Shortly before the release of WARBRINGER’S latest (and arguably greatest!) album Woe to the Vanquished (Napalm records) I was able to have a chat by phone with vocalist John Kevill. The band was two shows into their tour at the time and already firing on all cylinders. He was pretty happy and excited, rightfully so, and that enthusiasm definitely came through the phone. Check it:
Amps: You went through a pretty dark time where you didn’t know if WARBRINGER was going to continue. I am so glad that you found the right guys to play with because the world NEEDS WARBRINGER in it. And Holy JEEEEZUS, this new record!!
John: Well, thanks. And I think it was really the ordeal of this that fundamentally changed my mentality. I hated those three years where there was so much uncertainty and I had no band. Honestly I lost my identity as to who I was because this is all I’ve ever done in my adult life. I think it all worked out the way it was supposed to and man, I’m glad that time is over. I think I needed that kick in the ass, though. WARBRINGER almost went back to the level of a local band. We didn’t have the machinery of touring or anything. We lost all of that when the band imploded so I had to really build it from the ground up. And it was an enormous labor on my part and Adam Carroll’s (guitar) who has stayed the course the entire time with me. The attitude that we’re coming out with now, both live and on this record, this is the best band we’ve ever been, and I can say that with absolute confidence. I’m really proud of it.
Amps: Woe to the Vanquished and KREATOR’S Gods of Violence will no doubt be THE Thrash Metal albums of 2017.
John: Thank you. I like the direction KREATOR went on their album. They’ve put out a slew of pure thrash albums, and to see them add more of a melodic feel in places, but they do it with so much more of a vicious feel than the other European bands.
Amps: You sound very full of piss and vinegar on this disc, just ready to rip people apart. And then to close it with an 11-minute epic like “When the Guns Fell Silent,” that was really cool.
John: No one expects that kind of song from a band like WARBRINGER but we’re trying to expand the scope of what the band means in terms of the extreme side. We wanna make songs that make other thrash songs sound wimpy (laughs).
We wanna make the most vicious stuff you can hear, but at the same time not be a one-trick pony. We wanna make some of the most epic and powerful music. We’re trying to do everything we think is cool, at 11, all at once!
Amps: How much of the album did you already have written or demoed and how much was done as a band effort?
John: Some of it, like the title track, the riffs for “Descending Blade”, some of the instrumental under riffs for “Spectral Asylum” we had written. But then we completely scrapped the music for “Asylum” and put that title on a Carlos (Cruz, drums) composition which is the one you hear on the record. Maybe a quarter of the album and some preliminary ideas were done, but it really started being written and taking shape after the tour we did with ENFORCER, CAULDRON, and EXMORTUS in early 2016. We wrote pretty much in February and August of last year. “Divinity of Flesh” is a pure Adam Carroll composition. Every song has its own little story how it was written because we don’t stick to a uniform approach. We just fuck with it until we get what we want. We don’t care about the means, just the ends.
Amps: How excited are you for your next run with DESTRUCTION?
John: That’s gonna be awesome. It’s gonna be a quick three-week run, so we can’t hit everywhere, unfortunately. DESTRUCTION is obviously a great band with many killer riffs and we are pumped to be on a destructive, aggressive metal tour because that’s what we live for.
Amps: Now that the record is here, tell me more about what went into it.
John: This is the first album I’ve made where I can still listen to it all this time later. Usually when I do a record I listen to it for one or two weeks straight and then I kind of leave it. I’m not one of those guys who gets too into his own head because that would make me a weaker writer and vocalist. But this record I enjoy a lot. We’ve had it since October of last year and i can still listen to it once or twice a week. I’m so proud of how it turned out and I think we managed to achieve all our objectives. We set a high goal for ourselves, too.
And I think part of the reason for that was we didn’t go into this, our fifth record thinking we were hot shit. We’re relentlessly self-critical, and WARBRINGER was coming back, out of nothing. So we had this attitude of everybody looking inside themselves as a player and a musician, and all five guys saying, “How can I reach the next stage for myself?” We did that individually and as a collective.
This was a real labor of love like no other record I’ve made. Because I had to rebuild the band TWICE in order to make it. And THEN actually make it, which is work in and of itself. This one took literally ten times more work than any other. And I think that’s why this one has the level of detail it does. The album title and cover I knew what I wanted it to be a year ago. The number of tracks and dynamic of them, we all talked about it, we knew exactly what we wanted it to be: the most brutal, AND the most melodic and epic and aggressive record, all at once, with the highest standard of songwriting and performances. Absolutely zero filler, which is why it’s only eight tracks.
Amps: You have a certain high scream that you do, and it reminds me of an eagle with his wings pinned back, swooping down to catch his prey. How do you do that??
John: Wow, that’s a great honor, because that is precisely what MY description of Rob Halford’s high screams are! So that’s obviously something to really aspire to if you’re a metal vocalist. So thank you very much, because that’s how I want it to sound. That exact image you conjured is literally a thing for me. What I learned in the early days, because I love high screams in metal and knew I had to do them, was to have my own brand of scream.
The way I do it is pretty difficult, and verrrry throat-ripping. I pick the highest pitch I can, then tighten my throat as much as I can, and drag the air through there so it sort of scrapes. I have a pretty limited range of pitch with that sound, and because it’s so hard I have a reputation for throwing up onstage (laughs).
Amps: Say something to all the WARBRINGER fans out there in the world.
John: I just want to say thanks so much for listening to us and supporting us. Without the support of all our fans this band would have been dead a long time ago. We’re still trying to take the next step and I hope all the metalheads love Woe to the Vanquished. It’s an honor and pleasure to have an outlet to share our music with all of you.
You see? THIS is why I prefer to do my interviewing over the phone instead of e-mail. That artist’s genuine love and passion for what he or she is talking about, you can hear it in their voice. When John was talking about the guys in the band striving for excellence I could FEEL it. And when you pick up your copy of Woe to the Vanquished if you haven’t already, you’ll feel it too. Be sure to catch them on this current run. The dates are HERE.