Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Interview with AUBZAGL by Dave Wolff

Interview with AUBZAGL by Dave Wolff

In 2017 I reviewed the independent film “British Black Metal: The Extreme Underground Documentary” about the third wave of UK black metal. The featured bands included Winterfylleth, Fen and A Forest of Stars. Are you familiar with those bands or the film?
Arron (drums): This is definitely one for Andy and Paul!
Andy (vocals): Funnily enough, I was in that documentary! My other band Forneus was one of the bands interviewed. I've gigged with a few of the other bands on that documentary, and the gig with A Forest Of Stars was actually an all-dayer organized by Paul.
Paul (bass): I've not seen the documentary actually. I'll have to make up for that. Definitely know the bands, and good friends with the AFOS folks, from my home town of Leeds. That was a very fun all dayer!

What information about the black metal scene of the 2010s can you provide for the readers?
Paul: The UK black metal scene seems to be pretty strong at the moment. A lot of awesome bands coming though in the last few years and a good amount of gigs and festivals, good labels and review sites out there to help spread it even more.
Andy: I agree, the scene is pretty strong at the moment! Looking forward to getting back into gigging with Aubzagl again.

How many all-day events has Paul organized lately? Do his events receive a lot of zine and webzine coverage?
Paul: I only do one event a year these days, the Damnation Festival pre-show. My last all dayer was in 2014. I had been putting on gigs, all dayers, festivals and club nights since around 2000 but wanted to focus time, energy and money elsewhere.
Andy: As far as I know the bands that were in the documentary were all pretty well known beforehand, which is one of the reasons they were picked to be in it.

For what other reasons were the bands in “British Black Metal” chosen to be interviewed?
Andy: I'd say the other reason bands were interviewed was purely because we were mates with Andy Horry who was making the documentary. He was guitarist for a band called Slaughterthrone at the time (or had just left), so he knew quite a few of us personally.
Paul: It was Andy's documentary, I remember it now. I haven't seen it but will hopefully rectify one day. Never enough hours in the day or the year.

Has anyone in the band watched other documentaries about extreme metal in the past year or two? Which would you recommend?
Paul: I watched the Lords Of Chaos one recently. It was surprisingly better than I thought it was going to be!Aside from all the obvious / known black metal ones, I'd recommend Slave To The Grind and Doom Doc that some friends made. Also recently watched a Japanese Extreme Metal one that's a pretty decent overview. I watch a lot on individual musicians, album makings. Tons out there on YouTube.
Jamie (guitar): Not necessarily 'extreme metal' but I've recently watched 'The Godfathers Of Hardcore' the Agnostic Front documentary, I suppose back in 1980 when they formed they were pretty extreme. In a strange way without Agnostic Front there wouldn't be Aubzagl, as they influenced most of the bands I grew up listening to.
Arron: The only documentaries I've watched in the last couple of years have been about serial killers. Varg would need to add a few more before he gets himself a Netflix documentary.
Andy: I have Metal: A Headbanger's Journey on DVD, but the closest I've come otherwise is the usual "Making of" stuff that bands release when doing a new album. I haven't watched Lords Of Chaos yet but find it hilarious that everyone is annoyed that they finally realized their idols were edge lord teenagers!

What gigs, all-dayers and fests was Paul organizing before solely placing his efforts on Damnation Festival? Who were the bands appearing at the most recent Damnation Fest?
Paul: I've done events (some being me, some as part of collectives, helping others) under the names of Raw Nerve, Lovely Time, Devastator, Arise, 'kin Hell Fest and Yorkshire Riffer. I book the venue and bands for the pre-show.

How many years has the Damnation Festival been held? What does your pre-show work entail? Are you helping seek venues for the event or working with others?
Arron: I think 2005 was the first Damnation Fest. It was originally held in Manchester, then after one or two years in moved to Leeds. That first year in Leeds Esclavage played at the pre-show (did you put that on, Paul? Madman Is Absolute played) and Soulfracture played the next day.
Andy: I've only ever been to Damnation in recent years, definitely after Arron's old bands played.
Arron: Ihsahn from Emperor has played there in the last year or two. I wasn't there. A Forest of Stars, Dragged Into Sunlight, The Infernal Sea, Winterfylleth have played there over the last few years. There are always one or two black metal bands playing each year. Hopefully that can be us in the future.

How long has Aubzagl been active? How well known are they becoming while promoting the release of their debut EP?
Arron: As for Aubzagl, we've been active around 2.5 years, but we’ve done little up to now for various reasons. We've had a decent amount of plays and downloads so far for the EP, as well as some brilliant reviews, feedback and plays on lots of radio stations.
Paul: We have had a great response to the EP, which has been amazing really. The 'various reasons' Arron mentioned was mainly life and all its weird, interesting, frustrating curve balls and direction changes getting a little in the way. Whilst we'll never be the sort of band that can play fifty shows a year or anything, we do hope to be productive writing and recording.
Getting riffs out of the system, no matter how you do it, be it live or on record, is an amazing feeling. It's always interesting to see where they go in the sense of a band setting, when you have an initial idea and then see what happens when a handful of other people get hold of them.
It's been great working with the Aubzagl guys so far, as everyone has played in bands a lot over the years, and so to be able to pool all that knowledge and ways of playing around with sound has been a lot of fun.
I wouldn't say we are massively well known, but the EP has been spread around a lot by a lot of different people, and the downloading of the EP has been healthy and steady, so, we'll just keep our name out there and keep writing more riffs.
Andy: Aubzagl is definitely a great way to channel energy, our newer material is getting much more personal from a lyrical standpoint due to our continually evolving approach to what we do.

Does Aubzagl musically draw inspiration from the current British black metal scene, or are there older influences you draw from as well as present ones? How does the band strive for their own sound when there are countless unsigned bands the world over?
Paul: Personally I draw influence from all the music I've ever heard. Any style, good and bad. I feel that both help me equally in pushing the music I want to release to be the best it can be. If it's a song I consider bad (as in badly written, a sound I don't like, or both), then that helps me understand more how to create music to the best of my ability. I don't feel there any constraints, just because we may generally fit into the black metal sound, style or scene. All the members are into so many different styles that it's bound to show in the sound to a degree.
Andy: I agree with Paul in the inspiration front. It comes from all sorts of music, all walks of life. I know I still get influenced by the current black metal scene as I am involved in a few other bands in the scene. But rather than making it similar it allows me to adapt my lyrical approach to something a little more unique.

