Okay, there we go!
Hello, how’s it going?
Oh, thank you very much – always fine!
Hello hello – my name is Zsolt, and I’m from the Hungarian metal webzine “kronosmortus.com” – and it’s so nice to welcome you here! Thank you for coming; and it’s great that finally we could establish this connection! I had some problems with my computer, and it’s so great to talk to you online!
Yes, thank you for having me! I know that picture behind you!
It’s probably familiar with you from somewhere…
What’s the weather like over here? How was your day?
It’s good so far – I mean my day is kind of just starting. It’s 10:30 in the morning in my neck of the woods: a beautifully gray and drizzly Portland day is, as usual. How about yourself – what’s it like over there?
Oh, it’s okay – we have a quite cold and foggy and somewhat rainy day. But it’s okay – it’s wintertime in Hungary, and it’s always like this. It’s not that bad at all!
Yeah, it sounds like what I’m used to over here.
Yeah. OK, so, your band Vitriol has been around for a while, but people may know you from Those Who Lie Beneath, too. How did this change happen to you back then? How did it become some sort of a reboot, what made you feel like there was a need to change?
Yeah, I mean, a lot of variables went into that. You know, Those Who Lie Beneath was the band I joined when I was very young – I was eight-seventeen… – yes! I was seventeen, when I joined the band. And it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do. The guitar player – the other guitar player – and the drummer had already started the band I came in as the third member, and it was already kind of like, a more of a metalcore kind of thing. And, you know, I ideally would have been wanting to play more death metal, like I was listening to more of like… I was really into like Suffocation at the time – I still love Suffocation, but… and that kind of stuff – but I was like, man, I just want to play in a heavy band, you know what, and people at my age, it was easier to find people that wanted to do that kind of shit. So, we started, I made it as death metally as I could. None of us expected to… – well it’s not that none of us expected to do anything with it, but not as quickly as it did. We got picked up very gratefully, and hit the road very quickly, and after the first touring cycle I realized this: that’s not what I wanted to be doing. And like, this isn’t the kind of… – I don’t connect with it, I don’t feel like I’m telling the truth up there, I don’t feel proud of my band you know? I don’t feel proud of the music that I’m making, and the culture of the genre. That the people I was touring with… it just wasn’t for me. Nothing, none of it was for me. So, I told the guys, I said the guys down: I’m like, hey, I mean, I’m going into the second album – I can’t do another album if it’s another like, deathcore record. We have to, you know, I wanna make a death metal album! And everyone’s like, yes, sick! Let’s do it! And the… – I don’t want to…, sorry I’m trying to be diplomatic about this story. Basically we had the classic creative differences. We couldn’t come up with a compromise in the sound. so that we agreed upon. So, we just kind of did stop, and I decided that I was going to do my own thing. And Adam – who was also playing in Those Who Lie Beneath at the time – I’m very grateful that he believed in my idea, and he decided to come along with me. And we actually kept the name for a while, and then after we did the Antichrist EP, I released it under “Those Who Lie Beneath” name, and about a week into it I realized like, this isn’t Those Who Lie Beneath anything more. And the only reason why I’m keeping the name is… it was obvious to me that it was because I was trying to hold on to a sense of progress that I had made, and that’s not a good reason to keep the name. You know… like this project deserves its own identity, so… that’s when it became Vitriol.
I get it! It’s good that you mentioned The Antichrist EP, because it could be considered a kind of transition – we could even call it like a corridor between the two bands. It was already made in 2012, but you guys re-released it a couple of years ago. How much were the fans looking for this release? What would you say about these three songs?
Um… well, when we were looking forward to the physical release, or when we released it digitally in 2012?
The latter one, the 2012 release.
Sorry, I just want to understand! You say the 2012 or the 2020 physical?
The first one was released in 2012 and the second one – the physical release – was in 2020. Yeah. My question is that what was the reason to release the EP again and how was it received by the fans?
