Canadian thrash legends´ return
An interview with vocalist & guitarist Rob Urbinati
Interview by Luxi Lahtinen
The Canadian (thrash) metal scene used to be one of the most interesting and strongest back in the day, especially during the ´80s. Many of us could name at least a half dozen of metal bands out from that country that made a great impression on us in the ´80s (Exciter, Razor, Annihilator, Voivod, Infernäl Mäjesty, Dead Brain Cells, etc. – actually it´s this easy) by churning out many great albums to their roster that are considered as the true classics of the genre these days.
Then, the new millenium 2000 brought us many comebacks of once defunct thrash acts – some of their comebacks being somewhat well-grounded while some others not that much. If there´s one particular thrash band that could be said to be worth coming back, it´s definitely the legendary Canadian thrash warriors called Sacrifice who released such fine tour-de-forces of thrash, like the TORMENT IN FIRE and FORWARD TO TERMINATION albums during that golden decade of thrash metal.
Sacrifice have currently been working hard on their 5th studio album, titled THE ONES I CONDEMN, at Rouge Valley Studio here in Toronto, together with engineer Darius Szczepaniak - and if Rob´s own words about the album are anything to go by, expect no less than Sacrifice´s return to the basics of thrash. As Rob himself has promised, the album´s gonna be fast, heavy and devastating – and it´s gonna sound like it´s been done by a real band instead of some computer-program-fixed band.
I contacted Rob recently and and asked him to reveal some more details about the new Sacrifice album – amongst other things, via this email conversation that Rob was kind enough to do with me for Metal-Rules.com. What is certain, THE ONES I CONDEMN won´t let leave thrash fans cold – just believe me! ;o)
Last time we talked via email, you seemed to be very excited about this forthcoming, 5th Sacrifice studio album, THE ONES I CONDEMN. You said this album sounds fast, brutal and raw enough – and you even mentioned that THE ONES I CONDEMN will be the best thrash album that has been released since 1989, and Sacrifice fans won’t be disappointed. Uh, pretty brave words from you, but that only means you must be very confident about the stuff on in, correct?
Yeah Luxi, keep it off the record for me, thanks, ha-ha-ha!! I’m not usually the type to boast like that. We wanted to bring the brutal element back to thrash. Sometimes the genre seems to me like it has become “party rock” or something and that is not what it was when it first began. One thing I will say is that you have my guarantee that no Sacrifice fan will be disappointed in this album. It has a very serious vibe, this is not a band trying to expand their sound to a wider audience. We are very satisfied and confident with what we have created.
This 34-second teaser taken from the album’s title track, “The Ones I Condemn”, at least made a great promise about your forthcoming stuff, and if the whole album is going to sound the same, then I’m personally all sold for it. Damn it hit hard… Really damn hard indeed!
Thanks Luxi, I’m glad you liked it and can’t wait for you to hear the whole thing.
THE ONES I CONDEMN – SONG BY SONG
If we dive a little bit deeper into the songs on it, could you kindly give us a short description about each song musically on THE ONES I CONDEMN, telling with a few, well chosen words how each song on it is like? I’m 100% positive sure the Sacrifice fans are from all over the world are all plain eyes now… ;o)
Here we go then…
01. "We Will Prevail"
A short instrumental that begins with some cool slow harmony riffs that ends with a fast part that will immediately erase any doubts about Sacrifice.
02. "The Ones I Condemn"
The title track with some killer riffs and chaotic intensity. It will be mentioned in the same breath as our best classics.
03. "Give Me Justice"
Begins mid-paced and explodes into maybe the tightest thrash picking we have ever done. Probably the most melodic on the album, but I mean melodic in the context of Sacrifice. It is totally ripping with vengeance.
04. "The Great Wall"
The first doomy riffs give way to some chugging double bass and then kicks into total overdrive. This song is classic Sacrifice. Vocally, probably my favorite and Gus really kicks the shit out of his drums on this one. Lyrically inspired by the Chinese battle text “The Art of War”.
