Ellipsism has now been out for a week and the response has been phenomenal. Thank you all for listening and buying it – we really appreciate your support. You can pick it up from https://cvltofbaal.bandcamp.com/album/ellipsism, or get it on any of your usual streaming/purchasing services.
Now that it is out in the world and available to your ears, we thought we’d take a more detailed look at each track and share some insights into the writing process. In Ba’al, each band member has full creative control over their own instrumental or vocal parts and we all have input into the writing of every song, but here we outline the genesis of some of the riff ideas and some of the challenges we faced in writing them.
This is the oldest song on the album; we actually started writing it with a very different lineup back in 2018, after the release of ‘Thy Sorrow’. We finalised it when Joe first joined the band, and we’ve been playing it live at almost every show since he started performing with us in the middle of that year.
The writing of this song was a real collaboration between Tom, Nick and Richard’s riffs. The opening black metal riff (which comes back later) is one that Tom had had kicking around for years before he joined Ba’al. The drone section and clean riff in the odd time signature was penned by Nick. The big groove riff was Richard’s. Of course we all layered our own parts of the top of each, and we fleshed out the riffs in between those three main ones all together in the room. It’s also the first song that Joe wrote lyrics for in Ba’al, and it’s metaphors about life after the death of a mad monarch are something we all relate to in one way or another.
An Orchestra of Flies
This track was an example of a song being brought to the practice room largely fully formed already, in this case by Richard who had all the main riffs and the general structure planned out at home. The exception to that is the big drum fill/bass slide and the little chordy bit right before them, which was an idea that came from Tom in the room. The drawn-out ending was originally conceived just as a slow, simple Amenra-like dirge, but the lead part that Tom layered on top adds a level of melody that we didn’t originally think could fit there.
On this one we get both doomier than we have been in some time and also play the fastest blast riff we’ve come up with to date – thanks in no small part to our insanely proficient drummer Luke, who joined the band as we were writing this track.
Joe’s lyrics here deal largely with suicidal thoughts and ideation.
XIV – I – MMXIX
The three interlude tracks on the album were known simply as “Richard’s interlude”, “Nick’s interlude” and “Tom’s interlude” up until after the recording was finished, when Joe devised the titles – this is Richard’s. The central, reverby bass motif was something Richard came up with whilst pissing about in between jams in an old practice room several years ago. He held onto it until it felt like it fitted somewhere, and realised that it could be shifted to match the key and intro of Jouska. The tremolo viola was an idea thrown out at random in the studio, and Nick’s reverse-delayed guitar parts were also pretty much devised by Nick and Richard on the spot.
The genesis of this one also came from Richard, who had written what we called ‘the Deftones riff’ back in about 2017; this became the ‘chorus’ riff for Jouska, if you can really call it that. It’s one of the most consistently melodic tracks on the album, with lots of interweaving harmonies amongst the guitar lines and plenty of post-rock/shoegaze vibes. That said, we tried to balance it out with some proper dirgy slow parts and a chunky riff in the middle.
Though the first two-thirds of the riffs came from Richard, he never had an ending in mind, so Nick stepped in and brought things to a conclusion with the last few riffs, which range from polyrhythmic head-nodders through tight chugging rhythms and out into a final emotive chord structure. We reshuffled all the sections quite a lot of times in the room before we finalised this one. This track also has some of the most shining examples of Tom penning both really textural guitar lines and also soaring leads which flesh out all the different sections.
The word ‘Jouska’ refers to hypothetical conversations that you play out in your own head of situations that have not happened. We debuted this track live at our one gig this year, in January supporting Wren.
III – II – MMIIII
This was “Nick’s interlude”, as the desolate central guitar line was all his. The idea of really distorted, distant drums also came from Nick very early on, and we worked with Joe Clayton in the studio to find just the right combination of effects. Again the viola was Richard semi-improvising on the fly in the studio, and ended up being more of a prominent feature than we had anticipated.
