The name USURPER is one that certainly needs no further introduction. All die-hard fanatics of the late 80’s and early 90’s Black and Death Metal sound should be familiar with these Chicago Death worshippers. Metal just can’t be more brutal, more true or fuller of that ancient spirit, which the infamous horde of the Horned God directly conjured up to the 21st century, and which makes USURPER to a fiery brimstone fist in the faces of all posers and trend fuckers out there. Answers here were given by guitarist Rick "Rigor" Scythe, a wild Metal fighter whose soul is forged from the same cold steel as his relentless battle axe… Read on.
Well, your new album "Necronemesis" has been released quite some months ago and let me say that it has become a poser crushing ripper once again, done with all the typical USURPER elements like your ultra heavy axe chords and lyrical magik, the maniacal onslaught of Vokills and Deathspells performed by Diabolical Slaughter, disturbing low frequency attacks from Necromancer’s Demonsword and the casket crushing skin poundings of the infamous Dave Hellstorm. But though this all may sound very familiar to the fan, there’s a little bit that differs this album from your earlier efforts "Diabolosis", the "Threshold Of The Usurper" MCD and especially the "Skeletal Season" album. Maybe you can tell us what in your eyes are the main differences between your older stuff and "Necronemesis"?
"I feel "Necronemesis" is just a natural progression for USURPER. Every album we do has its own feel. Anyone who is familiar with the band knows this. "Skeletal Season" was a huge over-the-top album for us. We went all analog, layered many guitar tracks, intertwined weird harmonies, and underlying melodic elements. We added lots of strange vocals… basically our intention was to create a very harsh, yet atmospheric, yet totally dark Metal album… I think we accomplished that. Unfortunatly after that album came out we did a lot of touring, and we realized that some of that magic was hard to capture live (especially with only one guitarist). So when we got back from our 1999 North American tour we really knew we wanted our next album to focus more on what works best live. We’ve always had some elements of atmosphere (of course always achieved without keyboards, and always backseat to the headbangability!), but for "Necronemesis" we really wanted to accentuate the basic aggressiveness. To really accentuate the old-school Thrash Metal tightness that works so well live. So when I started writing the music I knew that all four of us were on the same page. I wanted the lyrics to still deal with all the cool paranormal crypto topics, and I still wanted to intertwine some strange melodic undertones, but I wanted the surface level impact to be much more upfront than ever before. So when I began demoing these songs and showing it to the band, we all were on the same vibe. I think if you listen to our earliest stuff until now, you might notice a difference, yet there is a common thread which will always tie things together and be present in all USURPER albums."
You went to Nomad Studios in Dallas for recording. What was the reason you wanted to work with producer Kol Marshall? Was he some kind of motivation for you, you know, the guy who pushes you to give 666% and more?
"We really wanted to take things to a new level with this album. We had a bit more cash to play with for a recording budget and Necropolis wanted us to try another studio. They of course suggested Morrisound, but to be honest, that’s something we really didn’t want to do. We’ve recorded everything until "Necronemesis" here in Chicago at this little studio where we had free reign over everything. The last thing we wanted to do was go to a studio where a producer was gonna give us some typical sound. So me and Necromancer really liked MERCYFUL FATE "9" a lot. The production was very clear, yet powerful. You could hear all the instruments individually, yet it still had a live feel to it. We also saw that ABSU recorded there and their stuff sounded great. We felt we could really bring the USURPER sound to a whole new level of impact there. Kol Marshall is an incredible producer. We worked 12-15 hours a day for ten days, and he really pushed us to perform at maximum velocity. We will definitely go there for the new album!"
As everybody who bought your new album will have noticed, none other than KING DIAMOND himself did some guest vocals on the title track. How was it like to work with a living Metal legend that King undoubtly is? And how did you get him to perform on your album? I mean, I heard that he was mixing his "House Of God" album at the same time you were at Nomad, but what exactly happened there? Did he come in and was like "Hey, you guys are cool, I’d like to sing for you"? Did the King ever hear your cover of ‘Black Funeral’?
