Joshua Wood, managing editor over at Metal Rules, conducted an interview with me a few days ago. You can read it here:
Among internet metal sites, Metal-Rules.com has a unique niche as being both popular with newer fans and proud of classic metal. During the last few melees over censorship, I encountered the Managing Editor there, a relaxed fellow by the name of Joshua Wood. Since we are both metal nerds, it seemed an interview was in order, and to his credit, it ended up being more interesting and more metal than people might suspect. Give a big hand in welcoming Joshua Wood, and read on…
What first attracted you to heavy metal?
Easy! Kiss Destroyer, 1976. The excitement, the fire, the blood, the power and the electric energy of it all. The top mainstream bands of the time were all soft rock and disco and along came…Kiss! They just totally blew everyone away.
What first attracted you to writing?
It’s funny, I don’t really consider myself a ‘writer.’ I’m just a guy with lots of strong opinions about metal! My main goal always was, and I suspect always will be, to support the underground and ‘real’ Metal bands, as per our site’s tagline, ‘Supporting Real Metal’ since 1995.” I’m not a critic; I want to support a band I enjoy and feel could use the support and or exposure. I don’t waste my time criticizing bands I don’t like, why bother? Live and let die, they can find their own audience. I’d rather write a positive review of a band and help them instead of slagging one of many, many crappy bands. As a result I write very, very few negative type reviews, whereas some mean-spirited critics seem to revel in finding new and amusing ways to insult bands. Those reviews are funny to read though!
How did you get involved with Metal-Rules.com? Today, as I understand it, you are the Managing Editor. How did you get into this job?
I started as a ‘Guest Writer’ (like all of our staff) back in 2001. Overtime I contributed and showed I was reliable, could meet simple deadlines, brought some creativity to the table and generally showed a passion to support the site. Back then there were very few website dedicated to metal, especially the metal I loved, not the nu-metal that was infecting the scene at the time and it was the perfect forum to show that there were still killer new bands out there besides the crappy/trendy sub-genres. Over time, I became the Managing Editor. It is strictly volunteer.
What does the job entail? What are the fun parts, and the harder parts?
I tend to oversee our writers/photographers, give people encouragement, support and direction. I contact labels, agents, bands promoters on behalf of the site, give out assignments and of course add and edit the content to the site. It’s always fun talking to fellow like-minded metal heads about metal and I suppose doing the book and DVD reviews is my favourite part. I’ve written over 1000 reviews for the site over the years! We have a private Metal-Rules Staff Facebook page where we discuss the months assignments, who is covering or reviewing what so we keep it all straight.
The least fun part is having to reject bands or labels that just don’t fit our mandate or interest, but I always try to be supportive and suggest they try other avenues. Sometimes when some crappy rap-rock and mallcore band sends me stuff or is asking for help I feel like saying, “Dude! Do you even LOOK at our site? We are so against the kind of music you make, why did you waste your time contacting us?” lol. Sometimes fixing the countless little mistakes of submissions can get laborious, but I just put on an album and type away!
What sort of metal do you like? Do you distinguish by genre, quality of bands or some other traits that they have?
I’m a fan of many forms/styles/sub-genres of hard rock and metal. It’s almost easier to say what I don’t like which are:
- Post Rock
- Post Black
I’ve been actively buying and collecting metal since the late 70s so I have a substantial personal collection of just over 10,000 items, albums, books, DVDs, cassettes, magazines, etc, including a decent stock of rarities, and I love it all! If you include authorized digital promo copies my collection swells to 15,000 items. Thrash, Death, Black, Doom, Power, etc have lots of every style to suit my mood. I do distinguish between genres but I try to keep it to a dozen or so broader genres, but I also enjoy micro-analyzing the subtle differences in bands styles, scenes and sounds.
I’m also the co-chair of the Heavy Metal committee for CARAS (Canadian Academy of Recording Arts And Sciences) the group who host/present Canada’s national music award program, the Juno awards…the equivalent to the Grammys. I tend to use those analytical skills in that role to see what really qualifies as ‘metal’ when it comes time to screen submissions for the awards program. You would be surprised the amount of crap that people consider ‘metal’ and submit to us!
What do you think distinguishes heavy metal from rock music?
That is a tough question! I think Metal has a bit more aggression, speed, power attitude, rebelliousness, negativity, skill, dynamics, sincerity, than the ‘average’ rock band.
Can you name the metal bands that have influenced you most, as well as the writers and other non-musical influences who shape what you do?
The bands that influence me the most are some old favourites, W.A.S.P., Manowar, Thor, Anvil, Raven, and Yngwie Malmsteen. These guys get it. The never bow to trends, they never break, they are all underdogs, survivors, productive and reliable! Many younger fans make fun of those bands but they could learn a lesson or two on how it done to persevere and survive to create real metal art. I doubt many of the new, trendy bands will ever have a 15-20 album, 30-40 year career like the above list.
Martin Popoff is a big influence, we have become personal friends over the years which is cool. Non-musical influences would be the normal day to day stuff, playing sports (soccer) my career, family, hobbies and volunteer work. It all keeps me busy, I wish I had more time to dedicate to the site as you can tell by how long it took me to respond to your kind request for an interview!
I recently wrote that modern metal — nu-metal, post-metal, metalcore and indie-metal — have one thing in common, which is that they are composed like rock bands but use metal riffs sometimes. What do you think distinguishes older heavy metal, underground metal and modern metal from each other?
I think I would agree! I feel much of the younger modern Metal bands confuse ‘heaviness’ with volume and screaming. I understand that there is a natural extension of Metal to want to go after, louder, more extreme etc but often they loose site of some of the key elements that attracted me to Metal…the riffs, technicality, proficiency, speed, power all that stuff. Some bands are so busy trying too hard to look or sound what they think Metal is, that they miss the point.
How important is technicality to you in assessing bands? What about production?
To me technicality is extremely important. I love bands like Dragonforce, Immortal Guardian, Joe Stump, Pathfinder, Dream Theater. I love guitar heroes; I have dozens of guitar/instrumental shred albums so that ranks very highly for my enjoyment. As for production, I don’t feel like I have a very refined ear. It amuses me that some people can say, “The production ruined the album or made it unlistenable”, but that is pretty subjective. I’ve never heard a truly horrible production job that radically diminishes my enjoyment of an album. I listen to two-track Death Metal demos from 30 years ago and I listen to full-on, 120 digital track albums from Prog Metal bands with orchestras and infinite layers of sound (like Devin Townsend for example) and I enjoy each for what they are.
Of all the things that you have written, what are your favourites?
I have a few editorials (and or rants) I have done that are more for my own amusement to point out trends or odd facts. One recent one I did was a piece that stated Slayer has copied W.A.S.P. their entire career. Of course, most people in their right mind would disagree but it was fun to find 10 or so interesting little facts and coincidences about the two bands and do a creative piece. Again, the book reviews are really fun to write. I’ve written close to 300 now. Film/DVD reviews are great as well, they can be more in-depth than just another CD review that ten other websites have already reviewed that month as well. Our site we believe has the largest collection of metal DVD and book reviews on the web, with the exception of the big (not-metal) sales portals like Amazon.
A few years back I was contacted by Dr. Niall Scott of the University of Central Lancashire in England. He is the Chair for the International Society for Metal Music Studies (ISMMS) and he said he uses my book review section for a reference which I thought was very nice, so the book reviews is probably my #1 fave for now. It’s nice, as the only site that really does many metal themed book reviews people constantly send me books to review which is an awesome perk.
What do you think of #MetalGate? Does metal have its own response to these issues, and not need an outsider view, or should it take influence from other rock genres and consider the SJW agenda?
I have to admit I was not knee deep in that battle. For one, I’m not heavily involved in social media, I don’t do Twitter or any of that stuff so it sort of went under my radar. Secondly, I really don’t care about or put stock into people who criticize Metal. People, the music industry, the church, the government, academics, parents, the media, watchdog groups and even (so-called) fans have been attacking metal from the beginning so I tend to ignore those ignorant fools. I was like, ‘Yup, another bunch of clueless morons with nothing better to do taking aim at Metal’. It was almost a non-issue for me. I’ve seen groups like the PMRC or MTV come and go and after waging deliberate anti-metal campaigns (and losing) so I lumped the SJW into that category. There are but a vocal minority seeking attention by using music (or art, or literature etc) to promote a specific social agenda…it’s like buzzing housefly or yapping little dog, you just ignore it even though you have the power to crush it. I would not want to dignify the SJW clan with a response because the wolf does not concern himself with the opinion of the sheep. Like Jack Black and Tenacious D said, “You cannot kill the metal!” However…. I do admire and support the warriors who picked up the sword and went into battle in the name of metal!
