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Slayer plus Lamb of God, Anthrax, BEHEMOTH!, Testament
LAST WORLD TOUR!!!
REPENTLESS IS A DECLARATION: THERE WILL BE NO COMPROMISE
Slayer, the long-reigning titans of thrash, returns with Repentless, the band’s 11th studio album and its first album for Nuclear Blast. Produced by Terry Date, Repentless was written and recorded by guitarist Kerry King and singer/bassist Tom Araya at Henson Studios in Los Angeles, along with returning drummer Paul Bostaph and guitarist Gary Holt. Repentless is crushing and brutal, steadfastly refusing to cater to the mainstream.
Thirty-four years into its career, Slayer remains the preeminent punk-thrash band that helped establish the genre and that up-and-coming metal heads continue to revere and emulate. Slayer is a five-time nominated, two-time Grammy Award-winning metal juggernaut that writes songs which mirror the turmoil and aberrations of our society. Repentless, the band’s first new album in six years, continues the Slaytanic offensive with a twelve-song, blood-shaking sonic attack. Repentless is dark, fast, aggressive and without mercy. It was also the most challenging record Slayer has ever had to make.
In 2013 the world mourned the loss of guitarist Jeff Hanneman who died from complications following a two-year illness. A co-founder of Slayer, losing Jeff was very difficult for the band. During Jeff’s illness, friend of the band, guitarist Holt stepped in to help out on tour with Jeff’s blessing and stayed on. Around that time, drummer Dave Lombardo exited the band for the third time and Paul Bostaph, (who played with the band from 1992 – 2001), returned to take over the throne. Slayer never skipped a beat and since Holt and Bostaph both played in Exodus, it was all-in-the-thrash-family.
But it didn’t come easily. As guitarist and Slayer co-founder Kerry King puts it, “I remember the day that Jeff died. It was the day of the Revolver Golden Gods Awards. We knew he’d been sick but nobody expected it to be so quick. I assumed I’d be able to go out there and see him after I got done with whatever business I had to do and that day never came.
“We went out and toured afterwards to see how we felt about it. That’s what you do as a musician: you either go out and tour or you stop working. Even though we’d been touring for two years without Jeff, thinking he was going to come back, now there was finality to it. And the thing with Gary was that we were all friends. Exodus was the first band we’d ever met that became our friends immediately and we stayed friends throughout the years. Gary is just a guitar dynamo and he was the guy.”
Tom Araya agrees. “Jeff would want us to continue. I’d think that if something were to happen to someone else in the band, whoever it was would feel the same way. Just get on with it. Gary’s a friend, a friend of Jeff’s, he knew what was going on and he wanted to help in any way he could, so Gary made Slayer a comfortable place to be. Having Paul back was also a comforting feeling. He’s a former member and that’s the best thing about it. It wasn’t some other guy. Having Paul and Gary made everything a little easier to handle. It’s about the band. Slayer was a big thing for Jeff, and so I’m looking at it in that sense. It was his baby, too. And we hope we’ve done Slayer and him justice.”
King said that Slayer still had to test the water. “Now we were out to see if it made sense to continue, to see if we liked it, to see if the band still enjoyed it. And the way I looked at it was: if it wasn’t this, it was going to be something that sounded exactly like this, so why not continue doing this? It’s super-potent. We’re really tight right now and we’re stoked that we’re still doing it. Once we had that under our belts we started thinking about a record and never looked back.”
After two decades with American Recordings, Slayer found a new home with Nuclear Blast, the German independent label known for its metal roster. King is enthusiastic about the move, “I like it,” he declares, stressing the work like. “Having been with American for so long we wanted to give them first right of refusal because that’s how we are. I think continuity is far stronger than switching all the time. But at the end of the day, Nuclear Blast made us a great offer and so it was time to move on. At Nuclear Blast, people go to work, they do their job, get paid and they fuckin’ like it. All hands. So it was the right choice.”
