Interview: Cloud of Souls

Those who know our blog are aware that Chris Latta is one of our most loyal readers. That’s why it’s something very special for us when he releases a new album – which also differs stylistically from his other bands. We are happy that he took the time for an interview. Have fun reading! And check out Cloud of SoulsA Fate Decided on Bandcamp.

André: Hi Chris, thank you very much for taking the time for us. How are you?

Chris: Thank you, I appreciate you having me on! I’m doing well at the moment, been adjusting to a new day job lately and getting some things lined up with the bands.

André: On 29 March, the album A Fate Decided by your project Cloud of Souls will be released, which you stylistically describe as a “meeting point between groups like BathoryCeltic FrostDarkthroneSaint Vitus, and Candlemass“. Your co-musician is none other than Tucker Thomasson. How did this collaboration come about?

Chris: The songs on A Fate Decided were first written around 2018 and I spent the next couple years figuring out what sort of style I wanted for the material as well as who would be a good collaborator to play the parts that I wasn’t capable of myself. I’ve known Tucker for years now through the local scene; my old band Spirit Divisionand his old band Thorr-Axe gigged several times together and Lavaborne has played at least one show with Throne of Iron. I reached out to him about tracking the material in his home studio and he was quite receptive, producing the album as well as playing the drums and lead guitar parts. He had a really good ear for what I wanted with this album and it wouldn’t have turned out so well without him. We tracked the whole thing in two days and spent about half the time shooting the shit and watching music videos so it was a really smooth process.

André: A Fate Decided is an album that many of our Epic Metal Blog readers will like. Is there a song that you find particularly well done and that, in your opinion, embodies everything Cloud of Souls stands for?

Chris: “Time for Slaughter” is definitely my favorite track on the album. The dynamics turned out well and I like the epic doom scope of it, Khemmis was a huge inspiration when I was putting it together. At the risk of sounding pretentious, the idea behind Cloud of Souls is to explore as many different styles and genres as possible ala something like King Gizzard. I’ve got this album coming out and then I’ll be releasing a second one later this year that’ll be its total opposite, exploring a more emotional slowcore type sound. I’ve also got a third album in the works that’ll be in the line of stoner-tinged heavy metal. In that sense, it’s going to be difficult to sum up Cloud of Souls in a single song. I did technically name the band after a song that Spirit Division released on our debut album so I suppose there’s that technicality.

André: For the cover you chose Tiresias appears to Ulysses during the sacrifice by Henry Fuseli. What do you particularly like about this artwork – and what do you think connects it to Cloud of Souls?

Chris: I’ve wanted to use that particular piece as an album artwork for a long time. I came across it back when I was in college, no doubt in the middle of some Wikipediabinge, and was struck by the imposing presences and sort of arcane atmosphere to it. I think the music suits it since it draws from a similar mix of mythological bleakness.

André: Which artwork of metal albums did you particularly appreciate in the past? I am a big fan of Adam Burke.

Chris: Agreed that Burke has done some fabulous work! I also gotta shout out Nate Vaught for having done so well with the art for Lavaborne’s Black Winged Gods.Dave Patchett is one classic artist I really appreciate and I think deserves far more credit than he seems to get. The album covers that he created for Cathedral are particularly amazing, the intricate details are astounding and suit the band’s aesthetic perfectly. It’s a shame that he’s probably best known for the cover of Iron Maiden’sDance of Death; I think if they had given him enough time to flesh out the vision that he had in mind for the concept, we’d be talking about artwork on the same caliber as Derek Riggs’s absolute best.

André: How important are the lyrics to you? And how do they usually come about? Is there always the music first – and then the lyrics? Or can it also be the other way round?

