If you were to combine the disparate and contradictory worlds of death metal and power metal in your head, chances are the resulting visual landscape would be a Dan Seagrave-meets-Vincent Locke-meets-Frank Frazetta-meets-Ken Kelly rendering of epic proportions featuring zombies and serial killers battling to a bloody and bitter end against heroically muscular and sword-wielding bronze bombshells. As for the musical side of things, just hit up international super group Voodoo Gods for an inkling as to what said combination would sound like.
Pieced together and driven by drummer Alex von Poschinger [ex-Union, Guerilla], Voodoo Gods injects Tampa/Dutch death metal technique and ferocity with European power metal’s salty sweetness via the talents of collaborators vocalists Seth van de Loo [ex-Severe Torture, Centurian, Infected Flesh] and Cannibal Corpse’s George “Corpsegrinder” Fischer, Polish guitar hero Jacek Hiro, former Rage axe-man Victor Smolski and California’s king of the 11-string bass, Jean Baudin. Previous releases – 2008’s Shrunken Head EP and debut album Anticipation for Blood Leveled in Darkness from 2014 – were also buoyed by contributions from Tony Norman [ex-Monstrosity, Terrorizer], guitar shredder David Shankle, Nocturnus’ Mike Browning and Behemoth’s Nergal.
In celebration of The Divinity of Blood, the project’s latest and second full-length, we caught up with von Poschinger from his home base somewhere between Germany and Switzerland to discuss this particular super group [of friends].
Voodoo Gods is often referred to as a super-group. How did this all come together and what can you tell us about your history?
Most people think we got together like the Spice Girls or something, but we’re friends first of all. That is the most important part of Voodoo Gods: that we’ve been friends since the very beginning. I mean, some people like Jean and Victor didn’t know each other before and David wasn’t in the band long, but all of us were friends before and knew each other for a very long time. [Producer] Andy LaRoque as well. I hear music all the time in my head and had a vision with certain songs and who could do those songs.
I wasn’t aware of the relationships that existed before enlisting everyone in Voodoo Gods. What sort of background do you have that made you familiar with everyone before hand?
When I started the band with Tony Norman and Seth I still thought I needed a second vocalist. In extreme metal, you can have somebody trying hard to sound or do something they can’t do. So, even someone like George, who can probably do anything extreme metal related, he’s never done anything like power metal with a lot of melodies. So, it was very important to have two vocalists from the beginning and because we all knew each other, it was easy for me to reach out to guys once I had a song visualized. When we started the band, I was living in Tampa in a house with Tony and Gene from Angelcorpse gave me a Centurian CD and I thought the singer was fucking awesome. I didn’t know who it was until I looked at the credits and saw that it was Seth and that I knew him because he was the drummer in Severe Torture – we drummers all know each other! It wasn’t difficult to convince him. Same with George. I asked him and he was like, ‘Yeah, whenever you guys are ready, I’ll come down to the studio and do my thing.’ That was back in the day when he didn’t have a family and we were hanging out way more when I lived there. At a certain point, I left the states and moved to Poland and by that time he had a family and considering where I was living, it would have been too complicated. I never gave him the chance on that first EP. In fact, I never asked him so I called up the next guy which was Nergal and he said yeah and that was for the Shrunken Head EP. Once George heard it he was like, “Alex, I thought I was supposed to do it?” I felt so bad because I never asked him and he was like, “Damn right you never asked me!” Then, unfortunately Nergal got sick and after that there was nobody else in my head except for George and he was back. I was ready, he was ready and it was a matter of when and where. I originally chose David because I love Yngwie Malmsteen type of solos and he was into it, but in the end it didn’t work out and he left the band. I had a couple people in mind to replace him who first of all could play David’s leads and second of all was close. I didn’t want to get a stranger from half way around the world. Victor only lives two hours from where my studio is in Germany. He was my number one, so I got in touch with him and it took him a while, but he said yeah because he loved the music. It wasn’t just pure death metal and he said he could see himself doing it. He joined in 2016 and that’s how we all got together, as friends.
It’s been at least half-a-decade since Anticipation for Blood Leveled in Darkness. How long was the new album in the works and how was the material written?
