Back in the early 90s, the state of Texas (USA) was not known for any other Death Metal bands except for ABSU. But that changed in 1992 when IMPRECATION’s amazing “Ceremony Of The Nine Angels” demo tape hit the undergound. Their brand of evil and dense Death Metal combined with slow and atmospheric Doom Metal was an instant boom and everybody had to do with them. Personally, I could not understand why they didn’t get signed on the spot for a proper album. Then came a 7″ EP, a promo tape and the 1995 “Theurgia Goetia Summa” compilation CD… and then the silence. Luckily for all of us, the band decided to come back from hiatus and released the “Sigil Of Lucifer” 7″ EP in 2010 and the “Jehovan Denied” promo in 2012, which finally got them signed to Dark Descent Records. Their debut album was released 21 years after their formation and it was worth the wait. “Satanae Tenebris Infinita” is a perfect example of IMPRECATION’s style, which seems unadulterated after all this time. They also graced the underground with their second album, “Damnatio Ad Bestias” in 2019 and their music has only gotten better and more incisive. With an imminent third album to be released in 2021, we were lucky to have vocalist Dave Herrera (aka Grimlord) answer some questions regarding the past, present and future of the almighty IMPRECATION.
Hi Dave and thank you for answering this interview. Before going back in time with some history, let’s start with your latest release, the split LP with BLACK BLOOD INVOCATION. How did you get in contact with a Greek band? Which band set it up or was it an offer from Helter Skelter Productions? Were your songs recorded specifically for this release or were these unused songs from previous sessions? Did it help the band gain some exposure?
“Hello. We were contacted by Warhead from the Icelandic / Greek juggernaut WARGRINDER wanting to know if we’d be interested in doing this. He was gonna play drums for BLACK BLOOD INVOCATION and said that they were talking with Perry at Helter Skelter / Regain about doing a split with another band and we were bought up amongst the guys as a band that would fit what they were going for in this release. Being a fan of BLACK BLOOD INVOCATION and WARGRINDER I approached the guys in our band about it and they all agreed. I must admit that we had no desire to do a split at that time, because we had just released a full length and wanted to get working on writing our follow up. Plus I think a split should mean something, too many bands whore themselves out to just sticking their music with just any run of the mill band and creating a forgettable release. What we felt like is that an up and coming band such as BLACK BLOOD INVOCATION had all the spirit of true underground Satanic music that it would make a memorable split to join forces with them. As far as exposure I have to say we don’t really know if this particular release has bought new listeners to the fold. We have a great fanbase that have shown support throughout our existence, and we of course love to hear when we’ve reached new listeners.”
Your latest full length (and second in IMPRECATION’s history) “Damnatio Ad Bestias” is one hell of an album. In my personal opinion it has a lot of that heavy, dense and oppressive atmosphere that has identified IMPRECATION since the begginning of the band. Would you say it is the best representation of the band’s work to date? Is it time for the band to evolve or are you going to stick to your style and develop it further?
“First off thanks for the words in regards to our latest LP. I definitely feel that it’s a progression in our sound, and it retains all the things that make our band who we are. Our ultimate goal is to have each release top the previous one in when it comes to full length albums. Our upcoming full length is even heavier and nastier than “Damnatio Ad Bestias” in my opinion. We are not trying to reinvent the wheel, just to make quality and worthwhile Death Metal. With that being said, it’s imperative that you move upwards with new ideas in order to become stronger. So yeah, there will be a few elements that will differentiate our new release from the last release from the one before that and so on. The key to this formula is to not betray the roots of your music. Like MORBID ANGEL did. They were glorious in their evolution up to a point and then I suppose they got too clever with their approach and fell victim to their influences. It’s ok to have non Metal sounds injected into your songs from time to time, but when you straight up destroy the foundation where your machine was created then you are just left with a hollow shell that once brought greatness. CELTIC FROST is a classic example as well. They were lucky that the underground forgave them for that “Cold Lake” era, because that would have buried most bands.”
Which were the easiest and hardest parts of the process that culminated with “Damnatio Ad Bestias”? How long did it take the band to write the songs, record them and finally deliver a final product? Has it been well received by the global underground and are you totally satisfied with it?
“That album took a long time to do, mainly because of all the bands that the members were involved with including myself. Ruben, Milton and I were busy with MORBUS 666 and Danny was very involved with OATH OF CRUELTY. I also was focused on my new project WÜLFSKOL, so yeah between family, work and all this it was very difficult to find time to craft that album. To be honest, it almost felt like IMPRECATION was about to come to an end because Danny was already starting to drop hints that he was going to need to lighten the load on his involvement with music so we were about to lose yet another guitarist. But the 5 of us trudged forward and committed ourselves to making the album happen. It took about 4 years to get everything crafted just right, a lot of songs didn’t make the cut. But we never gave up on it even though there were some rough periods there. I am so happy to have someone like Ruben in our band because he kept us from going under. He refused to fold it up and I can’t thank him enough for keeping my spirits from breaking. And the end result was a solid record that justified within myself and all of us why we are the machine that we are. Now IMPRECATION is my main focus, and everything else will be done when there is time for it. I am excited for our next release because I know it will be regarded as one of our best. But back to “Damnatio Ad Bestias”… yeah, it has been received very well, Matt from Dark Descent Records has done a great job getting it out there and we can’t thank him enough for believing in the album.”
