When it comes to brutal Death Metal in its most intense form, Slovakia’s DEMENTOR is definitely a name to remember. These guys already released three impressive full length albums ("The Church Dies" – 1994, "Kill The Thought On Christ" – 1997 and "The Art Of Blasphemy" – 1998) and recently got picked up by Osmose Productions who noticed their big potential and will release their newest offering "Enslave The Weak" very shortly. For the following interview we tracked down longtime member Rene Blahusiak, who turned out to be a really friendly and dedicated guy… Read on and enjoy!
Rene, before you joined DEMENTOR, they originally started out as a three piece in 1988, still heavily influenced by VENOM, SLAYER, POSSESSED, KREATOR, CELTIC FROST and DEATH… All those bands could definitely be considered as the heaviest around at the time, so was it always DEMENTOR’s vision to play as brutal as possible?
"Yes, we always wanted to produce music as brutal as possible. It was a quite natural development. We started to listen to metal music at age 10 or 12. At that time the most extreme bands were IRON MAIDEN, VENOM, CELTIC FROST, BATHORY… Later on we discovered new bands like SLAYER, METALLICA, POSSESSED or KREATOR and we began to love them. We always wanted to be like these bands."
Even though there’s supposed to be several early rehearsal recordings from back then, nothing officially got released until February 1992. So, I was wondering how the band’s name got out to the underground at the time? How did they manage to get shows and everything without a release to back them up?
"Despite the good sound of these rehearsal recordings they were not spread at all because of the very fast development of DEMENTOR. When they had done the recordings they found out that it’s too late to release them because they were finding new dimensions of their creativity. Their music was changing very quickly and the old rehearsal recordings didn’t reflect their ideas well. At that time there were not too much possibilities to play live. Sometimes they arranged a concert in their surroundings. They invited some known bands from their area and later these bands invited them to play at their concerts. Of course shortly after I joined the band we realized that we really needed an official good quality demo to introduce DEMENTOR more seriously."
You finally joined DEMENTOR in 1991 or 1992… What have you done previously and how did you hook up with the guys? Was there a line-up change going on at the time or did you just come on board as a fourth member?
"Well, I joined the band in 1991. Until then I played in my own band called NECROTIC. Once I went to a concert close to our town where DEMENTOR was playing in their initial line-up. I was very impressed by their show, started to admire them and considered them as the best death metal band from Slovakia. And as there were problems with the NECROTIC line-up I asked them to take me into the band. It was a little bit complicated because at that time they were already playing with two guitarists. However I encouraged myself when I got a message that the 2nd guitarist left the band. I just had come to Roman (guitarist of DEMENTOR) and told him that I am interested in playing in DEMENTOR. Fortunately everything ended up fine for me and I was allowed to join this band."
Were you the driving force behind the idea to finally record your first demo "The Extinction Of Christianity"? Tell us a bit more about this first release. Why did you still sing in the Slovak language at the time, was it already a studio or another rehearsal recording and did you re-use any of those songs later on?
"We really felt the need to record some official stuff that could represent DEMENTOR on a better quality level. Since we had enough songs written we speeded up the final preparation and booked the Exponent Studio to reach a better sound. We didn’t want to make another rehearsal recording. You know, at that time this today quite known studio was equipped only with 4-tracks. We were actually the pioneers among death metal bands which decided to record their stuff at that studio. By the way, Exponent is known thankful to KRABATHOR who work there regularly. We sang in Slovak because we did not know English at all. So, we decided to sing in Slovak instead of bad English. We never used any of those songs later. They only appeared on "The Extinction Of Christianity"."
How would you describe your material at the time? Any bands you could compare the stuff to or that had the biggest influence on your songwriting at the time?
"Some people compared our music at that time to old stuff of PESTILENCE, MORGOTH or SLAYER. We tried to play a fast form of death metal, however the thrash metal influence was still obvious."
What made you record 9 songs for that demo? I mean, this is usually more common for a full length album and not for a demo…
"You are right. 9 songs is quite a lot for a demo tape. However, at first we had exactly this number of songs ready and we did not see any difference in recording 5 or 9 songs. At second we wanted to introduce the complete material to the labels. We had edited this demo according to our possibilities and then we decided to attack some of the labels with the offer to edit this material on CD/LP."
