As with any vocation, there's a learning curve to being a touring musician. There are lots of important skills to master in order to be a consummate professional. And there are many mistakes to be made along the way, as Warbringer singer John Kevill learned at a recent gig in Poughkeepsie, New York, where his band was opening for Exodus.
Onstage, Warbringer tore it up like they always do, but after the show, on Exodus' bus, Kevill demonstrated his relative inexperience. The 21-year-old singer had eaten pizza for dinner and already consumed a few beers when Exodus lead guitarist Lee Altus poured him a particularly strong beverage that isn't available in the U.S.
"I drank it and went, 'Oh, that's brutal,' and they asked me if I wanted another," recalled Kevill before a show in Milwaukee on the last week of the Exodus tour. "I decided I couldn't be a b---h in front of Exodus, so I took it and I ended up throwing up all over [drummer] Tom Hunting's shoes. They all laughed their asses off. And afterwards they said, 'Usually when you drink this, you're supposed to water it down.' "
Kevill may not have his exotic-drinks game down quite yet, but when it comes to old-school thrash metal, he and his bandmates are as fast and skilled as many of the groups that inspired them, such as Exodus, Kreator and Testament. Warbringer's full-length debut, War Without End — which came out earlier this month — is a hail storm of jagged riffs, jackhammer beats and caustic screams. And while the band is firmly entrenched in the new wave of American thrash metal — which includes Black Tide, Fueled by Fire and others — Kevill insisted Warbringer were never interested in capitalizing on any sort of musical trend.
"There's a lot of hype about it right now that makes it more of a novelty than I like," the singer said. "But I think it's ultimately a really good thing that people are getting into metal that doesn't suck. There's no reason that old-school metal shouldn't be played anymore. I enjoy listening to that more than what's coming out today."
Warbringer's seeds were planted in 2005 in Ventura, California, when Kevill was at a friend's house listening to Manowar. Inspired by the galloping beats and thunderous rhythms, the two decided to form a band that was just as primal and powerful. "You know how on that first album [1982's Battle Hymns] Manowar signed a pact in blood?" Kevill said. "Well, we decided to do that, too, because we wanted to make sure we didn't flake out and suck."
A month later, his friend bailed on their contract, but Kevill persevered. He found a guitarist named Viktor, and while he only lasted a couple of months, Viktor later introduced him to guitarist John Laux and his bass-playing brother, Andy. Then, Kevill recruited drummer Adam Carroll from another band, Zombie, and when Carroll decided to switch to guitar, they brought in his ex-Zombie bandmate Ryan Bates on drums. At first, the band called itself Onslaught, then they discovered there was already a British group with that name, and that it had released three influential thrash albums in the '80s.
"Some people gave us flak for not knowing that, but we were 17 and 18, and just discovering that music," Kevill said. "It's not like anyone gave us a thrash-metal encyclopedia. So Adam and I were looking anywhere we could find cool-sounding names, and we decided war and thrash metal are like peanut butter and jelly. So I was attaching the word 'War' to anything I could think of."
The band arrived at the "Bringer" suffix one day when Laux was flipping through a list of different monsters from the video game "Diablo II" and came across the screen name Painbringer. "We had already been [trying to come up with a name] for three hours, so we were like, 'Warbringer! Good enough. We're done.' "
Warbringer recorded a four-song demo and played shows in Los Angeles with Merciless Death, Fueled by Fire, Dekapitator and Toxic Holocaust. Then they wrote a new batch of songs and tracked their debut EP, One by One the Wicked Fall, in October 2006. The disc caused a buzz in the underground and earned Warbringer a deal with Century Media, which signed the band at the end of the year. Warbringer recorded War Without End in fall 2007 with veteran producer Bill Metoyer (Slayer, D.R.I.).
Warbringer recorded War Without End in July and August of last year, and for the most part, the tracking was smooth and without incident. The mixing of the album, however, was another story. "Bill spent a few weeks mixing the record, and then his computer took a massive crap and he lost everything he did and had to start over. We almost didn't get the record out in time."
