Avatar – “Feathers and Flesh” Review

Avatar-Feathers-and-FleshReleased: May 13, 2016
Entertainment One Music/ENT. ONE MUSIC
June 10, 2106 — T. Ray Verteramo

The cardinal rule of art: If you have to explain it, it’s a failure.

Whether it be paintings, dance, film, whatever – if you need to write an essay on what your work is about, then it’s worthless. Once the artist is done, the art needs to take over and speak for itself.

One of the benefits of just downloading music without the illustrations, photos, or lyrics is that it becomes a true test of the quality in every way. There are no pretty-pretty distractions or leading suggestions; just the unseasoned meat from the sandwich without the dressing.

Avatar did not fail with Feathers and Flesh, but they very easily could have.

It is understood that this band grew up together in life, as well in music. Years of honing their perspective crafts, learning the dynamics and the ropes, and consistently taking their passion to the next level with every project is apparent, as well as discussed. They have wonderful talent, but are not virtuosos, and (thankfully) they do not have any pretenses to claim to be so. But, nevertheless, their carnival image is grossly deceiving and at times, even unfortunate.

People do judge books by covers, especially in a “beauty-myth” dominated society. Johannes Eckerstrom’s “dark jester” character is black humor with lost context upon first impression. The rest of the band, with equally strong presence in respect to Eckerstrom’s role as frontman, take their places in the play in a way, on the surface, that seems seriously silly.

Only until the audience listens to the music do they realize they are consuming the work of master storytellers.

The one consistency throughout their entire discography, aside from their expanding buffet of styles and experiments, is their immaculate sense of theatre, which is tremendously obvious with their “Photoshop-free” videos. Many bands use prog techniques, but Avatar’s exclusive use of tempo changes, dynamic, tone, harmony, movement, and word to portray a character, a scene, an emotion, or a theme, with such exquisite timing, is downright Ph.D. shit.

Then, the gimmick delivers the punchline: “Hi! Welcome to the dystopic circus of the human condition. Surprise! This is art, motherfucker. Bring a snack!”

Well played.

So, naturally, when Feathers and Flesh, their first concept album, was announced, much breath was held. The release of “For the Swarm,” raised many eyebrows. Again, on the surface, it’s a relentless hammer-to-skull song. But, beneath the skin, it captures the personification of the day in the life of bees so splendidly, there was no need for explanation. We got it.

The work was a success, as well as the other premiered tracks: “House of the Eternal Hunt,” “Regret,” “Tooth, Beak, and Claw,” and that perfectly pompous, anthemic, “The Eagle Has Landed.” The work speaks for itself.

And much of Feathers and Flesh does. However, if this was not a concept album, it would be a collection of misappropriated, orderly cacophonous stick in the ear with a handful of really addictive treats. But, being that it is a concept album, it saved them. Everything recorded now has a sense purpose. And with purpose, there is refinement and sometimes, clarity.

With blindfold on, what they did right was the journey, itself. There is a path with progression and key characters that direct, redirect, and take effect. It is easy to visualize, even smell, the planetarium skies over the fields and blood-soaked gizzards. “One More Hill” was particularly draining, as Avatar put determination to sound, which was brutal. The rhythm section of John Alfredsson and Henrik Sandelin earns special accolades for their work together in “Pray the Sun Away,” as they created a shamanic-Metal atmosphere with patterns nearly consistent with New Guinea traditional polyrhythm – and with the particular subject matter, Avatar once again demonstrates that expert narrative touch.

Again, without the use of visual aids, there was a definite sense of plot, though not completely clear in details. There is a battle being waged. There are casualties and victors, predators and victims and the sun has something to do with it. There is a whole menagerie in action, with some scenes so sinister, such as the “I’ve Got Something in My Front Pocket for You” number, ruthlessly abducted then distorted from the South Park episode, “You Just Got F’d in the A,” which could potentially trigger a post-traumatic stress attack.

Where they faltered, however, was the distinguishing of characters. Though the personalities were powerfully and vividly conveyed, it was difficult to determine whose personality was whose. Either there were possibly too many characters or they were developed as anti-heroes/pro-antagonistic. In regards to the latter, if that was their intention, it is an extremely sophisticated approach, which is remarkable. But upon first listen, the confusion distracts from the transport. (It’s hard to “be there” when you don’t get it). However, the array of portrayal is so captivating, it heightens the curiosity, which keeps the ears peeled.

