The following interview is already a bit dated and was originally featured in Israel’s EVIL’S BEST zine # 2, which came out in the beginning of 2009… But as the content is pretty timeless and still very interesting, we figured it would be a cool idea to give it another go here (a big thanks goes to Sergei for the permission!)…
If you dig HELLHAMMER, the following band needs no introduction! Named after the title of their famous EP, created in a storm, born of fire and thunder, forged on the anvils of fate – they set their goal of keeping the true flame of everything that HELLHAMMER ever represented, together with the German WARHAMMER, since HELLHAMMER itself was put to rest! Let me introduce you to the ultimate Brazilian “Satanic Slaughter” – Leon “Necromaniac” Manssur!
Hi Leon! How are you there? What have you and APOKALYPTIC RAIDS been doing lately?
"I’m fine, trying to catch up with things after our first Brazilian tour which took 50 days!"
And how was it? I saw some videos from that tour on youtube and it seems that you’ve got some loyal crowd, consisting of pure maniacs!
"It was really a breakthrough. We managed to meet a lot of people in person, which is a new era for the band. Now we plan to do even more gigs!"
Tell me and the readers about APOKALYPTIC RAIDS please, how did you come up with the idea of forming a HELLHAMMER worship band, how was it formed and what are the future plans for it?
"I knew HELLHAMMER and CELTIC FROST in a local Radio show back in late 1984. I immediately reacted about why would one break up HELLHAMMER to do a not so good band, CELTIC FROST. The first FROST albums are great, but HELLHAMMER is just supernatural. So less than a year after that I was trying to sound like HELLHAMMER… A lot of years, a lot of experience (I was just 13 years old back in 1985!), and a lot of line-ups, and the band started officially in 1999…"
Why did APOCALYPTIC RAIDS change their name to APOKALYPTIC RAIDS?
"When our first drummer and forming member left, he asked us to change. I wouldn’t give up such a meaningful name, so I came up with the K idea. Also, with the new drummer, our sound changed a lot from the first to the second album, so it also reflects that… That was in 2001. No big deal, really."
Your debut album was re-released on CD with all the tracks from the first demo, the split with GRAVEWURM and the new versions of some other songs. The CD version of your second Album "The Return Of The Satanic Rites" is sold out long ago as well (not talking about the vinyl and the tape versions, hehe)… Are you planning to re-release it in the future as well? And what’s the idea behind limiting the CD versions of your albums? I can understand it when it comes to vinyl, for vinyl is much more expensive to produce, but most of the bands that usually sell about the same amount as APOKALYPTIC RAIDS have the possibility to print more CDs once they’re sold out and there’s a demand again…
"Yes, that will be next! Expect it in the next months! On the Unsilent label! And no, APOKALYPTIC RAIDS’ stuff is NOT limited. No APOKALYPTIC RAIDS stuff will ever be limited. I will try to produce whatever people want to get. It is just that there is a new CD law in Brazil that pressing plants must print the pressing lot number on the CDs. But as soon as the 1st pressing (AA1000 or whatever the quantity is, in case of "The Third Storm" we did 1666!) is sold out, we will be doing a 2nd one (AB1000) and so on… By the way "The Third Storm" CD is sold out too! Expect a new pressing soon."
Nah, thanks, I’ve got all the stuff you ever released on vinyl and I even succeeded to hunt an original copy of the demo tape, so I don’t need any CDs, unless they’ll feature any special stuff that was never released before 😛
"I prefer LPs too. But we will keep releasing CDs and even tapes, if we get the chance. I don’t like bonus tracks. I decided to add the demo tracks on the “Only Death Is Real” re-release because a lot of people asked for it, but I don’t like to mess with original stuff. Expect repressings without bonus tracks. Once you buy our stuff, it is definitive. We will try to keep people buying our stuff by releasing new, interesting stuff, not by re-editing old stuff with shit bonus tracks…"
And what can you tell about the planned splits with NORDIC MIST and FARSCAPE? Is their stuff already recorded? Are there also any other splits planned to be released?
"Yes, they are recorded, but there are some tracks left to finish mixing. As the show schedule is now tighter, we are well behind release schedule… But we are organizing things, and the splits will be out as soon as possible. There is another split with ATOMIC ROAR too."
Recently Skullcrusher left the band and was replaced by a new drummer. In fact you’re the only person from the original line-up, while the bassists and the drummers come and go every few years. Did these changes happen due to disagreements with you, or because of any special problems that you won’t tell?
