Slaughterday - Interview
Slaughterday from Lower Saxony released one of the death metal highlights last year, if not the best death metal album of the year. After they provided much needed attention with the album "Ancient Death Triumph", "Tyrants Of Doom" will build the hype even further. I had a nice Friday evening chat via Skype with Bernd Reiners (vocals, drums) and Jens Finger (guitar, bass), where we also discussed some other important things (Stallone or Schwarzenegger?). Have fun reading!!
Hey, how are things in the far north?
B + J: Yes, everything is great!
"Tyrants Of Doom" was released a few months ago and has received consistently good reviews. Were you surprised by that?
B: Yes and no. When we heard the finished album, you do wonder, when you hear it, how it sounds when everything is recorded in the studio, we already thought that it sounds pretty awesome. But you don't know what the feedback is like, and after all, the previous album got such good reviews. We were wondering if we could top that, but it's cool that some have confirmed that we've succeeded to some extent. We were in good spirits ourselves, but were pretty surprised that we were able to top that.
J: You are always your own biggest critic and, as Bernd already said, Ancient Death Triumph has been received enormously well. That was already sensational for us and we thought that we can't top that anymore. But when we finished recording and listening to it, we were convinced that it was really good and we were very happy with it. That the reactions are so good now is of course great. But it always depends on the situation: who is releasing an album and what do people and reviewers want to hear? That is also still a subjective matter.
I must say that "Tyrants Of Doom" has become my favorite death metal album and I have read a single review that gave 7 out of 10 points.
B: Yes, that was also the case with the last albums. You always have at least one person who writes "this is nothing special, this is pure standard".
J: Yes, it always depends on what kind of music people listen to privately. We once had a review from someone who has nothing to do with death metal. He reviewed the album by default. I mean, if I had to review a Sabaton album now, I wouldn't be able to see it neutrally either.
B: I think you just have to draw a summary and that was mostly positive, even if there are some who say that TOD did not turn out so well or is normal death metal. But that's exactly what it is and nothing else (laughs). That's right. Some people think that you can get further with innovations, but this is little innovative and old school death metal, where there are certain rules of the game and in this framework we move of course.
But I also have to say that I find reviewing and writing about music I don't listen to myself pretty borderline and personally can't relate to it either.
B: Yes, but that's probably the usual agenda.
Okay, maybe if you get paid for it. Fortunately, I choose the things I want to write about and it would be a total waste of time for me to have to write reviews about things I don't like at all.
J: But it's also interesting to see how it affects other people who have nothing to do with music.
B: If people really deal with it intensively, even though it's not their favorite music, that's okay too, sometimes quite interesting things come out of it.
If I put the first letters of the title together, it says TOD (which means "death" in German) - is that, like with Venenum and their "Trance Of Death" album - intentional or was that coincidence?
J: Sure, that was a very well thought-out move. We thought of a lot of profound things (laughs).
B: No, honestly, it looks all pompous and great with "TOD" and so on, but the fact is that only the title was important to us and we tinkered with that....
J: ...and it's also T.O.D. - Temple Of Dread (the band Jens is the singer in; M.)...
B: ...exactly and when we say T.O.D. everyone is irritated about what that has to do with Temple Of Dread. But we had the title and then we noticed only afterwards that the abbreviation also means death. There was nothing planned.
J: We didn't realize it until the moment when I made a rough draft for the layout of the box. We made a special box and I wrote the initials underneath and that's when we realized it.
Who are the "Tyrants Of Doom"?
B: I'm happy to answer that, because I won't tell you! Everyone can think about that for themselves. I had already expected that this question would be asked more often. We are, as far as our music is concerned, apolitical, but of course we thought of something. I think there are enough tyrants, whether in world events, where one looks. I don't want to go further than that - no matter if it's Putin, who is now probably the biggest tyrant for most people right now, but there have always been tyrants of doom, people who bully people with terror and violence and whatever. It's definitely not fantasy characters, it's already influenced by current world events. Also the lyrics are still pretty cryptic, because I still like to work with imagery and I don't want to convey stories and political messages there, but it's more than ever inspired by current events.
Lyrically, you have more than ever, I would say, slightly philosophically inclined lyrics, for example 'Necromantic Visions' or 'Grave Nihilist'. Did you deal a bit more with religious and philosophical references?
J: I find it interesting that you say that, because I remember a review that said exactly the opposite. It was said that we would help ourselves from the death metal kit. I mean, Bernd writes the lyrics, but then I felt a bit attacked, I have to admit, because I know how much work he puts into it. We also talk about his lyrics and I also know what he means or what you can interpret into it. Of course, we don't communicate all that publicly, because that would take away the charm and mystique of the thing.
