Blessed Death guitarists Nick Fiorentino and Jeff Anderson
Interview by Luxi Lahtinen
Talking about an underrated Thrash Metal band, New Jersey thrashers Blessed Death might well be one of those bands that recorded a couple of albums (KILL OR BE KILLED on Megaforce in 1985 and DESTINED FOR EXTINCTION on Roadrunner in 1987) in the ´80s -and almost vanished away from the metal scene without leaving any traces behind. It´s fair to say that Blessed Death managed to built up a solid fanbase in all those years they were spreading their unique Thrash-havoc everywhere on the globe.
The year 2006 had almost come to an end and surprisingly, like a bolt from a crystal-clear sky, a ´new´ Blessed Death album, titled HOUR OF PAIN, hit the markets. HOUR OF PAIN (which was originally supposed to titled BORN TO DIE) is actually that Blessed Death´s 3rd unreleased album that many knew they recorded, but it was never released… until now. What happened then? What killed the band eventually?
I got in touch with the original Blessed Death guitarists Nick Fiorentino and Jeff Andersen through the official Blessed Death forum, and an opportunity to interview the guys popped up. As the interest was already there for the interview, both Nick and Jeff agreed to do it for Metal-Rules.com. Read all about why Blessed Death split up in the beginning of ´90s, why it took 16 years to get their 3rd full-lenght album released, what are the chances for a Blessed Death reunion, what both Nick and Jeff think of today´s metal scene - and many other topics as well.
Ok, now let´s get started with…
HOUR OF PAIN
… HOUR OF PAIN, which is your so-called unreleased, 3rd album. It was released not that long ago, and is available through CDbaby.com as well as some other well-selected distributions. People may wonder why it took 16 long years to get it released? Could you explain this, please…
Financial problems were a big part. We were also pissed off and sick of the music industry at that time. The lack of record label support and lack of touring really took its toll on us. We put our heart and soul into Blessed Death but never got the support that we had hoped for. We knew we had a great fan base but just couldn’t convince the record labels to give us the support we needed to be successful.
The album´s original title was supposed to be BORN TO DIE? Why did you end up changing the title from B.T.D. to H.O.P. eventually?
“Born Dead” and “Hour Of Pain” were two titles we were considering at the time it was recorded. We were favoring “Born Dead” at that time. We decided to go with “Hour Of Pain” when it was time to finally release the record.
The album also features nearly all the songs from your TERMINAL RAGE demo, excluding a song titled “The Warning”. Why didn´t you want to include that song for HOUR OF PAIN? Did some of you feel that that particular song was no match with the quality of the rest of the songs, and therefore it was abandoned to be a part of the album?
I don’t remember the reasoning for excluding “The Warning” at the time but hearing it now I think it wasn’t up to the quality of the other songs. Actually, five of the songs on H.O.P. were on the TERMINAL RAGE demo and two were on the LIVE RAGE demo. The songs “You Are Nothing’, “Born Dead”, and the title track “Hour of Pain” had never been released on any of our demos.
WORKING TOGETHER WITH MARK GAIDE
Mark Gaide worked as a co-producer, engineer and mixer for your KILL OR BE KILLED album, together with Blessed Death. Now when you are looking back in time, what do you think of his input on that album? Mark himself still thinks that working with you guys with this album, was one of his most memorable and favorite projects of his whole career, and somehow I just gotta assume you guys share a similar feeling with Mark?
We loved working with him. We think he had some unique ideas especially with using sampling and special effects. We have been in contact with him again as well and would like to work together again.
Since those days Mark has made quite a respectable career in various areas as far as working behind a soundboard is concerned. Working together with many major bands (Slayer, Joe Cocker, Allman Brothers Band, etc.) and labels (Capitol, Electra, Metal Blade, etc.) over these past few years. What makes him so superior dude from your own point of view? Do you think Mark has a wide understanding of many different music genres so that he knows exactly what kinds of sounds bands in general are after for – and that´s the main reason why people want to work with the dude?
Yes. Mark is very talented at what he does. He has a great ear and is not afraid to experiment and push the limits.
TWO TESTIMONIES ABOUT NECK-BREAKING THRASH
Talking about the past times, how did you get your deal with Megaforce Records back when you released KILL OR BE KILLED in 1985?
A couple or four friends from the Old Bridge, N.J., helped finance the record. They happened to also be friends with John Z. from Megaforce and were able to work a deal with him to distribute KOBK.
