Adventurous metal site Metal Recusants published an interview with myself that hopefully will not bore any of you too much. Metal Recusants is one of the more interesting sites out there as you found out when you read our profile of Editor Dom and his team a few months back. Be sure to poke around for their commentary and reviews, interviews, and other forays into the world of extreme metal.
Massacre carved a place for themselves in the death metal community years ago and with their foundational From Beyond, an album of tremolo-picked columnar death metal with big fuzzy production at a time when many death metal bands were still trying to emulate the muted-picked speed metal of the previous era.
Over two decades later, Massacre returns with Back From Beyond which sees release on April 1, 2014 via Century Media records. We were fortunate to be able to grab a few words with bassist Terry Butler, whose work with Massacre, Death, Six Feet Under and other Florida death metal bands has made him a towering legend in the community.
You’re about to unleash a new work, Back From Beyond. Since the title effectively compares it to your breakthrough album From Beyond, can you tell us: how are these albums different in approach, in style and in production?
In the case of From Beyond, the songs had been written five years prior, so when we signed to Earache, we just jumped in the studio and recorded them. We tried to keep the production simple and raw. The approach for Back From Beyond was “let’s not rush and re-hash songs for a quick release.” We took our time with the songwriting and production. It’s been 22 years, why rush? The production is better on Back From Beyond. Tim Vasquez did a great job!
What do you think Back From Beyond is adding to death metal, twenty plus years past its inception?
We are just playing Death Metal the way we like it. Heavy riffs, catchy in your face and brutal. I like rhythms I can remember. As far as adding something new, no one is adding something new these days. It’s all been done. We are just doing what we do.
You released an EP, Condemned to the Shadows, in 2012. How different is that material from what we’ll hear on Back From Beyond?
It’s musically in the same vein. More of the same basically. We re-recorded the two tracks from that EP. They are sonically different and production-wise sound different.
Can you tell us how Massacre assembled? I know it pre-dated Death, but after Death fragmented the members came together for From Beyond. Can you connect those dots for us?
Bill Andrews formed Massacre in ’84. At that stage it was mostly covers. Kam [Lee] joined in ’85 and a three-song demo was released. Rick [Rozz] joined in ’86 and a four-song demo was released. In early ’87, Rick, Bill, and I joined Death. After four years in Death, Bill and I contacted Rick, and Massacre was back together. We signed to Earache and put out From Beyond and Inhuman Condition. After several tours the band split up again. Now 22 years later, we are back. That’s the gist of it. In a nutshell.
At the time when From Beyond came out, most of Florida death metal was focusing on blasting and choppier, more muted strum percussive riffing. Massacre went for the full on fast-tremolo strum and big fuzzy burly warm sound guitar production. What made you take this different path?
That’s the Massacre sound and philosophy. Rick was in Mantas in ’83 writing this way and in Death in ’84 and ’85 writing this way. He wrote most of the material on From Beyond. He wrote half of Leprosy. I co-wrote four songs on Spiritual Healing. So what I’m trying to say is: this is our style. The songs on From Beyond were written in ’86. No disrespect to blasting, but the Massacre sound was cemented years before.
Do you think your different path helped ‘From Beyond’ achieve the cult status it has among death metal devotees?
Yes, in a way. The band didn’t at the time, no, but we were influencing the likes of Napalm Death, Carcass etc. Joining Death, then coming back and putting out From Beyond only helped the status of Massacre. The whole time I was in Six Feet Under, people kept asking about Massacre. For the band to still be relevant in 2014 speaks volumes about the music!
Was Bill Andrews unable to make the reunion? Is he still into death metal at all?
Unfortunately… no. He doesn’t play anymore and doesn’t listen to Death Metal. I still talk to him regularly though. He lives in Japan now.
Rick Rozz has an entirely unique guitar style marked by, among other things, “whammy bar abuse.” What influenced this style, and are we still going to hear the torturing of whammy bars?
The whammy bar is still in effect and deadlier than ever ha-ha… He draws a lot of influence from K.K. Downing and Kerry King, as far as the whammy goes. I personally think it’s a lost art these days.
What do you think determines whether a band is death metal or not? Is death metal the same genre it was back in 1992, or has it changed?
I think it’s mix of music and vocals. Obviously the first thing is vocals. If you put opera vocals over Cannibal Corpse songs it’s not Death Metal, and if you put Cannibal Corpse vocals over Journey songs it’s not Death Metal. Darker, heavier music with low brutal vocals is the formula for Death Metal. I believe Death Metal has changed since ’92, a bit. There are more off-shoots, such as Black Metal, Crust, and Grind, these days. I think Death Metal back then was more about riffs and grooves; now it’s about speed and fashion.
About what mix of old/new songs do you think you’ll play on tour? How are you preparing for the tour?
The mix will be about 50/50. We still have to play the hits ha-ha. We will practice as much as possible for the tour.
From Beyond featured mostly “mythological” lyrics, drawn from Lovecraft and horror movies. It wasn’t so much “social consciousness.” Do you think metal tends toward a mythological direction?
I think it’s a mix of both. Obliviously you have your satanic lyrics and religious themes, but a lot of bands do sing about current events. The satanic and mythological lyrics are kind of written for you already.
How do you all feel about launching a huge new album and tour two decades after you started out? Did you ever think Massacre would get this big?
I think it’s amazing and we are very excited about it. Like I said earlier , it says a lot about our music that we are still relevant after 22 years.
Among metal’s legions are many for whom society is not a fit. Society tries to find rules to make everyone get along; metalheads, who “think outside of the box,” tend to look toward what they see as right, not socially compatible. As a result there are many in metal who stand above the crowd and are impossibly iconic for their unique worldviews. One such man is Burzum’s Varg Vikernes.
After creating in the course of four early albums an impressive body of art that essentially ended black metal as it was by raising the bar beyond what others could easily participate in, Vikernes was imprisoned for sixteen years for his alleged role in church arson and murder. During the time he was in prison, he put out two more impressive keyboard-based albums and several books’ worth of writings before falling silent around the turn of the millennium.
Upon his release, he didn’t slack off, either, but pushed out two new albums influenced by the rising drone-NSBM trend from Eastern Europe, and has released a film, is currently working on a role-playing game, and continues to produce numerous writings and a new theory of history. Since he is an object of interest as well as such a strong personality that he cannot escape notice, he has continued to use interviews and other public talking points to advance his ideas.
Whether we agree or disagree with the man, it’s hard to argue that his back catalog is anything but on the whole impressive, or that he isn’t articulate and forceful about his beliefs. Recently, he released his first post-prison ambient album, Sôl austan, Mâni vestan, which in the words of our review is a “vivid journey from start to finish…Vikernes has returned, and has found his natural voice.”
Deathmetal.org was fortunate to catch Mr. Vikernes in a rare un-busy moment between his many projects, where he answered a few of our questions.
With Sôl austan, Mâni vestan you have left metal behind, and yet this work has as much identifiable personality as your earliest works. What do you think makes this style so adapted to where you are now, and what you want to express?
This type of music has always been a part of Burzum, from the very first album and all the way to Umskiptar, so I think those who appreciated the old non-metal music will perfectly well be able to appreciate this non-metal music as well. In a sense I keep making music in the same style, only I have left out the metal parts.
Can you tell us a little bit about the influences on this album? Were these influences instrumental to achieving this new sound?
I know where you want to go, but the truth is that I didn’t listen to any other music whilst making this whatsoever; I didn’t seek inspiration in any other music and I did not even think of any particular music whilst making this. However, upon completion I did think it reminded me a bit of a calm version of Tangerine Dream.
This album is made for the ForeBears film, and I guess it is correct to say that I was inspired by the concept of that film.
In your writing on Thulean Perspective called “Shadows of the Mind,” you mention how black metal can be a gateway to the Divine Light. What is the Divine Light?
That question is best answered with a link.
Your work seems to have been guided since its earliest forms by a sense of the “poetry” of existence, and a purpose to the human experience, while others were busy disclaiming this. What shaped your thoughts in this regard?
I think it is simply due to the fact that I knew instinctively that it was better before. I missed what once was. I longed for the past that I felt was better. I dreamt of things that had been but were no longer.
After Sôl austan, Mâni vestan, where do you see yourself going artistically? Will you continue to make albums in this ambient style, or re-invent music in another form?
I can dream of the past, but I never make artistic plans for the future. I just follow where my spirits takes me, so to speak.
What is the purpose of art? What habits or activities do you find most crucial to the spirit that drives your art?
It’s the spirit of the past trying to break free and influence the world we live in today. That’s the purpose and driving force too.
What do you think black metal had to contribute? Do you think your earlier aggressive work, and your newer more mellow work, come from the same place?
They do, and I think black metal is just a expression and (for fans) appreciation of the despair most men feel from living in a world that is not built for them. When you grow up, so to speak, or perhaps just grow wiser (many young men are wise too), you move on and instead of whining about the world we live in you do something about it instead. Black metal has woken up many good anti-Jewish Pagan Europeans and has thus lead them on the right course.
The lyrics to “Dunkelheit” suggest a natural mysticism to your work. Do you see this in the ancients as well? Do you think this knowledge changes people in such a way that they cannot be part of modern society? How do you see this as different from the Christian spirituality?
Christian spirituality? They have none.
I think the natural mysticism will wake up Europeans; the Pagan spirit is like embers waiting under the ashes. All it needs is some dry wood and it will turn into a flaming fire again, burning, warming and lighting up. Natural mysticism is, amongst other things, that dry wood.
Do you think history is cyclic, meaning that similar events lead to similar outcomes and thus, people eventually return to the same eternal truths? What do you imagine those would be? Is there a way to express such truths in art?
Yes, similar events lead to similar outcomes, and truth prevails in the end, always, so when they are blurred, distorted, hidden or spat upon they will always return to glory. There is no unversal truth in this context, becuase man is not universal, just like animals are not. I am part of the European species, and the eternal truth to us is Honour, and we will return to that for sure.
Is there a way to express such truths in art?
Yes, but it might not be understood by all.
During the early 1990s, death metal was subject to criticism because people feared it. They would claim that the bands couldn’t play, or didn’t know their scales, or were otherwise incompetent.
One of the first bands to thwart this vision was France’s Supuration, a former grindcore/death metal band who gradually modified their style as they grew more proficient with their instruments. The result was a mixture of rock, pop, death metal and progressive music.
The Cube, Supuration‘s most famous work, introduced sci-fi concept album planning into the fertile mix of metal and progressive rock. Over the last 20 years, the fame of this legendary album has only increased as more people discover it and are able to understand it, now that an intervening two decades of progressive metal have made it easier.
This year, Supuration launched Cube 3, their follow-up to the original album and a means of uniting the storyline of intervening albums. We were fortunate to get to talk to Ludovic Loez, guitarist with this groundbreaking band.
You started out as a death metal or grindcore band, and then made the change to a progressive/rock/metal style; what spurred this change? Did your interests change, or did the newer style fit your interests?
After the recording of The Cube album and Still in the Sphere MCD, we decided to change our style. We didn’t want to record another The Cube in the same vein; we tried to create a more experimental music, with no limits for us. We like SUPURATION a lot but we thought that a second album in the same veins would not be cool for us, that’s why we created S.U.P.
How important do you think style is in the creation of music? Can someone make the same album in any style, or does the style fit the music? How does this relate to individual songs — does song structure need to fit the song, or is there a way to say the meaning of any song in any song structure?
I think the structure is quite important for a song; we are trying to be original, we all love death metal style in the band, but we also like new wave music and VOIVOD for example. If you listen to our three SUPURATION albums, you’ll find the same structures: each album is linked to each other; for the S.U.P albums, each album is a story, but the structures of these albums are different even if it’s the same way of writing songs for both bands.
You’ve obviously spent a lot of time listening to metal and studying its riff forms, but there’s other elements in there in addition to your own “home grown” outlook and style. You’re probably tired of people asking this, but what are your influences??
As I told you we are into new wave of the 80′s, real gothic music like THE SISTERS OF MERCY, VOIVOD, old PESTILENCE, DEPECHE MODE and sometimes electro music coming from Germany. We are also into original soundtrack, music scores…
Do you think the death metal style easily transitions to progressive rock? What do you see as the similarities between the two? Is progressive rock — most people don’t know that Tony Iommi was briefly in Jethro Tull, or that King Crimson’s first album was an influence on Sabbath — a part of metal, encoded into its DNA?
I think you’re right, in each style of music you can hear a “small” part of metal especially nowadays with the evolution of music in general…The way to the progressive rock is natural I think, except for brutal death bands like SUFFOCATION or CANNIBAL CORPSE and so on, it’s certain that they won’t turn into progressive [music]. It’s a choice, everyone have the choice especially in music.
A compilation of your early works, Back From the Crematory, was released in 2011 and seemed to spur some interest in the early years of the band. What first attracted you to grindcore and death metal?
CARCASS, NAPALM DEATH, OLD. We were quite young at that time and we were into grind core and death metal, when xtreemmusic asked us to put out our first work with ETSICROXE and early SUPURATION, we were really excited. Imagine your old demos and rotten live on a cd more than 20 years after…amazing and exciting…
You split the band into two entities, “Supuration” which was more metal, and “S.U.P.” which was more future pop/rock/progressive. Why did you make the split? Were you able to keep the two separate? How much did they converge, or become similar?
They’re sometimes similar, the voice for example. We created another the band because after the “success” we had with The Cube, we didn’t want to record a “Cube II” the year after. We wanted to create something new with music. The two bands are two different entities, but same members and same songwriter, so both are sometimes similar and different at the same time.