B: This time we also had a different approach to the lyrics. Otherwise, I always wrote the lyrics and then the title emerged, from the chorus, the phrasing or depending on how the riff was. This time we worked differently and Jens was more involved, at least in terms of choosing the title. This time we proceeded in such a way that we determined the titles and then let me inspire, be it from the title or a picture, what this title could perhaps express and then made me to the lyrics. In addition, we worked out the choruses together, that is, we actually sat here and tried to assign the appropriate title to each song and also made the choruses of the phrasing suitable. I then filled the rest with life.
J: You really have to imagine that we sat together in the rehearsal room with a beer and thought of cool words and put together titles and afterwards thought about what it could be about. Personally, I often look at the title of a record and think "what a cool title, I'll listen to that song!". I always think titles are important and I can't stand it at all when you can't remember them because they're a mile long. Like Carcass... "Descanting...", you have to have a dictionary next to you. It was simply important to us that we have gripping titles on the one hand, but also gripping choruses on the other. This time we put more emphasis on the choruses, especially as already mentioned with the phrasing, but also with the placement.
B: It's also fun to play around with the power of words a bit. English is a great language for lyrics and sometimes it's fun to express certain things with cool words. I think especially in metal, or in death metal maybe especially, and you know this yourself, when you were a teenager and listened to certain albums, there were words that somehow totally grabbed you, because they sounded cool. That's where everything comes together: Background, ideas, inspiration, cool titles that play with language and also provide the whole thing with metaphors, which then ultimately results in the lyrics. It's also important to me that they're not just some flat stories, but also trigger a bit of mental cinema, even if you might have completely different associations than I possibly had when writing.
J: It is also important, at least in my opinion, that music and lyrics form a unity...
B: ...and it is entertainment. The people should just be entertained and if the lyrics still contribute to the fact that it goes in a bit in depth, then that's a good thing. It was not behind it to spread political messages, but every now and then it fits. It is so well packaged that only me and Jens know the intention and the rest I leave to the people listening. I'd be interested to hear what people interpret into it.
Yeah, listen! 'Parasitic' - it immediately popped into my head that you were watching Alien.
B: Alien is also interesting, I had but I but not at all in the back of the head. But of course that also fits super. With 'Parasitic' it was like that, that's probably also one of the most obvious lyrics, that I let myself be inspired by the insect world. There are really interesting stories with parasites that manipulate you or grow in your brain and influence a certain behavior and keep the host alive as long as necessary.
Musically I had attested you to a certain age mildness in the last interview, when I compare "Ancient Death Triumph" with "Tyrants Of Doom", I would take that back and rather speak of progressive elements, which you let flow more and more into the songs. Alone the riff in 'Pestilent Tombs' is almost inspired by classical music....Correct?
J: Yes, that may have two reasons. One is a very simple reason, which is that we always go back to the hard rock and heavy metal roots with the songwriting. Maybe it's also because I listened to a lot more Michael Schenker and music like that during the songwriting process. The other reason is maybe a technical one. I bought myself a new computer at home with Logic, etc. I've always taken the songs we recorded in the rehearsal room home and had to add something for the guitars and bass for pre-production. This time I played around with Logic more because it has more possibilities and I think that's also related to that. You probably mean the polyphonic guitars.
B: On 'Pestilent Tombs' there's this one part that really sounds a bit like classical.
J: Yeah, oh yeah, I really broke my back on that one! That's right, it was a Yngwie Malmsteen move (laughs).But otherwise it is very flattering to speak of classic metal. We are far from it still.
J: Of course, we always try to do something new. At least that's how I feel when I write my solos. I always try to use a technique that maybe I've never done before.
So to sum up, "TOD" has become your most lyrically and musically diverse album?
J: Yes, I think so.
B: Yes, you can say that. I have a bit of a hard time with it, I think the last two albums were created in a relatively short time one after the other and belong together for me. That's why I still have problems today to say where we were more brilliant and where we composed the best. I would definitely say that the album is catchy and very varied, maybe that sums it up quite well. Maybe you can also say that the last album is the most detached from the Autopsy vibe we've always had. I don't want to say that we completely left that out, but it has the least Autopsy-like parts.
J: That's the most independent.
Technically, it reminds me of Death a lot.
