Gruesome have released a new music video and shared an exclusive brutal touring story with Death Metal Underground…
Releasing Savage Land in April of 2015, Gruesome have released a new lyric video. Gruesome boasts band members who have previously been part of Exhumed, Malevolent Creation, Possessed, and Derketa and is said by some to play a style that “honors” Chuck Schuldiner’s work. This is partially true as Gruesome played a dumbed-down death metal consisting of simple, groovy rhythms played single-string riffs and intermittent sections of faster and slower d-beats. But I would venture to say that Gruesome’s songwriting is definitely superior to pre-Human Death (post-Human Death being a different kind of music, and belongs to a slightly different discussion).
The cast of Gruesome, the Schuldiner-hailing collective featuring members of Exhumed, Possessed, Malevolent Creation and Derketa, today untethers a very special cover of Slayer’s “Black Magic.” The band’s latest reconfiguration of the old-school appears on the deluxe digital edition of the band’s Savage Land full-length.
We chose our cover tunes the same way we tried to write the album,” relays guitarist/vocalist Matt Harvey. “We just did what Chuck [Schuldiner] would have done. Death was never a band particularly known for their cover song repertoire, but they did occasionally close their set with a rendition of ‘Black Magic’ and it’s a cover that dates as far back as an old 1984 Death/Mantas rehearsal, so we felt it would be appropriate. We were considering ‘The Exorcist’ by Possessed, since Death started recording a cover of it during Individual Thought Patterns, but since [Gruesome guitarist] Dan [Gonzalez] is in Possessed, it was a bit weird. Again, we tried to approach the song as Death doing a Slayer cover, so… hopefully we came close to the mark.
Gruesome pays homage to the mainstream’s and non-death metal listeners’ most celebrated American acts, Death. As such, their debut full-length, Savage Land, released last month Relapse Records, is an addictively punishing exhibition of late-’80s/early-’90s Florida-styled death metal that keeps the true sound and spirit of Chuck Schuldiner and Death alive and well.
Gruesome was borne out of guitarist/vocalist Matt Harvey (Exhumed) and drummer Gus Rios’ (Malevolent Creation) mutual involvement with the Death To All tours. After discarding the idea of putting together another incarnation of DTA to focus exclusively on Death’s first two albums, Harvey half-jokingly suggested writing their own songs in that vein. The idea gained traction, and the band had five songs written. Rios later recruited Possessed guitarist Daniel Gonzalez and Derketa bassist Robin Mazen to record the material in Florida. Savage Land was tracked by Rios and Gonzalez at Riversound Studios in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, mixed by Jarrett Pritchard at Mana Studios in St. Petersburg, Florida, and features a guest guitar solo on “Closed Casket” by James Murphy as well as cover art by legendary illustrator Ed Repka (Death, Megadeth, Massacre, Athiest et el).
“This couldn’t come more highly recommended. Buy this and take a trip back to the ’80s when death metal wasn’t all about blast beats and gutturals.” – Stereokiller
“This isn’t your crusty, nasty, run-of-the-mill retro death metal. Hell no. This the advanced, dripping-rot-from-the-corners-
of-a-coffin, putrid, vile death metal throwback that you’ve been waiting for. Observe.” – Metal Injection
“The enthusiasm alone on Savage Land is awe-inspiring… this is a fun romp through the rehearsal space of a bunch of longhairs who love a band so much it hurts. 8/10” – Exclaim
“…just so goddamned fun.” — MetalSucks
“Metal needs more albums like Savage Land… The legacy and sound of Death lives on ever so faithfully through bands like Gruesome, and wherever he is, Chuck Schuldiner is undoubtedly windmilling ferociously and smirking ear to ear at the deathly sounds of Savage Land. 4/5” – HeavyBlogIsHeavy
Article by Corey M.
Death Fortress play a truly bellicose version of black metal but not in the Blasphemy war-metal style aped by pointless tribute acts. Deathless March of the Unyielding is minimalist in that it eschews all excessive instrumentation like all the best black metal. Guitars slash out streams of elegiac tremolo melodies or simply strummed chords (there are no leads or trippy guitar effects). The drums either play blasts or dominant marching rhythms. Vocals orate battle commands or agonizingly recount Pyrrhic victories. The overall theme of the music seems to be battles with no heroes and wars with no victors. It’s a deconstruction of Graveland‘s or Bathory‘s style that brought forth the glorious aspect of defeating and conquering: war is still the object in question but the subject isn’t life; it is sorrowful, lonely death.
The melodies are crafted with a tenuous balance between intense grimness and clouded dejection. This is music about warriors and war but not in the fantastical sense that black metal usually takes: no witchcraft or frozen forests are to be found here, only shredded tank tracks, bent artillery barrels, crushed bodies of hapless infantry infused in twisted heaps of smoldering slag, and blackened holes gouged into the earth itself. A useful comparison would be Sammath‘s mid-period output of Dodengang and Triumph in Hatred, though those albums reveal a deeply heartfelt motivation to illustrate the gruesome carnage of warfare without completely abandoning the near-romantically empathetic ties to the fallen fighter. Death Fortress take a more distant, aloof approach, neither glorifying nor condemning the act or outcome and treating the soldier as another soulless statistic. Both bands approach the horrific topic with a sternly wide-eyed, unflinching resolve, giving us the opportunity to witness visions far more stark and distressing than the cartoonish swords ‘n’ sorcery take on combat that black metal too often peddles.