How’s the response been on "The Extinction Of Christianity"? Did you spread it around internationally already or was it more locally / inside your home country?
"Yes, we also spread this material around in the international scene, however not sufficiently. We were maybe too lazy or inexperienced and for that reason we spread more copies in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. We (mostly) got positive responses and got the offer from OSMOSE for distributing this demo through their label. It was also due to our laziness that we didn’t react on that offer. We were too dull and thought that distribution means nothing important for DEMENTOR. We only wanted to be on CD. It was our main goal. There were also some Slovak and Czech promoters who noticed DEMENTOR and helped us in the next period."
In 1993 "Morbid Infection" (your second demo) followed… This time you "only" recorded 6 songs and also decided to sing in the English language… Tell us a bit more about that and how you’d compare its material to the songs on "The Extinction Of Christianity"…
"We found out that 6 songs are enough for a demo and also wanted to speed up the whole process of preparation for the next recording. We actually recorded "Morbid Infection" already in 1992. Initially we recorded this demo in the Slovak language again. We didn’t improve with our English, but after a certain time we found out that English is very important for the next DEMENTOR activities. We found a man who translated our lyrics into English and then we went back to the studio to re-record the vocals in English in 1993. There were some important changes between the 1st and the second demo. The main fact was that we had a new vocalist with a really killing and devastating voice. His throat was the most suitable element for the music that we created at that time. We got more into brutal death metal where we tried to play mainly fast rhythms."
How about live shows? Did you already have good possibilities to play around those days? How did you usually promote a new DEMENTOR release?
"Yes, there were more and more offers to play at various kinds of concerts. We just continued to supply various promoters, zines and labels with the new demo. We got many possibilities to play at many festivals but also at smaller concerts. At that time death metal was very popular here in both Slovakia and the Czech Republic. At shows always 200 – 400 people showed up and we mainly played in larger halls."
In 1993 two songs off that demo appeared on a Slovak compilation album entitled "Necrometal I"… Tell us more about that and how you got the opportunity? Which songs did you choose for that and which other bands appeared on this compilation? Did it help to establish DEMENTOR a bit more?
"Necrometal I" was not a Slovak but a Czech compilation which contained both Slovak and Czech bands. The main person behind this project was Big Boss of ROOT. He was responsible for the selection of bands, managing etc. Originally we decided on two songs of "Morbid Infection" which were the title song and ‘Predestined Future’. We got the possibility to record these songs in a fully professional studio where we got some useful experiences. This compilation had to be edited on CD / LP / MC. Unfortunately after a long delay there arose some problems and Big Boss decided to edit this stuff under his new established label Jupiter. Moreover he did not use professionally recorded songs but took another two from the demo with worse sound quality. The list of involved bands was modified as well. I do not remember which bands finally appeared, but it is not important because almost all these bands do not exist anymore these days. I think this compilation contributed to establish our name at the scene as well. The main event for DEMENTOR was the participation at the concert with French MASSACRA and CRUSHER which was organized by Jupiter Agency. At that time it was very important."
There’s also talk about several line-up changes throughout the years, so what had mainly caused those changes and was it difficult to find new dedicated members for this type of music in your area?
"Yes, there were many personal changes inside DEMENTOR. The main reason for it was that the musicians were loosing the motivation and interest. Playing in a such band as DEMENTOR requires a very strong effort and not everyone is willing to sacrifice himself for such a hard work. Some of them just left DEMENTOR and stopped playing but some of them started to play in bands with other styles. It was always very hard to find dedicated people in our surroundings. However, we finally managed to find some people who were part of DEMENTOR for a shorter or longer time. At the moment we also have similar problems and it’s harder and harder to find someone. If there are any good talented and dedicated drummers who would be able to move to Slovakia just write or call me. You know, when Paul Speckmann moves from the US to the Czech Republic to play in KRABATHOR maybe there will be some others ready to join DEMENTOR as well."
When and how did you exactly hook up with Immortal Souls Productions for the release of your debut album "The Church Dies" and why was it only released on cassette? I mean, you probably could’ve done that on your own again, without the need of a label, so…
"It was not very complicated. I gave our demos to Juraj of ISP who was editing the zine "Immortal Souls" at that time. I wanted him to promote us through his zine. Soon after that he started to run a label and he decided to realize a DEMENTOR album as his first product. Initially he wanted to release DEMENTOR’s first album on CD format as well if the MC would sell good. But there were some problems and despite the fact that it was sold out "The Church Dies" never came out on CD. I do not think we would be able to do any better promotion for this album neither to spread this stuff on a better level."
