For the most part, Solstafir’s seventh full-length album follows in the footsteps of its predecessor, 2017’s Berdreyminn (Season of Mist). The songwriting still largely favors the band’s subdued side with influences ranging from Post Punk, Prog Rock, and Ambient greatly informing the Post Metal whole. Tracks like ‘Rokkur’ and ‘Her Fall From Grace’ are heavy on atmosphere with extensive space to breathe and ‘Or’ throws a curveball with its almost Jazz-tinged rhythms.
Lightning can in fact strike twice. Perennially hard-working metal legend Max Cavalera has been a prolific writer and frequent collaborator, both in his for band Sepultura, but also in his other projects such as the long running Soulfly and Cavalera Conspiracy. Twenty years ago Max formed a partnership with Fudge Tunnel’s Alex Newport and Nailbomb was born. One of the best heavy albums ever, the true spirit of creativity and melding the styles of the artists involved. Along the same lines, but conscious of not repeating the past, Max has a new group in Killer Be Killed, featuring leaders of the heavy music scene like Greg Puciato of The Dillinger Escape Plan, Troy Sanders of Mastodon, and Dave Elitch (ex-The Mars Volta) to create something truly unique, heavy, yet quite melodic. We caught up with Max by phone at his home in Arizona, and in the many times we have chatted with the man, he has rarely sounded this excited about a new project.
Several years in the making and now poised to come out, Killer Be Killed has been the buzz of the metal press for sometime yet. Max was positively jubilant discussing the album and the final results.
“I love how Killer Be Killed came out. I really love the blend of all the melody and thrash. I really love all the guys in the band, Troy, Greg, and Dave. We made the best record we could possibly make. Only a few times in life you get a chance to make a special album like Killer Be Killed. I love hearing all the great reviews coming in from all over, really great people are talking about it, and that the people really love the record. It’s really amazing to me that the album is getting this great praise, and I’m very excited for it.”
Instantly noticeable upon hearing the album is how melodic the album is, without sacrificing any of the heaviness. We asked Max what the genesis of the sound was and if this element was pre-planned:
“It came naturally to us, but we really wanted it. You know Greg and me have a side to us that has, an attitude like Nailbomb, really really aggressive and we wanted it to keep it on the cutting edge of heavy music. So part of Killer Be Killed is a part that very fast, thrash and on cutting edge kind of vibe. The other influences that come from Mastodon and Dillinger Escape Plan. There are some vocal melodies and parts Greg singing his ass off on on this record, throwing on some of these really catchy choruses. Really beautiful, beautiful melodies. I don’t even think he does that kind of stuff in Dillinger. He did it especially for Killer Be Killed. Then Troy was just amazing man. He has such an amazing voice, with the parts he put on. It was so amazing. Even I was surprised at how great it was and I am so stoked for how the record came out.”
For all the deserved hype surrounding the big name guys coming together to make this record, Dave Elitch put down a brutal and classic performance on this album, almost like a secret weapon. Max weighed in on this: “Dave’s a great guy and a great drummer. He tore it up with (The) Mars Volta. I totally agree with you, he is really like the secret weapon of the band. He really shined on this recording as a killer drummer. Some of the fills he did were just unbelievable on this record. He really did some Dave Lombardo stuff. I so happy that he got to do that and he contributed that. It’s great to have someone who can play technical and fast. Dave can really do it all. It was super cool and really great having him in the band. He killed it!”
Even though Max purposefully wanted to evade any musical references to Nailbomb, aside from his own writing style, the KBK album does have a fire political angst running through it. We asked if the album was meant to be so forward and radical in its philosophy.
“There is a political side to the album, it’s very much against police brutality. Like ‘Setting Fire To Your Flag’ is very political. There is a song, ‘Forbidden Fire’, about kids in The Middle East who can not listen to metal. There is a level of a lot of political stuff that is similar to Nailbomb. Even how it started, the project started with ‘Face Down’, that was the first song we wrote for the record, and ‘Face Down’ is a Nailbomb type of song. And the second song we wrote I.E.D., is also Nailbomb type of song.”
“But what I think is cool is that Killer Be Killed is different than Nailbomb too, and has a different vibe. I think what is cool is that it is different than Nailbomb; there is a lot more melody. I am so glad that Killer Be Killed is its own thing. I didn’t want to just make another Nailbomb. Nailbomb was already done and I’m really proud that this album has its own set of values and its own sound, and its own identity, and is its own thing. It was very important to me.”
Max is very fond of producing his own albums, so we were intrigued as to why he was comfortable handing the reigns over to someone else. Picking Josh Wilbur, whom Max had never worked with before, seemed to be a very inspired choice:
“Yeah was a great guy. You know he did a great job on the Gojira album and the Lamb of God records. He was a big guy in the studio for us. He is fan of all of ours. He was a huge Sepeultura fan, and he learned everything he knows from Andy Wallace, which is to me, he is really the master of production. He produced Chaos A.D. (Roadrunner). So Josh really came from that school. So to me working with Josh was like working with Andy, in the sonic field. I also think Josh took it very seriously, to make a really great record. He tried to get something really special out of all of us, who are very established musicians. Sometimes its hard to take established musicians and get something great out of them. It can be very hard to do. Sometimes you get lazy and you don’t really want to do a lot of the work to get the best out of it. Josh did that. He really drilled the work out of us. He somehow made everybody excited and get the best out of us, to make a great album. He got the best out of all of us: out of me, out of Greg, out out of Troy. At the end of the day it was the right choice to make the record with Josh. I think he did a fantastic job.”
“I love the sound of the record. Especially a lot of the rhythm guitar work. I wrote 80% of the rhythm guitars. And also I played most of the riffs on the album, on the recording. So I worked very hard on the writing of the record and the creation of the songs. I worked very hard with Josh to get the right sound.”
“You know I like to do it all. I like to produce my own stuff, and I also like to work with different producers. You can get really cool stuff from working with different producers. It was really important for this record to have a guy who can get stuff that you might not get naturally, and you need the right guy to get that out of you. And Josh was the right guy for it. “
Much has been talked about the punk-rock vibe and guerrilla style used to put the album together with, but Max demystified that idea a little and gave us a breakdown of how the album was really created:
“It was done in different phases. In the first phase it was just me and Greg, and we wrote some songs. Then where was a phase where it was just me and Dave, and we wrote some more songs. Then it was me, Greg, and Troy and we wrote even more songs! And then we entered the studio and we wrote more songs, and we used some of the old songs, and some of the stuff just came out in the studio. Like ‘Fire…’, it was born in the studio. And its got new stuff like ‘Robots…’, and ‘Forbidden Fire’ and ’12 Labors’… they are newer songs, that we gave the same treatment as the older songs. In the end, even though the album was made quite fast, when you hear the songs they sound quite elaborate. We worked for a long time on the record, much more than it seems like it really was.”
In spite of the success of creating this special album, fans of KBK will have to wait until 2015 to see them live on a stage as a touring entity.
“Yeah, next year man. It’s going to have to be next year. Greg is on the road with Dillinger. Troy is on the road with Mastodon. I am going on tour with Korn in Russia. Next year we are all going to dedicate some time only for Kill or Be Kill, and try and get to play some of this music live for people.”
KEITH (KEEFY) CHACHKES