I know you are good friends with Wes Weaver from BLASPHERIAN and IMPRECATION’s ex – guitarist. Was that the connection for your split 7″ released back in 2014? Will we ever see another collaboration from both bands, maybe a gig or two; maybe a tour once the world goes back to normal?
“Yes, Wes is a friend of the band. He is part of the family, and the history he has with IMPRECATION made it a no brainer in regards to a split with BLASPHERIAN. Also the guys in BLASPHERIAN are all great friends of ours, so they will always have the support of IMPRECATION. They have a crushing, necro sound that helps define the scene here in Texas. We hope to share the stage with them once again, hopefully for more than one show.”
2013’s “Satanae Tenebris Infinita” was your first proper album, released 22 years after the band was formed. We the fans had to wait all that time for such an amazing collection of songs and IMPRECATION delivered the goods. Would you consider it a landmark in the band’s career? Were you relieved that all of your visions and hard work finally came to fruition or do you think that album was only the first in the band’s future ahead?
“Man, that album was a long time coming. That seemed to be our curse, throughout the 90s the only thing we could muster up was a compilation album made up of our 3 releases from ’92-’94. There really wasn’t much label interest except Drowned / Repulse during that time and they never offered any help with studio finances so it made it very difficult to make an album happen. Everything we did up to that point was completely out of pocket. A lot of people might not know that analog recording studios back then were very expensive, financing anything more than a few songs was difficult without a little help. Also, Texas had a fairly unknown Death Metal scene with the exception of ABSU and DIVINE EVE, so there wasn’t a lot of attention from prospecting labels. So just a lot of treading water back then. The band went in a “dead but dreaming” state for the late 90s and much of the 2000s until 2009 Ruben had approached me about getting the band back together to finish unfinished business. I jumped at the chance, because I felt that I left the band in late ’93 in haste and wanted another crack at things. We recorded a new 7 inch right out of the gates through negativity called “Sigil Of Lucifer” to knock the rust off, and then the wheels fell off again with a couple of members quitting as soon as that was released. We recruited Milton on bass, Danny moved to guitars and we decided to record the “Jehovah Denied” demo in our practice studio to shop for labels with. That demo got the attention of Dark Descent Records and the rest is as you know it. “Satanae Tenebris Infinita” was released shortly after we signed with Matt Calvert. That album was and is a testament to our endurance as a band. We finally got that monkey off our back with that release.”
How was the recording process for “Satanae Tenebris Infinita”. The band had to be pretty excited and pumped back then, since it was your debut full length and it meant a lot of work. Was it all new material or did you have old ideas laying around and put together for this album? Were you satisfied with the final output? From what I can remember, I didn’t see any bad reviews at all. Also, can you comment on the story about the original name of the album please?
“Yeah, the album was originally entitled “Of The Black Earth”. It was a title that I held onto since 1992 as that was gonna be the name of our album back then. Fast forward to 2013 and a great band called MAVETH who we were label mates with released an album right before we could with “…Of The Black Earth” in the title. I felt that maybe that title was never meant to be for us so rather than holding on to it we decided to go a whole new route. So we chose a Latin title to carry the feel of our only other major release “Theurgia Goetia Summa”. “Satanae Tenebris Infinita” translates to the infinite darkness of Satan, which fits us like a glove. All the songs that weren’t on “Jehovah” were brand new to the album. I personally felt that the album had some flaws but overall was happy to see the day when I held it in my hands. We are proud of that release and we knew that it was only the beginning of more to come.”
According to online info, “Jehova Denied” was recorded to mark the 20th year of the release of the “Ceremony Of The Nine Angles”. Who came up with the idea and how did you guys feel about it now? Did it help the band gain more exposure, since it was only your second recording after your reformation?
“As I was saying before our main goal with that recording was to get the attention of a good label. But I will also say that “Jehovah Denied” is arguably the most important work in our history because it was a proving ground for IMPRECATION. We had just lost original guitarist Phil Westmoreland and Jim Case followed after him. Everyone thought we were dead in the water. But Ruben is the main songwriter in the band, so we knew that we could make things happen. Danny moved to guitar from the bass and Milton (our current guitarist) joined on bass. To all the people who wrote us off, that demo was a gigantic middle finger. Every release afterwards I like to imagine as a mighty kick in the balls to them as well. Never count us out. It ain’t over till it’s over.”