When the time came, Slayer entered the studio with producer Terry Date. Date is the first producer the band has worked with since leaving American, where all their albums were produced or executive produced by Rick Rubin. On working with Date, Tom says, “He’d done all these great albums – Soundgarden, Pantera – and as a singer I need someone I respect who can tell me whether he likes it or not as opposed to telling me how to do something I’ve been doing for 30 years. He would guide me. That’s why I really liked working with him, because he was so cool. I regard him as a friend, for sure.”
Kerry adds, “It was as business as usual as it could be. The oddest thing for me was Jeff’s presence… not being there. When we were recording, in the past, whether he played or not, having him there and having his opinion and stuff like that: that was what I missed. Jeff’s not being there was the oddest thing.”
Gary Holt came on board to help out with tour commitments when Jeff first became ill. “My role in Slayer started out as a tour and happened to come when I was taking time off from Exodus and I spoke to Kerry who asked if I could help out. I went down to rehearsal and Jeff showed me some things. I’ve known Jeff forever but it wasn’t until his memorial that I learned how much of his blessing I really had. At the end of the day, we all wanted Jeff to come back and then tragedy struck; so here we are five years later and Repentless is coming out and I think Jeff would have loved it. I’m super-excited. It’s a good feeling and I know it’s got to be a great feeling for Tom and Kerry for all the work they’ve done – and Paul as well. Everybody’s excited.”
Repentless marks the return of drummer Paul Bostaph, who was extremely enthusiastic.
“Before I was in the band I was a fan and just because I’m the drummer doesn’t mean I stop being a fan: it just means my tickets are cheaper. After I left in 2002 I never thought I’d be sitting on the drum throne with the band again. This particular style of music delivers something for me, musically and physically, that’s challenging and exciting. I feel better as a player and I’m more mature and the band is maturing and getting better, like fine wine. It feels natural to be back and it’s good to be back with Kerry and Tom. The San Francisco Bay-area metal scene is very tight knit: everybody knows everybody. I consider Slayer to be part of that even though they’re from Southern California. Gary I played together in Exodus and he’s amazing – one of the godfathers of thrash with Exodus – so it’s like coming home for me. And we’re having fun and I think if we weren’t having fun we wouldn’t be doing this.”
Repentless marks a number of transitions for the band but with their undisputed attitude, Slayer emerges triumphant, says Tom. “After 35 years, the thing that Kerry and I share is our dedication to the band, and Jeff’s included in that. It’s the same with Gary. He’s been doing this a long time and he’s had the same commitment. It’s a common bond we share with a lot of musicians out there. I’m really excited about the new album, we’ve put a lot of work into it, Kerry especially, and it was all for Slayer.”
Repentless is loaded with sensational songs, from the hyper-aggressive metallic blasts of the title track, “Take Control”, “Implode” and “Atrocity Vendor” to the ferocious thrash pounding of “Vices” “When The Stillness Comes” and “Pride In Prejudice” the album is Slayer through and through. For Paul Bostaph it’s simple: “The songs are awesome.”
Tom puts it bluntly, “This is definitely Slayer. No one will be disappointed with what we’ve done.”
For Kerry King, the feeling is mutual. “Musically for me – it’s certainly not an “I told ya so” because Jeff’s not a part of it – but I do know that a lot of people assumed Slayer’s not going to be functional with Dave not being here and Jeff never being here again. But we did it and it fuckin’ sounds like Slayer – period.”
Slayer's place in music history is secure as one of The Big Four (alongside Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax): they helped define the thrash-metal genre. With Repentless Kerry, Tom, Paul and Gary affirm that Slayer is unstoppable. Slayer continues fearlessly, aggressively and without contrition; and most importantly, fucking Slayer still rules!