If you compare the sales of "The Church Dies" to your two demos, did you notice a big difference? I mean, were Immortal Souls Productions able to increase your sales / popularity?
"Of course. They spread our name quite well. We really noticed a big difference. Anyway, it would be much more useful to have this album on CD because this format is more focused in the interest of people. Some people do not consider MC’s to be an official album and think it is only a demo. For that reason we didn’t get any excessive popularity even though this material was quite good from a musical point of view."
"The Church Dies" came out sometime in 1994, and then it took you three long years to come up with your follow-up album "Kill The Thought On Christ"… What happened to DEMENTOR in those years and why was "Kill The Thought On Christ" released on CD after all?
"This period was full of line-up problems which I have already mentioned. We were not able to find any suitable drummer who would be able to stay in the band for a longer period. There were several people trying to play drums in DEMENTOR until we found Joseph Pike. However, after "The Church Dies" we immediately started to prepare new material and this creating process was very often interrupted because of the aforementioned problems. After two years we had only managed to create five new songs. Since it was the best time to release something new we decided to go into the studio with this number of new songs and complete the material with three songs from "The Church Dies". These older songs were re-recorded in the completely new line-up and we also added a cover song of the Slovak rock legend TUBLATANKA. We entered Pro Art studio in the summer of 1996 and recorded "Kill The Thought On Christ". We signed the contract with ISP again and the album was released after some slight delay, because ISP were looking for a foreign label which would be willing to co-operate with ISP on this release. ISP wanted to secure better promotion for DEMENTOR abroad with this solution. Finally they did not come to an agreement with any serious label and decided to finance it completely by themselves. Those are the reasons of the three year break."
Who came up with this pretty unusual coversong on the album? Don’t you think it is musically a bit too far away from your own stuff?
"I made it up. I wanted to record an interesting cover. I just wanted a song completely different from death metal. There were several possibilities (AC/DC, MOTÖRHEAD), but finally we decided on TUBLATANKA which means some kind of cult for the Slovak hard’n’heavy fans. When you listen to this version you would never expect that this song is not death metal in its original form. We turned it into very heavy and melodic death metal. Many people compared it to HYPOCRISY."
"Kill The Thought On Christ" turned out more brutal than "The Church Dies", so did your influences change at the time or was this evolution based on all the line-up changes?
"No, we already wanted to be as brutal on "The Church Dies" as on "Kill The Thought On Christ" but didn’t reach a suitable sound at Exponent Studio at that time. The guitar sound is too clear and thrashy and not brutal enough. However, "The Church Dies" is faster than "Kill The Thought On Christ" because at that time we had a quite good and technical equipped drummer. We had the same influences as we had on "Kill The Thought On Christ". The problem was the studio and patterns that we used at that time."
After the album’s release you played quite a lot of shows (including some outside your country), so tell us a bit about that and how you got the opportunities…
"Yes, we were invited by some different promoters to play in their countries. The first time we traveled to a 2000km far Ukrainian city called Dnepropetrovsk. We survived many experiences and had a lot of fun there. Later we also played in Latvia and Germany."
You mentioned to me that you aren’t really satisfied with "Kill The Thought On Christ" anymore and that the drummer at the time wasn’t able to play as fast as you originally wanted him to do… So, why didn’t you just look for a replacement prior to the recordings?
"You are right, we should have looked for a suitable replacement before we started to record "Kill The Thought On Christ", but at that time we didn’t expect such a poor result. When we were in the studio we asked him to play faster but did not succeed. It was a pity because played faster the result would be better. Like I mentioned, it is hard to find proper musicians here in my surroundings, especially drummers."
To me it’s not just the drumming, but also the guitar sound that lacks a bit in the brutality that you finally achieved on "The Art Of Blasphemy"… Would you agree that "Kill The Thought On Christ" probably turned out a bit too "light" in that department?