My favorite on the album. Starts pure evil and has some dynamic parts that build the intensity to a completely head caving end. There is a short part in the middle with soft guitar that is one of the most evil sounding things we’ve ever done. I love this song.
Gus has his kick drums drive this one. Joe’s leads are great in this… as they are on the whole album. Really memorable stuff, not just random arpeggios and sweeps… Feel and tasteful phrases. Lyrically inspired by some child soldier stuff I had been reading that was so insane it was hard to believe.
Pure thrash metal. Some say it has a slight old hardcore influence like FORWARD TO TERMINATION era Sacrifice. Will be a fan favorite. Usually earlier than song 7 on an album the filler comes in, not here. We considered using this for the opening track.
08. "The Devils Martyr"
The fastest song on the album. 2 minutes of relentless pounding. TORMENT IN FIRE type Sacrifice.
09. "Ultimate Power Corrupts"
Scott plays with his fingers, and the fact that his bass playing is airtight on a song like this blows me away. Kind of a mid-paced, fast song.
10. "Desolation Alive"
This is an epic 7+ minute one. A couple of people close to us passed away during the writing and recording of this album. When friends die, it kind of makes you look at your own mortality, that is what this deals with and has some very haunting parts. Really tasteful lead playing, great riffs and drumming, the ones who inspired it would have loved it.
How much did each of you contribute both album’s song- and lyric writing on THE ONES I CONDEMN? Did you ideas match well together how you wanted your songs to turn out both from its musical- and lyrical aspects?
Ever since about 1986, the band has pretty much let me go with whatever as far as lyrics go. The same applies now, they might suggest some things to me and I am totally receptive to that. Musically, I have been at a creative peak and wrote virtually everything, but the band was totally involved in checking out the demoed stuff and encouraged my creativity. Joe does about 90% of the leads on this and really brought the songs to a new dimension as did Scott, who really changed the complexion of parts with his bass lines. Our vision was to return thrash metal to before it had splintered off into different genres. Before it was polluted with trying to get big and attempting to gain financial rewards, when it was raw, pure and vicious.
What about the song titles on THE ONES I CONDEMN? What kinds of things did you write about, and where did you get the all these ideas for the stories behind the songs on this album actually?
They came from all different directions, personal experience, friends’ experiences, reading, movies, news, all over the place.
You have been working hard with this album at Toronto-based Rouge Valley Studio together with Darius Szczepaniak who has previously worked with such bands as I mother Earth, Sum 41 and Edwin that really aren’t metal bands. How did you end up choosing him to work with you, and do you think Darius really nailed it down how you wanted your 5th studio album to sound like – in other words: Fast, brutal and raw?
Those are some of the bigger bands he has worked with. Any engineer works with musicians from all kinds of different genres, but Darius is a metal fan at heart. Some friends of mine in a band called Redeemer were recording at Rouge Valley Studios, and being close to my house, I really wanted to check it out. After meeting Darius and explaining what we wanted to achieve, I knew he was the engineer for us. He is about the same age as us, knows metal and seems as excited about doing this album as we are. He is totally into our idea of doing it without samples and clicks and tons of edits. I am the producer, but he is the man on the faders and he is easily the best engineer we have worked with. Also, the vibe at the studio is really good. It is totally relaxed and an awesome low pressure place to work.
NO TRIGGERED SAMPLES, NO QUANTIZED DRUM SOUND – GOAL TO SOUND HUMAN-MADE
As reported previously by you, the songs on THE ONES I CONDEMN should not feature click tracks, triggered samples, quantized drum sound, whatsoever – and therefore the final outcome of your new album should be very organic and human-sounding. Did you keep all these goals up to the very end, now when the album has come near to its finishing stages?
People (most of all, me) are getting really sick of that “Fear Factory” sound. It works for them, and a few others, but in most cases it just sounds so plastic to me. I want to actually hear what a drummer’s actual kit sounds like, and hear him actually play without all the digital manipulation. You can’t tell if a drummer can play anymore because they fix all the little timing mistakes that make the recording sound human. We stayed true to our recording goals and the result is great. We basically recorded the same way we always had in the 80’s and 90’s, just not to tape. Gus actually pounds his drums, he doesn’t tap them, and so there is no reason for him to use samples. A lot of these drummers that use triggers barely hit their drums. Fans are pretty ignorant of how bands records these days… Trust me you don’t even want to know, you would be appalled.