Lamb of God
For all its depth, diversity and cross-pollinated ambition, modern metal needs its figureheads, its heroes and its leaders. Lamb of God have been blazing mercilessly away at the forefront of heavy music for the last 15 years, upholding metal’s intrinsic values of honesty, intensity and creativity while also daring to push boundaries and think outside the heavy box. Exploding into view with 2000’s seminal debut New American Gospel, the Virginian quintet inadvertently kick-started the so-called New Wave Of American Metal at the dawn of the 21st century; and have notched up a succession of huge commercial hit albums and remorselessly toured the globe ever since. The combination of vocalist Randy Blythe’s excoriating growls and roars, guitarists Willie Adler and Mark Morton’s precision attack and the bowel-shattering rumble of rhythm section John Campbell (bass) and Chris Adler (drums) has both refined and redefined the notion of aggressive metal in the modern era.
From the raw savagery of 2003’s As The Palaces Burn and its immaculate follow-up Ashes Of The Wake in 2004 to the widescreen pomp and melodic intricacy of Sacrament in 2006, the band’s rise to glory was steady and unstoppable. By the time they released their #2 US Billboard-charting album Wrath in 2009, Lamb of God were simply one of the biggest metal bands on the planet, with a vast army of fans worldwide and a formidable reputation for delivering the goods on stage, with countless headlining tours and festival appearances contributing to their status as standard bearers for heavy music. 2012’s Resolution album marked a startling evolution in the band’s sound, displaying laudable levels of experimental fervor and sonic breadth. It built upon the successes of previous years by smashing into the US Billboard charts at #3 and looked to usher in a new era of acclaim and achievement.
Of course, what happened next is well documented. Vocalist Randy Blythe’s trials and tribulations in the Czech Republic – wherein he stood accused of causing intentional bodily harm to a fan at an LOG show in Prague in 2010 and faced a lengthy prison sentence – momentarily threatened both his freedom and the future of his band. Eventually acquitted on all charges, Randy has spoken at length on his experiences and while it would be inaccurate to state that the new Lamb of God album – VII: Sturm Und Drang – represents the story of those dark days, it undoubtedly had a huge impact on the lyrical direction that he took this time round.
“There’s no way around it, my trip to the gated community in Europe was the starting point for writing this record,” he states. “I wrote the opening track, Still Echoes, almost in its entirety. You’re familiar with the Misfits song London Dungeon, which is about when they got arrested? Well, I’m a huge Misfits fan so I thought I might as well write my own London Dungeon, except for it’s not in London. I also wrote parts of the song 512 while I was there, so I had those two things. But writing in there was an act of preservation for my morale, I suppose. Being creative, whenever I’m going through something rough and I don’t have anything else to turn to, I pick up the pen…”
With such a dramatic entry point for the writing process for Lamb of God’s seventh album, this was never going to be an upbeat affair. Inspired by those initial lyrical ideas, Randy Blythe and guitarist Mark Morton have conjured a collection of dark and menacing but ultimately inspirational lyrics for VII: Sturm Und Drang, an album that deals with extreme real life circumstances and mankind’s ability to weather the most brutal storms in the ongoing quest for peace and happiness.
“It’s a record about how people handle extreme situations,” says Randy. “The literal translation is ‘Storm And Stress’ – it sums up everything on the record, it really does, perfectly. Obviously it started with me being in prison, but this isn’t my prison album. The song 512 is asking ‘How am I handling this?’ Anyone who’s been locked up will probably understand what I’m trying to say. It’s about the brutal psychic shift you undergo when you become incarcerated, because it’s not a normal situation at all. People in prison think and act 100% differently from people on the outside. It’s a different world.”
Reflecting this overall theme, VII: Sturm Und Drang features several songs that arose from Randy’s fascination with digging deeper into the horrors of history, the strength of humanity and our never-ending battle against oppressive, dishonest regimes. Closing track Torches was inspired by the story of Jan Palach, a Czech man that set himself alight in Wenceslas Square in protest against the Soviet Union’s invasion of Czechoslovakia. The furious Engage The Fear Machine deals with the manipulation of mass media to control the masses, using scare tactics and outright lies to spread fear and paranoia, as with the recent worldwide Ebola scare and its exploitation by unscrupulous broadcasters. Meanwhile, the hair-raising brutality of Anthropoid was inspired by the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the ‘Butcher Of Prague’ and architect of the Nazis’ final solution, in 1942. His assassins were “ratted out” and found themselves holed up in a local church crypt, with 800 Nazi stormtroopers out for their blood.
