Thrash metal revival was one of the most surprising ones I’ve witnessed in the recent years, mostly circa 2008-09. All in all, this genre was quite forgotten and not many new bands were doing this shit, either in the late 90’s or early 00’s. And because good pure thrash metal albums were so rare, if I happened to got one, I surely liked it. And all of a sudden, one year, dozens of youngsters decided to play this style… Merciless Death was one of the first bands that I got to know and I damn liked their music a lot. I found them on the “Speed Kills… Again” compilation CD, where they participated along with the likes of Toxic Holocaust, Warbringer, Avenger of Blood and Enforcer. Man, they did shred with their Exodus / Razor worshipping thrash metal shit and “Evil in the Night” was one damn cool album. But the problem with bands like Merciless Death is that there are now so many of similar ones and hardly any have its own style and personality that this thrash metal new wave became dull very soon. I no longer keep an eye on these bands and only few I still enjoy listening to. Merciless Death is one of them and one of the best ones. They’re about to release third album soon! This interview is another one from the unreleased sixth issue of Panzerfaust… Nice interview, shame it wasn’t published at the time, when thrash metal revival wasn’t that popular yet and over polluted by shit bands. But what the hell, better late than never! Enjoy!
Hell Cesar! Argghhh, I’ve just listened to “Evil in the Night” and still can’t take this music out of my head!!!! Arrghhh!!! Guess why??? I’m rather older metalhead, since I listen to this music for over 15 years already, do you think that your CD will be liked by such maniacs as me mostly – I mean, those who were growing up with old school metal? Maybe your CD will remind us our early days so much????
Hey man, Cesar Torres, drummer for MERCILESS DEATH, here!! Over the years that we’ve been together playing thrash, a lot of old thrash fans have told us how much they like our album and sound. Our album has been liked by both new and old fans of thrash – most of the fans that go to our shows are young guys like us, keeping the scene alive. There have been a lot of times that older guys come up to us and talk to about how much we sound like if we were straight out of the thrash scene from the 80’s. It’s cool for us to have older people accept us because they lived through the scene so they know how it was like. To be appreciated by them means we are being true to the sound of thrash.
Tell me why did you name your band MERCILESS DEATH? There was Polish thrash metal band with the same name, formed in the 80’s and split up in early 90’s after releasing such cult recordings as “Eternal Condemnation” and “Holocaust” demos. Did you know them? Personally I have two theories – one is you named your band after two fantastic old death metal bands – MERCILESS and DEATH and other one is you did it after DARK ANGEL song. Which would be closer to you? I think both are rather interesting ha, ha!!!!
The name was chosen before I was officially in the band, so I had no say in the decision. Dan and Andy thought of two names they would name the band, the first was “Merciless Onslaught” the second “Merciless Death”. Eventually they chose “Merciless Death”, probably because it sounded awesome. At the time neither of them knew about the DARK ANGEL song, so it was pure coincidence that we chose a name that was a thrash tune. Perhaps the truth was more interesting.
MERCILESS DEATH was formed in 2003 only. How did it happen? First you recorded one and only demo titled “Annihilate the Masses”. I’ve never heard it, so I need to ask you about it. Tell me what songs are on it and how would you describe them and the sound, especially three years since recording this demo? Do you still listen to it occasionally? I can’t remember any reviews of this demo in Polish press, so the question is did you promote it anyhow, did you send any copies also to Europe, also Poland and got some feedback from my country back then?
