11 bands who wouldn't be here without Sepultura
Here are 11 bands who owe it all to Sepultura, the boys from Brazil…
Those already familiar with Genocide Pact were thrilled to learn that Dying Fetus will be taking the band (along with Incantation and Gatecreeper) on a 35 city North American tour. Those in the U.S. and Canada who have yet to experience the band on record or in person are in for a brutal treat.
After signing with Relapse Records a year ago, the doomy Washington D.C.-based death metal band released their powerful sophomore album, Order of Torment, this past February to some excellent reviews. For good reasons, too, as the record is an uncompromisingly heavy, guttural, disgusting work of art worth slowly – but violently – headbanging to.
With big things on the horizon for Genocide Pact, we caught up with vocalist/guitarist Tim Mullaney and drummer Connor Donegan just before they’d headline Brooklyn, New York’s Saint Vitus Bar to talk about their history, the intersection of hardcore and death metal, the D.C. scene, and the general state of metal today.
So you guys have played in grindcore bands, right?
Tim: Yeah, [bassist] Nolan and I still play in a couple of grindcore bands. Disciples of Christ…
And then…Lung Matter?
Connor: Whoa, that’s deep…
T: Deep research, man!
C: That’s a band that I was in when I was 17! Almost 8 years ago. I’ve played in a bunch of hardcore punk bands for a long time.
Well, it’s interesting when a death metal band comes from the hardcore punk scene…
C: It’s kind of funny -- we didn’t necessarily come from hardcore backgrounds, it was just where we ended up. It was the scene that we got involved in. Five or six years ago, the reason Tim and I became friends was because when we were going through puberty, all we were listening to was fucking Carcass, Morbid Angel, Death, and all the classic bands.
T: Connor went through puberty -- I never did.
Did you paste these on? [pointing to facial hair]
T: Yeah I’ve got a great barber.
C: I’m one who hasn’t gone through puberty, man -- I can’t grow a beard.
T: I got into hardcore and metal around the same time. I got into Slayer and Cro-Mags.
C: Same for me. Misfits / Metallica. If you listen to a Cro-Mags interview, they talk about Motörhead and Venom just as much as they talk about Bad Brains. I think the best bands of any style, whether it be Sepultura or Cro-Mags or anything in between, they’re pulling from both at least a little bit.
T: Especially thrash metal bands: Slayer and Metallica would’ve never gotten fast if it weren’t for the bands of that time. It’s not like we’re ‘punk-influenced death metal.’
C: We’re a death metal-influenced death metal band. But we obviously love punk and hardcore and grindcore and everything in between.
As a death metal band, you guys focus on more socially- and politically-conscious themes in your lyrics -- whereas Corpsegrinder of Cannibal Corpse is writing about killing people. It seems like your punk influence is most evident in the lyrics?
T: A lot of the death metal bands that I got into early on -- Sepultura, Napalm Death, Terrorizer, Death – they sang about social and political issues. Maybe Corpsegrinder watches more horror movies than I do. Maybe Glenn Benton [of Deicide] reads the Satanic Bible more than I do. I don’t wanna knock any death metal writing for not being politically conscious or for being about gore or religion. People are speaking what they’re feeling. If gore bands watch a lot of horror movies, I watch a lot of documentaries about social issues.
Does that mean the band has an interest in pushing any specific political issues?
T: I never considered Napalm Death or Sepultura to be preachy bands. I considered them to be brutal as fuck grindcore or metal bands with socially conscious lyrics. We’re not handing out pamphlets with instructions on how to think, but if people are curious about the lyrics, a lot are about how the world is a good place to live for very few people. Most of the seven billion people on Earth go through some shit and get manipulated.
C: Plus, we live in the political center of the universe, [Washington, D.C.]. Even if it doesn’t necessarily affect our daily lives as much as it does other people, in some way, everybody we see on a day-to-day basis is involved in that shit.
What do you see happening with metal in D.C. right now?
C: Metal in D.C. right now is sick. D.C. has always had good metal bands -- from Pentagram, to The Obsessed, to Deceased. I don’t think those bands necessarily influenced us musically, but we love all of them. Currently, metal shows in DC are fucking awesome. Every single show I’ve gone to in the past couple of months has been sold out or close to it.
T: I think that if you’re wired to like death metal or grindcore, or any extreme music, you stick out like a sore thumb in DC. There are a lot of suits and ties.
C: It’s not a place like Baltimore or Richmond where alternative culture is everywhere. If you live in DC and you live, eat, and breathe metal or punk -- you’re a true freak. You’re the real deal, because if you wanted to fit in, you would’ve moved to Richmond or Baltimore already. A lot of people do that. I think there’s a certain legitimacy to people in D.C. who are into that kind of stuff.
That environment must make angry metal bands angrier.
T: Yeah, totally. The richest people in the DC area are the people that are ‘controlling the machine’ of which everybody else is a cog-in-the-wheel.
But nationally, too, it seems that the world is now more ready for a band like yours than it was 10 years ago.
C: I feel like we got lucky because we started the band when old school death metal wasn’t as popular. When we started the band, everybody wanted to sound like Sleep. I think that’s finally dying down; people are sick of watered down Black Sabbath riffs and want something more extreme.
