There are so many bands out there doing so many interesting things, it's hard to know where to turn. That's why we've created Uprising, a recurring feature offering a concise introduction to a band or artist that we think slays, covering their origins, process and vision. Our latest subject is Annihilus, Luca Cimarusti's one-man black-metal band from Chicago, whose Greg Puciato–endorsed genre-bending sound is displayed on their forthcoming third record Follow a Song from the Sky. The record drops via Puciato's Federal Prisoner label on August 13th, but there are two vinyl variants —on "orange crush" and "black smoke" wax — now available for pre-order.
We recently caught up with Cimarusti to find out what makes his project tick — from how the "Chicago sound" works its way into Annihilus and why he named the project after a "terrifying inter-dimensional insect man" to his band's place in the USBM lineage and much more.
WHO IS ANNIHILUS? PLEASE GIVE US A BRIEF HISTORY ON WHAT INSPIRED THE PROJECT.
LUCA CIMARUSTI Annihilus is the solo project of me, Luca Cimarusti. I've been playing in bands most of my life, so the idea of doing something completely on my own was something that I wanted to make happen. I made my first demo in the beginning of 2019. I wrote it on a borrowed guitar and recorded it in my practice space on a laptop, and self-released the tape. I've been doing it ever since. Follow a Song From the Sky is my second full-length with the project, the first one done in a real studio with an actual engineer.
IF YOU HAD TO DESCRIBE YOUR BAND'S MISSION STATEMENT, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Big, loud, slow-and-sad black metal with punk and noise-rock influence.
ANNIHILUS IS A SUPERVILLAIN FROM THE MARVEL UNIVERSE WHO IS OBSESSED WITH EXTENDING HIS OWN LIFE. HOW, IF AT ALL, DOES THAT SENTIMENT RELATE TO YOU, OR THE VISION OF THE PROJECT?
A lot of traditional black metal really amped up its scary and evil aesthetic by being overtly Satanic. I'm an atheist, so the idea of Satan isn't really that scary to me. So I decided to base the name of the project on another fictional force of pure evil that I can relate to a little bit more. Annihilus is the embodiment of pure evil, he's a terrifying inter-dimensional insect man bent on the destruction of mankind. The project isn't built on hatred, though, so it's more or less a hat-tip to the black-metal tradition than to any sort of message I'd like to send out.
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INTO EXTREME METAL?
I grew up more of a punk kid than a metalhead. I had a friend's older brother show me Screeching Weasel when I was about eleven, and that kicked off my punk obsession. So my introduction to heavy and extreme music came from bands rooted in punk that started pushing their sounds into super challenging realms. Bands like Cave In, Converge, Dillinger Escape Plan, Botch and Isis. Those acts all set me down the path for what I love and do now. Before that, the first "metal" band that I was full-blown obsessed with was the Deftones, and honestly not much has changed — they're still one of my all-time favorite, most-listened-to bands of my life.
IN TERMS OF BLACK METAL, WHO WOULD YOU SAY ARE YOUR BIGGEST INFLUENCES, AND WHY?
I obviously realize that Varg is a very, very bad man, but as far as one-man black metal goes, Burzum kind of set the musical standard. It's really too bad that the dude is a monster. Xasthur is probably my favorite black-metal act. I just love how complex and deranged the songs are, somehow equal parts brutal and beautiful. Another act that has informed a lot of what I do is the Swedish solo black-metal project Deadlife. It's kind of sludgy but so sweeping and melodic.
XASTHUR — ALONG WITH BANDS LIKE LEVIATHAN, JUDAS ISCARIOT AND MORE — IS PART OF A TRADITION OF USBM SOLO ARTISTS. HOW WOULD YOU SAY YOU'RE ADVANCING, OR SUBVERTING, THE MUSICAL FORM OR AESTHETIC WITH ANNIHILUS?
I'd like to think that I'm honoring the black-metal tradition while bringing in sounds from the artists that had a massive impact on my life. The songs I write are black metal at the core, but there are elements of punk and noise rock and shoegaze in the mix. It's not a fusion that I set out to create, it just sort of comes out of me subconsciously.
YOU'RE BASED IN CHICAGO. HOW DO YOU FIT INTO — OR STAND APART FROM — THE CITY'S CURRENT HEAVY-MUSIC SCENE.
Chicago's just a real and raw town, and I think that shows in the music that comes out of here. I think the "Chicago sound" works its way into Annihilus — it's dark, it's mean, it's not pretending to be anything it's not. It can be pretty, but there's an ugly side too.
