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Following the re-release of Blessed Realm's demos via the 'Doomography' compilation, Matt talks to founder and vocalist Kat about the band's history, attitude and abrupt disbanding.

Interview with Blessed Realm.
Blessed Realm started out in 1993 (brieflly under the name Tears), and went on to record several demos before disbanding in 2002. Finally, most of that long-unavailable demo material has just been re-released on the 'Doomography 1993 - 2002' compilation CD through At War With False Noise Records. Blessed Realm never re-formed, though the three core members have played together since as Uncoffined, and all of them have remained active in the music scene. Matt got in touch with vocalist Kat Gillham to find out more of the band history, and what's been happening since...


Today's interviewee, Kat Gillham (on stage with Winds Of Genocide, 2017). Photo: Will Binks.


1) Could we start with a somewhat formal introduction for our readers. Who are you, and where are you from?

We were a 4 piece Doom metal / Doomrock band from the north east of England, I was the vocalist in the band from the beginning to the end. We played heavy and drank heavy!

2) The band dates back to 1993, which for us oldies was a golden age for UK Doom. Can you detail some of Blessed Realms origins? What was it like for a fledgling Doom act back then? How were you received in the scene?

Well at the time the band formed in late 1993 under a different name I was also doing vocals in a death metal band called Morstice but myself and some friends from my hometown were really getting more heavily into doom metal and buying albums or getting albums via tape trading by all the Hellhound Records bands who were around at the time or the likes of Revelation, Cathedral, Saint Vitus, Pentagram, Solitude Aeturnus, Penance, Stillborn, Trouble, Candlemass etc as well as demos by the likes of Solstice which we became totally obsessed with, so we decided to form a doom band, we didn't start writing material properly until early 1994 which is when we changed the name from Tears to Blessed Realm and my younger brother Michael who was more into HC Punk and playing in such bands joined us on drums and we began to work on and rehearse the material that would end up on the debut demo in 1995.

My interest in the death metal scene of that time was slowly waning and so I eventually quit my death metal band in late '94 to fully focus on Blessed Realm(who had at that point already been actively rehearsing for a while)and I in turn fully immersed myself in the underground doom scene that was happening at that time and started corresponding and trading with other like minded bands and people from across the UK, Europe and USA.

The Doom Metal underground of the mid '90s was a VERY exciting time and thing to be a part of, everyone was just so heavily into it for the right reasons, there was no trend going on, everyone had the same mindset which was to pay homage to Sabbath and the '80s doom bands such as Candlemass, Vitus, Trouble etc and continue the tradition of early Sabbath worship that those bands started and the likes of Cathedral, Solitude Aeturnus, Revelation, Penance etc continued in the early '90s.

It was a very cool thing to be a part of as the scene was still young, fresh and growing...whereas the death metal scene was beginning to stagnate generally, in the UK and Europe at least although I never stopped listening to classic death metal, I continued to listen to it throughout and the '90s to the present day but had no interest in playing it anymore in a band at that time as to me DOOM was a much more interesting style to play and scene to be actively involved in.

Blessed Realm was accepted great by our peers back then and we made a lot of great contacts and friends and by the beginning of the late '90s there was a well established doom metal underground scene full of bands who were ignoring the stoner rock trend and keeping the tradition of PURE DOOM METAL well and truly alive in one form or another, be it the more epic doom of the likes of Solstice, While Heaven Wept, Solitude Aeturnus, Mirror of Deception, Dawn of Winter, Millarca, Last Chapter to the Doomrock of ourselves, Eternal Elysium, Church of Misery, Goatsnake, Naevus, Las Cruces, Terra Firma etc or the then all out Vitus/Revelation worship of Warning or the sludge doom of Burning Witch, Grief, Iron Monkey, Crowbar etc, you also had old doom greats such as Revelation, Penance, Internal Void still making albums and recordings at that time too. All those bands were keeping the spirit of old school doom alive in one way or another.


Original Blessed Realm line-up, 1994: Steve Gillham (vocals), Garry Sugden (bass), Michael Gillham (drums), Jonny Sugden (guitar).


3) In the liner notes for Doomography you give a list of your influences. For those who aren't aware, what were the bands, and particularly, what were the albums that lead you to form Blessed Realm and play the kind of music you did?

