Baptized by Steel

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Dear fans of traditional U.S. Death Metal, were you aware that Kentucky’s Abominant has released nine full-length albums and just recently self-released the Battlescarred EP? You’re weren’t? I guess I’m not surprised since Abominant has never gotten quite the level of recognition as many of their peers, including some that haven’t released half as many albums. But as you’ll read, fame and fortune were never priorities for the veteran act. And if you start a death metal band because you think it is your best bet to achieve worldwide recognition and sacks of loot, then a head examination would seem to be in order. In any case, what is most important for you to understand is that Abominant are in it not necessarily to win it, but to make the best albums they can make and have a great time doing so. Mission accomplished. If you love USDM, then you really must grab some Abominant albums, perhaps 2010’s Where Demons Dwell or 2008’s Warblast for starters. You could also begin your journey into the abyss with the brand spanking new Battlescarred, which features two new songs (“Pile of Flesh” and the title track) that are pretty damn representative of the Abominant sound, and two covers (Black Sabbath’s “The Mob Rules” and Pestilence’s “Out of the Body”) that are impossible to dislike. How could you go wrong? Bassist Mike May is the man with the answers and without the turntable.

What led to the decision to not only record an Abominant EP, but also to self-release it?

We just wanted to get back in the studio. In our nearly 20-year history, we’ve always recorded full length albums. The only time since our demos that we have went in and recorded less than eight songs were for the Dwell tributes to other bands, and they paid for those. We were looking for someone to release this on vinyl, but as usual got impatient with that and kinda just decided to press it ourselves. It’s two originals and two covers , so I really didn’t want it pressed to 1,000 and didn’t really want anyone, like Deathgasm Records, to have to worry about promotion and all on really just two new songs. I’m pretty sure the title track will appear on the next record, so this will just be a limited thing. Nothing cooler than that. I still would have liked to see it on wax, even though I don’t own a turntable.

You need to get a turn table immediately. How did you decide on the cover songs? Were there others you were considering?

We’ve always played around with cover songs. We used to do covers of the Misfits, Celtic Frost, Slayer, Morbid Angel and others live and besides the Metallica and Destruction Dwell tributes, we also recorded Bloodfeast, Sacrifice and Nuclear Assault songs on older albums. We’d been wanting to do a Pestilence song for a while and of course the Black Sabbath song came from a long emotional hardship we all experienced with the loss of Ronnie James Dio. We were also playing around with Asphyx’s “Diabolical Existence,” Hypocrisy’s “Left to Rot” and I think a Mayhem and Terrorizer track as well. Hopefully in the future we can do something with any of those. It is always a big debate when covers come up. Everyone has their ideas. I tend to lean away from death metal bands, as I think it’s more fun to beef up a traditional song than record something that is already pretty brutal. There is always a list of at least 10 we’d like to attempt. Some interesting ones I think from Exciter, Accept, Merciless, Incubus, and Infernal Majesty. Any of those would be fun.

Talk about any lineup changes you may have experienced over the years and how it has affected the band’s sound. It’s been pretty stable with you, Timmie, and Mike Barnes being in the band since 93-94.

We’ve really only had two changes in the lineup since the beginning. Buck [Wiedeman] was here at the beginning and had to leave about one year in to join the Air Force. He came back in 2000 and stayed about seven years (four albums) and then finally quit for good. I think we booted Craig [Netto] around 2005 which was I’d say about four years later then we should have. He was there since the beginning, but really was only about half dedicated for the majority of that time. Both are great players, but also around four years younger than the current lineup (never a bad thing to have a young drummer). Since Warblast or I guess since Jim joined we all have a kinship or brotherhood I guess, of coming of age around the same time. Jim definitely has a more black metal influence not only to his playing but also in his taste and songwriting goals. That’s fine because Tim does too, and really Craig or Buck never really gravitated towards that.

In the way of catalogue overview, how would you describe the music over the course of all your albums? Are there ones you like better than others?

It’s kinda hard, as I really like all the records and they can show not only how we matured, but also the kinds of things we were into at the time. The ones I listen to least these days are In Darkness Embrace (mainly because of the production) and Triumph of the Kill (just a difficult and dark time in our history). I really don’t listen to our stuff too much, but when I do I get a little sentimental, but also pretty impressed with what we’ve accomplished.

What about the production of In Darkness Embrace exactly?

I guess you haven’t heard it [laughs]. It was done in two different sessions at a shit studio by some pot smoking fools. I didn’t help that we were probably the most drunk we’ve ever been in the studio. Some of the guitar tones are cool, and Mike has a few moments of greatness on the mic, but the level is just so low, shitty for even a demo.

