The revised and expanded (essentially) 10-year anniversary edition of dB editor-in-chief Albert Mudrian’s Choosing Death is officially available today! One-hundred new pages of content over three new chapters, entailing over 50 new interviews, and brand new Dan Seagrave cover art. To celebrate, here’s an excerpt of all new material!
In the fall of 1990, Carcass and Death embarked on a month-long U.S. tour. Fresh off the release of their Consuming Impulse LP, Dutch death dealers Pestilence joined the festivities after missing the first few dates due to visa issues. One of the very first all-death metal tour lineups ever assembled in the States, the trek soon devolved into a parade of chaos, often inviting tension between the bands and audiences, and even amongst the bands themselves.
“I’m kinda surprised that we didn’t come to blows, because it was such a clash of personalities,” recalls [Carcass frontman Jeff] Walker. “After they turned up, the first thing [Pestilence guitarist] Patrick Mameli said to me and [Carcass guitarist] Mike [Amott] was, ‘I heard you two guys got laid on this tour. I’m much better looking than you. I’m gonna get laid.’ As far as I recall, the only action he got was getting a handjob in Tijuana.”
“I remember the first place we arrived was in Detroit,” says then-Pestilence bassist/vocalist Martin van Drunen. “Oh, welcome to America! We played in a place called Blondies. It looked like a garage. It was really rough. We weren’t making a penny since we bought ourselves on. We were basically eating three hamburgers a day between us. Back then I was used to drinking 20 or 30 beers a day, but American beer is half the strength that we have, so for me, I’d need 50 cans every show! I was like, ‘Just give me that and I’m happy. I don’t care for money. I don’t care for food. I just want that!’”
On October 11, the tour arrived at Fitzgerald’s in Houston, TX. Even early in their set, openers Carcass—who still remarkably had yet to have one of their albums domestically released in the U.S.—could see that this particular audience was more aggressive than others they had previously encountered.
“We played and the crowd was fucking rowdy,” says Walker. “But we managed to get through it. I remember our tour manager had to get on stage because someone pulled a knife on the monitor guy. Also, someone found a piece of live ammunition—like a bullet—on the stage, but that may have been after our set. Let’s put it this way: We played and the crowd was fucking extreme, but we really didn’t get fucked with. But Pestilence went on and people started to fuck with them. I remember there was an ashtray thrown. Maybe shit was thrown at us. I remember playing as a frontman, and it’s not like I felt intimidated or in fear of my life. I know it escalated when Pestilence played, but they managed to get through their set.”
“I had never seen a more violent crowd than that,” remembers van Drunen. “Carcass were playing and they were standing with their backs against their amps, and I just thought, ‘Fucking hell, this is not normal.’ I remember [Death frontman] Chuck [Schuldiner] was standing next to me biting his nails saying, ‘I’m not gonna play in front of that crowd, man.’ I said, ‘Hey, we play death metal, man! It’s the most brutal music in the world—that’s what we want!’ He looked at me like I was crazy, so I thought to myself, ‘OK, I’m gonna cook them up for you.’”
During the first verse of “Living Monstrosity”—only about five minutes into Death’s set—Schuldiner was bumped by a would-be stage-diver and doused with water by another attendee. At that point, he exited the stage and took the rest of Death with him.
“He walked off,” says van Drunen. “The promoter looked at me and said, ‘Please, can you guys get on stage?’ And I said, ‘I’m not gonna clean up his shit.’ So, tables started flying and the crowd was tearing the place apart.”
“It was quite a tense atmosphere,” says Walker, “We are in the back thinking, ‘What is the crowd gonna do? Are they gonna riot?’”
A few smashed windows and over 20 police cars and one police helicopter later, the tour rolled on west, eventually winding up in Portland. It was there, at a local Denny’s, that then-Death drummer Bill Andrews nearly became a hood ornament.
“We went in and there was a queue,” recalls Walker. “We were hanging around for ages. Then a dude comes in and I think he jumped the queue. So, this starts some kind of standoff between him and Bill Andrews, and it just got out of hand. And I remember that it escalated to the point that we were in the street and the guy drove over at us—or at Bill, specifically—and Bill ended up on the hood of the car rolling around. Next thing you know, the cops have turned up; they’re arresting this guy. It turned out that he’d just got let out of jail literally that day.
“I can’t speak for the band, but for me, that tour was probably the most fun I’ve ever had on tour,” Walker continues. “Every day was a different adventure.”
The state of affairs wasn’t nearly as fun in the Pestilence camp. On one of the tour’s off-dates, van Drunen, drummer Marco Foddis and guitarist Patrick Uterwijk were in their hotel room where, without Mameli present, van Drunen confided that he felt that Mameli had been behaving too much like a “band boss,” and that Pestilence needed to return to more democratic dynamic.
“I said to Marco and Patrick, ‘We’re all doing this together, and no one should leave, and we should work as a unit and be as a unit,’” van Drunen explains. “Marco was like, ‘Yeah, you’re right. Tomorrow we’ve gotta tell him!’ So, a friend of ours who was doing merchandise and driving us on the tour comes up to me the next day and says, ‘I think you’re in trouble. There’s a backstage area upstairs in the venue, and I heard Marco running into the band’s room telling everything to Patrick that you told him yesterday.’ And I was like, ‘So be it. Nothing I can do about the snitch.’ At that point, we were already in two camps.”
At the completion of the tour, Mameli, Fodis and Uterwijk remained in the U.S. to investigate Morrisound Recording studio in Tampa, where Mameli hoped to record Pestilence’s third LP. Adding to the developing schism with the band, van Drunen elected to fly back home to the Netherlands, simply because he was uninterested in recording at the studio.
“I thought it would strip us from our Dutch and European identity when it comes to the sound,” he says. “As I expected, I when I got back to the Netherlands, I got a phone call about having a band meeting. So, when they returned, I arrived at the meeting and it looked like a grand jury sitting there. I couldn’t even say a word before Patrick [Mameli] says to me, ‘You’re an arrogant bastard! Your performances were shit! You’re an alcoholic!’ I said, ‘Is that how you wanna start a conversation about the future of this band?’ I said, ‘You know what? Fuck you and your shit band.’ And I slammed the door and I walked out. That was it. The thing is criticism is OK, as long as it’s constructive. Yeah, I did drink a lot, but that didn’t affect the performances—ever.”
“I made him,” Mameli says flatly. “I’m happy that he’s part of our history as well.”
The displaced van Drunen wasted little time in finding a new death metal home. His countrymates Asphyx had just landed a record deal with Century Media based on the strength of their unmixed and unreleased Embrace the Death album. But before recording their label debut The Rack—amazingly in their rehearsal room on only an eight-track recorder—his old friend and Asphyx drummer Bob Bagchus informed van Drunen that he was looking to upgrade the band’s vocalist position.
“Here, of course, everybody knows each other,” says van Drunen. “It’s a really small scene. So, he found out that I was out of Pestilence, and the first thing he did was call me and said, ‘Do you wanna join us?’ Immediately, I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll give it a try.’”
“Martin came to our rehearsal and was blown away by the loud and heavy sound we had,” says Bagchus. “Also, the simplicity of our songs was something he really liked. Like us, Martin was always a fan of simple brutal songs to headbang to.”
“I walked into the practice room, and it was fucking incredible,” says van Drunen. “That’s when I knew that this was the shit I really wanted to do.”
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