AvatarbandFeathers and Flesh is not an easy listen. Of course, there are times when the groove takes over and the songs are engorging, yes, but it is clearly not designed to enjoy on a stretch of black sunshine in a stolen Lamborghini. This project is a complex, multi-dimensional result of five ever-evolving musicians whose consummate skills for the dramatic may just be a little ahead of their time.

But, make no mistake: Avatar’s time will come. It won’t be long. And when the world gets past the costumes, that carnival ride won’t have brakes. Bring a snack.

3.5 / 5 stars

Avatar official FB Pa

Official Avatar site


Danny Tunker – “Cowboys and Pyramids”


T. Ray Verteramo
June 26, 2016

Not too long after his surprising departure with Aborted, after three strong years, Danny Tunker did the obvious: release a killer jazz track.

…and work on a new video, start writing for another band, while working with his other band members for another band member on a project that is not for the band, but played by the band. And incidentally, the band members who just played for their other band member, but not for the band, also played on said killer jazz single, “Bare Trap.”

“Bare Trap” – Danny Tunker’s independent single: https://dannytunker.bandcamp.com/releases

The guy is busy. But, it took some doors to close before all these others could open.

There is a distinctive breath of freedom exhaling from that groovy tune. But, it wasn’t the material or creative differences that caused the Aborted split; it was just time to abort. “We had done too much in too short a time,” Tunker explains, “and it was a situation I just had to get out of.

We were touring anywhere between six to eight months a year. It was fine for a while, but it started to wear thin. And as it happens, it just turned more and more into a workplace where you don’t go home at the end of the day, you just hang with your workmates. So, it kind of had a ‘submarine’ feeling, where you really like everybody, but there was something in everybody that just rubs you the wrong way.”

Danny-Tunker-199x300It was not a rash decision, either. “The next nine months, I was going back and forth all the time, also keeping in mind there were also good times, a lot of good times. The first three years with the band were just great, almost the whole time it was fun…but the next nine months until when we were in Egypt, it just, yeah, I had enough.”

He said, “I think it’s all for the better. I mean, it sucked for a bit. Once I had made the decision, I was 100 percent sure. At least a few weeks before I broke the news, I was entirely sure that this was what I wanted to do. If I had stayed, it could have ended badly.”

As for work itself, Abhorrent received the treasures that may have potentially been trashed. “There is a bunch of stuff that I originally wrote for Aborted, but wasn’t sure it could fit because it was kind of different. And with Aborted, essentially because it’s a pretty old band, there’s a certain mold. Not like everything has a formula, but there’s a certain mold that has to fit and Aborted is also pretty democratic. Essentially, there were five people writing music — well, four people writing music and one that didn’t write music but had conceptual ideas and also a lot of rhythmic ideas that he wanted to try. So, it was difficult to try different things.”

And now Tunker is giving Abhorrent, the Texas/Norway-based unit, his expertise, while allowing the lead guitarist, Marlon Friday, a chance to breathe. “I know the bass player,” he explained. “I know him really well. He sent me one of the songs before the album was released last year. I checked it out, liked it, but never really thought anything else about it. Then somewhere, I think, two months ago, we’re talking about the band and he was saying that Marlon could use some help because he’s still the main guitar player and he wants to bring in somebody else to bring in new ideas and maybe also help with live shows once they’re happening.”

As for a chance for a permanent gig, the thought is nice. But, Abhorrent, much like his staple band, Alkaloid, is “geographically challenged.” This phenomenon happens when artists are willing to think outside the borders to find the right person, for the right sound, with the right skills for the right project. It’s hardly convenient, but it can be very worth it, as both bands demonstrate.

Alkaloid, spearheaded by ex-Obscura and Blotted Science’s Hannes Grossmann, joined by Tunker, along with Florian “Morean” Maier, Christian Muenzner, and Linus Klausenitzer, are a natural fit, in spite of their long-distance challenges. The band’s winning formula of their bond in friendships and perfectly meshed, superior skillsets keep each other in constant rotation for each other’s side and solo projects when they are not each working on assorted commissions, teaching, touring, or other human pursuits.