Yet this album suffers from a major drawback: the musicians share the contemporary tendency to disappear up their own asses in wringing all emotive potential from a line of melody. There aren’t any comically awufil or idiotic chord progressions but some of them are inappropriate and others repeated for far too long. The songs have plenty of breathing room and the band never seem to be at a loss for direction or trying to cram in too many lyrics before their riffs overstay their welcome. At times, it’s too easy to become impatient while waiting for the band to introduce the next segment. No amount of drum fills or effects trickery would fix this; the fat needs to be trimmed and the compositions made more concise. A leaner, more refined Death Fortress could easily rise above the better-than-average position in which they sit now.
Today’s F-grade death metal is brought to you by Corey M.
Mortuary – Nothingless than Nothingless (2016)
The opening track is made up of the same chords for two and a half minutes. That the drummer can play five different beats over the chord progressions illustrates the pointlessness of the progression. This happens with most of the progressions in any given song – the drum beat is switched up in middle of the passage. Why does the band even bother writing these progressions if they’re so boring that not even the band wants to hear them played with the same beat for four cycles straight? This is the kind of “metal” that fans of modern “hardcore” get into. I can practically hear the PETA stickers and Vans shoes. You needn’t listen long to hear the influences – Pantera, Rob Zombie, and various Warped Tour-tier metalcore. At least Mortuary spared us any ironic rap verses or shout-outs.
Phobocosm – Bringer of Drought (2016)
Though it was easy to feel optimistic about Phobocosm’s future based on 2014’s Deprived (which this author still recommends – C.M.), it’s now time to give up on the band. Bringer of Drought shows Phobocosm embracing the Deathspell Omegacore post-modern metal virus, complete with songs of absurdly excessive length, mind-numbing guitar drones, artsy-fartsy dissonant chords that ring and grate, and minimal blasting-riffing which is the one part (all of about two minutes) that still sounds like death metal. The term “sellout” is severe and reserved for dire circumstances, but in this case it applies; Phobocosm has abandoned their obscure malevolence and Immolation-style warped riffcraft in favor of inoffensive but “deep”-sounding D-grade post-rock (see also: Adversarial). People who hate metal are the target audience.
Ferium – Behind the Black Eyes (2016)
Extremely repititous, faux-angry-man vocals set to white-boy groove-metal rhythms. Choppy, math-rock-wannabe drum beats. Guitars that barely even play melodies, just semi-random notes on whatever beats the drummer somehow decides to play. My guess is that he is using a random number generator, or maybe a set of dice, to decide the rhythm. One cringe-inducing track made up of three piano chords and a whining voice repeating “She feels like home”. Mix all these ingredients in a big rusty pot, heat over an open flame til melted to a liquid, apply liberally to your (or a consenting partner’s) scrotum, and then revel in searing agony. Recommended for fans of being raped.
NilExistence – Existence in Revelation (2016)
Terrible band name, terrible title, and terrible art aside, this is some tastefully brutal blasting with skillful musicianship and some evocative riffing. The vocals quickly become overbearing, which is a shame, since the intriguing Morbid Angel-style riffs sway to and fro, one moment up-close and vicious like a buzzsaw held to your face, the next distant and vast like a yawning cavern begging to swallow you whole. As usual with bands that try this, NilExistence trip on their own artillery by crashing together too many dissimilar riffs, like pages of a book shredded and then glued back together at random. These songs lack focus and therefore lack identity but something good may come out of these guys if they stay true to their influences and reign in the random deviations.
Hemotoxin – Biological Enslavement (2016)
Human-era Death worship by competent musicians with a keen sense of exactly how much melodic variance per riff it takes to keep a listener’s attention from wandering. This could be a strength rather than a handicap but the riffs aren’t related through anything other than temporal closeness. The feeling of each song jumps from here to there with little rhyme or reason. Slow, chugging sections interrupt tremolo-picked blasting segments, then vice-versa. Occasionally, a tasty guitar lead explodes out of nowhere and then vanishes without so much as a trace of smoke, leaving us longing and dissatisfied. Lyrically we get a mish-mash of edgy lyrics about homelessness and suicide that seem to hint toward some insincere positivity by outlining gruesome subjects in a “profound” light. This all makes for a very frustrating listen since it’s apparent that the band care much for their presentation and musicianship but lack the crucial element that makes metal tolerable: the natural intuition required to coherently structure songs. Sound familiar yet?
Not even AIDS can keep Chuck in the grave.