In what ways does British black metal of the 2010s differ from British black metal of the 1990s, besides 1990s and 2000s black metal from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany etc?
Andy: The main way it differs I'd say is probably the ideas behind it, the fact that most of the musicians have moved past the rebellious reasons behind most of it. The sound is a bit different too, due to the different influences in both music and environment.
Paul: BBM90s definitely had a certain sound, especially due to the likes of Cradle Of Filth and Hecate Enthroned, in fact I'd say it was pretty obvious what country a band was from in the 90s/early 2000s due to their sound. You could easily tell a Norwegian versus Swedish, German versus French, American versus British by the nuances, temperature of the tone, delivery in vocals and sometimes right down to the artwork.
Nowadays, the entire extreme music (not just metal) scene is a huge melting pot, and, whilst I loved all the earlier bands that I found when I first was getting into black metal in 1993/4, I have always been someone into more progressive natures of any styles. It's far more interesting and it pushes boundaries, thought and intellect much more. That's why I've always played in bands of different styles, that like to mix it up, and why I would always put on mixed bill line ups when hosting concerts, and, Aubzagl, for me is no different.
Because of the members involved in the band, and knowing them before joining, I knew there was going to be something interesting and different that would blanket the basic initial blueprint of the idea, and as time goes on, that's only going to get expanded on.

Some people suspect  there are so many bands due to social media and streaming sites that originality is waning in extreme metal. And there are too many subgenre classifications.
Andy: I personally think subgenres are a good thing for finding the kind of thing you would like, however people get too fixed on what a specific genre is supposed to sound like. That's why you get people complaining that black metal is getting too progressive or isn't evil enough or whatever outdated idea you want to cling to. So long as you remember that genres are just recommendation labels rather than concrete rules, you have a window to be creative. That's why we have hardcore and grind influences in our black metal.
Paul: I love all the bickering and silliness over sub/sub-sub-genre discussion, and join in from time to time, but it is only a guideline, to bring roughly the right group of people towards your own / the music being talked about. The music listening world is taking in far more diverse stuff than ever before, and the music playing world are encouraging it continually. If we don't progress, what's the point?

In spite of everything metal fans are still perceived as airheads, incapable of maturity and creative growth. Why does the general public hold to those blanket stereotypes?
Paul: The generalized view is that the general public think metal fans are airheads, but metal fans think the general public are idiots. I don't think it's as true as the generalization says it is, so, it depends on which side of the fence you're on, how closely you look, how true and metal and angry you want to perceive yourself to be. I think the broader view of it is changing a lot. It also depends on where you live.
There seems very little spite against metallers / alternative folk in Leeds anymore. It is a very progressive city, and as mentioned before, without progression, life seems pointless, so I am very appreciative of where I live for this reason.
I've recently just got back from a week in the Czech Republic, and whilst there are some amazing festivals, venues and bands out there, and a lot of people into the music, I felt like I was getting stared at a lot more for having tattoos and wearing black whilst on public transport and in the streets, compared to what I would in Leeds, or in other major cities in the UK thinking of it.
I define myself as a metaller, yes, but it doesn't define my character. There are some metallers that hold the worst ideals dear (racists / fascists, misogynists / homophobes, hunters etc) and I don't want anything to do with that side of it, the same way that I don't want anything to do with non-metallers of the same thinking.
There are brainless idiots, arseholes, people unworthy of oxygen in all walks of life, the same way as there are absolutely incredible, nice, empathetic, helpful people in all walks of life.
That may not sound very 'extreme' or 'trve black metal' of me to say that, but, I don't really care.
Andy: Personally, I don't see metal stereotypes that much anymore. Then again, we ARE the kind of people who are pretty loud about our appreciation of music in all forms.

Sometimes anger is fabricated; especially if it’s marketed as being “cool”. Other times there is a reason for it. Does the media makes it more difficult to tell the difference? How can genuine anger work toward constructive ends?
Paul: Look at 90% of the musicians in the extreme scene, they've put their music together, at least initially from a place of anger or frustrating, being pissed off about something, either personal or societal. The whole music scene is bred from that, even if the music isn't speaking about it specifically, what has led those musicians to be a part of the world they are in? It's to escape the 'normal' world. It's finding ways of dealing with things that anger, upset, confuse, cause health problems to (mentally especially).
Arron: I think you can generally listen to a couple of tracks by a band and tell if their anger is sincere or just a gimmick. Reading the lyrics adds to that. Rage Against The Machine and Weekend Nachos are my go to "angry" bands. They've got something to say and they're going to say it and I think they both present in a way that makes me take notice. One are angry about people they grew up with and the town they're from and the other about social and economical politics. Both very different reasons, but both important to them. The delivery of those lyrics is a major thing for me, too. You can just feel it. That anger is palpable. When they say things like; "you need to connect with a song and convey the emotions" on something like The X Factor, whilst it sounds lame as fuck it's completely true. If you feel what they're saying and it evokes something in you, it's doing the job. Add on top of that the music and you've got two bands that make me want to smash stuff. Because they want to smash stuff.
Andy: Like Paul said, most evocative music is formed from anger or similar emotions. I always found it interesting to listen to a band's youthful in-your-face anger at the start of their careers and hearing how it progresses into more mature, more refined ideas as they grow as people. This is especially true of the black metal scene, I find.

