Unlike his band’s live performances, known for their brutality, Alex Macfarlane is warm and often funny when speaking over the phone.
Macfarlane is the vocalist and bassist of Faceless Burial, who have been building a reputation as one of Melbourne’s finest death metal bands since 2015. Macfarlane met the band’s guitarist Füj in high school, and the two stayed in touch when Füj moved to Japan before eventually returning to Melbourne. Macfarlane attended the gigs of drummer Max Kohane (a member of too many punk and hardcore bands to list here) before he was asked to join Kohane’s band Cut Sick when they reformed. A shared love of extreme music brought the trio together.
Macfarlane says he and Füj continue to appreciate Kohane’s other projects. “Agents of Abhorrence never officially split up, they just haven’t been playing,” he says. “We were huge fans of Agents when we were growing up, so we’re always encouraging him, ‘go on, do another show.’ So there are secret hopes for that,” laughs Macfarlane. He says the death metal scene is only growing stronger in Melbourne. “It feels like it’s changed a lot even since we started,” he says. “At least of regular gigging bands, there weren’t that many to pick from, but now you can take your pick of who you’re going to play with – there’s Gutless, Vile Apparition, and a bunch of new bands coming out.”
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Outside of Melbourne, the band are about to embark on their first European tour this September with US band Innumerable Forms. Though Macfarlane’s growl packs a punch on stage, he’s a little nervous about the 17 shows in as many days. “I’ve got a really weak entire body, but my respiratory system is particularly shit,” he says. “There’s a little-known fact that every member of Faceless is very asthmatic,” he laughs.
“Playing a show every day, plus all the drinking, and I don’t really sleep either, so I’ll be pretty cooked almost immediately. I’ll just have to do a spoken word version. Three shows in it will be a sit-down, spoken word show. Max will be on the bongos,” jokes Macfarlane.
A follow-up to the band’s brilliant 2020 album Speciation can be expected in the next few months. “It’s at the [printing] plant, so we were hoping to get it back before the tour, but everything is pretty crazy and you can’t really get any estimations of when things are going to be ready at the moment,” says Macfarlane.
“It’s definitely a lot more extreme I think, but a lot more melodic at the same time. I think we’re kind of all indulging our progressive tendencies a little bit, and hopefully people are alright with that. The heavy bits are heavier, and the non-heavy bits are non-heavier. There’s no ballads or anything yet, but I’ll get my way with that eventually,” jokes Macfarlane.
Macfarlane is surprised by the success of the band’s previous album. “Speciation did better than I ever thought anything I would be involved with would do,” he says. “I think that we thought that we might have been pushing a cheesiness or melodic-ness a little bit too hard on that one, but that seemed to go largely unnoticed, so we’ll see if that happens again this time.
“It was definitely wild to see how many times it’s been re-pressed, and… you see video blogs of dudes reviewing it, where they just talk about it for 20 minutes. I’m like ‘man I couldn’t talk about anything for 20 minutes, let alone that album.’
“It’s flattering, but It’s also a little bit intimidating knowing people’s opinions and expectations are sort of as extreme as the music. Once you start getting the kindness and praise from people you also then have the flip side of that where everyone is like, ‘this fucking sucks [or] these guys are massively overrated’ and that kind of stuff. It’s good to have the mix of the two to leave you back in the middle again,” says Macfarlane.
Though it might be a little hard to read the logo, Faceless Burial’s unique merchandise can be spotted on metalheads around Melbourne and beyond. “It’s nice to be able to see people wearing the t-shirts around, that’s quite flattering,” says Macfarlane. “[But] merchandising, promotion and advertising is not really something I see as that important.
“The recording and releasing of music and shows are what’s important to me. The merch side of it definitely allows us to do stuff like go on this tour. Before the end of the year we have a bunch of interstate shows coming up, which we’re going to announce soon, and being able to buy [our] plane tickets from t-shirt sales is pretty sick.”
Before heading off to Europe, Faceless Burial is set to play a diverse show at Monash University on Saturday August 27. The all-ages show is with Kilat, who have just released their immense debut album of raw black metal, and grindcore stalwarts Diploid. Macfarlane says the members of Kilat are “good buddies” and have all been in some of the best heavy bands coming out of Melbourne in recent years, including High Tension, Whitehorse and Age of Abhorrence.
“I’ve been a fan of Diploid for a while… because we used to practice at the same space, [but] we’ve never actually played a show together,” says Macfarlane. “It seems like they’re always playing all-ages shows, and that’s something that we’ve neglected to do a little bit, even though that was an extremely important part of us growing up.
“They seem to become less and less common. We’ve only done one of those recently at Rowdy’s Records. That was really fun – there were some really young kids there [and] there was some lanky dude in a Tool shirt, and I was like, ‘we’re going to be friends.’”
Macfarlane is also excited to play at the Monash Clayton Campus as it’s close to where he grew up. “It will be interesting to play that side of town,” he says. “I’m finally going to uni, they can’t keep me out now,” he laughs.
Faceless Burial will play with Kilat and Diploid at Monash Mausoleum on Saturday August 27. Grab your tickets right here.
This article was made in partnership with The Count’s.