Whenever the time-honoured, if ultimately pointless “if it had been a Big Five…” question raises its ugly head, Bay Area bruisers Testament always find themselves at the forefront of the conversation. Even alongside names such as Exodus, Overkill, and Kreator, such is their… ahem, legacy (sorry), it’s not uncommon to find them as one of the top two preferred choices. Continue reading
It’s a little surprising to discover that, despite having known each other for over thirty years, Testament, Exodus, and Death Angel; three leading lights of the Bay Area thrash metal scene have never actually been on the road together before. Dubbed “The Bay Strikes Back”, the first UK date of this neck-snapping triple bill is located, rather appropriately, near the water. Okay, the Bristol Channel might not be the Pacific Ocean, and the Clifton Suspension Bridge might not be quite as impressive as the Golden Gate Bridge, but you can’t have everything now can you. Continue reading
Dethklok reunited and performed live for the first time in five years last night as the headline act of Adult Swim Festival at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles, California! Ghost Cult was on hand for the festival and review will be up on the site next week. The band performed a 19-song set-list of hits and deep cuts, as well as two new premieres. Dethklok, which emerged from the metal fan favorite and pop culture hit Metalocalypse, has not performed live since their 2012 tour to promote Dethalbum III, although they released The Doomstar Requiem soundtrack in 2013, but never toured behind it. That episode concluded the show, on October 27th 2013. Series co-founder and band leader Brendon Small has been working on other series and his other band, Brendan Small’s Galaktikon, which released a new album in 2017, Galaktikon II: Become The Storm. Joining Small (vocals/guitar) in the band last night was Gene Hoglan on drums, Nili Brosh on second guitar and Pete Griffin on bass. Watch fan-filmed footage of their set right now! Continue reading
Well into their fourth decade, the history of Bay Area Thrash legends Testament is already a well-documented one. We all know they were originally called Legacy, and that Steve “Zetro” Souza from Exodus used to be their vocalist, and we all know that they are one of a select bunch of bands many Thrash Metal fans would like to have seen included in the so-called “Big Four”. While it looks like we may have a long wait for classics like The Legacy, The New Order, Practice What You Preach and Souls of Black (all Atlantic/Megaforce) to be reissued and/or remastered, Nuclear Blast have done (close to) the next best thing and reissued two live records, a collection of re-recorded tracks, and two studio albums. Continue reading
The 70,000 Tons Of Metal Cruise had a stacked lineup this year, which made for an impressive “All-Star Jam” on the last night of the trip. Continue reading
Whenever the subject of The Big Four of Thrash Metal pops up in conversation, the first thing that tends to happen after the absolutely compulsory ranking process (THIS MUST ALWAYS BE DONE) is the equally mandatory “Band X should have been included instead of Band Y” debate. Continue reading
It’s the hottest day of the year so far in London and before you start imagining a lovely picture of a sundrenched European capital with happy citizens, joyfully going about their business, well, think again. The heat is cloying and claustrophobic; offices without air conditioning units become like bakers ovens. Everyone is sweaty and grumpy. Everyone it seems with the exception of Testament’s lead vocalist and driving force Chuck Billy. Continue reading
Charred Walls of the Damned will be releasing their killer new studio record, Creatures Watching Over the Dead, on September 23rd via Metal Blade Records. Richard Christy, Jason Suecof, Steve DiGiorgio and Tim “Ripper” Owens have once again come together to create a no nonsense metal record, and as you’ll read in our chat, they couldn’t be more happy with what they accomplished. Enjoy my exclusive interview with the one and only Richard Christy below, and be sure to pre-order your copy of Creatures Watching Over the Dead today!
The members of Gruesome have enjoyed the strong response to their debut album Savage Land, and recently announced that they would be working on new material, due out tentatively in mid 2016. Drummer Gus Rios shared his thoughts on the band making another record and their mindset entering the next chapter.
“One of things I like about Death the most is Chuck [Schuldiner] never repeated himself. Our challenge is to maintain Gruesome to that same level as much as we can within the world we want to be in. Our next record, I’m not going to give anything away, is not going to be Savage Land Part 2.”
“There’s a few directions it could go in and hopefully when people hear it they’ll be like ‘wow that’s awesome;’ ‘I didn’t expect that;’ or ‘I’m glad they did it.’ It’s not going to be the same exact record again.”
The uniqueness behind Death’s writing approach is what appealed to Rios, and something the members of Gruesome kept in mind when they began crafting new tunes for their next recording. He also talked about keeping the element of surprise much like how they did back in their time period.
“That’s one of the great things about metal back in the late 80s and early 90s. There was no internet…like Slayer’s record came out Friday. You already heard half of it before it came out. Where is the surprise in that?”