"Well if that was because of any special problems I won’t tell, I wouldn’t tell 😉 Now seriously, people come and go because their lives require them so… I finished my PhD (I am a Physicist, just hit L.R.U. Manssur on Google!), I got divorced, so now I got only one thing on my mind: APOKALYPTIC fuckin RAIDS! If people can get along with my stubbornness they will remain in the band… Skullkrusher’s mom is very ill now and so he can’t travel with us. We got Marcio Cativeiro to replace him in a few gigs but it seems the situation will be "permanent". But Skullkrusher remains a great friend, and is welcome to jam with us in any of our gigs. Same goes for other ex-members!"
Some of the APOKALYPTIC RAIDS stuff was written by you already in the mid-late 80s… Was it written for some band that you wanted to form back then, or did you just write it for yourself, in order to use it in a case that you would form or join another band? Are there more songs that you’ve written in that period that you’re planning to release in the future?
"As I told, I wrote that stuff with the intention to sound like the late HELLHAMMER. There were maybe 3 or 4 unsuccessful trials, from which I collected these songs. But the main idea was HELLHAMMER. It has been my favorite band for almost 25 years now. Figure it out like DEATH in the "Reign Of Terror" demo era. Like them, I was just a kid heavily into HELLHAMMER. What else could I ask for? And yes, there are more songs / fragments that will see the light of day in due time. There will be another one in our 4th album, and later at least a couple of others I can remember… It is just that now that I got a more professional approach, we must record and release current stuff as well as "historical" stuff in a good balance…"
Please tell about the other bands you played in, EXPLICIT HATE and NIGHTBREED. I’ve never succeeded to find any information about NIGHTBREED, except for the fact that you played there…
"I sang in SLAUGHTER, which changed names to DEVASTATION, due to bands with the same names. We did record a rehearsal back then, necro quality. I used to go to some friends rehearsal too, the band was NECROFILIA, and I sometimes sang with them too. Songs used in APOKALYPTIC RAIDS: ‘Angels Of Hell’, ‘Tyrant, Emperor’, ‘Satanic Slaughter’, ‘Power In My Mind’, ‘Priest Of Evil’ (an embrionary version of ‘Evil’ – we will remake it on next album), ‘Bestial Possession’ (yet to appear). After I quit, they went on to form EXPLICIT HATE. I tried to continue under the moniker HOSTILITY, but it did not pass some rehearsals, some of which were recorded with sub-necro quality. Songs used in APOKALYPTIC RAIDS: ‘Humankind Dies’, ‘The Impaler’, ‘Tyrant, Emperor’, ‘Never Forget What You Are’, with different lyrics. After a break from bands (not from the idea!) in the 90s, I went on to from NIGHTBREED with some friends. There is nothing about NIGHTBREED, except that I played there! We did a couple of gigs, and recorded another necro rehearsal, but no demos. Songs used in APOKALYPTIC RAIDS: ‘Tyrant, Emperor’. In 1996 / 1997, NIGHTBREED was going nowhere, so I and the drummer went on to form an embrionary APOCALYPTIC RAIDS. Songs from that era: ‘Evil’, ‘The Way Of The Warrior’, ‘The Impaler’, and those on our first and second albums. The rest of the story can be tracked from the dates in our albums. The "current" era of songwriting starts with ‘Ready To Go (To Hell)’ and ‘Voyeur’ back in 2001, and advances through most of the stuff on "The Third Storm". From now on, we will keep releasing new songs together with the good old ones I can find in my archives, until all that deserves a decent recording sees the light of day."
At what age did you start listening to Metal? What were the first bands that you heard? Are you also into other musical genres except Metal? Have your musical tastes changed a lot during the years?
"In 1983, when KISS played their last make-up gig in Maracana stadium! My tastes haven’t changed much. A lot of things were incorporated. I hear a lot of Hard Rock / Heavy Metal stuff these days."
What’s your opinion about CELTIC FROST’s reunion? What do you think about "Monotheist"?
"Sucks! Well, they are disbanded now… I didn’t like the videos I saw where they play old songs so down tuned it is badly disfigured. It is not good to mess with the past if you have been out of the right mood for 20 years and then jump in the old Metal trend…"
What do you think about the "Demon Entrails" release? Did you like it more than the old bootleg PicLPs? Do you think that it was necessary at all to make such an underground legend’s stuff available to the masses again, or would you prefer it to stay buried and not forgotten only by the true underground maniacs? And do you believe Fischer’s revelations about his opinion about HELLHAMMER, which he seems to start liking only when he has an opportunity to make some easy cash on reissuing its stuff (I’m talking about the CD release of "Apocalyptic Raids A.D." in the early 90s and of corpse the "Demon Entrails" stuff, as well as the upcoming book)?
