Texas based Death Metallers SEVERANCE have been around since 1989 already and up til now released four full length albums, plus a bunch of demos, EPs and split releases ever since. The band went through various different line-ups and label changes in their 30+ years career, but always stayed true to their brutal Death Metal style. Unfortunately though, they struggle a little bit to gain the same attention as bands that started out with them, and their latest album “The Concession Continuum” (which already dates back to 2017) totally passed me by until most recently. Reasons enough for us to contact the only original member, drummer Jaime Perez, for a fresh interview about past, present and future of SEVERANCE…
Hey Jaime, hope you’re doing fine? 27 long years have passed since our one and only SEVERANCE interview so far, way back in VOICES FROM THE DARKSIDE # 1, so I think a new feature was long overdue, right? Maybe you can start this interview by telling us what you guys are currently up to?
“Hello, my long-time friend!! I am doing fine, thank you. Yes, a new feature is long overdue!!! Ha ha. I still remember answering those questions for you 27 years ago, and here we both are again, still doing what we enjoy doing. At the moment, we are going to start writing new material for the follow-up to our most recent, self-released album, “The Concession Continuum”.”
Your latest album, “The Concession Continuum”, is the first SEVERANCE record since the “Salvation Denied” MCD from 1996 that wasn’t released through a record label. Weren’t you able to find a company for it this time around or were you so fed up with the business side of things that you just decided to do it on your own?
“It was a little of both reasons. Because of the digital music format, many labels have ceased to exist or are simply not as aggressive with signing bands or releasing as much physical copies of music as before. Most of the labels we contacted told us that they weren’t going to be releasing new material, because they already had a full roster of bands that they were working with, and some just didn’t respond. A few had asked us to wait for a year or two until there was space to add another band to their rosters. We already had the music ready and waiting to be released to the world for close to a year in a computer hard drive, so we really didn’t want to wait another year or two to release it in physical format. Because of the business side of things, we couldn’t find a company that was ready to work with us at the immediate time. The funny thing is that I eventually found 3 labels that would have been willing to work with us immediately, but I found this out afterwards from contacting labels to help us distribute our self-released album. So now, we have too many labels willing to work with us for our future release!!! I guess this is a good problem to have.”
The white cover artwork looks pretty unusual and modern for a band like SEVERANCE. Who came up with the idea for it and have you received any negative feedback on it from die hard old school Death Metal fans?
“The unusually different approach is exactly why we did it this way. We realized that it might stand out from the usual graphic artwork on black background that is on the majority of Death Metal releases today. That style is sick and impressive in its own right, but that wasn’t who we are or what we were trying to do. Part of the SEVERANCE mystique and purpose is severing yourself from the norm, doing things your own way; so changing things up a bit seemed like the best thing to do. We haven’t gotten any negative remarks from the die hards or from anyone really, but they have reacted exactly how we wanted, “Man, the artwork stands out so much!! It is really different! etc. etc.” One guy even told us that it was “beautiful”!! I thought was an interesting yet favorable remark. I came up with the basic idea, and Mike, our vocalist, tossed the idea to a local, up-and-coming graphic designer / artist that he knew. What you see on the cover of the album is his creation. It’s not a drawing or painting; it’s an actual nude photo of him with the chains imposed into the photo. So not only is the aura / tone of the cover different, but the medium in which it was created is different from how many other Death Metal album covers have been designed. We think it came out awesome.”
Talking of record labels again… you already worked with quite a few underground companies over the years, so which company did the best job for SEVERANCE from your past experiences? Drowned Productions, Goregiastic Records, Sevared Records or Corpse Gristle Records?
“Yes, we have worked with quite a few over the years. You know, we have been very fortunate to have been paired with honest, hard-working labels. They all did their part to get our releases out to the world and all did great promotion. The communication was always fluent, and there were never any problems. I have read horror stories of bands not getting what was promised or being ripped off, but I can honestly say that we didn’t have that kind of situation with any of our labels. After self-releasing and self-distributing our last album, I have come to further understand the effort, time and hard work that comes with running an underground label. It’s not easy, and I have much respect for those that kindly worked with SEVERANCE.”
