On the same night I got to see Kreator and Overkill I was fortunate enough to not only see Warbringer, but also interview singer John Kevill a few hours before showtime (big thanks to Jon at Century Media records!). He is a fun guy, and very animated, especially when talking about his music. I love to see this kind of passion, particularly from a guy in a band that’s currently enjoying big success with the release of their latest album IV: Empires Collapse. We discussed the album at length and I was able to get some insight into the world of Warbringer. Check it:
Amps: The album seems to be doing really well. Everyone I know, me included, loves it. How’s everyone feel about the great reception so far?
John: We knew that musically we took a few risks on this album and I think that’s paid off. I think the idea was to maintain the intensity and destructiveness of our previous output and just make it more diverse, interesting, and creative and do the most we could with it. I think most people get it. There are some people that don’t like the new record. They’re like, “Oh, not enough speed-picking on there!”, but there’s quite a lot of it actually. I think we’re all really happy with it and very happy with the reception. I’ve also noticed some of the people I talked to maybe a week ago who said, “I don’t really like this one” are now writing back and saying, “Actually, this is the best one!” I’ve gotten a lot of that.
Amps: I noticed on a couple of songs like “One Dimension” and “Black Sun, Black Moon” more than a touch of a NWOBHM feel to them. I also thought “Leviathan” was cool because of its slow grind. Do you think it was important to really branch out and try some things on this one?
John: I think it really is. Typically, the outside view of our band is that we play good, well-executed thrash metal but that it’s not new enough, or something. And I always felt that we had our own style of doing it, and we’ve been expanding that on each record. I think on this one, a lot of the art changes and stuff was really meant to draw attention like, “Hey! We’re doing our own thing here.” It’s rooted in the 80’s but it’s not a copy. It really isn’t; we’ve got our own personality, our own songs. And so on this record I think we really tried to branch out and say, “Look, if you’re saying that all we’re doing is playing retro-thrash you’re just a fucking idiot. You’re just clearly wrong.” And that’s how we felt about it already but we wanted to really like, make the point. Yeah we’re our own band, we’re doing our own music, it’s our own thing. So you see all of our influences there. “One Dimension” is kind of a catchy punk rock song and “Black Sun, Black Moon” is, well the idea behind it when I was writing the lyrics it sounded like a mid-80’s Priest speed metal song, but at night (laughs), you know? We tried to make every song stand out for those reasons. We want to make the most creative and interesting record we can and we really wanna set ourselves from the pack to where you have to say that we’re like no other band.
Amps: It’s funny you mention the album cover because when the artwork was first released I saw people just lose their minds! The logo wasn’t the same, etc. And I’m thinking, “Man, calm down! You haven’t heard anything yet!!”
John: I know, right? People flip out over the logo and yet, an interesting one is Beneath the Remains doesn’t have the old Sepultura logo on it, and that’s the best one. So logo and cover don’t necessarily have much to do with it. Also the cover of ours ties in directly to the epilogue part of the last song “Towers of the Serpent”. Lyrically, the end part of that and the cover are tied together. That’s where it comes from, not because we decided to make a stoner doom record! There’s elements of that on there, though, but like, suddenly we’re gonna be a retro 70’s band instead of a thrash band because our cover looks more like that? I think the cover fits really well with the core themes of the record and actually if you read into it a lot it has a lot to do with how we feel about the modern age in the United States.
Amps: You said “Towers of the Serpent” is your favorite. Any particular reason?
John: Vocally it’s the most challenging song we’ve done. I have to flip out for a two minute stretch with no breaks, and there are highs in there. It’s really difficult to do vocal-wise, it’s very intense.
Amps: And yet you’re doing it live this tour.
John: We are. Last song, so it ain’t easy (laughs)!
Amps: Any other standouts for you?
John: “Horizon” is another one. And “Turning of the Gears” is the song I wrote on there. That one was written atypically in that the lyrics were written first and I had the structure and then all the riffs followed suit, so that was like, my little contribution to the album. I wrote all the lyrics, but that’s the one where I had a musical concept idea with everything in that song to match the theme in the lyrics would be extremely robotic and repetitive in four-four, which it is. But it’s to get a lyrical concept across with the music and have it go together, so it works well on that level. “Hunter-Seeker” and “Scars Remain” are favorites to do live, too.
John: We had all these different kinds of songs so we wanted to have something that was just pure, relentless thrash, like one of the middle tracks on Reign In Blood or something like that. John Laux (guitar) did those kinds of totally amelodic solos, he put a pitch shifter on it, so it just sounds ridiculous! That’s why the solos in the middle are so off the wall-sounding on that track.
Amps: Did you catch Slayer this go ‘round? I just saw them last week. Incredible!
John: I’ve never seen Slayer, can you believe that? And I LOVE me some Slayer!! Plus, I heard that they’re doing an all old school set, and Tom Araya’s doing high screams and they’re killing it!
Amps: Speaking of bands like Slayer, you’re touring with two legends in Kreator and Overkill. How does it feel to be on the road with two Titans of Thrash?
John: It’s great. They’re really friendly guys. Half of us were on the Overkill bus and the other half were hanging out on the Kreator bus yesterday. That’s how a lot of days are going, partying with these guys after the show, you know? And what’s great is when I walk through the venue I never have to face-palm at what the other bands are playing. I’m all fist raised instead! It’s a tour of all sweet music, and if you wanna come and get your ass kicked this is the show to go to!
Amps: I interviewed Zetro from Hatriot and he mentioned you and HAVOK as two of his favorites of the younger thrash generation, and I thought that was really cool of him.
John: that IS cool. We met him when we were doing the second record (Waking Into Nightmares). He came in while we were recording it because Gary Holt (Exodus/Slayer) was producing it, so that’s where that connection comes from for us.
Amps: He’s a cool dude, just such a great guy, and he loves the newer bands that do it right, obviously.
John: I think a lot of the older guys are or were for a long time jaded about newer metal in general. And when we started touring with bands like this they were like, “Whoa! You guys don’t sound like a newer band!” We got a lot of that when we were starting to tour with bands like this, you know?
Amps: Warbringer has done album/tour, album/tour. What is the key to sanity on the road?
John: (Deadpan) There IS no sanity.
Amps: Say something to the Warbringer fans.
John: To the Warbringer fans, FUCK YEAH! Thanks for listening to our records, continue to listen, and turn them up LOUDER than you have been before. ‘Cause they’re better that way. Thanks a lot, guys!
I don’t need to tell you that Warbringer went on a while later and thrashed the fuck out of Trees, but I will anyway. Though they only played seven songs, judging from the response to both their set AND the album that’s out now, they should be back around headlining, and very soon if we fans have anything to say about it. Pick up IV: Empires Collapse, you’ll see what I’m on about!