B: Death is of course still one of our main influences. At some point you have Death in the back of your mind and you want to bring in a riff or at least something that is based on "Leprosy". You don't want to steal or copy anything, but you already try to somehow write such a part, because you find those albums so awesome. And you're happy when you somehow manage to write a riff that you think could have been on a Death album (laughs).
J: Or the vocal phrasing is like a song....
B: ...exactly, that goes hand in hand with the riffs. If it's a Death-like riff, the phrasing has to match it. And so it sounds like Death or some other bands.
...or like Carnivore. How did you get the great idea to cover them?
B: Jens, tell me about it!
J: Yeah, but what can I say about that? That was your suggestion to cover the song.
B: Right, that was my suggestion. It was like all the other cover versions. I had put the record on again and thought several times while listening that it would fit and that one could cover a song from it well, because the first album is quite brutal and also the vocals are very close to death metal. They are very extreme, not like on the second album, where it sounds different. I listened to the album again very intensively and thought, the song ('Predator'; M.) I could imagine well in the Slaughterday dress. It was actually like always, it has to be so that you can say, "Okay, you can really make a Slaughterday version out of it without messing it up or it becoming embarrassing." Because it was already musically very close and you could imagine that it would also work with death metal vocals or even more extreme vocals, it was absolutely an option. I suggested it to Jens, he thought it was good and then we did it.
What is your favorite song from the album and why?
J: I find that very difficult, it always changes with me. I don't listen to my own music all the time, but then one day 'Necromantic Visions' is my favorite song, then it's 'Grave Nihilist' and the next day 'Pestilent Tombs'...I don't know... 'Coffined Saviour' I think is good too. It's hard to say.
B: For me it's definitely the two songs that we also play live. This is the title track, I find the whole grip super well done and the opener 'Mauled' I'm also pretty proud of it. I think 'Pestilent Tombs' has a great atmosphere, although it's a bit more difficult to play live, because there are some three-part things, sometimes even a fourth and fifth guitar. We always have to see what can be implemented well.
Yes, live... Markus Bünnemeyer left the band and Ulf Imwiehe joined instead. How did that come about?
J: That's relatively easy to explain. He quit (laughs). No, he explained to us at some point that it becomes too much for him in terms of time, because he is very busy at work and he also plays with Temple Of Dread. It doesn't take so much time, but it becomes too much for him altogether. He lives on Spiekeroog ( a small island in the North Sea; M.) and it's always a bit difficult for him to come to rehearsals, because then it always takes two days. He then said that he would neither do justice to his family nor to us and that he would like to quit after the Eindhoven Metal Meeting. He made some suggestions himself, who we could take as a replacement, but he also said that if we don't find anyone, he would also step in. Who knows, maybe it will happen again when Ulf has no time.
B: Yes, that's what he said. Apart from us, the others are all still active in other bands, Tom with Karloff and Hallucinate and it can happen that a great offer comes along and Ulf has no time. We are allowed to ask Bünne, he just couldn't guarantee that it would go on constantly. There was no stress, we are still super friends, the door is also open and you have to see that you can also save things when someone has no time.
Do you ever come on a club tour? I only see you playing at some - especially Dutch - festivals.
J: Of course it's difficult because of our job, as you know. We can't just take time off, so we only have the vacations. During the vacations there is often no tour and apart from that you might want to spend more time with your family during the vacations. Of course we like to do single and festival shows, we would like to do more, but let's see what comes. You know yourself, the time after Corona is difficult, everything is made up for, many have closed down or no longer take the risk or cannot and do not want to pay, so that is a huge problem at the moment. But touring is out of the question for us, I think, because of the professional situation.
Have you actually landed at District 19 now?
B: Yes, this is now officially our booking agency for about ¾ years.
Cool, they have a lot of good bands on board now.
B: Absolutely. This has also opened a few doors for us. We realized that at some point we couldn't get any further on our own. You can release great albums that get good reviews everywhere and are well reviewed in the metal gazettes, but that's just not enough. It's still not like people ring us up all the time and ask if we want to play here and there. We've been thinking about what we could do and District19 is also pretty happy to work with us. It is of course a rocky road to build up such a band, with all the hassle like the fees and so on, but it was definitely the right decision.
Do you have any plans to release a video for a song?
J: The original plan was actually to do that, but we ran out of time towards the end. Various things like illnesses, working with musicians came in between. At first the problem was that "Mücke" left… We had planned various things, also in the run-up to PartySan we wanted to film or stream a rehearsal room gig, we had already made various plans. Then we had to train a new drummer again and of course it was more important to get him fit so that he could also play the PartySan. We had to set priorities and that was difficult from an organizational point of view.