Apart from switching companies very often, you also seem to have problems to keep the band’s line-up together for a longer period of time, so what is the reason for all the line-up changes and what can you tell us about the current members in SEVERANCE?
“You noticed, haha!!! Most marriages don’t last 30 years, so I can understand there being changes in the line-up of a band who has existed this long. In such a lengthy time frame (30 years), priorities change, lives change, desires change, etc., and this has been the issue with SEVERANCE. The former members of SEVERANCE have had to take care of other things in their lives, and that has to be understood and respected. In the extreme forms of music, it’s usually not about the money, but it’s difficult for some to keep wanting to do something that takes more money to sustain than it actually gives in return, especially when one is not wealthy, has a family to support and bills to pay. Even if you manage to make enough money to survive playing this style of music, you still have a different personalities in each band member that needs to be fulfilled and taken in to account. Aside from the money expenses, it takes a lot of time away from each other’s families. It takes an insane amount of desire to want to do this for a lengthy period of time, and this is why I have continued to do this for so long. I still enjoy it, and it still has reason for me. It’s easy to form a band in one’s younger years when one doesn’t have many responsibilities other than eating, sleeping, and practicing, but when one gets older and life gets real, then things become a little more difficult to maintain. Unless you’re the ROLLING STONES (which SEVERANCE is NOT!), this type of transition happens to most bands. Regarding the switching of companies, many of the labels that we worked with eventually disbanded, so the label changing has not always been in our control; it happens. The current line-up is: Jaime Perez (drums), Abel Barrera (bass), Mike Mena (vocals), Joe Dan de la Rosa (guitars) and Fernie Salinas (guitars).”
Are you still in contact with any of the past members? Is any one of them still involved in music these days?
“I’m in contact with most of them; the advent of social media has made that much simpler. A few of them jam occassionally, but most of them have just gone on with their adult lives. The only one who I lost touch with was Ariel Menchaca, who played guitar on the “Abysmal Ascent” 7“ and the “Salvation Denied” mini CD. Most of them still live in the same area, so we run into each other occassionally.”
I got the impression that you’ve changed your style a little bit after the “Salvation Denied” MCD, from typical US Death Metal (not meant in a negative way) to a way more brutal Death Metal direction with a more guttural vocal delivery. Would you agree to this? What is the reason for that? Did your musical influences change or did any of the new members get involved a lot more in the songwriting process?
“Yes, the style has changed a bit, but it has remained a Death Metal style. I can’t really explain how or why this happened; it just did. When we write music, we aren’t really trying to follow a certain format, structure or style; the music just naturally comes out the way we feel at that particular time. Part of the reason could be the constant change in band members, but I’ve been a constant member who also writes some of the music. I remember listening to the first few releases of SENTENCED from Finland and thinking that none of their releases sounded alike. Each one sounded like an entirely different band. I liked them all, but they were very different. I don’t think SEVERANCE has gotten to this level of variation, but I do feel that things have changed a bit. We just try to make things interesting and enjoyable… in a brutal / heavy way. It’s easier to let the music come out naturally than trying to focus on maintaining a certain approach… as long as it’s heavy.”
On a scale from 0 to 10, how would you judge your own skills as a drummer and are there any drummers out there that you would consider a big influence on your playing?
“I’ve never been happy with my drumming. I’m my biggest critic; therefore, I rate myself a negative ten (-10)! My influences are many and varied. As long as the drumming speaks to me, I can enjoy it. I listen to many styles of music, so the influences come from everywhere, like: Davel Weckl (Jazz drummer), Carter Beauford (DAVE MATTHEWS BAND), Gene Hoglan (Metal legend), Mario Duplantier (GOJIRA), Flo Mournier (CRYPTOPSY), Dave Lombardo (drum legend), and Neil Peart (RUSH – RIP)… to name a few. I’ve always felt that drumming can not be mastered. If you feel you have mastered something, then this often leads to complacency and a hinderance of progress. You can always get better; this is what I strive for.”
