Ov Sulfur's Ricky Hoover & Chase Wilson Discuss The Themes & Unexpected Moments on 'The Burden Ov Faith'
Having recently completed a sold-out North American tour with labelmates Lorna Shore, plus Aborted, Ingested and Angelmaker, Blackened Deathcore outfit Ov Sulfur recently announced their highly-anticipated new album, The Burden Ov Faith. With a string of singles leading up to the announcement, the album already promises that the growls of frontman Ricky Hoover will take aim at the tyranny of organized religion, as the band is known to do, but also will showcase a more emotional side that people may not expect.
The band hit the scene with their self-released first EP, 2021’s Oblivion, which put them on the radar of Century Media. This album will build upon the EP and what Ov Sulfur is known for, with more vulnerability, more riffs and just plain old MORE.
Sitting down with both Ricky and fellow founding member and guitarist Chase Wilson, we discuss the albums themes, inspirations and the surprising moments Ov Sulfur has in store for us.
Ov Sulfur isn’t abandoning their anti-chist tendencies though. “There’s absolutely plenty of blasphemy, just a smidge, haha!” Chase explains. “What people will find surprising are the themes you might not think that we would talk about. Like in “Earthen'', it's more so about loss, that we take from almost an atheistic point of view, like “What kind of god would test a child?” Because it is about Ricky’s nephew unfortunately dying of cancer. We do pretty emotional stuff like that. Yeah, we are a deathcore band who loves to talk about how the church is terrible and about how Ricky dislikes the idea of organized religion, but we also talk about something that is near and dear to his heart, which I don’t think people would expect.”
“Another example would be “Befouler” where you could relate it to religion, but that song is mainly about the music industry and how people can be two-faced. How people can be really cool to your face, but talk shit about you behind your back and want to see you fail in doing whatever you’re doing.”
“We’ve broadened our horizons on this album more than we did on the EP,” he concludes.
“With what we’ve released so far and “Earthen”, we’re trying to showcase a little bit more diversity in metal.” Ricky elaborates. “Our aim when we started this band was to not have any rules, to a degree obviously. Chase and I are the founding members and when we talked we wanted to not have any constrictions or any hard lines. We wanted to have creativity, we wanted to let each person be able to do what they want to do. The bands I’ve been in before, and the band’s Chase has been in before have felt constricting when it comes to writing.”
“This album was more us exploring that without any limitations. The EP we put out, we wanted to come in with a bang and with this, we wanted to see what we could pull from this or this, or “this riff sounds really cool, it may be a bit different but I think it can work.” Or with me singing, which Chase has always tried to get me to sing, it just happened in the studio. There were parts where I felt like trying it and I just belted out a couple parts and it ended up working, which is a huge thing for me because I’ve never done that on anything before this.”
“We wanted to show that you don’t have to be super rigid and stick to one subgenre. We want to be just music.”
When it comes to genre, most would put Ov Sulfer into the deathcore or blackened deathcore sub-category. But the band doesn’t stay away from other influences or genres and are unafraid to pull from whatever genre they want.
“At the end of the day we’re just a metal band.” Chase begins. “You can try to put us into any genre you want or try to pigeon hole us, but we take influence from every metal genre so it's really hard to do that.”
“It’s very fun because Chase and I love Bon Jovi and Ratt, we like a bunch of stuff,” Ricky adds. “We were like “Why not pull some inspiration from that stuff?” I’ve never been afraid of pushing limits or pissing some people off, even if it’s the elitist people.”
When it comes to lyrics, Ricky fills every word with passion and emotion. “I’ve never been a person who can go in and write a song in 10 minutes,” he explains. “I can’t do that. It takes me a while to write our lyrics because I have to get connected. Life experience is the biggest influence for me when I’m writing.”
“I do a lot of research in theology and history and archeology. I love learning a lot of that stuff and the history of religion. You learn all of the terrible things and that makes for the best writing, unfortunately. There are atrocities committed by literally every religion. Whether or not they want to admit it or believe it, every religion does these things.”
About his process, Chase pulls from some unexpected influences. “When it comes to the writing of the music, I’m really influenced by the new wave of heavy metal stuff, so Trivium, Killswitch Engage, Lamb of God, that type of stuff. One of my favorite bands of all time is Pantera. I’m a really groove centric person and a structure person. I feel like the structure of the song is more important than the technicality of the riffs or the technicality of anything. It’s gotta have a solid groove, it’s gotta have a solid base before you can add that. I didn’t know if it would be detectable since we are doing deathcore, those influences, but quite a few of those things really do shine through, especially on the more melodic elements as well.”
“Being a technical player is really cool, but you need that hook or that lead that shines through. You need something that sticks in someone’s head. You want to make an impression and a lot of the time technicality doesn’t do that.”
