After a pretty long silence OPPROBRIUM is back with a new album and a new deal. If you’re familiar with their past works, especially those when their name was INCUBUS, you know very well what we have to expect here: old school Death / Thrash Metal in its purest form. Ah, I almost forgot, yeah, this is the Christian band from Brazil, then relocated to the States. So, if you have any stupid prejudice against Christian bands, stay away! Here we have a little chat with Francis M. Howard, who mostly talked about their upcoming album.
Let’s start with the latest news. Your upcoming album “The Fallen Entities” will be released on February 22, 2019 by the German label High Roller Records. I had the chance to listen to the premiere track ‘Wicked Mysterious Events’ and it’s awesome. Tell us something more about the genesis of this new album. A pretty lengthy process of songwriting, I guess, because it is nearly ten years since the release of its predecessor “Mandatory Evac”. Can you explain us your current method of composing and arranging new songs? How long did it take to complete the whole album? Do you rehearse on a regular basis?
"Thank you for enjoying the song ‘Wicked Mysterious Events’ our track premiere. When we started to write "The Fallen Entities" album, Moyses and I decided to do something that would surpass anything that we’ve done before in the past, that was our mission and we stuck to it all the way till the album was recorded. We are very happy how the album came out. The album came out just as we had envisioned. We are getting many great compliments from our fans and newer fans around the world on how they are enjoying the track premiere ‘Wicked Mysterious Events’. Concerning if I rehearse on regular basis, well I am on a level now in my guitar playing that I feel that there is no need to rehearse on a regular basis as much, but in a more enjoyable basis. It’s kind of difficult to explain. What I am trying to say is, instead of making an routine, avoid that and enjoy picking up the guitar and playing it, have fun with the riffs, notes, picking. When I play the guitar it’s like I go into my own universe, in order to find a great sound. It’s an adventure musically. Concerning my composing method and arranging, the main thing is to challenge myself to the next level musically, to progress musically. With this album, “The Fallen Entities”, we had to face lots of challenges during the writing of the songs due to personal problems to natural disasters that we went through. It was not easy at all to write this album, there were many obstacles, but in the end everything worked out. We are very happy how thealbum came out. We are very happy with it."
The new track sounds very technical, with many tempo changes and some pretty intricated structures. It has everything: brutality, old school vibe and musicianship. How has your style changed in the last few years? What do your fans have to expect from this release? A mixture between the raw brutality of “Serpent Temptation” and the more reasoned complexity of “Beyond The Unknown”?
"This song ‘Wicked Mysterious Events’ is indeed a great track. In my humble opinion, I think the album “The Fallen Entities” surpasses anything that we’ve done in the past. I think that my songwriting style has improved a lot, specially in my singing and solos. The rhythm also has taken an whole new form for the better. In other words, I am very happy how everything came out. Our style has changed but for the better and with the same energy as all our past albums. We were always a band that avoided to follow the band wagon and what was popular and for this reason we’ve stayed in our own path musically. That is the only way to be in my opinion. We have our own music style. An example of this was the drum speed from “Serpent Temptation”. When we wrote “Serpent Temptation” We decided to make fast riffs that matched Moyses drum speeds at that time. We avoided the popular speed of the drummers from that time in the 80s and decided to go our own path."
Please, explain us the lyrical and visual concept behind “The Fallen Entities”.
"The song ‘The Fallen Entities’ is about the second influx of the fallen angels after the flood of Noah, and how there were giants in those days also after the flood. The UFO’s are the flying vehicles of the Angels. In the book of Ezekiel chapter 1, it talks about those circular vehicles. The lyrics are very cool, this is what the album cover is about. Concerning the album cover art, the album cover artwork was done by Daniel Tyka, a great artist from Poland. We are very happy how the album cover came out. When we contacted Daniel, I gave Daniel a sketch that I drew on how OPPROBRIUM wanted the album cover to come out in order to match the lyrics “The Fallen Entities” and when Daniel finished the album cover, I was very happy with the results. Everyone that I’ve spoken with really likes the album cover, because the art work looks great and it looks realistic. Daniel Tyka is a great artist."
How did you get the deal with High Roller Records? Is it only for one album or does it include the option of releasing other titles? Which formats will be available?
"All I can say is that we are very happy with High Roller Records, they have a great team of professionals. I like how one of the LP colors came out, it would look great on a picture frame for sure. The formats of the new album “The Fallen Entities” will be released on LP, CD and digital worldwide via High Roller Records. There will also be a cassette release for “The Fallen Entities”, but only the cassette release will be a limited edition."
The sound is very reminiscent of your early works; something like a darker version of “Beyond The Unknown” with a fantastic guitar tone and a killer drum sound. Please, tell us something more about the recording, the mixing and the mastering sessions. Where and when was the album recorded? Who was involved in this studio session?
"In this album, we did get a great sound and we are very happy with it. We’ve started recording the album in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but then we got hit by a flood there in 2016 and because of that we’ve relocated to Florida. So we finished the recording in Florida in 2017. The mastering was done in Germany by Patrick from Temple Of Disharmony Studios. Patrick is a great professional. We went through a lot of obstacles in order to get to the final recording. It was tough, but the end result was worth it, because Moyses and I are very happy with the album."
To me both of you guys are among some of the fastest and more technical precursors of the Death / Thrash Metal genre. What equipment did you use to play in those years and has your gear changed over time? What about your playing techniques, are they still the same after a third of a century or do you think that the passing of time and new technologies have helped to improve them?