The “Annihilate the Masses” demo was recorded in 2004 a year after we had formed. By then we were a three piece and had already attempted recording a demo previously. The first demo was never completed because the guy who recorded us, Jason Kivi, lost our recorded tracks. This demo was recorded here in our hometown Santa Clarita. The tracks recorded were “Act of Violence”, “Annihilate the Masses”, and “Tombs of the Dead”. At the time – I was still in the beginning stages of learning how to play drums so the recordings were slow compared to the speed we play now – three songs totalled over 12 minutes. I didn’t even have double base yet. The quality of the demo was pretty good and Andy’s vocals were deep compared to the album recording. We distributed our demo at our shows for free, that is probably the main factor that helped get our name out. Even back in 2004 – people liked the demo and praised us for the great thrash we played. The “Annihilate the Masses” demo went through two pressings with different cover and band picture. The first pressing only had our name with the demo title on the cover and a ridiculous band photo. The second pressing, had a cover drawn by Andy depicting a person being blown away by a nuke. We sent many demos overseas to people who heard of our band through myspace, and eventually we ran out of demos. We stopped pressing it because we decided to self-finance our future full-length, “Evil in the Night”. As for reviews, I don’t remember seen that many on the web. I only recall one review that said it was an awesome demo. Other than that, I haven’t seen much talk about it. The track “Act of Violence” was later re-recorded for “Evil in the Night”, faster than it was on the demo. “Tombs of the Dead” was re-recorded as well and will be in the “Speed Kills… Again” Compilation out in July as well as in our second full-length release next year, 2008. As for “Annihilate the Masses”, people who have heard it, love the tune because it’s a major head banging song, so if you haven’t heard the track – I’d advise you to search for this demo.
Surely I will, anyone interested in trade for this lovely item??? How would you describe all three thrash maniacs, who are playing in MERCILESS DEATH? How did you all guys meet, are you old friends from school or neighbourhood? You come from California, if I’m correct, right? How’s the living there for metal maniacs? People would rather think of this place as a sunny, Hollywood / Beverly Hills crap ha, ha!
Well it started when Andy and I had just moved to Santa Clarita from Los Angeles, California. Andy had become friends with Dan at the High school they attended. They both enjoyed metal and wanted to form a band. After forming a power metal band with a classmate, they decided to seek a faster and heavier form of music so they formed a thrash band. Both of them had knowledge of thrash metal so it wasn’t hard to write tunes. At first it was only Dan and Andy in our living room writing music. Dan would write guitar riffs and Andy would put vocals onto that. Eventually they were seeking a full band. It was around that time that I had gotten a drum set and requested to be their practice drummer until they found a real drummer. They were cool with it so I joined as their practice drummer. For rhythm guitars, we got our school mate Mike who was an awesome guitarist. As for bassist – Andy and Dan spent a long time looking for one but never found one who was serious about the band as much as they were. Because of this, Dan began teaching Andy how to play bass. Eventually Andy became both our Vocalist and bassist of the group. We spent lots of time practising and writing songs and eventually Andy and Dan kept me as their drummer because I was getting better at drums. After about a year, Mike quit due to musical differences and we remained as a three piece ever since. As for the California thrash scene - there is a big underground movement here in L.A. So far we haven’t been to a location that rivals L.A.’s scene.
In MERCILESS DEATH biography you distance the band from the L.A. metal trend and give fuck off to people, who would think something like that! Tell me, what kind of trend did you mean? Is it maybe a sudden explosion of bands, which would play old school metal, like MERCILESS DEATH or what? If that’s the case, I have to say I would love this trend, because it will always be better to get three real (trendy???) old school metal bands instead of three trendy nu metal craps ha, ha. Anyway, tell me exactly what did you mean and also recommend to us some great bands from your area!!! I know SAKRIFICER and WARBRINGER and maybe few more, which I don’t remember at the moment and these bands are really very good!!!!
So far because of the popularity of the thrash scene in L.A. there have been many different people who just begin to act thrash overnight and start their own thrash bands. Most of these people have no knowledge of thrash at all and just do it because they’re trend hoppers. There are people who start wearing denim and wear white Reeboks and act like they’ve been into thrash for years just to fit in. But if you talk to one of these guys – they wouldn’t know anything and you’d realize they are just pretending. Some current California thrash bands I can recommend you are DEVASTATOR from Sacramento, EXECUTION from Los Angeles, MALICIOUS ASSAULT from Santa Clarita, and FUELED BY FIRE from Los Angeles.