On your “Suffering In Humanity” album from 2006 you covered ‘Fatal Predictions’ from Chile’s PENTAGRAM… compared to your NAPALM DEATH and CANNIBAL CORPSE covers a quite unusual choice for SEVERANCE, isn’t it? Who came up with the idea for it and are you satisfied with the final result?
“We’ve always been highly influenced by South American bands, so we felt it was only fitting to pay tribute to one of those bands on our “Suffering In Humanity” album. Plus, we weren’t aware of anybody else was doing covers of these songs / bands. We were pleased with the outcome. Another influential South American band who influenced us early on and who we also paid tribute to was ATTOMICA from Brazil. We covered one of their songs on our 2011 release with Sevared Records, “The Truth In Question”.”
The “Suffering In Humanity” album also included a video for the song ‘Consumed’. Did it help the band in any way, considering that it seems to be done on a very low budget?
“‘Consumed’ was a song that was going to become a common track in our live performances, so we decided to include a home-made video for the song as a extra incentive to purchase the album. I don’t know if helped the band in any way, but I surely hope and feel that it didn’t hurt the band. Our vocalist Mike was toying around with some video software on his computer and eventually constructed a collage video of various live footage and photos. The video was beyond “low budget”; it was “no budget”!!”
The “Progression Towards Purgatory” compilation, which got released in 2009 via Sevared Records in co-operation with Burning Dogma Records, features the “Salvation Denied” MCD, the 1992 “Abysmal Ascent” 7″ single and the 1991 “Afterbirth Of Infamy” demo, but not the band’s debut demo “Procreation” from 1990… Why did you exclude that on this release, especially since the MCD was already part of the World War III re-release of “What Lies Ahead…” in 2002 and could have been omissed instead…
“The “Procreation” demo was omitted for two reasons: 1.) All the songs from the “Procreation” demo are on the “Afterbirth Of Infamy” demo, and we didn’t want to put duplicated tracks on the release (even though they are different recordings sessions). 2.) We couldn’t find the master files of the “Procreation” demo for us to put it on a CD. The versions we had were very old and had lost sound quality, so we ultimately decided to omit it.”
Apart from your “What Lies Ahead…” album from 2001 (which got re-released over the years in 5 different editions), none of your other releases was ever re-released on its own. Have you never been approached from any label for new editions?
“This is a great question and a great observation on your part! Yes, we have been approached to re-release other albums, but nothing ended up happening. Some guy in Indonesia asked for permission to re-issue our “Afterbirth Of Infamy” demo on cassette. I allowed him to go through with it, but I don’t think it ever happened. Disembodied Records in Argentina recently re-issued “What Lies Ahead” on vinyl and cassette. We were initially discussing re-releasing another previously recorded album on vinyl, but we eventually decided on “What Lies Ahead” because it was our debut full-length album. If someone were to offer to re-release any of our other releases, we would definitely be open to it.”
When did you record the CANNIBAL CORPSE cover ‘She Was Asking For It’, which was included on the “What Lies Ahead…” re-release via Sevared Records from 2005, and was it supposed to be released somewhere else originally?
“The CANNIBAL CORPSE cover was supposed to be part of a CANNIBAL CORPSE tribute album that Dwell Records out of Los Angeles, California was going to put out, but it never happened because the label went under. Dwell Records was known for releasing many tribute albums honoring such artists as SLAYER, MEGADETH, METALLICA, BLACK SABBATH and many more. They had approached us about being included on their CANNIBAL CORPSE tribute release, and we thought it would be cool. We had invested time and money in learning and recording the song (‘She Was Asking For It’), so we released it as a hidden track on the Burning Dogma re-issue version of our “What Lies Ahead” album. That song was recorded individually, after the completion of the “What Lies Ahead” recording session… sometime in 2004, I believe. We were already informed by Dwell Records that the CANNIBAL CORPSE tribute album would not be released. Since we had the master recording of the song just sitting in a cabinet, we thought we would finally release it on our own to put it to use.”