Awesome! Yeah, thank you! It was – I mean, the big reason was it never got a physical release originally. I didn’t even have a cover: we… I released the Antichrist EP with just a promo photo of the original lineup. And my buddy Simon who runs the label Total Dissonance Worship was a big fan of that EP. He found us at that time and he just… he was doing a lot of limited re-pressings or pressings of stuff that hadn’t been done, and he just approached me: I was like, hey man what would you think about that? It’s like, I think that’d be great! I know the fans have wanted physicals of that for a long time, and then… not a lot of people know this, because we didn’t advertise at a time, but the physical release has all new vocal performances on it! Adam and I went in, and tracked all new vocals, because he actually wasn’t on the Antichrist EP, his vocals. His bass playing is, but his… he wasn’t good enough at the time, you know. He’ll be the first to tell you that. We got in there and tried, and it just wasn’t… he was like this just not… he wasn’t doing vocals as long as I had been doing them, so the power just wasn’t there. So, I was… I, well, I’ll just do all of it for this one and then you’ll come in on the next one, and he did and now he’s amazing – but it was a cool opportunity to plug him in on that first one, so that’s what you were supposed to hear originally, supposed to do those parts! So, it was both for the fans and kind of for us to do it’s nice that Adam has a version where he hears himself on it.
I see. And also, we can hear a very strong performance on your debut album “To Bathe from the Throat of Cowardice“, released in 2019. It has actually won the hearts of a lot people. Were you guys strongly convinced by your fans that you should continue this journey? Did you get the recognition you deserved?
Oh yeah, I mean… yeah, I mean, I don’t know about deserved, but it was hugely validating! I mean, to have the best experience…. It’s one thing to have fans, it’s another to have… I remember especially going out to Europe and having old heads come up to me, you know: dudes in their late 40s, 50s come up to me and say like: “I haven’t felt this way about death metal since Morbid Angel!”. You know, I mean like that’s the shit that kind of let me on fire! Like I knew we were making good metal, I was trying too hard to not, and I love the music too much to not know, if it’s good – so, I knew it was good, but when I started getting that kind of feedback, I was like “all right, we’re now… we’re fucking cooking, and now we kind of more of a mission statement, you know, to take that responsibility on ourselves in a way in it with humility and trying to track a connection going with those fans to make death metal for death metal fans, you know, or extreme metal for extreme metal fans, whatever you want to call it. But that’s what I want to keep going, like if I can keep that fan, but keep that response, we’re like “fuck, I haven’t… man, I forgot death metal could make me feel this way”, like… that’s where I want to be!
Yeah, that’s awesome that you mentioned the connection between the old metalheads and you, and your music – actually you probably accumulated a lot of anger and rage in yourself to release it through your music. Probably that’s what resonates with your fans. What is your actual world view? How disastrous do you think the current situation is? Do you think there’s any connection between your feelings and the present state that the world is in right now? What kind of people do you avoid?
Oh, that’s a…
That’s a complex question!
A big question! We could do hours on that question! Give me a second – I huh!
It’s okay. Oh, I’m sorry for that question!
I’m not trying to duck the question or beta… I just want to answer it well and honestly and without spending six hours.