“They held the Nazis off for eight hours,” Randy explains. “These guys fought ‘em until they ran out of bullets and then they killed themselves so they wouldn’t be taken prisoner. So you can go into that crypt in Prague, and I did, and you can see where these guys were trying to dig through the wall into the sewer. It’s extremely heavy. These were superior men. That’s about as high level as you can get, in terms of character and doing the right thing. Situations don’t get much more extreme than that.”
To match the jarring intensity of the lyrics, the music on Lamb of God’s seventh album had to be both powerful and emotionally shrewd. In keeping with their previous works, VII: Sturm und Drang contains all the cherished LOG trademarks, but as with its predecessor Resolution, this is not a record that sits comfortably within a cozy formula. Instead, from the flailing muscularity of Erase This to the startling melodic vocals and surging crescendos of Overlord, from the skull-rattling grooves of Still Echoes to Embers’ heart-rending mixture of fragility and grandeur, this is both a consolidation of the values that Lamb of God have long upheld /and/ a bold leap into fresh territory that once again heralds the expansion of this band’s unique vision. With guest appearances from Deftones’ frontman Chino Moreno (on Embers) and Greg Puciato from The Dillinger Escape Plan (on monumental album closer Torches), VII: Sturm und Drang is a cohesive, focused and emotionally devastating piece of work.
“The last few years were definitely a unique period for us and one that doesn’t compare to anything we’ve gone through before,” states Mark Morton. “But for me, the writing process hasn’t changed. I just play the guitar and when something cool comes up and it’s relevant and appropriate to Lamb of God, I’ll document it and get it catalogued for future use. The difference this time was that me and Willie (Adler, LOG guitarist) collaborated a lot more than ever before. It grew from bits and pieces that me and Willie both brought in and we melded them into songs, with great results.”
“We set out to try and make a 10-song record,” Randy notes. “The concept of the album is getting lost nowadays, and one reason I think is that every fucking record is 18 songs long now. Albums used to really just be moments in time and they defined where the band was at that moment. Now I think there’s a lot of overwriting… this concept of more is better, and I think that’s nonsense. So we decided on ten songs, that’s it. Josh really encouraged Mark and Willie, those two write the tunes, instead of bringing in complete compositions on their own – and we’ve done that a lot in the past on records – and he got them to work together more. That happened quite a bit with this album and I think it made it much more cohesive and a stronger record as a result.”
Having lived through times that would have stopped most bands in their tracks, Lamb of God are back in 2015 with a renewed sense of purpose and a fresh perspective. They will embark on a full European Festival tour in the Summer of 2015, and then the Summer’s Last Stand Tour across North America, as direct support for Slipknot, and also featuring Bullet For My Valentine, and Motionless In White. Lamb of God are ready to roll.
“It’ll be cool to get out and tour the world and play this new stuff for the fans”, says Randy. “As always, I’ll try to see things I haven’t seen before, get out and do some photography and writing as well.”
“I’m really lucky to still be doing this with these guys and tour around the world,” Mark concludes. “That’s an honor and it’s one I don’t take for granted. It’s great to be part of something that’s as cool as Lamb Of God.
TV has soap operas, literature has Shakespeare, and metal – well, metal has Anthrax, that fire-breathing, thrash-spitting, multi-headed beast of a band that – 30 years since the day Scott Ian and then-bassist Danny Lilker searched a biology textbook for the disease that would become their moniker – smiles back at you with a monstrous, upturned middle finger and refuses to fucking die. But then, if you have an inkling about heavy metal, you’ll have heard of their meteoric rise in the 80s alongside the likes of Slayer, Megadeth, and a little band that once crashed on Anthrax’s studio floor known as Metallica. You’ll know all about their game-changing, crossover hit with Public Enemy on Bring The Noise in 1991. You’ll have listened to generations of bands that owe everything to their signature stomp and crushing riffs. And in more recent times, you’ll have witnessed an almost irrational will to survive in defiance of monumental odds. And that, true believers, is the story of one of the most doggedly heroic bands in metaldom on the cusp of their greatest release to date. The road has not been easy.
