Ischemic: An Interview

Ischemic is a band from Toronto.

Anthony Abbatangelo is not only the bassist of Toronto-based Ischemic, but the band’s recording engineer. Their new self-titled album came out in April and has been playing over my speakers a lot recently — so I was glad to have the opportunity to chat and learn more about how the band approaches their work.

Weirding: I love the sound of the new album and especially appreciate the DIY nature of the recording and production. Tell me about how recording this album differed from your experience on the last one.

Anthony: Hey, thanks for complimenting the production side of things — we’re definitely proud of how this one sounds.

Our last album — Stagnation & Woe — was engineered by Colin Attlesly at his home studio. Those songs were a lot more technically demanding and melodically intricate — and he had a cleaner, more polished production style which complimented that well.

But for this one, the songs felt like they demanded a crustier and uglier sound which Kamble and I felt we could deliver.

Weirding: Tell me more about you all as a group of musicians. Who does what and how did you come together as a band?

Anthony: Yeah, for sure. The core of the band has pretty much always been Adam on songwriting and guitars and Isabelle on vocals and lyrics. I think they linked up over an online classified around the year 2012.

I was friends with Adam and joined a little bit later when their original bassist had to drop out. This was my first band and I pretty much learned how to play from jamming with Ischemic.

Kamble joined on drums a year or two ago. He was actually a fan of the band and we had seen him sing and play guitar in his own project — Mors Verum. We’ve cycled through a lot of drummers over the years and it’s been awesome to have landed on such a perfect fit. He’s a super talented producer and multi-instrumentalist as well and has been a big part of shaping the new songs.

Weirding: So how was it to put this together while dealing with lockdowns and everything else?

Anthony: The logistical side of things wasn’t too bad actually. We crammed in all of the writing, rehearsal, and recording over the summer and early fall when there was a brief period of normalcy and easing of COVID restrictions in Toronto. 

I think having a mandatory break from live shows and all the social aspects of being a part of a local music scene helped us focus on getting this thing completed. 

Weirding: That’s a good observation. Getting focused — I’ve heard that a lot from musicians recently.

So, this new album features a lot of bludgeoning sounds — such as the guitars and toms at the beginning of 'Crawl out of Hell' and the pounding in the middle of 'Scattering Garden'. It evokes a great deal of mood as opposed to just showing off some riffs. The cumulative effect across the whole album is really striking and sort of reaches a peak in the dynamics between the delicate lone guitar parts and the heavy riffing on the album’s closer.

Can you tell me a bit about how you approach songwriting — because it feels like everyone is exactly on the same page in helping to achieve the overall effect.

Anthony: Yeah, most of the riffs are written by our guitarist Adam then fleshed out with the full band. Kamble is a great songwriter in his own right, so a lot of melodic and structural ideas get worked out as we’re going through the songs together. 

As we jam there’s a natural push and pull between the rhythm section and the guitars that help define the tempos and overall vibe of the song.

Weirding: You can really hear that push and pull you describe all through the album. It’s always interesting to hear the differences in approach between guitarist-songwriters and drummers with songwriting chops.

Anthony: Something that always impresses me about the songs those two bring to the table is that there’s no shortage of impressive riffs, but they’re deployed in a way that always has some emotional or storytelling significance.

If that makes sense?

Weirding: Yeah, totally.

Anthony: I absolutely love all the post-y atmospheric drone-y metal that’s out there. But I am always impressed by bands that can convey that same mood through sheer riffs-manship. Vhol and Fuck the Facts both come to mind for that.

‘Crawl’ is actually the first or second song Adam ever wrote for the band. It dates back to 2013. Our first demos were quite rough so we’ll occasionally repurpose one of those old tracks and give it some new life with a fresh arrangement and upgraded production. We did this with ‘Cerebral Pestilence’ on our last album.

Weirding: It’s notable, I think — that inclination to go back into the past and to pull things forward to be presented to the world in a new way.

I was talking with another musician friend recently about the last year almost forcing everyone to stop and take stock of things. It was like having this collective forced moment of reckoning got me thinking about past music I've played and what that's meant in how I've come to where I am now.

As you all have your own musical histories — whether performing, writing, recording — I wonder if you've felt similar.

Anthony: That’s an interesting question. Yeah, like I mentioned — having that year-long break from the social and communal aspects of music has kind of been good for us. We had the time and freedom to experiment and to try out ideas without worrying how they could be pulled off live.

We also wanted this album to have the feeling of a transition or a clean break from the past.

Weirding: I get that. Like in that way that we think about where we've all come from musically and then maybe either apply it to what we're doing or maybe even try to escape it and leave it behind. It seems like an ongoing to-and-fro.

Anthony: Well, in a broader sense, everything about this one does feel like a break from the past. It’s a self-titled album and our first with Kamble on drums. It’s our first time doing all the production ourselves. We even shifted away from the usual logo and illustrations of the old releases and created a really stark and minimalist photo-based cover that doesn’t even have any text or visual clues for the listener. 

I tend to respond really strongly to packaging — not just album art, but the way a band or a filmmaker, or any artist presents their ideas. It is always as interesting to me as the content itself. And I hope people pick up on that a bit from this record.

Weirding: The cover art for the new album is totally spooky.

Anthony: The mask was originally created by the artist Marcela Calderon Donefer — she’s a close friend of ours and I’ve always wanted to incorporate one of her pieces somehow. 

I took the photo and designed the layout with lots of help from my partner, Danika Zandboer. She’s an incredible photographer — she shot the cover and packaging for Vile Creature’s latest album.

So, we suspended the mask on transparent fishing wire. Then lit it and blasted it with a fog machine to get that effect. Some additional layering and cleanup was done in post.

I really love the ambiguity and minimalism of it. I just set out to create the kind of image that I would respond to. It’s funny reading the different reviews and comments from people regarding the artwork — that ambiguity seems to really compel some and totally irritate and baffle others.


Ischemic is based in Toronto, Ontario. 

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