BEING IN A BAND, WHAT'S THE HARDEST CHALLENGE YOU HAVE COME ACROSS SO FAR, AND HOW DID YOU OVERCOME IT?
Being in a band is one of my favorite things ever. I suppose a challenge of being in a band is throwing a lot of personalities into a small room and expecting everyone to play nice, but that tension often becomes one of the most fun parts about doing it all. I suppose starting a solo project is a way to get around that one, too.
SINCE THE COVID VACCINE HAS BEEN RELEASED, THE U.S. APPEARS TO BE ON THE ROAD TO RECOVERY. BUT THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC HAS OBVIOUSLY BEEN COLLECTIVELY, AND INDIVIDUALLY, CHALLENGING. WHAT WAS LIFE LIKE FOR YOU — AND DID YOU DEVELOP ANY NEW CREATIVE ROUTINES OR HOBBIES TO HELP YOU COPE WITH LOCKDOWNS AND RESTRICTIONS?
COVID life for me sucked pretty bad for the most part, but I was able to find a lot of productivity in the midst of it. I wrote and recorded this new Annihilus record entirely during the pandemic, which was a great outlet for everything I was feeling. Being able to really work out every detail of the songs and spend real time in the studio putting it all together really resulted in something very whole and complete that I'm really proud of. The band I play drums in, Luggage, also wrote and recorded a new record, so having a creative process with a couple other people was a good thing too. I also got married during COVID and had a five-person wedding with no guests and that was sick. Everything else sucked though.
DO YOU MISS LIVE SHOWS — AND DO YOU PLAN TO BRING ANNIHILUS TO LIVE STAGES?
Going to shows and playing out was a huge part of my life before the pandemic, so having that go away so suddenly was difficult. I'm looking forward to starting to get involved with it all again. I'm not sure if I'll ever turn Annihilus into a live act. I've been asked to perform with Annihilus a few times, and I have some friends who have offered to play in a full-band version. But there's something really personal and intimate about making music this way, and I'd almost rather leave it as a recording project.
OUTSIDE OF THE BAND, AND MUSIC IN GENERAL, WHAT ARE YOUR PASSIONS?
General nerd shit: reading comics, collecting records, Marvel movies. I'm a writer, and I frequently contribute to our city's alt-weekly newspaper. I like discovering weird little neighborhood dive bars, which Chicago has no shortage of. I also really like vegetarian cooking.
DO YOU HAVE ANY "UNEXPECTED" MUSICAL INFLUENCES THAT MIGHT SURPRISE LISTENERS?
I love pop-leaning Nineties alt-rock. Guided by Voices is one of my favorite bands of all time. I'm constantly listening to the Lemonheads and Sugar and R.E.M. Some of my favorite music is Sixties country, shit like Ray Price and George Jones. I think all these artists influence my creativity. They help me combine darkness and melody in my own music.
WHAT BAND OR MUSICAL ARTIST ARE YOU THE BIGGEST FAN OF? ANY SUPERFAN STORIES?
My favorite band changes pretty much daily — and most of my tattoos honor that. I have three Black Flag tattoos, which ties into maybe the funniest "hero encounter" I've had. I accidentally wound-up backstage at an early Riot Fest about a decade ago. And I was waiting in the bathroom line, and an incredibly friendly man came up to me and asked if it was OK to cut in line because he couldn't be late for his set. It was [Descendents drummer] Bill Stevenson, a man who I rip off pretty much every time I sit at a drum set. I let him cut, then I watched him kill it with the Descendents.
FEDERAL PRISONER IS RELEASING FOLLOW A SONG FROM THE SKY. YOU MENTIONED EARLIER YOU WERE A FAN OF DILLINGER. BUT CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHY YOU WERE EXCITED TO PARTNER WITH GREG PUCIATO AND JESSE DRAXLER FOR THIS RELEASE?
I love how completely and unapologetically real Greg and Jesse are. Two artists who are constantly pushing their limits, and doing it completely on their own terms. I admire that so much and find it inspiring every day. When I first started talking with Jesse over the winter, I started thinking about how cool it would be if I could convince him to do the artwork for my next release — to be able to take it to the next level and have him put it out on his label, it's a complete dream come true.
IF YOU COULD ONLY PLAY ONE OF ANNIHILUS' SONGS FOR SOMEONE TO INTRODUCE THEM TO YOUR BAND, WHAT SONG WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
It's a hard call for sure, but I think I'd say "The Voice of Shai-Hulud," the first track on Follow a Song From the Sky's B-side. It touches on everything I've been working towards with this project: sludgy and sad black metal with lots of layers and sci-fi-inspired lyrics.