A Mammoth Interview With Nocturnal Breed's S.A. Destroyer
The Norwegian thrash maniacs in Nocturnal Breed just unleashed latest sonic assault “Napalm Nights,” which comes seven long years after previous studio album ”Fields of Rot.”
It was a long and winding journey to get this album out, seeing the band go through lineup changes and extended periods of inactivity.
Nocturnal Breed's S.A. Destroyer got in touch with Metalunderground.com for an absolutely mammoth interview covering everything from the band's previous use of professional strippers in live shows, to the many other projects he's been involved with over the last few years, and the guest appearance of Nocturno Culto on several tracks.
xFiruath: It’s been seven years since your last album, and while there were splits and compilations in between, it was also seven years between “The Tools of the Trade” and “Fields of Rot.” That seems to be quite a bit longer than the average band waits between major releases. What’s been happening in the interim, and what led to such a long wait?
S. A. Destroyer: As you say it has taken seven long years to finally get this album birthed. The band has always been cursed with bad luck ever since the get-go of its spawning, and these last years have been no exception to that dark-streak rule. There have been a lot of shitty obstacles and hurdles to get through, from personal shit to more band related stuff. We lost two band members, Ben Hellion and A.E Rattlehead, back in 2010 and at the start of 2011, and at both these times the band was getting ready to get started on making a new album, but had to pull back and re-group.
During these seven years, all of us has spent time doing all kinds of different other music projects and bands as well. Personally, I spent a lot of time on bands and projects like Aiwass, Combath, Svartalv, Antikrist, Conjuration, Nåe, and Cold Orbit. So, at the time, I have more than 10 unreleased albums laying around here just waiting for the perfect label or opportunity. I also do a lot of lyrics for the 1349 albums, and I guess I've been a “ghost member” there since they got started. I also as well do lyrics and guest appearances on albums for a bunch of different bands like Satanika from Italy, Moloch from Ukraine, or SickRites from Russia and many others. But still through these years, all of us kept making new Nocturnal Breed material from time to time. But in all, we never spent more than a few days in the rehearsal room during these last 7 years. I guess it has been through these projects I think we in a way built up the urge to give it a go with the new album. Especially Conjuration, has been a delight to do – to explore a much more grotesque “universe” both lyric wise and musically. It is a death metal project that included, apart from myself, my right hand Breedsters T.Terror and V.Fineideath. In fact, they almost had to kick my ass to get me into doing this project. I was kinda drifting into too much personal shit and crap like that, and it was T.Terrors' consistent nagging for me to get up off my ass and to do this project that helped me getting my head out of my ass to start playing more active again.
So, after recording the Conjuration EP “The House on Nuclear Hill,” and doing some gigs related to this, we just started talking more and more about doing a new Nocturnal Breed album. When V.Fineideath joined Nocturnal Breed in 2010 the spark really lit up. He had been a friend of the band since the early beginning, and having shared bands with T.Terror in a bunch of different death and thrash metal bands in the hillbilly area of “Fetsund.” So he was a natural pick for us. Also, it must be honored that he more or less carried the band on his shoulders to make this whole thing work, and we are eternally grateful for him being dedicated to the campaign like that. Then I.Maztor decided to join the band early in 2011, and it felt like someone just flicked on a switch, and the old feelings came creeping back up the spine again. I.Maztor was a big part of the early days of the band, and forging it into what it is today. He was our first permanent lead guitarist, and he did some wicked work on the albums “No retreat... No Surrender” and “The Tools of The Trade” and “Triumph of the Blasphemer” as well as a bunch of EPs, 7" and all the tours and gigs in the 90's. He took a 10 year retreat back to Alta, at the very top of Norway, in 2001 to take care of his family and re-group the forces. But still playing in bands like Slogstorm and other projects. It was actually his song “SpeedKrieg” that really kicked off the making of this album, as the first finished track we rehearsed in its entirety.
Why it has taken us 7 years between the two latest albums, I'm not really sure about. We never planned for this to happen. When it comes to the gap between “The Tools of the Trade” and “Fields of Rot,” we really wanted to make a demo and see if we could get a good label to take the bait. We've been haunted by pretty lousy labels over the years and so we recorded the demo “The Horror” back in 2003. Some of these songs can be heard on the “Uberthrash” 7" compilation splits, like “Code of Conduct” and “Scything Harrow.” Who both ended up on the “Fields of Rot” album. And I guess we took way too long a time recording and producing that album too. And all this searching for labels and endless production time piled up to 7 years. But I sure hope we can get a new album out next year to end this string of endless waiting for the fans. In a way there's a whole new generation of Thrashiacs that has come onto the scene in-between the 14-15 years between “Tools...” and the new album. And we can't go on waiting generations between each release, or else we'll end up dead and old before we manage to reach album number 10.
xFiruath: I was looking at your Metal Archives page, and in the description there is hilariously just one line: “Known for using strippers in live performances.” Is this actually the case?
