HELLBRINGER hail from the land down under and deliver some of the most evil Thrash Metal one can find out there nowadays. Split skulls and cracked spines is what you get after dealing with this rabid three-piece – TOTAL DESTRUCTION! Because of being one of the few bands out there that knows what real Metal is all about it was more than overdue to finally see what happens when they respond to the VOICES FROM THE DARKSIDE.
Hails and thanks for participating in this interview. Since this is your first time here at VFTDS I guess it would be a good idea to introduce yourself and the band. How did the original three members of FORGERY get together and what made you turn it later on into HELLBRINGER? Something interesting to mention would be that the band actually started doing covers only right? Was FORGERY your first band in general?
"Well, my name is Josh and I play drums in the band. I also take care of the "business" side of the band if you want to call it that hehe. The band originally started when we were all in high school. My brother Luke and I were very interested in starting a band playing in the style of the stuff we love. Since I played drums, and Luke bass we obviously needed a guitarist. We just happened to have a mate who was beginning to discover Heavy Metal and he was into the same sort of stuff as us. He also happened to play guitar. So we got him in and that’s how it started. We did play covers at the start because we didn’t have a lot of original material at the time. It was not only covers but there were a few. FORGERY was our first proper band. Before that we had just been jamming stuff but nothing serious. We eventually decided to change the name to HELLBRINGER. This happened when we joined forces with Iron Pegasus Records in Germany to re-release our original EP on vinyl for the first time. At the time there was another band called FORGERY going around who seemed to be pretty big back then. Because of that we just decided to change the name. I think HELLBRINGER is a much better name anyway!"
In 2009 you released a second demo / EP entitled "Hellbringer". Seems that those first 2 years have been quite productive since all the material from the "Hellbringer" EP was later on re-recorded for the very first release under the HELLBRINGER moniker. How was the songwriting and rehearsing situation around that time?
"It actually wasn’t re-recorcded. They were the exact same recordings. Iron Pegasus just re-released it under our new name. There were two extra tracks that we did record specially for the HELLBRINGER Iron Pegasus release however. A brand new song we had at the time called ‘Screams From The Catacombs’ and a cover song by the classic Canberra band ARMOURED ANGEL called ‘My Fist Your Face’. I actually can’t remember too much about the songwriting and rehearsals for the track ‘Screams’. It became our most popular song at live gigs though."
HELLBRINGER’s first release was via Iron Pegasus Records. How did you get in touch with Costa? Was it you guys sending him your material or did he make the first step?
"I was sending copies of our demo / EP around to labels at the time. I had known about Iron Pegasus for a while and thought they were a great label. I emailed Costa some tracks to hear and see if he’d be interested and he loved it!"
The release is officially categorized as an EP even though it surpasses the 30min mark which is in my opinion the perfect length for a full length Thrash record. Looking back to it now, how do you see the release as a whole nowadays? Still satisfied with it?
"I haven’t listened to it in a very long time but I think I would still enjoy it. I’m not too huge on the production on it these days but I like the songs and I think it has great energy. I think it has a certain innocence to it since we were just kids and didn’t know what the fuck we were doing."
How was the gig situation in those first years of the band? Wasn’t it around that time that you first came to Europe or am I wrong with that?
"First starting out we used to play every gig we were offered. We weren’t known so we were trying to spread our name as best we could. Of course this resulted in a lot of crappy gigs and very strange line-ups but some good ones too. We didn’t care back then though we just wanted as many gigs as possible. We didn’t tour Europe until a long time after that. Not too long ago actually, only a couple years. It wasn’t a huge tour but we played some great shows and fests."
After that it was Tim Sheppard out James Lewis in. How did that happen? Was it easy to find James?
"Tim had just lost interest and our friendship was beginning to strain which was part of it. He had stopped practicing and his guitar skills were going down. The new stuff we were coming up with was getting more intense and he was just struggling too much with it. We were of course trying to make it work but it was becoming extremely tense and frustrating to the point it wasn’t enjoyable anymore. He eventually stopped showing up to rehearsals, wouldn’t answer phone calls and all that and we had to cancel a good gig because we couldn’t contact him. That was it pretty much, never heard or saw from him again. James was easy to find luckily. He knew we had recently lost our guitarist and he had always been a fan of our band. He used to play in a Sydney Thrash band we used to play gigs with so he was quite familiar with our stuff and was super keen to join. We had a rehearsal with him to see how he went and that was it pretty much. He was in."