Okay. I would say, there’s kind of a contradiction in the answer, which is… There’s a big part of me that feels like everything is always happening all the time, you know? Like, what I mean by that is: every generation thinks it’s the end times. Every generation thinks the generation following them is ruining everything, and the generation before them ruined everything. I think a lot of this is an illusion! I think nostalgia is a hell of a drug, and I think nostalgia for the past and the future – because you can have that! And I don’t think there’s any such thing as the “good old days”. I don’t think it ever existed. I think it’s mirage used to sell you things. On the other side, I do think there is an element of truth to the strife, the social turbulence that we’re feeling is unprecedented. Only in the sense that the platforms are more accessible and louder. It’s kind of like, if you had a diseased body and you’re rotting from the inside – you have this illusion of health, and then if you cut yourself open and all that rot started pouring out, you wouldn’t say “oh I just became sick – these cuts made me sick, now they’re exposing the sickness”. And I think social media did that to our culture. So, it took, it gave every… it went… we went from a world that gave a platform, a very controlled platform to a very small percentage of people. They got to decide who… what the problem was that day that you cared about right? You care about this group of people: this is who you’re sad about right now. This tells, who the rock star is right now. Eddie Van Halen is the greatest guitar player – we decided that right? That’s who you… that’s who you see on your TV every day. Now, there is no authority: we have like moral choice paralysis, where there are every tiny, marginalized group – no matter how legitimate or entitled the gripe is – screaming at the top of their lungs, and this is creating more polarization, and the most radicalized and least intelligent people are the loudest. So, it furthers the illusion that we’re living in an even more fraught times than we actually are. So, I think it’s a bit of both! I think this whole like oh everything is coming to… – yeah, I think everything always has been! And I think that we’re airing it all out and the part of me that is a little more embraced death in a non-defeatist way, like, not in a “fuck everything” way, but in more like a Buddhist way. I don’t see the terror in collapse or even an extermination, you know, our special suicide or whatever. Like, if I don’t see a great tragedy in that, you know? It just is, you know, all good things come to an end. So, I’ve always said since I was a little kid I shouldn’t have known, I was gonna get into black metal because I remember having conversations with my friends when I was a little kid and I’m like: you know, like the apocalypse would be super scary but how cool would it be, if we like, got to see that in our lifetime? And my friend like – you find out who your tribe is pretty young, when you start asking people those questions and you know… but every once a while to meet somebody like “yeah I know, I get it!” So, you know, it’s… I think it’s a fortunate time sometimes that reflect on how eerie it is that my band is reaching the state that it is, the same time that all of this social turbulence is reaching a fever pitch – it is interesting! I wonder if… I doubt that they have nothing to do with each other.
Thank you for summarizing! And I’m sure that it wasn’t easy to put in a couple of sentences your whole picture of the world. And it’s interesting that you mentioned Morbid Angel, because I wanted to ask you that last spring you did a great tour together with Morbid Angel and also other bands. Could you please tell me a couple of words about your experiences?
Oh man! I mean that was just the ultimate thing to me, you know… Morbid Angel is The Band, you know, and it’s… how do I say? The coolest experience! We’re a few… five days into the tour, I don’t really… you know, I introduce myself to the Morbid guys, and you know, what I wasn’t gonna punish them you know, they’ve been around, doing their job, and I’m not, you know… I’m in the… we’re in New York that’s right, we’re in New York and I’m in the green room and I see Steve Tucker walk out of their dressing room, and he’s wearing a sleeveless Vitriol t-shirt. And I was like, oh my God, I was just like kind of mortified and overjoyed about it! And he got on stage and he said: “highlights here” – he was introducing the bands, and he’s like “and let’s hear it from my new fucking favorite band Vitriol” and I lost my shit, you know. Because I wasn’t sure how they’re gonna feel about any of it, and you’re nervous if you get… you know, I’m a grown man, I know I don’t have any sort of illusions about how people are. So, I go into these things very realistic expectations about my heroes maybe not being the nicest people, or maybe not the kindest to me, which is fine, you know: I prepare myself for that – but to have your arguably your favorite front man in death metal get on stage wearing your band’s t-shirt and say that you’re as new favorite band like…
I don’t think it gets cooler than that, but maybe can’t like peripheral like equally cool but I don’t get cooler than that to earn not only their respect, but their fandom was maybe the ultimate validation!
I see! The members of your band have changed, I mean in the position of the drummer and the guitarist. What kind of changes did it bring in terms of songwriting?