"Demon Entrails" looks GREAT, but the sound SUCKS. I can do a better sounding mastering from old bootleg pic LPs. When I have some time I will probably do it and submit it to them…I have nothing against making a "legend" available to "the masses" again. I wish it has always been so. The problem is that "the masses" can’t recognize how great HELLHAMMER was, even now that it is out on CD and LP. I believe that Fischer’s opinion has really changed about HELLHAMMER, but I see he has no recognizing of the ones who kept loving HELLHAMMER while he wasn’t into it. For example, I am told he turned off an interview with a guy using a bootleg HELLHAMMER t-shirt. Well, there was a time, for 25 years, when bootlegs were the only ones to have. And he even destroyed original stuff. That was breaking up HELLHAMMER a second time. Shame on him."
Yeah, that’s fuckin’ ridiculous! In my opinion – he’d better just break up CELTIC FROST after the release of "To Mega Therion", so CELTIC FROST would remain just another cult band without any crappy stuff in its small discography
"If you look at things now, then CELTIC FROST is generally a crap band with a few exceptions at the beginning of their career. Just like METALLICA for example. I will not accept crap, from whomever it comes."
What’s your opinion about WARHAMMER (GER)?
"They did great stuff on their albums and demo. I have it all in CD and LP! I noticed they are reformed and about to release a DVD, though I preferred the original line-up. Anyway, they play great stuff and I wish all the best and maybe we could do an onstage battle…"
Contrary to the German WARHAMMER, who always just try to sound as identically to HELLHAMMER itself, APOKALYPTIC RAIDS seems to be influenced by many other great old underground bands except for HELLHAMMER, thus having its own touch that WARHAMMER don’t have. This touch is your personality and It’s crystal clear that songs like ‘Forgotten Tales (Never Forget What You Are)’, ‘Ready To Go (To Hell)’, ‘The Atheist’ and surely ‘Fallen Beyond Hope’ (sorry about your brother, R.I.P.) are much more your personal thoughts, rather than just songs that you tried to write in the vein of the bands that influenced you. Did you put these songs under the banner of APOKALYPTIC RAIDS because you wanted this band to be something more varied than just homage to HELLHAMMER, or is it that you just don’t want to form another project for other, less HELLHAMMER-oriented stuff?
"APOKALYPTIC RAIDS is not just a homage to HELLHAMMER. It is, at first, and in a sense will always be. But it is also to VENOM and many others. Maybe we are trying to extend that, and see what can be done with that sound. Remember HELLHAMMER did only a 4 song EP and a couple of compilation tracks. When you look a bit back on the demos, you find more varied stuff. We are to prove a point here. That you can extend the band’s approach without breaking it up. That we can incorporate many cool elements from Hard Rock to Hardcore Punk without having to form a new band like they did in a somewhat wrong way with CELTIC FROST. We, for example, on "The Third Storm" we did an epic Heavy Metal song, ‘When The World Ends In Fire’. It is known that they did like MANOWAR in HELLHAMMER and I am no different. And in the end, I am vey satisfied with the reviews our epic song got. The new album will range from Rock’n’Roll stuff to D-beat stuff, all with HELLHAMMER-like sound. I bet you’ll like it!"
Actually I was really surprised when I heard ‘Manifesto Politicamente Incorreto’ and ‘When The World End In Fire’, which absolutely differ from the other stuff, but it’s still well done!
"And if you’re not shocked I would think you did not listen to the record with due attention!!! They are made to sound Metal yet to shock. We were testing our limits there. This is our way of saying: "Experimental? Try this!” Next album probably will be less experimental and more direct, and I think you will like it too…"
Dark Sun Records, which is responsible for all the vinyl versions of your full length albums have released also other great stuff, such as FARSCAPE’s debut, SODOMIZER’s debut and DORSAL ATLANTICA’s compilation LP, but unfortunately I’ve never heard about this label having a proper distro… Is it a snail-mail only label, or does it sell its releases only through other distributors?
"Both. In fact, they are too slow and we are not on the label anymore. They are distributed by metaleros.de. We are now working with Unsilent, which is a great new label. Stay tuned for great news…"
Yeah, I remember that "The Third Storm" CD version was released just before I went to the army (in the Summer of 2005) and I waited for the vinyl version to be released until the end of 2006 I think. Unsilent seems to be a great label, but they’ve released only CDs thus far and I’m still waiting for the second FARSCAPE vinyl version to be released and it seems that there’s no progress about it… So will Unsilent also be responsible for the vinyl releases?