What are – from your point of view, some of Darius´ best assets as a producer then? Do you think he’s the type of guy who can clearly understand what it takes to make an old school thrash band like Sacrifice, to sound, eh, such ´old school´, capturing really well the magical ´80s vibe for this record? Obviously you don’t regret it a bit that you eventually chose him to produce the album, I guess… ;o)
Darius is the studio engineer – and not the producer (eh, sorry. My mistake - Luxi adds), although we totally encourage his input. We went in and explained what we wanted to sound like and he made it a reality. Sounding “old-school” wasn’t something we even brought up. We don’t want this to sound like a throwback shitty 80’s recording; we want to sound like Sacrifice in 2009. One thing that was never captured on any of our albums was the intensity that we display live. Darius has helped us realize this goal. We don’t need an outsider coming in once in a while to add his input, telling us how we should sound, telling us that it is okay to reference our past and shit like that. We can do that ourselves. If you need a producer to come in and tell you it is okay to sound like yourselves, it might be time to stop. The engineer dials in the sounds and that was the most important thing for us. We are Sacrifice, and we will sound the way we define. Not a producer’s vision that knows nothing about this band or our history.
You started recording the songs for this album at Rouge Valley Studio in December 2008 already, so it all seems like you have truly taken your time to get things done downright right for this opus. However, since you have been recording the album for a quite long time, I was wondering did you face any setbacks during the recording session, like loosing your track momentarily how you wanted the album turn out to be like or something?
We haven’t been in the studio the whole time; after the drums were done we have been coming in a day here and there without pressure. The staff at Rouge Valley has been great with us and very accommodating. We have never been this focused before so, no, we have not lost track of our vision. Sometimes it is good to have a few days to reflect on what had been laid down. The studio wants us to walk away with something that we are 100% happy with. We are ready to mix very soon.
It’s the known fact already that the Brazilian Marquee Records is going to release Sacrifice’s new album during this spring. As for the release date of THE ONES I CONDEMN, has some particular date already carved into stone? If I could suggest a perfect release date for it, how about on June 6th because I’m getting married at that day, ha! ;oP
There is no date carved in stone, we have a few things to take care of before the release. Congratulations Luxi, I didn’t even know you were getting married, and on June 6th (thank you Rob – Luxi). Leave it to you to get married on Slayer day!
How about the album cover artwork? When will it be revealed in public, and could you tell us also you ended up choosing this particular artwork specifically for your 5th studio album?
I am not willing to discuss this yet, but I will say that Michael Rosner that did the awesome Believer cover is working with us. Sometime in the next month or so we will unveil the new cover. Roz is a consummate perfectionist and wants most of all us, and him as well to be fully content on the album cover. His results on the Believer cover speak for his visions and artistic ablitity.
What kind of personal hopes, or expectations do you have towards THE ONES I CONDEMN anyway? Do you strongly believe that many people might even talk about this album as the best thrash metal album that was released in 2009 when this year has come to its end?
One advantage we have on other bands is that we are not trying to make a comeback, get rich, and make a career out of this or anything. After our reunion show when Sacrifice decided to do another album, it was just purely to create the best album we could with no compromise. We have no expectations on sales or whatever; there are definitely no plans to tour, although we will play a few shows. I don’t want to hype this up in an interview because every band says the same bullshit. Wait until it is released and we will let the metal fans decide what they think of it.