To directly answer your question: No, metal should never compromise and consider the agenda of others; that would be the polar opposite of Metal is. Metal is not about compromise, friendship, or trying to be some happy, all-inclusive, friendly, hippy, group-hug, drum-circle (despite what Sepultura did on Roots!) It never has been and never will be. Embracing that agenda would be one of the worst possible outcomes and it would dilute the purity and beauty of the genre. I think Alice Cooper said it best. He said, (roughly paraphrased) “Metal is not about politics. It is about sex, money and violence. Leave the politics to the punks.”
Can you tell us more about “Metal Mental Meltdown”? Is it true that you’re planning a digital version?
That is a whole other story. The brief version is that I created a heavy metal board game back in 1999. I sold it around the world and it was my full-time job for a short while. Overtime the game ran its course and I returned to the real world of work. I had written some genre-based extension packs but time, energy and money were the enemy. I have often flirted with ideas of some sort of digital version, an app, an on-line game but have yet to put it in motion. The hard copies are still for sale.
What is your radio show, Megawatt Mayhem, like? How do you pick bands to be on the show?
Megawatt Mayhem is one of the world’s longest running metal radio shows. We have been on air for over 29 years every Saturday night on CJSW 90.9FM in the city of Calgary, here in Western Canada. We are a two-hour magazine style show with news, views, reviews, interviews, concert listings and local bands. We have an open door policy for local bands, if a Calgary or area band wants to visit, as long as they have some recorded product of a minimal level of quality we invite them on. The host of the show champions local acts, I am more selective, but it is part of our mandate as a local station to support local artists. We have interviewed tons of bands from the brand new local band in the garage to Metallica.
I also host a more melodic Metal show called Attention Surplus Overdrive which features the more melodic side of the genres; guitar heroes, Prog Metal, symphonic Metal, Melodic Metal etc… it runs for three hours late at night so I can play entire albums by Nightwish or Steve Vai or whoever. I’ve been doing it for almost two years now. It is on the same station, right after Megawatt Mayhem, so I do a really fun five-hour stint every Saturday night/Sunday morning!
If people are interested in what you do, where do they go to find more information and keep up with the latest from you?
Anyone can drop me a line via one of my five (!) Facebook pages! lol. I’d be glad to discuss my involvement in the Metal industry over the last 20 years, from being a promoter, an Assistant Producer of a huge Metal festival, a hosting a Metal nights, and countless small metal-themed projects with anyone who wants to chat!
I discovered the music of Blood Urn through the recommendation of a friend. Like most of what I listen to now, it is music that upholds the spirit of older underground metal, the earliest prog rock, and early metal bands like Black Sabbath: a desire to look past the official one-dimensional categorical narrative and uncover the organic life beneath, and through that, to avoid the manipulation of the mass culture around us and discover personal truths that also correspond to tendencies in reality itself. In the style of the oldest death metal bands, Blood Urn knits together riffs into a complex narrative that continually reinvents itself, creating a roller coaster through a labyrinth effect that incorporates both the progressive and psychedelic ancestry of metal. Fortunately, I was able to have brief speaks with the founder and composer of Blood Urn…
When did Blood Urn form and who are the members? What have you released so far?
The name was given to the project in 2010, but a vague idea already existed for several years before, slowly becoming a definite force. We are not a band. I write and record all the music, a friend records the vocals and some allies contribute small parts. We have released two demos on tape: “Unchain the Abhorrent” (2011) and “…of Gory Sorcery and Death” (2014).
What inspirations and influences helped propel you into starting Blood Urn?
A deep love for darkness and metal music. My influences are mostly the music that I listen to. But of course I also cherish certain occult literature, splatter movies, mythology, paintings… What I like about making (death) metal is that one can incorporate all these influences in such a naive way; there is no need for huge systematic concepts, but a lot of space for instinct and eclectic working. It never looses it’s reckless teenage approach but also provides a sense of depth and seriousness.
You say: “My influences are mostly the music that I listen to. But of course I also cherish certain occult literature, splatter movies, mythology, paintings…” Can you list your musical influences, especially when you started out with Blood Urn, in addition to literature, movies, mythology and paintings? I think people are fascinated by this kind of stuff because it often reveals a lot about what you value.
Things that are a continuous influence for my work with Blood Urn (and sometimes beyond):
Absu (death metal era, especially the first album and earlier stuff)
Nile (especially the first album)
Cryptopsy (first two albums)
Morbid Angel (old)
Occult stuff like Peter J. Carrol, Aleister Crowley, Austin Osman Spare, but not so much recently.
Philosophy like Nietzsche, Camus, Evola, poetic works from Baudelaire, works on religion and spirituality like Mircea Eliade.
Stupid splatter movies, horror movies like Evil Dead, Hellraiser, experimental stuff like Begotten.
Only Norse and celtic mythology when it comes to Blood Urn.
PAINTINGS / ART
I don’t have vast knowledge when it comes to art, but I know what I like when I see it. Rubens’ “Medusa”, Hieronymus Bosch, old woodcuts illustrating death, plague and the devil. VERY much old anatomic illustrations, for example by Andreas Vesalius. Specific Austrian art: Viennese actionism, Hermann Nitsch,… everybody should check this out!
Why did you choose an older style, when newer styles are more likely to get you record contracts, interviews and fame?
If cared about that, I would make different music. But I don’t even think that I would be able to make other music than this kind of metal in a decent way… For example, I am into prog/folk rock and would love to play that style as well, but it just ends up horrible every time I try it.
On the other hand, I am doing an interview right now and people have been responding better to my creative output than I could have ever wished for, so. I am pleased about all the feedback the way it is. If there is something like an underground metal “scene,” then I have to compliment it for being very responsive.
What is it that appeals to you about these older styles? Do you think they are still relevant? How do we measure “relevant”?
Right now, being traditional, backward-looking and a little bit nostalgic is a strength of the black and death metal scene since it spawned a lot of interesting bands that adhere to these ideals. I think tradition will always be relevant for metal music and I am extremely enthusiastic about its complexity. But that is no excuse to replace artistic vision by mere reproduction of the characteristics of a certain style/era… that is a danger for creative potential and I am a little skeptical about the way things are. I don’t know how to measure relevance, but I sure see the danger of becoming trivial. Especially after all the buzz about old death metal vanishes again… which of the records that we bought in the last five years will stand the test of time? Blood Urn? I don’t have the highest hopes, to be honest. And I don’t really care.
I could not identify a single dominant influence to Blood Urn. This makes the band stand out as different from retro/revivalist bands which seem to target a specific sound from the past. How did you find your own artistic voice in your music?
Thank you, I appreciate that observation very much! I think I like re-arranging elements from different scenes / bands / eras, sometimes by intuition and sometimes intentional. But that is not a main aspect of my songwriting. Maybe it adds a little character. For “Unchain the Abhorrent” I had a vision of a bastard descending from stuff like Archgoat and old Suffocation, I can’t really say if it worked out (there definitely is room for improvement and refinement). For “… of Gory Sorcery and Death” I went for rather pure death metal.
Are there any plans to release an album? Are there advantages to releasing demos first?
“Unchain the Abhorrent” was purely a demo. It came together spontaneously, I did not care too much for sound issues, I just wanted to get something done. But after that, I have to say that I put a lot of work into “…of Gory Sorcery and Death” and it feels like the best I can do at the moment. So maybe I should have put it out as an album; I don’t know where to draw the line to be honest.
Do you listen to any current metal acts? Can you list them, if so?
I do listen to a lot of new metal. Dead Congreagation, Karnarium, Katharsis, Deathspell Omega, Triumphant,… I don’t buy every demo ever released, but I think a lot of worthwhile stuff has been going on in the last years. I also listen to other musical genres, like 70s rock, folk, hardcore punk, grindcore, ambient, noise and so on.
How do you compose your songs? Are they riff-based, melody-based or idea-based?
I would say the emphasis is on ideas! A good part of the songwriting may be jamming around and stringing riffs together, but most of the time I have an abstract concept for a song structure and then try to find fitting riffs.
How do you determine what riffs, songs, parts, etc. to keep and what to reject?
I write a lot of riffs and it is hard for me to reject any of them. I know, there may be a few filler-sounding riffs on my demos, but I don’t mind that too much. It gives certain other parts a climax-like effect and I like that, because it adds structure to the songs. I know a good riff when I stumble upon it, but I sometimes have hard times with parts that don’t click the first time. I tend to keep all the material I write as placeholder for better parts, but sometimes I familiarize with it after a while. A riff has to make sense in the context of a song and it has to serve the song, that is what’s most important to me.
If people like what you have been doing, where should they go next to learn more? Any upcoming news you can share?
Blood Urn does not have a website or facebook page, but feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. There are plans for a re-release of “…of Gory Sorcery and Death” on Vinyl as well as a new 7″. I haven’t been working on Blood Urn for the last few months, but there will be something new this year.