"I do not know. I think both albums contain a very heavy and brutal guitar sound. Although there was a difference in the process of recording guitars for both albums. For "Kill The Thought On Christ" we only recorded two guitars for each track. Only for the last song (what is actually the cover song) 3 guitars were used for each track. I mean the number of guitars which you can hear in separate load-speakers. You can realize that the last song sounds very heavy and brutal. For "The Art Of Blasphemy" we recorded three guitars for each track. Finally we found out that it was not the best solution to make the sound brutal because this way some of the technical riffs are not very clear. For the forthcoming album "Enslave The Weak" we returned to the older patterns but used another equipment. I think with this album we reached the most optimal sound for DEMENTOR."
Unlike "The Church Dies", "Kill The Thought On Christ" didn’t feature a real DEMENTOR bandlogo on the cover and a very simply cover artwork / design… What was the reason for that and were you satisfied with its overall packaging?
"I think both albums contained our original logo however some were a little bit changed. I can admit we always did some changes with our logos but in general it was still the same initial logo…"
Well, my copy of "Kill The Thought On Christ" just has ordinary letters and no real logo…
"Oh, then you probably have the second edition of it… That edition doesn’t have a DEMENTOR logo. The booklet was also completely changed. Only the art work and photo on the back are original. As for the covers: "Kill The Thought On Christ" really features an easier kind of cover art work but it was our wish. We told our painter the title of the album and then he sent us the proposal of the art work. We liked it very much despite it was simple."
"Kill The Thought On Christ" was the first DEMENTOR release on which you also took over the lead vocal duties… A fact that I personally consider as the best decision you could’ve come up with. In my opinion your voice is just perfect for brutal Death Metal and often even reminds me on Ross Dolan from IMMOLATION… So, when did you notice your "talent" and why haven’t you been singing earlier already?
"Thank you very much. I do not encounter such kind of question very often. In reviews there is often mentioned that the vocals are good, brutal etc. However nobody told me directly that my voice is great. I had to take over the vocals regardless I noticed some talent or not. Easily, the singer left the band and there was no time to look for another one. I thought I am the only person whom I can trust and took this responsibility. It was at the time of permanent personal changes and I am sure that I will remain in the DEMENTOR line-up till the end. On the other hand I still had problems with English and after some time I felt some kind of minor complex listening to my pronunciation on "Kill The Thought On Christ". I hope everything was solved these days and think the new album will be almost without any mistakes. I never thought I will sing in DEMENTOR and my most favorite singer is David Vincent forever."
By the way, was "Kill The Thought On Christ" re-released last year or what is the reason that on my copy also has "1999" on it?
"No, actually it is not a re-lease. Only the cover was changed with the new edition." (that maybe explains why it doesn’t feature a real logo?! – Frank)
For your next album "The Art Of Blasphemy" Immortal Souls Productions obviously wanted to keep you on their label (based on the comments on your bio), but you decided to leave them for the Repulse Records sublabel Qabalah Productions… Why? Weren’t you completely satisfied with Immortal Souls and why weren’t you signed to Repulse directly?
"We were satisfied with ISP and for that reason we negotiated with them again, but we wanted to get to some foreign (European) label. We had many reasons for that. At first some people here in Slovakia thought ISP is only releasing DEMENTOR because of my friendship with Juraj Harin, which is completely bullshit. Nobody would release his friend’s bad album only because of the friendship. We were more than sure that "The Art Of Blasphemy" is strong enough to be released by some better label. Finally we dealt with Listenable and Qabalah as the other labels rejected our album because of our full edition plan. We asked Repulse directly but when I called them they recommended me to have negotiations with Qabalah, what is their sublabel. Actually it is the same to be on Qabalah or Repulse. They do the same promotion and distribution for all their bands. We knew we would get good support from Qabalah and signed to them."
Was Qabalah the only offer you got at the time or were there more labels interested in DEMENTOR?
"Only Qabalah, ISP and in the beginning Listenable was interested as well. And later OSMOSE was also interested but the deal has been already signed. Fortunately!"
"The Art Of Blasphemy" once again turned out more extreme and you could mainly compare its brutality to the American Death Metal acts… So, would you say that you get your main inspirations from overthere nowadays?
"The main inspiration for DEMENTOR these days are bands like MORBID ANGEL, DEICIDE, VADER, CANNIBAL CORPSE… But we don’t just want to become a copy, we only try to learn from them how to build good death metal songs. At this time we are also able to create our own patterns and melodies which are typical for DEMENTOR."
