Onslaught Frontman Sy Keeler Discusses New Album "Sounds Of Violence"
British thrash legends Onslaught have now dropped their latest album "Sounds of Violence," which continues the band's blend of thrash and punk attitude. I recently spoke with the Onslaught front man Sy Keeler to get a look into the creation of the album and how the band has changed after being hiatus from 1991 to 2007.
Keeler commented on getting Phil Campbell and Tom Angelripper to guest on the cover of Motorhead's "Bomber," Onslaught's place in the world of thrash metal, and the possibility of the band re-recording early material down the line.
xFiruath: Onslaught was on hiatus for awhile before getting back together in 2007. Were you guys involved with other bands during that time or do you have other projects going right now?
Sy: No, no. The band split in ’91 and we all tried different bands and tried to get deals on record labels, but it was tough and everyone wanted Onslaught. I formed a band called Mirror, Mirror and we almost got signed and we recorded some great demos, but then we all stopped playing. For probably seven years I didn’t sing and so when we ultimately got back together and rehearsed it was terrible. As far as other projects, no there’s no time at the moment. I’d love to think maybe in a year’s time or a little longer I could pursue another project. I’d love to do some prog rock.
xFiruath: Tell me about what’s going on with the new album “Sounds of Violence.”
Sy: I think certainly what you’re going to hear is some refined song writing. I call it “refined aggression.” It’s a damned aggressive album, all the way down to the artwork. We wanted to create sort of a violent concept whereby you pick the album cover up and you see this nasty piece of artwork. When you spin the disc it’s 45 minutes of refined aggression. It’s violent and I would say I hate to tag any band within a genre, certainly when you record an album yourself you don’t think “we want to record a thrash metal album.” If people want to title it thrash metal, that’s fine, but we’ve created an album that’s accessible to those outside of the thrash metal genre. Certainly the reviews so far and the comments have said it’s accessible and has great melodies. Nothing repeats itself twice. It’s a damn fine piece of song writing I think. We’ve got a new songwriter on board for this album, Andy Rosser-Davies. Now we’ve got some major changes that I think everyone will hear in there.
xFiruath: It seems like there’s more of a hardcore vibe in the songs. Would you agree with that assessment and was that something you guys specifically set out to do or was it unintentional?
Sy: We obviously still have a lot of fans from back in the day like from the “Power From Hell” album. I think maybe hardcore isn’t the right word. We’ve certainly got some sort of punk attitude on some of the songs. “Hatebox” for example has an awful lot of attitude on it. It’s straight out of the Discharge song writing book. We sort of rediscovered our roots. Despite the fact that we’re forging ahead, and I feel we are progressing, we also remember our roots and where we came from. We’ve got some of that aggression and attitude in there from the early days. It’s a very cool observation and I’m pleased to have people notice because we certainly tried to get our roots back in there.
xFiruath: There were several guest musicians making appearances on the album. Tell me a bit about who was on the disc and how you got hooked up with them.
Sy: The guest musicians on the one track “Bomber” happened by accident. Our drummer said maybe we could do a cover version, and I said “Stop, we’ve done enough cover versions. We did that all back in the ‘80’s.” We had cover versions and B-sides and etc. But just before we started to do the guitar recording for the new album our bass player Jeff had made contact with Phil Campbell and said we might be doing a cover version of “Bomber” and asked if he would come play guitar. Phil said absolutely, no problem. We toured with Motorhead back in the ‘80s and got along really well with them. We’ve still got our connection there. Then we were thinking if we got Phil’s guitar part on there maybe we’d have some more fun with it and get another vocalist. We approached a couple of vocalists who were too busy with something else or where in the studio at that time. Tom Angelripper from Sodom was there recording an album at the same time as us, so it was perfect. He delivered the vocals and it was awesome. I think it’s a fine rendition of “Bomber,” definitely. Having Phil Campbell and Tom Angelripper has made it a great fucking song.
xFiruath: Fill me in on the lyrical themes in the album.
Sy: We always sort of stick to what we know really. You turn the television on and all you see is war and violence and religious cults. “Code Black” covers the lies of tyranny. “Born For War” is about suicide bombers. “Godhead” is about an American cult called the Children of God. It’s quite a fantastic story, which ultimately resulted in the suicide of several members. The rest is about violence and aggression. “Suicideology” is one of our weird, made up words. We were even thinking about calling the album “Suicideology.” All the lyrics on the album are very in-depth. There’s nothing taking very lightly. We’ve gone into the background of everything and made sure we’ve got our facts right.
xFiruath: As a band that’s been around for quite a long time, and having broken up and then got back together, where do you guys see yourselves in the overall thrash scene?
Sy: Here in the U.K. we’re sort of classed as the fathers of the thrash scene and certainly all the young bands look up to us and lots of them have played with us over the last few years. A lot of them would say we were the first thrash band they listened to, and these guys are 18 to 20 years old. We didn’t really hop on the thrash wagon in the ‘80s. We just missed out. At one time it was ourselves and Slayer and was it like, which one was going to be big first? Unfortunately it was Slayer and we got forgotten about. Certainly with this new album I think we’ve proved we’re here to stay and we’re delivering quality metal. I think we stand with our heads high and say we can compete and we are going to compete. Already we’ve got some incredible reviews and some great tours lined up. This is without the general public hearing the album, this is just from within the industry, so I’m very confident we’re going to take a few steps up the ladder and make a big impact this time.
xFiruath: Do you guys plan on re-recording any of your early material?
Sy: Yes, we did talk about it a couple of years ago. We approached our record label and said we’d like to take four songs from each album and re-record them. It never happened, so in the future, definitely. We’ll get this album out, and get some touring done throughout 2011 and 2012, and then maybe while we’re writing the next album we’ll re-record some of the old classics. It would be quite cool because we don’t play the old songs as they were originally written. They’ve got the new sort of Onslaught style slant. When people see us live they realize the songs don’t sound much like they did originally. They are far more aggressive these days then they ever were. We’ve taken those songs apart and reconstructed them to make them fit in with the new Onslaught.
xFiruath: Any parting words on the album?
Sy: I think people should give it a chance. It’s not a total thrash album and it has other genres as well. We’re not really influenced by anyone but ourselves. We all listen to different types of music. I listen to classic rock like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. We’ve got lots of flavors on the new album from classic rock to punk rock and there’s some black metal bits on there and little death metal bits. It’s an album that I think will cross all genre. Two years ago we played Bang Your Head festival with Judas Priest and Yngwie Malmsteen and a couple of months later we played the Inferno festival in Norway with Behemoth and a lot of other death and black metal bands. That was fantastic. So we cross genres for sure. Give this album a chance and you might be surprised.
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