Are the “trve” and “kvlt” tags another example of clique mentality in the underground?
Paul: You can always tell which bands are the more genuine ones, I don't rely on the media for swaying my opinions about that or what bands I should or shouldn't like. It's the same with if someone calls themselves 'kvlt' or whatever, the ones that are doing it because they want to, as opposed to that's what they think is the cool thing to do, you can almost always tell the difference.
Clique mentality, I don't think is necessarily a bad thing at all times. It can be the thing that keeps friendships going, that brings like-minded people together that might not ordinarily be able to be involved in bigger groups. Some circles of people just function better when it's just them and nobody else. Some cliques are born from introversion. If that's the way that people need to be, to get by the best they can, and they're not harming anyone else, then just let them get on with it I guess.
Jamie: I don't listen to enough black metal to know what "trve" or "kvlt" mean, I'm sure to some people they mean everything to them and that's fine. The songs I wrote for the EP are simply what I felt at the time if they are trve or kvlt then it's purely unintentional.
Arron: I don't know too much about "trve" and "kvlt" either. To me, they're just black metal hipsters. I don't think too many bands that particularly bothered about trying to be either and just, like you say please what they feel. If every band were "trve" and "kvlt" then black metal as a genre would become stale and stagnant with every band looking and sounding the same.
Andy: "Trve" and "kvlt" are basically people holding on to a traditionalist idea of black metal. Nostalgia has its place but not when it stops you from progressing. It's fucking stupid when a genre exemplified by a dude who said "NO TRENDS" can't break out of a trend of how it should sound. Black metal is an attitude and a feeling rather than a specific rule set in my opinion. I've often found most people who stick to these terms are either the types who also have one-person bedroom black metal bands and say black metal shouldn't be played live, or they are using it as an excuse to say that black metal needs to be evil and sing about nazi shit or some random bullshit like that. This isn't EVERYONE in the scene obviously, but unfortunately it is a rather vocal section. The more I can do to annoy the fuck out of them the better!

How long was the process of writing the songs that appeared on the EP and choosing a title? Did you opt to record and release it independently to get around the pitfalls?
Andy: The songs we wrote earlier definitely have a bit more of a second wave black metal influence to them, as when Martyn (Hare, ex-Send More Paramedics) started the band he was aiming for a tribute to that style. Most of the lyrics on the EP were written during those initial stages, but later songs (namely “Voices of the Aether” and “The End of All Things”) have a more personal edge to them, as that works better with how our music is evolving.
Jamie: I had a lot of the riffs and songs that are on the EP written before I joined Aubzagl. I didn't and still don't listen to that much black metal at all, so if we sound like any sort of band it's purely unintentional! I'm kind of an outsider to the whole black metal scene. I grew up listening to grunge, thrash and hardcore so all those influences come out in my writing but as soon as Arron, Andy and Paul put their parts on the songs they sort of twist and shape into sounding more black metal. The songs came together quite fast actually as I had a lot of them structured and sorted before I joined. It helps that Arron, Paul and Andy are amazing musicians they picked up what I'd already sorted and just nailed every part.
Arron: My background is more death, thrash and hardcore, so like Jamie I've never been involved in anything black metal related.
Paul: My black metal influences come from bands like Immortal, Emperor, Wolves in the Throne Room, Dragged Into Sunlight, but my knowledge of the genre is quite limited.

Describe how the lyrics penned for your EP go with those differences you described.
Andy: The lyrics are a bit of a myriad topic, as quite a few of those were written back when we were intending to just pay tribute to the second wave Norwegian bands. Later on we started becoming our own thing, which is where songs like The End of All Things and especially Voices of the Aether, where I felt it more appropriate to take a personal approach instead of sticking to the old-school subjects of the other songs on the EP (namely Satanism, misanthropy, nihilism).
The new material has a bit more experimentation blending the noise pieces like Null and Ogilt and blending them into the music, along with much more personally nihilistic lyrics.
Paul: The next set of songs, I guess we'll just try and delve further into the themes and styles we did on the first release, but add something new as well. In every single song I either write or play on, I always try and put something slightly different in, that I've never done before, that might not be the obvious way of doing things, and I'll never change in that. First and foremost, there will be RIFFS!

In what formats is the debut EP Eilífa Kuldinn available at the time of this writing? Was it released exclusively in digital and streaming format or did you also have CD copies pressed? Which format most helps you get your name around?
Andy: The title of the EP was actually what took the longest! We tried a load of different things before Paul suggested the current one, which is in Icelandic.
Paul: It was actually Arron that suggested the idea of the title being non-English, and my obsession with everything Icelandic wasn't going to hold back the possibility of that happening!
Jamie: With regards to releasing it independently, we just wanted to get these songs out there so it just seemed to be the easiest way if we handled everything from recording it and releasing it ourselves. We've all been in bands that have had music released by labels and they're great for getting your name out there and doing all the behind the scenes work, I personally haven't really had any "pitfalls" working with labels.
Andy: The only time I've ever had a problem with labels was with the label that released the CD version of the "In Satan's Honour" split Forneus took part in, but even then it was only a really minor detail that bugged me and no one else noticed! Still, I've always maintained the idea a band should get full control of their material, even when it comes to format of release.
Jamie: The EP is download/streaming for now simply due to it being the easiest way to get your music out to more people. We have talked about a physical version being available, but that is for further in the future.

Which zines and radio stations have helped support the EP, and how has the feedback been?
Andy: So far the response has been quite positive, we've had good reviews from Head-Banger Reviews, Black Metal Daily and Musipedia Of Metal, as well as being "Band of the Week" on The Autopsy Report rock & metal radio show.

Musically and lyrically, how is your newer material an improvement from what the EP offers?
Andy: The new material has a bit more experimentation blending the noise pieces like Null and Ogilt and blending them into the music, along with much more personally nihilistic lyrics.

Describe the lyrics of Eilífa Kuldinn. Who penned them and what images do they evoke?
Andy: I wrote all the lyrics, though my approach evolved over time. When we first started it was very much the idea to pay tribute to the ideas in the second wave of black metal, so lyrics for The Hermit for example are about restoring old gods and living alone in the forest as the world crumbles around you, or The Adversary being very anti-religion. I did experiment with more esoteric lyrics, like Varaha which is about a Hindu creation myth but framed in a nihilistic way, or Oath of Blood which actually evolved from ideas I've had for old Forneus material but never suited that band. The End of All Things and Voices of the Aether are the most recent songs completed and the most personal, delving more into me excising my own self-destructive thoughts. Mental health is definitely an influence on our genre as a whole (otherwise why would we have DSBM?) and needs to be talked about more often. Many of us in the band have had experiences either personally or with friends and loved ones that have dealt with this stuff to varying degrees of success or failure, which is why I ended up deciding that channeling these thoughts into our music as it evolved to become an uglier, more terrifying thing would work.