Let’s pretend you are in my position and should review all of your releases so far with one or two sentences only, telling our readers what was good and what was bad about them, what would you say?
“Our first two demos and our “Abysmal Ascent” 7“ were very raw sounding and were recorded at studios that did not know how to work with Metal. They were all aubible and decipherable, but much was lost in the mix. We did the best with what we had. These releases were more “thrashy“. For “Salvation Denied”, “What Lies Ahead” and “Suffering In Humanity”, we finally had an engineer who knew Metal, so the mixes starting sounded a little more like a Metal album should sound. From “Salvation Denied” to “What Lies Ahead”, you can start hearing the speed element becoming more prevalent, particularly the use of blast beats, which were not a part of the SEVERANCE arsenal in the previous releases. I think these releases are much more brutal than the previous ones. “Truth In Question” was done in our home studio. We were still learning the self-recording process, and I think that shows in the recording. The compositions were becoming a little more complex. For our latest offering, “The Concession Continuum”, I think we finally meshed all of our past experiences and created our most impressive effort. Production-wise this is our best sounding release, and the music envelops the decades of influences and styles that have driven SEVERANCE to this day.”
Talking of reviews… I suppose SEVERANCE has already been compared with a shitload of wellknown Death Metal bands over the years. What was the most ridiulous comparison you ever read?
“Yes!!! We have been compared to many bands over the years. Some of the comparisons I understand and agree with, but some of them I can’t seem to grasp at all!! When our demos came out back in the 1990 and 1991, I read two reviews that compared us to ENTOMBED and MORBID ANGEL. During the “Salvation Denied” era, we got a lot of IMMOLATION comparisions. After that, the MORBID ANGEL and IMMOLATION comparisons continued. With our latest release, “The Concession Continuum”, I’ve read a few comparisons to VADER, PESTILENCE and DEATH during the “Symbolic” era. Although I enjoy all of those bands, I have to admit that they don’t really sound anything alike (unless one is not into Death Metal and feels like all bands sounds the same). I know our style has changed throughout the years, but I never really thought it had changed to that extent. I once had a non Metal friend say that we sound like METALLICA!! That was probably the most ridiculous comparison, but it did come from an equally ridiculous individual who barely listened to Rock because Metal was too noisy. To him… everybody sounded like METALLICA. I guess it’s better than being compared to POISON or MÖTLEY CRÜE.”
Before you released your latest album “The Concession Continuum” in 2018, SEVERANCE was part of the TXDM 4-WAY split release, which also featured INTERMENT, DEMONIACAL GENUFLECTION and EMPTY SHELL. What can you tell us about this release and the material that you contributed? Were you familiar with the other three bands before already or even involved in getting them on board for the split?
“This 4-way split CD was released in 2014 by Burning Dogma Records and Corpse Gristle Records, both out of Texas. I was informed by Ricky Lockett of Burning Dogma that an all Texas, 4-way split was in the works, and they wanted SEVERANCE to be on it because SEVERANCE is one of the, if not the, longest running Death Metal bands in Texas. We were in between releases “The Truth In Question” (2011) and “The Concession Continuum” (2018-2019), so we thought it would be a nice idea since we had never been a part of a split – CD release before. They requested each band to submit a cover song and two original songs. We chose to re-record ‘Painfully Reborn’ from our “Salvation Denied” MCD, ‘Stripped Of Innocence’ from the upcoming album “The Concession Continuum”, and NAPALM DEATH’s ‘Suffer The Children’ as our cover song. ‘Stripped Of Innocence’ was the first song written for “The Concession Continuum” album, so we did an exclusive recording of this song for the 4-way split to give the scene a taste of the upcoming album. SEVERANCE knew of the other bands from doing shows with them. INTERMENT (not to be confused with the Swedish band) and EMPTY SHELL shared the stage with us in Ft. Worth / Dallas, and DEMONIACAL GENUFLECTON from Houston played a couple of fests with us. DEMONIACAL GENUFLECTION, for the most part, ended up becoming Century Media recording artist, OCEANS OF SLUMBER.”
