Drummer Shannon Frye
Interview by Luxi Lahtinen
Avenger of Blood from Las Vegas, provide more proof of the resurrection of old school Thrash Metal that many new bands wave the flag for these days. COMPLETE ANNIHILATION, Avenger of Blood´s debut album, was released on a the small JCM Records in 2005. It was relatively well-received by old school Thrash Metal maniacs all over the world – and now the band´s follow-up album, titled DEATH BRIGADE, is already lurking behind the corner.
The band´s drummer Shannon Drye, who also made a short visit to the legendary Vengeance Rising during 2000-2001 behind the drumkit, talks about Avenger of Blood´s forthcoming 2nd album, how they got signed to Heavy Artillery Records – and overall enlightening us a bit more about all the plans they have for the future of the band - plus, I couldn´t avoid inquiring Shannon´s involvement in Roger Martinez´s Vengeance Rising either… ;o)
Good day to Las Vegas! Well, how´s it going right now? Life´s keeping you somewhat busy due to some certain things, correct? ;o)
Hi Luxi! Things are going great right now! We just recently signed with Heavy Artillery Records and we are in the recording studio right now recording the tracks for our 2nd album. It´s sounding great so far! Can’t wait for you to hear this stuff!
THE GROUND IS COMPLETELY ANNIHILATED
It´s been 2 years since the Avenger of Blood´s troops were causing a complete annihilation across the world by your ferociously thrashing debut album, COMPLETE ANNINHILATION. Now if you could look back in time for a short moment, what kind of feedback did you receive for this album? I have seen many reviews and most of them have been very flattering. Some reviews even talk about Avenger of Blood as the new kings of Thrash Metal. Now you go on from this if you have heard something completely opposite… ;o)
Yeah, it´s been 2 years that seems to have gone by real fast! COMPLETE ANNIHILATION received a lot of great reviews! We were all pretty happy with what people were saying about it. Lots of people were saying we are definitely something to watch out for and still continue to do so today. There are always people who have to be negative though too, so we got both ends of the spectrum.
COMPLETE ANNIHILATION was released by a small indie record label JMC Records that locates (or located?) in Minnesota. What was your deal with them and what on earth happened to the label as I cannot find any further information about them from The Internet or anything?
We were on the label JCM Records for a very short time. The label went under due to many circumstances. I won’t go into this because it’d just be a waste of time. We were able to record our 1st album with the label so we are happy about that aspect of it.
SPEED KILLS… AGAIN
You have been spending lots of time in Sound Vision Productions recording studio lately, recording songs both for your 2nd full-length album, plus a 6-band Thrash Metal compilation (titled SPEED KILLS AGAIN) that your new label, Heavy Artillery Records should put out around this July. How are things turning out in the studio regarding all of these recordings? Have you faced any major setbacks while in the studio and getting your new songs recorded?
Well, the 2 songs on SPEED KILLS… AGAIN are already completed. Those have been done for quite awhile actually. We are recording another one for a special release that the label is planning. The songs that are already recorded for the compilation are “Enemy Attack” and “Affliction”. Can’t wait for you to hear those too!
The studio so far is going great and everything is running really smooth. This is the smoothest it has ever ran for us and things are really enjoyable. All of our past experiences have been a big pain in the ass! No major setbacks so far this time around though.
SPEED KILLS… AGAIN will feature 6 bands all in all (Avenger of Blood, Warbringer, Merciless Death, Enforcer, Violator and Toxic Holocaust), and each band will get two songs featured for this compilation. Do you know whether each band featured for this compilation, recorded exclusive two songs for this CD (that cannot be available anywhere else except on this compilation)? In that case it would be more worth purchasing for everyone…
Yeah as far as I know, each band recorded 2 songs exclusively for this compilation CD. I may be wrong but that´s the idea I got anyways. I really can only speak for my band that the 2 songs we did will only be available on this compilation.
I´m kinda curious to know are you friends with all those aforementioned bands that were invited to be a part of SPEED KILLS AGAIN, and how did you exactly become friends with some of those bands involved?
Well, we are friends with Merciless Death and Warbringer. The other bands I have only spoken to over The Internet. We became friends with Merciless Death at “Minneapolis Mayhem 3” where we played together, and Warbringer we played 2 shows with in the past. Both those bands are very cool!!
You were also forced to cancel your tour with Raise Hell that you were supposed to do during May due to the writing and recording your new album. Anyway, do you feel like you should somehow make up for your fans the cancellation of this tour with Raise Hell some day?
