After having already introduced the great DRAWN AND QUARTERED to the Death Metal masses around the world, Moribund Records strikes again with another very promising bunch that goes by the name INFERNAL LEGION! This five piece act, that originally started out as EVISCERATE, also hails from the same area as their labelmates (WA) just released their new album "Your Prayers Mean Nothing" and should easily take over every true Death Metal fan’s black heart by storm! Needless to say that we wanted to find out a bit more about them, so here’s an interview with drummer Justin Thomas, vocalist Josh Smith and guitarist Erik Armstrong…
INFERNAL LEGION originally started out as EVISCERATE in January of 1999… Was that your first band ever or did you already gain experiences in other acts previously? Tell us a bit about the time prior to the foundation of EVISCERATE!
Justin: "Me an Eric had jammed for like four or five years, but EVISCERATE was definitely the first band that I was in."
Josh: "Yeah, it was my first band, before EVISCERATE, I was just another fan of Death Metal, singing along with CDs, then started writing my own lyrics. I then got together with Justin, Eric and Doug, and we’ve all known each other for a long time."
Erik: "Justin and I first started working together musically in 1994, from then until 1999 we were basically refining and defining our style and eventually reached the epitome of music, Death Metal. Everyone would eventually reach this point if they kept trying hard enough."
What were your early influences, musically as well as lyrically, and have those influences changed over the years?
Justin: "My early influences were Black Sabbath, Led Zepplin, and it changed when I started listening to Death Metal. Lyrically, I always felt the way I do about religion and things of that nature. "
Josh: "Definitely Slayer, Deicide, Black Sabbath, Venom. It never really changed, I started liking newer Metal bands, buy my influences always stayed the same. "
Erik: "Black Sabbath, Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, Ratt, early Metallica, to name a few early influences. Speaking from a purely Death / Black Metal standpoint, Immolation, Morbid Angel, Broken Hope, Angel Corpse."
By the end of February 2000 you recorded eight tracks for a self-titled release at Autopsy Room studios, which surprisingly only came out on cassette, limited to 250 copies… Do you consider that more as the band’s demo or was that already meant to be an album release? Why didn’t you release that on CD or vinyl and why was it limited that much?
Justin: "Money! Money was the biggest thing with that, and yeah, it was meant to be a demo. And not only that, we didn’t even have a full line-up."
Erik: "I’d say the #1 reason for that was inexperience. We really hadn’t solidified as a band and just wanted to put out something to build on, which we have. I still listen to the Eviscerate tape a lot, when I can find a tape player."
Tell us a bit more about the songs on that release… Were they already in the same style that you’re playing nowadays or was that still in a totally different direction?
Justin: "It was in the same direction, we just started playing together, it was basically for fun back then, it wasn’t really serious at all."
Erik: "I feel like our style has changed a lot since then because at that point, we had three guitarists in the band, and John (the 3rd guitarist), had some influence on the sound, but since then I think we’ve taken that direction and just focused it, which seems typical for most bands, to focus in on what they really want to play."
How about your live activities at the time? Did you already play out pretty often while you were still called EVISCERATE? And was it more locally or also across the country or even outside of it?
Justin: "We played about 20 or 30 shows, all local, nothing huge, around Tacoma."
Erik: "Our first show was pretty fucked up, but from there we had some good shows as Eviscerate. We started to develop a good local fan base. I’m really glad we started somewhere, why not in Lakewood."
How did people react to a rather unknown act at the time? Did you include any covertunes to win over the crowds or was it all original songs right from the beginning?
Justin: "It was all original."
Erik: "Definitely all original from the beginning. I think we once covered ‘Seasons In The Abyss’ at a show in Seattle, but we always have focused on original material, and have generally received a good reaction from the crowds."
In November 2000, you went for a name change, from EVISCERATE to INFERNAL LEGION… Tell us a bit more about that and whether it hurted the status of the band in any way or not? How did you manage to get the message out that EVISCERATE was INFERNAL LEGION now? Was the new name inspired by the old VENOM stuff maybe?
Justin: "The name change really wasn’t a big deal. People that liked Eviscerate liked Infernal Legion also. The name wasn’t influenced by anyone, it’s just something we wanted to do."
Josh: "I don’t think the name change effected the band at all, and the name Infernal Legion was actually inspired by a verse in a Samael song off of the "Blood Ritual" album."