Rewind to 2005. Hot on the heels of 2003′s rapturously received We’ve Come For You All, a unanimously praised, end-to-end scorcher spearheaded by vocalist John Bush, Anthrax shocked the metal world with the announcement that singer Joey Belladonna would be re-joining the band for a classic, 80s-era reunion that would sweep them around the world on a wave of head-banging nostalgia, but more importantly, reconnecting the band as friends and as the brutal thrash machine that gave the world Among The Living.
Once that tour finished, Anthrax returned to discover that John Bush had moved on, and they would need to recruit yet another singer for the recording of their follow-up to WCFYA, the album that would become Worship Music, their tenth studio album. The band worked with one singer for a period of time, but in 2009, they were still without the right vocalist.
“There was no way I was going to let anything derail my life’s work,” says Scott Ian. “We’ve been through more drama than most bands experience in a lifetime. Granted, we didn’t have to deal with somebody dying or some tragic situation but at the same time we really did face an uncertain future. For lack of a better way to explain it, I am a tenacious prick, and if I want something to happen I will make it so. It’s always been like that. It touches on the 30th anniversary. I think back to July 18, 1981. Danny Lilker and I were friends and I always said to him, ‘when White Heat [Lilker’s band at the time] break up, we’re forming Anthrax,’ and he was like, ‘we’re not breaking up.’ I’ve always been like that, and with such an amazing record to put out, there’s no way I was going to let anything screw that up.”
Refusing to accept their predicament, the remaining members rallied themselves in a spine-tingling gesture of conviction and self-belief for what would become the single greatest metal event of the 21st century, the first-ever performance of The Big 4. According to Charlie Benante, getting the band’s proverbial excrement together for that gig was just the motivation that Anthrax needed to spit out the blood and get back on their feet.
“The genesis of this whole Big 4 idea – and you could say the idea of getting Joey back in the band full time – was at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” Benante continues. “It was me, Lars, and Scott talking at the bar, bullshitting, and Lars just blurted it out. It was such a surreal moment, we weren’t sure if he was taking the piss out of us and all of a sudden it just happened. It made us really say ‘we need to step this up and get this thing going.’ It was because of that that we were pushed into this direction. Metallica gave us the kick in the ass that we needed.”
“Joey was the band’s vocalist from ’85 to ’92, the time period when ‘The Big Four’ started,” added Scott, “so we felt he had to be the guy to represent us on these Big Four shows, and he had to be the guy on the new record.”
Rob Caggiano picks up the story – “So Charlie called Joey, they started talking and Joey expressed an interest. Then we all met with him in New York and while the vibe was really good, none of us really knew what to expect. Then we did the first Big 4 show with Joey, I think that’s when we all knew that this was right. The vibe was amazing, he sounds better than he’s ever sounded, including the reunion tour.”
Reuniting with Joey Belladonna for a whirlwind, globe-stomping tour that would see Anthrax playing shoulder to shoulder with Slayer, Megadeth and old pals Metallica, the explosive success of The Big 4 would suddenly beg the question of what would happen next, and more to the point: who would sing on Worship Music, and how would Anthrax approach the follow-up to We’ve Come For You All? It wasn’t easy, but – from the ferocious attack of “Earth on Hell” to the red-blooded might of “Fight’em ‘Til You Can’t,” the results have been nothing less than horn-conjuring.
“The majority of this record was about 55% done before we even had a singer in mind,” explains Charlie. “It was me, Scott and Frankie in our rehearsal room, the same way we wrote Spreading the Disease – with no singer in mind. But I’ll never forget the day I first heard Joey singing, I got goosebumps, I got excited – all I could think of in my mind was ‘how will he sing this song’ and it was just amazing to me. Every time I heard the next song I would be like, ‘this rules.’”
