There are three things Himsa frontman John Pettibone has always wanted to accomplish as a musician — he’s been keeping a mental list ever since he started making music. So far he’s checked off one of the goals, but he hopes Himsa’s latest record, Summon in Thunder — which came out in mid-September — will help him with the other two.
“I always wanted to be on ’Headbangers Ball,’ because I grew up watching Riki Rachtman,” said Pettibone, who is also an avid fan of horror films and has been skateboarding the last 23 years. “We were on the show twice, so I was pretty excited about that. I would also love for Himsa to be on a horror-movie soundtrack. And I’ve always wanted to be in Thrasher magazine. So I’ve got one of the three done.” For good measure, he added: “Oh, and if we ever toured or played a show with Slayer, I’d be set.”
Those are modest goals for a band like Himsa, who have been around since 1998. But according to Pettibone, the Seattle-hailing metalcore madmen are prepared to take their career to the next level, as he says they did with their sound on Summon in Thunder.
“We’ve really progressed with this record, and we’re all really proud of it,” he said. “We’ve all been playing in bands for quite a lot longer than Himsa’s been around, and it’s one of those things where we’re completely proud of what we’ve done, and we’ve gotten to a point where we have a definite sound. … We’ve gone through all the struggles, and that’s what keeps all of us sane. We’ve been on really bad tours, slept on floors for many years, and it’s that drive and ethic that we’ve always kept in the band that makes it a little more special. We’ve seen the worst, and we’ve been through the worst, so any gain we’re happy with.”
For those of you who haven’t heard the new album yet, Pettibone says the album is a perfect mixture between their 2003 album, Courting Tragedy and Disaster, and 2006’s Hail Horror.
“I think the aggression of the record will surprise people,” he said. “There is melody there, but not like before. … We steered clear of the way the metal scene has been going, with thick breakdowns and clean vocals — we didn’t want to do what’s popular right now. We went for more of that thrash sound that we love. We grew up in the ’80s on East Bay thrash, and we took those elements and went the opposite way the scene’s going, and people are digging it. So I can’t complain.
“It’s a record that, even if I wasn’t in the band, I’d be like, ’God, I love these guys,’ ” he continued. “It sounds like a band I would truly follow.”
So what exactly is the new Himsa sound?
“Honestly, we didn’t change anything besides working with a new producer,” the singer said, adding that he partnered with Strapping Young Lad frontman/producer Devin Townsend (Lamb of God, Soilwork) to work on his vocals. “It was great. Our intention was to try and get him for the whole record, but because of his schedule, we had about a [weeklong] span where he could fit us in. His specialty is vocals anyways, but I was a little nervous to work with him, because I work at a local club in Seattle, and Strapping always played there, and I’d see how manic he’d get. I didn’t know what it would be like to work with him. But the first minute I met him, we were instant friends.”
The band also worked with Steve Carter (Cradle of Filth, Alien Crime Syndicate), who helmed Courting Tragedy and Disaster, and reunited with Tue Madsen (Aborted, Suicide Silence), who mixed and engineered Hail Horror.
“All of us combined got us to that next level,” he said. “We also had some more time to work on this record than we’d had before. We used to do tours, then come home, write for a month, record for a month, and then go back on the road. This time, we had about a year off. We were home for a while, and the creative juices just started flowing. Seattle’s a very gray, somber city — even the look of it — and we were surrounded by forest. That environment plays a big part in how we write, too.”
Pettibone said he pulled 12-hour days for an entire week while working with Townsend at his studio in Vancouver, British Columbia. “I’ve never felt more comfortable in any project I’ve ever done,” he explained. “I’d definitely love to work with him again. We’re all big fans of Devin’s work. … We’d like to nail him down as [our next] album’s producer, but we’ll see if that happens.
“The thing about Devin is, he didn’t push me,” Pettibone continued. “We kept doing take after take, but he’s so focused on pronunciation, and I’d never had a problem with that before — people told me they could understand what I was saying, not like a lot of other bands these days. But with Devin, he’d tell me to give him more ’R’ in this word, or more ’P’ in that one, and slowly, I understood what he was getting at, and by the end of the week, I knew what he wanted.”
Fans who pick up Summon in Thunder will find inside the package a DVD featuring a three-part segment on the making of the album. One segment, Pettibone said, was shot during his week with Townsend, and as you might imagine, hijinx definitely ensued.
“It’s pretty hilarious — just me and Devin, messing around in Vancouver, filming people on the streets,” he said. “It’s pretty damn funny.”
More craziness will likely ensue later this month, when Himsa launch a U.S. with Amon Amarth, Sonic Syndicate and, at least tentatively, Decapitated. The trek kicks off November 19 in San Diego and wraps December 19 in Los Angeles. According to the band’s publicist, it’s still unknown whether Decapitated will make the tour, considering two of their members are still in the hospital after sustaining serious head injuries during a car accident in Russia. The band hasn’t been officially removed from the bill as of yet.
Himsa also have a pair of music videos that are making the rounds online — one for “Unleash Carnage,” which features a faux heated tennis match inspired by Wes Anderson’s 2001 film, “The Royal Tenenbaums,” and another for “Big Timber,” which also has an interesting concept.