Really none because Adam and I do all of the songwriting. You know, none of the guitar players have contributed to that, so those have been pretty inconsequential to the music itself. But I would say Matt and Scott – the two drummers: the drummer from the first full length and the drummer on this full length – definitely have very different styles of drumming, and I think that Matt’s style… not only is Matt able to push faster BPM than Scott was on the first album, he has a more… he’s more like a militant metal drummer. Scott is an insane metal drummer, but he’s more diverse, like Scott is an insane like, he can do gospel, jazz, like… metal isn’t even a main thing, so those chops really show up for Scott in like the tasty… it’s a lot of tasty shit in that first album that you wouldn’t expect on a death metal record, and… But this new album, we were able to go more… it really helped going into more the black metal direction, because Matt is far more comfortable and eager to just like blast without resetting, you know, like without doing to fill after four, like ta-ta-ta-ta… he has kind of that you know, Scandinavian style ,where he’ll just plow through changes – and I love that. I love that style so…
Let’s now turn to the new album entitled “Suffer & Become”, which will be released on the 26th of January by Century Media. I think it’s safe to say that fans will be treated by a highly anticipated album right at the beginning of the year. Could you please tell me something about the new album?
Well, what would you like to… something about it? Like you want to know something about the music or the… what would you like to know?
I would just like to know what are your main impressions and thoughts about the album, and what was the core idea behind the album and the songs?
Okay. I say this album is definitely… the goal of the record was to make it a more dynamic experience than the first one.
You know, I don’t really set out to make it better, you know, I’m always trying to make… each album should have its own intention, its own goal, and you should just do your best at manifesting that goal. So really, if you do a good job every album should be great in its own way. In the first album I wanted to make you know, just constant pressure, never let up, exhausting etc. With this album, I wanted to make it much more dynamic: when we’re fast, we’re fast, or slow or slower, when melodic, we’re more melodic – so to take all that energy and kind of crack it open, and build these tall peaks and dig out these low valleys you know? So, it’s a much more cinematic experience in that way, you know? So, they can expect more of that. Conceptually, lyrically it’s a much more… I went all in on the angle that I… that sounds like “I Drown Nightly” and “Victim” on the first record that were more introspective… ended up being the songs that I myself and the fans connected to the most. So, I definitely wanted to go invest my energy into that, so the new album is much more introspective and personal, trying to figure myself out, you know…? So, the consol is all in the title.
I see! Can I ask something more personal?
I heard that you have quite a large guitar collection. Is my information correct? And if yes then what kind of guitars do you have? And what does playing the guitar mean to you?
Yeah it’s funny that you ask, as I actually just have them right here!
Oh my God – these are beautiful guitars!
Thank you! This was actually owned… this was made for Ola from Grave. This was originally built for him, and I got it from a… he sold it to someone in Germany, and then I bought it from that guy. Ibanez just… hook me up with that guy: I’m really stoked on. I just finished building this one which was in my… our new playthrough video for “Shame and its Afterbirth” – so yeah, I’m just a big guitar fan.
These are amazing guys!
A coat of arms there between them… So yeah, I’m a big Jackson, Ibanez, BC Rich are my favorite ones.
You have a lot of tattoos also. What kind of an added value, a plus does this give to you? Who is your tattoo artist that usually do your tattoos?
He was a guy in Portland here his name is Brian Wilson. He owns a shop called Scapegoat Tattoo – and he did pretty much everything: both my arms, my neck, my head, my front of my torso. Yeah, we actually had a falling out years ago, so I haven’t got tattooed by him a long time, but he’s a great tattooer: I love the work that he did for me!
And besides yourself, could you please tell us in a few words about the other band members – who they are? What kind of people do you think they are?