“When Spiritual Healing or when Leprosy came out, you didn’t know what the hell you were getting. You go into the store and you knew there was a new Death record and you bought it. When I first got Human, I went from getting Spiritual Healing and now I’m getting Human. Saw the logo was a little different, the album cover was a little different and went ‘I don’t know.’ Then I heard it and I went ‘oh my god…this is the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard.’ “
“I don’t know if we’re going to do any of that because to some degree people know what they’re getting. It’s going to sound like one band. Like I said, our hope is at least from one record to the next you’re not going to get Savage Land Part 2. With the next record, and the next one after that, it’s not going to sound like that.”
“Even sonically, that’s one of the things I don’t like about modern metal. Every record that you hear that comes out, it’s the same drum samples, the same guitar reamp. For me personally, if I buy Band X’s record, and two years later they come out with another record, I want it to sound different. Records are supposed to be a snapshot in time of what you’re trying to accomplish at that time.”
Rios elaborated about their recording approaches when they created the songs on Savage Land, and their old school approaches helped craft their stripped down sound, unlike modern techniques he felt took away from the raw sounds found on older records.
“When you set up a drum set in a studio, you get the snare sound and maybe you tune it differently. You tune your toms and you mic the kicks up. You move the mics around until you get the best sound and then you record it. You put your best performance into it at that time.”
“What a computer does nowadays most of the time when you hear a record is it takes anything you did as a human and perfects it, replaces all of your tuned drums with samples of perfect drums and in my opinion, for me personally, sucks the soul out of the record.”
“If every single record gets that same library of the same tom and same snare and same kicks and the same guitar simulator plug in, I’m just getting different riffs on the same record. In the late 80s or early 90s, no two Deicide records sounded the same. No two Morbid Angel records sounded the same. Certainly no two Death records sounded the same. Even if they went to the same studio with the same producer, it was a different day. It was a different drumset.”
“I can guarantee you the next record will sound nothing like Savage Land. Sonically. Riff wise, you’re going to know it sounds like Death. Very, very, very clearly. But is it going to sound like the era or the sound that we got on Savage Land? No. I guarantee you it won’t. There lies the little shred of originality Gruesome may have. We’re homaging one particular band but as artists I guess, our challenge is to keep the listener entertained one record after the other without regurgitating the same exact stuff over and over.”
“Dan [Gonzalez] and I are writing too and that’s another element. Matt wrote the entire first record. I’ve already written three songs. Dan’s written two. At least that’s our take on what we think Chuck would do. There enlies at least one slightly different element that’s going to be different. I think that’s the fun and the challenge of it. We’re still paying tribute to one single band but we’re trying to snake our way around it as many ways as we can.”
“I said in another interview that as long as there’s dudes on stage with vocals with (doing Cookie Monster imitation), Chuck will never be dead. In my opinion, I credit Chuck with definitely the creation of what everybody knows as death metal. Possessed Seven Churches came out first but that to me is more like Satanic thrash kind of shit. I remember being in middle school and this kid Rob Watson brought to school Scream Bloody Gore. In those days it was a cassette tape and a Walkman. This is in late 1987 and it was like ‘Slayer….please.’ “
“I remember looking at the album cover and that’s the thing. Everything about what we did…everything piece of what Gruesome is about is thought out. That logo, that flame…everything is thought out. Every piece of what Death was in the late 80s to little teenie Gus and Matt…every piece of that, the album cover. I remember looking at Scream Bloody Gore before I heard it and the album cover…when I heard the music it sounded like what I thought that album should sound like. I remember hearing those vocals and I just went ‘holy shit!’ I couldn’t understand a word he said or what the lyrics were.”
“Back in those days the cassettes had no lyrics in it. ’Infernal Death,’ ‘Regurgitated Guts’…gore horror. That’s death metal to me. If somebody from that restaurant across the street said ‘hey Gus, what is death metal?’, I’d probably hand them Leprosy and go ‘there.’ To this day that’s still my number one favorite death metal album.”
Through the music Gruesome had created, Rios said the band’s visions was to take newer fans back in time, much like his reference to Back To the Future did with revisiting their death metal past.
“Now what we’re trying to do is…Matt [Harvey] actually said it last night in San Diego ‘well we couldn’t build a Delorean. [We] can’t bring us all back to ’88 to re-experience that.’ All we can do is bring it back in some form.”
“It’s all in praise of…it’s not just Chuck. We say this every day. It’s Chuck. It’s James [Murphy]. It’s Rick [Rozz]. It’s Bill Andrews. It’s Sean Reinert. Gene Hoglan was there last night. Friday we played a festival with Obituary and we got to play ‘Born Dead’ with Terry Butler!”
The past year for South Texas metallers Shattered Sun has been anything but dull. Being one of the hardest working bands has landed them onto the Rockstar Mayhem Energy Drink Festival’s side stage this past summer. They have been out touring behind their debut album Hope Within Hatred (out now via Victory Records).