A small distro portraying Skopje’s (Macedonia) gloominess and fucked up street reality through records and gigs since the early 2000s, FUCK YOGA has since grown into a label that makes obscure hardcore and metal gems somehow available to the few heterodox freaks roaming this city. Its presence has grown during the years. Today, it is home to some of the more obscure acts that seem to have acquired a cult following in the margins of hardcore and slow-paced metal. California’s Noothgrush and even Boston doomsters Grief have gone through FUCK YOGA.
We’ll dive inside and try to dissect everything up in an interview with Ivan Kocev, the man behind this freakish abomination.
1. Ivan, you seem to be heavily attached to gruesome acts of human abhorrence. Well, at least one’s first impression is similar, whilst viewing Fuck Yoga through the lenses of conventional societal pattern.
I accept it as part of nature’s condition, hidden behind the veil of social conventions. It is important to familiarize oneself with all aspects of existence in order to gain more knowledge and bring more truthful judgments further in life.
2. What’s up with you and yoga anyway? Why all the hate dude?
When we were plastering posters for shows, they were often being covered by a yoga class. What also contributed to choosing the name was the “instant enlightenment” vibe that radiated from these people… I also read that the purpose of yoga was “becoming one with the great power that you were never actually apart from” or something like that, which I found bullshit at that time. So over 10 years later, the name remained- it’s not something I actively live by.
3. You pretty much nailed it with a few issues lately. Apartment 213, Noothgrush, Grief…some pretty cult stuff right there. How did you manage lurking them into your lair? Isn’t there a shitload of labels, some highly reputable I might add, in these guys’ states?
I’m a big fan of the mid-90’s mutant hardcore. It might as well have been the final progressive effort of sonic alchemy in it’s respective genre- acknowledging the past, yet branching out into unorthodox forms. Of course-with varying degrees of success, but the general feeling of actual creation and boldness was highly inspiring to my younger self. The bands you mentioned would have no trouble finding a “bigger” label then FUCK YOGA to release their records, but standard scaling doesn’t necessarily apply in this world anyway. They might be considered “cult” nowadays, albeit most of their records were issued on labels strongly rooted in the underground. I cultivate the DIY spirit while providing a very decent representation of their body of work. I salute staying underground by choice, not by necessity.
4. I guess you’re exposed to much of the sensibility of this genre. You collaborate, tour and run a label. You’ve grown to understand the scene from within. Do you think it is an all inclusive club that has built itself upon an egalitarian belief of indisputable equality? Or has this been the distorted image that we have been served by potential pests? My question seeks to disclose if ubermen who breed elite ideas are still present within these circles.
It is up to the individual to choose on which of the many conflicting attributes it pays attention to. You don’t have to look hard to come upon hypocrisy and shallowness in the underground- why would it would be devoid of? I encourage self-sufficiency, yet it’s funny how the bigger picture you see, roles start morphing. It is important to learn from experience and stay alert.
5. What are some of the shittiest bands out there that have been bringing a lot heat lately? I’m all obsessed with negative lists and would really want to hear your opinion.
I am not following “the heat” really. As time becomes more precious for me, I have to spread it out as productive as possible.
6. How do we kill this whole revival trend that has been busting our balls? Resurrection is cool sometimes, but if every idiot is given the opportunity to bring stuff back to life, pretty soon we might even see Christian metal bands or some fucked up shit like that rocking the scene.
Simply judge for yourself instead being told what’s good for you. Easier said than done, I know… If your acceptance filter can handle a copy of a copy of a copy- who cares? I try not to focus on what I dislike, rather use my effort in directions that excite me. The underground will always survive through mutation- some will lose sight, interest or power- but it implodes forever.
7. Are you a fan of population reduction? I am. Who do you think is doing the job well in aiding the process?
It’s difficult to imagine oneself as a 1/7 billionth part of a system. I try not to get too global, it feels depowering. I believe in eye-to-eye centrifugal action, as a real change needs a strong core. Much more efficient then just poking all over the place.
8. What’s on your schedule with Fuck Yoga?
Any day now (late November `15) I’m releasing a new batch of records; GRIEF s/t 12” and “dismal” LP/CD, MOSS “sinister history vol.1” (the first in the series of several records spanning the early, obscure years of the band), DESPISE YOU “west side horizons” LP, and BILLY BAO “communisation” LP. Next would be a NEW WORLD 3”/4” record, SETE STAR SEPT “vinyl collection” CD and HERPES “medellin” 7” repress. 2016 will see records by BASTARD NOISE, DAZD, GOLI DECA…
9. Do you think we’re battling an inside war against our own when facing the fury of SJWs who are censoring us with their PC crap? Fucking hipster pieces of trash!
I will have to disappoint you again with my detachment from cliques. I do not practice any organized political belief- It takes a lot of skill and practice to become independent. I can’t completely deny my social presence, and I am continually learning how to minimize compromise in favor of saving energy for the long run.