In fact, the same line-up, including Tunker, has just finished supporting Grossmann with his second solo project, Hannes Grossmann II: The Crypts of Sleep, along with other extremely well-regarded talents such as ex-Obscura’s Fountainhead, Per Nillson, and Erik Rutan of Hate Eternal.

Yet, it was only last year that the five virtuosos, after many many moons, finally played together face-to-face, in September 2015.  “I don’t think any of us had played together, at least not in the same room, which can always be a little bit weird. It felt like we’ve always done it — for me, anyway. The first rehearsal didn’t feel like a ‘first rehearsal’ to me.”

Aborted was headlining, supported by Alkaloid, along with a local band and Nader Sadek. It was the last show with Aborted, but the first real show with his comrades. Though they had technically played three tiny gigs in Ireland the week before, it was that night in Cairo that conjured true majick.

And it was there, in Egypt, where Danny ended one chapter to begin another.

Alkaloid in Egypt 2015 (left to right): Nader Sadek (host), Morean, Hannes Grossmann, Christian Muenzner, Danny, and Linus Klausenitzer

“The Alkaloid show, for all of us, was the main thing,” Tunker said. “Turned out to be great. That show was a lot of fun. What I liked most about it is that we had done those three Irish shows the week before that…even though this was an early gig for us, only our fourth show and there were a lot of technical difficulties, still I don’t think anyone noticed because in those three shows before, we grew really tightly. So, we could work and just play on anything that would happen.”

And as it happened, something did. “At some point, something on the drums broke and it could have been really embarrassing because there were 800 people in front of you who were really into it…Without ever missing a step, Florian just started doing this a cappella thing where he did that Dark Fortress song, ‘Sycamore Trees,’ I think. He just did that and everybody just lost their minds. It was just so cool. And the best thing ever was that when he was finished, the drums were resolved and we could just go again. It was great.”

“I am glad we got those few rehearsals, and then those Irish shows, because we got to work out a lot of the problems before we did that Egypt gig. Even though all the songs are pretty easy to play, at least for me, I’m still glad we got to work out those ‘Dyson Sphere’ songs because those songs are a pain in the ass…”

There is a poetic irony in knowing a classically trained Death Metal icon was inspired by Bon Jovi.

440px-Aborted_Gitarrist_in_Rostock,_2012However, if anyone else but Danny Tunker said so, they would be thrown into the pit without their boots on. But, Tunker can get away with it because he, in spite of bringing some of the most brutal and bloody meat to the table with his work in Aborted, never claimed to be a purist, which in itself, is very Metal. In fact, his shiny diamonds have many facets, which is what makes him the “Gene Kelly” in the long chorus line of Metal axemen. “I’m not really a death metal guy at all,” he said. “At least I wasn’t. I got into death metal really late. I mean, I’ve been listening to music for a long time, but to be honest, until 2006, I’ve only owned two Death Metal albums. I didn’t like any other Death Metal at all except for those two albums which were Domination by Morbid Angel and Vile by Cannibal Corpse, and those were only if I were in an extreme mood.”

“I liked Metal. I liked a lot of Metal, but essentially, the heaviest thing I’d ever listen to would be Slayer. There was a whole period when I wasn’t listening to Metal at all, when I was studying classical guitar, and that was for six years.”

He elaborated, “I was playing classical guitars with orchestras and playing electric guitars with orchestras for a long time, pretty much since I was 17 or something. So, I was doing a lot of cover band stuff, a lot of funk or even straight up rock or whatever. But, mainly I started working with orchestras because I can read music really well. I was doing a lot of teaching, too. I’ve been teaching guitar since I was 14, which was cool. So, I got to grow into that. And of course, I always liked…yeah, I was more of a Rock guy. I really, really loved the grungier bands like Alice in Chains. And of course, I love Iron Maiden, I’ve always loved Iron Maiden. But, the first band I really loved was Bon Jovi and the eighties stuff.”

Morean and Danny 2015

“‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ is, like, the best song ever.” He grins jokingly, then backtracks, “Okay, maybe it’s not ‘the best song ever,’ but I really like that song.” Of course, he was only four or five at the time he first heard it. So naturally, cowboys on iron horses will score big over itsy bitsy spiders. In this case, in all seriousness, that video solidified his decision to take up the guitar for life.