“Unchain the Abhorrent” (2011)
“…of Gory Sorcery and Death” (2014)
As mentioned in our first article on the topic, the “first album” from Morbid Angel remains a vague category because the band recorded two first albums, each given a name starting with the letter A which fits into the alphabetical sequence to which their albums have conformed to this day. We took a few moments to speak to original drummer/vocalist Mike Browning (Nocturnus, After Death) about Abominations of Desolation versus Altars of Madness as the true first album of this essential band…
You were one of the original players on Morbid Angel’s Abominations of Desolation (referred to as AOD), which was released before most of the publicly acknowledged death metal classics. What was the band lineup for AOD? How does it feel to have participated in such a historic and musically intense recording?
The line-up on the AOD album was:
- Mike Browning -‐ drums and vocals
- Trey Azagthoth -‐ guitar
- Richard Brunelle -‐ guitar
- John Ortega -‐ bass
At the time back in 1986 everything was just still called metal and it didn’t matter if you were more on the death or power metal side, it was still all considered Metal and the Metal crowd was unified and everyone got along for the most part, so to us back then we were just recording another new metal album and we weren’t concerned with being the fastest or the heaviest, we just did our own thing and kept it as original as possible. Back then the main thing was to be real and not fake in what we were doing.
Was it intended to be the first Morbid Angel album? How do you know? Was this fact …inconvenient… for anyone?
It still amazes me that this is even questionable, but here is the thing, we were offered a RECORD CONTRACT to record an ALBUM under the name MORBID ANGEL by Goreque Records, a label owned by David Vincent and his partner Mark Anderson. We signed the contract and Bill Metoyer of Metal Blade producer/engineer that recorded and mixed more albums than I can even think of, was hired to engineer the album.
So Goreque Records rented us a UHaul truck and we packed up our gear and went to a studio in Charlotte, North Carolina. We were furnished with hotel rooms and I met David Vincent and Mark Anderson for the first time face to face and the next day we started to record the album, after about 5 or 6 days there we were finished with the recording and David Vincent sent all of us but Trey back to Tampa and kept Trey there by himself for the mixdown, little did the rest of us know that the whole time David Vincent was really brainwashing Trey and telling him how bad the album was and that he should quit the band and come join his band. When Trey came back from the mixing, he acted like a completely different person and everything went downhill from there.
What was the reaction to its release at the time (1986) and five years later in 1991?
Well that is the thing, the album never got released because I ended up catching Trey with my girlfriend and I beat him up for it and that was the end of me being in Morbid Angel because Trey and Richard moved from Tampa to Charlotte and did get in a band with David and his drummer Wayne Hartsell. I know that John Ortega had a copy of a rough mix that we had at the point that we all left to go back to Tampa, so when Trey got back he said that David Vincent told him that the bass playing was so bad on the album that we had to fire John Ortega if we wanted the album to still come out on his label and replace him with Sterling Scarborough, we didn’t even know who Sterling was, but again it was David’s idea for us to replace Johnny with Sterling, so Trey did it and the band only lasted a couple months once this happened.
When [AOD] came out in 1991 I think it confused a lot of people as to what it was because there was no information or pictures as to who was actually playing on the album, except for a couple of lines in the front right corner of the cover that said it was AN ALBUM that was recorded in 1986, but never released, so even on the Earache version it says that it was an unreleased album, not a demo, it just also didn’t give any info on who was on it!
When did Morbid Angel decide to record Altars of Madness (referred to as AOM), and what were the changes between songs on that album and AOD?
I guess about two years later, so they had two years to actually work on most of those same songs and make them tighter and faster, they only changed a few words here and there to most of them and a lot of the drum parts were similar only faster.
When Earache released AOD, did they make any changes to the original recording?
I really don’t think they did, of course it never really got released back in 1986, so there is nothing to compare it to except the rough mix that John Ortega had and released as a bootleg.
Who is Sterling von Scarborough?
John Sterling Scarborough was his real name, but he went by Sterling Von Scarborough. He was a bass player from Atlanta that had a band called Incubus and David Vincent knew him and told Trey that we had to replace John Ortega, so he recommended Sterling and so Sterling came to Tampa and tried out for us and became our bass player. He was never on the AOD recording and he joined the band after we recorded the AOD album. We only did one live show with him at a place called The Volley Club in 1986 and Ammon (now Deicide) opened for us that night. Unfortunately that show was never recorded and it was the last show I ever played with Morbid Angel as well.
Why do you think Earache released AOD in 1991, five years after it was originally recorded? Why do you think they chose to claim AOM as the first album instead of AOD?
From what I heard was that they released AOD in 1991 to stop all the bootleg versions of it that were being made, from that one tape that Ortega had, all the bootlegs of it were made from that, so generation after generation they got sounding worse and worse. Earache and David and Trey made a deal to release the AOD album because David had the master reels, so he sold them to Earache and they gave Trey some money as well and they released it to stop the bootlegging.
Funny thing was I was on Earache Records at the time in Nocturnus and they never even told me that they were putting it out, I didn’t even find out about it until after it was already out and in the stores. That album has, guitar, bass, drums and vocals and I am doing 2 of those 4 things and I was never even told that it was gonna be released!
Did Morbid Angel take a different compositional (choice of notes, not production or vocals) direction with AOM versus AOD? Why did they do that? What did the original direction offer that the new one did not?
Well it was a couple years later that they had quite a bit of time to work on those songs and a few more and with everything but the guitar being new, of course it was going to have a new and different sound, especially when you change vocalists. And if you notice, David tries to sing a lot more like me, but he gave that up and went for a completely different style on Blessed Are The Sick. They also had a big budget and recorded the album in Morrisound which is a studio known for Metal, that studio that we recorded AOD in was actually some kind of a country music recording studio, so the guys that ran that place had never even had any type of metal band even in there before, so of course you are gonna have a huge difference in the production because of those things alone.
Rumor has it that you formed a band named “Ice” with Trey Azagthoth, pre-Morbid Angel. Wow… a moment in death metal history! What did you want to do with that band, and what was inspiring you at that moment?
Trey and I met in high school back in 1981 and I even remember his mom buying him his first guitar, a wood colored Gibson SG and we started jamming together in my mom’s back room of my house, so we put a little high school band together and even played the high school talent show. It was literally the beginning of what would become Morbid Angel.
I find that musical “inspiration” extends beyond other albums, but includes them. Were there any non‐musical experiences, books, ideas, plays, movies, thoughts, etc. that influenced you, and how did they parallel what you found in the music that influenced you?
Both Trey and I were into the occult, so when he moved into my area of Tampa and started going to school at my school and we met and started talking about what we were both into and we both were musicians that liked the occult and most especially we were both into a book called The Necronomicon and we really believed every bit of that book was true and real, so we decide to put a band together that was based on music that would please these Sumerian Gods that were in The Necronomicon. We were totally serious about what we were doing and the whole purpose of the band was to make music that would bring forth these Ancient Ones back to the Earth.
Did you and other members of Morbid Angel meet in high school, as is the rumor? Where was that? What was it like (hell?) and how did that help you bond?
It was only Trey and I as far as that ended up in Morbid Angel that knew each other in high school. Morbid Angel itself started around 1984 with me, Trey and Dallas Ward on bass.
The High School we went to was called HB Plant High school and it still is in South Tampa, there was an area where all the cool cigarette smokers and hippy type people hung out at the high school called The Alley and everyone would hang out there before school and at lunch and we met there and would always talk about music and The Necronomicon.
As “Ice,” what kind of material did you play? What songs did you cover? How did they mold your style? What was your practice schedule like? Did this influence how Morbid Angel did things later?
We really only played cover songs at first, like Judas Priest and Scorpions and Black Sabbath, because there was no Slayer or Celtic Frost or even Hellhammer yet back then. We did start messing around with some original stuff, but when I graduated from high school, Trey moved again at that time to the North end of Tampa, so for probably a good 6 months I didn’t even see him, so I started jamming with some other guys playing metal covers and Trey met Dallas and Charles, a singer and they had a drummer that was older than all of them and he lived in another town north of Tampa and he only came into town on some weekends to jam with them, so when I started talking to Trey again I decided to quit the cover band and start playing with Trey and these new guys Dallas and Charles and they already had a name for the band and it was called Death Watch. The singer got arrested and went to jail, so that is when we became a three-piece and Dallas was singing and we called the band Heretic, but we quickly found out that there was already another Heretic, so that’s when we finally became Morbid Angel.
How do you conceptualize death metal? Was progressive rock an influence? What about classical or jazz?
I don’t really think most of the music I have done was only considered to be death metal, because it had a lot of different elements to it, especially with Nocturnus. But I would say that death metal is a very heavy, fast and aggressive type of music with lyrics mainly focused on death, gore and a lot of anti-Christian themes. For me progressive rock has always been an influence, I really liked Rush when I was in high school and they were about as progressive as you could get back then. I also liked classical because I had been in the school band, from grades 6-‐10 playing percussion, so I learned to play all kinds of percussion like tympanis and bells playing classical and marching band music. I never really got into the jazz style of music, although I wish I had now, because jazz has some of the most amazing drummers and really off timing drum parts.