S. A. Destroyer: Yeah I've seen that “line.” Can't be very pleasing for those who actually want to know what the band sounds like. I don't know, fuck, people get caught up by the strangest things. We did have a lot of shows back in the day with strippers on stage. No pale Goth-black metaller girlfriends of us, but we used proper god damned strippers who take 200 Euros for 5 minutes of work, and that can really shake that ass Las Vegas style. And I guess this just got a little too much to handle for certain people hehe. And so we have in our trail, this endless questioning about if we gonna have the strippers on the live shows or not. It's to the point where we ended up feeling it took the attention a bit too much away from the actual musicianship of the band. So in 2010 we had our last show in Roermond, Holland with a stripper. And there are no plans to have them on again in any future plans. We kinda feel the new album takes the band in to a bit darker waters, and the stage show should in a way reflect this too. So we've dropped the stripper circus as we in a sense feel this was a side track for us.
xFiruath: Tell me about the writing and recording of this new album “Napalm Nights.” Where did it take place and how did the process go?
S. A. Destroyer: Actually, at the start of the process, we planned to record the album more or less live in the studio. And at a time, we planned to record it on a portable studio with Ravn from 1349 engineering it in our rehearsal room which is fully built as a studio. But as some of the songs developed and grew on us, the songs and themes took on their own life and we saw that it was some real potential in this material. Our co-producer and close friend Nicolai Ryen Christiansen and Killer Studio really came up with a brilliant plan for the sound on this album, and I hope it shines through when you hear it, that we went for a totally old school production but with a punch, only today's equipment can do.
The tempo has been taken down a notch, and this was deliberately as we felt it was about time we'd stress down a bit, and let the songs and material talk for itself. And to get that organic feel, you kinda have to let the songs find their own phase and tempo. So we focused more on that this time, and I feel it really paid off, making the album more listenable for people. Also we didn't just want to copy our selves, so we thought this way we still keep to the good old Nocturnal Breed blueprint, but hopefully with a new twist to it.
As with all Nocturnal Breed albums, a lot of the music and sound, and the actual outcome of the tracks, is made and created in the studio. Killer studio and our co-producer Nicolai Ryen Christiansen are very much to thank for the final outcome of this album. Nico really got the clue and essence of what we do and what we where after. And he had tremendous patience, time and effort to put into this album, and I think it really shows in the individual songs and the totality of the final product. Compared to former albums, this time it just felt 100% right, and the line-up we have now just gave the band back that feeling we shared in the old days together, and I guess that really shines through in the intensity we ended up with on “Napalm Nights.” The drums T.Terror put down on the album has a lot of the intensity similar to that of a drummers like Mickey Dee and Dave Lombardo, and that drive was just crucial to getting the songs to plow on like they do. This, combined with the rock-wall-steady riff work put down by V.Fineideath, made this album pretty much close to achieving everything we wanted to achieve with it and then some. V.Fineideath really lifted the whole riff section to a new level, and he is probably the tightest guitarist I've ever had the pleasure to work with. And when it comes to I.Maztor's solos I must say that his skills on that 6 stringed machine gun on this album is just jaw dropping man! He just added that very rare extra touch to the new tracks. His style, that is very inspired by Adrian Smith and Andy La'Roque, among many others. Makes up quite an impressive array of feelings and techniques that just came to an awesome culmination on “Napalm Nights.”
We really wanted “Napalm Nights” to be a bit darker than the previous albums. And we also wanted it to reflect the last 7 years of strife and curses, and personally I think that really shines through on the album. The war theme is also strong this time around, and I really feel this album is one for all the veterans of war out there in the world. As well as the veterans of the metal scene who have stuck in there for better or worse through all the years. All the songs on the new album have their own story and story lines that more or less leads back to true events. And then especially the war-themed tracks are all based on true stories from the 2nd World War and the Vietnam War. And this has been on my mind all through the one and a half year we spent actively writing and producing this album. For new listeners, I sure hope it's a thorough kick in the face, as we tried to let all our influences from the good ol' days really force itself through on the new songs. So I guess if you're into the 80's thrash and metal you'll get your money's worth this time.
The track “Thrashiac” is the “oldest” track on the album. I recorded a demo of that one 11 years ago. And as we started rehearsing it we understood this one was a "keeper" for the new album. The “Speedkrieg” song was I.Maztor's creation, and I remember the day he showed it to us at rehearsal. I guess it instantly kick-started the album writing process. And it was so cool to hear an old school fucking Breed song again. Songs like “The Bitch of Buchenwald,” “Cursed Beyond Recognition,” “Dragging the Priests,” and “Dawn Campaign... Flamethrower Ridge” has a unique feeling to us, since these were all made completely during the recording sessions, though some of the riffs was stuff we'd had laying on the waiting room for many years. A lot of the writing process has been done while in the studio. It makes it kinda fresh for us as we record the songs.