10. Briefly explain everything I missed out due to this interview being conducted by me in my utmost hung-over state. I didn’t ask you anything about Fuck Yoga’s roots, plans, presence etc. Neither did I ask you about the 3-4 bands you’re currently in (there’s at least one of them that I dig). Hell, you run a bizarre label somewhere in Southeastern Europe, where such things are true rarities and I didn’t ask you anything the domestic situation – that’s pretty lame of me; I bet it’s fun to hear some bone chilling stories of Balkan underground. Plus you’re organizing this festival in December and I totally skipped that. Preach the gospel!
Here’s what bands I’m currently involved in: GOLI DECA – the music is slow, but not “doom”- it’s devoid of the traditional rock/metal attributes- along the lines of what SWANS were doing on the first few records. VKOZUREN is musically comparable to early BURZUM- primitive and escapist.
The longest running, yet still unnamed band is somewhat a continuation of my previous band, POTOP- only more feral and surreal. I have used musical influences from WINTER, DISEMBOWELMENT, (early) MORBID ANGEL, EARTH 2, (early) DEAD CAN DANCE. Another unnamed, featuring Oleg Chunihin also of the band above and GOLI DECA, is trance-like bass-driven micro-compositions- think HELLHAMMER, BARATHRUM… There are a couple of rehearsal clips online, studio recordings and eventual releases are planned for 2016. MILITANT ZAZA is the name of the mini-fest we’re organizing for the first time this year, with exclusive performances by VERMAPYRE (nightmarish horror soundtracks), REGLER (the new project of BRAINBOMBS/ BILLY BAO personnel), PROPOVED (amazing ancient heavy doom from Serbia) and GOLI DECA. The idea was to organize an event covering different points of the extreme music specter, focusing on the fringes. Thank you for your interest and effort, it’s much appreciated.
The ongoing rebellion against censorship in the name of social justice #metalgate continued this week when metal fought back against commercial assimilation. Commercial assimilation and social justice censorship have the same root, which is a desire to make metal “safe” so it can be sold to more people. This requires metal denying its inherently apocalyptic realist nature.
In the most recent case, doofus retailer H&M got trolled when it offered a new line of clothing with fake metal band logos on it, trying to assimilate metal’s subcultural style of dress so conformist herdsters can look like weekend rebels. A member of a goofy metal band thwarted the effort by inventing bands and histories that satirized the clothing line and tied it to nationalist black metal:
Henri Sorvali of Finnish metal bands Moonsorrow and Finntroll admitted to Billboard and Noisey that he is part of Strong Scene Productions, the “art collective” that set metal blogs buzzing by creating fake histories to go along with the imaginary metal band logos attached to some pieces of H&M clothing.
Sorvali says he and a group of people whom he declined to name launched the joke because they were angry at H&M’s campaign — which includes items like a bomber jacket and pants with patches styled to look like metal logos — because it was “selling people fake, imaginary stuff from a subculture that is based on honesty and being true,” he says.
…”There is so much controversial stuff which is definitely not suitable for mass marketing, and we wanted to bring the ugly side of metal to their campaign, to show that we as metalheads are more aware of the content you are selling people that you are as sellers,” Sorvali explained during a phone call from Finland. “There are so many things wrong with commercializing metal without knowing what they are selling that we felt that somebody has to make a statement about it.”
This counter-troll showed great ingenuity and has retailer H&M backing away in denial. The truth is that society fears heavy metal on two levels: conservatives fear it is eroding social standards, despite those standards having been obliterated in the 1960s and 1990s. Liberals fear that it is introducing unwelcome realism that clashes with their spectrum of belief, all of which is based in the Enlightenment idea of individual human reason being superior to natural order, including logic itself.
We shouldn’t forget that censorship of metal bands for being outrageous was common back in the day:
And remains common to this day, for the same reason:
Politicians caught wind of Eat The Turnbuckle’s European tour before it made its way into Glasgow earlier this week.
Audiences get to listen to their ear-spitting death metal sounds while the members of ETT attack each other with an array of weapons including fluorescent light tubes and baseball bats wrapped in barbed wire.
But despite playing show in Edinburgh, they arrived at Glasgow’s Audio venue only to be turned away over concerns that the police would halt the gig, reports the Daily Record.
While Eat the Turdbuckle seems like a joke band designed to sell records for a gimmick, the fact is that metal’s focus on extremism, or a refusal to ignore the vicious and terrifying sides of life, has made it a target since its inception. Normal people dislike anything which makes them feel as if they are not totally in control of their own lives. Lyrics and imagery of disease, war, apocalypse and evil will disrupt the happy oblivion in which the normal person exists, which was the intent behind heavy metal’s founding: Black Sabbath wanted to interrupt the “peace, love and happiness” apologism for the daily oblivion of humanity, and to inject some “heavy” realism instead. Since that time, metal has continued doing the same when it is at its best, and when it is not so great, has managed at least parodic obscenity that ruffles the feathers of conservatives and makes liberals turn into nagging victim-baiters.
