While all things toxic (waste; holocausts; um, waltzing) have long been a regular bedfellow for the lyric writers and album cover artists that inhibit the pungent worlds of Thrash and Death Metal, it also lurks in another sense; behind the scenes and pervading the environment of many bands relationships. Escaping the cryptic realms of one such biohazard of a relationship was a necessity for legendary bassist Terry Butler (Obituary, Death, Six Feet Under), guitarist Taylor Nordberg (Wombath, Ribspreader), and vocalist/drummer Jeramie Kling (Venom-Inc, Goregang, The Absence). Continue reading →
The members of Gruesome have enjoyed the strong response to their debut albumSavage 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!”
Paying tribute to the almighty Death and their founder Chuck Schuldiner has come in many forms in recent years, as their music has helped shape an extreme form of heavy metal that new generations of fans have grown to love to perform and worship the lifestyle that was created.
For the members of Gruesome, they rediscovered their love of the band and wrote music that paid homage to one of the originators of the genre. Band drummer Gus Rios talked about what Schuldiner’s music meant to him growing up.
“Dude it would so fun if we fucking wrote songs that sounded like Death. I remember getting the first demo going ‘is this dude like totally doing séances with Chuck or what? What’s going on?’ The riffage is really authentic sounding, which made me wanna play drums in that span and falling for it. I even tuned my drums different. It brought out this old style of playing drums and it sounded better. He had no idea that it would turn into something as big as it has.”
He explained how he and vocalist/guitarist Matt Harvey (also of Exhumed) originally began this project around a demo of ideas and spawned from there. Those tunes are now featured on their debut album Savage Land.
“Matt did the first DTA (Death To All) and I was a guest drummer on the second DTA. Exhumed played one of those shows and I was playing ‘Baptized in Blood’ every night and he liked the way I played that old school style song.”
“So me and him got hammered that night and just kind of chatted about how much we loved old school music. He’s my same exact age. We literally grew up listening to all of the same exact stuff and obviously we really loved Death’s first three records…Human too. It was one of those drunk, ‘it would be awesome if…’ “
Before Gruesome, a few different ideas were attempted and did not come together due to various factors. So instead Gruesome was born.
“So I tried putting together a Leprosy DTA with Rick Rozz and Terry Butler with me and Matt. That fell through and Matt kind of jokingly said ‘dude let’s write our own songs.’ “
“The ideas sat around for a while. I quit Malevolent [Creation] in February of . I actually thought about it and I sent him a message on Facebook and went ‘remember that crazy idea…?’ I guess a week or two later maybe he sent me the first demo and I went ‘damn…this motherfucker’s got some really good ideas.’ So I recorded drums for it because I have a studio. I sent it back to him and he went ‘this might actually be good.’ “
The next person to come into the fold was Daniel Gonzalez (Possessed), who instantly became the guy to handle the lead guitars on their newly crafted music.
“Then he wrote another song and then we were like ok. I called Dan Gonzalez and I said ‘hey I think we might do something with this. We need a guy that can clone Chuck and James [Murphy], which is a tall order. Dan’s a really good guitar player. So he’s like ‘yeah I’m down.’ Then we immediately contacted Eric Greif, longtime Death manager and asked for his blessing. ‘This is what we want to do because we love Death. It’s sounding pretty cool.’ He was super cool about it. He totally gave us his blessing and he’s like ‘let’r rip. Hail Chuck.’ “
Once they got music completed, they pitched the idea to Relapse Records. While they were into the idea of releasing the album, there was briefly some hesitation over whether fans would accept such a record to be released.
“Relapse loved it, and still even then we recorded the album and still we were like…’what if people hate us?’ You know what I mean? This is some hollow ground we’re treading on. Are people going to understand that we’re really not cashing in on someone. I mean its death metal – nobody’s cashing in.”
“The short version of it is apparently people understand that we’re coming from a genuine place and this is just…Matt said it once [that] this is our nerdy love letter to Death. If Chuck could hear us from beyond the grave this is our way of saying ‘dude your music changed our lives.’ “
“For me it’s the funnest band I’ve ever been in, as far as loving the style. Leprosy is my favorite death metal album. If there ever was a band that I wish I could be in was Death, then now is as close as I could ever get.”
Rios elaborated on Gonzalez’s role within Gruesome and how his guitar playing became a staple part of their sound.
