Interview with Oblivion singer Nick Vasallo and bassist Ben Orum

Written by Frank Rini

The 2013 debut full length album from brutal California’s technical death metal band, Oblivion – ‘Called to Rise’ is one of my top picks for this year.  Sometimes hype is accurate and when I saw a lot of people stating this was one of the best tech-death metal in recent memory I picked this sucker up and became a believer as well.  Unreal musicianship, brutal gravity blasts, incredible vocals and lyrics that are excellent.  Really, if you love this type of genre you need to pick this up now.  I gave this album 9.5/10 due to the intensity and the fact that there is no filler, with each song creating a positive and memorable stamp in the listener’s head.  And I will give a shout out to bassist, Ben Orum, who formerly played guitar in All Shall Perish.

When deathcore exploded years ago all over the place none of those bands gave any type of credit to Internal Bleeding for helping to create the slam genre in the early 90’s, except for All Shall Perish.  I was blown away in an interview where he specifically stated how Internal Bleeding and Dying Fetus influenced him in his guitar playing and how he incorporated that style into All Shall Perish.  I was a huge fan of ASP and posted his interview on the IB wall-respect brother, plus he’s a real cool and honorable dude.

Oblivion’s singer, Nick, also a real cool dude, stated how Ben got him into IB yrs ago.  Cool stuff.  So what do you get when you throw a P.H.D., a former member of All Shall Perish, amazing musicians with a high musical intelligence and you throw that shit into a blender?  Well what you get kind reader is Oblivion, who are one of the best new tech death metal bands in the universe. So go get yourself Called to Rise and prepare to have your chest cavity caved in and your brain exploded by complex time changes.  My interview with Ben and Nick was conducted recently and you need to read this now!

Interview with Oblivion singer Nick Vasallo and bassist Ben Orum

By Frank Rini


1Oblivion - Called To Rise. Congratulations on your debut album, Called to Rise-it fuckin destroys!! Tell us all what went into making this album and how long did it take to put together, since the band has been around for 6 years?

NICK: We went through several lineup changes when writing this album. Some of the former members were delaying the completion of the album during the writing phase, and once we fixed that the album was written quickly. Before I joined the band they were sitting on 3-4 songs that were incomplete, and one year later we finished the whole album.

2. I notice that while still exceptionally brutal and technical that it was still organic in sound with quite a powerful and wonderful mix, everything sounds amazing, was the mixing process really long?

NICK: Zack Ohren is so fast and efficient so he was mixing while we recorded. Luis went in and busted his drums in 5 hours, which is insane! All in all we spent a week recording and mixing it.

3. So why play this form of music and how do you guys feel you are different than a lot of the other technical death metal bands out there, especially from California, where it seems like your state vomits forth a new one every day? 

NICK: Hahaha. Hopefully our music sets us apart. I mean, there is going to be an inundation of bands in every style, but the ones that stick out do things that are special or better. Our goal is to write the best extreme music, it just happens to be technical at times. When I joined this band I didn’t make it a goal to write technical music, but with the talent of the players in this band we’re not afraid to stretch out at moments. I think overly technical bands that don’t know how to tastefully mix simplicity are boring. “Called to Rise” has many moments of simplicity. You need the light to bring out the dark.

4. I gave your album a 9.5/10, it really is extraordinary! Talk a bit about some of the gravity blast beats on the album and brutal nature and than I notice some black metallish styled riffing, as well as in the vocals and melodic nature that the album sometimes infuses and than there are some amazing melodies, like in Binary Souls. How do you feel all these elements play to your advantages?

NICK: Well, Luis is a monster player. I’ve always loved gravity blasts, even the fake ones on Enemy Soil records. I developed an addiction to them when I first heard Disgorge (Mexico). They must be tastefully used, I believe we only use them in three or four of our songs. I also love Black Metal. Not all Black Metal but the sonorities of it. The texture is a much needed contrast to the palm-muted riffing that permeates. As far as melodic writing, I think people get the wrong idea about melodic death metal, like it is somehow weaker or lighter. Brutal music can be melodic, look at the soundtrack for “Psycho” (Bernard Herrmann). It’s a brutal score but very melodic. All these elements: extreme drumming, Black Metal riffing, varied vocals, melodic writing, etc. are just some of the different elements we infuse on “Called to Rise” to create a unique experience for the listener.