This pattern plays out in more areas than heavy metal. Canadian site Best Gore was censored for its publication of images that revealed both the dark side of life and, by showing that Canada isn’t the paradise under the control of a strong benevolent guiding hand that its leaders want you to think it is, revealing government ineptitude:
Mark was charged with “corrupting morals” under section 163 (1) (a) of the criminal code, for being the first in the world to publish a report on the gruesome murder of Chinese student Jun Lin, by alleged cannibal Luka Magnotta, also known as the 1 Lunatic 1 Ice Pick video.
You can see the video below. If you have not figured out that this video might contain disturbing imagery, you have mental health problems. If you require special tags, warning signs and me to make a statement about how I don’t condone this and think it was a horrible tragedy and all the other fake altruistic boiler-plate salesmanship that political figures normally use, you’re a potato and should go somewhere else.
Update: Google has threatened to remove ads from our site because we hosted this video. If you do not believe that monopolistic corporations are as much a threat to civil liberties as government, you are not paying attention.
What most people refuse to accept is that censorship is the norm.
People do not like feeling out of control, and they only feel in control when in denial of all the scary things they can’t control like… death, disease, war, apocalypse, evil, and everything else in heavy metal lyrics.
Consider the case of Girls and Corpses magazine, which has not only been banned several times from Facebook, but had censorship issues in other areas:
We’ve had some problems. We did a Religion Is Dead issue and Ingram, I believe, is in Tennessee. They made us bag the magazine, because we did a religion issue. They said it was because of nudity, but there has never been any nudity in the magazine. They didn’t like that we took on religion. We went after all religions and it was comedic. We had Jim Caviezel in the issue. I did an interview with him. We made fun of all religions. Have a sense of humor. The only one we really tiptoed around was Muslims. We love Muhammad. We didn’t tread there.
The editors of Girls and Corpses had this to say about the Facebook censorship:
Sorry I haven’t posed in a day corpses. I was ‘put on notice’ by Facebook after I posted a fully clothed photo of a female, that offended some loony chic who had her Bible Belt cinched too tight. This “community standards” thing at Facebook is censorship pure and simple. Mostly, the offended party is someone jealous of the freedoms that come with G&C Magazine or are simply a humorless twit. If you don’t like something at Girls and Corpses, feel free to just leave. Don’t go whining to Facebook that we have offended you with our images. If you are too sensitive and have no sense of humor why did you friend us in the first place? Girls and Corpses is an intelligence test. The smart ones get the gag and the dumb ones should just get out… preferably at high altitude.
They make an important point, which is that those who call for this censorship are fundamentally not ideological, but seeking a sense of power. They don’t understand it, or it conflicts with their vision of themselves, so they demand it be removed. Facebook, like any other business, does what it can to provide a safe environment for its customers, which means removing things that make people feel unsafe, like nudity, violence, gore, racial comments, sexual innuendo, etc. These things are not the offense that people actually have, which is fear of the bad things that happen which are associated with these ideas. They see the symbol and, like the superstitious simians that humans are, they figure if they can remove the symbol and by doing so remove the awareness in their own minds of what it stands for, they can be in control and feel “safe.” All of that is nonsense on a realist level, but it’s how most customers an voters react.
What this means for #metalgate is that we should not take SJWs seriously. They are no different than the church ladies and feminists who were complaining about Girls and Corpses or the outraged government servants who wanted the Luke Magnotta video removed. They see it as a threat to their personal power. They need a “reason” why it should be taken down, and so they fall back on using social conventions we cannot criticize, like “do it for the children” or “respect the victim’s family” or ideologies which claim to defend the pitied and helpless, like feminism, anti-racism, sexual equality and the like. We make a mistake when we think SJWs believe any of this stuff. In reality, they are using it the same way commercials use sex to sell beer or tough guy images to sell pickup trucks: they want to create a pleasant image, or at least one we cannot imagine criticizing, in our minds and then use it to sell us the product. In this case, it’s their power and importance, because without their outrage they would have nothing and merely be a group of weird-looking socially-dysfunctional mental defectives.
“EAT THE TURNBUCKLE VS NECRO BUTCHER at GWARBQ” Youtube video censored by Google, who own Youtube.
Before labels for styles such as “death metal” caught on, there was in the late 1980s a ghastly combat in metal to see who could produce the most archetypally extreme metal band and thus exceed the boundaries set by Slayer and Venom. Into the fertile time rose the spectre of Rigor Mortis, a band renowned for their intricate fast fretwork and energetic, gruesome vocals that did not yet become deathy, but were still forceful and raw. We were fortunate to catch up with the generator of those pipings, Rigor Mortis vocalist Bruce Corbitt, as he was exiting a slaughterhouse zipping up his pants…
You are writing a book on your experiences, including rigor mortis. How does writing compare to music writing?
Besides the obvious things like the length of text and the amount of time it takes to write a book. When writing lyrics for a song you sometimes have to think about the number of lines and syllables in certain verses and choruses. With writing a book you don’t have to worry about anything like that and you can just let the words flow. My book is also a true story and my lyrics are usually fictitious ideas.