But, it seems no revelations, epiphanies, or omens from the gods were responsible for bringing him into his legacy. The answer he gave as to how he became the Danny Tunker that is known, loved, and highly, sleeplessly utilized today is no different than how one usually loses one’s virginity: “It just kinda happened.”

Danny Tunker via Alkaloid Official Site

Danny Tunker’s Official FB Page

Danny Tunker’s Official You Tube Channel

Danny Tunker play-through, “Lightness of Mind” – Abhorrent https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1wWDmpbpmY

Abhorrent Official FB Page:  https://www.facebook.com/Abhorrentdm


Despite – Synergi

Review: DESPITE – Synergi
T. Ray Verteramo

Eclipse Records



A good band will keep you guessing, but an exceptional one will keep you listening.

Despite has some very different bits of meat stuck on their Core-ish bones. Using just a touch of progressive elements to flavor the delivery, Synergi succeeds as a viable work of art of unquestionable Metal. Flexible, yet distinguishable – hard, but not stubborn. The clean singing is not too clean and the blastbeats don’t blast, but, somehow it all works.

This is an 18-year old band from Sweden signed to a New Jersey label, who once donated proceeds from their single, “Praedonum” to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which makes them almost as interesting to know as they are to hear. VH1 voted them one of “fifteen metal bands you should be listening to,” in 2015. http://www.despiteofficial.com/

There are no particular instruments that stand out or outshine any other, but the subliminal nuances of a hum or a soft harmony here and there add an eerie, intriguing touch to the songs and their sound.

The first video, “As You Bleed” is a visual yawner, unfortunately. The whole “band plays on while splattered in Kool-Aid” schtick has been so overdone, it’s almost lazy. However, they picked a good song to kick-start the promotion, as it’s got a great hook and tons of ‘tude.


Other notables, such as “Perpetual Weakening” which opens the curtain with atmospheric tones before jumping into a dysfunctional monologue, is rich in tempo changes and meandering dynamics. “Chaos Trigger” has got some nice bite and scratch with over-the-top vocals and deep harmonies.

“Time Lapse,” however, is a different fish as their one Melodic Death piece on the project, which they pull off very well. Though, it may be commercially acceptable, it is not a thoughtless product. There’s real feeling and strength to this tune that may potentially open other avenues for this daring band to explore further.

VH1 may actually have a point. Synergi adds just a touch of theatre and a whole lot of proper rage, splicing yet another head off the Metal Hydra. Not that we need another sub-genre head on the monster, but a new face could make a nice change.

4/5 stars





Interview: John Cobbett of Hammers of Misfortune 7/14/16



Interview: JOHN COBBETT – Hammers of Misfortune

“Barriers to Entry”

July 14, 2016 – T. Ray Verteramo

Old punks never change their spikes.

For John Cobbett, founder and engineer of Hammers of Misfortune, though he’s grown some strange and beautiful fruit with his art over the years from Gwar to Unholy Cadaver to Hammers, his roots still hold deep. “I love being a fan,” he said. “Being a fan is so much more fun than being a musician. You’ve got to hold onto that part of yourself or else you’re done for.”

He said, “If you lose the fan in you, you’re never going to write compelling music. You have to be excited…you have to have that little kid enthusiasm or you’re going to sound like you’re phoning it in.”

Hammers of Misfortune was born in the midst of the Grunge and Skater era, flexing its muscles all over the Metal gym, from Old School to Thrash to Prog to Folk to basically whatever the cooks decide to fry up in the kitchen. With this, the fans have learned to expect the unexpected. But, this was more for himself than anything. Cobbett understands that art needs to be egocentric to distinguish itself from product, so why set unnecessary limits? “I wanted a band that I can be interested in for a long time,” he explained. “And I wanted it to be something where I could do pretty much anything that I wanted – a sandbox, a creative vehicle where I could use choirs and harmony and counterpoint and keyboards and anything I wanted so, basically that’s what it is.”

“Interestingly for ‘Dead Revolution’,” the title track off their latest dish set to be released later this month on Metal Blade records, “I was listening to the title track from the Scorpion’s Blackout album. And I was like, ‘Man, I’d like to write a song like that.’ It’s such a killer song. I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to write a song with just pure energy, just kick ass.’ And that turned into ‘Dead Revolution.’ In fact, the working title for that album was Whiteout…because it was a pun on Blackout.”