“The process leading up to it was painful but I think being in Anthrax is painful,” says bassist Frank Bello with a laugh. “I think everything happens for a reason and to listen to this record now, this is the reason it had to happen that way, and I am loving Joey’s voice. I’m listening and I’m thinking ‘you know I can’t tell you when he sang better.’ I’m not gonna kiss his ass that much but I really think the guy just doesn’t age. He weirds me out because he just goes out there and sings like a bird, amazingly, with power. He came into a hard situation. He really rose to it. When Joey came in it was like the icing on the cake for me. ”
Joey agrees: “It’s not easy to throw someone in there and try to wash away what you’ve done and how you’ve done it,” says Joey. “I feel honored, but I also feel like I’ve done a lot to be there, I wasn’t just saying ‘oh I’ve got a chance again.’ I just thought I’d be who I was without being like ‘can I be like someone else?’ I just went in and sang with the best intentions. I just did whatever came from my heart to the best of my abilities, and it worked.”
And that is an understatement. Co-produced by Rob Caggiano and Jay Ruston (both Grammy-nominated producers), the album takes its name from one of Charlie’s late-night bouts of insomnia where, while flipping through TV channels he stumbled upon a religious-themed infomercial entitled “Worship Music.” A fitting sentiment for an undeniable masterwork of skewering melodies powered by herculean riffage and a tunefulness that bespeaks Anthrax’s utter supremacy as songwriters. From the haunting, ethereal tones of “Worship” – an atmospheric piece composed by Charlie himself – to the punch-in-the-face assault of opening track “Earth On Hell,” the results are positively badass. But that isn’t to say Worship Music is without its deeper subtexts.
“The song “In the End” has a melancholy feel to it,” says Charlie. “It has nothing to do with the band, but two people who had a lot to do with our band, Dimebag and Ronnie James Dio. They were both heroes and huge influences on us. Darrell played on the last three Anthrax records, a sixth member if you will, and Ronnie was always a champion for us, taking us on tour, just being so amazing to us always. It had to be made, and it was very cathartic.”
“It’s just an epic piece of music,” adds Scott. “Of course in the back of my mind I was thinking, ‘if somehow I could get this in the lyrics without it being completely cornball, that song would just lend itself to expressing the feelings and emotions about how we felt about what those guys meant to us — Did we ever tell you how much we loved you tearing my head off tearing my face off ripping my heart out.” I meant that in a good way. The first time I ever heard Ronnie James Dio, my world was fucked forever.”
Of course, Worship Music also features a far more obvious musical tribute about Anthrax’s greatest inspiration, Judas Priest, mysteriously entitled… “Judas Priest.”
“We wrote it right at the time the announcement came that they were retiring,” says Scott. “I just got so bummed out about it, almost the same way I felt with Ronnie dying or Darrell getting killed, it was a similar emotion, like: ‘is this what it’s like now, I’m just going to see my heroes go?’ It kind of depressed me. The thought of a world without Judas Priest is just weird, so I remember talking to Charlie and we agreed we should just write a song called ‘Judas Priest.’ It was such an overtly, metal song, and that in of itself is the tribute.”
Alongside the colossal crescendo of “Crawl” and the irresistible catchiness of “The Devil You Know,” Worship Music is a record of mass destruction to be released upon the world, and to the delight of fans everywhere it already began when, in July, the Anthrax.com was updated with new artwork by universally acclaimed comic artist Alex Ross and an offering of “Fight’em ‘Til You Can’t” as a free download that swept across the internet like a thrash metal hurricane.
“Basically, we made our fans wait so long so it was like ‘why make our fans pay for it?” says Charlie. “They’ve waited so long, so here’s a gift.’”