“We’re all sasquatches, and we’re playing these instruments in the forest,” Pettibone explained. “A friend of ours made it using puppets. In the video, we have to cut down this tree to make the instruments, and the tree seeks revenge on us. It’s kind of cool.”
The rest of the week’s metal news:
There’s some sad news to report Friday (November 2), as Decapitated drummer Witold “Vitek” Kieltyka died in a Russian hospital from injuries he’d sustained in a recent road collision. He was 23 years old. According to reports, Vitek underwent trepanation, a form of surgery in which a hole is drilled or scraped into the skull, and was due to be transported to a hospital in Krakow, Poland, for further treatment. …
Opeth frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt has revealed that the Swedish metallers have started recording their next studio album, the follow-up to 2005’s Ghost Reveries. “The album is now written and the demos sound fantastic,” he wrote in a statement. “I don’t wanna say too much but … gee, it is so f—ing good — if I may say so myself.” Åkerfeldt said fans can expect the album in stores in the spring. … While System of a Down singer Serj Tankian revels in the success of his debut solo album, Elect the Dead, drummer John Dolmayan and guitarist Daron Malakian are knee-deep in writing and recording the debut album from their new band, Scars on Broadway, which is tentatively scheduled for release in the summer. But Dolmayan’s got a solo venture of his own — and it’s got nothing to do with music. On Thursday, Dolmayan launched the Web site TorpedoComics.com, an Internet retail store that carries more than 15 million items, including comic books, toys, graphic novels, trade paperbacks, superhero action figures and other comic book-related memorabilia that range in price from 99 cents to over $100,000. …
“Fight: War of Words – The Film” will debut in select movie theaters before its DVD release on November 20. The movie chronicles the history of the band frontman Rob Halford formed after initially leaving Judas Priest in 1991, and features professional footage shot in the studio and on the road. Along with the DVD, Halford will release Fight K5 – The War of Words Demos, which includes original album demos and five new Fight tracks. … Talk about DIY: Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson will be the one flying the plane when the band flies from city to city on its upcoming tour. Dickinson, a licensed pilot, will fly the band from Tokyo to Los Angeles for its February 19 show at the Forum, after which he will take Maiden to their next gig, in Mexico. Similarly, Dickinson will shuttle the group from Puerto Rico the day before its March 14 show in New Jersey, and leave for Toronto the day after. Traveling will be conducted on a specially commissioned and customized Boeing 757, with eager groupies likely to be among the passengers. …
New York doom-metal band Unearthly Trance have finished their fourth full-length album, Electrocution, which is scheduled for a spring release. The disc was recorded with producer Sanford Parker (Rwake, Minsk) at Chicago’s Volume Studios. Tracks include “Diseased,” “The Scum Is in Orbit” and “Burn You Insane.” … Dynamic Canadian outfit Protest the Hero have settled on a January 29 release date for their second disc, Fortress. The album — constructed over the summer with producer Julius “Juice” Butty (Alexisonfire) at Silo Studios in Hamilton, Ontario — was originally scheduled for release this month but was bumped for logistical reasons. “Bloodmeat,” “Bone Marrow” and “Limb From Limb” are three of the 10 tracks on the disc, which will be the follow-up to the band’s 2006 debut, Kezia. … The debut album by pummeling Swedish thrash-groove band Scarpoint, The Silence We Deserve, will be released Tuesday. The disc was produced by Daniel Bergstrand (Meshuggah, In Flames) and includes “Imposture,” “Behind the Shadows” and “Disorder.” …
Las Vegas melodic thrash band Hemlock are hard at work on their fourth, yet-untitled album, which will be released on their new label, Blind Prophecy Records, in 2008. The group has scheduled a batch of shows starting November 10 in El Paso, Texas, and running through December 1 in Gallup, New Mexico. Hemlock’s last release was 2006’s Pigeonholed. … A set of vinyl picture discs by late Swedish black-metal forefathers Bathory will be released November 27. The box will feature all 12 of the band’s studio albums, each encased in a hardcover Bathory logo sleeve. Pre-orders begin November 13. The collection will be the first release in a distribution deal between Black Mark Records and Relapse Records. “Black Mark is glad to announce that we have become a part of the Relapse family,” Börje Forsberg, father of Bathory frontman Quorthon and co-owner of Black Mark, said in a statement. “There is no doubt that Relapse and Black Mark work well together: Metal for the World!” … French death/black-metal band Belphegor will release the follow-up to 2006’s Pestapokalypse VI on April 15. Frontman Helmuth started writing the album in May 2006, and on November 9, the band plans to begin recording the disc’s nine songs with producer Andy Classen at Stage One Studios in Kassel, Germany. The yet-untitled disc will be tracked in three sessions before being mastered in mid-January. “I’m so motivated, and it feels extremely good to be creative again,” Helmuth said in a statement. “This album is the next logical chapter for the band’s development. I would go into the deepest fire and give my last drop of blood for this work. Lemme tell you, the nine sound collages sound huge. It’s f—ing TNT.”