Back to MERCILESS DEATH! “Evil in the Night” is almost perfect and classic to the bone thrash metal album. It has all those needed details, like catchy, but aggressive riffs, furious solos, possessed vocals… And the atmosphere is exactly like the one from the cult albums from the 80’s. Tell me, was it hard to you to get such real, thrash metal sound for this album and also to compose such songs, which would be without any modern influences from other metal subgenres?
Well, writing the album wasn’t hard at all. We all listen to thrash so we know how it should sound, and Dan always checks if the riffs we come up with haven’t already been taken by other bands. As for subgenres – yeah we listen to thrash, but we also listen to early black and death metal like Mercyful Fate, Celtic Frost, Infernal Majesty, Bathory, and such and we try to incorporate that sound into our music as well, we enjoy the evil heavy sounds. We don’t add any modern influences though – none of us like today’s form of metal. Don’t like it at all.
From the other hand “Evil in the Night” is just 25 minutes long! Why is so? Did you think it is the best playing time for such thrash metal LP or rather didn’t have more songs for it?
For “Evil in the Night” – we decided not to flood our listeners with an album consisting of more than 9 tracks. We believe albums should not have too many songs, so we kept ours at eight tracks. We already had more than twelve songs written – so we could’ve put more if we really wanted to. We chose the eight that we thought would sound killer and flow together as an album. When we went to the recording studio, I nailed all the drum recordings in three to four hours, so I played the tracks rather quickly. When we finished, we realized the entire album was roughly 25 minutes. I guess we just played them really fast ha, ha.
Speaking of MERCILESS DEATH influences, first of all you mentioned THRASH METAL! And later you listed many, many bands of this genre. I would like to underline this fact, because nowadays it’s damn hard to find a band, which would play really pure version of this music, most bands mix it up with death or black metal, using for instance growling or shrieking black metal vocals. This is one of the things, which really fascinate me about MERCILESS DEATH! I mean, the purity and classic sound of your THRASH metal music! Even Andy’s vocal sound like taken from classic album, they’re done in traditional way and sound totally like fuckin’ Steve Souza, in my opinion! What do you think of this comparison and my overall comment?
Well we try to incorporate all the forms of metal that we like into our music, such as Thrash and early Black and Death metal. I personally don’t like growling vocals, I don’t know about Dan and Andy, but we all decided not to use growls for our music. In the “Annihilate the Masses” recording Andy’s vocals were deeper than those on the album. That is actually because Andy got his tonsils removed a little before we recorded “Evil in the Night”. So that is why his vocals sounded nasally. After the album was reviewed – people said he sounded like Souza! We never thought he sounded like him at all, heck, he doesn’t sound like that now. Our next album will have the vocal style he originally had, before his tonsils were removed. I hope you still like them.
No doubts, man! Don’t think I liked your music just because this guy sounds like fuckin’ Souza ha, ha!!! Anyway, some of the bands you mention on your myspace website as influences are rather unknown to most of the metalheads. Why, do you think, such acts as NECRONOMICON, RAZOR, WHIPLASH, ONSLAUGHT, DEATHWISH, VENDETTA, SLAUGHTER didn’t become as famous as top acts of the old metal days, like KREATOR, SODOM, SLAYER, DARK ANGEL, VOIVOD? I think they were all equally good, I really worship WHIPLASH demos for example!
Well, the first reason that comes to mind is the fact that back in the eighties, when thrash was in; there was an abundance of thrash metal bands. I’m sure each band had their own legion of fans, so they didn’t go unnoticed. One also has to note the fact that the thrash metal act that did survive did so by eventually changing their music styles – for better of worse.
I wonder when did you start to listen to metal and how did you start to dig into the underground for the first time? Usually every metalhead starts his metal-life with METALLICA albums, actually the same was with me, when I heard the great “Black Album” for the first time. Did you also start with this band?
I started listening to metal when I was in middle school backing L.A. Yeah – I remember listening to METALLICA, MEGADETH, and IRON MAIDEN with my bro Andy. Eventually Andy began digging for more bands and he came across SLAYER and ANTHRAX. Then when we moved to Santa Clarita and Andy began hanging out with Dan – they got into Exodus, Nuclear Assault, Testament. That’s how I remember it. Currently we’re still digging and finding cool bands to listen – heavy stuff.