Chris: I have a binder full of lyrics that I’ve written over the years, going as far back as my early adolescence. When I’m in the process of getting riffs together for a skeleton of a song, I usually go through my binder to see if there’s a particular lyric that fits whatever mood I have in mind for the music. I place a lot of importance in my lyrics, especially since my degree is in Creative Writing, and try to impart some sort of observation on whatever I’m singing about in a given song. There’s a personal meaning in just about everything I write but I always appreciate hearing how somebody else interprets my work. But with that said, the lyrics that I used for A Fate Decided were written with a different process than usual. I wanted to use lines that were less structured or inclined to melodicism, trying to avoid rhyme schemes and my usual phrasings as much as I could. The topics are a mix of Greco-Roman mythology, religion, musings on death, and the nature of existence. For a couple examples, “Time for Slaughter” is basically a paraphrasing of a chapter of James from the New Testament (A Warning to the Rich) while “Wings Forged From Hate” is about the aftermath of Icarus flying too close to the sun.

André: You have an admirably variable voice. Which singers have influenced you the most?

Chris: Thank you! Ronnie James Dio, Bruce Dickinson, Bon Scott, and Glenn Danzig are some of the singers that I would consider to be among my core influences. Discovering Matt Barlow was a huge revelation for me as a teenager since he was proof that you could still sing in a melodic metal band even if you had a deeper voice, which I always appreciated as a baritone myself. From there, guys like Warrel Dane, Blaze Bayley, and Messiah Marcolin were integral to my development. I’m also very influenced as a singer-bassist by guys like Dug Pinnick, Peter Steele, Al Cisneros, and Glenn Hughes.

André: Are you planning any live performances with Cloud of Souls in 2023? On your Bandcamp page you talk about a studio project…

Chris: I intend for Cloud of Souls to be an exclusively studio project. With my plans to approach each album I’m working on with different collaborators and styles, I’m not sure how well it would translate to cohesive live shows. I wouldn’t be opposed if there ended up being a demand for it. My live energy at this time is devoted to my main bands as The Skyspeakers is currently booking gigs and Lavaborne is aiming to get back on it later this year or next.

André: You are from Indianapolis. What is the local metal scene like? Are there exciting bands and good performance opportunities for metal artists?

Chris: I’ve been involved in the Indianapolis scene for over a decade now and have had a lot of great experiences in that time. We seem to be a very doom and death metal-oriented city from what I’ve observed though there’s always been solid variety to work with, especially since more classic-leaning bands have popped up in recent years (Mine included). We’ve also got some venues putting on great shows with Black Circle and State Street Pub being a couple favorite go-to’s.

André: You are also a reviewer and therefore know very well which records are released in the course of a year. Which albums that came out in 2022 impressed you the most? Is there perhaps even an album that has what it takes to become a classic?

Chris: Perfect Light by 40 Watt Sun was my 2022 Album of the Year with the new albums from MessaRuby the HatchetMammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, and Sanhedrin rounding out my top five. My personal way of telling whether an album has potential to be a future classic is whether folks outside of its particular subgenre take notice. I saw quite a number of folks outside of my stoner-doom circles talking about that Messa album and Sumerlands’ Dreamkiller seemed to get a lot of attention beyond the usual metal revivalists. I was also glad to see Sonja’s Loud Arriver turning so many heads; as far as I’m concerned, they are the future of metal that we so desperately need.

André: Which Black Sabbath album do you like the most?

Chris: Master of Reality has always been my favorite, I really appreciate how the individual songs have so much weight to them yet the overall length is so compact. It’s the sort of album you put on and think “damn, I wanna do that too!” That said, Heaven & Hell and the debut aren’t too far behind.

André: Last question: Chris, you are a musician who always takes a stand on socio-political issues. We really appreciate that about you! Which developments in our scene do you currently view with great concern?

Chris: For a subculture that prides itself on rebellion and standing up against authority, I find that metal doesn’t seem to do much in terms of challenging its own internal authority. We’ll certainly call out the most obvious Nazi bands and the like (Though even that’s a piss-shoot considering a band like Inquisition is still playing prominent gigs), but there are far more instances of some musician getting a pass for saying or doing something shitty just because they played on a really great album thirty or forty years ago. Part of me dreads the day when the metal scene consists solely of old cis white men because anybody else who wanted to make their mark got chased out. The way forward is to lift up as many voices as we can and allow a variety of perspectives to help shape the music we all love.

André: Here I agree with every word. Chris, thank you for this interview, which was, as expected, very interesting. I’m already looking forward to Cloud of Souls‘ second album – but for now I’ll listen to A Fate Decided again. It’s really a great one!

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