Your musical style is both highly proficient and idiosyncratic. How did you learn to play? What deepened your understanding of music? How important was the rising death metal scene in changing how you understood music?
It started even before that though because my mom had a 70s rock band that she sang for and they used to practice in the same back room that Trey and I ended up practicing in and I was only about 9 or 10, so I used to sit back there and watch them rehearse and I always liked watching the drummer play the most, so when they offered band when I got in 6th grade I wanted to take the drums of course!
Playing that style of music like marching band and classical stuff and also seeing my mom play in a band really gave me the early understanding of what it was like to play music and be in a band. I was into bands like Led Zeppelin and Styx when I first started and then I got into heavier stuff like Black Sabbath and Deep Purple and then Judas Priest and Iron Maiden and from there I discovered Slayer, Venom Mercyful Fate, Hellhammer and I wanted to be in a band like that, but I also wanted to be different, I have never been into copying anyones style and being like someone else, so I guess why even today I still kind of just do my own thing whether it makes money or not has never been a concern to me, I only play music because I get enjoyment out of it and if other people like what I do, then that is awesome to me!
How was AOD recorded? It sounds rough but preserves the texture of the instruments, instead of trading detail for loudness and polished sound like AOM. What made you choose to record it this way?
Back when we recorded AOD in 1986, we really didn’t know much about recording or what equipment was best for recording, so even though we went into a real professional 24 track studio, we still weren’t that prepared to do a well polished album. I had only been singing a couple months and some of the songs were just put together and we were also under a time constraint because we were in another state recording in an unfamiliar place and we only had so much studio time to get it all done.
If we had better equipment and more knowledge on recording, it probably would have sounded much better, but we were just a bunch of crazy kids with a record contract! I was also never included in the mixdown of the music, so all I got to hear was pretty much the raw unmixed tracks until Trey came back with the album mixed and finished. At least the album has a certain energy to it that was still able to come through, even with all the problems that we did have.
Can you tell us about your current projects, such as (but not limited to!) Afer Death 666? How are these efforts different from typical death metal, AOD and AOM? If people want to find out more about what you’re up to these days, where should they go?
Right now I have 2 bands with the same members in both bands, one is Nocturnus AD, which is a continuation of what I wanted to do with Nocturnus after we recorded The Key in 1990, it is much more technical sci-fi stuff than what is on AOD and it has keyboards and it is tuned in E-flat which is what Nocturnus was tuned in back in 1987‐1992 and the other band is just called After Death and as I mentioned it does have the same members, but After Death is a little heavier on the occult side of things and the music is less technical and more atmospheric and tuned in D.
The thing I keep up with most is my Facebook page, which is just under Mike Browning and it has the most up to date info on it, but we also have Facebook pages for Nocturnus AD and After Death and we also have a website www.afterdeath666.com , which has info for both bands on the site.
An interesting project emerging from the murky Texas underworld, Lech makes music of nearly pure noise and calls it “doom music” rather than a form of metal, but its similarities to metal (as well as electro-acoustic and other forms) cannot be denied. After reviewing the first album from this project, we wanted to hear more and were fortunate to get in a few words with Lech.
Who “is” Lech? Can you tell us band members, your history in music outside of Lech, and how you came together to form Lech -or- decided to do so?
We come from various experimental band backgrounds.
After some time away from music we decided to get together, and put out an 8 track ep.
You describe your music as “doom music,” although others might say electro-acoustic, drone or organic ambient. What inspires your choice of words to describe the sounds that you organize into music?
Doom in our opinion is the fear of impending threat or danger, but it can be taken out of context when describing music genre.
A lot of people think of Black Sabbath as being the godfathers of doom, and no doubt Tony is the Riff master but we believe Screamin’ Jay Hawkins was the true originator.
Doom music describes us best.
Is there a connection to heavy metal, or underground metal, that informs how you compose? Or is this an entirely different style? Do you have influences from any of the following ex-metal projects: Lull, Neptune Towers, Final, K.K. Null, Suuri Shamaani?
Actually the influences of the 8 tracks we have out now come from dark classical. Requiem, dirge, and Walter/ Wendy Carlos.
How do you create your music? Are these found sounds, digital manipulated, distorted or some combination of the above?
Our stuff is all original recordings.
No sample, found, or computer manipulation sounds.
What you hear that doesn’t sound like guitars are in fact guitars. The beginning of Waterwalker is a guitar run through an Eventide Space.
The experimentation that went into our sound would have to be seen to be understood.
When you compose, what do you aim to create? Do you hope to provoke a reaction or recognition in the listener and if so, what is it?
The first thought is probably “what the hell is this?”
Which I think we accomplished without saying, and the other is the true dark side of music.
Music is sometimes misunderstood, and when it is questioned you are usually on the right track.
Is this self-titled release your first recordings? What others are present? Will this be released on a label, or is it already out?
Yes, there will be another album out this summer under the Forlorn Group Label.
Why did you choose the name “Lech”? Does it have a particular meaning?
The name LecH was chosen because of the many different connotations that go along with it.
From the perverse, to the river in Austria.
It’s the unknown.
What are your future activities — will there be touring, more recordings, promotion or collaborations?
As for touring, and live shows we can’t wait to get a road crew together, and smoke some amps.
If you could play live with any Texas metal bands, which ones would you choose?
One would be Ryan from Howling Void out of San Antonio, and the other would be Annie Clark from St Vincent out of Dallas. She’s not exactly metal, but like us she has her own sound, which we like.
If people are interested in your music, where should they go to find out more and stay in touch with Lech?
We are taking a different approach to getting our music heard, so the best way for now is links on our Youtube stuff through our PR guy Kyle Lee.
Other than that we are working on a website, and hope to get out on the road to play live.
We are taking it as it comes at this point.
The anti-censorship movement known as #metalgate has become a permanent and ongoing event. Like the social justice worker (SJW) antics it combats, it is both activism and activity for those looking to have fun and bash back the insanity of a dying civilization.
If it has a Command and Coordination HQ, it is arguably Scott Vogler’s MetalGate Band group on Facebook. Here, the latest idiocy of SJWs and lapdog media are listed and mocked, with quality arguments against them arising almost instantly and spreading to the far corners of the internet.
We were lucky enough to get a few minutes of Mr. Vogler’s time as he was poring over transcripts of the Judas Priest backward masking trial at the Library of Congress…
What is metalgate and why is it important?
#Metalgate was inspired by the events which sparked #GamerGate. Metalgate serves both musicians and fans alike by standing up for both of their rights to express themselves as they see fit. Like GamerGate, Metalgate seeks to be a watchdog for the press and point out flaws, corruption, and calls for censorship. Metalgate does not exist to silence anyone; on the contrary, it exist to give voice to both sides of any given debate on the topic of heavy metal whether it be a social justice warrior, Heavy Metal Enthusiast, Religious Fundamentalist, Heavy Metal Musicians, or anyone else who has something to say.
You started a group, “MetalGate Band,” on Facebook that now seems like a command and control nexus for metalgate activities. What do you do with this group?
MetalGate Band is meant to attract metal heads, gamers, musicians, artist, and anyone else who would stand up to would be censors. It’s also open for those who disagree with the premise of #metalgate. This is not meant to be a hugbox of any sort.
The group appears to be the only lively community representing the hash tag and we are nearing 300 members. Which as of now is a small but passionate group who for the most part are totally on board with the idea of standing up to the censors who in this case are labeled social justice warriors. There are other areas of concern as well and we address a multitude of topics every day. It’s actually been really educational for me personally.
I want to use this group to create the idea that art itself should never be censored. If you have a favorite form of entertainment or art you should preemptively stand up for it along with anyone else who would stand with you. This is not freedom of speech without scrutiny as I leave the door wide open for debate, challenges, and other perspectives.
What would you hope the average person would learn from metalgate?
I would want them to learn some history about Heavy Metal and the challenges the genre has faced over the years. I would want them to see how often Heavy Metal has faced down and defeated the censors over ridiculous things like sexual lyrics, satanic messages, violent themes, and other contrary philosophies expressed through the lens of Heavy Metal.
Most of all I would hope they would learn that their feelings do not trump the individual’s right to express themselves how ever they see fit.
Why should your average metalhead care about metalgate, or anything beyond their own purchasing? Do ideas have consequences?
To answer the first part of the question let’s go back to 1985 and look at the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) hearings where a group lead by Tipper Gore challenged the entire music industry by introducing plans to outright censor artists and musicians from creating material deemed too offensive for the general population. If it weren’t for Dee Snider, Frank Zappa, and John Denver we might very well be living in a world where all of your favorite bands might not exist.
To answer the second half of the question I would hope a simple “yes” would suffice, but I know it won’t so I’ll share an event that happened recently. Just a little over a month ago a group of radical feminists demanded that a band named “Black Pussy” be exiled from playing music. Their belief in feminism led them to threaten a venue with vandalism and violence if it allowed Black Pussy to play there which in turn caused Black Pussy to cancel the show. Black Pussy stood up for their freedom of expression by pointing out how foolishly misguided this group of radfems (“radical feminists”) are, got the name of their band out there, recruited more fans, and have earned the support of MetalGate even though they aren’t a metal band. Good for Black Pussy. Bad for Radical Feminism.