The artwork for “Evil in the Night”, just as music, left me speechless. I love old works of Mr. Repka, for DEATH first of all. “Leprosy” cover is one of three best metal covers of all times to me!!!! And he also did brilliant work for you! How did you find him? Was it hard and also expensive, especially for such small, underground band as MERCILESS DEATH to use his work? Tell me, did you meet him personally? Maybe you could be able to present shortly the author of some of best metal covers of all time, simply who this guy is?
We were all familiar with Repka’s work before we contacted him to do our album cover. I remember looking at his covers for MEGADETH “Peace Sells…”, DEATH “Scream Bloody Gore”, VIO-LENCE “Eternal Nightmare”, POSSESSED “Beyond the Gates” and NUCLEAR ASSAULT “Game Over”. Ever since we first recorded “Annihilate the Masses”, we thought it would be really awesome if Repka painted our album cover. When we finally signed to HEAVY ARTILLERY Records – the label asked us to remake the album cover, drawn professionally. We asked who would draw it, and they asked if we wanted it painted by Ed Repka. They said they were going to contact him and see if he was interested.
Oh man, not bad as for such small underground act! If a similar Polish band reads that you spent a thousand bucks just for the cover, they’ll get green with jealousy! One could record an album for these money here in Poland! Your song titles are also in the classic vein, such titles as “Burn in Hell”, “Slaughter Lord”, “Ready to Kill” say all, I guess. But tell me shortly, are they’re metaphors for something with deeper, hidden behind the words meaning or do you simply sing about Satan, death and war in clear and almost primitive old school way?
Our lyrics are supposed to represent what we think as a group. We don’t choose to write music about parting or getting drunk and going to a thrash show or anything like that - we think those lyrics are ridiculous. Our music is about death and satanic rituals; people getting killed, opening the gates of hell, calling demons from another realm. However – I wrote the lyrics for “Ready to Kill” and they are actually about the video game Duke Nukem. It’s still about killing things – but they are aliens. At the time that I wrote them – there were a lot of band writing songs based on the game Doom (I guess because it’s about hell), so I thought I should write a song about Duke Nukem because He’s so badass and it was a really awesome game. So I went home and asked Dan and Andy if I could take a shot at writing the lyrics for the new tune we were writing. They said sure – so I began writing them. I eventually gave hem to Andy. He revised them a bit and accepted them. Originally I wrote the title and chorus as “Nuke to Kill”, but Dan thought the song was catchier if it were changed to “Ready to Kill”. That’s why a picture of Duke Nukem is in our collage.
I think to get your music on vinyl was a dream come true to you, am I right? I’m vinyl collector and I hope to get your album some day, but tell me what do you think of this format? What feelings do you have while listening to your favourite albums on good black records? What are the biggest jewels in your collection?
Since the beginning we always wanted our album on Vinyl!! It’s not an official release if you cannot get you album pressed on Vinyl! Both Andy and Dan are hardcore vinyl collectors and they really liked that fact that we got our own records in their thrash collections. We prefer listening to the Vinyl version than the CD version simply because vinyl gives the music a dirtier heavier sound – not a lot of people understand this, but us vinyl listeners do! We also got our record released in a limited amount of red and blue versions, which looked great – but we preferred the classic black. Our vinyl release quickly sold out – so our label is actually going to re-release our record in a picture disk later this year. I hope you can get our vinyl soon before it sells out again!
Yeah me too… I keep checking these fuckin’ E-buy and cannot find it yet there! How was the response on your album from the metal underground? I’ve seen some superb reviews of it and I can’t imagine there were any bad ones at all!!!! Have you ever predicted that your music would get such amazing reactions?
