A churning cannibalistic stew of early Death-esque rampaging, filthy circa-Necroticism Carcass swagger, the implacable forward chug-blast-chug informed by Terrorizer and Utopia Banished era Napalm Death, and a we-are-legion gang of demonic vocalists, Surgikill‘s debut full-length Sanguinary Revelations is precisely the sort of straight-up backwoods-horror-meets-death-metal madness one would expect from a band featuring Impetigo/Church of Misery underground gross out death metal legend Stevo do Caixao, Howling/Wooden Stake mainwoman Vanessa Nocera, Ash Thomas and Zdenka Prado of Estuary, and Billy Nocera of Razorback Records/Scaremaker.
Decibel caught up with Stevo, Billy, and Vanessa for a chat about the Surgikill origin story and its reworking/resurrection of the lost/last Impetigo song “Planet of the Vampires”…
STEVO: While my memory starts to run together when I try to remember exactly when these kinds of things start to fall into place, Billy is constantly floating ideas, concepts, lyrics and song titles my way — I imagine Vanessa gets it from him tenfold! But Billy and I are always looking for an excuse to work on something together, when we can swing it — and having Vanessa on-board is always a blast — so a couple of years ago when one thread or another suddenly resulted in a one word text from Billy that was “SURGIKILL” I replied “LOL, YES.”
BILLY: Surgikill was my last chance to start up an old school, gory death-grind band done the way Impetigo was but updated with a more “modern” sound—obviously as recording techniques are so different as compared to the late 80’s/early 90’s. I never wanted to actually sound like Impetigo. I wanted to sort of pay homage to that band while also incorporating other influences such as the early Earache Records bands, Swedish/Finnish death metal, and Autopsy of course! There’s lots of thrash riffing in there, some doomy stuff, etcetera. Ash [Thomas] is a beast of a guitarist and can play all these styles perfectly and it’s been great working with him. He let me come up with the riffs for the songs and then added his own ideas as well.
VANESSA: When we began assembling Surgikill, I was working on Cauldron Burial material and since that content was less centered around horror themes, with Surgikill I was able to continue my outlet for that lyrical inspiration. I was also really drawn to the idea of collaborating with so many people and having all of our ideas thrown into the pot.
STEVO: What made this particular project really something neato for all three of us was when Ash and Zdenka got involved. Their work with Estuary many years ago was a significant moment in my life, when I was starting to get out of my cave a little bit more. I’ve always wanted to be involved with them in one form or another — besides playing bass for Estuary, something on my bucket list. When Surgikill included them, things were all set. Billy and Ash worked out most of the music together, and recording moved along at a pace that was kind of insane, given the fact that none of us are really in close proximity. As the demo tracks, and eventually finished tracks started to emerge, I was really blown away at the extent to which Ash really brought the original song ideas to horrendous life. This is really exciting for me, mostly because the material on the album has so much depth — it’s very busy, nary a dull moment throughout, and the mass vocal configuration by all of us and Billy Sievers has a unique and delightfully unsettling feel.
BILLY: “Planet of the Vampires” to me, was always the “lost” Impetigo song. I remember Stevo doing interviews back in the early 90’s talking about it and I was excited that it was also maybe going to be the title of their third album that never happened. A few years ago, Stevo emailed me the lyrics to the song and I was determined to use it one day for something! It was an obsession of mine for the longest time.
VANESSA: I remember the day Billy told me Stevo sent the lyrics for “Planet of the Vampires.” I was floored. When Billy told me Stevo was granting him permission to use it for something, I was even more taken back. It seemed only right to have Stevo involved in the song. Little did we know a couple of years later we would form Surgikill with Stevo and have it as the perfect album closer on Sanguinary Revelations.
STEVO: “Planet of the Vampires” was a song I originally wrote for Impetigo in 1992. We started working on it late in the year, rehearsed it several times, yet never recorded it or played it live. My intent was to offer homage to the Bava film of the same name, a film that I saw for the first time as a child and that left indelible impressions on my mind: Bava’s split-color shadows and characterizations — with minimal special effects — along with his desperately stylish yet obscenely vague mise en scene…the lyrics were an ever-evolving attempt to capture the nuance of what was the essence of horror as portrayed in the film. The music was originally a very Incantation/Goreaphobia type of mid-tempo layered riff barrage, with a few cut tempo Autopsy bits to differentiate the verse and bridge portions…grinding death metal, as usual. Well, as Impetigo had split up before we had a chance to commit the song to immortality — and frankly, it was still a work-in-progress at the time of our demise — many years later during the original work on Wooden Stake, I offered the song to Billy. I still had the lyrics, in pieces, as they were when I left it, so I went through them and shined things up a bit, and blew through a couple of homemade demos — scratch tracks that Billy and I both practically forgot about until a couple of years ago when I found them while cleaning out my hard drive. This was around the time we were floating Surgikill ideas back and forth, and both of us thought this was a perfect opportunity to erect “Planet of the Vampires” again and, hopefully, get it done this time! Billy and I both worked with Ash on the ‘high level’ feel of the music, and I think it turned out as good as it ever could have. It’s a much more organic suite and conveys the essence of intangible horror much more effectively than what I had originally conceived back in 92.
BILLY: The actual music for the song had been lost/forgotten so Ash and I came up with our own version of what it could have been. The song has a great “Breakfast at the Manchester Morgue” vibe to it. Heavy, doomy, aggressive… I really think it came out awesome and I’m proud to have contributed to it. Ash really nailed it on guitars and got the whole concept of it musically. I think Stevo and Vanessa’s vocals on that song are brilliant! Stevo almost sounds like he recorded the vocals on another planet!