Building on their brutal EP, the band is excited to showcase what more they are capable of. “Even though I’ve been doing these kinds of vocals for almost 20 years,” Ricky starts, “I think this album is where I’ve really found my voice. Me and Chase both found our voices and the harmony of our voices together. Chase and I harmonize on this album a lot. We really built our specific sound.”
“A lot of the songs on this remind me, and I’m not comparing, of the way Jerry Cantrell and Layne Staley sounded together. Where they weren’t completely the same, but they complimented each other. I feel like the way Chase and I sing vocals compliment each other very nicely. You can tell there are differences, but the way they sound together are really conducive to each other.”
“I feel like these songs are bigger in every way. Bigger song content, bigger meanings, more emotion. I think everybody on this album stepped their game up.”
“Even the guitar playing on this has stepped up,” Chase adds. “The EP was heavy, but there is more melody in this and it’s more crushing than the EP could ever be. The EP was a good place to start, but this feels like we really stepped up our game. With Matt helping to write the album, he has made me such a better guitar player. At first it was really hard to keep up with him, and of course I do my best to make sure I can keep my footing, and it's made me a better guitar player because of it.”
Those familiar with Ov Sulfur have been anxiously awaiting the album announcement since their previously released single, “Stained in Rot” was released on the cusp of their tour with Lorna Shore. The wait has been painful, but the timing seems to have been perfect. “Releasing “Stained in Rot” right before we hit the road with Lorna Shore, and being on a crushing tour and releasing a crushing almost death metal song, rather than anything deathcore. That intro riff is something you’d hear in a slammy death metal band. That was just really lucky and just meshed really well with the vibe of the tour,” says Chase.
“Releasing “Death Ov Circumstance” afterwards, where it was a lot more melodic and different vibe was good for us too. Ricky really showcases his singing. And then releasing “Earthen” showing that we can do something emotional as well,” he adds.
“I can’t really say that there was a plan for it to be like this because that would be a lie, haha! I just think it was really lucky.”
As stated before, this album will deal with not only Ov Sulfur’s signature church-hate, but a broad range of visceral topics that most of us can identify with in some way. The band is setting the course to make an impact on the scene, one they are highly poised to be successful at.
“We want to make an impact on metal.” says Chase “We want to make an impression with what we do. With blackened deathcore on the rise and the success of bands like Shadow of Intent and Worm Shepherd, I think that there have been people that have done the genre really well. With more bands coming out every day it’s hard to stand out, but with this different take on that style of music we want to show that we can hold up to those bands and we can separate from the sea of bands that are coming out.”
For Ricky, this album and these lyrics hold something extremely special both for himself and for those he hopes to inspire. “What’s really cool about metal, and specifically this genre right now, is it’s ok to have emotions,” he starts. “It can’t be all “I’m going to gut you!” like it used to be. Years ago, I wrote an album that was all about suicide and people are now reaching back and connecting with that. And now, with bands like Lorna Shore and Shadow of Intent as well, it’s ok to be crushingly heavy and still be vulnerable. Like with “Earthen,” I was literally in tears singing this song in the studio. You can hear it in the chorus. I just want to showcase that it’s ok to have emotions in metal.”
“If you look at photos of us on stage, we’re having fun. It’s ok to smile, it’s ok to stick your tongue out! It’s ok to have emotion and vulnerability.”
“As an anti-religion person as I am, I want people to educate themselves instead of going on blind faith. I don’t want to completely destroy religion because that’s not my place and I don’t think that should be a thing, I think people should be free to believe what they want. I just want people to wake up and see all the messed up stuff that has happened and really make an educated decision and not try to control and tell people that their identity is wrong, or their sexuality is wrong, or what they believe is wrong. Some of the lyrics are very anti-church judgment with trans people, gay people and the LGBTQ community and I want this album to reach out those people and show them “Look, you have people in this heavy metal community that have your back against these religious overlords.””
“I want people to take away that you can be yourself, you can be 100% free and you should feel 100% safe to be who you want to be. And nobody can tell you that’s wrong or that you’re gonna burn for it. That’s what I’m trying to accomplish with this music. A lot of time, that stuff destroys people who are just trying to be themselves.”
The Burden Ov Faith promises to be one of the more impactful albums of 2023 and is certainly one of the most highly anticipated. As important as the album is, we all know what is most important in life and that is dinosaurs. And what are the Ov Sulfur crew’s favorites?
“The stegosaurus is the most metal dinosaur there is,” says Chase. “It has that mace-tail! Or, if we’re talking about water dinosaurs, there’s megalodon.”
But Ricky went a more modern route, “I think crocodiles are my favorite because they’re living dinosaurs. They survived and they’re gnarly. And the deathroll is pretty metal.”
The Burden Ov Faith is due out March 24th. You can pre-order your copy via Century Media Records HERE.
More on Knotfest...
Stay in the know – join Knotfest for relevant news, exclusive content, interviews, and more.
Upgrade to Knotfest Premium for early ticket access to the biggest shows, in studio footage from Slipknot, exclusive performances, 10% off merch and much more!