Rising of the Beast
That ominous rumble you’re hearing in the distance is not a thunderstorm forming somewhere in the east. It’s the sound of CIANIDE’s Gods of Death moving steadily toward you. If you’re a friend, chances are you’ll survive the arrival. Foe? Forget about it; assume the position and starting kissing your ass goodbye. The long-running Chicago outfit has been leaving bruises and abrasions with every release unleashed, but the ugly death marches and rotten speed-kills of Gods of Death (Hells Headbangers) will in all likelihood be the one to inflict the most damage on unsuspecting listeners, in some cases lethally. Vocalist/bassist Mike Perum offers some pointers that will help you prepare for the impending carnage. Pay attention; your life depends on it.
It is not unusual for every band to say that their new album is their best, but assuming you do believe it’s your best then I’ll be damned if I could argue it.
Thanks for the praise man. Much appreciated. We worked our dicks off on this record and we’re proud as hell of it. The more effort you put into something the more you’re gonna appreciate the final product. So of course we think it’s our best album now, as we do all of our records. I’d put Gods of Death on a par with Descent Into Hell as far as my absolute favorites. Both have brain-shattering productions. Followed real close by Hells Rebirth. That one had a weirdo teeth-ripping energy going through it that I still can’t even explain.
One of the places where I really think you nailed it is in the balance between the doom/dirge and the up-tempo crushers. Is this something you thought about in writing and recording? It flows so seamlessly.
Actually the song placement flow was one of the tougher hurdles we encountered when nearing the end of this recording. This may sound dumb but we really weren’t in “album mode” when writing each of these songs, as opposed to Hells Rebirth where we were dead focused on every song being a solid brick to fit the whole of that album. Part of that I think was that two of the earlier songs we wrote during this time period were used specifically for the 7” splits we did with Machetazo and Coffins. We wanted those tunes (“Black Earth” and The Wrath of Daimajin,” respectively) to be exclusive to those releases. So I think unconsciously we ended up writing each subsequent song as a stand-alone piece. It was kind of a haphazard process. We’d have the music down, but then the lyrics wouldn’t be done until sometime later. Much later in some cases. A good example is “Contained and Controlled.” That was one of the first songs we wrote after Hells Rebirth and I didn’t come up with the lyrics until a few months prior to recording. I wish I could say it was genius or even dumb luck that Gods of Death flows as well as it does. Instead it was going through every single song-to-song combination possible to get them all to fit with each other. Sometimes you gotta work to get awesome results.
Additionally, this is the best batch of songs you’ve written from the standpoint of listener memory retention. Each is distinct in its own right and the more you listen the more the music sinks its claws in deep.
Well I’d like to think our songwriting has gotten better over the years. Our main standard is: “Is this something we would enjoy listening to as a fan?” I think it shows. We always stated we are “fans” first, “band guys” second. We put a lot of thought and energy into what we do, despite what some people may think. No one is gonna mistake us for Cryptopsy, but that’s probably a good thing.
It’s been six years since your last full-length, Hell’s Rebirth, was released, although you had those split releases in between. And the songs for the splits were written specifically for those releases? Give us a rundown of the stories behind and contents of the splits you recorded with Machetazo and Coffins, as well as the Chicago Metal Hell release.
As I stated above we didn’t want to recycle those songs we did for the splits. Even though it probably would’ve been cool to re-record them, I always liked when bands do/did exclusive one-off songs for EPs/singles etc. That’s the collector in me. “Black Earth” was originally supposed to be a split with Scepter on Hells Headbangers, but then they broke up. At that same time Scott [Carroll, guitarist] was in fan boy correspondence with Dopi of Machetazo and he asked if they wanted to fill in that slot. They had some tunes ready to go and ours was already completed. Hells Headbangers was still on board with doing it and the rest is history. Kind of a crazy all-over-the road song for us, and the production was fuzzy and heavy as fucking hell. Actually we did our best to mimic this sound/production for the Gods of Death recording. For “Wrath of Daimajin” I was in contact with Uchino from Coffins and we mutually wanted to do a split. We had a pal of ours put it out on his (now defunct) label Famine Records. That was a no-brainer. This song is dedicated to my lifelong obsession with Japanese monster movies. So kinda fitting with a Coffins split, eh? Our cover of At War’s “Ordered to Kill” was done all the way back from our Divide and Conquer recording session. John from Scepter had his new project Hellrealm and wanted to do a Chicago band only four-way split, hence the name. That was his baby really. He asked us to be a part of it and we still had that song hiding in our “vaults.”
So another no-brainer. I think we nailed that cover pretty well. Lotta fucking singing though. Shit.
So when was the material written for Gods of Death?
From the release of Hells Rebirth on. We are always in the writing process. Sometimes more prolific than others though.
The production you got on the album is phenomenal, so incredibly thick and murky; that low end is earth shaking. And you did it all yourself, including the mixing, except for the mastering (Patrick Bruss). What was the key to getting that sound? It is exactly the kind of production Cianide requires.