"Well we booked our time 5 months in advance, because we know how studios work. The owner said that March would be perfect because KING DIAMOND had the studio blocked out from Jan 2000-the last week in Feb 2000, so the second week in March would be perfect. Well, the last week in Feb 2000 I got a call from the owner saying, "We got a problem…" Basically KING needed more time to finish some vocals and mixing so he wondered if we could push back our time a few days. We would have no problem with that, except we had plane tickets booked and all that, so the owner told us if we can find a way to do it, KING DIAMOND would sing on our album. No problem! Done! So we pushed back our time 4 days. Me and Jon Necromancer actually went up there early and met KING DIAMOND. The guy was totally cool to us! He treated us with the utmost respect. He let us sit in on his mixing sessions and actually offered to also help us mix our album a bit. It was such a genuine honor! We also got to play him our covers of ‘Black Funeral’ and ‘Charon’. I don’t know if he was just trying to be polite, but he really seemed to like it. He likes when bands stay true to the original, yet put their own feel to things… he seemed genuinely surprised. Well when it was time for him to do the vocals for us, it was genuinely weird. We had about the whole album recorded (except for some solos and certain vocals and stuff like that), yet it wasn’t mixed yet. We were wondering if KING was actually gonna do it or not. He was up later than us the night before mastering his album. But sure enough he was a man of his word. KING pulled up in his Covette ready to record. He first had me show him the lyrics and the part in the song where we needed him. I was so fucking nervous! Here I am showing KING my hand written lyrics, showing him where I wanted him to sing. My hands were shaking as I was pointing him the lines. I thought for sure he was gonna be like: "Fuck this… it sucks!!!" But he seemed to really think it was cool. He said he never sang anyone elses lyrics except for ‘The Ripper’ by PRIEST, so I was really blown away! Then to make matters worse he wanted to hear 4 or 5 songs that we did. He sat down in the producers chair and rolled the tape. All 4 of us were very nervous. We thought KING DIAMOND would think we sucked and not want to be part of it, but it was the exact opposite… he really loved it! He even liked the vocals. All in all it came out even better than any of us imagined. To this day it still gives me chills! No matter what anyone says about us, they can’t take that away from us!"
Sir Proscriptor McGovern of ABSU also makes a guest appearance on ‘Full Metal Maelstrom’. Do you have any special connections to the Texas masters of blackened Thrash?
"We’ve met Proscriptor in the past, and stayed in contact through the mail and shit like that. So when we went down there to record, it was only natural to have the Tyrant do some vocals for us. We got to hang out with both him and Shaftiel and watch em practice and all that. Again I think Proscriptors performance was totally killer!"
With that new album I think you totally achieved your self-set goal of the ultimate "Headbangability", didn’t you? But is there a song on "Necronemesis" where you would go and say: "That’s definitely our biggest headsplitter ever – this will make the audience beg for fuckin mercy!"?
"Yes we feel this is our most upfront headbangable album we ever did. All the songs work very well live. ‘1666AD’ really gets the true Metal heads fistbanging, that has become our opening anthem. ‘Warriors Of Iron And Rust’ is always dedicated to all people who only like Metal! To people who hate rap, who hate wimpy keyboards, who hate all forms of non-Metal music.. so that one usually gets a big reaction. But I’d say ‘Deathwish’ has gone over the best live for us lately! I guess it’s the headbangable pace or something." (for me it’s the first line of the chorus: "Formulas to stop your heart…" this makes my blood run cold – Sven)
One thing I have always admired USURPER for are your abilities to create an eerie atmosphere and the strangest sound effects without using keyboards. Especially your guitar work sounds very weird in songs like ‘Deep In The Forest’ or ‘Shadowfiend’, just to name two. How do you come up with these effects? Are they more improvised in the studio or do you have to experiment a lot while rehearsing? What was the reason you didnt put that much of these effects on "Necronemesis"?