Tarred and Feathered
This was by far the hardest songwriting process we’ve had to date – we were very thankful that it ended up staying as comparatively short as it did. Nick had the long black metal section and the slower beatdown riff floating around the practice room for some time, and we tried many times to bolt various different ideas and riffs to them to make them into a full song and also make them fit together. We really struggled to find a tempo, too, with each one we tried working well for one riff and not another, and we also kept switching between having the track be in 6/8 time and 4/4 time. Several times we considered either scrapping the song entirely or splitting up the ideas into more than one track.
After lots of work with other ideas, Tom wrote the opening riff which really helped things. Then, in the end, we decided we’d attempt a full tempo change mid song, which we’ve never done in quite such a drastic way as this. It felt like the only way we could play all the riffs we wanted to at the speed they felt right at, and amazingly we think we pulled it off. Once we’d made that decision, we were able to fill in some gaps by teasing the slow riffs in the fast part and vice-versa. We finalised the arrangement only about 2 weeks before we entered the studio, with Tom and Nick adding and subtracting sections every week, much to the annoyance of Joe who had to keep changing his lyrics to fit.
We had a lot of fun making the end of this one as nasty as possible, with the bizarre counts between notes becoming a fun little maths puzzle we all had trouble remembering. There’s also an egg shaker in the mix somewhere around the middle of the track – listen out.
Father, the Sea, the Moon
This is another one we’ve played live a fair few times since probably early 2019. The genesis of this one came from Tom, who also came up with the title and general concept of lyrics about childhood memories and their links to specific important places in your life.
The very textural intro passage of Tom’s contrasts nicely with his lumbering, opening riff, which suddenly drops away to virtually nothing – this is another challenge we’ve never really taken on thus far. The myriad guitar harmonies that layer over this early slow riff were partially made up on the day in the studio.
The song progresses through more of Tom’s slow but chord-heavy riffs, through a black metal passage written in tandem with Nick, and finally into a typically post rockl build-up, whose chords were written by Nick with Tom floating his own leads over the top.
X – I – MCMXCII
This was devised as “Tom’s interlude”, as his purely ambient piece was not necessarily going to have vocals originally. All the music here comes from Tom’s guitar run through myriad effects pedals; of course there are plenty of delays and reverbs, but there’s also some magic going on via a bass synthesiser pedal and also the truly insane Earthquaker Devices Rainbow Machine (it’s also on various other songs on the album, believe it or not). There’s only a couple of different guitar tracks layered here to create this sparse but enveloping ambience.
The spoken word piece was written by Joe and done in a single emotional take late one night in the studio. He decided to give it a go pretty much on the fly, and it ended up bringing something really special to the track.
Nick’s long, slow introductory riff here is obviously something of a departure for us, but we’d been wanting to do something super sparse like this for a very long time. Working out just how much drums, bass, viola and extra guitar layers to put in here to add to the atmosphere without taking away from the sparse feel was a challenge we grappled with in the practice room for a long time. Funnily enough, the idea to introduce a distant distorted guitar track (which comes in at the same time as the snare drum) came from an early demo where Nick pressed his distortion pedal by mistake and quite liked it.
The transition from this passage into the first ‘big riff’ was one we deliberated over for a long time, auditioning lots of different ideas before we settled on this Alcest-y one as a way to move from one vibe to a very different one. That big, elephantine riff itself was one of Tom’s that we’d been gagging to fit in somewhere for months, so it was great to finally give it a home.
The very drawn out, emotive chord sequence that comprises most of the second half was also Nick’s, but all of us spent a long time working out which layers of which instruments to add, take away or change to make it the right length and also with just the right amount of variation. Similarly, when Richard wrote the viola parts in the studio, it was a fine line to tread between SubRosa and Pirates of the Caribbean. There’s so many layers going on in this section that it could easily have fallen apart – hopefully we got it right in the end.
The very dramatic end of the track was a fairly last minute additional riff from Tom, giving Joe the time to tie things up with a few final lyrics summarising the incredibly personally emotive lyrics of love and loss.