Did you have any other label interest at that time, too? Or was Megaforce actually the only label that seriously got interested in releasing an album with Blessed Death back then?
(see previous answer)
After KILL OR BE KILLED, you went to Roadrunner Records that released your 2nd album DESTINED FOR EXTINCTION in 1987. Why did the label change happen from Megaforce to Roadrunner? What exactly happened? A better offer was handed over to you from Roadrunner, or what?
We really have no idea why Megaforce decided to hand us over to Roadrunner.
Did you feel any kind of pressure on your shoulders when you started the recording sessions for DESTINED FOR EXTINCTION, knowing how well your debut album was received amongst the metal fans all over the world?
No. We were excited about getting a chance to record a second album and to work with Alex Perialas at Pyramid Sound Studio.
Which one of these two albums do you prefer personally? Recording your debut album is always a special thing for anybody, like getting your first-born baby. Is KILL OR BE KILLED that album from you guys that makes you very proud of what it is – just like fathers seeing the results what they have accomplished in a bedroom some months ago… ;o)
They are both very memorable but I would have to say DESTINED FOR EXTINCTION is my favorite. We had matured as songwriters and musicians by that time. We also put more anger and aggression into our music and playing style.
GETTING CLOSE TO GET SIGNED WITH DEF JAM
Then you recorded this 5-song demo titled TERMINAL RAGE in 1990. Now a big question mark started hanging above my head: Why didn´t you manage to land a recording deal with that demo as musically it still represented Blessed Death´s ability to write some killer Thrash Metal that many of those people that got to hear it, found it very appealing for their ears back in those days? Do you believe that record labels were basically interested in signing Death Metal bands in the beginning of ´90s, and Thrash Metal had started slowly dying and becoming a sort of ´out of fashion´ -thing amongst metal fans?
I wish I knew the reason. It was so frustrating for us that it led to the end of Blessed Death. We knew we had a great product and a strong fan base but just couldn’t get the attention of the recording industry.
How many record labels did you send that demo to, and how many of them at least considered starting negotiations with you for the next Blessed Death record? Do you have any recollections from those days regarding shopping around the TERMINAL RAGE demo to some labels?
I don’t remember how many but we did come close with Def Jam which is now American recordings which Slayer and System of a Down is on. That would have been a dream come true.
TIMES WERE CHANGING…
I know this is gonna be an utterly stupid and childish question, but I´m gonna take a risk and ask it from you anyway. Did you ever considered changing or ´updating´ your style to a more Death Metal -orientated style, simply because that´s what the labels were looking for at that time? when you saw the Entombeds, Morbid Angels, Obituarys, etc. as Death Metal was selling like recently made, hot pancakes?
No. To me that would be the same as selling out not that I think Death Metal is a sell-out but it is not who we are. We always stayed true to our feelings and unique style.
NEXT CASE: OLD METAL RECORDS?
When bringing up an issue about the deal with Old Metal Records (a sort of ´hobby label´ of King Fowley from Deceased) and inquiring about a limited run of the reprinted Blessed Death CDs that were put out on his label, both Jeff and Nick thought it´d be better to stay quiet about the whole issue by just leaving ´nothing to be commented´ replies to all of my curious inquiries…
There´s been some discussion going on about getting your albums re-released officially again. Any updated news regarding them?
All as I can say is that we are seriously looking into re-mastering and re-releasing the first two albums on CD, either independently or through another label.
Have you planned any liner notes, extra songs, etc, for them – or would you rather like to stay as truthful as possible to the original versions of them, without adding anything ´extra´ into any of them?
Extra songs or liner notes is a possibility.
There´s also been some demand on a vinyl version of HOUR OF PAIN from your fans. So, the question is: Will your fans hold the vinyl version of H.O.P. in their hands some day?
We hope so. This is something else we are looking into but it actually cost more to put it out on vinyl. We have to be sure there is enough demand for it. We welcome as much feedback on this as possible.
AH, THOSE WERE THE TIMES…
Back in the day, you also made lots of gigs, playing together with many bands from those days, f.eg. with Exodus who were on their headlining tour both in the US / Canadian soil in 1985. Did you ever share the same stage with Sindrome from Chicago around in the mid 80s? What could you overall tell about those times? What could be considered the most memorable and meaningful gigs to you that have stuck in your mind better than some other shows?