They had just completed their first “real” tour supporting Testament and Exodus across North America, and unlike their previous DIY style tours supporting club sized acts, they learned quickly the wrong and right ways of surviving on the road.
“The last one we were with (Testament/Exodus) – that was a real get up and go,” explained drummer Rob Garza. “We were still learning and now we’re way more focused and way more on time. We’re trying not to get on anyone’s bad side especially we don’t mess up too much,” he said, about the quick learning curve.
Testament frontman Chuck Billy is no stranger to the Shattered Sun camp, as he is one of their co-managers from Breaking Bands LLC and has been mentoring the guys over the past year.
“[We’re] basically learning how to do things the right way. When we first got on the Testament and Exodus tour with them this past April, we were all fan boys over Testament and Exodus, but then Chuck’s biggest role in the band is as a mentor. He could just say ‘just relax…we’re all here as a team. We’re all family on this tour and every tour you’re gonna be on. These are your peers,’ “ he said.
“We’ve got him to calm us down the fan boys in us. Also outdoing each show – we had a decent show yesterday. Today we did better so basically we keep on pushing so we put on a better show every day.”
Already from the Mayhem Fest they have gone from performing in from a largely older crowd to a younger demographic that leans towards the newer style of bands featured on the Victory Records side stage.
“The guys and myself were talking about that yesterday. Even the bands that were on tour – no disrespect to Testament and Exodus – they’re more of our age group. You go with the Testament and Exodus and it’s strictly that thrasher crowd. There’s nothing wrong with that. On this one, you have that all around, different genres of music collectively. It’s a different feel. We like it. We’re digging it.”
While the band’s sound comes from the heavier side of metal and their band name is a modified version of an Unearth tune, Garza spoke about their range of influences that helped shape their overall sound.
“When we first started jamming, our guitarist Daniel [Trejo] named our band after an Unearth song ‘Shattered By The Sun.’ So he was really into Unearth and still is to this day. We all are,” he said.
“We try to stick with melodic metal and keep it thrashy, and we’re all fans of other genres as well. One of my favorite drummers and bands of all time is the Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins. I try to incorporate as much groove into our thrash beats. It’s a combination of a lot of stuff. It’s like ‘I was listening to this today. I want to try to see how this would sound on this song.’ “
“On this album, we tried to cover all grounds because where we’re from, everyone in our area is real biased. We’re not heavy enough for the hardcore kids or we’re not soft enough for the older crowd. We just wanted to make a CD and just bring as much of everything in. We get known as bands that plays a lot of different kinds of music. We just try to throw it into one thing so we try to cover everyone’s demographic on that one.”
Being on the road, Garza and the Shattered Sun members have experienced many different things but also being from a small Texas town, they also found new and unusual things.
“I believe it was on the last tour, we were in South Carolina and they were selling roasted peanuts. It looked weird, just there in a jar staying warm. Just small things like that that freak us out. But we Google what it is and say ‘uh ok…let’s try it out.’ “
“What I wanted to do when we were in Canada, I wanted to go to McDonalds and see if they had the Royale With Cheese. I didn’t get a chance to do that. I’m trying to cram a bunch of different things into my demographic right now.”
Plus the rare time off of the road has given them time to enhance their road home known as their van. While they have accepted the fact that they will be calling it home for the next year, they have slowly made moderations to it.
“This time we’ve actually built a bunk in our van. ‘OK what can we do differently?’ We’ll probably try to put another bunk in there, a shoe rack, because right now everybody’s shoes are thrown all over the place. We even have our inverter so we routed our power strips so we can charge our phones in the back. We’re learning tour by tour.”
All of the touring experience has now landed them an upcoming North American tour supporting metal heavyweights Soulfly, Soilwork and Decapitated. Garza himself is excited about the upcoming tour but has his eyes on meeting another drumming idol.
“I’m actually really pumped because one of my favorite drummers is Dirk Verbeuren from Soilwork. On our last tour, we had Gene Hoglan and Tom Hunting, and on this tour we’ve got Paul Bostaph and Vinnie Paul, and the next tour I’m going to have Dirk Verbeuren. To be on the same tours as these great drummers is amazing. I’m looking forward to picking that guy’s brain. Getting to tour with Soulfly – those guys are legendary. We all grew up listening to them.”
Learning from past mistakes, Garza admits he is trying his hardest not to have a Wayne and Garth’s ‘I’m Not Worthy’ moment on this upcoming tour.
“Deep down we have, but then it’s like be cool. On the outside, we’ve got to play it cool. On the inside, I’m crying a little bit.”
He admits there is one stop on the upcoming tour he has his eye on.
“I’m just waiting until we get to Milwaukee so I can say ‘it’s pronounced Mil-WAKEY’, from Alice Cooper on Wayne’s World Part 1.”