Yeah, in some ways I feel bad about that. We are all sorry to the fans everywhere for cancelling, and also to Raise Hell. But we will be back out real soon to rage the stage and make up for it. At the time though, we felt it was best that we get this CD recorded so we have something to go out and promote. At the same time, we were told that the engineer we are currently recording with, would be on tour with his band and it wasn’t looking good for us. We just really had no choice.
MARCH OF THE DEATH BRIGADE HAS STARTED
Let´s continue talking about your new songs because I´m sure people are eager to know more about them. First off, could you tell how many songs you’ve planned to record for your follow-up album, and how do they compare to the material you had on your debut album, COMPLETE ANNIHILATION?
Well there is going to be 10 songs on this new album. All of which are pretty kick ass raging tunes! As for how they compare, that’s a tough one. Most songs are faster than what was featured on our debut, yet a lot catchier! The vocal patterns are better this time around as well. However, there are things we do that I guess makes us stick out from all the other bands in our riffs and arrangements. That aspect will always be there!
How was the song writing process shared between each band member for DEATH BRIGADE this time? Which members were kind of the head coaches to others – guiding the musical direction you should head towards in order to get all those ingredients for new songs?
The writing process this time was again mostly done by guitarist/vocalist Eric. Everyone does put something in it though. We have all brought some interesting riffs and ideas to the table this time around. Everyone is a lot more focused, so the songs come off that way as well. Shawn (bassist) pretty much wrote 3 by himself, Marc (guitarist) came up with some awesome riffs and ideas, and I brought a few ideas to the table as well. I guess everything is just more focused as entire band this time around. We are all very picky in what we write and play but we feel we accomplished the writing well this time.
Would you subscribe a sort of statement when you started writing these new Avenger of Blood tunes for your next output, making the songs to sound catchier, more brutal, heavier and even more old school Thrash, were actually some of those keywords that you had in your mind regarding your new stuff?
Totally! You hit the nail on the head with all of those terms. We knew we wanted to speed up and we did that this time around for the most part. So that naturally just became a more brutal approach in it. All of our stuff has a pretty old school feel to it, but we just did like we always have done and added that modern aggression to it, making it be Avenger of Blood! I think when you hear these new songs, you’ll really be able to hear what I mean.
When the songs have been recorded, mixed and mastered completely for the album, undoubtedly one of the harder things after that is to make sort out the final order of the songs for the album. Have you already some idea which song f.ex. might be a good choice to start the album – and which song might fit to end your new album?
No not at this time we don’t have a clue, which should be 1st or last on the album. When that time comes to start listing the order, it´s really going to be a grueling process. It is something that I am not really looking fwd to doing, but then again, it´s one of the last steps with this process, so I am looking fwd to seeing what gets placed where and cranking it to 11 on my stereo. Ha-ha-ha…!!
Your engineer Lance obviously did a hell of a job in the studio by offering his very best production skills for the whole recording process, so would you kindly tell us how it was to work with him and what do you honestly think of the final result of this recording session with him?
Well, as we are still in the process of recording, I can already answer this! Lance is an amazing engineer! He’s by far the best we have ever worked with so far. He knows his equipment, and he really knows how to get the best sound on the instruments. That is very important to us as we finally get to really hear what we sound like. Our sound is coming out strongly this time around, whereas the last few times we never really got exactly what we wanted. Everyone liked the old stuff, but the sound of what we truly sound like has never came through until now. Also, having an engineer who knows what metal actually is, is a huge help. Lance is a metalhead and relates to what we are about really well. He’s also sober when sitting behind the board, which is awesome because the last guys have all been high and that’s when everything goes wrong. Lance is also a very down to earth guy and extremely humorous, so it really eases tension when it may start creeping in. He was the guy we wanted to record with as I had 100% faith in his abilities and a lot of respect for his work. We’ll definitely be working with him more after this!
The title of your forthcoming, 2nd album will be DEATH BRIGADE. Does the title, in your opinion, also reflect what Avenger of Blood are all about musically? A sort of death brigade as far as your aggressive, heavy and all-annihilating Thrash sound is concerned?
Exactly! That is what we had in mind when creating this material. We just really wanted to show what we were about this time around moreso than the 1st album we did. But it´s not just about us, it´s about the real metalheads in general! Those that support the Thrash movement and real metal in general, this album is about them as well.
“THE MOTÖRHEAD MAN” GETS ATTENTION
Joe “The Motörhead Man” Petagno will be the artist behind the album cover of DEATH BRIGADE. Was Joe a sort of obvious choice for you since the very beginning when you started to look around a suitable album cover artist for this release? What are some of those eye-catching elements in his artworks that you greatly and so irresistibly admire in them?