The festivals that we played in Canada and the entire European tour. We had some great gigs in the United States and Canada but nothing compares to playing in Europe. We toured Belgium, Holland and Germany with Cyclone back in 1986, the response and hospitality from the fans when was awesome! It’s an experience we will never forget.
Speaking of playing gigs again, I bet this thought has crossed some of your minds now when your 3rd, ´unreleased´ album HOUR OF PAIN is out, probably due to a huge demand from your fans´ direction?
We all miss playing metal for sure. The fact that there is still such a great interest in our music by fans, certainly makes it that much more appealing.
If you ever just played gigs again, where those ´reunion´ gigs might take place then? Old Bridge, NJ where Blessed Death are originally from?
Anything anywhere is possible.
Do you have any ´leftover´ material available somewhere that you couldn´t get fitted into HOUR OF PAIN; that was rejected in the very last chalk lines for some reason or the other?
You used to have a song called “Too Many Humans” which you have never recorded, but probably only played it live a couple of times. What exactly happened to that song why it never got a real studio treatment?
I forgot all about that. You have one hell of a memory (“you didn´t answer to my question… AAARRGHH!!!” -Luxi comments).
You also used to play Black Sabbath´s “Megalomania (off their SABOTAGE album)” at some of your shows. What actually were the reasons why you end up choosing that particular song into your set as a cover song? Obviously Black Sabbath´s musical impact on you guys has always been strong, and all of you are big fans of them, am I right?
It’s a song that we all thought was a work of genius plus it is not one of their popular songs commercially so you would have to be a real Sabbath fan to recognize it.
Did you play any other cover songs live at your shows back in the day, by the way?
“We Are the Road Crew” by Motörhead.
LIFE AFTER THE SPLIT-UP OF BLESSED DEATH
What officially killed Blessed Death then? Has it more or less something to do with a lack of labels´ interest to release a new album with you, or was the band suffering some sort of lack of motivation for keeping things going on any further due to all of these recently mentioned things together?
Mainly lack of label interest but all the other things mentioned played a part in the break up.
After Blessed Death each of you headed toward your separate ways, but most of us don´t really know whether some of you guys managed to accomplish some worth mentioning musical projects or bands after Blessed Death called its quits. So please, enlighten us ignorant fucks…
Basically, we have all been busy with our personal lives, work, wives, kids, hobbies, etc. But we all still have a strong passion for metal and great music.
The metal scene has been changing a lot over the years; bands and genres have come and gone. How close eyes have you guys managed, or have had overall interest to follow, what the metal scene has offered over the past couple of decades or so?
It looks like Speed Metal may be on the rise again, but there is a shortage of “new” Speed Metal bands.
What do you think of these comebacks of some Thrash Metal bands as Death Angel, Exodus, Onslaught, Heathen, etc. – that ruled in the ´80s and gained a strong fan base for themselves during the golden era for Thrash, ´80s that is? Seems like at least some of them (like Exodus) are doing pretty well these days, even without original band members in their line-ups (like Exodus; am I being a bit sarcastic here now, ha!).
More power to them, I think It´s great that they are making a come back and I hope they are all more successful than they were before.
Is there actually any re-union of some certain Speed/Thrash Metal band that you´d like to see to happen one day? Forbidden? Sacred Reich? Or Dark Angel maybe?
Dark Angel without a question! Those guys were just a wall of sound.
BLESSED DEATH REUNION… POSSIBILITY OR JUST IMPOSSIBILITY?
What kind of things should happen or change that Blessed Death would do a reunion? I´m nearly 100% certain that all of those Blessed Death -fans you had in the ´80s, haven´t forgotten you over the years, and they´d just LOVE to witness a Blessed Death reunion from the very bottom of their hearts…
We are all currently spread out in different states across the US, which makes it difficult. We do not have any new plans at the moment. Right now, we are excited about the new release and that it has re-united us as friends. I’m sure at some point down the road we will discuss what the next chapter will be.
I guess that was it, my friends. I wanna thank you both Nick and Jeff for your time you sacrificed for this interview to make it happen. It was a real pleasure to talk with both of you (even if via email, he!), so thanks a lot guys. If you wanna spit out those ´famous last words´ to the end of the interview, then go ahead – that space is saved for you guys…
We appreciate all of your time and support. We are still overwhelmed by all the fan support that we have after all of these years. I never thought the third album would be released or that we would all be back in contact with each other. We are trying to generate interest from record labels again to distribute and promote HOP. Anything is possible now that HOP is out.