Arriving in 2012 and with James on board you released your first full length “Dominion Of Darkness”. Maybe you can give some general information concerning the record? Why did you choose to switch to High Roller Records? How did you get in touch with Harris Johns to take care of the mix / master process?
"Well the plan was that we would go with Iron Pegasus again for the full length. However it was during the recording of "Dominion…" that we simply thought we would like to try a bigger label. I had always known about High Roller having owned some of their releases and I knew they always did a great job. That’s why we decided to go with them pretty much. Nothing against Costa from Iron Pegasus or anything. He’s a great guy with true underground spirit. Harris Johns had actually mastered the original "Hellbringer" EP. I had simply just emailed him to do that. When it came time for the recording of "Dominion…" we were sorting of discussing things and Tim Duck (who recorded the old FORGERY / HELLBRINGER stuff) suggested we could possibly get a grant from the government and fly him out here. At the time we had no idea the government even gave money for stuff like that! So we applied for this grant and surprisingly got it. I got in contact Harris and told him about it and he was keen. I think it’s an alright sounding album but not exactly what we wanted. Was a frustrating as hell experience during the recording of that album that I would never want to relive too."
I really dig the cover of that first record. What inspired you for it and how important is the cover of a record for HELBBRINGER?
"Well with that one it was actually already a "pre-created" piece if you get what I mean. Our good friend Shannon Hush from the band TRENCH HELL is good mates with Rok from SADISTIK EXEKUTION. Rok happened to have this killer unused artwork that happened to perfectly fit our style which he had emailed to Hush. He showed us and we knew straight away this was the cover for our new EP! I think the cover is very important. Especially today with so much similar, bland shit going around. I like to picture in my mind going into a record store and seeing the cover in there. I think "is that something I would pick up and look further at?" If yes then it will work. It of course has to fit the feel and theme of the music and album too."
What happened after the release of “Dominion Of Darkness”? Two years later, in 2014, you already released a 7” EP. Was ‘Horror From The Grave’ a new track or some leftover from the “Dominion…” sessions?
"The main thing in that time frame was that we toured Europe for the first time. But even then, that was still 2 years after the release of "Dominion…" Not much happened in the way of new material apart from "Horror". It was a brand new track we wrote for an EP release. We didn’t have nearly enough material ready for a new album but we wanted to have a little in-between taste sort of thing so people can see what the new album might be about. I think 7" are great for that."
Now to a more current topic, let’s talk about “Awakened From The Abyss”. How was the songwriting this time? I mean there are definitely some changes to be found within your music when comparing your first full length with the current one. Was the process of writing the material different as well? Did you already feel that things tend to go into a different direction this time?
"The songwriting was more challenging this time and took a lot longer. This time around I think we had matured more as songwriters and we were a lot more fussy. The actual process of writing itself wasn’t overly different but it was a more of a joint effort this time. James had a lot more riffs and thing like that this time. I wrote a few riffs too but I more came up with structure ideas and beats obviously. A lot of the writing and ideas was actually spent when we were in the rehearsal room which took quite a lot longer. Some rehearsals we would show up and no ideas were happening. Others ideas and stuff like that would be flowing. We all know how that goes though! We definitely felt it going a different direction this time. I mean I guess you would still say it’s still the style we are known for in essence but everything is amped up much more. The aggression and darkness was upped a lot more which I think was part a natural progression that we had been heading too. However we did know the sound and feel we wanted to achieve with this one."
Tim Duck was not only working on your latest full length “Awakened From The Abyss” but also involved with the 7”. What was the reason to work with him? I suppose he’s somebody outside of the metal scene isn’t he? How was working with him?