“’Fight’em ‘Til You Can’t’ is about humans fighting the Cylons,” adds Scott, referring to the title’s relationship to a famous line in the recently re-imagined space epic “Battlestar Galactica.” “My take is more Zombie-oriented than Cylon oriented, but I think you could absolutely read it as Anthrax fighting until we can’t. I’m sure that was in the back of my mind. As much as I like the idea of it just being a fun-filled Zombie killing romp, that emotional thread pretty much runs through everything I’m doing lyrically, you can’t keep me down, I’m gonna do what I’m gonna do.”
Given that this year Anthrax celebrates its 30th anniversary of fighting the good fight, Scott’s sentiment is a poignant one. So how does it feel to be releasing a new record over three decades since you began?
“It freaks me out actually, that that much time has gone by,” says Charlie. “In my mind I still feel like the same person from back then, but if we were to do this ten years ago, I would be more concerned about staying relevant and this time I could care less about staying relevant. It’s about doing what I think our fans enjoy.
“I truly can’t put it into any kind of context because we’re just so busy, you know? We’re sitting here with this setup of a record in the middle of playing shows with so much going on, so I guess I could say nothing is changed, things are exactly the same as when we’re working toward the next thing and that’s maybe somehow some way we’ve always been able to move forward, always looking forward and never stopping – it’s never been that way with Anthrax, even just this constant struggle to find band members who would commit to rehearsing for four nights a week and having to fire them, it was constantly moving forward until we recorded Fistful of Metal, well we’ve gotta go on tour and sell t-shirts, and we’ve gotta get rid of Neil Turbin, and then we found Joey… In 2011 my day is still filled with what’s happening with Anthrax, and I love this new record and how it represents our whole career in Anthrax. I can’t wait for people to hear it.
Over the past 30 years, Anthrax has achieved sales in excess of 10-million. The band has also received multiple Gold and Platinum albums, multiple Grammy nominations, and a host of other accolades from the media, industry and fans.
Extreme metal band formed in 1991 in Gdańsk, Poland.
Began as a Black Metal band and transitioned into a Death Metal band.
It was in 1991 that Behemoth was formed (initially as Baphometh) by frontman Nergal (Holocausto at that time). They released a few demos, «Endless Damnation» (1992), «The Return Of The Northern Moon» (1993) and «From The Pagan Vastlands» (1993). «From The Pagan Vastlands» being the demo that really showed what they wanted. They signed with an Italian company called Entropy Rec., and released their debut mini-album entitled «And the forests dream eternally» in 1994. A year later they recorded their first full-length «Sventevith (storming near the Baltic)». The album gave them the attention they wanted and they got a deal with the German Solistitium Rec., where they also recorded and released their second album «Grom,» a very experimental album, which included female vocals, synths and acoustic guitar. They also finally did a European tour where they gained stage experience and a good reputation.
In 1997 they did a split with Damnation, re-released «The Return Of The Northern Moon» and recorded their third album «Pandemonic Incantations,» which featured a new drummer, Inferno.
In 1998 they got a two album record deal with Italian Avantgarde Music. They released «Satanica» 1999 and it was a huge success and secured the band tour support to Deicide and Satyricon.
In 2001 they released «Thelema.6» which gained them even more fame and led them to the European tour X-Mass Festivals, Wacken Open Air, With Full Force, Inferno Festival, Mystic Festival, Mind Over Matter etc…
In 2002 they started work on their 6th album. They gave it the title «Zos Kia Cultus (Here and Beyond)». One of their most impressive albums to date (the band had spent almost 700 hours making it). And again, a lot of tours followed. In 2003 they released the EP «Conjuration».
The music style on Thelema.6 and Zos Kia Cultus can be characterized as death metal with industrial unfluences.
In 2007 band released «The Apostasy,» which showed the further evolution of Behemoth's music style, and established the band's «visit card» — famous «blackened death metal» style.
In 2009 band released «Evangelion,» which was heavily supported with massive worldwide touring.
In 2014 Behemoth released their 10th full-length album «The Satanist,» which is also supported with worldwide touring, including the scandal-famous Russian Satanist tour.