"Unsilent doesn’t do LPs for the time being… We like LPs a lot, but now the only LP press in Brazil is closed down and we depend on pressing overseas. We have very heavy import taxes here so it is basically impossible to do things being in Brazil. But we will do something, licensing to overseas labels, anything to deliver the goods… We are doing it without any structure or support, so it slows us down sometimes, but we are not stopping until the last eardrums are destroyed and the last neck is broken!!!"
As it can be seen according to the amount of Brazilian oldschool Thrash bands on Myspace, there’s a great scene in your country! I also heard that lately the government arranged some killer festival that featured such local legends as VULCANO and KORZUS and even Paul Di’Anno himself for free! Is this true? Is there such a big awareness and support of Metal in your country? I’m asking it because the local Metal bands in Israel are absolutely ignored by the media and Metalheads is probably the most disliked race after Arabs…
"Yes, there was that festival. The videos can be seen in youtube (see, another cool tool – don’t blame the messenger if the news aren’t good!). That was in São Paulo, and São Paulo is Brazil’s and South America’s biggest city. There live 20 million people!!! So things are different there. But the rest of Brazil is just another country… Generally speaking Metalheads are ignored here too. We did a Brazilian tour and we played in a VERY nice theater in Belem, in the north of Brazil. But there was a fight and now the theater is closed for Metal gigs!!! (there is a video of that on youtube too). And by the way, I am of Arab ascent, hahahaha. My Grandfather was from Syria and came to Brazil to escape World War II. My first name is Leon, a French name because in Syria French is spoken and my last name Manssur is Arab. My ex wife was a (well, non-practicing) Jew. In Brazil Arabs and Jews get along, strange as it seems. They go like: "Middle east? No, we are Brazilian…"
20 Million people?! It’s 3 times more than in whole Israel, haha!!! Though there’s actually something similar here too, since most of the gigs are played in Tel-Aviv, which is called "A city without a break", while there are rarely any good gigs played in the smaller cities. Didn’t know about your middle-eastern roots, what a small world hehe!
"Yeah, and people always need stupid reasons to kill each other. I just wish they could do it faster and let us alone to rock, drink and fuck."
Talking about Israel, do you know / like any Israeli bands?
"I’ve seen one or two compilations, but aside from that I don’t really know… Can you tell me any names?"
Well, the first local Metal act ever (which in my opinion released the best stuff in Israeli Metal) is SALEM, which exists since 1985. Their demos from the mid-late 80s featured some of the most aggressive and brutal Black / Death stuff ever and it was much ahead of its time. Since they also sang about the Jewish holocaust, Varg Vikernes sent their vokiller a bomb in an envelope in 1990, but luckily it was discovered at the post office before it exploded. But SALEM degradated a lot musically since 1994 in my opinion. They did sign a contract with Season of Mist, but their new album features low-tuned sound in the MESHUGGAH way and this stuff would make your oldschool ears bleed… There used to be some great Death Metal bands here in the early 90s, such as SCAFFOLD for example, but these bands disbanded more than a decade ago, and most of them have never even released a single demo (though the demos that were released are totally impossible to find nowadays, so there’s no big difference hehe). I could recommend you only that you give a listen to TANGORODRIM, who’ve been desecrating their listeners’ years with great DARKTHRONE / HELLHAMMER influenced alcohollic Black Metal for more than a decade already. They’re signed in Southern Lord Records, so they’re pretty famous worldwide, in terms of underground Black Metal of corpse 🙂 There used to be also some killer Thrash Metal act named HANGMAN here between 2003 – 2006, they released 2 demos and took part in the Thrash Metal Blitzkrieg 7" compilation, with bands like WITCHTRAP (Colombia) (by the way – it was released through Deathstrike Records & Iron Bonehead, which released your split with GRAVEWURM) and signed a contract with Witches Brew, but they split up. Hopefully their vokiller’s new project’s stuff will see the light of day soon, and as someone who heard some raw versions of this stuff – I can only tell you that it’s gonna be REALLY worth to hear! Besides that – you can find only crappy Metalcore stuff, wannabe Norwegian 2nd wave Black Metal rip-off projects and in the best case some IRON MAIDEN / METALLICA cover bands that always come and go.
"Thanks for the lesson in IsraHell Metal!!! There is too much good stuff to catch up with worldwide, thanks Satan!!!"
What’s your opinion about the internet’s influence on music during the late decade, which gave anyone a possibility to download pirate mp3’s of any band in no time and for free? What do you think about Myspace in particular? Do you think hat it’s a blessing or a curse?