It would be really cool to say we just mike up, plug in and bash it out. Not the case with us though I’m afraid. Like Venom used to say: “It takes a lot of work to sound this bad” [laughs]. There’s nothing magical about it. It’s all about knowing your own sound and what you want to sound like. When you record yourself, it’s a luxury to take your time and not be “on the clock” when it comes to trial and error mic placement on the amps/instruments. Though I must say the actual recording aspect is far easier than the mix down, at least for us. Scott gracefully (or wisely) bows out of the mixing process. One too many chiefs in that powwow. Andy and I work well together when we mix and have good ears for what we need to get. He’ll catch shit that I don’t and vice versa. Then we’ll give that “draft” of the mix to The Boss – Scott for yet another (mostly final) say-so. Then you have to compare it to the previously mixed song(s) and make sure everything sounds like the same recording. Takes at least a week to mix a single song.
It is stated in the booklet that the new album was recorded at Slaughtersound Studios in Chicago from October 2009 – May 2010, but I’m guessing it was done intermittently. Is that correct?
Our working title was “Darkness on the edge of 103rd St.” [Laughs]. Oh yeah. We’re assholes but not quite to that extent, but fuck it seemed to take for-fucking-ever to get this thing done. With work schedules and personal issues we had no choice but to work on it when we were able to. The final result is incredible, but I don’t think we’re gonna record like that again.
Of course that classic Frost/Hammer guitar tone is a staple of the band, but it sounds even more menacing this time around. What do you do to capture it, including the tuning, equipment, etc?
Shit. If you can figure out where we tune you can tell us cuz we don’t have a clue. We just go by what sounds right to our ears. Some years it creeps up, some years it creeps down, but we are still in the same tarpit from the last couple of recordings. We record with the same instruments we rehearse on. Scott used both his Gibson LesPaul and SG for the guitars. Andy his Yamaha kit and I use my Rickenbacker. From our experience it’s all about mic placement on the amps and how well you play of course. Everything was recorded separately. Drums first, guitars second, bass third, then vocals. Solos and incidental stuff is last. We don’t have the capability or room to do a proper live recording, so this is the way that worked best for us. But it also contributed to how long it took us to complete.
Good call on tapping John Alexander for guest guitar solos on “Rising of the Beast” and “Dead and Rotting.” So well played and they really leap right out of the mix.
Fuck yeah man. It’s not a secret that Post Mortem are one of the main reasons we exist as a band and play the type of music we do. So you can blame him/them [laughs]. We’ve been Internet pals with John for a good four to five years now. He’s a mega tech/gear guy when it comes to music. So it was hardly an issue when we asked him to help us out. Shit he sent us a bunch of different takes for each tune. We asked for Slayer type leads for “Rising of the Beast” (two solos) and that’s exactly what he delivered. The end of “Dead and Rotting” needed a more traditional Heavy Metal type solo and he aced the fuck out of that. That solo is pretty much the showcase moment of the album if you ask me. I think John is gonna be our secret weapon, ace-in the-hole guitar solo wizard from here on cuz he rules. Watch out!
You’ve got some vinyl releases of older albums in the works too I believe, as well as the vinyl version of Gods of Death. Tell us about the re-releases. It seems some of the older releases aren’t as easy to get as fans would like; at least that’s what I’ve gathered from a perusal of some on-line distros and places like Amazon.com.
Ted from The Crypt offered to release our first two records on double vinyl and his releases are fucking kick-ass. Hey, sounds good to us. Gotta “strike while the iron is hot” as Manowar would say. We just completed the layout and re-mastering of The Dying Truth vinyl reissue so that should be out soon.
However, Mike Riddick’s MetalHit.com distro made Hell’s Rebirth inexpensive ($4.99) and easy to get. Any idea how the album has done since it was made available in digital format? What do you think of making albums available through that avenue?
Don’t have a clue about that. Displeased owns that recording. It’s theirs to do what they want with it. Same with Gods of Death. If Hells Headbangers wants to sell it via smoke signals then that’s their choice. It’s their record.
I was pleased to see Cianide on Hells Headbangers Records; a very reliable, stable label that prides itself on quality music, packaging, and customer service. How has your experience been with HHR thus far and were you considering releasing the album on any other labels before making the decision?
We worked with Hells Headbangers before on the Machetazo split so we already knew they were a no-nonsense, no bullshit label run by real metalheads. They do cool vinyls as well which is a major selling point for our asses. We had a few other cool offers but they gave us the best deal. Perfect label for us right now.
Cianide is not a band that plays live very often, but you did make an appearance at this year’s Maryland Deathfest. Talk about that experience. Any other upcoming shows?
MDF was fucking tits. Couldn’t believe the amount of people watching and getting into our set. Felt like a “rock star” for the first time in our 20-plus year career. The organizers and stage people were total professionals through and through. Never experienced that either. We’re used to getting treated like crap from shitty clubs, which is one of the reasons why we don’t like to play out that often. So MDF was truly something else. This December we’re gonna do Rites of Darkness III in San Antonio. I think fests are the way to go.
How soon before we can expect to see another Cianide full-length? Not six years I hope!
Seven years maybe? [Laughs] I do think we’re gonna go to a real studio the next time around. Bash it out in a few days like we used to do. Then if we don’t like the production we can have something to bitch about. Which is something we truly excel at!
Keep the DM faith and keep doing what you do, although it’s not like we need to be concerned about Cianide suddenly changing musical direction.
Yeah, no industrial/goth/funk/jazz parts for us. Our metal never bends! So we’ll leave that shit to the “pros.” Thanks for the interview.