Hell Within Guitarist Tony Zimmerman Discusses New Album "God Grant Me Vengeance"
After parting with Lifeforce Records, Massachusetts metallers Hell Within released their Thorp Records debut "God Grant Me Vengeance" on July 13th, 2010. Hell Within guitarist Tony Zimmerman spoke with me about the writing and recording of the band's third full-length album, as well as how the band splits apart the heavier and melodic segments.
"I’d say it’s some of the heaviest stuff we’ve done in some aspects, but then again also some of the musical stuff we’ve done. The vocal melodies and the harmonies I think really came out." stated Zimmerman. He also went on to explain working with Peter Rutcho in the studio and how he spurred the band on to produce their best possible material.
xFiruath: What’s your personal history in music and when did you realize you wanted to be in a metal band?
Tony: How long have I been involved in music? Most of my life. I played my first show when I was like 13. I always liked metal and growing up in the ‘80s it was a hair metal thing. In the ‘90s the whole grunge thing was going on. I never really got into the grunge scene. The only grunge band I really liked was Alice in Chains, but at the same time as that I was listening to Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax. The old school metal. As the times changed I stayed true to the roots but went into Pantera and nowadays I still listen to the older guys all the time but I also love a lot of the newer bands. One of the new bands I really like is Asking Alexandria. I love their disc and I listen to that all the time.
xFiruath: Have you got any other projects going on right now besides Hell Within?
Tony: No, it’s just Hell Within. Hell Within is kind of one of those bands that there’s no moonlighting or side projects. If you are in this band you are in this band.
xFiruath: How did you guys hook up with Thorp Records for the release of the new album?
Tony: We finished our contract with Lifeforce Records. When it came to completion we talked to Lifeforce about maybe extending it, but the talks just fell apart. So we decided we needed to go somewhere else. We saw what our options were and the best option was Thorp. It became the best choice for us. We like that they don’t sign a million bands. They don’t have 10 million bands but only three or four get their attention. Last year Thorp only signed a handful of bands and right now we are one of their priorities. It feels good to be the concentration of our label. They are excited about our new record. They are really good guys.
xFiruath: In a sea of genres and sub-genres, what does Hell Within sound like?
Tony: I’m one of those guys who really don’t believe there is anything new or innovative anymore. Everything’s been done before so I definitely wouldn’t say “new.” If you were to compare us to something it would be a mix of a little Slayer, a little Pantera, some Killswitch Engage, throw a dash of Bullet For My Valentine in there and you have us.
xFiruath: The new Hell Within album is “God Grant Me Vengeance.” How does this one sound in comparison to the previous two albums?
Tony: I’d probably say this album has a lot of little things in there. Our second album was really rushed and we couldn’t add a lot of the little details. One thing with this record is that we really concentrated on the choruses and made them catchy. Some people have said “Oh, typical metalcore style.” Whatever. I’d say it’s some of the heaviest stuff we’ve done in some aspects, but then again also some of the musical stuff we’ve done. The vocal melodies and the harmonies I think really came out. I’m really excited with the work J.J. (vocalist J.J. Long) did and Pete, who produced the record. We tuned differently on this record. On the last two records we were in drop B and this one’s in drop C. This record is kind of all over the place. There are some songs that don’t have any leads and others that do. There are songs where Isaias (guitarist Isaias Martinez) plays the lead and songs where I play the lead and we switch off. Some tunes have break downs and some don’t. This album, probably more than the others, was really written as a team. One member would come up with the structure of a chorus but we all dissected it together. From start to finish everyone had their say. Most of the songs on the record have really good meanings. It touches a lot of things that happened personally to us from our last record to this record. That time frame is what this album sums up.
xFiruath: I’ve been listening to the songs and I’m wondering how you decide where to put the harsh vocals and where to put the clean vocals.
Tony: The way that J.J. thinks and the way that we were arranging the songs was that when you have the real busy guitar and real shredding, that’s where the heavy vocals will be. Singing just won’t fit. When you open up the chords and there is strumming, and you could play them on acoustic guitar and it still sounds good, that’s where the melodic parts go. That’s the way all the songs were designed. Especially me, I’m a fool for a good vocalist. I love a lot of bands that don’t have a vocalist that can do the melodic style, but our singer can do them so it’s like “why not?”
xFiruath: Where was “God Grant Me Vengeance” recorded?
Tony: We recorded it at Damage Studios with Pete Rutcho in Massachusetts. He did the last Bury Your Dead disc and he did a great job. He beat us up and made us doing everything 10 million times and he really came out with a lot of good ideas. He’s a great producer as well as a musician. He’s good at every instrument. He’s better at guitar than most people around. He’s one of those guys that if you’re messing something up he’s like “Let me see that, I’ll show you how to do it.” You respect what he’s saying because he’s that good. I recommend him to anyone. He’ll go “You think that was good?” And I’ll be “Oh yeah” and he’s “No.” Here we go again. But he’s really good.
xFiruath: You had mentioned before the album deals with personal issues since the last album was release. What specifically do the lyrics deal with?
Tony: I actually named the album and the title track “God Grant Me Vengeance.” It’s more or less one person has had a bunch of people count them out and write them off and you just kind of raise your fist in the air. You just want to show them all and show them you aren’t done. Just God grant me some vengeance, some satisfaction. Wanting to show the world what you’ve got, where you come from, and where you are going. Say “screw you” to everyone who knows you. One track, “Scars in Oblivion,” deals with dealing with someone who is bipolar and having a close relationship with them. It’s dealing with a person who has a mental illness but still saying that no matter what you’ll be there for them. “The Rebrith” is about starting over and new beginnings. All the tracks follow close personal things but if you read the lyrics you can pretty much catch the drift of the song.
xFiruath: What’s your tour schedule looking like in support of the new album?
Tony: We just finished a six week tour with Letters to the Exile and that went really well. Right now we are prospectively going in August but we are waiting on the word. We’re itching to go out. Our plan is to tour until we can’t tour anymore and until we start the next record.
xFiruath: What’s your local metal scene like?
Tony: It’s alright. We’re actually from Lowell and there’s a handful of bands that do well. We play the same few places here. It’s not what it really used to be like. More of the metal is out in other places.
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