Dead Revolution touts to feature even greater versatility, which for a band like Hammers of Misfortune who is already all over the map, seems outlandish. But, his response to this was quite rational. “The way that people talk about versatility these days doesn’t make any sense to me because it doesn’t take much to be versatile in today’s climate where you have – look at the average Metal album; you have 10 versions of the same song. People want really specific ‘purity’ on their album, where they’re like, ‘This is a 40-minute slab of orthodox Black Metal’.”

But, then he added, “Which I love that. I love that kind of shit and I listen to that kind of shit all the time. But, that’s how records are marketed these days. You have one kind of album and it’s very strict within those boundaries.”

It would be easy to presume that establishing your brand as unsafe would be safe. But, there are two sides to that coin. “Safe is a double-edge sword,” he said. “Because ‘safe’ creatively, we’ve disappointed so many people already that I’m not worried about disappointing people.”

“Back in the day, the artist would do anything for their fans and the fans responded by really supporting the artist. That’s all gone. Bands now just do whatever they can, whenever they can, and then they go to work.”

And yes, work, meaning day jobs, which is an all-too familiar story, even for those who are playing arenas. Though technology certainly has its benefits, Cobbett sees the benefits do not outweigh the costs – one of which, the ability to make a living. “Google has monetized our energy as fans without telling us, without our permission,” he began. “My whole neighborhood [San Francisco] has been taken over by people who work for Facebook, Google, Apple, Twitter, Dropbox, Snapchat…This is really the poster child for rabid gentrification. And I’ve had these people tell me to my face, ‘This is the future of music, adapt or quit.’ And these are people who have been in the music business before and ended up in tech.”


“If I was against anything right now,” Cobbett said, “and point out where the tyranny is coming from, the conformity and the hegemony is coming from, it’s coming from the tech sector.”

Socially, as well. “There’s a lot of bullying online that’s like, ‘If you don’t accept this band, you’re closed-minded.’ Okay, then I better accept it before someone accuses me of being Hitler. People feel there should be no barrier to entry and everyone should be accepted. Any scene that doesn’t have a barrier to entry is not a scene that’s worth being in.”

Not trying to sound like the old man in the rocking chair, he explains, “The barrier to entry is important. That’s how you know that the people give a fuck about the scene they’re in. So, the barrier to entry – and this is coming from me being in the Punk scene in the 80’s and in the Metal scene – the only barrier to entry was that you had to love the music and know about it. You had to be at the show. You had to be a part of it. You had to be able to get out the door and participate. And we got a lot of good people that way. These weren’t ‘keyboard warriors,’ these were people out on the street, willing to get beaten up by rednecks.”

“I love this music and playing this music gives me a great deal of joy. It’s art and I want to make a piece of art and I don’t care if it sounds tacky or pretentious. It’s, ‘Fuck you, man. Don’t like and subscribe’.”

Hammers Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hammersofmisfortune/?fref=ts

John Cobbett Twitter: https://twitter.com/johncobbett





Interview: Todd LaTorre of Queensryche 5/14/16

11210480_936272543061362_8964357617442968525_nINTERVIEW: TODD LATORRE, QUEENSRYCHE

“The Sins of Sin City”

Vegas Rocks! Awards

May 14, 2016 – T. Ray Verteramo

While the great German stingers did a highly publicized five-day stint at the Hard Rock Hotel, Vegas Rocks! magazine took the opportunity to host their “first” annual Hair Metal  Awards on the other side of town. Red carpet guests included local talents, cover bands, a rapper, and assortment of others, as well as A-listers such as Rudy Sarzo, Twisted Sister, Doro Pesch, and of course, Vegas’ guests of honor, The Scorpions, themselves.

Opening for The Scorpions for this special event is the royal Queensryche. It is safe to say by now that these men have respectfully made a name for themselves over the last three decades, having sold nearly 30 million albums worldwide in the span of their career.

 With both powerhouses, Geoff Tate and Todd LaTorre at the mic, the band enjoys a solid, loyal following with all the trimmings, especially the privilege to share the same stage with legends — Dio’s 1985 Olympian project, Hear ‘n’ Aid, notwithstanding. Just last year, they entered the billboard charts at number 27 with their latest project, Condition Human, and their video, “Guardian” has taken over half a million views.