If and when you release a physical version of the EP, will you release it independently or seek an indie label to distribute it? Would you contact a label in the UK or overseas?
Paul: We have no concrete plans with that. It would be nice to see it on all formats, especially now the response has been so awesome. We'll eventually do a small run ourselves if the interest continues, but it would be nice to have the help of someone in that as well. Open to ideas really. We're just really glad it's out there now after having these songs written for so long.
There's every possibility we will use other instruments outside of the standard band set up, yes. If we hear something in our heads that needs to go on the next recordings, if the overall sound requires something specific, then we'll do our best to find whatever instrument is needed to make it.

Many black metal bands incorporate native music from their respective countries, and/or classical instruments, and lately bands have added classic metal vibes to their material. Is this something Aubzagl would consider doing at some point?
Andy: Culturally I don't know if the UK HAS anything to add musically. Unless we either add a morris dancing breakdown or take the British Empire route and just start stealing shit and saying it's ours! On a more serious note, we're willing to do whatever serves the songs. If a song calls for odd instrumentation, we'll use them.
Paul: It's the same if a song needs to go in a certain direction to get the overall impact right, then we'll do it. We're not constricted by any boundaries, which hopefully the first EP did enough to already speak that clear. We'll always do the most to benefit the RIFFS!

In what ways does the EP leave Aubzagl to individually progress and grow on future releases?
Arron: The EP contains songs that were written between one and three years ago. Some when we'd just started playing together. So all we'll do is get together and write a whole bunch of new songs, but where we've been playing together a lot longer and have a better understanding of each others' playing. The main thing the next release will contain is riffs.
Andy: We've already started working on new material, and currently we are pushing it into the weird and wonderful. I personally want this music to just fuck with people in the most awesome ways possible. This EP is definitely a solid foundation for us to expand on, and it can only get uglier and darker from here!
Paul: Again, we set things up so we can do whatever we feel like doing. If we want to write a few straight up verse-chorus-verse songs we can, if we want to do a 15 minute epic DSBM style song, we can. We can throw noise or ambient bits in, or make things way more hardcore, or, whatever really. Also, you don't particularly need to know the ins and outs of a genre to be able to play it well, and, for some people, the fact they know loads about it, especially those who are only into one genre, means all they do is be overly influenced by it and not do anything different within it. It's cross-pollination of musicians' styles and influences that creates progressiveness in any genre and sub-genre, so, to me, it's FAR more interesting and better if the group of people playing together aren't influenced by the same music, bands, or want it to be very specific in the sound.
The people in the band have incredibly diverse musical and life influences, so the main thing is that we will show that off, at least in part, in the RIFFS!


-Dave Wolff

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Full Length Review: VAGRANT "The Rise of Norn" (Black Lion Records) by Ghoul Shadows

Band: Vagrant
Country: Germany
Genre: Epic melodic death metal
Full Length: The Rise of Norn
Label: Black Lion Records
Format: Digital, streaming
Release date: July 19, 2019
The Rise of Norn by Vagrant is performed by three pissed off German dudes who you can imagine are arranged around a massive campfire – they are drinking the blood of their enemies; they are drinking their beers and they are loving it. They play what is classified as epic melodic death metal and yeah, I tend to agree. I can also feel their music harks back to very early Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth minus the showman ship, and y’all know how I love showmanship! So, they lost a few points for that BUT then I went and checked out their Discography. I noticed there was a problem as this was their debut album. Holy shit balls! This is their first album! Fornicate me like a sacrificial goat! So, I went to the website and recorded a problem – need more music please. Hopefully this gets fixed soon. Is it worth a listen? Yes. Is it metal? Yes. Is it unique? No, but don’t take that to heart because I’d rather it be a solid metal album that I can listen to rather than skipping tracks. I just would like a bands tracks to stand out from the pack. Speaking of tracks, I’d have to go with “Blood on a Crows beak” followed by “Blinded by Destiny”. Maybe its just me but I get the urge to run at the enemy across the seas and burn their villages down. Which coincidentally I nearly did with my local corner store and I would like to formally apologise now to the guy behind the counter who got freaked out and nearly called the cops while I was swinging a loaf of bread and growling like a man possessed. I explained what I was listening to on my headphones and as I felt bad, I bought a 2 litre of strawberry milk. He was cool with it yet still visibly shaken. The point is the music made me get out of the house and that’s a good thing. I am still watched very closely whenever I go to the corner store. So ya know, fuck it. I like this album. It’s not burning-church-worthy metal but the embers are there to start it, fire it up guys, looking forward to good things.
Rating: Several Loaves of bread and 2 litres of Strawberry milk out of multiple PTSD flashbacks for my Corner Store clerk.
P.S. The milk was out of date…shit. ☹ -Ghoul Shadows

Lineup:
Dragnier: Vocals, lyrics
Stanley Robertson: Guitars, songwriting
Arnaud Morlier: Bass, backing vocals

Track list:
1. The Whispering Sea
2. Blinded by Destiny
3. Deceptive Similarity
4. Darkness During the Reign of a Black Sun
5. Spirit of Valor
6. Blood on a Crow's Beak

Monday, August 19, 2019

Interview with 25TH MISSION by Dave Wolff

Interview with 25TH MISSION 

25th Mission from Long Island is, comprised of four middle-aged metal fans. What still fuels your enthusiasm?
Pat Picarsic (lead guitar): Most metal fans are far from casual listeners. They go to live performances, read album liner notes, know the names of band members, wear the shirts, etc.
One unavoidable aspect of aging is that one can't help but lament the fact that "music these days is garbage compared to the good old days..." It's been that way for generations. In twenty years, some parent is going to be annoyed by THEIR teenager's choice of music, and left longing for the days of 'lil Peep, 'lil Pump, 'lil XAN, 'lil Whatever-the-fuck....’
All of us grew up in the era of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, old Metallica, Megadeth, Manowar, so the 90's era of nu-metal turned us off, and metal has never quite recovered. While there are many talented bands working hard and creating music today, the tuned down sludge guitars and barking/growling vocals tend to fatigue "mature" ears.
That being said, when Vinny and I started putting this project together, it was decided we were keeping the guitars in "true E," and the singer had to be able to sing in the style of our favorite bands from the golden age. That was the hard part.
Funny story: I found Mikey, our singer, via the worst plan ever. Geoff Tate was playing a local club here on Long Island, and I went down with hopes of finding a nostalgic fanboy in attendance who could sing. Sure enough, while I was watching Tate sing "I Don't Believe in Love," Mikey was behind me singing along. I turned around, asked if he had a band, exchanged information and drinks, and the rest is history.
Anyway, we found our drummer James as he plays in a Slayer tribute, and started writing and recording. We all love mostly the same music, and what we started creating what could best be described as "Retro-Metal." Like a lost album from 1987 that you completely missed!
Vinny Carollo (bass): We are disciples of heavy metal. We do not forget our roots, or where we come from, but with an updated sound. Like an old school Camaro to a 2019 model. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel with heavy metal. Just trying to bring back what our predecessors created but with our own twist. 