"Man it’s cool that you notice these elements. 99% of the time it goes over most peoples heads, or they just don’t seem to care about this. Yes everything is always planned. I like to add atmosphere by layering feedback tones, wah-pedal tones, and subtle acoustic / clean guitar undertones. Yes, it was much more accentuated in the past, it wasn’t as prevalant on "Necronemesis" (yet it’s still there a bit), but I guarantee it will be there again! You have to realize we have about 35 songs actually recorded; so for "Necronemesis" we really wanted to try a more stripped down precision approach. The next album will have the precision tightness of "Necronemesis" combined with the haunting aspects of "Diabolosis" and a touch of "Skeletal Season" weirdness underneath."
Does this mean you will be more “experimental” on the next album? Now that "Necronemesis" has such a clear and powerful production, do you think you will ever go back to that filthy "Skeletal Season" style with all its rough edges, etc.?
"All I know is that life goes in circles. You can never say never. Life is one big strange trippy journey, I’m just here for the ride! But yes I think the overall tightness and surface level impact of "Necronemesis" will be there, but I feel the need to really intertwine some dirty haunting aspects as well. For example: "Threshold Of The Usurper" had sort of this grand Metal epic feel to it; I want to have that feel into shorter more hard hitting songs. "Skeletal Season" really had a disturbing creepy vibe; I want to really put that menacing feel into the underside of some of the tight aggressive songs. But I feel I want to capture some of that early "Diabolosis" / "Visions From The Gods" vibe as well. So like I said life goes in circles. I really want the new USURPER album to be the ultimate, just push ourselves harder than ever before!"
A very strong element of your releases so far have always been the great cover artworks. In my eyes, they set you just in the right mood for your dark anthems, especially the cover of "Skeletal Season" is very mysterious and haunting, on the other hand also very bizarre. What can you tell us about that cover artwork and the idea behind it? Was its intended purpose just to catch the feeling of the title track? Who was the artist who drew it?
"Skeletal Season" to me has the ultimate layout / artwork. The concept of the cover I came up with. I drew this creepy sketch. We then sent it to this artist from Finland named Juha Vuorma. He has this weird creepy old oil painting style that I really wanted for that album. Something that was old and crumbley looking… not modern at all. Almost like something you’d see on NIGHT GALLERY. The idea was based on old vampire tales from eastern Europe. Basically we wanted a withered scarecrow made out of bones; a dark, unpleasant haunted house; just basically all things typical of Halloween / Samhain… a time when all things die aka Skeletal Season! Dead trees, no life, grey skies. Basically representing autumn, the time of year when all things die and the furthest time from spring. Just really to capture the gloom of the album and the glory of the title track."
Where did you get the picture of the "Threshold Of The Usurper" release from? It looks like an ancient, bloody Aztec ritual or something like that.
"We ripped that off from a witchcraft book. It is a witches Sabbat from an old wood cut. We didn’t have an artwork budget in those days so that’s how we did things."
And why did you choose to put your infamous "Horned God" on the cover of your new album? What inspired you to make this figure a trademark of yours ???
"The horned God (Cernunus: Hunter of Man) was a trademark for us all the way back from the 1994 "Visions From The Gods" demo. It fit well with the old DEEP IN THE FOREST themes of back then, and has been with us ever since. It also ties in with other crypto / paranormal hybrid topics, so we really wanted to bring him to life on "Necronemesis"… he is the bringer of death! Don’t worry, we’re not gonna have him on every cover like Eddie or something, but that image will be in every album somewhere… in some form."
Another reason that makes USURPER such an outstanding band are without any doubt the fantastic lyrics of Diabolical Slaughter and yourself, which in my opinion are some of the best in the Metal scene today. Your writings always deal with the paranormal, ancient magik and horrors, with acts of heresy and witchcraft, mixed with parts of cryptozoology, folklore and also with modern day hauntings and the terror in the night. Now, what inspires you the most to write about such weird and cryptic topics? Do you get a lot of your knowledge from books or movies? What is your favorite song, seen from the lyrical side?