Erik: "I remember it confusing some people, but I think that they were just too drunk to remember it had been changed. Seriously though, there were a few bands in the U.S. that we had found with the same name, and we wanted to keep as original as possible. Before Eviscerate, there was an (original) Infernal Legion, which current guitarist Doug Stern was in. At that point, that band had disbanded and we decided to take over the name."
In 2001 you returned to the Autopsy Room to record "Angelicide", another eight track release… but this time you put it out on CD, didn’t you? Tell us a bit more about the material on that, like when you wrote the songs, how they differ from the EVISCERATE stuff and how many copies were made of the release?
Justin: "With "Angelicide", it was serious, we wanted to put out a good album, we took time to write the songs. All the songs we wrote upstairs in my house, we just sat around and hashed it out. We finally had direction at that time."
Josh: "We tried to go for a little more brutal technical sound on the "Angelicide" CD, we took a more evil direction with the lyrics."
Erik: "I remember the day I sat down and wrote the song ‘Angelicide’, lyrics and all, beginning to end. I think on that day I really was fucking hating god for some reason. All the songs from there out were better than before, as we took more time and applied more ideas toward the actual recording and mix of the CD. I think we ended up producing about 150 copies of that one. They were hand numbered up until around number 130. I have the hand numbered #1 "Angelicide" CD locked in my underground fortress."
In your bio there’s talk about the stabilization of the line-up during the summer of 2003… So, does that mean that INFERNAL LEGION as well as EVISCERATE constantly had to suffer from line-up changes up till then? What where the problems with your former members and how did you hook up with your most current line-up?
Josh: "The line-up has stayed the same except that we are having trouble with bass players. For some reason, every bassist we find decides he wants to join a faggy Hardcore band."
Erik: "Yeah, the bass position has been a tough one for the band. I hope that in the future, we can stabilize in that area. Altogther, since the beginning through current, there have been nine people in the band at some point, for some amount of time."
Did you play a lot of shows in support of the "Angelicide" release? I noticed that you already did several shows with DRAWN AND QUARTERED… So, did they hook you up with Moribund Records or how did that deal come about?
Josh: "Actually, Tom Racine, formally of Moribund Records used to be a neighbour of mine, he heard the self-produced CD and really liked it, so he took it to Moribund to play for Odin. We ended up playing a lot of shows in support of the "Angelicide" album, and the record label took us out to Milwaukee Metalfest even though they hadn’t officially signed us yet. We met a lot of cool people out there and had a great time."
Justin: "We played a lot of shows because we had a full line-up and we were trying to get our name out there. We played Milwaukee Metalfest 2002, and played many shows in WA and OR."
Judging the band from various live pictures, I would conclude that you really enjoy live shows a lot and that a strong image / visual aspects are also of importance to you guys… So, feel free to tell us a bit more about an INFERNAL LEGION live gig!
Justin: "Stage presence is definitely important when you play, you don’t want to look like a fuckin dipshit up there."
Josh: "We want an Inferanl Legion live gig to visually capture the evil we portray in our music. We want to stand out from all the other Death Metal bands that just show up and play their songs. When we played Milwaukee Metalfest we brought two chicks on stage dressed in pvc and drenched in blood to capture the essence of the song ‘Blood Orgy’."
Talking of image… you guys luckily stick to the original approach of Death Metal, as opposed to many other new bands who mix Death Metal music with quite annoying other topics… How serious do you take the lyrical side of things? Is it just pure fascination of occult and Satanic themes in general (which perfectly fit to this brutal music) or is there more to it… is it maybe even a lifestyle to you?
Justin: "I’d say it’s a lifestyle, as far as my views on Christianity and things, it’s why I’m in this band."
Josh: "It is definitely a lifestyle for me. My lyrics will always stay true to anti-christian themes because of the legions of sheep that I have to deal with every day and the liers they follow. I actually take offense to Death Metal bands who write watered down lyrics or lyrics tamed to appeal to the masses."
Erik: "I know that all the core members (Justin, Josh, Doug and myself) all feel strongly about the band’s ideology, as it is based on all of our individual views. Us four are very anti-christian in our views, and have little pity for the weak, ignorant or the leeches of society. I personally believe that in time, organized religions such as christianity, judiaism and islam will fall to ashes, and I’m doing everything I can to help make that happen."