The Sigil Of Lucifer” 7″ EP was recorded shortly after the band reformed back in 2009. How good was the reaction to new IMPRECATION material after years of silence? Who came up with the idea to put the band back together, with the addition of Danny and Jim? Was “getting back on the saddle” a painless and swift process?
“It was a mixed bag to be honest. People said our spirit was not the same and if you ask me I think that’s somewhat accurate. If we had continued down that path we started with in 2009 then I feel that our material would have become stale and we wouldn’t be existing today. That’s one of the reasons why we chose to do a revisit and reimagined version of ‘Baptized In Devil’s Blood’ on the last LP. Ruben and I felt that the song wasn’t done right the first time around so we figured we would take another crack at it. So, rather than just doing a paint-by-numbers version of the song I thought it would be killer to alter the title to ‘Baptized In Satan’s Blood’ and to completely rewrite the lyrics with a whole new approach. It worked out great because it makes it more of a 2 part story, being that part 1 is about the breeding and the brood and part 2 is about the trials and the becoming. Anyways, in regards to our line-up I felt that Phil just didn’t fit in with the direction that we wanted to take the band. His head was immersed with Stoner Doom and I wanted to make things blacker and more underground. Ruben did too. So when we presented ‘Chapel Of Rotting Flesh’ to Phil he did not care for it at all. He said that he was not interested in going that direction, we told him we were and he packed up his gear and took Jim with him. It’s all good though, he’s a friend but he had different goals with his writing. It looked weird onstage with all of us wearing leather and spikes and Phil was onstage with tennis shoes, shorts and backwards baseball hat. His heart just wasn’t into it. Jim left because he wanted other things as well, and his buddy wasn’t gonna be in the band anymore. I like Jim too, but that’s how the cookie crumbled. Everyone thought we were doomed because they left. In retrospect of that time period it was the best thing to happen to IMPRECATION. Nothing will slow a band down more than a few members who don’t wanna be there. It’s no hard feelings, go do your thing and we will do ours. We don’t want to exist on past glories, we wanna bring greatness to our entire legacy.”
I think you get a lot of questions about the early years right after Phil and Ruben ended with DARK REIGN and formed IMPRECATION adding you, Mark and Victor to the fold for “Ceremony Of The Nine Angels” and then having Wes coming in replacing Victor and then you leaving the band before they recorded the 1994 Promo. So, can you sum up all those years of blood, sweat and tears?
“Man that was a great time in the scene, nothing will ever soil the magic that was in the air in the early 90s. I was trying to get a band called CHRIST DISMEMBERED off of the ground at the time. I was actually on my way to a guitar player’s house to check him out when I saw Mark Beecher on the side of the freeway kicking his car. We recognized him and turned around and gave him a ride to his house. He was talking about how he was gonna be playing bass in a Death Metal band with a couple of guys from DARK REIGN and UNDERTAKER. They didn’t have a name yet, but they were thinking of keeping it UNDERTAKER since Phil, John and Ruben already made up that band or they were thinking about calling it IMPRECATION. Then he asked if I still played guitar and I was like “yeah” and he said maybe I should try out since they needed a lead guitarist. So he talks to the guys and they agreed they would like to come and watch me play to see if they were interested. I gotta admit, there was a lot of gravity on me leading up to the night they would arrive at my place. I mean, these are guys from the mighty DARK REIGN who I worshipped and I was a middle of the talent road guitarist who just wanted to be a part of something dark and evil but legit. Anyways long story short, they all made the hour long journey to my place and I did my thing. I could tell I was not impressing them at all. So I started with my vocals to make more sense of the rhythms I was showing them, you know to justify the minimalistic approach on display. That’s what did it. Ruben told me on the down low that he didn’t care for my guitar skills but he really liked my vocals. They asked me over the phone if I wanted to front the band instead. I was floored. I couldn’t believe guys from DARK REIGN were asking me to front their new band. It was a dream come true, no bullshit. I used to hang around at their rehearsals in 1988-89 because I was friends with a guy who was friends with a girl one of them were fucking. Or actually two of them hahaha. But yeah I would sit there full of envy, hoping one day I’d get a chance to work with a group of guys who took their craft seriously. So anyways I felt bad about usurping John but hey man that’s the nature of things. So we recruited Vic from local band RELAYER on guitars and the rest is as you know it. Eventually Vic’s ego would become a problem, and we gave him the boot. I think the final straw was when he showed up at the Axiom wearing an ANTHRAX shirt with a big goofy drawing of the “NOT guy” on the front. We were supporting ENTOMBED that night. I told him, “no way man, you gotta change that shirt” because fuck that. I wanted IMPRECATION to be known as a force of evil, and shit like that wasn’t gonna cut it. Come death or go home. He changed into a black shirt and made a big stink over it. Look, maybe to some that might be trivial but I felt that our music was much too dark to have that kind of silliness represented. Nothing against ANTHRAX but when Lilker got the boot they began their goofy descent. A bunch of records scratching with hip hop beats came soon after. Even if it was a joke, I didn’t think it was funny. Fuck that ‘I’m The Man’ crap. Always, we then tried a really cool guy named Joel (pronounced Jo-elle) out and though he was a killer individual he just wasn’t cutting it. Our early shit was very intricate, not at all easy to play. Wes came in and nailed it. Through that line-up we created our sound in which we would base our identity on. I still think ‘Of The Underworld’ off of the first demo was the very first song that showed what was to become. We just honed it to an art on the subsequent releases.”