"Thanks for the compliment! We both wanted from day one to have traditional lyrics, yet from a strange untypical perspective. In other words we wanted them to read tough, but be based on topics not neccessarily covered before. From our first bio we said our lyrics were inspired by these things, and I’m really happy with the progression further into the unknown. I’m mainly inspired by books. I have many books on UFO’s, time travel, ancient civilizations, cryptozoology, witchcraft, etc. and I think the one thing I’m kind of coming to the conclusion of is that all these things kind of intersect, and they are all kind of related. I’d say some of my favorite songs lyrically are: ‘Dismal Wings Of Terror’ (the ultimate in modern demonology), ‘1666 AD’ (based on Nostradamus prophecies: supernatural killing spree), ‘Slaughterstorm’ (the ultimate in interdimensional terrorists who infiltrate our reality through electomagnetic radiation and take the form of elements. In ancient times called: elementals or shapeshifters… now people mistake them for Aliens), ‘Visions From The Gods’ (based on Native American Shamen who would trip on Peyote to recieve visions from the gods… something we are familiar with to a certain extent!), ‘The Incubus Breed’ (modern day aliens / ancient day evil entities… supierior supernatural beings) and of couse ‘Shadowfiend’ and ‘Wolflord’!"
Some of your most outstanding lyrics can be found on "Skeletal Season", in form of the two historical lycanthropy stories in the tracks ‘Shadowfiend’ and ‘Wolflord’, and of course the second song ‘Dismal Wings Of Terror’, which deals with one of America’s most famous monsters, the "Mothman". Well, I have to admit that I’m fascinated with the topic of cryptozoology and it would be interesting to hear your opinion on who or what is the Mothman? Do you believe the story of the mutant bird (an owl or maybe a sandhill crane?) that was spawned on that strange TNT area from poisonous chemical waste? Or is he maybe an extraterrestrial being from another world or dimension? Or is he just plain and simple a product of people’s fantasy?
"I see you read the "Mothman Prophecies" by John Keel! No it wasn’t an owl or a sandcrane! Those people who came up with that theory are meatheaded idiots! I think Mothman wasn’t alien either. I believe that it was a creature who "accidentally" infiltrated our reality because of the weird electromagnetic shift common in the West Virginia / Ohio area of the USA. That is one area where weird things always happened. Native American Indians didn’t settle there because of all this paranormal activity. They were afraid of the evil spirits there. Some places on earth are "windows" to other dimensions (the Bermuda Triangle is another). I believe the Mothman creature was a creature who co-exists on earth in another frequency which is usually invisible to us. I think though the governmet did something, because of all the Men In Black activities. Maybe the chemical waste had an effect on the other invisible parts of the electromagnetic spectrum and helped to open up a new interdimensional window? It is cool because it is so modern and is obviously parallelled with middle age tales of demons."
Okay, let’s come to one of your latest releases, the "Visions From The Gods" album, where we can find the old ’94 "Visions Of The Gods" demo on it, a cover of the KING DIAMOND song ‘Charon’, plus some re-recorded versions of ‘Soulstalker’ and ‘Wolflord’. Also a damn great song named ‘Bonefire’, which was left from the "Skeletal Season" sessions. And the last track, ‘Blood Passion’ was recorded live in France during your Europe tour, right? But now tell me, why did you put that fake crowd noise on the recording? Was this meant to be some kind of joke?
"Fake crowd noise??? We actually had to turn the crowd down! (*Note to self: Blame Necromancer!) Jon Necromancer wanted to "enhance" the crowd noise, it’s his fault! Jon Necromancer made me do it!. It’s real though! Actually all things that ever went wrong were because of Jon Necromancer aka P-Brain! But yes when we re-released the "Visions From The Gods" demo, we didn’t want some generic re-release. We had to have the digi-pack, with all the liner notes and rare unreleased songs. It is really only for the die hards!"
Unfortunately, I don’t know any stuff from your 1987 formed band ARMAGEDDON, but how would you compare this project to USURPER?