So I hope you see that on both sides there are consequences. Depending on how you interact with society those can be good or bad consequences. So keep that in mind whether or not you decide to join the metalgate community.
When you talked to Shayne Mathis for his hipster podcast, he seemed to be trying to make the point that racially exclusive language can be coercive, while you were pointing out that socially exclusive language like the term “racist” can be coercive. Did you find middle ground on that part of the debate?
(Shayne, if you’re reading this I just want you to realize that I don’t hate you, nor do I totally disagree with you. I don’t think you’re a complete moron or a waste of people’s time or anything like that. To answer the question though I would have to tell you that I don’t feel like we really reached a middle ground.)
It was a good conversation. I agree with Shayne that racial slurs can be extremely ignorant and are coercive attempts to silence people, but want to point out that “anti-racist” shaming is also a coercive attempt to silence people.
We should resist coercive attempts to silence people; this falls under free speech. I don’t agree with being a racist at all but I think it’s worth actually listening to racists in order to know why they feel the way they feel. The idea that we should just avoid it at all cost seems rather dangerous to me. I think the biggest reason Shayne and I disagree on the topic is that he doesn’t feel anyone other than white people can be racist where as I feel the term itself can be applied to anyone from any part of the world or racial background.
I think it’s a dangerous precedent to set that only a certain group of people can be criticized for their racism while others get a free pass to be as racist as they want to be. The middle ground is pretty far away because of this disagreement and I would hope we could bridge that gap as all of this continues.
Do you think racism exists, and does the term “racist” have any meaning, or is it yet another politically manipulative term for someone who has noticed what our leaders would prefer they do not notice? (And if so, what is being noticed?)
Yes, I think racism exists and yes the term “racist” has a meaning but it also serves as a politically manipulative term, just as any word can take on that role over time.
Honestly, who knows what they’re really hiding? Maybe just the fact that they themselves have their own issues with bigotry and are projecting it on to others. Maybe there are more insidious things and skeletons people hide with that word and use it to shoo away those who know better but in that extreme it probably wouldn’t be quite so easy to stop someone from exposing you if they had real evidence. I think the term or any term for that matter can be used to socially condition a general response out of the masses.
We’ve seen this happen before through marketing, government propaganda, movies, songs, etc. I don’t think the lesson here is whether or not people use “name calling” to hide something and dismiss other perspectives. The lesson here is how you deal with such a turn of events. When someone calls you a really mean name for obvious political reasons don’t let the power of that word frighten you from standing for your principles. What they really want is for you to sit down, shut up, and capitulate. It’s a last ditch effort to silence an already pretty silent majority from pursuing any kind of “justice” that would come swiftly as a result of a big enough information leak.
Can you tell us a bit of your own background in metal? Are you also involved in gaming?
I recall hearing Metallica quite a lot in my early years I finally became a fan of heavy music (not heavy metal) the very first time I saw Tool’s video for their song “Sober.” It wasn’t until #metalgate though that I really took a dive into heavy metal and the history lesson that comes with it. It’s such a vast genre of music and have had to cram it all in by using Spotify and listen to as much as possible to and from work every day.
In just a matter of months I went from a progrock/progmetal/desertrock kind of guy to a mad man trying to listen to as much heavy metal as humanly possible spanning all the subgenres, generations, and styles of metal and I’m still not even close to having a good grip on reality when it comes to “Heavy Metal” but it’s been well worth it to me and will continue to learn because I just fucking enjoy it!
As far as gaming goes my earliest memory is Super Mario Bros, Kid Nikki, Zelda, Final Fantasy, and others on NES. That was on my sister’s console however so I can’t really say I was into it as much as I would be later. My very first console was a Super SNES with Super Mario World, Starfox, Chrono Trigger, Zelda 3: A Link to the Past, Final Fantasy, etc, etc.
I currently still mostly play retro games; if not I turn on my Xbox 360. I am disappointed with the direction of the video games industry. For multiple reasons, one of which sparked #Gamergate and in turn #metalgate, but other reasons as well. I don’t like to feel like I’m just playing a movie. So many games today are just that. While it looks impressive it doesn’t feel anything like a “video game” to me. I fully support #GamerGate for these reasons. I hope it sparks developers to start being more innovative and play to the strengths of their audience rather than for mass appeal.
I guess this is a question I wish someone would answer, because no one addresses it. If we have many different groups in our society, of different types (religion, race, sexual orientation, etc), and each group is offended by at least one things usually where it disagrees with another group how do we unite these groups into a society?
I would like to live in a world where no one bans anything no matter how offensive it is. I think we’re seeing the beginnings of a movement in this direction unfold over the last six months or so with things like #gamergate, #metalgate, and #comicsgate. It is not a conscious ideology so much as people just getting fed up with not being able to express themselves without some lunatic jumping down their throat with histrionic tirades. It has become a type of hobby to keep a watchful eye on the press, government, and radical groups and calling out bullshit as we see it hit the news. So for me right now the plan is to provide a platform for both sides of this argument to express their points.
I see this kind of attitude growing in light of the #gates spurring on people to stand up for the art and entertainment they love. I want to hear both sides but I am definitely in the camp that feel it’s important to take a firm stance against anyone demanding special rights, privileges, censorship, or other harmful precedents they propose. People do tend to selfsegregate but it’s not something I find to be particularly harmful. If people want to be left alone they can create that situation for themselves. People of all stripes should live the way they see fit and if that means staying in a community of people who are like you then by all means go for it.
On the other hand we’re free to criticize any community or group of people we see fit and they should be willing to stand up for themselves in light of that. This whole idea of “safe spaces” and “censorship” to me is a thousand times more harmful than any harsh criticism, ignorant slurs, or bigotry that might come out. So while I support the right to remain silent I also see that it’s important to speak up at times and not run away from criticism.
What is an “SJW,” how do I recognize one, and what is the purpose of SJW’s?
A “Social Justice Warrior” (aka SJW) is someone who concerns themselves in meddling with the affairs of different groups. It is someone who has taken on an extremely left wing world view point and will often be just as over the top with their beliefs as a fundamentalist Christian or Muslim. You can recognize them by their most obvious attribute, histrionics. If you dare mention a word about something they take personally you will see a display unlike any other. I would go so far as to say they do even crazier things than religious people do because SJWs claim to be all about science, atheism, facts, and logic but act out in such ways that contradict this precept.
You can find SJW’s hanging out at the mall, coffee shops, book stores, open mic nights, and on the internet (especially Tumblr). If you still haven’t a clue on where to look for an SJW go look at the #Gamergate hashtag on Twitter. The people who are antigamergate are almost exclusively SJWs. Also visit Tumblr and just search the term Social Justice Warrior. There you will find them waxing dramatically about how oppressive everything is. I see SJWs as, for the most part, cattle for more intelligent people to take advantage of. I believe that the more prominent SJW figureheads are not as stupid as they appear and realize just how easily lead astray people are.
To ask their purpose depends on which kind of SJW you’re talking about. Some of them exploit others, while others truly believe in their nonsense. Over all I think their purpose is to get away with as much of the same things they complain about all the time. They will criticize one person while running away from criticism themselves. This is a hallmark of social justice warriors. They want to manipulate society into guilt and shame and reap the rewards by coercing more and more power, influence, and money out of society all while having a free pass to be as bigoted as they want to be because they’re special.
David Draiman (vocalist of numetal band Disturbed) raised an interesting point the other day. He was disturbed that GamerGate opposes censorship, but hadn’t spoken out against antiSemitism. Some said that gameragate should support free speech entirely, while others thought it should be against any “bad” speech like racism or antiSemitism if it was legitimately so. What’s your take?
David brings up a good point. If you’re going to stand against “bad language” then you have to be willing to stand against all of it. I would say however that there should be unfettered free speech. This goes back to what I said about conflict avoidance and how it’s actually more detrimental than the initial slur. You can be against the slur without being for censorship of any kind.
No one ever has all the answers and groups like Gamergate have a huge and diverse crowd who seem, to me at least, to support this notion of unfettered free speech and a willingness to address these kinds of concerns in a logical way without demanding silence from detractors. To me this is a step in the right direction. The opposite view would be to either ignore the bigots and never address the issue, or try to censor them without considering what they are trying to say. I think that’s the wrong way to look at it.
What’s next for metalgate? Do you hope it will leave lasting change, stay active as an ongoing concern, or get bigger, and lead to an ultimate showdown between SJWs and metalheads?
It’s truly difficult to say what’s next for #metalgate. I plan on continuing on with this by creating new content on YouTube, creating a WordPress site specifically for metalgate, and constantly signal boosting content creators on the Facebook page. Right now it’s all about cultivating a healthy, driven, and passionate community.
I would love to see it leave a lasting change in the landscape of heavy metal. I see that change not so much as a “change” but a reinvigoration of the kind of unfettered desire to express oneself without apology or compromise. I think the reason metalgate continues despite a slow growth and only a handful of passionate metal heads is because it represents something that’s always been a part of Metal: the desire to express yourself how ever you see fit and encouraging others to do the same even if you flat out disagree with them.
If we’re talking about real wishes, someday I’d like to put on a music festival. At this giant three-day event, there would be a showdown between the different forces competing for control of metal. The two biggest contenders would be mainstream metal and underground metal, SJWs and Metalheads if you will. I would invite all of the mainstream metal bands, underground metal bands, Christian bands and others to try to outperform one another. Imagine the lengths at which some artists would go to in order to leave the impression that what they are playing is METAL and what others are playing is merely rock and roll. That is the sort of attitude and competition that made early British bands, thrash bands, and black metal bands famous. The will to push the envelope of society in order to be the heaviest, most brutal, most technically gifted, most worshiped metal acts in the world.
I believe this has the potential to reinvigorate heavy metal if the right voices are lent to it and the right minds come together to make this leave a lasting impression on the history of heavy metal. Until then, I will just continue managing the Facebook group and welcome all comers to throw their name in the hat. Finally, I’m just an average guy on the internet with a full time job and starting out a family. If you are in the metal industry and you feel the way I and others do about this please give your voice, resources, and talent to it and shake things up. You could be the one to take this from an internet argument to the headlines as you make waves in the music industry by redefining heavy metal.
Thank you, Scott, for taking the time to do this somewhat prolonged and specific interview.
Scott and Jim “Kamikaze” Thompson have started a talk radio style podcast-ish video series in which they analyze the issues of the day according to #metalgate and #gamergate. Session One begins below.
As society circles the drain, some notice in art, music, literature — and video games. Increasingly misanthropic and world-cynical games like Hatred show us the direction things are going and possibly, give us a reason to fight back. Destructive Creations CEO and lead developer Jarosław Zieliński was kind enough to give us a few minutes to discuss this antisocial video game and its connection to evil metal…
What made you decide that the market was ready for an “un-PC” game about slaughtering other people seemingly at random?
I didn’t know if it was ready, actually. But observing all the shitstorm around since our reveal trailer, I think the market is ready. We’re small team from the middle of nowhere and now everywhere you have news about our game. Even Forbes! We don’t care about all the hate that is thrown in our direction. People who would like to play this title, now recognize it.
How much was this influenced by 1998’s Postal, a game with a similar theme? Any other game influences?
It was very influenced, obviously. There are many other games we played for entire life and many of them had influence for our creation, but the main inspiration is the first Postal game.
I noticed you’re a Black Witchery fan from the t-shirt in the Destructive Creations team photo. Are you the only metalhead on staff? How much did metal influence your choice of this career path?
I don’t like the “metalhead” word. I don’t listen to “metal”; I listen to some of its genres while I actually hate the others. I don’t really think there’s a link between living with this music and working on video games. Actually modding games was first in my life, since I got the first Wolfenstein 3D editor. I was like seven years old at the time. And I really doubt that making games influenced what music I listen to.
Can you name some death/black/etc metal favorites you have?
Umm, that would be a shitload of bands. I’m a lot into stuff like Revenge, Truppensturm, Bestial Raids, Black Witchery, Teitanblood, Archgoat, Wrathprayer, Goatpenis, Inquisition, Bestial Mockery, Dead Congregation, Ad Hominem, Nocturnal Graves, Goat Semen, Demonomancy etc. The list is in random order, from the top of my head, but I do have quite a spread in my taste, from Disgorge or Devourment to Enthroned or Urgehal, if you know what I mean. But it’s all in the black-death line. Someone may say that it’s dull to stick only to these genres, but I would tell him to fuck off, I don’t need more (it doesn’t mean I didn’t ever try). There’s still plenty of bands to discover.
Which genres do you dislike?
Actually: all the others. I respect thrash metal, for example, but I don’t listen to it, because I don’t like it. And I really don’t understand how someone can listen to heavy metal stuff like King Diamond or Manowar, it fucking hurts my ears, the music is cheerful and vocals sounds gay. Well, let’s say I like “evil” metal, not “cool” metal, I hope you get it. If it’s a low-distorted blastbeating about satanic tanks crushing graves of christians and hordes of MG42-armed hellspawns spreading genocide then it’s most likely my taste. :)
Why do you think “Hatred” upsets people? Is it similar to the reasons death metal and black metal at least used to upset people?
No, I don’t think so. I think metal used to upset people because they don’t understand the music itself, rather than lyrical themes. Hatred is making people crazy, because of its context, not because its shell. If we were to make the same game but with any other plot, they would accept it with no problems.
Why are people drawn to dark themes like in metal and video games? Do you think that this attraction will mean that Hatred will become a household name?
Because every one of us has some side of evil nature deeply-rooted inside. Some of us like to get along with the dark side, which is why brutal music sometimes makes the evil grin on your face or you get chills. I want the same player’s reaction while playing Hatred. I have no idea whether it will become a household name.
Can you tell us about yourself, when you got into metal, and how you ended up becoming a video game developer?
I don’t really feel like talking about myself, I have a lot of something you might call “underground nature.” Most parts of my life were strongly tied with death/black metal and still are, but I don’t like connecting it with my job publicly. My engagement with the metal scene is my private thing, while making games is my occupation (and a hobby too). You know, I’ve comercialized one of two of my biggest passions, and I will never do the same with remaining one.
For more information on Hatred, visit the Destructive Creations web site.
Back in the hazy 1990s, many of us encountered a band from Poland who in the wake of Vader had been signed to Nuclear Blast and distributed in the United States. This band was Betrayer and the album Calamity, a work of high-speed metal in the Slayer-influenced style of Vader but also going in its own direction including a prescient use of melody, anticipating where death metal would go in the next decade. After two decades, Betrayer has returned with a split 7″ that is turning some heads for its aggressive integration of old school speed metal and death metal styles. We were fortunate to be able to sit down with mastermind Berial over a cup of hot blood and discuss Betrayer and the exciting possibility of new material…
When was Betrayer formed? How many demos did you put out? How did you get signed to Nuclear Blast?
Betrayer was formed in 1989 as a thrash metal quartet and as such, in 1990, recorded its first demo “Forbidden Personality.”
The same year there was a change in the line-up. I joined the band as a new bass guitar player shortly after splitting with my previous band Slaughter. I also took over the space behind a microphone. Since then Betrayer started drifting towards stronger and more extreme sounds. That was a turning-point and the beginning of a new era for the band.
Consequently in 1991 Betrayer released their second demo “Necronomical Exmortis”. It happened to be the real killer those days. One of the biggest metal magazines of that time in Poland, Thrash’em All,ranked it second in the category “Album of the Year.” Betrayer hit #4 in “Band of the Year” category. To this day the release is regarded as one of the milestones for Polish death metal music. This is how, I guess, we got signed to Nuclear Blast… Hard work, great gigs, loads of enthusiasm and energy with remarkable music art on top…
Where was “Calamity” recorded, and were these new songs or songs from the demos? What were your musical influences at the time?
Our debut full album Calamity was recorded at Modern Sound Studio in Gdynia, Poland. It was the best option at that time. Really modern and open for new trends in music so most of the reputable bands in Poland cooperated with them. “Necronomical Exmortis” was made in CCS Studio in Warsaw, which was the choice of many Polish stars, not only those in the metal stream. That was the first experience of working with a professional studio and the first official release for Betrayer. “Forbidden Personality” was different, more of amateur and self-made production.
Influences? Everyone had their own and not all were strictly death metal ones. All of them put together, however, made us what we happened to be…
Was it difficult to record and release at that time, just a few years after the political changes in Poland?
I don’t know if that was more difficult than today. I do not even know if political changes had anything to do with those difficulties. Those were different times, times of rebellion and discovering new options and possibilities. Metal underground, and actually all music underground in general, was strong and buoyant in Poland at that time. With Calamity which turned to be a milestone in Polish death metal history, were lucky to be on the top of the ladder, arm in arm with another polish legend, Vader, when the changes turned to be in favor of the musical revolution which opened new horizons and roads of going worldwide.
Finally we were able to spread the power of Polish extreme music all over the world. This also gave us the opportunity to share stages with bands like Morbid Angel, Deicide, Cannibal Corpse, Carcass, Death and too many others to count… Fantastic times!!!
Has Betrayer been on hold since that time, and are there are any other recordings people outside of Poland have missed out on?