So far the response has been really good. Seems everyone likes the true thrash that we are playing and we are glad it has been accepted so well by many. The critics knew what we were trying to accomplish – most of the ratings we get from critics are eight and above from a possible ten. There was one review which totally didn’t get what we were doing, and they totally trashed us, but we didn’t care because he was angrier at the fact that we were American – so his opinion didn’t matter. I didn’t think we would get such good reactions from our album by critics around the world – especially with a 25 min. album. But I guess that’s good because it makes people want more.
I know that the maniacs got “Evil in the Night” just recently, but I’m sure you already put together some ideas for some new songs. Tell me, aren’t you afraid that maybe you won’t be able to record something as great as your debut CD ha, ha? Also, many of old thrash metal bands after one or two albums started to commercialise their music, go into softer sounds, more heavy metal ones, with better sound quality, etc. I love the sound you got on the debut, so promise me you won’t soften and will shred again with great and merciless thrash metal ha, ha!!!!!!
Most of he material for the second album had already been written when we recorded “Evil in the Night”. (Don’t you like these guys even more, ha?? – P666) The next album is going to be faster and heavier than the last! (Now they’ve got a beer from me! – P666) We are hoping the next record will surpass our first release both in technicality and heaviness while still retaining the speed and aggression of the first. We already have the second album planned out – all we need to do is record it. It’s going to be killer!! As for commercializing our music – that will never happen!!! We decided that when MERCILESS DEATH cannot continue writing great thrash tunes – we would break up and leave the name MERCILESS DEATH without tarnishing it like what “Cold Lake” did to CELTIC FROST.
Thanks man, this was great to interview such band as MERCILESS DEATH!!!! Finish this interview somehow and also tell me three your favourite thrash metal songs of all time!!!! Cheers!
Thanks a lot for the interview – I enjoyed your questions! Favourite thrash metal songs of all time!? That’s a tough one. I’ll give you my top three favourite thrash metal albums (no specific order)
POSSESSED – “Beyond the Gates”
CELTIC FROST – “To Mega Therion “
RAZOR – “Executioner’s Song”
Thanks a lot and hope to see you at a future show!!
Merciless Death - Evil In the Night (HEAVY ARTILLERY - CD 2006)
Yeah, you fuckers!!!! MERCILESS DEATH is fuckin amazing!!!! Some of the readers may remember old Polish band called like that (who was formed in the 80’s and had some cool recordings like "Eternal Condemantion" demo 1987). But this is brand new MERCILESS DEATH, formed in 2003 in US-fuckin-A!!!! And they do THRASH! It all sounds so classic, that one could be mistaken and think this CD was recorded 20 years ago by one of the best bands of that time! I’m totally amazed, how these three dudes managed to get such classic and old school sound, and at the same time stay fresh and killer. First of all it all reminds me very old EXODUS albums. Already the vocals sound like bloody Steve Souza, maybe it’s his unwanted bastard son singing ha, ha?? Anyway, this gay (Andy Torres) has been blessed (by Satan) with such voice! He screams, spits the words very quickly and sings with anger and pissed off attitude. Great! And the music... I don’t know how did they do it, but it is one of the best thrash metal albums of the last decade at least! It has all the details everyone knows about, of course, MERCILESS DEATH hasn’t discovered anything new in this style. Actually they just done everything, what their favourite bands did years before, I mean they’ve based their music on the best fundaments of thrash / speed metal genre. But there’s some freshness in it and also that amazing youth, fuckin’ passion! Dan Holder has created all those fast riffs, with many, many catchy tunes, brilliant choruses, which make every headbanger wetting his bed and those fast, sick guitar solos! And how many times recently didn’t I play this album and sing with MERCILESS DEATH all these catchy fragments while shaving (my ass)? I’m totally overwhelmed by this violent and aggressive album, especially if there are all fantastic songs on it. You won’t get any filler tracks in here, the whole “Evil In the Night” is not even 30 minutes long, so these guys had to put as much power and evil and they could. And they did it! Ehhhhhh, enough of this! Get this piece of thrash, if only you’re into DARK ANGEL, DESTRUCTION, early SLAYER (1st LP) and fuckin’ EXODUS!!!! Check out also great front cover done by Mr. Repka!!!