At first, the band planned to call the record Combat Shock, then changed the title to War to End All Wars, a line from one of the featured song lyrics. But then they decided they didn't want the word "war" on their album cover three times, so they settled on War Without End — not realizing it was a line from Metallica's "No Remorse."
"When somebody pointed that out to us, we went, 'Ah, sh--, not again?' Kevill said. "But we decided to go with it anyway."
The rest of the week's metal news:
Metal File recently spoke with Earth Crisis frontman Karl Buechner on the band's upcoming reunion tour with Sworn Enemy, Shai Hulud, Terror, Down to Nothing and Recon, and he said the straightedge metalcore outfit will be recording new material. "We do plan on putting out a record," he confirmed. "We've got six songs so far, and hopefully, we'll record them this year. Hopefully, we'll be playing some of these news songs we've written [on the upcoming tour]." So how does the new stuff sound? "The best way to describe it is it's a mixture between [1995's] Destroying the Machines and [1998's] Breed the Killers," he said. "Stylistically, it's most like songs from those albums." The new Earth Crisis effort will be in stores early next year, he added. Look for our full interview with Buechner in a future Metal File. ... Canadian metal troupe Voivod will hit the studio in the spring to commence the recording of the band's final album, using material left behind by founding guitarist Denis "Piggy" D'Amour, who died in August 2005 from colon cancer. According to Voivod, they have 13 songs to work with. ...
He Is Legend have lost guitarist Mitch Marlow and replaced him with Worth Weaver (Friends for Hire). Marlow jumped ship after accepting an offer to join the recently reunited Filter. ... San Diego's Cattle Decapitation have begun writing material for their next LP, which could be in stores by year's end. The record will be the band's first with new drummer Dave McGraw, who joined the fold in the fall. ... The New England Metal & Hardcore Festival will turn 10 this year, and to celebrate, it has assembled an impressive lineup — perhaps one of the best in recent years. The festival, set for April 25-27 in Worcester, Massachusetts, will feature the likes of Megadeth, In Flames, Shadows Fall, Dimmu Borgir, Behemoth, Ministry, Meshuggah, the Dillinger Escape Plan, Full Blown Chaos, Soilent Green, Brain Drill and Withered, among others. ...
The Sword, Slough Feg and Children will team up in the spring for a quick trip around the U.S. The tour kicks off April 14 in Lubbock, Texas, and runs through April 29 in Oklahoma City. The Sword's sophomore LP, Gods of the Earth, lands in stores April 1. ... Clutch have lined up a spring tour of their own, with Kamchatka opening all dates. The trek gets under way April 9 in Cleveland, and gigs are scheduled through May 3 in Fayetteville, North Carolina. ... There's some sad news coming out of the Machine Head camp this week: The band was forced to skip out on several dates on its tour with Hellyeah, following the passing of drummer Dave McClain's mother. "[We wish] to extend our deepest condolences and sympathy to the McClain family for the tragic loss of Dave's mother, Mary Douglas," the band said in a statement, adding that McClain will rejoin the band for its Friday night (February 15) show in Davenport, Iowa. ...
Belgian black-metallers Gorath have wrapped recording their third LP, Misotheism. The effort will feature seven songs, including "Apophasis," "Abufihamet" and "Metempsychosis." ... Black-metal maestros Theudho have also concluded the recording of their next record, which they've named Cult of Wuotan. The set, due in stores next month, will feature 11 tracks, including "Terror Cimbricus," "Silence Reigned Over the Bog" and "Prophecies in Flames." ... New Zealand death-metallers Dawn of Azazel have parted ways with drummer Martin Cavanagh, and the band says the decision was mutual. "Together [we] have had so many killer times on the road," the band said in a statement, "however, we all felt that it was best for us to separate at this point." No additional information has been provided about the split, but the band has already found a replacement in Jeremy Suckling (Scorcia).