“Dan plays in Possessed. He lives and works in Miami where I work. He’s also an engineer so it was like Dan is a good enough guitar player where he didn’t need Matt to show him the riffs. He just learned the riffs and he recorded all of the guitars and he made demos. Actually it’s funny that in the emails with the songs, it was like solo one Murphy, solo two Schuldiner. Matt knew what kind of style he wanted Dan to emulate for whatever part he was trying. That was Dan’s job was to get inside the head of these dudes. We’re kind of like method acting a little bit. Like me on the drums – I’m thinking ‘what would Bill Andrews do here?’ You know what I mean – which is a very simplistic way of doing it, and which is not exactly the way how I naturally play I guess. It was fun – super cool and something that was out of my normal world. I remember recording the album with a smile on my face going ‘this is awesome!’ It’s fun death metal.”
The final piece was bassist Robin Mazen, a veteran of the Tampa death metal scene and someone who came up within the classic scene. She instantly became interested in taking part and became a vital part of the band.
“[With] Robin I played in a band with when I was 15 years old. That’s how far back I go with her. Not to get into that kind of politics but I know what it’s like to tour in a van with dudes that I maybe don’t get along with so well. I just wanted to surround myself, if it was a touring situation, with people who were genuinely friends. Robin’s the coolest chick in metal. Anybody who knows her would tell you. She’s fucking awesome. That was a no brainer.”
“Robin knew Chuck, lives in Tampa. She is as old school as any of us. She goes way back and I knew she would immediately get it. When she heard the demo, she’s like ‘this fucking rules!’ Actually it was her that said ‘watch this is going to be huge.’ We’re the guys making it. She had an outsider’s perspective on it. She was the one going ‘watch this thing is going to take off!’ I’m like ‘uhhh…it’s not really original.’ Nobody’s going to ever say Gruesome is an original band. We’re literally just reading Death’s playbook and trying to do what we think he would have done and in between the years of ’88 and ’89 really. Chuck would have never written songs like this, had he still remained alive – probably not.”
While Gruesome was originally unintended on becoming a full time touring band, due to Harvey’s commitments with Exhumed, Rios admits they did a lot more than they anticipated. Their recent brief US tour this past summer crossed paths with a lot of new fans along the way.
“Not really I don’t think. We figured maybe we’d do a festival here and there. Nobody anticipated the demand. I mean when the record came out, I remember Relapse was like with the presales ‘we sold out of the white vinyl in six hours.’ We went ‘really? People are gonna dig this.’ We had no idea. We’re just doing what we do. Obviously I’m super happy and obviously now we’re probably going to do another record next month and next year we’re probably going to see a bunch of more shows. He’s still got Exhumed so it’s never going to be a band that tours nonstop kind of a thing. It will be probably like select one offs, maybe one full US run, one full European run and festivals kind of a thing.”
“I think that will be cool because it will always keep the demand there. When Gruesome comes to town, it won’t be like every other day or every other month, or even three times a year. Plus me and Dan have real jobs and we can’t bail out whenever we want. Again we’re not really cashing in. I can’t quit my day job.”
Lastly, he shared some of the interesting moments they experienced on their recently tour and talked about some of the interesting people they crossed paths with along the way.
“I’ve gotta say playing ‘Born Dead’ with Terry Butler. I actually got goose bumps. I remember as a kid watching the Ultimate Revenge video…rewind – play – rewind – play. Death, for me…Slayer got me into this but when I heard Death, I was like – I found where I wanted to go in life. To be able to play a song from that era with the dude who was in it. He’s the legend.“
“I remember the whole song. If someone told the 14 year old me that this was going to happen one day, I would be like shut the fuck up. So that was a super highlight.”
“And today I got to meet Mike McGill. He’s an old skateboard legend. He skated in the Tony Hawk team in the late 80s called the Bones Brigade. I went to his skate shop today. It’s a Sunday and I don’t expect him to be there. I just wanted to buy some McGill Skate Shop t-shirts and the kid behind the counter was like ‘you want him to sign the shirts?’ I was like ‘the fuck? Is he here?’ I actually bought a deck! Sign a deck! I don’t care what it costs to take it home. I met Mike McGill. So that was pretty cool.”
Veteran Florida death metallers Massacre will be taking part on the Swamp Leper Stomp North American Tour 2014 with Death (DTA), Obituary and Rivers of Nihil, as well as an upcoming European run in February 2015. Dates are below.
The band released Back From Beyond, their first record in nearly 20 years, with Tim Vazquez of CGM Studios recording and mixing. Massacre features original members, guitarist Rick Rozz along with bassist Terry Butler (Obituary, ex-Death, Six Feet Under), vocalist Ed Webb (ex-Diabolic, Eulogy) and drummer Mike Mazzonetto (ex-Pain Principle). Check out the official video for Back From Beyond here.
