Denial Fiend could be considered an all-star death metal crew but that’s kinda disengenious when it’s more a case of seasoned offenders stitched together by previous convictions and a jonesing for horror movies and punk. Since forming in 2006, Denial Fiend have been part of the new old-school death metal revival much in the same fashion as those mega-freaky millipedes played their part in the Jurassic era. They don’t really fit in. And that’s probably got a lot to do with their personnel. The line-up that recorded 2007’s gnarly debut They Rise counted Kam Lee (Mantas-era Death/Massacre) on vocals and Curtis Beeson (Nasty Savage) on drums. Both have been replaced for Horror Holocaust, an album four years in coming and featuring D.R.I. beatmaster Rob Rampy on drums and an avowed punk Blaine Cook on vocals. At this point in time, with Cook’s beyond strange vocals—which sound something like Lux Interior and Jello Biafra reinterpreting early Megadeth in a death metal style—Denial Fiend are as much punk as they are death metal. Whatever, it all seems to work out fine, and Horror Holocaust is a more than able soundtrack for building weird bongs and double-fisting the beers of a Friday night.
How come it took so long to get album #2 out?
Terry Butler: “Well we had a couple of members change, we had a few songs written already—but that sorta held us back. The record’s actually been done for a year, a year and a half, it’s just that Ibex Moon had to shuffle some things around and it took a bit of time for them to be ready to put it out.”
What were the reasons behind the line-up changes?
TB: “Basically to take the high road about Kam, he’d done nothing for 17 years and he got an opportunity handed to him to get back into the scene and it was like an overdose for him. Literally, overnight, his head got so huge that he couldn’t walk into a room any more. And, I dunno, he did a few interviews and kinda trashed our guitar player Sam; he didn’t like the new music that Sam was coming out with, he wanted to be more straightforward like the Misfits… Now I love the Misfits but that’s not what Denial Fiend is about. He started being pretty abrasive towards Sam and I so he was let go. And I think Curtis [Beeson] just wanted to change music directions; he went to another band.”
I guess there’s no room for egos playing underground death metal.
TB: “I thought that he’d be pretty humble; he was just floating around doing nothing for years, and as soon as he got a chance he wanted to run the show… Oh… [sighs] hahaha.”
A wee amuse-gueules to get you going.
So given Kam wrote the lyrics for They Rise, was the writing for this more of a collaborative effort?
TB: “Yeah, I think Sam wrote lyrics for three songs, I wrote lyrics for two and I think Blaine wrote lyrics too. We all pitched in. Sam wrote most of the music on this one. Me and Rob wrote a song called , which is kinda like an ambient track on the album. The songs were written and we had some time, we had about three/four months to put the lyrics together and get stuff in order so it wasn’t too much of a struggle to get stuff together, with horror and sci-fi movies the main thing we pull from. There’s plenty of material to write lyrics on. Kam did good on the first record with his phrasings and everything but I just like the second record a lot more. It’s a lot more aggressive. It’s angrier. It seems to have more of a purpose.”
It’s a lot more memorable.
TB: “Yeah, I think so too. The riffs—sometimes Sam just comes up with some riffs and I’m like, ‘Wow, dude, that’s super-catchy and heavy at the same time’ and that’s what we want.”
Who is exciting you in death metal at the moment?
TB: “I don’t listen to—well, I like what Hail of Bullets are doing. I mean it’s not groundbreaking but it’s heavy-as-balls death metal. We recently did a tour with Pathology and I thought they were pretty good. I don’t know if that’d be a shock for some people to hear but I don’t listen to a lot of death metal per se. The music I always go back to is Thin Lizzy and UFO; those are my favourite bands. I’m big into a lot ‘80s metal, too, as far as Jag Panzer, Y&T, Queensrÿche. I love a lot of ‘70s hard rock, and a lot of progressive stuff, Captain Beyond, and Gentle Giant, this kind of stuff.”
What do you think of this retro movement, bands such as Graveyard sounding like early Pentagram and so on?
TB: “I like it a lot. That’s another—I love that kind of music, St. Vitus, Pentagram, stoner rock/doom metal, whatever you want to call it.”
You’re a busy man at the moment; are you’re still doing Obituary?
TB: “Actually, we’re writing songs for the new record. We’ll get a record out sometime early next year.”
Without turning this into an Obituary interview, what were the circumstances surrounding you joining them?
TB: “I’ve been helping them out for about a year. They had some issues with Frank [Watkins]—I don’t know what happened with that but he got let go from the band. I’ve known the guys in Obituary for at least 25 years, so they called me up and asked if I’d help them out. Then some issues arose from Six Feet Under so I quit Six Feet Under because I had my feet on the ground with Obituary I just took a little sidestep over to Obituary.”
What about this Florida death metal tour that has been talked about for years—all the old guard—is it ever going to happen?