We were HEAVILY influenced by bands such as
Revelation, The Obsessed, Trouble, Cathedral, Saint Vitus, Pentagram, Solitude Aeturnus, Penance, Stillborn, Candlemass, Internal Void, Wretched, Unorthodox, Iron Man, early Black Sabbath, the Solstice demos, Mourn demo, Eternal and Doom Chapter (pre Electric Wizard) rehearsal recordings, all of those bands had a very huge and significant impact on us.

As did albums such "Psalm 9", "The Skull", "Trouble" by Trouble, "Forest Of Equilibrium" and "The Ethereal Mirror" by Cathedral, "Into The Depths Of Sorrow" by Solitude Aeturnus, "Salvation's Answer", "Never Comes Silence" and "...Yet So Far" by Revelation, "The Road Less Travelled" and "Parallel Corners" by Penance, "Lunar Womb" and "The Church Within" by The Obsessed", "Day Of Reckoning", "Relentless" and "Be Forewarned" by Pentagram, all of the Vitus albums, all of the 80's Candlemass albums, "Standing On The Sun" by Internal Void etc all had such a huge influence on us and were the inspiration to form Blessed Realm and were hugely influential and important to us, they still are, we still love and listen to those albums as individuals and some of those bands and albums also heavily influenced Uncoffined a newer band formed by myself and also featuring Jonny and Garry from Blessed Realm.

4) What, if any, were your non-musical influences?

Alcohol, Alcohol Abuse, Intoxication, Come Downs, Drugs, Depression, Frustration, Anger, Lost Love, No Love, Failed Relationships, Shitty Day Jobs, Not Having A Job, Society, Human Bullshit, Non Conformity, Life, Death, Darkness, Mental Illness, Anxiety, Hope, No Hope, Isolation, Spirituality, The Dark Side Of Reality And Humanity.

Blessed Realm - 'Chasing The Dragon' (Live '97):


5) You shared stages with the likes of Mourn, Winter of Torment, Orange Goblin and Cathedral. What were those early gigs like?

Not usually well attended overall haha! They were fun times though, the Cathedral/Mourn/Orange Goblin show we played in early 1996 at Bradford Rio's was one of the bigger shows we did and was probablys the biggest crowd we played in front of.

The more underground doom gigs of that time/era were really only attended by die hard doomheads or those with a slight interest in the scene but it was fairly common for us to play a show with Solstice or other like minded bands in the late 90's and the venue wouldn't even be half full, there would usually be a small amount of people watching you play, things continued that way into the early '00s.

We supported Iron Monkey at a local gig in February 1998 and there was probablys about 50 people there...things would of course be A LOT different these days but that's how it was back then, for an underground doom band from the UK at least, doom metal gigs in Germany and Europe etc were more well attended from my/our experiences going to and playing doom gigs in Europe but in the UK it was SO unfashionable to be playing Doom in the mid-late '90s/early '00s. Most of the local gigs we played back then were with HC Punk bands of various styles as the local metal scene was DEAD. But the HC Punks embraced us much like what happened with Vitus in the SST days, we were some kind of novelty locally back then as no one else was doing what we were doing in this part of England at that time, we were out there on our own worshipping at the musical altar of doom and not giving a flying fuck about trends. We were raising a middle finger to the musical trends of that time.

6) Describe some of the personalities in the band. Were you all Doom obsessives, or were there other musical likes and dislikes that added to your sound or that perhaps caused a bit of...er...shall we say tension, within the group?

The core members of the band namely myself, Garry and Jonny were all total doom obsessives, we lived and breathed Doom Metal back then but we listened to other music styles too aswell, I was still listening to old school death metal, some Crust / D beat punk like Discharge, Amebix, Doom, Swedish Punk such as Anti-Cimex, Wolfpack, Skitsystem, Disfear etc, USA HC Punk like Integrity, Black Flag, Agnostic Front, Cro-Mags etc, stuff like Winter, Hellhammer, Celtic Frost, 70's hardrock, some of the more interesting stoner rock bands, Melvins, Danzig, Misfits, sludge like EYEHATEGOD, stuff like Acid Bath, Stressball, some old thrash metal like Dark Angel, Kreator, Early Metallica, Slayer, Sabbat(UK), Neurosis, Motörhead, old heavy metal like Witchfinder General, classic Maiden, Pagan Altar, early Death SS, King Diamond, Mercyful Fate, Judas Priest, Venom etc.., Death metal such as Merciless, Carnage, Dismember, Entombed, Unanimated, Gates Of Ishtar, At The Gates, Grave, Unleashed, Morbid Angel, Death, Necrophobic, early Tiamat, Gorefest, Bolt Thrower, Autopsy, early Paradise Lost, etc, punk rock 'n' roll such as The Hellacopters, Gluecifer, Turbonegro, Puffball, The Nomads etc, Corrosion Of Conformity, etc..