Operation: Mindcrime, Empire, The Warning, and Evolution Calling, are still considered treasures among collections…

…but, they were not invited to the party.

Mr. LaTorre was generous to spare a few minutes to talk a bit at the Hair Metal Awards event, about the honor of opening for The Scorpions and the dishonor of nearly missing a chance to support his Metal brethren.


scorpionsblackedout_638What is the dynamic between you and the Scorpions? This is your second tour with them, isn’t it?

Yeah, the first week of the tour for a month with them last year, the end of the year, that was awesome. So, they asked us to join them for the residency here, so…because we toured with them before, seeing them now is like a whole different feeling. We know all the crew, we know all the guys, so, it’s like, “Hey, what’s up?” There isn’t like that introduction phase, we’ve already had all that. It was really great and obviously really honored to be asked to open for them. We are doing nine shows total and five out here in Vegas, it’s pretty cool.

The Scorpions are using the same set as they used last year. Are you using the same set, as well, or are you supporting more of the new material this time around?

We are, but we only have a 45-minute set. As the opener, we realize that there are Queensryche fans there, but it is a Scorpions show. So, a lot of people that aren’t up to speed with Queensryche, we are playing a lot of the well-known hits and it re-familiarizes people with “oh yeah, I remember this” from Empire or something like that. We do one song, we open with “Guardian,” which is off the new record. We play “Queen of the Ryche” – we’re alternating, we’re changing one song each night, just to mix it up a little, but we pretty much have a stake hold of songs that we play.

And those songs are very demanding.

Yeah, all of the Queensryche songs are.

How do you prepare – or rather, how does the band prepare for a big residency like this?

It’s just another show for us. Whether it’s a club show or a festival show or a residency, we’re going to give 110 percent of our time and effort. So, it’s not like we’re psyched out or intimidated it’s just work. It’s just our business and none of us feel psychologically overwhelmed by it. It’s just what we do naturally. As far as preparation we’re always on the road. We’re usually a well-oiled machine. Sometimes, we’ll have a couple a weeks off and we may get a little rusty, just one or two little things that people won’t…But, one or two shows later we’re *snap* right back on.

But, it’s those little nuances that remind the audience that you’re actually human.

Yeah, right! That’s true.

So, talking about tonight, when Vegas Rocks! approached you about participating, what was your reaction?

Well, I’ll throw you a curveball: We weren’t approached, which was surprising. We’re here with the Scorpions, doing the residency and I was talking with Eddie Trunk and Chuck Billy and Alex [Slonic, both of Testament] and those guys the other night, and I said, “Awesome! Are you guys playing in town?” And they said, “Well, we’re doing the Vegas Rocks! thing.” I said, “I don’t know anything about it.” And that’s just the truth. We didn’t know anything about it.

I said, “I really would like to go. How do we get to go?” So, I had to work through channels to get tickets. We had four tickets and we couldn’t get another one for Michael [Wilton]. So, I had to pull some strings to see what I could do to get another…thing. So, we’re here in support of the event that we really weren’t invited to.

photo courtesy of ZRockr

The awkwardness was very noticeable on the red carpet tonight. [Editor’s note: Queensryche was last to appear, after the award presenters and recipients].

Well, the guy looked through the thing and said “Queue?” And I said, “You’re not going to have anything in there. You’re not going to see anything in there that says, ‘Queensryche’.” And he didn’t. He said, “You guys definitely should be on the red carpet.” And I said, “That’s kind of you, thank you.” But, as I said, we’re fans of what’s happening. I think the Scorpions are getting an award and we’re fans of Doro and Testament and all these people. But, we had to pull strings to get to come here.

What are you going to do? We didn’t know even know about it. We’re busy playing and touring and whatever. I don’t know of every event that’s happening. It’s only that I asked why they were in town that we even knew about it and like I said, we had to go through some channels. I thought, “Oh, there’s an event. We’re playing here with the Scorpions as support for ten days, they’re receiving an award.” You would have thought somebody would have thought, “Hey…”

Well, sure, it’s not like you’re some garage band…

Right. Nevertheless, we are here, not out of obligation. So, if that is a testament of us being supportive and fans, that should tell you something.


