Canadian Thrash Band Untimely Demise Talks About Their Latest Album "City Of Steel"
Band Photo: Untimely Demise (?)
The Canadian metal scene has been strong for years now, and Untimely Demise is trying to make their mark on this new wave of Canadian thrash metal. Their first album, “City Of Steel,” was recently re-released on Sonic Unyon Metal and features production and guest solos by former Megadeth/King Diamond guitarist Glen Drover. The band has been working around Canada gaining a following, but are setting their sights on the U.S. next. I had a chance to speak to Matt and Murray Cuthbertson (guitarist/vocalist and bassist, respectively) about “City Of Steel” and working with Drover.
What led to Untimely Demise’s formation?
Murray Cuthbertson: My brother and myself have been using the Untimely Demise name since 2000, when we were still in high school and playing around bars in Saskatoon and different clubs. It was metal-inspired punk rock and over time, that original line-up of guys had to leave the band in 2003. My brother Matt and I continued to write music and by April 2006, we found another drummer and reformed using the same name. That’s where the true, professional version of Untimely Demise started. It was still a long road even after that point.
Why did the band decide to lean more in a thrash metal direction?
Murray Cuthbertson: Well, we had always been huge fans of metal. When we started out, we didn’t have the technical ability to be able to play that. We just started getting way more into Megadeth in the early 2000’s. I had heard it when I was a kid in school. I didn’t really understand it as well until we started playing music for ourselves and then you realize, ‘Holy cow, this is some mythical, cool stuff to play.’ I would say bands like Slayer and Megadeth were always starting to steer us towards the metal side, and obviously, Pantera was big when we were growing up too.
Do you think once you guys reformed with the new line-up in 2006, the band’s sound really started to come together?
Murray Cuthbertson: Yeah, that was where the band was set in motion. Like I said, we had been big metal fans for a long time, but I think at that point, we realized it had to be traditional metal or thrash metal or melodic black/death metal. Those were all the artists that were really inspiring us. I think that’s where it started going in that direction. Originally, a lot of the demos we were writing were more epic-length songs, like six-to-eight minutes. We thought, ‘It’s too much to ask the listener for a newer band to have these epic-length songs.’ That’s how we realized that thrash would be a better way to go. If you can’t say what you want to say in four minutes, you probably can’t say it at all, right?
Walk me through the origins of the seven songs that make up “City Of Steel.” Were all these songs written in one period of time? Were they spread out?
Matt Cuthbertson: We finished recording “Full Speed Metal” and put out that EP. Pretty much right from the time we got back to Toronto after we recorded that album, I started coming up with ideas and cataloging all the riffs. Over six months, came up with maybe three or four of the songs. Once we set a date to go out and record “City Of Steel,” I had a crap load of riffs. I got the final three songs together. That’s how it was done. Usually, I catalog all my riffs, and once I find four or five that work well together, then I’ll sit down and try to hatch out a song that way.
Do you find that when it comes to the guitar work, you do better by yourself? Is that why the band hasn’t had another guitarist involved?
Matt Cuthbertson: I would say the reason we don’t have another guitarist involved is mainly because we live in Saskatoon. There aren’t that many good metal lead guitarists that are willing to work for nothing and put it all on the line. As far as writing, usually the riffs I will come up with on my own, but I’ll bring in those riffs in Scott (Cross), the drummer, and we’ll jam. The riffs will connect and it’ll start taking shape once Scott starts drumming to them.
Since Murray is your brother, do you bounce ideas off of him?
Matt Cuthbertson: For sure. Usually, I’ll come up with a small idea of what the bass line will be. Me and him will decide what do we like listening to, because usually it’s not just how good is the riff, but what we would want to hear. Murray will be like, ‘Yeah, I like the first two parts of that, but I’m not big on that third idea.’ We bounce a lot of ideas back and forth among each other.
One of the big selling points of this album is that you had Glen Drover involved in the production and he lent some solos to the album. How did you guys become involved with him?
Matt Cuthbertson: Glen had left Megadeth and he had said that he was putting a studio together in Toronto. My brother contacted him and showed him some demos. He was interested, but wanted to make sure we could get out to Toronto and record, which we could. We ended up doing “Full Speed Metal,” which was a super fun time. Then, from there, we had a relationship. He has been really great, as far as helping us with the production and him just playing in Testament right before we recorded “City Of Steel” was nice. He was immersed in that thrash scene, and then we got to record with him. He knew exactly what we wanted. He was helpful in everything from production to helping the solos to helping mentor me in my guitar playing.
Did he have any say in how the final songs sounded?
Matt Cuthbertson: Not really. We kind of came in with the songs prepared. Obviously, if he didn’t like something, he wouldn’t record it. I’d say we were the ones doing the writing and arraigning and how they came out. His solos definitely helped and the things like, ‘Oh, maybe this vocal filter will sound good with your voice.’ In that sense, he helped shape the sound. The songs were coming from us.
How did you decide to have him do a solo on a particular part of a song?
Matt Cuthbertson: Pretty much what happens is we record all the stuff and the solos are the last part of it. We were just in there, doing solos all day, and there were parts where some songs might have four or five solos. I would be doing something and Glen would be like, ‘Hey, can I try something there?’ From there, he was like, ‘Yeah, I want to do a solo here.’ We would be out after recording and having a beer and he was like, ‘I can do a solo for that part too.’ We were having a good time making the album and putting some solos in.
Is there a chance the band will work with him again in the future?