T: There’s always been a scene for more technical death metal. The accomplishments in that realm are insane. But I think there is also a little bit of a wave of not wanting to bust out a calculator to be able to enjoy a fucking death metal album.
C: When Tim and I were getting into death metal, the bands that were really huge were Necrophagist, Nile, and a million other bands of that ilk. I love those bands and I think they’re awesome -- it’s just that I realized sometime during senior year of high school, I can’t do a blast speed at 280 BPM. I’m a fat guy -- it’s not something my body can do. We’re making music the way we feel comfortable making music. It happens to align with our favorite stuff.
What’s your favorite stuff outside of death metal?
T: We have a lot of musical interest in common in hardcore and grindcore, but also in rock and rap...
C: Stuff that’s more groove oriented. Whether it be Led Zeppelin or Big L. We like stuff that has a swing to it.
T: We would never sit down and say, ‘Hey, let’s make a song that sounds like Dr. Dre.’ We both like Dr. Dre; we both like Steely Dan; we both like Jimi Hendrix. It’s probably not going to get brought up in the writing process. But the connection’s there.
In the ‘80s or ‘90s, death metal bands didn’t really talk about pop or hip-hop – perhaps for fear of how the scene would react.
C: We don’t give a fuck what the scene thinks about us. We don’t give a fuck if they think we’re lame because we like X, Y, or Z. That doesn’t matter to us because we’re going to be who we are no matter what. The fact is, I really dislike when people go out of their way to be like ‘I’m in a metal band, but I actually listen to this.’ It’s like ‘Cool, man, congratulations -- no one gives a fuck.’ But if you’re asking us what we listen to, we’re inspired by stuff across the board. We’re very different individuals; we all have different tastes. I think that little bits of each of us come out in our music.
T: I don’t think there’s anything more punk or metal than not giving a fuck about what other people think about what you like.
C: We get criticized for not looking metal enough. It’s like, fuck off, dude. We’ve been listening to metal since those motherfuckers were wearing eyeliner. Who gives a shit?
Yet, there are now lots of other bands like you guys who don’t necessarily look “metal.” Why do you think that’s happening?
C: I think with the internet, people can become scholars on things that they just found out about. They can google ‘Finnish death metal’ and have a demo written two weeks later that sounds like Demigod. I feel like there’s a lot people putting on as many hats as possible to try to make something work for themselves. And that’s okay, but we’ve always looked like this. If you see pictures of us in high school I’m wearing a Carcass hoodie. It’s just who we are. Trey from Morbid Angel thanks Eddie Van Halen and Jimi Hendrix on every record they ever did. The real motherfuckers have always been down with other stuff.
T: When I got into Morbid Angel I wasn’t looking at those dudes taking selfies on Instagram every single day. I didn’t know shit about their personal lives. It was a little bit of a mystery before you could just google it. If you actually got to know the people playing on the classic death metal records, they’re listening to all sorts of shit. There just wasn’t a platform where they were curating how the world looked at them.
C: I was recently listening to an interview with one of my favorite drummers and biggest influences, Gene Hoglan [of Dark Angel, Death, Strapping Young Lad, Testament, etc.]. He always talks about the record Inner Visions by Stevie Wonder as one of his biggest musical inspirations. He was saying that when he and Chuck [Schuldiner, of Death] wrote Individual Thought Patterns, they were listening to Stevie Wonder and rearranging the drum parts in a way that worked for them. I feel like that wasn’t a known fact unless you were friends with them in 1993. But now we live in an age where we’re able to learn those things. I feel like it helps people like us come into our own as people who want to make music and not be afraid [of what people think].
How about some younger bands – your peers – that you think people should check out?
C: I’m a real big fan of Mammoth Grinder, Spectral Voice…
T: Blood Incantation, Ilsa…. Chepang: a grindcore band from NY by way of Nepal, two drummers, fast-as-fuck grindcore. Some of the most interesting shit out there.
C: All those bands from the Bay Area like Necrot, Mortuous, and Vastum -- those bands are all awesome. Obviously [tourmates] Gatecreeper are our homies.
T: Powertrip -- I love that they’re real deal fuckin’ metal, and they get a lot of attention. It’s cool that so many people go to see Powertrip. There’s this internet culture where everything has to be cult as fuck and you’ve got to play in a basement to five people to be cool. Whereas like, you watch old Sepultura videos and they’re packing a gymnasium, and everyone’s circle pitting. Looks fun as shit to me!
C: Caveman Cult is also a band that we love. There are so many good metal bands right now. We’re living in a good time for metal -- at least, the type of metal that I really enjoy.
Yeah, it feels like it might be the best time in history to be a young metal band.
C: It’s cool because we’ve been friends with a lot of these people for a long time. And now they’re getting their due, and that’s sick.
T: People are paying tribute to the greats, and taking their own creative liberties.
C: We’ve been a band for five years now, and I feel like when we started there was way less of this. Now I think what we do is more widely accepted. Not in a mainstream way – but where people are digging up their Obituary and Death records and saying, ‘Oh, yeah. This shit rocks.’
WORDS AND PHOTOS: Ethan Fixell
Here are 11 bands who owe it all to Sepultura, the boys from Brazil…
Full Of Hell, Primitive Man, and Genocide Pact. Holy shit.