Austria is not really known for a healthy Thrash Metal scene, so Stainz based four piece DEATHSTORM is definitely a pretty nice surprise. The band originally started out in 2007 as DAMAGE, but after two demos they already changed their name to DEATHSTORM. Ever since they released two full length albums, two EPs and a split with Swedish TERRORAMA. The band plays highly energetic old school Thrash and their furious mixture of SADUS, old KREATOR, SODOM, DARK ANGEL and the likes is definitely worth being checked out. In order to find out more about them, Dávid László got in touch with bassplayer / vocalist Mac for the following interview… Enjoy!
So Mac, the band started in 2007 as DAMAGE, how did you get together exactly? Was DAMAGE the first band for all of you, where you were involved in?
"Hey, thanks for having me. We’ve been knowing each other since the age of 10/11 and somehow there was this certain chemistry when it comes to making music. We all started playing our instruments around the same time so yes, DAMAGE was the first real band for us."
How did you decide the musical style of the band? What made you form an old school Thrash Metal band? What are / were your most important musical influences?
"The local music scene actually. Those bands claimed to be Metal, even though they despised real Metal music. There were 4-5 bands one could categorize as Metalcore acts and we thought they were the biggest joke ever. This is basically how and why we started. We wanted to play real Metal music and to be in a band where it is about music for the sake of the music itself and not to have a fancy myspace profile and doing more photoshoots than actual rehearsals. We were and still are mainly influenced by MOTÖRHEAD, METALLICA, IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST or SODOM in one way or another."
A lot of old school Thrash Metal bands were popping up at this point, such as DEATHHAMMER, MERCILESS DEATH, VEKTOR etc. who were dedicating their music to ’80s Thrash Metal, did you follow what is / was going on in the underground scene?
"Of course, that’s a natural thing to do I guess. Back then this whole Thrash revival thing happened which was more or less a joke but fortunately enough there were and also still are great bands who keep the fire burning. Since you mentioned them, DEATHHAMMER would be probably the best example I’d say."
DAMAGE released two demos ("Time To Attack” – 2008 and "Less Silence, More Violence” – 2009), can you tell us more about these efforts? How were they recorded, how did they sound like, what about the songs etc.?
"When we really started the band after kicking out a second guitar player as well as a singer, we composed the material for the first demo in about 2-3 months. Looking back to it, the material maybe isn’t the worst but definitely still far from good. With "Less Silence More Violence” we kinda found our sound I’d say. The material was way better than the first and we actually managed to record the songs properly. The sessions themselves took place at some guys house who had a "studio” in his basement. There were some microphones and he simply pressed the rec button. The result was quite ok for a demo-recording I’d say, and it seems that I Hate Records had the same thoughts."
Were the demos shopped around to attract some label interest?
"Of course, this was the sole intention why we recorded them at first place."
By the way, did you start writing own material right from the start or were you jamming on covers?
"Within DAMAGE there was no jamming on covers at all. We immediatly wrote our own songs as far as I can remember."
Why did you change the band’s moniker to DEATHSTORM in 2010?
"It sounds better, it fits the music better and it’s a name that has not been used by a zillion bands before us."
If I’m correct, on the base of the demos got you in touch with Swedish label I Hate Records, right? Were there still any labels besides I Hate, that were showing any interest in the band?
"Yes exactly. I think there were some others as well but because of I Hate having released "Slaves Of The Burning Pentagram” not too long ago we of course knew that this was the right label to be on."
As DEATHSTORM, you started in 2011 with the EP "Storming With Menace” (the title speaks for itself) and in 2012 the split EP with TERRORAMA, what do you recall of these materials? Tell us everything about them!
"Storming With Menace” was our first proper recording session and because of choosing the completely wrong studio and guy for it a big disapointment. We recorded the four tracks within 2 days. I can’t remember how long the mixing took but I think everything was finished extremely fast. Materialwise I think it’s not to bad, ‘Prepare For The Slaughter’ and ‘Tales Of The Undead’ are still parts of our setlist and ‘Demonic Possession’ is one of my favourites so I think it turned out quite well. The split flexi with TERRORAMA was just to promote our debut full-length and featured a rough version of ‘The Awakening Of The Dead’."
At which point did you enter the Ph-Music Studio to record your debut album "As Death Awakes”? Did the label help you with money considering the recording sessions?