I could go on and on! It definitely wasn't just doom that was playing on our stereos but doom metal was on regular rotation of course!.

We all have kinda quirky personalities, we are a strange mix of temperaments and personalities!


Live in Paris.


7) The 'Return To Zero' demo from '98 has the Trad sound of Black Hole sitting next to the Stoner rock of Two Time Loser. To me this is what Blessed Realm was all about, equally at home in both camps, whilst the 2001 track 'Spiritual Solitude' suggests a fusion of the two styles. How do you see this?

Well first of all I just want to make one thing VERY clear, we were never part of the "stoner rock" scene in either sound or style in my opinion, we had some heavy "groovy" riffs but they had much more in common with earlier Sleep and 2nd and 3rd album era Cathedral than say Kyuss or Fu Manchu who we really didn't have anything in common with musically, styleistically or lyrically although we as individuals did like and listened to some of the stoner bands that were around at that time such as the aforementioned bands and Celestial Season, Orange Goblin etc. but we always identified ourselves as DOOMROCK with our main influences being bands such as The Obsessed, Trouble, Internal Void, early Sabbath, Iron Man, Pentagram, Lost Breed, Wretched, Unorthodox etc..

"Two Time Loser" to me is more of a Doom Punk Rock song which is mix of The Obsessed, Early Black Sabbath, Motörhead and Black Flag. Some of us in the band were heavily into albums such as "Damaged" and "The Church Within" at the time which I think was reflected in that song. We were very happy in both the traditional doom metal camp and in the Doomrock camp as both styles were firmly rooted in the old school of Doom and were the antithesis of stoner rock. Bands like us were not considered cool by the stoner rock crowd of that time, we were shunned by many labels who were around at that time who had jumped on the stoner trend and if you didn't sound like you were from California then they were not interested in you, our brand of HEAVY DOOMROCK was as unfashionable and untrendy as you could get back in the mid-late '90s and early '00s.

The "Spiritual Solitude" 2001 version that is on the comp was more a mix of trad doom/heavy doomrock with some more sludgier elements mixed in. The original version of that song was just straight ahead doom but we brought more punked up energy into the latter version. |; )

8) Leading on from that, you were about to record an album at the time of the band's demise. What direction do you think the recording would have taken?

Yeah, we were going to do an album for The Miskatonic Foundation in 2000 or so but myself and Rich Walker had a huge falling out after a gig we played that he organised after a disagreement which formed an immediate grudge towards myself on his part so that put an abrupt end to that deal we had, I won't go into details and the exact causes of our fall out as it was a long time ago and a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then so to speak, he's moved on, I've moved on, we moved on. It's a shame the album never materialised but shit happens.

Not sure how the album would have ended up sounding, probablys total Doomrock as that was the style we were mostly doing at the time with heavy The Obsessed influences.


Live in Linz.


9) Given the rather large amount of hindsight, what do you think it was that ultimately split up the band? Was there ever any talk of getting back together?

Well my gender change and initial transition was definitely the main thing that led to the band being put into a premature grave, it was a VERY intense and emotional time for me personally, I wasn't the easiest person to be around, the other guys were kinda having a hard time getting their heads around what was going on regarding myself and the change, relationships, friendships and tempers became strained and frayed, some pretty unpleasant things were said on all sides and the band pretty much split up overnight, it was quite a bitter and very abrupt end to the band, those guys continued with other musical projects and I went down my own path, dealt with the transition, focused on sorting my head out, cut myself off from the scene for a couple years as a result, didn't see / have contact with some of my bandmates for years but slowly got back in touch with them one by one.