"That’s the way things are. One can’t fight downloads. They play the same role as radio did back then, you turn on a machine and you hear music for free, and that’s the bottom line. The main difference is that no one has control over it. Probably if record companies wanted to do something they would put online a huge offer of free music for download maybe with some ads inserted, just like radios do. I would surely download on emule or something any stuff I wanted, even if it came with some ads. I would just remove the ads and live with that, exactly the same way we taped radio shows back then, pausing on commercials. The same goes for MySpace, plus Myspace lets you communicate greatly as a band, with show dates, blog and such stuff. Great tools we didn’t have 20 years ago. Just tools, not good or bad per se."
APOKALYPTIC RAIDS can’t be classified as "retro" in my opinion, since you’ve heard all the bands that influenced APOKALYPTIC RAIDS back when their stuff was released in the 80s, so it’s just that you started to play this oldschool stuff later. I wouldn’t even say that a band like FARSCAPE can be considered retro, even if their stuff is almost as inspired by KREATOR as APOKALYPTIC RAIDS’s stuff is inspired by HELLHAMMER, because they’ve been listening to this music and playing it just since their childhood! But what do you think about the new trend of playing oldschool (mainly Bay-Area stuff oriented) Thrash that has flooded the scene during the last few years? I’m talking about bands that just rip off SLAYER, METALLICA and MEGADETH and don’t add anything personal of their own to their music?
"There are a lot of kids ripping of old good bands AND I prefer they recycle classic stuff instead of doing modern crap! In time, the good ones that have something to add will stay while the others will sink. Look at what the 90s Black Metal wave became today: not much aside from DARKTHRONE and a couple of others."
I know that you’re responsible for the sound production and mastering (in the oldschool way!) of all the APOKALYPTIC RAIDS’ stuff and you produced other albums as well (such as FARSCAPE’s debut). APOKALYPTIC RAIDS’s albums have a really analog production and really sound just as if they were recorded in 1985. Did you use any computer-based equipment for it at all? Or was it produced with old analog equipment only?
"We did the first 2 APOKALYPTIC RAIDS albums and "Diabolic Force" in analog. "The Third Storm" was recorded in analog and digitally mixed, because it just made things easier while keeping the great tones. The more recent FARSCAPE stuff is all digital. I think it is not digital versus analog… And it is not about the date. It is all about the music. If it sounds good, it is good. Of course, if you understand what you’re doing on analog, you will work better on digital. Current hardware and software allows for a lot of possibilities. Until the late 90s, there were very bad digital recordings because of limitations in the equipment. As of now, the only thing I really can’t stand about studios standards are monitors full of unreal mid-range. They prevent you from hearing what will sound at home, so I prefer to mix using some common home stereo monitors and then test the mix in different places. Also, about mastering, I use common stuff like sound forge. The great problem today is the rush for more and more volume, that ruins any recording job. People sometimes complain that my masterings are not that loud, and they will not be if it is to ruin the sound. Just turn up the volume on your stereos!!!"
I really like the "Manifesto" that you wrote, which appears in the second album. I even translated it into Hebrew, so the others could understand what APOKALYPTIC RAIDS is all about too. You have a very impressive writing level. Have you ever dealt with journalism or written in some zine of your own?
"Thanks for the translation! Please post it on our Myspace blog. Also, if any of you can translate it into any other language you may speak, you’re welcome! I wrote that after a rehearsal, when I was forced to face the real world after a great evening playing. I got sick and tired and I came up with those ideas. Maybe I’m a frustrated writer. I answer a lot of interviews, I could compile a book from them, hahahaha I did a zine back in 1987-1989, it was called "Mosh" and it was written in Portuguese only. It was too primitive, but it was fun to do."
Usually I ask the people I interview to mention their favorite Metal albums… I know that I could just quote the song "Forgotten Tales (Never Forget What You Are)", but I’m not going to make an exception for you hehe! So, which 10 Metal releases are your favorites?
"Tough question… I think I should include some classic demos. Maybe the list depends on my current mood, but here it is… HELLHAMMER – "Apocalyptic Raids", HELLHAMMER – "Satanic Rites" (demo), BATHORY – "The Return", BLACK SABBATH – "Vol. 4", VENOM – "At War With Satan", MANOWAR – "Into Glory Ride", ACCEPT – "Restless And Wild", DEATH – "Reign Of Terror" (demo), SODOM – "In The Sign Of Evil" and KISS – "Kiss"."
What are the last words that you’d like to tell me and the readers?
"Thanks a lot for your interest on our work!!! Stay Metal till the end!!! Metalheads and Raid-bangers write to firstname.lastname@example.org, www.myspace.com/apokalypticraids or www.apokalypticraids.com. We have our stuff available, LPs, CDs, t-shirts… Thanks a lot!"