"I think it was in June or July of 2012. Yes of course, they did support us on all levels."
Were you prepared to record the material?
"As you can hear on the album, no haha!"
How did the recording sessions go?
"PH-Studio is owned by a friend of ours and the engineer we worked with was also somebody you could call a friend. The sessions therefore were really relaxed, almost too relaxed if you know what I mean. Unfortunately I was not there when the drums were recorded so I can’t tell you anything about that but when it comes to the rest everything went smooth, or at least we thought it to be that way. It was a great experience and helped us become better and also to be aware of certain things when it comes to working in the studio."
Did the album mark the return of the relevancy of 80s Teutonic Thrash era?
"The album only marked a milestone for us. When it comes to classic German style Thrash I think it never was irrelevent."
Would you say, that this album is certainly a good break from the typical alcohol, party, zombie, biker and crossover driven retro Thrash Metal style?
"I’m not into that kinda stuff at all and neither is anybody else in the band so we never wanted to break from anything. We just did what we wanted to do which is still the same thing we want to do nowadays."
How do you view, that speed is a unifying theme, though DEATHSTORM slow the pace here and there and that actually helps the flow of the album and the songs are all very different, so it doesn’t get boring?
"Dynamics are very important. It’s not good if you only play superfast or superslow. There has to be a good balance, that’s the secret of an interesting record I guess. Of course playing fast is what DEATHSTORM mainly is about but you have to add those special spices of killer midtempo riffs as well as really slow stuff."
The record is fast, heavy and variable, a lot of different riffs are in the songs and there is a pretty impressive drumwork, do you agree with it?
"We’re still talking about "As Death Awakes” right? Yes it’s fast with many different riffs in it, there’s quite some variability and the drums fit the music. I can’t tell if its drumwork is impressive or not but I guess it serves its purpose. It’s certainly not Dave Lombardo hitting the skins but still nice to listen to."
What do you think about, that the riffs, although sounding recycled, are very catchy, memorable and entertaining, the sound is raw, unpolished to perfectly fit this music the rhythm section is fast and raging all the time?
"Raw and unpolished is basically what it all is about even though we have been a bit too raw sometimes, almost sloppy, which is not good. Other than that I think you’re right. I mean if you want to call the riffs recycled, why not. It’s nothing new we’re producing so it legitimate."
In your opinion, for those who eagerly keep looking for a faithful re-rendition of the spirit of KREATOR’s early years, DEATHSTORM’s first full-length must be a welcome treat?
"Of course, even though I think there is at least as much SODOM in it as well."
What made you add three songs (‘Prepare For The Slaughter’ – my favourite track! -, ‘Await The Edged Blades’ and ‘Visions Of Death’) from the second DAMAGE demo? Did you perhaps re-write, re-arrange them or did you use the original versions?
"They are strong songs. We wanted to include them because they simply are that damn good. We didn’t change anything no, they are bascially the same as on "Less Silence…”."
The listener is immediately hit right from the opening seconds with a non-stop, raging Thrash assault, true high speed octane destruction, correct?
"Yes definitely. High speed or no speed at all!"
The instrumental track ‘Nebelhexe’, which very nicely diversifies the character of the entire album, reminded me of CORONER, who came up with this song?
"Thank you, but to be honest CORONER never have been an influence at all. The song was pieced together by the three of us, everybody included something to make it was it is."
Were all of you satisfied with the end result? Did Johannes Stelzl do a good work, in terms of arrangement, mixing, recording etc.?
"Back then yes. We were so hyped to record a full length that we forgot about some imporant things. Johannes was back then good enough."
Please tell us about the cover artwork as well, which became excellent too!
"Thank you! It’s actually by Caspar David Friedrich. We had it re-done by Peter’s (owner of I Hate) girlfriend Linda with some changes here and there. I discovered this painting quite some time before we did "As Death Awakes”. After seeing it for the first time I knew that if we’d ever do a full length, this will be the main inspiration for the cover-artwork."
Did you have any shows or tours in support of the album? How can / would you describe us the DEATHSTORM shows?
"We only play one off gigs all across Europe up to this day. Back then playing Muskelrock was pretty much the highlight, even though we sucked big time because it was our first gig within almost 1 ½ years as well as Steindls first ever appearance on stage. One of the last gigs was at the Romanian Thrash Fest alongside ENTOMBED, DESASTER, GRAVE and CANCER just to name a few. Nowadays I’d say it is non-stop torture and madness. We will ripp your head off, no mercy – no remorse. Chainsaw guitars and drums that smash your skulls, topped off with leads from hell and the screams of death!"