There is nothing more to come?
B: I would probably like to make a video, but it's always difficult. How do you do it when there are two of you - you always have to think carefully about how to make it cool.
J: Of course it's also a question of cost, you can't forget that either. The last video for Ancient Death Triumph we made for the song 'Malformed Assimilation'. We filmed that ourselves, just the two of us, and it actually turned out pretty good for that (laughs).
B: Yeah, it was a DIY thing.
J: Exactly, only an acquaintance of ours cut it for us in the end. Maybe we'll do something like that again, we'll see....
B: ...but you have to have a good idea, or maybe we'll do something with the whole band, we'll see.
Has anyone actually won the shirt in the meantime for discovering the tank riff?
J: Oh, did we have a shirt for a prize?
B: Yes, somewhere we said that once.
In Deaf Forever.
B: Götz (Kühnemund; M.) also racked his brains and was very eager about it, but he didn't get it out (laughs).
Have you ever been to the Köstritzer Brauhaus?
J: No. An acquaintance of mine works in the advertising industry or has something to do with it and he said that he knows the online advertising guy from Köstritzer. He wrote to him once and he also got back to me and said that something could be done. However, I heard that he now works somewhere else and so the whole thing has come to nothing again. Otherwise, we are still waiting for Köstritzer to sponsor us. It doesn't have to be much, maybe a case of beer a week (laughs).
B: Maybe we have to become active ourselves and write to them. Maybe they can sponsor our podcast and we'll advertise for them every time beforehand. We have already infected so many people with it and made them drink Köstritzer...
J: ...that is now called Slaughterbeer in our circle of acquaintances.
B: But since you just asked that, now I have a cool location for the video.
Finally, an either/or question: Maiden or Priest?
J: Oh, I have to say Maiden, of course! I'm a fan club member, so I have to say Maiden.
B: With me also quite clearly Maiden, because that was my entrance into the metal world.
Motörhead or Tank?
J: Oh God!
B: Well, I'll start and say Motörhead. Have I heard more and I also know more songs and albums, Tank I got to know later. They are of course also very cool, but Motörhead have the better back catalog. Tank have also made cult albums, but Motörhead are more cult.
J: Yes, I'm with you on that one!
Carnivore or Type O Negative?
B: Difficult question.
J: Type O is for girls!
B: No, there are quite a lot of guys who post something from Type O. I only see guys who post something from Type O on Facebook and never any girls. So much for that. But in the end I'm a bigger Carnivore fan because the music is harder and more aggressive, that kicked me more. But I also really like Type O, so that's a tough call.
Bathory or Venom?
J: Both, but Venom.
B: My heart beats more for Bathory. Venom is more iconic, but I'm more into Bathory.
J: Venom was one of the first five albums I ever listened to in the mid-80s, so definitely Venom.
Slaughterday or Autopsy?
J: If you take the last two discs of the bands, Slaughterday.
B: Yes, that's right. Otherwise it is always Autopsy. If I was going to a desert island and was allowed to take only one album, I would choose Autopsy, but when it comes to the last album, I would actually take our own (laughs), because the last Autopsy album didn't kick me.
So, I have one more. "An Der Nordseeküste" in 1985 or the remake from 2022?
J: The connection is breaking up right now!!!
B: Yes, you are very hard to understand. No, seriously, always the original. I don't know of any remake where I said this is better. Unless some remake of a movie in the '80s from the '60s or something.
J: Exactly- "The Thing"
B: Right, so everything that I perceived as a teenager in the 80s and 90s and these things that came out as remakes from 2000 onwards - "Total Recall" and stuff like that - I found them all terrible. And another point about the remake of "An Der Nordseeküste" is little Klaus is not the original guy and that's a very important aspect. That was the original voice of "Werner" (an animated film from the 90s; M.) and he's so iconic and also in Torfrock. That's why this is not Klaus and Klaus for me, but just a cover band (laughs).
J: Do you have another either or question, that's funny!
No, but I could come up with quite a few more!
B: Stallone or Schwarzenegger?
J: I knew this was coming!
B: Difficult! If you take the late work, I'd have to say Stallone. 80s and early 90s I would have said it's a tough call, but if you think about what else Stallone did with his Rambo movies, he came out on top.
J: That's still good toxic masculinity!
So, I have one more question. When I look at the last results of your soccer clubs....
J: I have to go!!
Perfect, that's a good closing. Thank you very much for this Friday evening chat and have a nice weekend.
J+B: Jep, likewise!!!
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