How was the response on that album in general? I mean, it was the first DEMENTOR release on a already established company, so did you notice a difference in any way?
"Yeah, many people like this album and we are more and more respected in the death metal scene. It is always very encouraging to listen to these positive reactions. It gives us power to continue on in this way. I think Qabalah / Repulse did a really good promotion and we also try to be active and to be in touch with as many people as possible."
Was the Qabalah deal for one album only or why did you accept the offer from Osmose Productions straight away? Did they contact you because of your "The Art Of Blasphemy" album or were they interested in the band earlier already?
"The deal with Qabalah was only for one album. Osmose had shown their interest shortly after we signed the contract with Qabalah. I was very surprised, because we didn’t offer them "The Art Of Blasphemy". They got a promo record from certain people in France where we sent some pieces to. We didn’t think that such a great label would be interested in any death metal band from Eastern Europe. You know, we always thought that there is lack of interest in Eastern bands because people in the Western part of Europe think we are not good quality. Many Swedish, German or Dutch bands are preferred over Slovak, Czech or Polish bands. But there are proofs such as VADER, KRABATHOR or DEVILYN that we can create the same quality music. I hope DEMENTOR will be the next proof."
By the way, why did you once again use a different logo on "The Art Of Blasphemy"?
"On "The Art Of Blasphemy" some effect was used to make the logo look like some liquid or plastic. I think it was the nicest logo that we ever have used. In general it is the same logo as on "Kill The Thought On Christ". For the new album one of my friends prepared some new details that were added to the original feature of our logo. I can assure you that no dramatic change will be done with our logo. The cover artwork will be probably drawn by a new artist however we haven’t decided yet and it is sure that the artwork of Jan Sakmar (DEMENTOR painter) will be used as well but only somewhere in the booklet."
By now you have already finished your brand-new album "Enslave The Weak"… Tell us all necessary details about it and how it compares to your previous material!
"These days (July 16th) we are finishing, but we have not finished yet. I hope we will complete it on this Sunday. Yesterday we started mixing. "Enslave The Weak" will contain 9 new songs. It will not differ from "The Art Of Blasphemy", I think it will be better! We had more time for the recordings so we could concentrate on achieving a better result. You will get the next load of blasphemy with "Enslave The Weak"."
When it comes to the lyrics, I noticed that you got some help from Juraj (of Immortal Souls Productions) on "The Art Of Blasphemy"… A quite unusual thing, that a label owner contributes lyrics, so how did that come about and has he already helped you on "Kill The Thought On Christ?
"Well, Juraj is the owner of the label, but moreover he is also a fan of Death Metal and a really devoted person to this kind of music. The co-operation started on "Kill The Thought On Christ" where Juraj contributed two or three lyrics. He easily wanted to express his feelings and wrote some lyrics for DEMENTOR. We are good friends and there were no obstacles not to use his work. I must admit I am too lazy to sit down and write the lyrics. For that reason I asked another friend for help which is Peter Hasselbrack of BLOODSOAKED PROMOTION from USA. He wrote very good lyrics for our new album. He contributed four blasphemous lyrics for "Enslave The Weak". By the way I like the lyrical concept of "Enslave The Weak" most of all our albums because only now it will be a purely blasphemous and anti-religious oriented album without any psychological bullshit."
Straight from the start, you obviously focused your lyrics on anti-christian themes… Is that based on own experiences or do you just go for those topics because it simply fits this type of brutal music best?
"It is based on our experiences. We look around and see their hypocrisy. They speak about a fair master, but they are only able to do whatever to get more possession. I am deeply confident that Christianity brings nothing good but only hate to other religions, other cultures and also wars. But the same is also valid in connection with other dangerous religions. Christianity says that people have to be decent and not have to look for possession, but they live in the highest luxury, surrounded by gold. On the other hand I can not deny that this topic fits our music as well. But be sure it is not only our image that we chosen, but our conviction."
Anything else we might have forgotten here and that you’d like to mention?
"I think we mentioned almost everything. Maybe not that DEMENTOR is going on tour with the Japanese band DEFILED in September 2000. We will definitely appear in Ludwigshafen on the 16th of September. We still negotiate about any other places. Thank you very much for this professional and great interview, Frank. It was pleasure for me to answer your questions. KEEP THE BLASPHEMY!"