In An effort to assuage our base Reithian instincts to both entertain and educate, we’ve decided to address Shakespeare’s famous treatise on humanity and turn it into an excuse to talk to people about ‘our kind of music’. So, indulge us if you will, and with profuse apologies to the Bard and probably Christopher Marlowe as well, come with us as we explore the seven ages of Metal… With Jeff Tandy of Texan death metallists Imprecation!
Here you are then – entering the world of metal, probably in your early teens, mewling about the unfairness of it all and puking on cheap white cider… Which band was your introduction to metal? How did you find out about them? And which bands generally do you think make the best ‘entry level’ metal music? “Officially it was Anthrax, Among the Living. I was well aware of metal before then, but I had no formal entrée as I was only twelve and had no older brothers or friends to clue me in. Luckily, I soon ended up with a friend who did have an older brother and a pile of LPs. He knew I was a Judge Dredd fan, thus I Am the Law was the first track that made it onto the stereo. So while that one weekend was a crash course of bands (Metallica, Slayer, et al), it was that percussive guitar tone on Among… that really got a hold of me. I’d say Iron Maiden is a great introductory band – they cover almost all the essential metal territory (except blast beats and growling, of course), along with their comprehensive imagery and presentation. The music is powerful, but still reasonably accessible, and there is an awful lot to get caught up in between the music and the incredible artwork”.
You’re in! The magical and bewildering world of metal lies at your feet… you’ve assembled a small collection of records and tapes – or CDs of course, if you’re a youngster – but you’re still very much a School child, whining because the olds won’t let you go to a gig – until the scales fall from their eyes – and you’ve got the Golden ticket in your sweaty little palm! Who were the first band you saw in the live arena? Did it confirm your suspicions about just how massive this hidden world was, how inspiring? Or was first ‘in the flesh’ contact a little disappointing? “It was, ironically, Iron Maiden and Anthrax, on the No Prayer for the Dying tour, 1991. My dad went with me and we had tenth row seats. It was cool, but a little underwhelming. There was no general seating, which is what I was envisioning, and Iron Maiden in particular was lacklustre on that tour. There was not much in the way of stage production, that particular album was a bore, and it was the inauguration of Jannick Gers (ugh). This show was important, though, because my parents finally agreed to let me go to shows alone. My second show ever was The Grind Crusher Tour with Napalm Death, Godflesh, and Nocturnus, and that was what I wanted – chaos, a crush of bodies, stage diving, mania, and lax security. I was all in!”
You’re now a full-grown acolyte, a fully-fledged lover of the dark arts, as it were. But listening and watching isn’t enough. You need to consummate your love, by forming or joining your own metal band – tell us about your formative bands and what life was like on the bottom rung of the ladder… “At age fourteen, I finally had another full-time metal friend in school, and we decided we should put together something for fun. I was six months into guitar lessons and we had no drummer, so it was just me playing my non-distorted guitar quickly and badly while my friend yelled over it into a home tape recorder. We called it Afterbirth, and it was silly, but it got us in the necessary mindset. We recruited another friend who demonstrated an incredible natural ability for drums, though he had never played them, and I convinced my mother to buy a budget drum set AND to let me set up the band in my bedroom. By then Afterbirth had created a couple of fully-formed, yet still silly, demos, and we were ready to embrace our mutual love for death metal. We changed up and became Diabolus. Two rehearsal demos came out of that, along with a few live performances. It never led anywhere musically, but it taught me what I needed to know about how things are done, and more importantly, it gave me a reason to reach out to other (better) bands and get to know people in the underground. So while my band wasn’t important, I quickly established my own reputation as a dedicated and ravenous metalhead”.
Mission accomplished – you’re in a band. A Soldier of metal mired in the trenches fighting for our way of life, possibly on a tour of the toilet venues of your home locale – what was your first tour like? What valuable lessons were learned? Or was there just too much fun to be had to worry about tedious life craft? “I didn’t ever tour until after I formed Averse Sefira in 1996. We played lots of regional shows until 2001, and then the word started getting out. I guess technically our first proper tour was in 2003, when we went all over eastern Canada. It was shoestring, not incredibly well organised, and had some truly bad shows. It did, however, culminate in a headlining appearance at a small festival in Toronto, where we played to a packed room to people who were already fans. What I learned from that was that most underground tours are designed to have a series of underwhelming dates in out of the way shitholes that pay for you to continue on to the handful of amazing shows that make the whole thing worthwhile. I also learned I wasn’t going to ever make a penny off this music, and that I didn’t give a shit about that. I was living the dream, damn the consequences!”
Away from you now – your career is in full bloom. But what of the elder Statesmen, the justices who still reign, Saturnine and all-knowing? Which of the old-but-still-living Gods still command the most respect in your eyes? And why? “First and foremost, it was always Immolation. They were massively influential to me, both musically and as people. I met Ross and Bob on my eighteenth birthday, when a band for whom I was guest sessioning got to open for Immolation in Houston, Texas, in 1992. That was my first major show, and it changed everything for me. I respect them as people, because they’ve always had integrity in their musical vision. They never deviated from what made them great, thirty years on. They’ve got enough albums out now that fans can debate which ones are the best, but everyone agrees that they never wimped out or insulted their legacy at any turn. I still use Immolation as my primary reference when it comes to planning and envisioning my own music. It must meet that unbreakable standard of authenticity, or else it gets cast aside.
And what about those who’ve maybe pushed it a little too far, those bespectacled and pantalooned ‘legacy’ artistes on their nth farewell trip across the globe? Is there anyone on our world you think might like to think about hanging up the old Les Paul and giving themselves and us a rest? “That’s a little harder to say, because I tend to only pay attention to bands that are unlikely to embarrass themselves that way. I think Slayer needs to stop, and supposedly they are. But I say that more based on principle, because I saw a couple of the most recent performances, and they were quite good. That said, it’s time they stop while they can still go out on something of a high note”.
And the final age, of course, is death. We’ll all be left Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything eventually. Which deceased metallian do you miss most? And what are your happiest memories of them? “I miss Bruce Corbitt from Rigor Mortis. He succumbed to cancer just a couple of months ago, and his absence is felt by everyone in the Texas scene. We didn’t see each other often, but he was a one-of-a-kind stage presence, and a hell of a nice guy. It was also remarkable to look back and realise how important he was to the cohesion of the Dallas metal movement. His spirit really carried everyone forward. I liked hanging out at shows and catching up with him whenever they came to town, but my proudest moment was opening for Rigor Mortis in a small Austin club in 2010. I never thought that would happen, and it was such a blast to be squeezed into a small room with such a venerable act, one that was really a pillar of the Texas metal scene. To have that maniac literally inches from my face singing Reanimator, was a truly metal moment. Bruce was another example of integrity and dedication. He never compromised who he was, and his “no surrender” attitude is one that is absolutely mandatory for anyone aspiring to be a part of the metal community. Get in, stay in, fight hard. That’s metal. Get to it”.
Read Michael Stronge’s review of Imprecation’s Damnatio Ad Bestias album HERE