MASSACRE- live in North America 2014: Nov 11: The Rail Club Fort Worth, TX (w/OBITUARY, RIVERS OF NIHIL) Nov 13: LVCS – Las Vegas, NV (w/OBITUARY, RIVERS OF NIHIL) Dec 20: TBA – Mexico City, Mexico https://www.facebook.com/events/375627912589617/
DEATH (DTA), OBITUARY, MASSACRE, RIVERS OF NIHIL – Swamp Leper Stomp North American Tour 2014: Nov 14: Club Nokia- Los Angeles, CA Nov 15: Mainstage – Ramona, CA Nov 16: DNA Lounge – San Francisco, CA Nov 18: Studio Seven – Seattle, WA – Nov 19: Rickshaw Theatre – Vancouver, BC * Nov 21: Mac Ballroom – Calgary, AB * Nov 22: Riddell Centre – Regina, SK * Nov 23: Park Theatre – Winnipeg, MB * Nov 24: Amsterdam – Minneapolis, MN * Nov 25: Metro – Chicago, IL Nov 26: Agora Theatre – Cleveland, OH Nov 27: Phoenix Concert Hall – Toronto, ON Nov 28: Le National – Montreal, QC Nov 29: Brighton Music Hall – Boston, MA Nov 30: Best Buy Theater – New York, NY Dec. 03: Empire – Springfield, VA Dec. 04: Tremont Music Hall – Charlotte, NC – Dec. 05: Masquerade – Atlanta, GA Dec. 06: Tampa, FL – The Orpheum Dec. 07: Grand Central – Miami, FL *=plus UNTIMELY DEMISE
DEATH (DTA), MASSACRE, ABYSMAL DAWN, LOUDBLAST – Symbolic European Tour 2015: Presented by: Metal Hammer, Legacy, Slam Magazin, metalnews.de, Noizeletter. BLAST Feb 27: Matrix – Bochum (Germany) Feb 28: Dynamo – Eindhoven (The Netherlands) Mar 01: Trix – Antwerp (Belgium) Mar 02: Electric Ballroom – London (UK) Mar 03: Academy – Dublin (Ireland) Mar 04: Club Academy – Manchester (UK) Mar 05: Trabendo – Paris (France) Mar 06: Alte Kaserne – Zürich (Switzerland) – Mar 07: Theaterfabrik – München (Germany) Mar 08: Rockfabrik – Ludwigsburg (Germany) Mar 09: RnR Arena – Milan (Italy) Mar 11: Rockhouse – Salzburg (Austria) Mar 12: Szene – Wien (Austria) Mar 13: Fabryka – Cracov (Poland) Mar 14: B 90 – Gdansk (Poland) Mar 15: Progresja – Warsaw (Poland) Mar 16: K 17 – Berlin (Germany) Mar 17: Posthalle – Würzburg (Germany) Mar 18: Markthalle – Hamburg (Germany) Mar 19: Sticky Fingers – Gothenburg (Sweden) Mar 20: Klubben – Stockholm (Sweden) Mar 21: Vulkan – Oslo (Norway) Mar 22: Amager Bio – Copenhagen (Denmark)
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It has been 23 years since Rick Rozz and Terry Butler last released anything of note under the banner of Massacre, and that two decades plus hiatus has allowed their debut From Beyond to achieve the legendary status its Bay Area-meets-Death quality deserves, a great collection of straight down the line death metal songs that set the tone for literally millions of bands to follow.
With such an iconic release in their catalogue, but with years of less than stellar activity individually, expectations for Back From Beyond (Century Media) are mixed. The first thing that strikes is the powerful production as guitars barrel out of the traps (once the pointless intro has meandered on by) into ‘As We Wait To Die’. New vocalist Ed Webb does a decent enough job, sounding like (the heavier of) Burton C. Bell (‘s voices), but lacking the distinctive and charismatic tones of non-returnee Kam Lee.
While Massacre always leant to the thrashy, (pre-Chaos AD) Sepultura end of American Death Metal, it’s interesting to see how much groove and chug metal is in their newer sound; ‘Hunters Blood’ wouldn’t be out of place on a Lamb of God album. That isn’t to say the trademark Massacre DM has been abandoned, as ‘Ascension of the Deceased’ throwback like a Thursday, ‘Shield Of The Son’ thrash-snaps the neck, while ‘Evil Within’ and ‘Beast With Vengeance’ pay homage to Chuck.
Sticking resolutely in the mid-tempo and to a simple but effective riffing style with only the odd venture out of their stomping ground, Back From Beyond settles into a pattern of mixing late 90’s groove with old school Death Metal riffing. In the main, with each track in isolation, it works to good effect, but as a whole due to a lack of dynamics and colour, no track to rival a ‘Cryptic Realms’ and an overly long running order (14 tracks!? You have to be amazing to stay interesting for 14 tracks!) Back From Beyond is an enjoyable, solid yet unspectacular return. Nothing to rival From Beyond but serves as a better follow-up than (the-Massacre-album-that-shall-not-be-named).