"We have been working with Tim for a good while now actually. He recorded the original FORGERY and HELLBRINGER stuff back then too. Working with him is great. He knows what we want and he himself doesn’t like the typical modern Metal productions you hear by the millions these days. He isn’t involved with the Heavy Metal scene which I think works as a benefit. A lot of people who ONLY work with Metal these days and who are especially attuned to the typical / modern recording methods will just end up doing that overly compressed, sterile brick walled shit because that’s all they know. Unfortunately it’s the standard these days."
Samu from SWALLOWED was this time responsible for the brilliant artwork. What made you decide to let him do the job? SLAYER definitely seemed to be an inspiration, right? Are you, by the way, familiar with his band?
"I was looking endlessly for the right person to fit the style. We wanted something dirty, twisted and evil as I’m sure you can see. I finally came across his website from seeing some of the other bands he had done and I knew straight away that’s what we needed. We actually didn’t have a lot of ideas ourselves this time. I gave a basic idea and he came up with the rest. I think if you have the right artist for the job that can be best. I did send him a SLAYER cover as a reference because they are a great example."
Many Metal bands also get influenced by certain literature and movies, especially horror stuff. Does any of that influence HELLBRINGER as well?
"There are some horror themes but nothing in particular from movies or books. Although ‘Horror From The Grave’ from the 7" was in part based on Lovecraft."
You recently finished a US tour. How was that and how did it come about at all? I suppose MDD lead up to the rest of the gigs didn’t it? Any comments on the American hospitality towards touring bands 😉 ?
"Once we got on Maryland Deathfest I got a message from a dude who organizes tours. He said he could set up a whole tour for us so we of course accepted. It was something crazy at first like 20 shows. I guess for certain bands that’s still small but we didn’t need that many so we cut it down because we didn’t need that many. There were some really amazing gigs on the tour and some shit ones. But you’re gonna get that I guess. A lot of nice people and die hards over there who did appreciate international touring bands. However, with the club shows the hospitality was a couple of beer tokens each for some shit piss tasting beer and usually no food. So you tell me haha. Still though, I do want to go back."
How does the future look like after releasing “Awakened…”? So far the record earned quite a lot of praise already. I heard you guys will play at Hell Over Hammaburg. Maybe some more European dates as well?
"I guess it’s always hard to see but from what I see it seems to be getting and a lot more recognition and notice than "Dominion…" which is great to see. We’ll be playing Hell over Hammaburg in March next year and this will of course include some club shows too."
To finish this interview off maybe we can discuss some non-band related stuff. What I’d be interested in would be is it “Hell Awaits” or “Reign In Blood” for you?
"I love both but "Hell Awaits" would win by a bit. No other album tops that sick, twisted evil like on that album!!"
To turn things around a little bit, what are your top 5 worst records by bands you actually like?
"A lot of bands I love release shit these days. Everyone mentions METALLICA and SLAYER so I won’t do that. I’ll instead mention the likes of KREATOR and DESTRUCTION. Look at the shit they put out these days."
Favorite post 2000 releases?
"There’s a few. I think JUDAS PRIEST – "Angel Of Retribution" is a great album. IRON MAIDEN – "Brave New World", DESTROYER 666 – "Cold Steel", TRENCH HELL – "Southern Cross Ripper", HIGH SPIRITS – self-titled demo / compilation or whatever it is, ZUUL – "Out Of Time" (underrated I reckon), CONVENT GUILT – "Guns For Hire", JOHNNY TOUCH – "Inner City Wolves". As many as I can think of off the top of my head."
What are your thoughts on the Australian Scene? With SLAUGHTER LORD and VOMITOR two of my all-time favorite bands hail from your country. What are your top three acts?
"Not a lot to be said about it these days unfortunately. It’s very quiet. The good bands rarely play with good gigs happening few and far between. It’s definitely not like the old days. My top 3 Australian bands: 1. ARMOURED ANGEL, 2. ROSE TATTOO, 3. AC/DC. MORTAL SIN too but their first album is the only one I listen to. Aussie classic! And obviously DESTROYER 666. Only 3 is tough!"
Thanks a lot for doing this! In case you want to add something, feel free to do so now.
"Thanks for the interview. "Awakened The Abyss" is out now in High Roller Records! Cheers!"
Interview: Marco Stebich
Live pics: Rafael Yaekashi