The band is named after an allegory to World War II, which is described on their Facebook community page. Explain what the allegory is and what it means to the band?
Pat: The name came from The History Channel. I was watching a show about the American aircrews’ station in England during WWII. Their term of service wasn't based on time, but rather on the number of missions flown over Europe. Once they flew 25 missions, they got to go home. Unfortunately, the average number of missions one could expect to fly before being killed, wounded or shot down was around 14. So to me, "25th Mission" implies a pipe dream, a lie, a false promise, or a basic impossibility... like four middle-aged dudes playing original music in this dated style, and hoping anybody cares! 

How actively were the members of 25th Mission involved in bands in the 80s? Were you in bands that released material and performed in those days?
Pat: I graduated in 1989, so my early experiences were more about learning covers, and playing in garages and back yards in Binghamton, New York (upstate). It wasn’t for a couple more years before I found myself actively gigging in that geographical are; Binghamton, Syracuse, Elmira, Rochester, and Buffalo. Mostly classic metal and hairband covers before attempting to actually write songs. Luckily, Upstate New York was a few years behind the times, so I got to enjoy the tail end of that heyday before Seattle killed it. Suddenly, the bars got empty and we weren’t cool anymore, haha. Anything I recorded back in the day is irrelevant and came along a little too late to hop on any bandwagons.
It was a strange time in that bands that were on MTV and selling out arenas were now playing at our local 300-seater in Binghamton. My band got to warm up for LA Guns, Quiet Riot, Slaughter, Great White, and Warrant. All of the bands were really cool and played like seasoned professionals except Warrant. They were drunk, angry, complaining about backstage accommodations, and they fucked our sound. Spinal Tap without the humor.
I got really drunk after our set, and when Warrant was playing, I started heckling loudly, which is easy amongst 300 people. Jani Lane and I went back and forth a little bit. After they played a shitty set of shitty music to start with, the crowd emptied, and one of the members (I can’t remember who) came over to me to start shit. It got loud, and suddenly my band and crew was in an all-out brawl with Warrant and their guys. The bouncers eventually pushed the melee out into the parking lot; we kicked their asses and sent them running to their bus. They emptied the septic tank in the parking lot and took off. It’s all pretty fuzzy to me, but it’s my best “rock star” story.
Vinny: I was very active in the 80’s when my former band was at its apex. We played CBGBs, L’Amour in Brooklyn and Sundance in Long Island to name a few. Opened for Manowar, Blue Oyster Cult, Adrenaline Mob, Joe Lynn Turner, and Wrathchild America. We had a few releases on an Independent label. We did a reunion after 20+ years in 2012, and released a full-length CD. After some infighting, I left that band and formed 25th Mission.
Mike Deyhley (vocals): I personally was not in any bands in the 80's, as I was still pretty young in those days. I was only thirteen in 1989.
For a time, thrash was considered “outdated” (besides that bands became more melodic to reach more listeners and it killed their careers for a while), yet many old school thrash bands continue to have cult followings. How do you account for this?
Pat: The first bands that really moved me were Quiet Riot, Motley Crue, Ratt, Twisted Sister, Dokken, W.A.S.P. etc. First-generation hair bands were initially awesome! Then, the following generations of Cinderella, Bon Jovi, and Poison really softened that cool Sunset Strip vibe. Around that time I discovered Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, but when I heard “Master of Puppets,” “Among the Living” and “Peace Sells” I was floored! Then it was Slayer, Testament, Exodus, Overkill, and Death Angel. There were so many great albums of that genre! Sadly, it peaked in the early 90's around the Clash Of The Titans tour with Slayer, Anthrax, Megadeth, and a little-known band called Alice in Chains who got booed off the stage night-after-night. Seattle hadn't taken over yet.
Then it seems all these bands couldn't match their early albums. I couldn't care less about anything they've written in the last twenty-plus years. But watch these pioneering thrash bands on tour. They play new material and it’s filler. Then watch the crowd for “Reign in Blood,” “Seek and Destroy,” “Peace Sells” and “Caught in a Mosh.” It's magical! It was a special time in metal, and the strength of that early material allows these bands to continue to tour. I was really excited back in 2011 to see The Big Four at Yankee Stadium. I was hoping to relive the glory days of thrash when I was denim-and-leather and angst-ridden. Then I saw the strollers, families, and ice cream vendors. Nevertheless, the old material garnered the greatest crowd response. 

In the 90s we had retro-thrash like Inferno and in the 2000s we had the new wave of thrash metal (Toxic Holocaust, Municipal Waste). Do you think those bands recaptured the 80s spirit?
Mike: There is some definite Exodus-sounding familiarity/roots with Inferno. Another example of a great band with that great “blackened-thrash” sound is Rimfrost. With Municipal Waste, obviously, there's strong Anthrax influence in there. As far as Toxic Holocaust goes, there's 80's Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer influences everywhere, albeit with more unclean vocals. Like all those bands, we tend to keep taking the sounds our predecessors created and then try to put our personal stamp on our music. 

When 25th Mission first started rehearsing, how soon did you realize the band was on to something that people would relate to? How soon did you begin recording material?
Pat: Vinnie and I met on Craigslist. He was looking for a band, and I was looking for a ruggedly handsome, Italian man who likes sunsets and long walks on the beach, so we just clicked (laughing).
Anyway, our first "practices" were basically bass and guitar in Vinny's living room, trading riffs and ideas. I took those ideas and arranged them in my "home studio" which consists of a laptop, freeware recording software (Audacity) and a freeware drum machine (Hydrogen). Mikey was there for some of the original sessions, so we had an idea of the eventual song construction. We found the drummer James, I emailed everyone the basic music, and we agreed to meet at a rehearsal studio for the first time. The first song we played together was "Bitchin'." We got through it on the first attempt, and we all kind of looked at each other like: "How the hell did that happen?" Then we got a knock on the door from one of the other bands rehearsing who thought we sounded good and invited us to do a show in New York City the next weekend. While we were flattered, we had to politely decline as we'd officially been together for ten minutes. That's when we knew we were on to something. 