How do you guys come up with the music? Is it a group effort with everybody pitching in ideas at the rehearsal space or sending riff back and forth? Or is there a member who comes up with rough ideas and then you all go from there? Also, the band has built on its own style and has made it a trademark. Was this the goal from the begginning?
“Well it pretty much mostly starts with Ruben. He’s the backbone of this band. He has been since the beginning. I have always handled the lyrics when I have been the vocalist. The new album, however, has a special lyric and vocal contribution from a true legend in real underground music. Milton has become a force within this band, writing songs like ‘Blood Dominion’ and ‘Morbid Crucifixion’. He has contributed, in my opinion, 3 of his best songs on the new album. Nick is our newest member, and already he has contributed 2 very strong songs to our new album as well. Jeff is the best bassist that we have had in IMPRECATION. Plus he brings a keen sense of artistic vision that has totally shaped our present identity. I feel that we have our strongest line-up to date. Of course whenever we come together as a band everyone adds their own personalities to each song.”
Regarding your lyrics, what has been your main inspiration through the years? How do you come up with concepts, song titles and interesting topics to write about?
“My main inspiration has always been of a diabolical nature. My lyrics usually come to me in various forms, whether they are day dreams, night visions or out of body experiences through hallucinations from acid or mushrooms. I haven’t done acid in decades, but I did enough throughout the 90s to last me a lifetime. Mushrooms are still on the menu on rare occasions. My song titles usually just appear, I can’t really explain it. There’s no real science behind it. Everything I write is of the Devil.”
IMPRECATION started as any other band wanting to play an extreme style of music and eventually became a huge influence for other up and coming bands. Which were your fave bands and / or inspirations back then? Have your tastes changed? Are those influences still present in your music and lyrics? Are there any new or recent bands that have caught your attention lately?
“IMPRECATION was built on the inspiration of bands like old MORBID ANGEL, SLAYER, DEICIDE, CELTIC FROST, POSSESSED, IMMOLATION, MERCYFUL FATE and in our beginning stage ENTOMBED. I can’t speak for the other members on personal influence, but my favorite vocalists are Glenn Danzig, David Vincent, Tom Araya, Jeff Gruslin, Glen Benton, Bon Scott, King Diamond and Tom Warrior. I also found the vocal stylings of early BEHERIT, BLASPHEMY and IMPALED NAZARENE as forces of inspiration.”
Also, being a new band and making yourselves noticed in the early 90s was way more difficult than nowadays, given all the channels you can use to reach your target audience. Which changes do you think have helped the underground and which things do you think should have stayed the same? Are there any aspects of today’s scene that bother you or your bandmates?
“Yeah we are from Texas and with a few exceptions our state was more of a well kept secret. Most eyes and ears were busy scouring the Tampa and Northeast United States Death Metal scenes so no one really paid much attention to the other parts of the US. I mean, California had a few bands like AUTOPSY and of course the midwest area had killer bands like NUNSLAUGHTER and CIANIDE but those areas weren’t cranking out bands like Florida, New York and the surrounding states. In the Texas Death Metal scene we basically had ABSU drawing international attention, though they were straying into other forms of Metal. As for the rest of us, we were a family of underground Metal who could hold their own with the big touring acts. It took a while, but Texas has finally been recognized as a force of quality Death Metal.”
Once we are done with the pandemic affecting bands, musicians and gigs, what is next for IMPRECATION?
“It’s kind of hard to say, but at least on the table right now we have the Border Assault in Laredo, Texas in February. We are slated to play Maryland Death Fest in May. Mexico City and Brazil are also on the schedule. But it all depends on COVID. This shit sucks, I can’t wait to get back to the stage.”
Well, that was my last question. The following space is yours for the taking. I would like to thank you again for your time and for being an awesome band. Thanks for gracing all of us with such amazingly heavy, dark, dense and intense music! Hails!
“Thank you for the great interview, Al! To all who are reading, be on the lookout for our 3rd full length entitled “III: In Nomine Diaboli” coming early 2021 on Dark Descent. HORNS.”