Burial Hex has long served as the main solo effort of Clay Ruby, with a discography that rivals the likes of Miles Davis and Merzbow. Ruby has used this project to explore esoteric noise and his fascination with the occult and obscure mythologies. He’s been a staple of the metal and experimental music community in Wisconsin, having also played in black metal group Wormsblood and doom metallers Totem (now Jex Thoth). Ruby is even credited as sharing one of the first releases from none other than Zola Jesus. And soon, Burial Hex is all coming to a close. The Hierophant, which was released through Handmade Birds today, is his last stand alone LP. It just might be Ruby’s strongest work yet, travelling through romantic death metal growling (no, seriously), the harmonious chirping of Wisconsin fields at dusk, flamenco clapping, and evil iterations of Roxy Music—and this is all in one album. The Hierophant stands as one of the most confounding and rewarding pieces of music released this year, and it’s both a blessing and a curse that there will only be one record like it.
Check out our interview with Ruby and the video for “The Most Foolish Son is Always The Oldest One,” the album’s last song, below.
Noisey: You mentioned in a Quietus interview that Burial Hex would end in 2012. How has the end been delayed until now?
Clay Ruby: The cycle does not end until the Final Mysteries triple LP is finished, which has taken longer than could be predicted at the time. In the meantime, Nightfall:Eschatology, my cycle within a cycle, is working it's way to completion, with volume 3 of 4 recently released on Brave Mysteries, and now The Hierophant LP has appeared via Handmade Birds.
You have a huge discography. Do you want The Hierophant to not only be your closing chapter, but your crowning achievement? Or at least the entryway to find out what was once Burial Hex?
The Hierophant is not actually the end of the cycle. The Hierophant is the last stand-alone, single LP. However the cycle is not complete until the release of Final Mysteries, which is a triple LP. There are no predetermined entry points or crowning peaks, hopefully the discography is large and dynamic enough to give the seeker what they need when they need it.
What influences which mode you work in? This effort is pretty diverse, while some lean more on noise.
The most important influences on the Burial Hex cycle are animism, my muse, my family spirits, and all the ghosts, angels, saints, gods and other spirits of my home and my people. This work leans only on the remaining ether of their comings and goings. The noise and the musical elements both originate from the same source. The Burial Hex cycle was conceived as an expanse of cosmic chaos, with musical forms that momentarily emerge from and then fall back into it.
Is there anything behind opening the album with a subdued song like "Winter Dawn"?
It is about getting older, entering middle age, so of course it is not a mosh-pit ripper. This album is supposed to be a collection of ballads that sing of the conditions of earthly love and our relationships to and through this incarnation.
One detail I find interesting in "Dawn" are the claps towards the end. is this influenced by dance music? Given that you've been based in Wisconsin, how much were you exposed to the dance cultures of Chicago and Detroit?
Clapping elements in my compositions are either inspired by the use of clapping in Voudou ceremonies, or the use of clapping (or palmas) in Flamenco performances.
Santa Claus brought me the Wax Trax Black Box for Christmas in 1994. Coming of age in the 90s, my obsession with our local college radio station which kept me updated on a wide variety of Midwestern techno and industrial. Most importantly we had our own barbaric scene coming out of Milwaukee, Drop Bass Network, featuring sick bacchanalian Gabber barn parties in the deep country. Their parties were my first exposure to really extreme electronic music.
"Final Love" is kind of like a romantic death metal song. What went into making that track? What is it trying to express?
Final Love is about relinquishing our desperate attachments to earthly love and learning the infinite and transcendent devotion that only the faithful are capable of.
Where you tapping into anything for that vocal performance? It's some very deep shit, like Demilich.
The song is a type of spiritual warfare, the battle cries do well to startle and shake. This is also the final LP that will feature my screaming voice, so it was important to take it all the way.
The best way I could describe the title track is that it's cacophony in meditation. There's a lot of clashing layers that meld into a trance-like state. What was your intention with this one?
It is attempting to depict a harmonic structure that emerges from a chaotic conflict.
Where did the field recordings from "Never Dying" come from?
All recordings on The Hierophant come from the forests and fields of Wisconsin. These same field recordings are a recurring motif that can be found throughout the entire Burial Hex cycle.
The final track. “The Most Foolish Son Is Always the Oldest One,” might throw people off the most, because it some ways it's the closest to rock out of all the songs here. How is this meant to close out Burial Hex, presumably forever?
The end of The Hierophant is a celebratory movement, encouraging the listener to dance with the freedom of The Fool.
Who did the cover art? What is its relation to the overall presentation?
It is a photograph by Bernat Armangue, graphic layout and editing by Kevin Gan Yuen.The ancient Roman Mithraic mysteries are very important to my personal mythos and this slain bull is representative of their expression within this Work.
Whatever came of the collaboration with Urfaust?
It has been a while since we were in contact, but if it turns out that we are both still game for this project, it would be a beautiful thing.
What's next for you? Do you feel freed from Burial Hex?
Yes, there is a great sense of relief and freedom emerging with every step taken towards accomplishing this Work. It is not my intention to offer future musical endeavors for public consumption.
Since we're talking about the end so much: do you how you want to leave the earth? How you want to be buried, or cremated, or whatever?
My preference is a green burial, it would be nice to decompose into the soil as naturally as possible.
The Hierophant is out 11/18 on Handmade Birds. Preorder it here.
Andy O'Connor is on Twitter.