Since you’ve been around for quite a long time already, how do you personally judge the evolution of the Death Metal underground? Do you think it has become stronger over the years or just more overcrowded?
“You’re right, Frank. I have been around for many years, and the underground has changed in many ways. I understand that change is inevitable; sometimes it’s good, and sometimes it’s bad. My opinion is likely the unpopular / cynical opinion and will likely be disagreed with by many, but if you want my honest opinion, here it is: There are more underground bands than ever before, but I don’t feel the integrity of the scene is as valid as before. Part of the “evolution“ of the underground scene is because of technology. Technology has killed the vast majority of record stores, saturated the music scene and tossed us way too much music to keep up with. I like your use of the word “overcrowded“; that is one way of putting it. All it takes is a few guys to get together, record a bland rehearsal, post it on YouTube, and now there is new band for the world to see. It’s too easy, and ease of the entire situation is what helps in creating this overcrowdedness, which is often accompanied by mediocrity and unoriginality. It used to be an honest and scene-binding struggle to learn about bands through word of mouth or tape trading, read about them in ‘zines like Voices From The Darkside, buy merchandise directly from the bands, etc. Now there is too much for us to know what to do with, and I think it makes many complacent in their attempts to strive for something better. It felt different back in the 80s and 90s, and that feeling is gone. I’m not just trying to be nostalgic or trying to be just another “old school Metalhead“; it’s more of a concern of genuineness and authenticity… being real. Too much is taken for granted because we have so many bands getting too much attention that just simply suck. Eventually the “untrue“ don’t last very long, but by the time they dwindle away, another group of trendies fills their short-lived void. It’s a constant over-abundance that dilutes the quality of the scene and its components. Unfortunately, quantity is the new king, and quality is becoming very difficult to find in this hazy sea of banality where only a small handful of fish are desireable and worth our time.”
How active has SEVERANCE been over the years when it comes to live shows or touring? Were you able to support each new release of yours with a lot of gigs? Have you never received any offers to play over here in Europe?
“Currently, our vocalist is going to college in New York, so we have been very selective about what shows we do because flying back home for him to do a show can get very expensive. Once he is done with that (which should be very soon), we hope to do shows more frequently. We have played Europe on 3 different occassions. We played in Kiev, Ukraine at the Kiev Sonic Massacre back in 2011. We made some new friends at that show (PARENTAL ADVISORY from Austria), and they kindly invited us to a small, 5-date tour in Europe in 2013. We played in Budapest, Hungary; Vienna, Austria; Trutnov, Czech Republic (Obscene Extreme Festival); Szeged, Hungary and Barcelona, Spain. Our last time in Europe was in 2016; we did 2 dates in Ukraine (Kiev and Odessa), 1 in Bratislava, Slovakia, 1 in Vienna, Austria and 1 in Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic. We had some great times in Europe. It would always be nice to visit again. We are hoping to get something set-up in South America, too.”
Ok Jaime, that’s about it I guess. If you’d like to add something we might have forgotten to talk about, feel free to mention it here. Thanks for the interview and all the best to you and SEVERANCE!
“Thank you, once again Frank, for the opportunity to be a part of your legendary Metal scriptures. Making long-time friends like you makes it much more rewarding to keep a band going for over 30 years. I hope we meet in person someday. Anyone interested in booking SEVERANCE for gigs can contact me at email@example.com or through the band Facebook site. All our merchandise can be ordered through our website at www.severancemetal.com. Pick up our latest album, “The Concession Continuum”, through us, or through one of our many international distributors, which are listed on the home page of our website. Work on a new SEVERANCE release has already begun… look out for that in late 2020 or early 2021. Thanks to all our friends who have given SEVERANCE reason to endure through the decades. Stay Metal… cheers!!”