Matt Cuthbertson: I would say there’s a good chance. We got a pretty good thing. We know how he likes working. He knows that we always come prepared when we’re recording. I would say unless he is busy, we will be working with him again. If he’s off doing a tour or something, that would be the only reason we wouldn’t use him next time. I couldn’t see us not using Glen for producing the next album.
What’s the one valuable piece of business advice Glen gave you?
Matt Cuthbertson: Making sure your band comes off like a professional band. That’s the first thing he said. We had a guy that wasn’t in the band when we went and recorded the second album and he was like, ‘If he’s not in the band, don’t have photos of him on the web site.’ Pretty much making sure you’re coming off like a professional band in everything you put out there.
The album was finished in 2010 and you guys were selling it yourselves. How did you land a record deal to get it distributed worldwide?
Matt Cuthbertson: Sonic had been interested in us since “Full Speed Metal.” We had been speaking back and forth. No deals came about, but when we put out “City Of Steel,” they contacted us and said, ‘We’re kind of still interested.’ We were doing pretty good selling it on our own, but obviously wanted a label. It just worked out that we did a tour out east and swung by the Hamilton office and had a good meeting with them. They liked what we had been doing. Eventually, came up with a deal that worked good for both the label and us.
How do you think the current Canadian metal scene is?
Matt Cuthbertson: I’d say the Canadian metal scene is pretty sweet, but it is so spread out. We found a lot of good buddies in Winnipeg, Edmonton, Toronto, Quebec; all across Canada. It’s so sparse and spread out, so you have to pretty much tour to play with the good bands and find a good guitar player. As far as Saskatoon, there’s a couple of other cool bands. There’s a good scene, but there isn’t as many people as there needs to be.
The past few years has seen a resurgence of thrash metal. It’s become popular, like it was in the ‘80s. Where do you see the band fitting in that resurgence? Do you see yourselves as a retro thrash act or bringing something unique to the table?
Matt Cuthbertson: I wouldn’t say we’re a retro thrash act. When we first got back together in 2006, we were inspired by Megadeth, Testament and Kreator. I’d say at this point, we don’t really just want to be a thrash band. We don’t want to just be throwing back to the old stuff. We’re always going to keep that style in mind because that’s the music we like. If we want to put melody in or want to put a classical part, if we want to have longer songs, we’re going to do that. Sometimes, I like using the death metal vocal, as opposed to the spitfire thrash vocal. We’re going to keep writing whatever metal we want. Obviously, we still want it to be a part of the thrash scene, but I wouldn’t say we’re a thrash throwback sound.
Are you guys writing new material, and if you are, do you see it moving away from thrash or adding in more elements from other genres?
Matt Cuthbertson: I would say we got pretty much four and a half we’ve tracked for the new album. It’s really fast and there’s a lot of riffs, lots of melodies, and lots of solos. I wouldn’t say it’s moved away from the thrash, but obviously, there’s elements that are more from bands like Death and putting death metal in with the thrash. As far as our music goes, there’s always going to be melody, it will always be technical, and it’s always going to be aggressive.
Does the band plan on doing any big tours the rest of the year?
Matt Cuthbertson: We’re doing another tour out east starting in late October. That’s going out to Quebec City and back. We had initially wanted to get dates in the states, but that hasn’t panned out so far. We’re definitely planning on touring this album pretty good. Whenever we can get into the states, that’s the ultimate goal right now, both east and west coast.
Has there been any particular reasons why it’s been an issue for the band to tour in the states?
Matt Cuthbertson: Up to this point, we were a straight independent band. Everything adds up; playing $300 fees to join American Musicians thing and then obviously, booking the shows seems to be different than Canada. In Canada, what we will do is find a cool band, we’ll get a hold of them, talk to the venues, and set up a show. With us trying to book our own tour in the states, it’s been more difficult to connect with venues and bands that want to do shows.
The band has been around for a decade or so under various line-ups. How long did it take you guys to find your stage personas and perfect the live show?
Matt Cuthbertson: I’d say pretty much once we went down to a three-piece, that’s when we started to get our confidence. Other band members were good players, but didn’t necessarily want to take it where we wanted to take it, as far as constantly touring and trying to come off as a professional band. I’d say we started to get our stride right after “Full Speed Metal” came out and did this kind of big tour where we went out to Vancouver and did a bunch of shows. Once it went down to a three piece, we decided we wanted to be a band and wanted to do this for a living. From there, we started to get the confidence and started to do more and more tours. Once you do enough shows, it just seems like you’re doing your job, which is to play music.
What has been your favorite memory to date on the road?
Murray Cuthbertson: I’d say definitely when we played Quebec City for the first time on April 6, the show went off great. Even though there is a language barrier - we don’t speak any French - once you start playing the music, it’s so universal. Everybody was loving it and we had a really warm reception for all the shows out in Quebec.
I guess the other one would be the first tour we did once we went down to a three-piece. We did these shows out in the woods at the Squamish First Nation Indian reserve. Being in a mystical forest with a generator and drums set up and a bunch of kids partying. I just think sometimes those simpler shows can be just as good as the big ones. It’s fun and people know it’s a treat for bands to come in and play for them. I think those two shows would stand out the most.
If you could tour with one band, past or present, who would it be and why?
Murray Cuthbertson: That’s tough. Obviously, Megadeth or Death would be ideal. Nowadays, touring with Arch Enemy would be a huge boost for us. I think if you’re playing shows with the people you look up to, it brings out the best playing in your set. It would be nice to chat with those guys and hear more about how they got to where they got to.
Matt Cuthbertson: I would definitely have to say Arch Enemy. They would be a sweet band to tour with.
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