And can you discuss the difficult and dark time in your history during which Triumph of the Kill was recorded?

We booted Craig out with seven of the eight songs on there ready to go, so we had to take about an extra six months to get Jim familiar with the songs we had. I think a lot of the songs there Craig had little to do with the writing of; we just pretty much told him what to play. By the time we got that all ready to go and wanted to write another tune with Jim I think Buck started to lose interest in the band. I think his writing style had a little more in common with Craig’s style and I don’t think he and Jim ever really connected as songwriters. There was a little bit of backlash from the traditional metal elements and “King Diamond” vocals Mike did on “Conquest,” so as you hear he mostly tries to pull off some Alex Krull [Atrocity, Leaves Eyes] style vocals here, which I’m not sure totally works, and kinda like Entombed Clandestine vocals as well. I guess it’s more transitional than dark, but kinda the end of Craig and the beginning of the end for Buck.

Along those same lines, I noticed a somewhat distinct change from Warblast to Where Demons Dwell, the former being more traditionally death-oriented and the latter being more blackened.

I don’t think it’s a real dramatic change. I mean I could see songs off of Ungodly appearing on our current albums, but I guess I’m biased from an inner perspective.

Well, I don’t think it’s a dramatic change either, but I did find some of the guitar work on Where Demons Dwell to have more of a blackened shade I guess.

As I said, it’s hard for me to notice, but I guess as we go along there may have been more black influence coming into the front. Both Tim and Jim, who are the songwriting core of the band, are huge into stuff like Marduk, Tsjuder, Dark Funeral and whatnot, so we’ll embrace that aspect as well. I really hope that every album sounds a least a little different than the previous ones as we’re not really Bolt Thrower or AC/DC and get bored playing the same stuff for too long.

Themes of war and battle are omnipresent in the artwork and music of Abominant, although it’s not like those would be unusual topics for death metal. Still, is there a certain fascination the members have with the battle scarred and war torn?

I guess maybe it ties in to the blackened thing a little. Since we’ve upped the blasting and tremolo picked stuff since Jim has joined I think lyrics/imagery of war/destruction fit the mood a lot better. We’ve never really had Satanic or gory lyrics in the past. We tried to keep things in the darkness/death realm, but I think the war theme helps us to match up with the music and we also have some ideas that come from actual real life history.

How much does Abominant play live in a typical year and have you done any actual tours?

We normally do about 8 – 10 shows a year. We’ve done a couple weekend outings, but I wouldn’t call that a tour. In 2008 we topped out at 18 shows and actually that was pretty amazing, but for the most part we’re home bodies. Plus too many shows slow down the songwriting process, which we are already pretty slow at.

Kentucky doesn’t get mentioned as a death metal hotbed, which may mean absolutely nothing. How is the “scene” there and are there other bands we should know about?

It pretty much sucks here and always has. Lately, it has been worse than average, as you can only get people to come out to shows for a package tour. There are a few good bands, but usually they come and go. Right now Tombstalker is kicking ass and my buddy Austin from Panopticon is doing some cool music. Astrum is doing a cool Venom/Amebix thing too, but I think most of the guys I mention would agree about the “scene.”

For a band with such a sizeable output of quality USDM, Abominant has never seemed to get the same level of recognition as even lesser bands. To what do you attribute that lower level of exposure?

Well, in reality I don’t think we are the most original or groundbreaking band out there. Also, we’re pretty lazy (to our detriment) so honestly, I don’t think we really deserve a big contract with a label that would put us to tour and promote and whatnot. At the end of the day we’re just four friends who write metal songs and have been lucky enough to stay together and find each other. Still, to this day, I really don’t see us breaking up anytime soon, so hopefully we will be around for a while. We’ve been lucky enough to release some records, get some good press from people like you, and share the stage with some of our favorite bands. That’s about as much, if not more, success that I expect from playing the kind of music that we do.

Looking back on you career, is there anything you would have changed or done differently?

You know what? Nothing at all. I think we should have booted Craig out a few years earlier, but even those last albums with him are killer. I’m pretty much just a death metal loving headbanger, so it’s not like I would change our style or have rock star delusions. I’m pretty happy with what we’ve done so far, and very grateful that others have put up with my drunken asshole mouth all these years.

And finally, when the hell are you going to buy a turntable?

[Laughs] Probably never I gave all of my old vinyl to Mike and Jim and even it was in horrible shape. Right now my CD player in my car is jacked so I mainly listen to everything via my Zune. Yes, I have a Zune. Seems fitting I guess ‘cause Zunes are kkuuuult!




  1. Commented by: UA

    Nice interview. I need to listen to more of this band’s material…

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