Have you seen interest in Supuration renewing itself recently? Why do you think this is?
I think it’s great!! With the new record company it’s quite easier. We had had a small renewal with the prequel of The Cube called Incubation in 2003. We have good reviews — I think the result is quite correct, that’s a good thing for us…
I have known relatively few albums that attract the kind of devotion that The Cube has. What do you think makes that album stand out, and what do you like about it most?
Its story, its concept, its futurist cover; this album realized in 1993 had a big success in general I can’t explain why…but it’s cool….
You’ve just released Cube 3, which alludes to the original The Cube. Do you think it’s a continuation of what was done on The Cube, a re-envisioning, or an entirely new direction using parts of the same storyline?
Cube3 is dealing with the end of the story [from] The Cube. Between these albums we recorded Incubation which is a prequel to The Cube, I mean the story before. If you want to hear the whole story you have to listen to Incubation first the reasons of the suicide of the young girl, then The Cube with the journey of the tormented soul throughout strange places and Cube3 which deals with the reincarnation of the soul of The Cube album.
Most of your albums seem to be conceptual, or united around a story or idea. Can you tell us about the storylines in your albums? Was there a consistent story idea through all of your works?
I would say, in most of our stories in our albums, the relation between the mother and is child is reccurent. You’ve got this relation in the whole story of The Cube, in “Anomaly” (S.U.P, science fiction dealing futurist machines that kills babies linked to a overpopulation in the future), “Room Seven” (S.U.P, story dealing with an autistic child and his mother), “Chronophobia” (S.U.P, twins separated at birth, mother killed in a carcrash), “Angelus” (S.U.P, quite different, dealing with the lost of faith in god and extraterrestrial life after death), “Imago” (S.U.P, also different, dealing with a futurist drug that makes a self regeneration after a serious disease or cancer, but quite dangerous if you take it twice) and “Hegemony” (S.U.P, dealing with a neovocyt, a new vegetal/human being who is trying to run away with the head of his mother throughout a searing desert somewhere in time on another planet).
Nothing sounds like Supuration — nothing! However, if I had to pick the closest, I’d point toward the first albums from Obliveon and Dead Brain Cells (DBC), and maybe mention some of the middle period Voivod material (Dimension Hatross). Do you find these bands similar? Is it odd, or perfectly rational, that they would have a similar sound to you? Does the fact that all of you are from French-speaking areas have anything to do with it?
I only know VOIVOD, I do not know DBC or OBLIVEON, I’m sorry. I don’t think we are similar, maybe we have the same way of seeing things, the same way of creating the music. You must be right — I trust you when you say that but…I don’t know if the French-speaking have anything to do with it…maybe….I don’t know maybe a similar culture somewhere…
Do you think metal’s riff style, which uses moveable chords like power chords and as a result ends up with longer phrases more like classical melodies or complex riff from prog rock, determines how you compose metal songs? Do you think this makes metal more or less like regular rock? Was it hard for you to integrate the two styles in your music?
You know, when you are used to playing in a way, it seems to be normal for you to play that way. I mean during these years metal music has changed a lot, except for some great metal bands that are staying in their metal style since the very beginning and that’s great too… There’s so many different styles in metal music, it’s quite difficult to answer this question, as far as we are concerned, we are writing songs normally, we’re trying to be original and not to disappoint our fans who are very important for us.
Some of your “S.U.P.” material, especially Room Seven, seemed to converge on a progressive alternative rock style that others were trying to achieve at the time. The use of non-standard chords, dissonance and off-time constructions in alternative rock appeared for example on Dweezil Zappa’s “Shampoo Horn” and even made it into punk with powerviolence and post-hardcore. What do you think influenced bands to move progressive in the late 1990s? What were they seeking to express, or change in the world? Did you see this as a confirmation of your direction (if you were aware of it)?
We’re not aware of it, sorry….I guess they tried to change some things in the world of music, I suppose…Every decade a new style is created in metal or death metal, it’s a kind of circle you know. We’re not into this kind of philosophy; we are trying to do our best for people who like our stuff and for our fans. I only know Dweezil Zappa because I was told that he was a very good guitarist, that’s it….
What’s coming up next for Supuration? Will you tour and/or continue releasing music? “Cube 3″ seems a bit of a progression from your older material; what’s your next metamorphosis?
We’ll play some shows for Cube3, not real tour, I mean festivals, concerts, during one or two years and meanwhile I’ll star to write the new S.U.P album, we’ll see…. Thanks for the interview