Fresh off my review of The Invisible Seam, I’m stoked to not only premiere the album in full, but share some insights from Fliege about the process of creating their latest genre-bending concept album. The trio of Coleman Bentley (guitars, clean vocals, drum programming, samples), Peter Rittweger (vocals), and Chris Palermo (synths, keyboards) pull from the worlds of industrial, heavy metal, post-punk, and beyond to create a truly unique sound. Click below to experience The Invisible Seam and then jump down to read my conversation with Coleman and Peter. We discuss the influences and creative mission behind The Invisible Seam, why they based the album on Ingmar Bergman’s film The Seventh Seal, the band’s complex relationship with black metal, and more!
I’ll be honest – it’s a struggle to find the right combination of genre tags to accurately describe Fliege’s style. What influences and general compositional goals helped create The Invisible Seam? What were you aiming to accomplish as band?
Coleman Bentley: Oh man, with The Invisible Seam, I think the goal from the start was to write an album in the most classic sense of the format. We didn’t want to slap a “BRAND NEW FULL-LENGTH!” sticker on a 28-minute EP. We wanted a beginning, middle, and end. We wanted interludes, we wanted singles, and we wanted a big, epic ender to wrap it all up. But most importantly, we wanted to make sure the album not only thematically reflected the The Seventh Seal, but sonically recreated the movie as well. If we’re going to sell ourselves as “the band that does heavy metal retellings of horror movies,” we really want to make sure our records aren’t just about those movies, but feel like them as well.
In order to make that happen—in order to bring a black-and-white existential horror flick about a templar knight dying of the plague and rotting with nihilism to life—we turned to a mixture of classic heavy metal (plus modern torchbearers like Haunt, Gatekeeper, and Idle Hands) for the requisite castle vibes and contemporary screamo acts like Locktender, Portrayal of Guilt, Svalbard, and Wear Your Wounds for the sad boi drama. Originally there were a lot more cock rock riffs baked into these songs, but slowly they gave way to the melodicism and moodiness you hear in the climactic moments of songs like “Four Suns,” “The Invisible Seam,” and “Blood of the Earth.” All of that was then fused to our electronic rhythmic skeleton, doused in synthy green goo, and hit with a little black metal pixie dust.
Peter Rittweger: I think in some senses, we felt like we had something to prove with this record. Fliege started with Coleman and I kinda just fucking around because we thought it’d be funny to write a black metal album about Cronenberg’s The Fly. That was our demo, and I think we kinda surprised ourselves a little bit with what we were able to do with it. I don’t know that we consciously picked much more serious source material for the full-length, but a film like The Seventh Seal definitely lends itself to more complex compositions than a cyberpunk body horror flick. Chris also joined the band, so he adds a whole new sonic component to the mix.
I think you hear a lot of different genres, because this is a band that was started by a couple of reformed music bloggers who wrote about bands, instead of being the dudes IN the bands. We really love music, and a wide array of music. I think that comes out in Fliege’s sound. I’d say we’re rooted in black metal, but there’s a lot of culling from the world of screamo here and there—the record is way more melodic than you’d think when you consider the source material and the genre tags. Vocally, Dominick Fernow has always been my biggest influence. That’s usually what I’m trying to do.
As a follow-up, there are clearly a lot of black metal elements at play on The Invisible Seam, though the album hardly conforms to genre norms.
In my view, black metal has been experimented with more successfully than any other metal subgenre over the last several years. How do you view Fliege’s relationship with/influence from black metal? What about the genre lends itself to experimentation?
CB: Yeah, I think you’re hearing what we hear too. The foundation for most Fliege songs to date—Pete’s screams, electronic blast beats, a lot of tremolo picking—is black metal or black metal adjacent. From there, a lot of conscious and unconscious decisions are made. Sometimes a riff seems too orthodox or predictable and I start hunting around for less-expected alternatives. Other times, some repressed song I listened to 1,200 times as a teenager comes mysteriously bubbling back up to the surface, which probably explains why the outro to “A Light in the Black Pane” sounds like a cross between Heart and Foo Fighters filtered through the right hand of Euronymous.
PR: Yeah, I think Fliege are black metal like The Clash are a punk band … yeah we make black metal, but we’re aren’t afraid to bring some off the wall elements to the sound. I don’t think The Invisible Seam sounds like a traditional black metal album, but I suppose I’d refer to it as a black metal album.
CB: As far as why I think black metal has been so rife with experimentation in recent years, I think the sonic makeup of the genre allows for a lot of lateral movement. Melody has always been one of black metal’s great selling points, so just dime a couple of delay pedals, and suddenly it’s My Bloody Valentine. Rhythmically, you can do literally anything over a blast beat. It’s like a wave. You just surf it. That’s sort of where Fliege land. We use a lot of black metal techniques, and therefore we sometimes sound a lot like black metal. But you can call us whatever you want—”blackened hair metal,” “Carpenter-core,” “Korn-gaze.” Hell, if we were doing this 20 years ago, we would have been “alt-metal,” so maybe that’s what we are. Y2K nostalgia is so hot right now anyway. Just ask Code Orange.
The concept behind The Invisible Seam revolves around Ingmar Bergman’s film The Seventh Seal. Our readers are probably more familiar with the movie it eventually inspired: Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. Why did you choose this as a basis for the album, and how did you incorporate it into the music and lyrics?
CB: We are a little touchy about what movies we pick for adaptation. The Fly was the perfect combination of pulp and earnestness. It has tons of cult cache without being too on the nose. Like, Halloween is my fucking favorite movie ever, but we’re not going to write an album about it. How could you possibly have anything new to say? So we struggled a little bit to find that this time around, but we eventually settled on The Seventh Seal because it’s a movie about a knight dying from the black plague playing chess with the grim reaper. What could possibly be more metal than that?
PR: We try to pick cult films. They’re the kinds of films I love, and I love having a platform to highlight their greatness. I’m a huge Bergman fan, and I think we’re all attracted to the thematic content of his work; existentialism, mortality and loneliness. We could have just as easily done a record on Wild Strawberries or The Virgin Spring, but The Seventh Seal definitely lent itself best to a metal record. Again—at the end of the day, Fliege is a band founded by a bunch of nerds, and in some senses I see it as a way to write love letters to our favorite things.
CB: As far as process is concerned, I sit down, watch the film, take notes, and designate scenes that I think could support standalone songs. I don’t return to the movie until after the album is done, because I want to write from feel and that sort of malleable haziness of memory. I then work to plug the existing songs into the film chronology, with each track roughly unfolding in sequence with its corresponding scene’s placement within the film (first act, second act, third act etc.).
We already touched on the musical inspirations we used conjure the mood or “sound” of The Seventh Seal—as least as we felt it—but from a lyrical standpoint, the job was made considerably easier by the fact that Bergman’s dialog is pure poetry. So a lot of lines from the film—”my flesh is afraid but I am not,” “I am meaningless to heaven/invisible to hell,” “love is the blackest of all plagues”—we’re lifted verbatim and used as jumping off points for our own lyrical embellishments. Then, inevitably, as the songs progressed, our own baggage sort of came with them. I have never played a board game with death and don’t feel overly conflicted about the existence or non-existence of a higher power, but I can certainly relate to an absence of meaning. I certainly ask myself whether the pain we put up with on a daily basis makes living a net-positive or a net-negative. I hope others can derive their own meaning from some of these songs as well, because it’s not enough to tell a story, it has to mean something too.
From an outside perspective, it seems like New York continues to be an incubator for excellent, up-and-coming metal bands. From your vantage point in Brooklyn, what’s your view of the scene?
CB: I’m from a tiny little speck of a town in New Hampshire, so every time I start to complain about this stuff I have to stop remember what could have been. I think between Saint Vitus Bar and Krallice, you could make a pretty darn good argument that Brooklyn is home to both the most important metal venue and most important underground metal band of the past decade. The loss of The Acheron and, more recently, Brooklyn Bazaar hurts though. There are still plenty of awesome musicians making awesome in the city right now—NYC is a heavy place and I think it will always breed heavy music—but there’s an increasing shortage of places that want to showcase it. Venues in Brooklyn, metalheads buy a ton of beer! Let us book your places!
But yeah, a lot of the bands that defined the last generation of New York metal, like Yellow Eyes, Couch Slut, and Insect Ark, are NYC timeshares now. Sunrot are New Jersey. We still think of them as “NYC” bands, but the reality is a little different. I guess what I’m trying to say is the credit for New York City metal doesn’t go to New York City as a place, but the musicians who continue to make it despite all the soul-sucking impediments (dragging 30 pounds of gear to practice on the subway during rush hour, for instance).
Rapid Fire Round:
Favorite Album of 2019
CB: Falls of Rauros – Patterns in Mythology. This is the one album I heard last year that filled me with jealousy. As soon as I heard it, I was like, “Fuck, that’s the record I wanted to write.” Plus us New Englanders have to stick together.
PR: Uboa – The Origin of My Depression. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard anyone express emotional and physical pain so effectively before.
Most Anticipated Album of 2020
CB: It is going to be an absolutely insane year. Kvelertak, Pallbearer, Couch Slut, Necrot. All very high up the list for me, but a little birdie tells me Horrendous are working on new music. Not sure if that will be out this year or not, but if it is, that’s my answer. Those boys are the truth.
PR: I’ve been on a big screamo kick. I woulda said the Frail Hands record, but that just dropped like a week ago. Envy have a record coming out this summer, pretty hyped on that. Also been huge on the hip-hop coming out of NYC the last couple of years from sLUms/Standing on the Corner. Someone from those crews seem to put a new tape out every week, so I’ll be watching for those.
Greatest Album of All Time
CB: I think there’s no way not to sound like a complete boomer boner answering this question, but probably Led Zeppelin II or Ride the Lightning. Maybe Powerslave? All are inherently flawed records oozing with conviction and personality. Also riffs. Lots and lots of riffs.
PR: Impossible to say. My favorite record of all time is Sonic Youth’s EVOL, though.
Biggest Source of Inspiration
CB: Though we drift further from it with every new song we write, the answer probably is NWOBHM and second-wave black metal. Immortal’s At the Heart of Winter is my “Marvin, you know that new sound you’ve been looking? WELL, LISTEN TO THIS” record. If Fliege just remade that over and again for however long we keep doing this, then I would be happy.
PR: Second-wave black metal for sure, anything Dominick Fernow is doing, and bands like Saetia, Portraits of Past, and Jerome’s Dream.