Your next effort was another EP titled "To The Gallows”, that was released by Dying Victims Productions, why did you leave I Hate? Was Peter 100 behind the band by the way? How much support did you get from him?
"It’s called "The Gallows EP”, it’s very imporant to inlcude the "EP” since many tend to only call it "The Gallows”, which is something I don’t get at all. Even the cover says "The Gallows EP”. We did this release because Flo is a good friend of mine and the band wanted to release something because "As Death Awakes” was already more than two years old at that time. Peter always supported us 100% and still does. He’s a true headbanger!"
Did you sign a contract with Flo or did you have an agreement only for this material?
"It was just a friendship thing so there was nothing like that."
On this effort your new guitarist Steindl debuted, what about his musical past? How did he get in the picture exactly?
"Steindl entered after the release of "As Death Awakes”, so basically he isn’t a new member at all. We needed a second guitar player to deliver more energy when we play live and since he’s a very good friend of us he was the only choice. Steindl never played in any bands besides DEATHSTORM."
Did he join the band getting and making DEATHSTORM faster, heavier and more furious and violent?
"We allready have been as fast, heavy, furious and violent as possible before his joining, so no he didn’t."
Did he also take part in the songwriting or was the EP ready, when he joined the band?
"No he was there when the EP was written and he also included some ideas here and there."
Is there a lot of variety on this short EP, which helps make it feel even more impressive?
"Of course, there is this weird opening track with ‘Consummate Horror’, a very doomy one with ‘Burial Ritual’ as well as the two total pieces of madness ‘From Oblivion’ and ‘Massgrave’, so what else do you need."
Is the band’s aim to sound as close as possible to bands like early KREATOR, DARK ANGEL, SADUS, MORBID SAINT etc. and keep old school Thrash Metal alive?
"It is, but I would not say that we intentionally try to be like that. It is just the way our songs turn out. Of course we love those bands but we do not write songs that sound like theirs."
The EP was mixed and mastered at the Temple Of Disharmony studio, did everything go well considering the recording sessions?
"Yes, the recording session was great. Actually the first one ever that turned out to be like that which is why we chose that very studio for our second full length again."
This year your new album "Blood Beneath The Crypts” came out, when did you start writing the material for this new affair?
"There are two tracks included which go back to late 2012 right after finishing "As Death Awakes” namely ‘I Saw The Devil’ and ‘Immortalized Sinner’. The rest is fairly new, ‘Verdunkeln’ for example was finished a week before hitting the studio."
Now you worked in your hometown Graz at the SiSi Top Studios, what about the recording sessions?
"It was again pretty good. We finished the whole album within 5 days."
Did you develop a lot compared to your previous materials?
"Quite a lot I’d say. The songwriting is more mature and we are better when it comes to playing our instruments. We also have gained a lot more experience when it comes to the recording-process itself, which is always a good thing."
What are the differences and similarities between the new album and "As Death Awakes”? Do you agree that on the new record are even a few more modern ideas that impact the sound and keep things exciting?
"The differences are that the muscianship is tighter and the songwriting is more to the point. The similarities are that both records capture 8 tracks of madness and devastation in its purest form. Since "Blood Beneath The Crypts” was written in 2015 I guess the whole record consists of only modern ideas."
It became four minutes shorter, than the debut album ha-ha!
"We’re not fond of Thrash records with too much playing time. The shorter the better."
The material was released by your new label High Roller Records, does it mean, that in the future you’ll work with them? For how many records did you sign with them?
"Time will tell. We always only sign for only one record because you never know what happens. It makes things easier."
What kind of record deal did they offer you by the way? What about promotion, support etc.?
"A very good one. There is good promotion and support, we’re happy working with them."
Please tell us about the future plans of the band!
"As for now we want to promote the record as much as possible and play as many gigs as possible. So if you are interested get in touch with the band via email@example.com."
Mac, thanks a lot for your answers, anything to add that I forgot to cover or to mention?
"Thank you! I guess everything has been said except for buy our new record, come to our shows. In case we’re not playing a city near you, book us!"
Interview: Dávid László