Interview with Anton Reisenegger, guitars/lead vocals
Interview by Paul Macmillan
You’ve probably heard Anton Reisenegger in action before, even if you didn’t realise it; Pentegram Chile, Lock-Up, Brujeria, and, I’m led to believe, a certain spoken word section of a recent(ish) At The Gates album. However, he is best known as the frontman of legendary Chilean thrashers, Criminal. Formed back at the start of the 90s wave of thrash metal, thirty years, nine albums, and one global horror story later, their latest platter, Sacrificio dropped this year. “A twelve track bludgeoning that harks back to their roots – both literally and metaphorically.” Time to dig deeper with vocalist/guitarist.
We’re here to talk about Criminal’s ninth studio album! Quite an achievement! How would you personally sum it up, for a new listener to the band?
For a new listener, I would say it is a balanced mix between thrash, death metal and hardcore, with a few touches of grindcore here and there. It is a short, intense blast at your senses.
How has historical Chilean culture woven its way into the fabric of this latest album?
I think that is something we just have inside of us. The way we understand life in general and music in particular is determined by our surroundings and our upbringing, so maybe it’s not easy to put into words, but I think if the band was from a different part of the world it wouldn’t sound like this.
Do you feel a personal attachment to this culture?
Of course. I was born and raised in Chile and only moved away when I was 32, but, even though I have lived in several other countries, I still feel very much Chilean.
For those more familiar with your past releases, does this Chilean culture have any stronger influence on Sacrificio? Either in the music or the lyrics?
I think so. I have a feeling that, since we moved the band to Europe, the sound became more and more “European”. This is the first album in over 20 years that we wrote and recorded in Chile entirely, plus the band is 3/4 Chilean again, so this album sounds very much like going back to our roots.
And what about the current political climate in Chile? It seems like that may have had an influence on the atmosphere throughout the album.
Definitely. The last couple years, during which we wrote and recorded the album, has seen a lot of social and political unrest. This has derived in a lot of violence and, as Chileans, it was impossible not to write about it on our new album.
Do you have any views on the protests that occurred, and did they or other local political/social events have any influence on your output?
I am very sad that things had to reach this level of violence for the people who are in charge to take notice that the population demand real change. I am very much in agreement with most of the demands of the social movement, but I hope they can be solved with intelligence and empathy rather than confrontation.
As well as cultural roots, you seem to be tapping into your metal foundations as well. Is it fair to say that the visceral nature of 90s thrash held a place in the creation of Sacrificio?
Oh yeah absolutely. There’s a lot of extreme metal from the 90s, both death and thrash – maybe even some industrial metal – that can be heard on “Sacrificio”. It is in a way our tribute to that era, but it isn’t a nostalgia album. I think it is very much forward-thinking at the same time.
I believe you like to work songs out as a whole band. Was that difficult with the pandemic in play, and Dan being from the UK?
Well, I had gotten into the habit of writing most of our albums almost by myself in front of my computer. Since our new drummer Danilo joined, we tried a different dynamic, so it was him and me in the rehearsal studio, sweating it out, and throwing riffs and ideas at each other, and I think you can totally tell on the record that there’s a spontaneity that was missing on the previous ones. I’m not sure if it would work the same with the whole band in one room, but I definitely prefer the rehearsal room to the bedroom experience, haha!
What do you find are the strongest musical components your current bandmates brought to this new album?
Both Sergio and Danilo are extremely talented musicians who could actually play much more than they do on the album, even other styles of music, as they are both academically trained. But they put the band and the songs in the first place, always trying to make things a little better, but never falling out of context. I consider myself very lucky to be working with them. And Danny..,. well Danny is the glue that holds it all together.
You actually seem to have quite an international approach to working with other musicians. Do you find it easy to introduce them to the Chilean aspects of Criminal?
I don’t feel I need to introduce them. From the first time they come and play in Chile they absolutely fall in love with the country and the people, because Chileans can be loud and crazy, but they are also very warm and kind.
As a UK based follower of the band, I have to ask, do you foresee any live shows on our soil in the near future? Would you be worried about the impact of Brexit on your UK touring?
I certainly hope we can play in the UK sooner rather than later, but right now it depends on a number of factors, Brexit being just one of them. As far as that is concerned, I hope the UK can reach some sort of agreement with the EU and other countries so British musicians can tour abroad and vice versa.
Have you ever had problems taking the band abroad in other regions? For example, the US?
Not really, no.
In your mind, is there an album number ten to come?
Oh yeah absolutely, but right now we are talking about an EP sung entirely in Spanish. Our songs in Spanish seem to have a big impact, even on people who don’t speak the language, so we just want to try it.
30 years is quite some time to keep the fires burning. Have you ever been tempted to call it a day?
I guess I have thought about it a few times, but I’m not really sure what else I would do. But I can tell you, it doesn’t feel like 30 years to me. I still have the same energy and enthusiasm as I had when we started. Maybe even more.
Thank you for taking the time to talk. Is there anything further you’d like to say to our readers?
I just hope everyone has a listen to our new album. It may not be the flavour of the month, but I think it sounds heavy, fresh and brutal. And especially: honest. Thanks for your time and support!