The funny part of it all is that one of my biggest weaknesses was my lack of ability to write a lot of lyrics and now I have just written a 400-page book. I mean I have no problems with hearing where I wanted to place the lyrics and how I want to sing them. But, just coming up with enough words to fill all the verses and chorus was usually a struggle for me. So for me to write lyrics for 10 new songs back then would have taken me forever.
On the other hand, Harden Harrison and Casey Orr were able to write lyrics with relative ease and they also blew my lyrics away. So after writing some lyrics for a few songs after I first joined the band, they began to write most of the lyrics from that point on. I didn’t object to it because I knew their lyrics were better than mine and I thought it was just the best thing for the band. I mean Bruce Dickinson didn’t write anything for the Number Of The Beast album… but, you don’t hear anyone complaining about that album because Bruce didn’t write all of the lyrics.
When you were starting out with Rigor Mortis, you must have experienced a good deal of personal doubt and uncertainty. What factors helped you overcome those?
I think the title of their third album pretty much sums up the attitude that the band had in the beginning and until the band’s end. Rigor Mortis Vs The Earth… that is really how it felt for us sometimes. Us against the fucking World! When I first joined the band they had shitty equipment, hardly any money or transportation and not even a place to practice. They were also taking a musical direction that obviously wasn’t going to be mainstream. Along with our rebellious attitudes… the odds of us having any kind of success was stacked against us from the very beginning. But, we didn’t give a fuck about anything like that. We just wanted to do it all our own way without any thought of compromising the music or the bands image in any way.
But, I did have some personal doubts when I first joined the band about just being accepted as the new member of the band. Because many people already liked Rigor Mortis at that time the way they were as a three-piece band. Not to mention that I had only been in one band before and we mainly had just done a lot of Black Sabbath songs. I had never taken any singing lessons and didn’t have a lot of confidence in my voice yet. But, I just wanted it so fucking badly and I also wanted to prove the doubters wrong. So, I put my life into it and I had to have this… “FUCK YOU, I am a bad motherfucker!!!”… attitude in my head to silence any uncertainty that I had for myself or that anyone else had for me.
The Texas metal scene seems to produce one or two excellent bands per generation with the rest being sub-par. What’s your view on this?
I believe that there have always been a lot of talented musicians in Texas. But, sometimes the talent is spread out too thin among too many bands. Very seldom will you see a band with every member of the band being a badass motherfucker. It’s like if you could take this drummer from one band and put him with the guitarist and bass player of this other band, and then take this singer from this band… then you could have an awesome band.
I also know that a lot of bands do not always want to do the hard work it takes to keep progressing. They want the benefits and the rewards of being in a band without wanting to keep busting their asses for it. They get enough songs down to be able to play at clubs… and record a demo or a CD. Then, they seem to go on cruise control as far as the amount of practice they do and the amount of new songs they write comes at a slower rate. But, they are doing great in their minds because they are able to play at clubs, they are now getting chicks easier and they get to be the cool guys playing on stage on weekends. When in fact they should be spending more time on just writing original songs. I mean if a band wants to survive for a long time, that’s what it’s all about isn’t it?
If you want to have 5 or 10 albums and be around for a while… hell, that means you need 50 to 100 originals. I see too many bands slowly stop progressing after they have 8 to 15 originals. They get too anxious and they want to start playing gigs. They gain a following and record a CD and things appear to be rolling. They hope they can get a deal with what they have and then they figure that everything will take off from there.
Of course I am talking from experience here and from some of my own mistakes. Because I also felt like the hardest part was over once we had signed with Capitol Records. But, looking back on it now… I can see that getting a deal even with a major label doesn’t mean shit. It’s what a band does if and when they do get a deal. I don’t think too many bands think past just trying to get signed and they don’t prepare for the longevity of it all by just simply writing as many originals as possible. That is the main reason why I feel this area only produces a few great bands for each generation.
Do you listen to any current metal?
I do listen to some of it through my friends that keep up with the newer bands more than I do now. I will never be a fan of any new bands like I was a fan of metal bands back when I was younger… but, I am behind the newer metal bands because they are keeping the torch burning. I also still like to get the local metal bands demos and CD’s to check out and just to support the underground.
Metal will always be in my blood and I am proud to say I never grew out of loving metal. I like other music of course… from 60s and 70s classic rock bands to punk bands. But, metal always got my adrenaline flowing more than any other type of music and it still does to this day. I know many people that loved metal and then they sort of grew out of it or something. They thought it wasn’t cool to like metal anymore, as they got older.
Even some musicians who were inspired and influenced to start playing because of metal bands and started out themselves in metal bands, became anti-metal after a while. It’s not their decision to evolve and change their musical taste over time that bothers me. I can understand that part and I respect that side of it. But, I never understood those that started slamming metal once they stopped liking it and went in a different direction. Especially when it’s the music that made them want to start jamming in the first place.
Would you do vocals for any current bands?
Absolutely! But, I don’t sit around and think about it or wish I were singing for any current bands. If the right situation and opportunity came along… I would go for it. As of right now, I am content with just starting or joining or forming a new band locally here in Dallas.
