derived through a different catalyst. Some tracks deal with more of an individual quelling of existence, whereas, others more so allude to mass extinction.

BlightMass has been all in favor for old school Death Metal, doing justice for the early 90s American Death Metal scene, displaying refined brutality. When compared to the more than handful releases of the same vain, what would you say makes “Severed From Your Soul” a standout, a special kind of release that would be the center of attention?

I believe that for me, this album really stands out on a spiritual level because of the visions I get when I review the lyrics or listen to the music. One of my primary enjoyments as a musician is writing lyrics, because (like music) you can truly move people's emotions in any direction you choose. I hold the key. I am driving this vehicle; and I will take it anywhere I want it to go. In addition to what I consider to be a fantastic album, musically, I hope the fans will take the time to check out the lyrical concepts and get a better understanding of why I truly feel it stands out as a complete package.

Other than the rhythm guitar riffs, which simply bashed me up, there were those atmospheric moments of tendered riffs, like on the dreamy opening of “They Will Listen To The Dead”, right before the imminent destruction. Honestly, for some reason I thought about intros of Judas Priest, maybe due to the sound. I guess you didn’t just come to bash skulls but in a minimal margin, did you journey elsewhere?

I'm pleased that you have taken a liking to the juxtaposition of the content! The clean and "dreamy" interludes, as you put it, are part of the reason why I fell in love with the overall embodiment of this album, prior to joining. Personally I am a huge fan of extremely sullen, introspective music. So this was an immediate appeal, from my perspective. I hope the fans agree!

The self-titled song, is certainly one of this album’s power houses. It slowly drives through with meaty riffs, yet delivers a few unexpected moments and then abruptly ends. What is your take on this song? How was it generated?

I'm glad you asked, because, this song is one of my absolute favorites! Referring back to a previous inquiry, this song ultimately testifies to the concept of the album, as its namesake. As with (hopefully) every song on this record, if you follow the lyrical progressions, other aspects of the song begin to make more sense. I did my best at taking the existing music, and sort of reconstructing the vocal and lyrical content, based on the emotions that it conjured up. So in this case, the abrupt ending to the song is basically like this, in other words- "You've gained nothing by being pious to your imaginary gods. You will never be free, until you give that shit up. The End." Haha!

Which musical elements were emphasized on this record? Such elements that you believe that kicked this album a notch

Everything I involve myself in, musically, absolutely has to impact me emotionally. That being said, I feel that this was already a very strong album before I even joined. I have an honest and substantial admiration for the musical direction that these guys took this album; and I was elated to have the chance to contribute. I hope that this factor is transparent in the finished product, and that people can tap into the energy that I'm adding to this megalith!

How would you describe the songwriting process of “Severed From Your Soul”? Would you say that this album was a group effort while writing the material for it? I guess that you are contributing through the internet most of the time?

Yes, exactly. It was a situation where the band had most of the album completed, before I entered into the fold. So I had little to no input on the actual music, other than assisting in the arrangement of a few parts, for lyrical purposes. Certainly regarding the intro "Pale Child," I was a bit more involved in the layout. Actually my lovely wife Sara provided the female voice for that track!

What is your general approach towards writing a song? What has been more important to you and what wasn’t? Did you have any kind of deliberations over aspects of the album while composing the tunes?

In this situation, under the current circumstances of being so far apart, the song writing process certainly has brought adversities that would otherwise not be a factor. So for the time being, our creative process will continue to be an online exchange of ideas and concepts until we agree upon a given final product. That is the most logical path, in this regard.

Where was the album produced and who took charge of the mixing and mastering? What is your appreciation of the work done for this album? From where I am sitting, it sounds modern, yet bound by the old school spirit no doubt

The music portion of the album was recorded in France, by Nattewolf. He is an extremely talented asset to the metal community, I assure you. He also took over mixing/mastering. He consulted me on a regular basis, throughout the process; as I assume he also did with the other members. I am very pleased with the production work on this album, and I know that our next album will be this and much more! As to the modernism vs. old-school in which you mentioned, I feel that "yes" there is a pleasing mix of these two elements captured in this endeavor.

It might be a little hard to answer, yet I like asking it. Which of the album’s songs is your most impactful? What is the nature of your connection to this song? Please elaborate on your pick

This is an extremely tough question but for me it's, "When He Wakes." Not only am I a huge H.P. Lovecraft fan, I had so much fun writing the lyrics and recording this song. The music is brutal as all hell; and overall it was just a blast to track this one, due to the rhythmic nature of the vocal cadence.

The song “They Will Listen To The Dead” featured a solo guitar by the late Ralph Santolla (R.I.P). When was it actually recorded? Do you think that it is a fine tribute for the late guitar hero and also a true contributor in Extreme Metal?

Ralph was a great friend to many of us; and I can only hope that he would have been pleased with the final product, involving his contribution. Nattewolf was the original point of contact for that arrangement, so I don't have the specific details of when it was tracked. …Only that when he contacted Ralph, he did what Ralph always did- he jumped in to help. This song is most definitely my deepest lyrical involvement throughout this album. I could write several paragraphs based on exactly what this song represents for me; but if you read and ponder the lyrics, it will probably be the most economical solution. Haha!

When playing these songs, whether live or in practice, what do those make you feel? How would you describe the surge going through you?

The process, currently, is a bit unorthodox. With me living in the states, obviously regular rehearsals are not something that we can easily obtain. So for the time being, the guys run through rehearsals without me directly participating; and I practice the vocals in my studio, via recorded tracks. It's not optimal, but it is necessary. Vocally, these songs are quite challenging. So I need to be able to stay active and fresh on the material, despite the distance.

In your opinion, what are the main challenges for BlightMass this coming new year? What is your vision for the band?

For BlightMass, I feel that the only challenge that we have faced up to this point, is simply that we live on opposite sides of the planet. I am deeply honored and excited to be involved with this project. That being said, I will continue to devote my utmost in effort to assure I represent these guys properly. So for the future… Let's see what happens! My vision for the band? I vote for astronomical domination!

I can only assume that supporting the album is of top priority, how will this be made? Have you already made plans for 2020?

You are 100% correct. We are out to support SFYS in the first quarter of 2020 and beyond. Granted, that the first tour is entirely within the French border- I did not have a direct hand in the booking process, however, all has been solidified and we are completely stoked to be undertaking this endeavor!

Jesse, I would like to thank you for this interview, you had me go through an old school Death Metal experience, which I am favored fan of, nothing but the best for you guys. Cheers.

Thank you so very much, my friend! As a humble hillbilly Metalhead from the mountains of Tennessee, I greatly appreciate the time you have devoted to garnering a better understanding of my inner workings. Hopefully this will not be our last conversation!
 
 


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