The forbearers of thrash resemble a Lovecraftian brotherhood. They’re the elder gods who set everything in motion for generations to imitate, while still ruling the roost from on high. Testament stand proudly among the same vanguard that boasted “The Big 4” and beyond.
For over three decades, the Bay Area quintet—Chuck Billy [vocals], Eric Peterson [guitar], Alex Skolnick [guitar], Steve DiGiorgio [bass], and Gene Hoglan [drums]—has consistently delivered unadulterated, unbridled, and unbreakable metal in its purest form without compromise or any signs of slowing down. Over the course of seminal releases ranging from The Legacy and Practice What You Preach to The Gathering and The Formation of Damnation, which won “Best Album” at Metal Hammer’s 2008 Golden Gods Awards, the group’s sales exceeded 14 million worldwide with 2 million in the U.S. alone. Most recently, 2012’s critically praised Dark Roots of Earth assaulted the charts, moving over 20,000 first-week copies and seizing #12 on the Billboard Top 200, the band’s highest U.S. chart bow ever. However, in 2016, Testament returns with more teeth than ever on Brotherhood of the Snake [Nuclear Blast].
“The first record is always classic because you form the band, you’re totally into it, you go through the club scene, find yourself, and write your initial album over multiple years,” explains Eric. “Then, you get signed and end up in a cycle. We took some time to do Brotherhood of the Snake, and it shows. Different influences came in. Normally, there are a few straight ahead thrash songs. We haven’t had this many thrash tracks since The Legacy. It’s a new era.”
“I view Testament like I did when we started,” adds Chuck. “I’ve been fortunate to be doing this for over 30 years. It means a lot. We’re just going to continue doing what we do.”
Following a whirlwind of touring in support of Dark Roots of Earth, the guys began individually writing in late 2013. In between a rigorous tour schedule, new music organically assembled. During the spring of 2016, they hit the studio with Juan Urteaga [Machine Head, Exodus] and quickly cut the album’s 10 tracks.
“Having separate periods to write set it apart,” Eric continues. “Everybody played hard. Chuck really surprised me and belted out stuff that’s more melodic over the heavy speed metal riffs. It blended really well together.”
“It does flow,” Chuck agrees. “There’s a lot of musicianship going on there, and I was finding hooks in the moment. I was able to feel it and just go.”
The record commences on a deadly note with the title track. A whiplash-inducing riff catapults Chuck’s unmistakable growl forward before snapping into mind-numbing leads. It’s a brutal breakneck basher on par with the band’s best.
“It was actually one of the first songs we put together,” says the singer. “Once we heard it mixed, we were all like, ‘Wow, we have the direction we’re going in. It’s really heavy.’”
Elsewhere on the record, “The Pale King” gallops ahead on an apocalyptic barrage of drums and guitars before culminating on an unshakable chant. “It was really natural,” smiles Eric. “It has that old school vibe, but this new energy to it. It never lets up. I love that!”
Brotherhood of the Snake concludes on the crushing yet cinematic “The Number Game,” which evinces Chuck’s knack for a vivid lyrical story.
“I actually wrote it with Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza,” he recalls. “I had that chorus, and it was one of those things where it had to be repeated. It’s 14 days and 14 nights where this guy’s on a killing spree. He does a countdown, and your life is based on the number you are. It was trip.”
A fascinating concept rears its head during many of Brotherhood of the Snake’s key moments, nodding to the mythical race from which the record it shares a name.
“There’s a connection between the alien world and religion, and the whole storyline came from it,” explains Chuck. “There’s a story of a Sumerian race 6,000 years ago that went on crusades to basically dethrone religions. The earth was basically the place where their leader, The Pale King, set people to be imprisoned and mine for gold. It got the ball rolling.”
Ultimately, this Brotherhood remains as powerful as ever. “If a Testament fan knows our history or has followed our last couple of records, they’ll hear the progression,” the frontman leaves off. “Everything is right there and in-your-face. That’s the way it should be with us.”