Yeah, oh I could have fun with this, but I won’t embarrass them! Adam is, you know, of course my… is really the second half of Vitriol. He’s the bass player and vocalist – he’s really the other… not only has he been here from the… since the beginning but he’s really the only other person that really understands what Vitriol is, and I can really rely on him to let me know if I’m… He keeps me on course, you know, which is really nice. He’s… as far as what kind of person he is… All the guys, you know, with all the member changes that we’ve had… the one thing that we realized that not everyone wants to… not everyone has an appetite for suffering. You know what I mean? Like, having a hard time. And Adam and I have a pretty good stomach for that. And so, what we found is the only people I can really hang in this band are people that are willing to do hard stuff a lot. So, let’s say that’s the common thread between everyone in the band now. We all work hard, and we’re all OK not having fun time, you know? And that’s hard for a lot of people. That’s not why a lot of people get into music. You know what I mean? A lot of people get into music to have a good time. It’s not what we’re about. We like a good time, when it makes itself available, but that’s not why we’re doing what we’re doing. Matt – he’s the drummer – Matt Kilner, he’s been such a God sent to the whole project. He’s surprisingly sane for someone that can play drums like that, and… just a true metalhead, you know? Not everyone is, man! I hate to break it to the fans, but a lot of dudes out there… they make this music kinda out of habit. The don’t definitely listen or get really geeky. You know, I would say that’s my biggest advantage. It’s not that I don’t think I’m not necessarily talented – it’s that I have a great passion for the music that makes it easier for me to know when someone’s good, I think. And Matt is the first drummer I worked with, he’s as big of a fan of the music as he is a good practitioner of it. Daniel Martinez is the newest member, and he is the scholar in the band. He’s like a Berkeley grad – which is a really prestigious music school here in America – so, he definitely is the… I haven’t even really worked with him hands on yet, but I’m very excited about the ways he’s gonna bring on the table. ‘Cause I’m totally back with self talk, so he’s gonna be able to inject that bulk learning into the process, and I’m excited to lean on that. Especially for constructing like guitar and stuff like that
And can we expect a tour in connection with the album release?
Oh yes. We actually just announced a tour, a US tour today! Yeah, Chaos and Carnage is the name of the tour – it’s gonna be Cattle Decapitation, Carnifex, The Zenith Passage, Humanity’s Last Breath, Rivers of Nihil, us, and… oh shit.. there was a seventh band that was just recently announced – I can’t remember the name, my apologies! My apologies to that band, but. I can’t… yeah. There’s a seventh band, but…
And do you want to come over to Europe?
Yeah, we hope to! There are no set in stone plans at the moment, but yeah – we hope to, by the end of the year would be.
That’s awesome! And finally I’d like to turn to you back and I would like to ask you, what kind of death metal albums are your biggest favorites and which band you are most looking forward to the new album of?
Oh man! Yeah…
There are a lot, I’m sure!
Yeah, favorite new bands or old bands?
Both! Anything that comes to your mind.
A new band that I’m really excited about for death metal… Frankly, there isn’t a ton of death metal lately that’s been exciting me: I have been more of a black metal fan for the last ten years. But a death metal band that’s out of Turkey actually called Diabolizer, and man…! They were…. I fell in love with that band. It’s kind of like Deicide, if Deicide kept going that same direction after Once Upon the Cross. You know, it’s like… just really fucking brutal, muscular, American style death metal with at break neck speed. So, like really fast blasting. It’s just everything the doctor ordered. And it’s out of Turkey, which is fucking insane! Like, I just love that. So that’s a big shoutout to that band! My favorite album of 2023 was Dodheimsgard “Black Medium Current”. That was a… I think that’s the best album for the last 10 fucking years. That album it’s… yeah! Listen to that one!
OK, thank you for the suggestion! I have to check them out definitely! And I think our time is over, and I would like to say thank you for this great conversation! It’s always good to talk to metal musicians! I wish you and your band all the best and a huge amount of success for 2024!
Thank you so much! I hope to see you in Hungary!
Me too! Have a nice day and see you next time!
See you next time, thank you!
The interview was taken with Kyle Rasmussen on 08.01.2024.