Moribund Records promotes INFERNAL LEGION with the slogan "The perfect integration of early Satanic Death Metal landmarks as MORBID ANGEL’s "Altars Of Madness" and INFERNÄL MÄJESTY’s "None Shall Defy", or perhaps even early GRAVE screwing with DISSECTION’s melodic sense…" – do you agree with this discription? I actually found the material on your new album "Your Prayers Mean Nothing" a lot closer to "Blessed Are The Sick" than "Altars Of Madness" (especially when it comes to the slower riffing), while the twisted songwriting indeed brings "None Shall Defy" to mind…
Justin: "I can see where they are coming from, but it’s all original music we wrote, we didn’t have those bands in mind when we wrote the songs."
Josh: "That’s funny that people keep bringing up Infernal Majesty since no one in the band has ever heard of them until now! I could also see the Morbid Angel references, but what can I say, when you like a band alot, it’s bound to influence your songwriting."
What do you expect from "Your Prayers Mean Nothing", which is INFERNAL LEGION’s first album to be released professionally after all… Do you think it is the right time now to finally having a label backing you up or were you already strong enough on your previous releases from your point of view? By the way – is there a chance that they will be re-issued via Moribund as well?
Justin: "Yeah, I’d say it’s the right time to have label backing, we’ve been ready for awhile. And there is always a chance that we’ll re-release "Angelicide", I don’t know what Moribund’s plan is for that."
Josh: "We’ll never be strong enough, we could always gain strength from fans, label support, etc., and I don’t think that it could ever be too soon for a label to pick a band up. And I haven’t heard of any talk on Moribund picking up "Angelicide", but I would be all for the idea." (same here ; -) – Frank)
Erik: "I feel like the band has matured enough at this point to have this album put out with backing from a record label. I’m really fucking stoked about the whole thing still. Moribund Records has treated us really well."
I was very suprised that you never re-recorded any old songs of yours, which is quite unusual… Do you prefer to write fresh songs instead of sticking to old classics maybe or what is the reason for that?
Justin: "You gotta move on. Yeah I love writing new material, you can’t keep rehashing old material."
Josh: "The reason we don’t rehash old songs is because playing old stuff isn’t going to help us get any better. By writing new material, we can make our music more brutal, lyrics darker, and improve in general."
Erik: "I’ve joked about the idea of taking old songs and just changing them up some weird way, like just playing all the riffs with reverse progression or something, change tempos, but all that is just fucking around. When it comes to song writing, I don’t recycle."
Is "Your Prayers Mean Nothing" actually supposed to be a full length album or a mini album (as there’s only six songs on it)?
Justin: "It’s 6 songs, but it’s over 40 minutes long. We just write long songs."
Josh: "It is definitely a full album, we were shooting for a 45 minute play time, and we missed that by 3 minutes which isn’t bad. The only reason it has 6 songs is because we like to write our songs more in depth and involved."
I noticed that you’re heading for a new tour in mid April already, so tell us a bit more about that, like with which bands you will be playing, how many cities you will crush and so on…
Josh: "Bands that we are going to be playing with are Unsanctified, Necryptic and MICTLANTECUHTLI. We will be playing several shows up and down the west coast April 15th thru the 28th. Our last show of the tour will be in Las Vegas. We are really excited to get out and meet new people, and play different cities we haven’t been to before. The local rock station in Seattle, 99.9 KISW will be supporting the first show of our tour in Tacoma at Hell’s Kitchen (thanks Connie, Kevin and Steve!)."
Erik: "The tour will include (in order), Tacoma WA, Everett WA, Portland OR, Eugene OR, Sacramento CA, San Francisco CA, San Luis Obispo CA, Canoga Park CA, Bakersfield CA, Colton CA, Las Vegas NV."
Ok, I guess this should be enough for now… If there’s anything of importance we might’ve missed out, feel free to mention it now… Otherwise end this interview in any way you want. All the best and good luck for the album and tour! Horns up!
Justin: "Come out to the shows!"
Josh: "I want everyone to keep Metal evil, fuck Nu Metal, and come out and join the LEGION."
Erik: "www.infernallegion.com. Check it out you fuckers!!!"