I didn't really speak to Garry and Jonny, the ex guitarist and bassist in Blessed Realm, from early 2002 when the band split up to 2010 when they turned up to one of the first gigs by the band I formed a few years after my initial transition, a crust punk/death metal band Winds Of Genocide, and we spoke and slowly bumped into each other more and more, I'd already been back in touch with Chris the ex Blessed Realm drummer for a few years or so previously. Anyway bumping into Jonny and Garry more often led to them joining Uncoffined which I had formed with Glynn the Winds Of Genocide guitarist, we had already started rehearsing and writing as a 2 piece and had a couple songs written when the brothers came to the first rehearsal, they learnt both songs really quickly, everything clicked again straight away and they joined us and we started writing the rest of the material with them that would end up on our debut recording/album, it was as if those years of having no contact with each other hadn't happened, old friendships were rekindled and strengthened, any negativity was left in the past and the musical spark was re-ignited stronger than ever.

We have now recorded 2 full length albums with Uncoffined which is a Doom/Death band that is HEAVILY influenced musically by trad doom metal such as early Trouble, 80's Candlemass, Vitus aswell as early Sabbath, very early Cathedral, Dream Death, Winter, Thy Grief Eternal, Hellhammer, early Celtic Frost, Autopsy, Runemagick etc..

We have discussed recording some old Blessed Realm songs that were never recorded properly in the studio including "Before My Eyes" which appears as a rehearsal recording on the discography release, maybes it will happen at some point in the future?.

Blessed Realm - 'Psychotic Reaction' (Trouble cover):


10) The "Crawl" demo has a huge 'Obsessed' influence and feel about it. How much of an influence was Wino and his mob back then?

Wino and The Obsessed were a HUGE influence both musically and vocally, I think that profound influence is all over our material. We loved the bluesy soulful heaviness but also the gritty gnarly punked up hardrockin' vibe of all their albums and we took A LOT of influence from the trilogy of The Obsessed albums that had been recorded.

The massive impact of those albums on us was very clear from the 2nd demo in 1996 onwards.

11) Most members of Blessed Realm were, and are, involved in other bands. Can you give an idea of how active you've remained in the music scene. Are there any projects coming up you'd like to talk about?

Myself, Jonny and Garry have been involved with the aforementioned Uncoffined since 2011 (I do drums/vocals), our 2nd album "Ceremonies Of Morbidity" was released late last year in October 2016 on a spanish label Memento Mori. Our debut album "Ritual Death And Funeral Rites" came out in 2013 also on Memento Mori.

I have also been involved with Winds Of Genocide since 2006 and we have various releases out the most recent of which is a full length album titled "Usurping The Throne Of Disease" which was partly recorded and mixed in Sweden with Fred Estby the ex Dismember drummer and released in 2015 via Pulverised Records. A newer band I formed is Lucifer's Chalice an 80's style heavy metal band where I play drums which is heavily influenced by Early Iron Maiden, Angel Witch, Witchfinder General, Pagan Altar etc.. which has been active since 2014, an album called "The Pact" is out this month via Shadow Kingdom Records. I have also started another Doom/Death band called Enshroudment with Charlie the guitarist/vocalist from Lucifer's Chalice and a couple other local guys which is more in the style of early Anathema, Early My Dying Bride, Morgion, Thergothon, Evoken, Mourning Beloveth etc very 90's sounding depressive melodic and mournful Doom/Death. Once again I handle drums/vocals.

I've also been writing for Terrorizer Magazine since 2010 aswell as Iron Fist Magazine for a few years and more recently Voices From The Darkside in Germany.

So I have personally been VERY active again in the scene in more recent years.


'Doomography'.


12) Thank you so much for taking the time to do this. The last words are all yours...

Thankyou for the interview and the interest in what we did all those years ago!

People can pick up the "Doomography 1993-2002" Discography CD from myself for £5 plus postage (add £1.50 UK/£3.50 Europe/£5 Rest of World), please send as a PayPal gift in GBP to necropink@yahoo.co.uk.

You can buy and stream the whole CD via the At War With False Noise Bandcamp page too.

DOOM OR BE FUCKING DOOMED!!


Click HERE to discuss this interview on the doom-metal forum.


Visit the Blessed Realm bandpage.

Interviewed on 2017-09-24 by Matt Halsey.
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