We split up in 1994 shortly after releasing our debut album. It was nothing but a huge disappointment for us and the crowd of metalheads devoted to Betrayer. Only years later we learned that Betrayer had been well noticed in so many corners of the world. Instead of going on tour promoting such a great album as Calamity really was and pushing forward, we fucked it up. What a waste… Personal shit, you know… but it’s too late to moan now, isn’t it? I was so pissed off and consequently totally dispirited that I decided to stay away from the stage. In 2012, after nearly eighteen years of non-existence, demons of my inner self decided to remind me who I am and what I live for. There was no other option… Betrayer had to come back to life… and no, you didn’t miss any new recordings, except the split you know of.
You recently released a split with Neolith. What was it like recording this? Why release now?
From the very beginning we didn’t want to built our resurrection on the old stuff so instead of brushing up the songs from the past we decided to concentrate on making completely new material and release a new album. We didn’t want to, however, wait too long to announce to the world that we are back on the road. That’s why we decided to release one of the new tracks on the split. Same was with live appeariances. Initially we planned to do so after releasing the new album but for aforementioned reasons as well as unstoppable craving for going onstage we had to change the assumptions. In summer 2013, Betrayer appeared at Ragnarock Open Air Festival in Germany followed by a series of gigs around Poland. Obviously next to the new songs we performed some of the old ones too. The feedback was so great that in 2014 we were invited to play as a main support for a death metal legend Obituary in the only concert in Poland. Really good feeling and immense motivation, you know.
The Betrayer track on the Neolith split, “Beware,” shows more of an aggressive style and speed metal influence, with less death metal of the fast strumming variety. What motivated this change? Does this show a new direction in your music?
I wouldn’t say that there is a distinct change in Betrayer’s music in general. “Beware” is a song I would put somewhere between Calamity and the earlier “Necronomical Exmortis” demo, and I agree it’s kinda melodic at moments. The split features “Beware” just because this was the only song that we had ready to go at time the opportunity to release came. You might notice that it was not even finally mastered. Be forewarned that this song does not give justice to the whole new stuff …so do not be misled! Betrayer definitely stayed faithful to the death metal genre! You will see it yourself soon!
The question everyone is dying to know… (a) Will there be another Betrayer album? (b) are there any negotiations to re-release Calamity so a new generation can discover it?
Sure it will! I’m proud to announce that our new album Infernum In Terra will be released on March 18th, 2015! The music was mastered in Hertz Studio which cooperated with such bands as Vader, Behemoth, Decapitated or Hate in the past… and I tell you, this is a real good piece of death metal, no doubt about it! We are exteremely satisfied and hope you will be too… and yes, Calamity will also be re-released, just a little bit later! Sounds good, doesn’t it? It looks like it’s gonna be a good year for Betrayer.
How do you describe the music of Betrayer? When you write music, what ideas do you aim for?
Well, it’s the same old Betrayer I reckon. Maybe a bit heavier but still drifting on the old school death metal wave. This is deeply rooted in our mentality and our hearts and truly defines the way we live, think, feel and create at the moment.
Ideas? Hmm, pretty same as before. Music, you know, is the way to express yourself with some kind of ecstasy which you try to give away and infect others with it. When it comes to lyrics and the message, it’s kind of my personal thoughts and feelings about the systems that our existence is implicated in. Especially the religious one, full of contradictions and hypocrisy… you might say “nothing new” but in that context Polish society is deeply premised on that. All this blind glorification of the institution of the Catholic Church as well as other creeds makes me sick and contemptuous. This is what I mainly speak out against.
It seems that everyone knows Poland these days with Vader, Graveland and Behemoth having become popular. What else are we missing out on? You can include both musical and non-musical items!
Oh,yes… Vader… indisputable pillar of the Polish death metal scene! I happened to be the part of the crew for a short period of time back in the 90s. Behemoth… yes, no doubt about it… true gods on the firmament of black metal music world! I’m not too familiar with Graveland, but talking about the extreme music stuff you missed out at least astonishing Decapitated to start with or Hate…
How should people learn more about Betrayer and your own personal (Berial) musical projects? Where do they go to hear the music and keep track of news from the band?
Definitely by reaching our albums and staying tuned to all oncoming news on our web page or facebook profile. There are no other projects in my life at the moment. Betrayer is the only and one that gives me strength and makes me survive in this world of misery.
I’m pleased to hear that in the past we were noticed and are still remembered in the United States with the real hope that we will keep it this way and be honoured to visit your vast lands in future!
Some time ago, musicians from the Chicago area gathered to form a tribute to Led Zeppelin. Instead of creating a new band to imitate the sound, they created a stage show called “Led Zeppelin 2” and tour with it playing the songs of classic Led Zeppelin, which along with the UK heavy guitar rock (The Who, Cream, The Kinks) who predated it was an influence on the early days of metal both through progressive bands like King Crimson and Jethro Tull, and directly on Black Sabbath, a contemporary.
Vocalist Bruce Lamont, who also performs with Corrections House and Yakuza, was kind enough to give us some time to ask him questions about his musical past and the influence Led Zeppelin had and continues to have on heavy metal and heavy music in general. Take it away, Bruce…
You’re currently touring with Led Zeppelin 2. How’s that going? Is this harder than touring with Yakuza, Corrections House, Bloodiest or any of the other bands you’ve been in? What’s different?
Led Zeppelin 2 is a more of a musical theater production: a stage show with costumes, lighting and musical actors. It’s not harder than touring with the other bands, just different. So far 2015 has been going well for the Zep2 show. We have had some good crowds and folks seem to be enjoying themselves.
You’re known for a modern metal background and yet here you are lending your talents to 1970s songs. Have Led Zeppelin always been an influence for you? How did that influence show up in your music?
Led Zeppelin has been in and out of my life since the days of WLS radio here in Chicago. They played Zep tunes long before I even knew who Led Zeppelin was. As far as a creative influence, I appreciate all the musical corners they have touched. From blistering hard rock, to blues-influenced songs, to the acoustic numbers and even dabbling in synth music in the later years. The willingness to push themselves to the extent they did is what I took from them.
In your view, what musical style or genre are bands like Yakuza and Corrections House? What would you say were the primary musical influences on those bands? Do you think they’re closer to metal or hardcore?
I am never one to settle comfortably into any type of label when describing the music from any of the bands i play in. Is their some metal elements to both bands mentioned? Yes. Hardcore? Somewhat. But also many other definable and indefinable sounds come to mind.
What do you think has changed in metal, on a musical and not aesthetic (production, vocal tone, guitar sound, distortion type) level, since the 1970s? Since the early 1990s?
Musically, 70s metal was more recognizably derived from, say, electric blues or the pop rock n roll formula with a little touch of the psychedelic (with just had a harder, heavier edge). This evolved rather quickly even by the end of the 70s with punk rock coming at the same time the name of the game became “speed.” This evolution excelled rapidly through the 1980s.
By the 90s that blues structure from the early 70s could barely be heard, but the speed, intensity and the heavy went into the most extreme ether. I mean compare Suffocation to Budgie. Wow, what a leap ha! As far as modern metal goes, many of the sub-genres that were firmly established in the 90s still exist (even some from the 70s have been brought back around and there are hybrids of both etc., etc.) and by all indications we are at a time where the lines are being blurred now more than ever.
Bands today are bringing in elements from all over the sonic map, keeping the heavy but embracing styles and sounds generally found outside of the metal world and from that many bands have a more realized sound that’s all their own. I like it.
How did you get into music, and what inspired you to take the path that led to Yakuza and Corrections House? Does this inspiration also lead to being in Led Zeppelin 2?
In a nutshell…I listened to the radio quite a bit as a young kid (as I mentioned Zeppelin was one of my favorites). I asked my mother for a guitar but instead was enrolled in school music programs. I first played the viola, then started on the tenor saxophone at age 9. I became a metal junkie in my early teens; got a guitar and played a bit. I started working at an independent record store during my junior year of high school. This opened my world up and I began listening to all sorts of music.
After high school I started playing in bands. In the mid 90s I picked the saxophone back up and went to a ton of jazz/improvisational shows at the Empty Bottle in Chicago. At the same time I heard bands like Neurosis and Meshuggah and wanted to get into something that was heavy but had room to reach beyond the heavy. I joined Yakuza in 2000. Within a year I played my first show with what would become Led Zeppelin 2. There ya have it. Full Circle.
How was the Houston show? I’m told Houston is a flat, hot, humid city filled with Californians who think the houses are cheap and are willing to overlook the roaches, snakes and mosquitoes for 2300 calorie diner plates. What as your impression of Houston?
Houston is huge for us. It was one of the first places we played outside of Chicago and has always been great. Killer crowds, killer energy. Gotta love that.
Back in 2012, I conducted an interview with one of the new “morbid wave” death/black metal bands who focus on atmosphere instead of pure riff acrobatics and internal contrast. These bands, borrowing widely from Incantation and Blasphemy, create a rushing wave of darkness that drones into extended mood pieces immersing the listener in a hopeless morbidity. Guitarist A.V. answered my questions…
What was your primary goal since the beginning that you set out to emanate with Dead Congregation and how do you think the band stands compared to other contemporaries of this style? Do you think Dead Congregation has carved its mark in the underground as an entity to be reckoned with?