T.Terror's tracks, like “Napalm Night,” “Krigshisser,” and “The Devil Swept the Ruins” was written through the year or two leading up to the album. He most definitely makes the most complex stuff in the band. Guess that's because of the drummer in him going for it. He thinks more in rhythms than the rest of us. Personally I spend many months just getting to know the songs and the stories I write about in the lyrics. And at times it gets to be like a possession, but in difference to our earlier albums, I spent much more time fine tuning the words and music for the perfect result for us this time around. All in all, I feel we managed to really put out there, a new album that reflects the bands intensity and aggressiveness that people get when they see us live. And in my ears it surely sounds better than our previous efforts. So I'm damn pleased with it this time and I hope the fans can relay to it and enjoy it as we do our selves.
xFiruath: Speaking of “The Devil Swept the Ruins,” I read that Nocturno Culto from Darkthrone has a guest spot on the track. Was that a situation where you actually met up in the studio or was it a file sending scenario, and how did the collaboration go?
S. A. Destroyer: He actually did the main vocals on the track “Krigshisser (D.N.K.),” as well as the backing vocals on “Speedkrieg,” “Thrashiac,” “The Bitch of Buchenwald” and “Dragging the Priests.” But he never did anything on the mentioned track “The Devil Swept the Ruins.” The label put out that song as an album teaser long before the album came out, and with a blurb on it saying N.Culto was doing vocals on the album, and I guess people assumed it was on that specific track.
As to the collaboration with N.Culto, it was never in our minds to do a file sharing scenario. To get that good old feeling and touch to it, one has to do it in the studio. He lives close to me up in the remote woods in eastern mid Norway, so we hang out every now and then. And the trip to get him to the studio wasn't too hard or long. And we all had a really killer time doing this. He's an old friend of mine from the Satyricon days. And we actually grew up in the same shitty valley outside Oslo, and went to the same school and shit, so I guess there's a lot of bonds there. This made for a really awesome studio time, and as you hopefully can hear on those tracks, there's some unique feeling going on there, and I'm very grateful to him for taking the time off to do this.
xFiruath: For long time fans of the band, how would you say the sound of this album has changed from previous releases?
S. A. Destroyer: I guess what we did this time around was taking the original plans for Nocturnal Breed and expanded and blew them up to a much more tight album, both in song writing and production. We got the raw, unbridled old school sound sounding just like we've always hoped to get. The songs turned out very organic, and we feel this album finally reflects all sides of the band and what we're all about. The fans can expect to get their brains blown out as this is by far the most intense album we have done. I think it has got all the Nocturnal Breed trademarks and then some. And that's a first for us. To feel almost 100% pleased with the outcome. And as I said earlier, we wanted this album to take a much darker turn, and hopefully we reflected that through the riffs, that take on a much more classical "devil tones" inspired form.
xFiruath: Who handled the cover artwork and how does it connect to the album?
S. A. Destroyer: Andrej “Maggot Meister” Bartulovic from Allthingsrotten.com, is the man behind the artwork this time. He's a good friend from Croatia, and a very patient artist too. As we used several years working out all the details concerning the cover. His style made the cover look very old school but still refreshingly new in color and style and technique. It was sketched out by hand many times before the final result was finished. And I guess all this time working on the ideas together made the cover link to the album in a very special way. So much so, that we actually ended up with two covers for the album, and we decided to incorporate them both into the album layout.
The album was initially to be titled “Cursed Beyond Recognition” and so we had a cover idea featuring a Nun in a zombiefied grave field, rising torn and mauled out of the earth with a chain wearing symbols of all the world's major religions around her neck, as to represent the fall of all the bounds and evils of these religions. And as a treat to some of the old heroes, who was inventors in the infancy of metal music, we added a bunch of significant names to the tombstones on that cover, so have a loser look and you'll see. When we decided that “Napalm Nights” was to be the album title, we came up with a cover idea for it reflecting all we put down in to these tracks both in inspiration as in mental imagery that comes up when you're writing the album. And the end result was the inferno of Breedish' adaption of the Vietnam war, that I personally think really fits the album perfectly.
xFiruath: What’s going on in the Oslo metal scene these days?
S. A. Destroyer: Well, I'm so not the right person to ask this question, hehe. I live very remote deep in the forest and have very little contact with the scene down in Oslo, since it's several hours drive from where I live. I haven't been to a show in Oslo since I attended a 1349 gig in 2011. We had a cool up and coming band from Bergen called Reptilian warming up for us on our release gig for the new album some weeks ago. And that was surely a band to watch out for in the future. Apart from that, what's going on down in the “rotten apple,” I don't know. I saw Bulldozer as we opened for them in Bergen lately, and that was pretty cool, as was Accuser as I saw them in Germany some months ago.
xFiruath: What are you looking forward to in the world of metal this year?
S. A. Destroyer: I hope the old school trend we see today will continue and evolve into a lot of good albums. As well as a collective, way cooler atmosphere in the whole scene than what has been the case the last two decades. Part from that I hope we get to play some killer shows round the world, as the pile of offers seem to be increasing quite rapidly here in the Breed compound. So we'll just have to see what thrilling adventures lay in wait for us all this year.
xFiruath: Anything else you’d like to say?
S. A. Destroyer: Hope to see you all kicking ass and taking names somewhere down in time and keep the metal to the fuckin' bone all ye' thrashiacs out there. S.A Destroyer signing off.
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