This is a great question! When the label was talking to us about art, we started mentioning artists that we could get to do the cover and what we’d be interested in. There were a few artists we talked about, and in the end this time around, we thought Joe Petagno would be the best. After we were looking at other pictures he did besides the infamous Motörhead covers, there were a few pictures he had on his web site that just blew us away, and at that time we knew it’d be awesome to have him do it. As far as what I admire about his work it the colors he uses and the way he can make the action that is happening in the photos come to life, yet having its own characteristics to it. The cover turned out amazing to us and we are all very happy about it.
How did you end up signing a deal with Heavy Artillery Records anyway? Did it have something to do with the fact your friends in Merciless Death are also signed to them – and based on their experiences and recommendations about the label, you made your decision and also decided to sign this deal with them?
When Heavy Artillery contacted us about being featured on the SPEED KILLS… AGAIN compilation, everything really just escalated from there. There were some other business aspects that got the label owner and I talking, and we formed a great bond with each other. It became a mutual respect between band and label as well. The label understood what we are about and really backed us in that which we know a lot of other labels may not have agreed with. I really think we made a wise decision in signing with Heavy Artillery. I wouldn’t have it any other way at this point!
Were there some other labels out there that were vying with Heavy Artillery Records to get Avenger of Blood signed for their label instead? If so, why didn´t you find other of these labels´ offers attractive enough for Avenger of Blood and rejected all of them eventually?
There were a few minor talks with a few other prospective labels, but nothing really came of it.
As for your label mates Merciless Death, you are about to go on U.S. tour with them during August/September, to support them on this tour that will be called “Evil Curse 2007”. How many dates do you have already booked to your tour calendar, and will there still be some dates to be announced soon as some venues are still open where you are supposed to play together with them?
Well this is all still in the works. We are both excited to get out there and conquer the cities we have never played before. We are very supportive of each other in every aspect as well, so it should be a great time when it happens! There are no official dates as of yet, but I hope we are able to get that resolved shortly.
What about Europe, and all those massive metal festivals here in the European continent? Will these festivals slots be one of your main goals next year as they are surely one of the best possible ways to make your band more known amongst metalheads because of the massive crowds in most of them?
Most definitely!! I’d love to get over there and rage! I have a real good friend that goes over every year and tells me all about the stories and such. It really sounds like a blast. There are always bands I’d want to see play and hopefully meet with over there. W we have some huge fans that I’d really like to meet and there are people that must see us live!
Are there some special festivals in your mind that you´d hope to attend with Avenger of Blood some day? “Like Bang Your Head!!!” in Germany? “Wacken” in Germany? “Tuska” in Finland? “Bloodstock” in England?
Yes, definitely all the ones you listed! I’d also like to play “Keep It True” in Germany, “Open Hell” in Czech Republic, “Sweden Rock” in Sweden, “Inferno Festíval” in Norway, “Party.San” in Germany, and “Gods of Metal” in Italy. I know there are tons more but those are the ones I know of that have always seemed interesting. Plus maybe get on one of the Xmas Festival tours that travel every year!
THRASH IS THE LAW OF METAL
What´s your opinion on the state of today´s Speed/Thrash Metal scene? Granted, you cannot get the ´80s era back, but it truly seems like many younger bands have sussed out really well what the ´80s Speed/Thrash Metal was all about. Just listen to such bands as Merciless Death, HeXeN, Warbringer, Violator, Farscape, Suicidal Angels and the likes – and one starts heavily to agree with you without a slightest hesitation…
The state of today’s Thrash scene is amazing! The bands you just mentioned are all very good! There are some more really, really good bands out there with the right attitude and energy. There are some other bands we have became great friends with such as Dekapitator, Hatchet, Devastator, Postmortom, Grave Hill, and Head On Collision to name a few. Plus you have the bands that have been doing this and not giving up like Usurper, Gehennah, Witchery and more. When we started this band back in 2003 it was with that goal to help make it come back, but I never expected it to be like it is! There are just a lot of great bands. New ones are starting to surface every day as well, so I hope it is able to stick around for a while.
What could you say are some of the best and most talented newcomers coming from your area that have truly found a good recipe for their own sound in order to sound old school enough, just impressing you how well they can really vomit some killer stuff out from their instruments?
Well, for Las Vegas there are a few really good bands that follow that like Postmortom and Ablivion. There are a few new old school Death Metal bands here as well… But other than that, most stuff is too ´Nu´ or ´HxCx (Hardcore)´ for me.
Some Speed/Thrash Metal bands that existed – as well as ceased to exist during the ´80s – and ´90s era of metal, have made their comebacks and comeback albums during 2000, just like Exodus (TEMPO OF THE DAMNED in 2004), Death Angel (THE ART OF DYING in 2004), Assassin (The Club in 2005) and Onslaught (KILLING PEACE in 2007) – just to name these few as good examples. Do you find it great that all these comebacks are being made by once-dead Thrash -heroes, or would you rather like to see this as some sort of short ´fashion thing´ that will last as long as their records are sold, and these reformed ´old heroes´ find playing thrash interesting for themselves?