While most bands were getting “chunky” with muffled power chord riffing, it seems to me that only rigor mortis and slayer were taking the melodic approach. what inspired this direction?
Rigor Mortis was never the type of band that would go with the flow or do what all of the other bands were doing at the time. I think some of our influences like Slayer and Iron Maiden and maybe even some of Mike’s influences like Michael Schenker and Randy Rhoads might have had something to do with the melodic side of it. But, the main reason I think that Rigor Mortis didn’t sound like anyone else is simply that Mike, Harden and Casey each had their own unique style and technique in the way they played their instruments at that time. I really didn’t have anything to do with the musical direction that Rigor Mortis ventured into. They had already developed their own style of playing, they had those “fuck the world” attitudes and they were already singing about horror and gore before I was ever in the band.
Many metal fans consider the first Rigor Mortis album to be the best one that the band released Some even consider it to be a classic metal album now. Since the band didn’t have long lasting success and eventually disbanded, many metal fans that didn’t know the true history of the band, or they found out about Rigor Mortis after our breakup… many have this false misconception that I was somehow part of being the mastermind behind the first album, or that I was also part of being behind the style or image of Rigor Mortis.
When in fact all I did was join the band and I tried I fit in well with what they wanted to do at that time. Which was easy for me to do because I had already acquired a love for thrash and speed metal music by that time. Plus, I was always into horror movies and gore. I honestly always believed that the main reason many people consider the first album to be the best one is because it simply had the best material on it. Those songs had time to mature because we had played them live many times over the years. That is just my opinion and of course I am biased because I am not on the other two… lol!
If you were going to redo the Rigor Mortis experience, what changes would you make to style or content of your music?
I don’t think any of the changes would be anything too drastic. I do hear the vocal parts in certain lines in some songs that I know I would like to change. Hell, I think I could do my entire vocal parts better if I could do them now. I am sure all musicians hear their old recordings and think about how they would have done it differently if they could do it again. The sad part of it all is that because of the studio we picked to record our first album, the true definitive sound of the Rigor Mortis that I was a part of was never truly captured on a recording.
I guess other than that I think we should have added some rhythm guitar tracks over the guitar solo’s on the first album. I also think that because of the adrenaline rushes we got while we were on stage… the songs just kept getting faster and faster. It made some of the songs even better in most cases. But, in my opinion… the speed of the song Re-Animator on our demo tape was the right pace for that song. By, the time we recorded it for the first album we were playing it so much faster that I think it lost a lot of it’s intensity because of that.
Last but not least, I would now get my lazy ass in gear and contribute more to the writing process with the band. Like I was talking about back in your first question… I willingly let them start writing most of the lyrics after a while and I felt it was the best thing for the band at the time. But, now I see how I wasn’t putting enough effort into it and making myself just do it. It was the easy way out for me to let them write the lyrics and not do it myself. So, I now understand their disgust with the fact that I stopped contributing as much in the writing and ideas process after a while.
Many people, myself included, consider Rigor Mortis to be crossover music between speed metal and death metal. While I’m not here to talk about categories, I think it’s interesting how your music fits between generations. What do you see as the primary differences between what Rigor Mortis were doing and what the metal scene is putting out now?
Well, some obvious differences with some of today’s metal bands compared to back then is that they tune down their guitars and some are anti-lead solos etc. Nothing stays the same forever and so it’s natural for things to change… and that goes for metal too. I mean I often wondered back then as Rigor Mortis and bands like Slayer were taking metal to such furiously fast paced songs… how can it continue to just get heavier and faster than this before it’s just a blur and it’s not even comprehendible as a song anymore? I felt at the time that Rigor Mortis was already pushing the sound barrier to the limit.
Every Rigor Mortis song was fast at least somewhere during the song. But, if every metal band that came out played all their songs full speed… it wouldn’t give up enough variety like we have now. Metal can be fast and aggressive or slower and more powerful. It can be technical and difficult or it can be simple and lazy. The coolest thing about metal and why it will always survive even when many want to say it’s not cool to like metal these days is that we have so many different styles of metal to choose from. Black, death, speed, thrash or classic heavy metal bands ETC… take your choice.
Back when Rigor Mortis was producing records, there wasn’t as much of an underground. It’s amazing to me a band as metal as Rigor Mortis made it onto Capitol Records, but then again, it’s kind of rewarding. How do you think this appears to a generation raised on predominantly underground releases?
To some it might appear as if we were some corporately produced spoiled imitation metal band, or that we must have been sellouts to sign with a major label. For others it might be some kind of redemption that a band like us could was able to get total control of our music after signing with a big label. But, if anyone thinks we got rich and royal treatment because we signed with Capitol records… or that we sold out because we signed with a major label… think again.