I pretty much do everything. I have certain ideas. I grew up in Germany and have lived in Switzerland, Sweden, London and Tampa and the Voodoo Gods signature sound really comes out of my head. I listen to Running Wild and other bands that American musicians wouldn’t listen to or even know about. I think Voodoo Gods is like this power metal stuff I listen to like Running Wild, Helloween, Grave Digger, Stratovarius and bands that my friends in the band don’t listen to. Sure, they like traditional heavy metal and the classic albums, but not the new shit that any of those bands do.
How much of everyone else’s contribution is you guiding them and how much of it is them adding their own thing?
It’s just their experience. I do certain riffs and vocal patterns and a certain vision, but I’ll take advice, for instance from George about phrasing because English isn’t my first language or about the arrangements from Hiro who is really, really good at that sort of thing. We’ll do a drums-guitar demo or pre-production and I’ll do the drums and they won’t change. Hiro will learn the song and put down his thing and Jean does his thing separately because he doesn’t come from death metal and for him it’s hard to hear what’s really going when the drums and guitars and going together. So, he’ll actually request another demo with just guitar so he can come up with all his tones and scales. We only realised a couple of years ago what his instrument is capable of and on this album we gave him complete freedom to do what he can do. For the leads, I’ll tell Victor what sort of style I’m looking for and he pulls it off because he’s the most musically educated of all of us, he can play piano and do whatever. He’s from Russia originally and went to the real old-school music conservatory and learned how to conduct an orchestra and everything. I can make sounds with my mouth and he’ll piece it together in an instant. Mostly, I just give him a certain vibe I’m looking to create and he takes it and runs with it.
Are the themes and cover art vision all you?
Yeah. I had a certain vision for the cover art. I love the ocean, the water, the horizon and the moon and that gave me the idea for the cover art. I met [artist] Johann [Freyer] at Wacken many years ago, I talked to him and he gave me a flyer of his portfolio. I was using a great Polish artist named Anna [Krzywoszonek] for years and I was sure that I would have never used anyone else for Voodoo Gods, but for this album I wanted something totally different. Anna is phenomenal and I was like, “I need a combination of them both.” Johann just nailed it to perfection. It took him five or six drafts until I was completely happy and it looks great.
Is there a dominant lyrical theme to the album?
I would say no there isn’t, but there are a lot of songs with certain themes that are really important for me. There are also songs that are just angry and the expression that gets rid of certain emotions like aggression and hatred and that keeps me calm. You play a song that’s really, really, angry and that keeps me calm for many weeks. Of course there are certain symbols and we’re totally anti-Christian, but there isn’t a mission. On the new album, there’s a song called “Forever” which is my favourite song on the album and it’s totally not typical, but it meant so much emotionally to me and Corpsegrinder; his brother-in-law died during the recording of it so it’s almost like a dedication to loved ones and also to people who’ve suffered crises. But there’s no overall message in Voodoo Gods; most songs are just “fuck this, kill that” and a sort of attitude we have towards the world, towards religion, towards the church but I’m not a missionary. There’s a certain vibe and emotion that we put out there and people can dig it or not.
Given everyone’s schedule and the logistics, I’m guessing you haven’t played live much?
We did a couple of shows and have only played in South America up to now. This year we’re supposed to play our first European shows in July which is a big step and we’ve also just signed to a booking agency. The plan was to record our first European show because it’s such an important step for us – the first time in Europe and playing festivals in a market that’s more important than the North American one – and we felt we needed to document it. Many promoters do not even have a clue who we are; they might have heard of us but can’t imagine what we do. So, this being our first impression, I felt we needed to record it and put a statement out there for all the fans and the promoters who’ve never seen us on stage. Voodoo Gods will be out there. Coronavirus may have fucked our plan this year, but I can tell you some sort of live recording will happen this year, even if there isn’t a crowd.
Who plays in the live lineup?
Exactly who plays on the album. I wouldn’t play live without that lineup.
With both singers as well?
Yeah, of course. Well, when we played South America, we only did it with one singer. We had promoters asking us to play and there was enough of a vibe that we could do it with one singer. But when we play live in Europe for the new album, it’s become important to be who we are.
The Divinity of Blood comes out May 15th via Reaper Entertainment