Well, I think it´s great that these older bands have reformed! I know most of them got cut short because of the arrival of the grunge and alternative scene that came in the 90′s and really left these bands with not much of an audience anymore, as well as the labels dismissing bands because Thrash was not selling anymore and so on. I think some of these old bands were just starting to find themselves and started really unleashing some killer music. Plus when all the bands inner turmoils started happening for various reasons, it also put a damper on things. Now I think they are coming back to show they still have what it takes (and what it took back then) to still carry on. Many bands have resolved their differences and just push themselves like they never stopped. I think it is truly amazing they can do that. I just think those musicians find Thrash interesting for themselves, or they wouldn’t do it.
A QUICK VISIT IN VENGEANCE RISING
To continue our talking about these so-called ´old heroes´ a bit further, you have also played drums in Vengeance Rising when Vengeance Rising´s vocalist Roger Martinez reformed the band in 2000 again, and was intended to release Vengeance Rising´s 5th full-length album, titled REALMS OF BLASPHEMY, on Hallows Eve the same year by himself. For some strange reason, this album was never released? As far as I´m aware of Vengeance Rising´s line-up at that time, you obviously played the drums on that album, didn´t you? So, what happened with the album why it was never released?
I quit shortly after I joined which was 1998. As far as I know, there was no album recorded. But I don’t know much about it if there was, because I just wanted nothing to do with that shit excuse called a “band” after I quit. I thought it would have been a great opportunity at the time I joined, but that faded quickly. I just don’t like to get into this subject. This is one of those things I wish never happened and would love to erase that from any history ever!
I have also read that you have told in public that it was nearly impossible to work with Roger as he seemed to be a very difficult person for any co-operation with him. It was even told he tried to sell his album to the U.S. army in order to encourage people to some sort of holy war against Christians due to the terrorist attacks on the American soil on September 11th 2001?! Hmm… I guess I may know well enough now what type of person you were dealing with back in those days…
Well whatever floats his boat I guess. It just goes to show why it never worked out. I’m not into that Christianity thing either, but I think he takes things a little too far at times.
However, it cannot be denied Vengeance Rising´s HUMAN SACRIFICE (released on Intense in 1989) is a great piece of relatively brutal Thrash Metal – and the album is surely a very underrated as hell. Do you somewhat screamingly agree with me?
It is definitely a great album! A few songs sucked to me, but overall it was a brutal album for being Thrash. This is actually one album that I didn’t care what was sung about. It was just killer music!
Ok, let´s go back to the main subject Avenger of Blood for the last couple of questions, if you don´t mind, he! Along with the release of DEATH BRIGADE, it can be supposed that your current label Heavy Artillery Records will be launching a new merchandise stuff for Avenger of Blood like T-shirts with your new album design, Avenger of Blood patches, posters, bullet – and rivet belts, commando caps and stuff like that. Well, am I right, or am I just expecting simply way too much from your label? ;o)
Oh yeah! There will be a lot that stuff. Not sure on the bullet and rivet belts as those are mighty expensive already. T-Shirts, hoodies, patches, posters, stickers, and the like will be made I am sure.
Since Merciless Death got a really fancy-looking, limited vinyl release out for their debut album EVIL IN THE NIGHT, can we expect something similar to be released from Avenger of Blood, too? What could be more old school than get a vinyl format released these days…
Yeah, our album will be released in vinyl as well. Really looking fwd to seeing that! I don’t have a record player, but I will still get one just because! I’d really like to see what could be done about limited edition blood splatter looking ones. Hell, even picture disc!! That would rule!
PLANS FOR 2007
What are some of those realistic plans that you hope to achieve with Avenger of Blood by the end of the year 2007?
Touring for sure! Getting out there and playing relentlessly to support our album!! Our main plans are to see DEATH BRIGADE in a lot of people´s hands and at the shows! We plan on being out there quite a bit this year. Seeing the release in the stores will be a huge plus since that failed on our debut. I’d like to meet a lot of the people and bands we have been talking to. Also to get things back on track again!
Guess or not, but we have come to the end of this interview, so I wanna sincerely thank you Shannon very much for your time with this insanely long question marathon. Hopefully it was worth it at least. And the ´famous last words´, feel privileged to have them from me… ;o)
Thanks for the interview Luxi! It´s always a pleasure talking with you!! Look for our new release DEATH BRIGADE in late August that will be available everywhere.