Whitechapel – Interview with Zach Householder


Interview with Zach Householder with T. Ray Verteramo

June 12, 2016 

Whitechapel named themselves well. By glorifying the setting of the most notorious crime scenes in history, rather than identifying themselves with the criminal, the band may have unknowingly set the precedence of their contributions to the industry.

Cities and places can evolve over time, psychopaths don’t. And these American southern boys know their bloody place. 

This is a smart band. Providing “variety” and dynamics in the brutality, Whitechapel is considered one of the forerunners of Core, while giving Thrash a fresh new set of knuckles. By consistently thinking and performing outside the box, they have been able to evolve and denounce constrictive labels that can potentially suffocate an artist’s growth. Now, six years after their debut, The Somatic Defilement, Whitechapel enjoys their cake of top marquee billing and a possessive, devoted following while eating it, too in the studio, with the luxury of stretching their creative muscles. 

Taking their ruthlessness to a new level, it looks like those muscles may have reached near yoga mastery with their new upcoming monster, Mark of the Blade, produced by Mark Lewis (Devildriver), set to be unleashed on June 24th. Their formidable guitarist, Zach Householder, gave Iron Raven a peek behind the curtain of what promises to be their most creatively ambitious and vicious show yet.

IR: Whitechapel has always been a demonstrative band. What inspired you to take a more progressively “dynamic” approach with Mark of the Blade? Was it a challenge finding this bigger sound to deeper material?

Honestly, it’s not really a challenge if you’re just simply FEELING the different approach when it comes to writing.  I think that was the case for all of us on this record.  We were just feeling a different vibe as a whole.


IR: Phil mentioned in Loudwire’s “Wikipedia: Fact or Fiction” that he likes to tap references from older material and bring them forward into the new work, which strings the dimensions of time together. When did this practice start to become a signature in his art and what can we anticipate to hear in this latest project?

I think it started with our third album A New Era of Corruption.  The title was a line from one of the singles off of our second album, “This Is Exile.”  Honestly, the only real stringing together comes in on one song which refers to our live dvd/album.

IR: Has the new material influenced your live performances or visual concepts for future videos?

Not so much live performances…but maybe with future production of live shows, yes.  As for videos, it’s so hard to turn a decent concept into anything worthwhile due to videos costing so much and them having such little influence nowadays. There’s tons of ideas we’ve always had for videos but never the means (or budget) to do so. So for future videos, it’ll be more about showcasing the song without trying to make it look cheesy.  If there’s a good concept that can be achieved with the tools at our disposal, then that’s just an added bonus.

IR: Your fanbase is intensely loyal. What do you believe has always set Whitechapel aside from other thrash bands which earns you such a devoted following? How does Whitechapel continually nurture that relationship?

Well, I wouldn’t say we’re exactly a “thrash” band more than just a “metal” band.  As for our following, it’s hard to identify. I think a lot of it has to do with creating a brand with the music that people can latch on to.  They want something they can hold inside themselves but also wear outside as well to fully express themselves and us along with them.

whitechapel-506cd67b49583IR: Apparently, there was a little controversy over “clean singing” (Revolver, AltPress) appearing on Blade. Watain experienced a similar folly with The Wild Hunt in 2014. Why do you think fans and critics get so heated over using the technique? Do you think such a detail, or any kind of progression a band chooses to make for that matter, is worth getting worked up about?

Yeah, people got upset over a silly joke. When I noticed people flipping out over the “singing” rumors, I just playfully decided to mess with them and say “You all are getting worked up over nothing…there’s no clean singing on the record.” What I didn’t know was that Revolver, AltPress, or both had released an article at the time stating otherwise.  This made them look bad.  So it was an honest mistake of me just trying to joke on social media, but we all know by now that you just can’t make a joke anymore.

To answer your question, though, I really have no clue as to why anyone would get heated over it.  If it was a band I liked, I would finally decide with my own ears when I heard it.  I wouldn’t try and dismiss it beforehand simply because it was a little different.  I think a lot of people still have some growing up to do.

Mark of the Blade: Original Release Date: June 24, 2016

Release Date: June 24, 2016

Label: Metal Blade Records