TB: “That’s something that John Tardy’s been trying to get off the ground for a while. And hopefully that will come true maybe next year we wanna see an Obituary, Deicide, Cannibal Corpse tour, or Obituary, Monstrosity, Malevolent Creation, Cannibal Corpse. Something like that, I think it’d be really cool. We just have to get everyone together, all the leaders of the various groups, and try hammer out what they need, what everyone wants, what everyone wants to accomplish: I think it would be great. We’re still trying to work on that so hopefully it will come to pass sometime in the future.”
This is a great time to be playing old-school death metal. It’s like everyone’s rediscovered their Celtic Frost tapes.
TB: “Yeah, around here, everyone I knew from being in Tampa, Mordid Tales and Hellhammer were a blueprint for lots of bands around here. It was extreme to us at the time: Venom, Hellhammer and Celtic Frost—we wanted to pattern ourselves around that.”
It’s funny, ‘cos Tom G. Warrior always says that no-one really knew about Hellhammer while they were playing: when did you guys first become aware of them?
TB: “I knew about Hellhammer early on. We had some of their demos before the Apocalyptic Raids EP came out, so we were totally into the scene. I remember back when the heaviest/fastest thing was Iron Fist, then Show No Mercy comes out and that’s like an evolution, the next step, but we were totally into it, man—we knew everything. We had [the] demos. The only thing we could get a hold of then were magazines so we were hearing about things that were six months old. [Hellhammer] have definitely had a resurgence, probably their more popular now than the time they were fresh on the scene. That’s just due to the younger generation discovering that, yes, this is good music, this is awesome. Plus, I mean, people want to go back and find out the roots of where black metal came from and discover that all over again. Especially with the internet; you can just type in the band’s name and hear their music.”
Denial Fiend circa-Kam Lee
We’ve kind of come through that age where death metal suffered from too much effort—outblasting everyone and all that jazz.
TB: “To me, I like some blastbeats but I can’t sit down and listen to an hour of it straight—it’s too monotonous for me. How different can it get now? How much faster can it get? How more technical can it get? I don’t even know what the next step would be.”
Do you think that the scene was taking itself too seriously? I mean, of course it’s serious, but for Denial Fiend of course it’s serious but there’s a sense of fun.
TB: “Oh yeah, we’re all big fans of the campy ’50s/’60s horror movies and sci-fi movies, and that’s really the inspiration as far as the lyrical content, the song-titles and the album cover and stuff. As far as music, Sam has the punk background, so has Blaine, but Sam is big into death metal too, as am I, so there’s a sprinkling of death metal in there mixed with punk and thrash.”
Horror Holocaust is very punk—especially with those vocals. They’re definitely going to divide opinion.
TB: “Oh yeah, the vocals are almost a separate instrument as far as he goes. He’s got a lot of cool screeches, squeals and screams… haha, pig noises… all kinds of stuff. If you haven’t heard it before it can set you back a bit: you have to listen to it a few times. To sit and analyze it, it’s pretty aggressive the way he’s singing. It kinda grows on you.”
Oh definitely, the first time you hear them it’s weird. It’s like when you first heard Jello Biafra vocalizing punk in such a way—it sounded kinda wrong.
TB: “Mmm-hmm yes, hahaha, I know what you mean. The first few times I listened to the record—I got used to it by the third time—I thought from front to back the record’s pretty aggressive the whole way through. Vocally it is pretty aggressive so it all fits.
How did you find this guy!?
TB: “Sam is friends with Blaine. Sam did a project with him about 10 years ago now called Pseudoheroes which had all different singers on the songs he’d wrote—Blaine was one of them and they’ve been friends since then. He pitched the idea to him, asked if he wanted to be on the second album and he was into it.”
Cool, it makes you instantly recognizable.
TB: “Yeah, I’ve been pretty fortunate to have been in a lot of well-known bands and I’m just as proud to be in this band.”
What’s the next step for Denial Fiend, are you going to tour?
TB: “Yeah, we have a tour in the works for January, in Europe. There’s no exact dates at the moment, we’re just trying to map out the deal, and the two bands that are going to be with us. So we should be in Europe in January, and for 2012 we’re going to try and get something worked out with some European festivals. Then we’ve got to try and get something worked out for the States—the States might be a little harder for us just because they’re a lot more fickle. The punk part to our band might help us out in some parts of America.”
Why is it harder to sell yourself as an old-school Florida death metal band than it is as, say, a crossover band?
TB: “To me, America’s just got to the point where if you’re not on TV or on the radio or something they just don’t want to give you a chance.”
Even in the underground?
TB: “Well, the real true underground is always there but the other fans who might be into metal don’t really want to put the effort out: if they don’t see you or hear your name they won’t even know you exist. I mean in Europe you’ve got an amazing outlet to get yourself out there and promoted; it’s harder in America.”
You’re on the right label, though: Ibex Moon have been staunch supporters of anything old-school.
TB: “Yeah, they’re super-committed, and that’s the thing about being on a smaller label sometimes; they really put the effort in. Sometimes you can get lost on the bigger labels. But Ibex seems to be really committed to putting in the effort.”