When you have band practice, do the rehearsals have a similar vibe to back in the day?
Pat: As far as practice today vs. yesteryear, it’s a lot more subdued and productive. Kids in their 20s tend to drink more and smoke a lot of weed at practice. Friends and girlfriends like to hang out, and it was always a party.
I mentioned that I grew up in Binghamton before moving to Long Island. Years ago, a bunch of bands practiced in studios above a music store named Music City which was right on a riverbank. This cluster of buildings contained us bands, a seedy Irish bar, a liquor store frequented by the homeless, a frat house, and a strip club. That shared parking lot was legendary! Passed out bums, pledges getting paddled, musicians smoking pot, bar fights, and scantily clad ladies giving their clients “special” treatment in their cars. Garbage, graffiti, smelled like piss. It was awesome! Today is nothing like that, haha.
Mike: Our rehearsals are spent basically working on and perfecting previously hashed out material and musical pieces that were worked on individually or arranged on a "string night". "String Nights" usually involve arranging the songs (verses, choruses, riffs, solos, changes, etc.) and brainstorming other ideas, usually in Vinny's or James' living room or back patio. Whether that's what they did, back in the 80's, I have no idea. But, that's the way we've done it, so far.
How much of an audience has the band gotten so far, who appreciate your long-standing dedication to playing what you basically love? Also, how much have the bands you grew up with and continued to listen to grown musically and lyrically?
Pat: As far as our audience, I think we initially confuse people (laughs). We're playing shows mostly in the tri-state area, and a lot of the bands on the bills are either “Cookie Monster” vocals, heavy rock, or sludgy post-nu metal with breakdowns. Then we come out with authentic, old-school thrash with operatic vocals. The crowd gets on-board pretty quickly though. People tend to pay attention and watch us. No crazy mosh pits, no socializing and small talk. Just eyes. Thankfully we've been getting an enthusiastic response when a song stops. As far as our social media demographics, our audience is largely males aged 45-65, so that must explain why we have a large Facebook following, but our Instagram is stagnant.
Vinny: We’ve been together for a year, and our Facebook is over 3000 likes. Several internet radio stations are playing us, and a full-length CD is coming in early 2020. Necessary Evil is just a taste.
All my early influences are still active today: Kiss, Lynyrd Skynyrd, AC/DC, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and especially Manowar. My old band warmed up for them, and they watched our whole set, and we got to drink beers on their bus after the show. 

Regarding the “cookie monster” stereotype, I have watched tutorial videos by professional singers who show how to use your vocal cords properly for extreme metal. More extreme bands also use operatic vocals in their material.
Mike: I, personally, have never been to a vocal coach or taken a personal lesson from a trained professional vocal teacher. I pretty much taught myself, through trial and error. That said, I learned, early on, that in order to perform day-in and day-out, without permanently injuring yourself, you really do need to learn to sing correctly. This goes for clean and unclean vocals because the proper techniques are vital. So, while I've never taken a personal lesson from a vocal trainer, I DO constantly scour videos on the internet that discuss the human voice in depth. I’m probably not the only metal singer who does this. I'm actually quite obsessive about it, as it's a good way of researching and gaining as much information as possible about singing.
A lot of those videos do provide you with great advice about how to sing correctly, like: using your diaphragm and not just, simply forcing air violently up from your lungs through your vocal cords, warmup exercises to gain better coordination up and down the vocal register (blending the chest and head voice through the passaggio/mid-range), breath support and general vocal hygiene etc. There is a lot of BS out there, however, as you watch more and more videos, a lot of the same language/jargon and points of discussion comes up. So, as with most things, singing is very much trial and error and constantly learning along the way of what works, what doesn’t and most importantly, what works today, but won’t if you continue to keep doing vocally damaging stuff.
That’s where unclean vocals come in. I always laugh at those who claim that unclean vocals “don’t take any talent” or that “anyone can do that”. I then challenge said people to try just growling, screeching, shrieking and screaming (if it’s so easy), for over five minutes, non-stop, and then get back to me when you’re physically able to speak about it two to three days later. It is a definite technique that I still haven’t fully mastered. It’s still a work-in-progress for me. Although there are no unclean vocals on any songs on our “Necessary Evil” EP, we do have a few songs on our upcoming album that will probably be released in early 2020, that will feature vocal passages of unclean vocals. One song, in particular, “Tantrum”, has quite a bit of unclean vocals. It’s actually already recorded and mixed. We’re just waiting to record and mix a handful other songs that are waiting, in line, on the proverbial conveyor belt.
You will notice that the vocals in most of our songs are almost exclusively clean. It’s not that I dislike unclean vocals (far from it), it’s just that I’m a bit better at clean singing. However, in the future, you will start hearing unclean vocal passages in our music. Not too much, but some, just to give a dramatic effect.
A couple of bands that incorporate both clean and unclean vocals, that I particularly like, is Opeth, Borknagar, Scar Symmetry, In Flames, Soilwork, etc. just off the top of my head. ICX Vortex (Simen Hestenaes), in particular, I absolutely love his clean vocals in both Borknagar and his short stint with Dimmu Borgir. His voice is so beautifully eerie and haunting that it fits perfectly within the realm of black metal. 