"A big embarrassing pile of shit! 4 kids who barely could play an instrument! Absolutly horrible! Quite possibly one of the worst bands ever!"
Besides the replacement of Apocalyptic Warlord, you seem to have a quite constant line-up. Could you please give us some infos on your band mates, what they are all about, etc.? What, in your eyes, differs Dave from Apocalyptic Warlord?
"Besides Apocalyptic Warlord’s sharp mullet, he was an amazing drummer. One of the best I’ve ever heard. Unfortunatly he couldn’t tour. He didn’t want to. He left in 1996 after we wouldn’t let him sign the Necropolis contract! End of story! Dave Hellstorm is a total old-school metalhead. He was a founding member of FUNERAL NATION and he was involved in the first wave of extreme Metal from Chicago in 1985 with Paul Speckman’s FUNERAL BITCH. So he was naturally a suitable replacement for the mighty mulletheaded Warlord! Dave’s style fits us perfectly! Total Metal Warrior! Jon Necromancer is my right hand man. On one hand he is the total alcoholic scumbag. Total mess. Can barely stand up sometimes. He’s the guy who will breath fire and basically do anything you dare him to do. Great stage pressence, but not the sharpest knife in the drawer: that’s why we call him P-Brain. Yet he was also the manager of the band and in charge of all business aspects for many years (who’s the real P-Brain?)"
Is it true that Carcass Chris of ETERNAL HATRED is now a member of the band?
"If you ask Carcass Chris, "Yes" if you ask Necromancer, "Fuck No!" Actually he never played on any albums but he did do 30 shows with us. So on the live front yes. But him and Necromancer have kind of a "hate/hate" relationship… Actually Carcass Chris is a phenomenal lead guitarist and has always been a fan of the band (*side note* I actually sang on the last ETERNAL HATRED 7inch!), so most likely he will be on the next album to do some leads… not to write any songs!"
Why is Diabolical Slaughter called "The General"?
"Because he IS The General! He’s the big fat guy who takes no shit! Total addict! He’s addicted to Metal, food, alcohol, and every drug immaginable! He likes to bust peoples balls and mentally humiliate people constantly! He takes extreme pleasure in other peoples pain! He is unglamorus and unromantic. A total Metal Warrior! He’s also a lazy slacker who would rather smoke dope and snort coke than practice, yet he’ll boss everyone around and blame everyone if one person gets slightly out of line. But he always comes through live and in the studio."
As I hardly doubt that you guys can make a living with the music, I wonder what are your jobs?
"Drug dealers, thieves, porno stars."
Concerning to what you said in different older interviews, you don’t seem to be a fan of the Chicago Metal scene, are you? So, what’s wrong with it?
"Nothing. We just don’t play local shows or hang out with local bands. I’m not into that. I have a close circle of friends, and when I’m not practicing or hanging out with the band at our practice spot, I’m usually a home body."
I remember a statement from Diabolical Slaughter, where he said that Shaun Glass, ex-BROKEN HOPE, is your enemy No.1 and that when you wanted to beat up his ass after he attacked Slaughter’s girlfriend, he was begging for mercy like a fuckin’ pussy, hahaha. Now that’s what I call a cool story, hahaha…
"Fuck yeah! Shaun Glass is a small lard turd! A fat bald pussy midget! Complete poser in every sense of the word. General D. Slaughter is the exact opposite: a complete Metalhead, asskickin’ son-of-a-bitch! That’s why we call him The General!"
MACABRE – "Dahmer"
"Excellently weird! Of couse I love their old stuff like "Gloom" and "Grim Reality". But those guys are top notch musicians with a strong obsession for serial killers! You can’t really call "Dahmer" a Metal album, it’s more like psychotic nursery rhymes, yet it kicks serious ass!"
INCANTATION – "The Infernal Storm"
"I never heard it. But we had a song on our 1995 "Diabolosis" album called ‘The Infernal Storm’… real original idea guys. I heard their next album is gonna be called "Skeletal Season II"! He he!"