The truth is that after getting some interest from many major and underground labels for a couple of years, Capitol was the first label to believe in us enough to actually tell us they wanted to officially sign us. It’s not like we turned down underground labels to sign with a major label. Once we knew that Capitol was going to give us 100% control of our music, it was a no-brainer for us to want to sign with them. It was a miracle how it all happened in the first place. So, I admit thinking at the time that by signing with a major label like Capitol Records that it was gonna increase our chances of getting more promotion and also our chances to succeed enough to survive as a band. It’s easy to try and blame Capitol for not promoting us like they could have. But, I think our biggest mistake was simply the wrong studio to record the first album.
Did you find having to be frontman for a band affected you personally, with stress or with positive changes, etc?
Being the singer for Rigor Mortis stirred up every type of emotion known to mankind. I had the stress of trying to be accepted when I first joined a band as I mentioned earlier, because many in the area already liked how they already were as a three-piece band with Casey doing the vocals. But, at the same time all kinds of positive changes started happening for me in my life as soon as I joined the band. I felt like I was somebody once I joined that band and I felt like I was part of something special. Rigor Mortis literally became my life 24 hrs a day and seven days a week. Of course I became more confident in myself as the band started having all kinds of cool things happening for us.
I mean going from such a positive highs one week after we got our deal with Capitol Records… to the very next week being stabbed in the back five times before a gig and fighting for my life. It truly was an emotional roller-coaster the entire time I was in the band.
We ask: what is there still to be dared that would be still more daring than Life, which is itself the daring venture, so that it would be more daring than the Being of beings? In every case and in every respect, what is dared must be such that it concerns every being inasmuch as it is a being. Of such a kind is Being, and in this way, that it is not one particular kind among others, but the mode of all beings as such.
If Being is what is unique to beings, by what can Being still be surpassed? Only by itself, only by its own, and indeed by expressly entering into its own.
– Martin Heidegger, Poetry, Language, Thought
What other Texas metal bands do you consider great?
I would have to say Dead Horse, Sedition, Gammacide, Watchtower and Absu are the bands I have the most respect for. I think that all but Absu are now extinct.
Can you give us any timeline on a rigor mortis CD re-release? i know people out there will ask me this, so i’m asking you; sorry if it is a stressful question.
The question doesn’t bother me at all and I get asked about that all of the time. I just really have no clue myself since I have nothing to do with it. I just hope it still happens for those who still want it.
It seems that Rigor Mortis has influenced bands from diverse ranges of metal, from the most commercial to the most gnarly and underground. I hear a good deal of Mike Scaccia’s technique in Mayhem and other european lightning fast bands. Do you agree?
Yeah, I do hear it in some of those bands. I just don’t honestly know if they were really influenced or if they just have similar styles to Scaccia’s. I am kind of surprised that more guitar players haven’t picked up on Mike’s style of playing over the years… even though I do know of a few local Mike Scaccia clones. But, I don’t think Mike’s style of playing for Rigor Mortis was something that just any guitarist can do. He was born with a gift and his own style for playing the guitar. It was always natural for him and easier than it is for most who pick up a guitar. I am also certain that the rest of the guys from Rigor Mortis are also honored about any other bands or musicians that were influenced by the band in some way.
If you did form a metal band again, what kind of music would you make?
That would mainly depend on the musicians around me. I won’t know really myself until I hear it to tell you the truth. It would be old school metal for sure. I would never puss out and be in some wimpy metal band. But, I can’t tell you what it will sound like because I want to be in a band that doesn’t sound like anyone else. Rigor Mortis didn’t sound like anyone else… and I would never try to copy the Rigor sound with a new band even if it was possible. So, I just hope to find some guys that can also create a unique sound that my vocals, style and image can work with.
If Rigor Mortis were hypothetically to record another album, would it continue the stylistic progression of past or move to something of a different organization?
I think it would be like trying to do a sequel to some classic horror/gore/spatter movie for us to do another album together. Now do you want to make the sequel with more blood and twice as much killing? Do you want to go for a bigger audience and cut out all of the violent parts and make it not as brutal as the first movie? Or do you want to make the entire thing totally different than the original? Obviously we would go with being as brutal and gory as possible and we would keep the same style without copying the original sound.
We know what Rigor Mortis represents and stands for to the fans. We would never do anything that would disappoint anyone that ever liked Rigor Mortis. We all have hindsight on what we did back then and we are all a lot wiser now. But, it’s hard to recapture what you had back in early stages of a band. We were in our youth and the music was being written naturally without any thought. Because that was the music we all wanted to do at that time.
Since then the other guys have played many different styles of music in other bands. So it wouldn’t be easy to just pick up where we left off. I do however believe that our experience and wisdom on what we should and shouldn’t have done back then would prevail over anything else. I honestly feel that we would be able to create a horrifying metal masterpiece if we ever did make another Rigor Mortis album together.
Documentary which looks at how a radical generation of musicians created a new German musical identity out of the cultural ruins of war.
Between 1968 and 1977 bands like Neu!, Can, Faust and Kraftwerk would look beyond western rock and roll to create some of the most original and uncompromising music ever heard.
They shared one common goal – a forward-looking desire to transcend Germany’s gruesome past – but that didn’t stop the music press in war-obsessed Britain from calling them Krautrock.