"Thank you for the great compliment. Concerning if the music equipment has changed, in my opinion it has changed for the better, but the prices haven’t changed in my opinion. The technology nowadays has improved a lot. It made life for musicians a lot easier in my opinion when it comes to sound quality. Concerning what equipment I use, I usually avoid saying which equipment I use because I am not endorsing. Since we are talking about music equipment, when it comes to guitar pedals, it’s up to the guitar player to get to know well the guitar pedal first and from there get the best possible guitar sound from the guitar pedal."
Are there any live shows in the plans, in order to promote your new album? When was your last tour or live performance?
"I don’t like to make plans concerning lives shows. We’ll see what 2019 has in store. The last time we toured was in Europe in 1991 to promote our second album "Beyond The Unknown" for Nuclear Blast Records."
Coming back to your early days, you released a demo tape and two full length albums that are largely considered three masterpieces of pure Death / Thrash Metal, the way it should be played. Moyses’ drumming on “Supernatural Death” and “Serpent Temptation” is a prime example of primitive and brutal blastbeats; a drumming style introduced in those years by INCUBUS and other legendary bands such as REPULSION, NAPALM DEATH, TERRORIZER etc. Which were your main influences in that period and is Moyses a self taught drummer? When and how did he start to play such fast and extreme tempos?
"Thank you for the great compliment concerning our first two albums. Moyses drum influences were from great bands like RUSH, BLACK SABBATH and many other Rock bands from those times. He used to listen to some Punkrock bands back then also. I guess due to my style of guitar playing, it kind of steer Moyses in the direction of his drum style. Moyses just went with the flow due to my guitar riffs style."
“Serpent Temptation” was originally recorded in 1988, then re-released in 1996 and 2008, right? These editions have been partially re-recorded, have a new artwork, new lyrics and see Francis on vocals. Can you explain us the differences between the original version and the reissues. Why did you choose to remake this album, that is rightly considered a classic?
"The original 1988 version had Scott singing. And the "Serpent Temptation" remake in 1996 was me singing and has a different bass recording on it with different lyrics. Both albums sound like they are from different dimensions musically. Moyses and I at that time wanted to explore different music possibilities."
How did you get signed by Brutal Records after the release of “Supernatural Death”?
"That was back in the 80’s and we have no business relations with them since 1989. It’s been so long that I can’t even recall the details."
When did Scott leave the band and why? How did you get signed by Nuclear Blast?
"If I am not mistaken, I think Scott was going through a tough time back then. We still keep contact with him, and there is still hope that we might do a few shows or a tour together with him in the future. It would be great to reunite and play live again like in the old days. Concerning Nuclear Blast Records, when we moved to Tampa, Florida back in 1990 a guy from a Fanzine in Florida said that a new label, Nuclear Blast Records from Germany, was looking for bands. So we got in contact with them via phone and since Markus was a fan of the band, he decided to sign us."
In June 1990 INCUBUS recorded their second full length album “Beyond The Unknown” as a two-piece band with a session bassist in the legendary Morrisound Recordings Studio. Can you tell us something more in-depth about that session? How can you define that production and, specifically, Tom Morris’ work? Any good memories about those days in Tampa?
"So that our newer fans might know, we used to be called INCUBUS (from New Orleans, LA) back in the 80s and early 90s. Then we changed our band name to OPPROBRIUM in 1999, and we have the name OPPROBRIUM for 20 years now. Concerning Morrisound, we have many good memories from Morrisound. Markus from Nuclear Blast Records was there a week or so before we recorded "Beyond The Unknown". Markus had another band recording there at the time from his label, I think the name of the band was ATROCITY. All of them are very cool guys and very down to earth. They had other bands that recorded there that invited us to participate in their recordings also at Morrisound."
Why did you have to change your name from INCUBUS to OPPROBRIUM. Why did you choose this name?
"We chose OPPROBRIUM because we wanted a band name that fits more with our lyrics. The INCUBUS name would fit more a Black Metal band I think, so we are glad that the name change happened, because we feel at home with the name OPPROBRIUM. It allows us more flexibility in writing different lyrics with various different topics. The name OPPROBRIUM has more flexibility. We changed the name to OPPROBRIUM because there was another band form California that was using the name INCUBUS."
Both INCUBUS and OPPROBRIUM are Christian bands. Something pretty rare in the scene, since Heavy Metal and its subgenres – especially the extreme ones – have always been linked with evil, satanism, violence, gore etc. Do you think that the fact of being a Christian band has in some way marginalized you in the underground? I think that there is some stupid prejudice against Christian bands, because there are killer acts such as MORTIFICATION, CORPSE, TROUBLE, just to name a few, and many born-again Christian artists like Tom Araya, Pete Sandoval, Nicko MacBrain etc. Do you agree? Is there a Christian message in your lyrics? And, if yes, do you consider your music as a form of evangelization or just as a way to express your beliefs and your religious identity? Since you have Brazilian origins, are you Catholic or are you part of an Evangelical church?
"At one point I used to be a Catholic. But now I am an non-denominational Christian. We do enjoy writing about the realities of the Bible in some of our lyrics. Our album lyrics also cover many other topics also. Metal is about artistic freedom."
Ok man, thank you very much for this very interesting talk. Last but not least, where can our readers buy your albums and merchandise? Which titles are available?
"Thank you for the great interview and thanks to all our fans worldwide for enjoying the music. For official OPPROBRIUM merchandise info and band information, our fans can go to our Facebook page, Twitter or Instagram page for more info."