From what you’ve seen, which vocal instructors make the most beneficial tutorials? Would you recommend them to other vocalists?
Mike: As far as analysis and knowledge of vocal pedagogy and techniques, with an emphasis on clean singing correctly and not injuring yourself, I find Zach Ansley to be good. He seems to be very detail-oriented, much more than any of the other "vocal coaches/instructors". He's not so helpful with the "unclean singing" aspect, as he claims that there's no documented proof that there's a safe way to perform unclean vocals safely and sustainably.
Although, I've seen others teaching unclean vocal techniques, in other videos, it's something I just worked on, once I understood the proper diaphragm control (as with the same technique with clean singing) and then practiced on gradually manipulating and working on the throat control, necessary for producing the growl, shriek, scream or whatever desired extreme, unclean effect I was trying to achieve. To be honest, none of the vocal "instructor videos" ever really helped much with improving an unclean singing technique. I mean, there were a few pointers I picked up about the more open or wider you make your throat, the higher the growl/pitch, etc. However, it was just something that I continued to work on, tinker, and strengthen, through trial and error, but never pushing anything that I couldn't continually sustain, day in and day out, without hurting or straining myself.
With unclean vocals, it seems pretty difficult to actually describe what a person needs to do with their vocal cords and throat to pull this off. It's just something you just eventually figure out and continually strengthen, once you understand proper breathing, diaphragm and throat control. At least, that's just my opinion. 

Discuss the making of your EP “Necessary Evil” and how aggressively the band has been promoting it since it came out.
Pat: Necessary Evil was recorded at Crescent Studios which is owned by a gentleman named Pete Pizzo. We were looking around for a place to record. It seems like everyone has a home studio these days, but we weren’t getting a good vibe or price from anyone. Pete was recommended to us, and he made the bold offer of recording and mastering a song for free just to see if we liked his work. We really did, and we’ve been recording with him since. We did the five-song EP, and we’ve recorded three songs since. Our goal is to have a full-length album by early 2020.
Necessary Evil is available on CD Baby, and we’ve been contacting every internet radio station, magazine, website that’s friendly to our music, and our Facebook has a few thousand likes. Hopefully, this interview makes us famous!
Vinny: We got our first CDs in May of 2019. Currently soliciting the EP for reviews in magazines, websites, internet radio, and other industry sources.
Mike: We funded it completely out of our own pockets, as we're not signed to a record label, so it took time to record. We didn't record it in one shot, over the course of just one week or even month, due to our various work schedules and such. Pete Pizzo, our producer/engineer, would give us available time slots to come down and record, based on his own work schedule and availability. From there, we still are in the process of recording new material for our next album.
Since the Necessary Evil EP was released a little over a month ago, we've been actively trying to get our music to every local radio station or podcast, on every metal website and page that we come across. Obviously, it'll take a while for our music to circulate and get out there to the masses, however, we're currently optimistic that eventually, this EP will cause doors to open and new opportunities to arise. One can only hope. 

Who recommended Pete Pizzo to the band, and what convinced you to work on the EP with him? Are you satisfied with his help?
Vinny: Pete was recommended by a longtime friend and brother of metal of Vinny Carollo (Paul Terror Trezza). After hearing Pete's work and having conversations with him I was sold on the man's passion of the trade. I also loved he is a musician himself (drummer). He was so strong and convincing we would love his work. He was willing to record and mix one song for free and whether we decided to keep it or not we were free to do what we wanted with it with no obligation. We are very happy and comfortable with Pete, and we ask him at times for his opinions and suggestions. He is really easy to work with. He is always looking to improve his studio with new toys (recording equipment/state of the art)
Mike: Paul "Terror" Trezza, the lead vocalist of the band Terror Garden, actually referred us to Pete. I can only speak for myself, but I'm thoroughly pleased with the work he has put in on the Necessary Evil EP as well as the current tracks we're working on. He's a good guy, a pleasure to work with and pushes us in the right direction, to get the best output from us. 
Describe your involvement in the song and lyric writing process and how much input you all had before recording the EP.
Pat: The process usually involves Vinny and me sitting down and sharing riffs. The first song we wrote was “Bitchin.’” Vinny had the riffs and had written the chorus. I took the music, programmed basic drums, worked out a solo over a key change to F#, recorded a working arrangement on my laptop, and emailed it to the guys. Mikey wrote the verses during his commutes to New York City. James wrote real drums and fills. Then at rehearsal, we worked out the nuances and we had a song.
So generally, the music starts with bass and guitars. Vinny usually has a chorus and some lyrical ideas. I record working versions and email the mp3s to James and Mikey, so they can write their parts. When we get to rehearsal, everybody has an idea of the song, and then we work out the final arrangements. Some songs write themselves, others require more trial and error.
Vinny: All songs are written by Vinny Carollo or Pat Picarsic individually or as a team. All lyrics are written by Mike Deyle or Vinny Carollo, also written sometimes as a team, and belong to 25th Mission. Sometimes Pat or Vinny writes a song entirely. Some songs Vinny has parts and needs a different riff or lick and tags Pat in. Sometimes Mike or Vinny writes songs entirely, but at times choruses will be written by Vinny with Mike’s lyrics. Sometimes Mike writes around Vinny’s choruses and hooks. James plays whatever he chooses for a beat and drum parts. Sometimes the band will point out a certain beat or suggest a certain beat to James with certain parts of songs. There is no bullshit with this band. A song gets introduced as a foundation and gets built around it with all the members’ input. Unanimous or majority vote is the way a song is finished. Then we get ready for pre-production and introduce it to Pete to be recorded. The EP was just the five songs that were ready to go at the time and was written with the band being together for only a few months. It was completed with the band being six or seven months old. We were anxious to get a product out there for airplay, interviews, sales, and marketing which we are in the process of doing. We are also recording a full-length CD projected release first quarter of 2020.
Mike: Generally, the input varies from each member, depending on the song. In the beginning, both Pat and Vinny had riffs, arranged musical pieces and (in many cases) already-written chorus vocal/lyric ideas that they'd hand to me, to write verse/pre-chorus lyrics for. Vinny generally has a really great knack for catchy chorus ideas or gang-shout "hooks". They help dictate the direction of the lyrical content. It inspires me to write lyrics for the rest of the song. Of course, after that we hand the arranged pieces to James to orchestrate and bring to life in his explosive and technical fashion. There are also songs in which Vinny has written the lyrics, riffs, music, etc. (soup-to-nuts), many years ago and songs where I've written all the lyrics and vocal lines.
There is a constant stream of ideas flowing. There doesn't seem to be any signs of stagnation anywhere, which is a testament to the fact that we've amassed over thirteen songs in less than a year. We have more song ideas still sitting on the conveyer belt. I can honestly say these guys inspire the hell out of me and have pushed me to become a better singer than I was a year ago. 