5. Explain to us the album cover, what it represents and how the lyrics, which are way above average, tie in to the band’s overall concept? 

NICK: The album cover was created by Adam Pierce (of All Shall Perish) and Gillian Miller. They are very talented artists. I use Adam for my graphic work for a lot of stuff. Everyone should contact him if they need anything. He also made our logo! The cover obviously depicts out space. There is knowledge out there that, as a singular species, we have not tapped into yet. Think of the scene in “2001: A Space Odyssey” when they find the monolith buried on Earth’s moon. Our lyrics mostly deal with the message of our band name. OBLIVION means the state of being lost or forgotten. When I write lyrics I usually have my head in a book of some alternative historical accounts. Currently I am reading about the different accounts of “The Great Deluge” by several ancient civilizations, and various portions of the The Bible that have been omitted or substantially shortened.

Oblivion - Ben Orum6. Ok, Ben, some questions for you, what made you leave such an established act, All Shall Perish and return to underground death metal? Are you happy/satisfied in Oblivion?

BEN: It was a very tough decision for me to leave All Shall Perish. After 10 years of back breaking work touring domestically and abroad, I decided that I had enough. Being gone away from my wife and kids had started to take a toll of all of us emotionally, and I knew it was time to slow down and regroup. I had originally wanted to stop touring and continue writing for All Shall Perish, since my style and sound was kind of the backbone of the band. Unfortunately,  that option wasn’t in the cards, and they told me they wanted to carry on without me. It was very emotional, almost like losing a child. Eddie (singer) left shortly after me, and has let me know since then that the band just wasn’t the same without me, that was nice to hear.

Which brings in OBLIVION! Nick and I have been friends since 1997 – playing in bands together along the way (YFH, ANTAGONY). Nick had witnessed first-hand what I was going through with ASP, and it was shortly after I left the band that he offered me the position to join in on bass. I was thrilled and honored to take the spot, As I have been a fan of Oblivion since day one. I am really excited to start writing material for our follow-up album.  

7. Ben, how was the transition from guitar to bass guitar? You had to be a bassist all along, because your bass twangs and playing on this album are creative and brilliant. What technique do you use and what equipment do you use, as well as pickups to get your sound?

BEN: Playing bass actually came pretty natural to me, I had messed around with a bass guitar throughout my life but never really practiced it religiously like I did guitar. Since joining Oblivion, I am practicing about 50% of the guitar and 50% on the bass now. I still haven’t learned how to play bass without a pic… that is the next step J
I am endorsed buy Ibanez currently, and play a 4 string model. As far as gear, I keep it pretty simple using a  Radial Bassbone live as a DI/control center. I have been experimenting with an overdrive pedal was well to get some grit in the sound.

8. Ben-do you also write some of the guitar parts as well, since you were a guitarist for so long, or do you leave that to the other guys? Who are some of your influences and why?

BEN: I stepped into the band with all of the songs on CALLED TO RISE already written. As we move forward, I do plan on sharing many guitar ideas with these guys, and seeing where it leads. I have buckets of material that never got used in ALL SHALL PERISH, and I think some of it could fit into OBLIVION’s sound quite well.

To be quite honest Frank.. INTERNAL BLEEDING was one of my biggest influences growing up alongside DYING FETUS, DEEDS OF FLESH, DEHUMANIZED and SKINLESS. Your band and attitude really shaped who I was and what I became in the metal landscape. As I grew up and continued my metal journey I started getting into some melodic stuff like DISSECTION, HYPOCRISY and OPETH. It was the combination of slam and melodic metal that really inspired me on the early ALL SHALL PERISH material and you can hear it! To this day, all of those bands still get jammed out on my stereo, and will always be huge influences.

Oblivion - Nick Vasallo9. Nick-how long have you been singing death metal for and are the transitions from some of your various ranges harsh on your vocals? Are you sore after playing a bunch of live shows in a row? How do you prepare your vocals for studio recordings/live environments?