Our time has been extremely limited in the past couple of years so we don’t really do interviews anymore, this one is of the new exceptions. Our goal was will always be to feed the fire of creation we have in us as artists and channel all that inspiration in the shape of compositions and ultimately recordings. Once our songs are recorded the way we have conceived them then it’s out of our hands. We’re not after world domination and other vanity-driven goals. We’re not the ones who should say what makes us different from our peers but it definitely seems that we have a stronger following than most.
Your debut album Grave of the Archangels received quite a bit of attention from the underground/extreme metal community when it was released in 2008; how important was the distribution of the album and what are your thoughts on all the constructive feedback concerning it? I gather you must be more than content with the good promotion endowed by NWN?
In reality there was no promotion at all from either the band or the label. NWN has a strong name in the underground and many people follow what that label does but none of us have ever sent out any promos or placed adds on related press and such. Apart from some selective gigs that we do most of the attention we’ve received is gained by ‘word of mouth’ in the underground. I guess when the material is strong it will find its way to surface sooner or later. Although we were extremely confident about the quality of our recording we didn’t really expect to receive so much feedback and sell so many copies.
Before the debut, you released the mini-album called Purifying Consecrated Ground which was released under Konqueror Records. What can you tell us about this rather obscure label and how you got in contact with them? How many copies and formats were printed of this release and what are your feelings regarding it on the present day? Has the style changed much at all between the two releases?
Konqueror Records got in touch with us in regards to our previous band Nuclear Winter and they wanted to sign us for an album. We explained that Nuclear Winter was laid to rest and we had a new band working on new material and they trusted us enough to offer a deal without listening a demo from Dead Congregation. We will always be grateful to them for releasing the first ever Dead Congregation recording and meeting all our demands with success. After that initial version there have been a lot of re-releases: CASSETTE version (Nuclear Winter Records, 515 copies and counting), 10”MLP (Necrocosm Records, 666 copies), MCD Digipack (Enucleation Records, 1000 copies), 12”MLP (NWN!, 1000 copies), 12”MLP (NWN! tour edition, 250 copies), 12”MLP Picture Disc (NWN!, 200 copies), MCD re-release with altered design (Nuclear Winter Records, 500 copies). We’re still proud of it as a recording, looking back you always find things you could have done differently/better yet it still represents the band at that time and some of the compositions in there are of the strongest we’ve done, in my opinion. The style is the same, yet we took it a few steps further for the album in the sense that we have a more personal sound on the full length.
Music-wise, what are to you the most essential aspects for a death metal band? Some say it’s the rhythm of the guitars, some say it’s the drum beat, and others say it’s the vocals… Maybe it’s a bit of everything? How do you manage do create such a morose atmosphere with your music?
I think it’s the feeling and atmosphere above all. The same riff can sound completely different if you alter important factors such us sound, drumming, the way you hit the chords on the guitar and many more. But in the end it’s all about the atmosphere a recording creates, if it doesn’t ooze of death and morbidity then it shouldn’t be labeled as Death Metal simply because the vocals are distorted and the drums are fast.
Many say that black and death metal must remain as subversive as possible or else it loses touch with its primary essence; what are your thoughts on that? Would you consider a band a sellout if they signed to a big label like Nuclear Blast?
It’s hard to say because in the old days all bands were on major labels without compromising their integrity and some bands still manage to do it. It has to do with how focused you are and what your goals have been from the beginning as spoken earlier. If a band feels like a label is trying to make them deviate from their initial goal then it’s up to the band to decide if they want to stick with that label or not. Truth is that on big labels you get to have less artistic freedom and it’s one of the reasons why we’ve rejected all offers from big labels but I’ll never judge another band for wanting to get ‘big’ and sign to a big label. If that’s what they want it’s fine by me, they do their thing, we do our thing.
What inspired the name DEAD CONGREGATION? I think it articulates your music rather well.
Thank you, we think so too. It’s a song title from our previous band Nuclear Winter and it seemed very appropriate as the moniker of the new incarnation.
Just how important is artistic appeal for you? Does aesthetics play a big role in your music? If Black and Death Metal doesn’t classify as art, then what is it?
Aesthetics are very important as long as they serve a purpose. If they complement the album as a whole and work hand in hand with the music and lyrics then I’m definitely all for good artwork and design. The problem is that many bands focus on that too much and forget the essence which is music above all. They try to hide their mediocre albums behind fancy illustrations and 20-page booklets for the vinyl edition. Same goes for ‘die hard’ versions of albums by bands that can barely sell 300 copies of a release. So yes, in some cases it is important when it’s done by bands who actually have to offer something substantial but a dirty whore will always remain one even if you dress her up in the most expensive clothes if you know what I mean.
As a counterpoint to great aesthetics I have to mention albums like Deicide’s debut that were badly designed, yet that eliminated none of the greatness of the album after all.
What would be the perfect depiction for your sound and what would you like for the listener to feel while he/she is listening to your music?
There are no fancy terms to describe our music, it’s just darkened Death Metal the way we perceive it as true.
I’m curious about the split you did with Germany’s Hatespawn and how you got in contact with the band. What do you think about their demo, “Ascent From The Kingdom Below”?
Hmm, can’t remember if it was us who asked them to join us for the split release or the other way around. We definitely admire Hatespawn’s body of work collectively otherwise we’d never have agreed to do a split release with them.
How important is it for a band like yourself to do a split with bands with whom you share a common vision? I personally don’t think it would suite your band very well to do a split with an ordinary thrash or punk act. I mean, your music is dark and evokes an atmosphere of pure morbidity, thus I think its obligatory for a band of your nature to do a split with bands, who, more-or-less, have the same ideals as you; do you agree? I guess it’s a controversial subject to dive into.
As I said above, we do find it important that bands who are featured in split releases share common grounds in vision, ideology, aesthetics, etc. Diversity is definitely accepted on music itself, as long as there’s similar ideals behind both bands. For example we don’t sound anything like Teitanblood or Katharsis but we’d gladly do a split with those bands because we know they’re like-minded people and our general perception of death/black metal is very similar. The same goes for gigs, when we are asked to play live we always check if the other bands on the billing have similar values as us, at least the majority of them.
How has the current economic climate in your Country affected you personally and what do you think are the possibilities of the situation improving soon?
It affects everyone in Greece more or less but I can’t complain, I’m a fighter and I’ll always find a way to get by even under harder circumstances. I’m not too optimistic about the economy improving soon since we’re governed by idiots and incompetent politicians who don’t care about the country’s prosperity.
What would it really take for human beings to change or do you think we are incapable of such?
The human race is the definition of a parasite, especially in these days of materialistic values. The majority of people’s actions are driven by selfish intentions and very few see the big picture and how every action has a consequence that might back fire on you in the end. It will take some very dramatic change in our lives before we have our wake-up call and then it will be too late.
From one point of view that’s good because the weak will be weeded out, however leeches and parasites always have a way of surviving also so there’s no hope for mankind after all.
Which 5 albums would you consider as the pinnacle of death metal and why?
That’s very hard to limit to only 5 albums but some of the most important in the sense that they shaped entire scenes are:
- Morbid Angel – Abominations of Desolation / Altars of Madness
- Immolation – Dawn of Possession
- Death – Scream Bloody Gore
- Entombed / Nihilist – early material
- Malevolent Creation – The Ten Commandments (because it’s one of my fave albums of all time regardless of genres)
With which bands have you played live with, and what would you consider as one of your most worthwhile moments as far as playing live? Are there any interesting stories you can perhaps share with us? What about alcohol, does that play a factor at your shows or do you try to keep things as professional and tight as possible?
We have shared the stage with too many bands to be mentioned here but the truth is that personally I always enjoy it more when we play with buddies and allies of ours such as Grave Miasma, Cruciamentum, Drowned, Archgoat, Kaamos, Antaeus etc, than playing with bigger bands and/or big festivals. The atmosphere and vibes are a lot better when you play with like minded people as said before. A recent gig that was very close to perfect from all aspects was when we played with Sadistic Intent and Nocturnal Vomit some months ago.
We’re not heavy drinkers at all, we always have a few drinks but never to the point of being drunk out of our minds. It’s how we are as people and it doesn’t have to do with wanting to be ‘professional’ or ‘tight’.
Is there anything else you’d like to disclose before we close this interrogation? Maybe you can tell us what to expect from your death-coven in the future?
Our next album is entirely composed and we hope to record it on the early months of 2013, we just need to find some time between gigs and focus on that. We already recorded a 3-song demo in August and it sounds pretty massive without even mixing it so we’ll have a similar recording approach for the album which is basically: record everything as good as you can without correcting mistakes because you’re only human and you can’t fake to be something better than you are and most importantly IGNORE everything that the sound engineer says because he’s just a tool and his recommendations just slow you down and make you go in circles before you’ll end up in your initial approach anyway, haha.
All Hails, see you on the road sometime!