What doors are you hoping Necessary Evil will open for the band? Are any of them opening while you’ve promoted it yet?
Pat: Without a product, there is no door. Personally, I hadn’t done anything musically for 10+ years besides dusting off a guitar every-now-and-then, playing a couple of riffs, then putting it down. Occasionally, I’d check out the “musicians wanted” ads on Craigslist, meet a few delusional idiots, and then give up for a couple of years. Maybe I was the idiot (laughing).
This last time around, I placed an ad looking for musicians to play some old-school metal covers…just to do something. Vinny answered, and we had the same influences mostly, but he had no interest in doing covers. I was itching to play, and we met up at his house. He played me his old band’s CD, and, honestly, I wasn’t a huge fan, but he played a few new ideas on his bass, I saw potential, and I was inspired to start assembling my own stockpile of riffs from yesteryear.
Basically, the long answer to your short question is, I wasn’t thinking about promoting and profiting as much as I had come to the realization of how much I missed creating. Without some creative component in your life, whether it be music, painting, poetry, whatever…If you have no creative component in your life, you’re just living to die.
Vinny: This is all new we just started knocking on doors we only started promoting this currently the EP was released the end of May. Doors are opening by radio airplay, magazine interviews, and a rapidly growing fan base and followers on the bands Facebook page. Necessary Evil was put together as bullets of ammo to get our name out-our music being heard to the industry and genre-based listeners-reviews, writeups, give people something to listen to and for us to deliver it when we play out we want to show our genre of music and we are indeed disciples of metal!!!
Mike: Well, for a start, having our music professionally recorded, polished, mixed and spread across multiple media platforms makes it easier to have our music distributed to a larger audience, where it can readily circulate. As of now, a little over a month since its release, we have several metal radio/fanzines/periodicals that have reviews pending, for Necessary Evil. Ultimately, right now, our main goal is hopefully to sign a favorable contract (whatever that may entail) with a record label, which will help get our music out the masses and help promote our band further. However, only if those conditions are favorable. 

How much of the full length has been completed to date? Of the songs you have yet to release, which are you planning to record?
Pat: We have three songs recorded, three more that are getting close to completion, and a bunch of riffs and ideas that are awaiting assembly…like puzzle pieces in a box just waiting to be put together. Our songs tend to average around 5 to 6 minutes, so 8 or 10 should qualify as a full-length CD, I think.
Vinny: Three songs are complete with two on the on deck circle-we also have a few in the embryo stages that will be ready after we record the next two. We aren't releasing any names of songs but keep an eye out for one in particular called "laid to waste"- to me my songs are like my offspring -I can't pick a favorite they are all special to me.
Mike: So far, we have 3 songs recorded and mixed that are finished. Basically, they are the finished article. We will be recording 2 more in September and plan on recording at least 3 more after that, by the end of the year. Since new song ideas and concepts are constantly being thrown around, there's a very good chance that more songs will be written and recorded on the pending album, next year. 

Will you be working on the new album with Pete Pizzo again? If so, how differently will you approach the recording process from last time? In what ways will the material be an improvement from the EP?
Pat: Pete’s our guy. He just loves what he does, spends hours tinkering with the mix, and he’s always buying new gear. I’m not a huge fan of the recording process, but I think we’ve learned that all the flaws that go undetected in rehearsal become very apparent under the microscope of the studio. So now we pay closer attention to the nuances.
I’m really enjoying the new material. I’m always trying to write epic compositions. Vinny leans more towards accessible structures and choruses, so we have that balance. When people get together and start writing songs, it’s almost like the first time a man and woman get together and fuck. It’s new and exciting, but kind of awkward and unsure. But if it’s meant to be, it develops and gets better, and you know what the other is thinking without having to speak. It’s funny how many analogies can be made between musical and romantic relationships.
Also, new songs are influenced by the previous ones. For example; if you doubled the second chorus the last two songs, you have to avoid doing that the next one. Lots of little subtleties are affecting the new material, and it’s forcing us to be more creative with the arrangements.
Vinny: Pete will again steer the ship for recording. He is constantly upgrading his studio and arsenal of toys, haha. We write what we feel or want there is no particular say as to we want this type of song we are a mix of hard rock/metal/thrash disciples of metal- We write what we want and what comes out-then so be it.
Mike: We are working with Pete again, as we are very comfortable recording with him and ultimately, his final product speaks for itself. As far as a different approach, regarding the recording process, no, we pretty much still stick to the same formula. I think with everyone's differing schedules, the best way to go, for right now, is to write, rehearse and record when Pete has the availability. He's a very easy guy to work with and so far, this process or routine seems to be working out well.
As far as improvements go, we definitely have evolved as a band and our newer material definitely veers into the realm of more intricacy. Definitely, a few of our newer songs have a bit more complexity. Nothing crazy or "prog-ish" but we definitely started pushing the boat out a little further, for some of these newer songs, and are trying different things, just so we don't become too predictable. 
What ideas does the band have in mind for future compositions? Will writing them help you grow on your own terms?
Pat: I don’t know if we have ideas so much as things just happen. It’s like years ago when I was at the community college and taking an art appreciation class. The teacher was showing us an old painting of two guys playing lutes on top of a hill, a town behind them, and an invisible angel-type figure floating above them with a flute in his mouth. The teacher asked us to analyze the painting.
As it turns out, these two guys were composing a piece but were stuck at a part. The angel was about to blow the note that they were looking for. I’m not a very spiritual person, but sometimes you hear an idea in your head at the grocery store, sometimes you pick up a guitar, start playing, and a riff comes out of nowhere. It’s like the universe answering you…
Vinny: We have no particular format for this. When we come up with a riff or chorus it gets introduced to the band and we work around it. Sometimes songs are complete and just need pre-production or a tweak here and there. Then we are good to go to the studio and live.
Mike: For the couple of new songs I have written, I've started writing lyrics about specific historical events and people. I guess you could say, I've wandered more out of the realm of the abstract and focused on more specific ideas, stories, and subject matter. At least for some of the songs.
I don't think you ever stop improving when you're trying to write lyrics, as you're always gaining more experience. I mean, I'm certainly better at writing lyrics now, than when I was younger. You find out what works, what doesn't and how to incorporate your words into motion and flowing on a vocal line. Eventually, your words flow much better and they sound less awkward.


-Dave Wolff