ABOUT THE LATEST THRASH REVIVAL
What’s your take on this latest revival (or hype) of thrash metal bands? I mean, as you have surely noticed yourself, last year was a great year for many new thrash bands. Many labels seemed to sign as many thrash metal bands as they could, and get albums out from them, trying to make the best out of this ongoing thrash boom. Anyway, were there any new thrash bands out there that in your opinion, truly deserved to get their albums released – for being the type of thrash that gets your personal validation and acceptance about a well executed, ripping thrash metal album? Do you honestly think some of these new bands can still deliver their goods as well – or at least nearly as well as some of those thrash bands that existed during the ´80s and released many great albums – and are now considered as the true classics of the whole thrash metal genre nowadays?
There are a few new bands I like, Evile have some pretty incredible rhythm chops, Warbringer, HeXeN – and a few others. But there is also great deal of horrible bands in my opinion, but at the same time some of these bands are pretty young and will develop, so they deserve a chance. I don’t really follow the new thrash scene at all either, once in a while I hear a new band from friends. The one thing that turns me off a lot of new bands is that the vocalists need to do a bit more with their voices and I wish they would leave the campy element out of it. John from Warbringer is an example of a good thrash vocalist from the new wave for me. I think they are one of the bands that will progress and elevate themselves from the pack, they are young, and seem to have the right attitude.
How about your own country Canada, and the current thrash metal scene there in has a really potential speed/thrash metal scene as it used to be in the ´80s – with bands like Voivod, Infernäl Mäjesty, Razor, Exciter, Armoros, Dead Brain Cells and of course Sacrifice, etc. – all leading your country’s thrash troops back then. Have any new Canadian speed/thrash bands caught your attention over the past few years or so, and for what reason (-s)?
One thrash band from Toronto called Rammer released an awesome album called CANCER a few years back, then broke up and a couple of them are in Toxic Holocaust now I believe. Another band called Burn to Black which featured Sam Dunn (Headbangers Journey, Global Metal films) were great but also disbanded. In the thrash realm in Canada, not much is happening that I am aware of, but there are some great bands in other metal genres.
Back to the Sacrifice for the last 2-3 questions though. You are also about to release a DVD, titled LIVE REANIMATION, this spring that will feature Sacrifice’s reunion show that was filmed at the “Day of the Equinox II” festival in Toronto in September 2006. Will it also feature some extras, like your old promo videos, photo galleries, Sacrifice wallpapers – and so on?
There aren’t many extras, mainly because I don’t think many fans really give a crap about photo galleries, etc… I know I don’t. There is an in-depth interview with Scott, Gus and myself and that is about it. Brian Shelton the video producer seemed to capture the vibe of the night well. Not flashy, or over produced, perfect for us. It is all about the reunion concert footage. The menu look is very Sacrifice and the eerie menu score was done by Mirai from Sigh. We have discussed doing another DVD at some point with our old promo videos and some bootleg CLIFF EM ALL type live footage.
Do you have any intention to shoot a promotional video for one of the songs off THE ONES I CONDEMN also? That would anyway be a cool idea to promote your new album a bit more by shooting one – and what the best, it would certainly help to get the band’s name more on people’s lips, that’s for sure…
I seriously doubt that we will do a promo video for this album. If we remain completely underground that is fine with us. Becoming a big name doesn’t really interest us anymore. We are all 41-42 years old now; we are not interested in being rock stars. We are relying on the metal underground to spread the word.
How about Sacrifice’s touring plans? After your new album is out, I believe you’ll activate at that front as well, or that’s what you are hoping for anyway…
No, we have absolutely no touring aspirations or plans. We will play a few select shows, but definitely no tour. At our age, and where we are in our lives, it would take an absolutely mind blowing offer to get us on the road, and winning the lottery is probably more likely.
Well, I guess that was it, so thank you Rob very much for your time by filling us all up with the latest news from the Sacrifice camp – and let the year 2009 will also be the year of Sacrifice’s new coming. If you have any last words for our readers, or Sacrifice fans around the world, then feel free to throw them to conclude this interview…
I would just like to say to Sacrifice fans, thank you for your support over the years, and also to a new generation of Sacrifice fans for resurrecting us and bringing this band back to life. I can’t wait for all of you to feel the fury of our new material!!
THE OFFICIAL SACRIFICE HOMEPAGE: