Band – Vulgarian
Album – Human Scum
Country of Origin – USA
Genre – Sludge Metal
Release Date – October 30, 2020
Label – Independent Release
Author – Hayduke X
Formed the day after the 2016 election in the United States, the quartet known as Vulgarian was birthed with a clear purpose. The nation that claims to be the best and most free on earth had just elected an open racist to the White House (aptly named, eh?) and the quartet of punks wasn’t having it. In those first days, the project was originally a duo, then a trio, and finally fully staffed at four, but the point remains the same. They are a voice of dissent against oppression joining in the chorus of voices old and new, who would decry a system that would allow this to happen, a system not broken, but actually functioning exactly as it was designed.
As can be seen in the interview below, Vulgarian draw from a range of influences to form their caustic brew. Sludge metal meets hardcore punk meets doom, d-beat, crust, and more. Musically ugly, the nasty riffs, abrasive drumming, destructive bass, and visceral howls of rage-filled horror mirror the ugly underbelly of society, an underbelly that has always been there, but that has been crawling ever further into the light during the tenure of this administration. Vulgarian seems to be saying that they see the metaphorical cockroaches of racism, sexism, class warfare, state sponsored violence, and all their close cousins, and that they will shine their bright light on them unflinchingly that we may all see and stomp on them. The quartet is the exterminator with their flashlight, catching the vermin in the act.
With track titles such as Human Scum, DPD (Die Pigs Die), and Drown in the Swamp, Vulgarian pull no punches in their assessment of society. Their confrontational attitude is one that demands a reaction. It demands that you choose a side. Using riffs as weapons, they essentially ask the same question as the old union call to action written by Florence Reece and popularized by Pete Seeger among others: Which Side Are You On? I’ve long thought that this is a key question for us all to answer, regardless of how it’s asked. I’m very clear that I’m on the side opposed to oppression, in other words, the same side as Reece, Seeger, Vulgarian, and so many others.
While I’ve written a lot about the political purpose of this project, I want to be clear also as to the strength of the album. As they speak about in the interview below, Vulgarian have spent a couple of years refining their sound in the crucible of live performances in their thriving Denver scene. The riffs are legit, the composition tight, and the overall sound visceral and moving. This is music that makes you sit up and pay attention. It’s ugly, battered, and ready for war. Human Scum will appeal to fans of the savage type of sludge played by bands like Primitive Man and 1000 Yard Stare, as well as those who like their old school hardcore punk confrontational and abrasive. Dig in and then drop below the link for the full interview.
Hayduke X: The promotional materials I received say that Vulgarian was formed the day after the 2016 election. Tell me about that.
Kevin Handlon: I joined later on so this one’s definitely for Anders.
Anders Dread: So yeah, the band was formed the day after the election. Thomas, our drummer, and I were roommates at the time and we were just so disgusted with the outcome of the election, that an unqualified racist could get elected. We decided then we needed to start an overtly political band to vent our rage on this. Originally, it was going to be a straight up D-beat band, but I’m not sure Frank, our guitarist, really knew what that was so it turned into this amalgam of hardcore punk sludge., which worked out for the best.
HX: Well, I won’t argue with the results. The album is straight up vicious. Are there key bands that you listen to that you’d consider important influences for this project?
KH: Melvins were the one that really brought everyone together in terms of direction, Discharge and Kennedys are really big on Thomas and Anders’ end, and YOB and Neurosis are underlying influences. Did I miss any?
AD: Yeah, lots of 80s hardcore, especially DK has always been a huge influence on me. But I also listened to a lot of Dystopia, EHG, Grief, etc to try and find my sludge vocals.
HX: I especially hear DK and Neurosis personally, but that may have a lot to do with my own listening. Sounds like it started with Anders and Thomas. How and how quickly did the other two come on board?
AD: We got Frank on board pretty quickly, I had decided early on that I wanted to try and just do vocals for a change. Thomas and I and Frank had played in several bands together before. So I think we got Frank on board a couple of days later and same with our original bassist Cody, who is a great jazz metal bassist. Kevin came on a couple years later when Cody wanted to focus on his main band at the time called Giardia.
KH: Yepper. Thomas roped me in a couple years back for his sludgy side project, and I was looking for something a bit more aggressive than my main project Dreadnought to be involved in. Vulgarian delivered.
HX: Any particular reason it’s taken this long for the album to be done? Have you been playing live throughout?
AD: Yeah, until COVID hit, we were playing live a lot and were initially planning to tour this summer to promote the album. But I think it partially took a while to refine our sound. None of our early tracks made it on this album, not because they are bad, but we just hadn’t really nailed our sound for the first couple of years.
HX: Makes sense. I’ve never been in a band, but I can see the need for some development time for a new project especially. Some of your song titles are…provocative. What reactions are you going for?
AD: Well, hopefully pissing some people off. Again, I come mostly from the punk scene in my youth, so it’s a lot of that DK cynicism and ironic humor. If I’m not pissing people off with the titles, I hope they laugh a little, those are the two reactions I want.
HX: Well, you got the second reaction from me. Do you have a favorite track you can delve into more deeply for me? Maybe one of the deeper cuts, instead of a lead single?
AD: Disinformation Age, the sixth track is one of my favorites. It was the last song we wrote. In fact, in the studio it might have been referred as “untitled” so it was fresh and written really at the height of, you know, not knowing what the fuck is going to happen each day. People getting snatched in unmarked vans and the president gassing people for a photo op. Not that times are much better right now.
HX: Yeah, not much has changed. What’s your take on this election, especially given that Biden is not the candidate the Left hoped for?
AD: Yeah, it’s not ideal, especially because I think Bernie would’ve just mopped the floor with Trump in both 2016 and today. And I don’t agree with Bernie 100% either, but again we are dealing with gradients. Biden is better than Trump, but that may just be because he’s at least willing to denounce overt white nationalism. That said I think people should vote however they want and you can’t shame someone for voting third party for a candidate they actually believe in.
HX: Fair points and I agree. I’d say I lean towards the Vote against Trump, then organize against Biden message, but honestly, I am a Canadian with a green card and can’t vote anyway. Are any of you involved in any community building or community activism beyond the band?
AD: We participated in a lot of the protests this summer, and I try to give when I can, but I don’t belong to any groups. I really admire the people that take the time out of their day to improve their communities. Better people than me doing a lot of great work out there. Hopefully our small contributions help in a way.
KH: I’ve been donating more to bail funds since the FBI has been pulling moves and I went back to work.
HX: To back up a bit, Kevin at least is in another project. Do the rest of you have other projects as well?
AD: I usually have several projects going, but took a hiatus from playing guitar and can’t trick anyone else to let me just do vocals in their band. Thomas has a mountaineering black metal solo project called Ice Axe and he and Frank have a post-sludge band called Post Nihilist. Frank also has a solo drone project called A Light Among Many.
HX: Cool! New stuff for me to check out. I’m not familiar with any of them. The little I know about the Denver scene is pretty righteously angry. This is based on Primitive Man and related projects more than anything. (And of course, Vulgarian seems to fit that description) What would you say about the scene as a whole?
KH: Denver is an eight hour drive from any other major metropolitan area, so before about a decade ago, we were still a flyover state in a lot of respects. We just made up for it by having a badass scene of our own, and for the most part, all of us have been at it here for our whole adult lives – the community is strong as fuck and the bands you end up hearing about are committed to diversity and progressive ideals, for the most part. I never feel like I have to hide my opinions here.
HX: That’s amazing! I’ve interviewed Ethan and talked to the other Primitive Man members and a couple of the Spectral Voice members more informally, and that tracks with my experience. Speaking of Ethan, tell me about the album art.
AD: Yeah, Ethan did the artwork which was fucking awesome, because we are all big fans of Primitive Man and his other projects. He’s just a quality individual all round. And it turned out amazing. It reminds me of the early Napalm Death album covers.
HX: Oh, good connection! I’m a huge Napalm Death fan, but hadn’t thought of that. I see what you’re saying though. What’s next for the band? Are there different contingencies based on the election outcome? A switch to a pop punk band if Bernie magically wins a write in campaign?
KH: I can’t picture Anders singing lol
HX: Lol. Shots fired.
AD: Haha, I’ll try singing, but only if we go outlaw country. But I think we learned this summer that even if that happened the problems of this country run far to deep to be immediately cured. Racism clearly runs deep, fascism has much more substantial support than I would have thought, and politicians are just gonna keep fucking us for money. Not much will really change after the election even in a best case scenario. So we will still have plenty of material either way.
HX: Have you already started writing new material, or are you taking some time for supporting this album?
AD: Largely taking time off, but getting that itch again for sure.
HX: Anything else either of you feel the need to share with our readers?
AD: Since it never came up, cops are racist assholes who protect private property and the status quo not people.
HX: That’s an important point worth noting. Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. I really appreciate it. Once shows are safely back, don’t forget West Michigan in your touring plans.
AD: For sure, love the Midwest.
HX: Awesome! Have a great night.
KH: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us Hayduke, and for featuring our online debut.
HX: My pleasure. Vulgarian is definitely the type of project I love to support, both in terms of sound and message.
Biography: Hayduke X has been writing for MoshPitNation since June of 2016. Beginning in 2018, he also began writing for VM Metal Underground. Prior to joining the MoshPitNation team, Hayduke published reviews on his own blog Rage and Frustration. In addition, he has DJ’ed an online metal radio show of the same name as his blog, written for TOmetal.com, done interviews for Metal Rules, and collaborated with The Art of B Productions to create video interviews with a wide variety of bands.