NICK: I’ve been a lead singer in a band since 1996 when I was in a hardcore punk band called YFH. I would say around 1998 I started to attempt high pitch stuff. In 1999 when I formed ANTAGONY with Ben, our best friend Carlos Saldana, and our late friend Jody Handy I began to do death growls. By 2004 I had a good grasp on my growling, I could do both inhalations, exhalations, and Mortician style gruffs. I eventually developed my bear-style growl that you hear with OBLIVION just from years of emulating Chris Barnes on “Tomb of the Mutilated” and “The Bleeding.” I prepare for recording vocals by drinking whole milk. I’ve lost my voice so many times on tour with ANTAGONY that I don’t get sore anymore, if anything my head hurts and I get dizzy. I compared my technique with other death metal vocalists and I really wish I had more finesse. Some guys can go out there and they are microphone magicians so they don’t have to put much exertion into it, but I push so much air trying to emulate the sound of distortion. I’ve even done a few shows where the PA went out and I kept doing vocals without a microphone and the crowd heard me just fine. I think that is why my voice cuts through the mix so easily.

10. Nick-how do you think you will expand on your vocal delivery in the future and what is your vocal background? Do you sing from your diaphragm, as well as your throat?

NICK: I think I may do more high stuff on the next album, I liked how they came out on “Called to Rise” and others seem to dig it too. In addition to being an extreme vocalist since the late 90’s I’ve also sang in a university choir since 2005, so I can sing melodies but don’t expect that on our albums. I like my metal on one side of the spectrum. I actually wanted to make a tutorial for extreme metal vocals. All the ones on YouTube suck and they don’t know how to properly explain it. Also, they tell people one way is better than the other. That is just ridiculous. Everyone will have their approach or technique that suits them. Since I can do 5-6 different methods of extreme vocals I wanted to make a tutorial. But teaching, work, and being a family man has kind of pushed that endeavor aside for the moment.

11. A lot of bands do not place a lot of emphasis on lyrics, in death metal, but you guys go the extra mile. Why do you feel lyrics are important and what/who are some of your influences and what in general inspires you?

NICK: Music always comes first. Always. I just want to make that clear. But lyrics are important as well because we want to say something important to go along with this music that we care so much about. Lyrically, things that are happening in my life inspire me most. But generally, for this band ancient history inspires me.

12. How has the reaction been to the album and how is it selling? Does Unique Leader Records give you numbers, can you share any of that with us, like are you more popular in the U.S. or overseas?

NICK: The reaction has been phenomenal. The fact that we came out of nowhere and people are calling our album the best album of 2013 and even the best death metal debut ever is very flattering.

Oblivion Band13. Do you guys have plans for a sophomore album and how do some of the newer music/songs sound in comparison to your debut?

NICK: Yes, I want to start writing the new album in Spring of 2014. The stuff I have so far is very dark.

14. The bonus tracks on the cd contain some symphonic interpretations/additions to the tunes etc…, are you guys gonna go all Fleshgod Apocalypse on us for your next album?

NICK: If we use any symphonic elements it will not be as an accessory but an organic part of the music.

15. Any touring plans and if so, any chance of you guys coming to the DC/MD area so I can catch you guys on tour?

BEN: OBLIVION is not a band focused on touring, and that was one of the most appealing aspects of the band to me! There is infinite time to focus on what is important, the music! I also feel that when a band started touring just tour, People get burned out, and it just losses it’s magic.

16. Ok, if I lived under a rock and only had $12 in my pocket and I was thinking of buying your album, but had never heard you guys before how would you go about describing your music/style to me?

BEN: That is a tough one… Metal heads really love to label things don’t they?!  I would file Oblivion under Experimental Death Metal, a band not afraid to try anything.

17. Any memorable live experiences you guys care to share and how far do you want  to take Oblivion?

BEN: I hope Oblivion remains a creative music outlet for us for years to come. Without the pressure of touring, this is really just a group of people who enjoy writing and creating music together. It’s hard to mess that up!

NICK: I want OBLIVION to be known as one of the best extreme metal bands. Ever.

18. Any final thoughts/questions for our readers? 

BEN AND NICK: Connect with us on Twitter and Facebook, we will let you guys know first about our exciting updates coming up!

Also if you like dark heavy classical music check out my work at

About the author

Frank Rini

Frank is better known as singing on the first two Internal Bleeding albums 'Voracious Contempt' and 'The Extinction of Benevolence'. He loves Death Metal, Thrash and Grindcore and really wants to spread Extreme Music to as many people as possible.