KING DIAMOND – "House Of God"
"The best KING DIAMOND album since "Abigail"! Maybe I’m just jaded because I’ve seen the "Behind the Scenes" making of that album, and we’re on the thanks list. But I really think that album kills!"
ABSU – "Tara"
"FUCK YEAH!!!!!! Killler! Top notch musicianship! Top notch production! Totally original! ABSU KICKS ASS!!!!!"
As you have been to Europe this year to support CRADLE OF FILTH and CHRISTIAN DEATH, please tell me what you think about the Metalscene over here and the "Old World" in general? How was it to be the "opening act" for this really strange package?
"The tour was amazing! We got the chance to play in front of 900-2000 people a night. We actually went over real good for the most part. Some shows were better than others of couse. But places like Italy, Portugal, Poland, France were just incredible! Total rabid Metal freaks!!! We actually toured Europe on a much smaller level in 1998. This time was of course much better. Not only because of the big shows, but we actually got to see a lot more of the countries. We didn’t really know what to expect at first, we didn’t know how we’d go over. And although there was a certain number of goth fags, there was many more Metal freaks than we expected. And even a number of die-hards from each city that just came to see USURPER! That to me was incredible!"
Do you feel Necropolis does a good job with the band? They seem to put a lot of ads in magazines and stuff, but it’s very rare to see a Necropolis act touring Europe, isn’t it? Any comments on that?
"Necropolis did shit for "Necronemesis"! We got on that tour ourselves. They didn’t even want us to do it! They hardly did anything promotion wise for us. "Necronemesis"is virtually impossible to find in stores in the US, and we had less magazine exposure than we had even for our 1994 demo! Paul Thind is cool, but that’s as far as I’ll go. There is actually people who work there who hate USURPER!"
Why isn’t your webpage hosted by the band? Do you think the Internet has become an important part of the Metal scene today?
"We will have an official band run website very soon. Right now the site is hosted by a fan of the band. It’s ok I guess, but not very exciting or up to date, but she does it for free, and she does a good job considering all that. The Internet of course is so vital now. It’s cool because it’s so instant. Not like when we started out; back then everything was tapetrading and mail and waiting and waiting. So it’s cool I guess, but I’ll always have a soft spot for printed magazines and pro-printed CD’s!"
Any messages for the posers out there, who claim that your sound is outdated and "uncool"?
"Listen to DIMMU BORGIR! USURPER will always have the ways of old in our veins… if you don’t like it go suck a dick!"
What can we expect from USURPER in the future? Do you already have plans for your next album?
"Yes. We have about 5 songs so far. No titles yet just music. We want to have the album recorded by March 2002 and play some major European festivals to support it."
Last question for today, what is Rick Scythe’s view on the current NS trend in the Black Metal scene?
"I’m not even sure what you mean by the "NS trend". (I mean stupid 13 year old fags posing as if they were Hitler’s cousins! – Sven ). I am a fan of Metal I like it all, Power Metal, Thrash Metal, Death Metal, Black Metal, etc… It just has to be done well. I much prefer the real Black Metal inspired by the Gods: VENOM, HELLHAMMER, BATHORY, SODOM, etc… DARKTHRONE is the ultimate "modern" Black Metal band. No keyboards, no romanticism, just hard hitting hard rockin satanic anthems! I really really really hate all this modern CARCASS ripp off gore Metal bullshit! It is cheezy beyond words! I’d much rather listen to the worst modern Black Metal band than the best CARCASS rip off band!"
We’re through man! Hell yeah, I think we covered pretty much here, didn’t we?I must thank you for doing this damn long interview, hope you’re not mad about me after answering all these questions. If you have anything to add, the last words are yours. Cheers brother! We are the incubus breed – with no resistance we take what we need!
"Thank you Sven and the mighty Frank Stöver! It’s so great when people really understand USURPER and realize that we are not some 3rd rate CELTIC FROST tribute band (do these people who label us that way even know what CELTIC FROST sounds like?)."