End Reign formed out of humble beginnings, with guitarist Domenic Romeo (Pulling Teeth, Integrity, A389 Recordings) challenging himself to write new songs daily during the height of the pandemic. After collaborating on one song with All Out War vocalist Mike Score, the pair recruited Adam Jarvis (Pig Destroyer, Misery Index), Art Legere (ex-Bloodlet) and Sebastian Phillips (Noisem, Exhumed) to record their debut album, The Way of All Flesh Is Decay.
You can read the proper story of how that record was made in the latest issue of Decibel but Romeo had more to say than fit in the pages of the print magazine. The Way of All Flesh Is Decay is out now on Relapse. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
This album stems out of your one-song-a-day writing project during the pandemic. When you went into it, were you trying to write a record or did you just want to write these songs?
I just had a lot of time on my hands. I remember something Gene Simmons said something once where you write a song a day and if it sucks, it sucks, but that’s how you find the good stuff. I kind of adopted that.
Even with Integrity’s writing process, it’s always been a thing where I write micro-songs, cobble the best parts together into real things. This was a more conscious effort to write songs that had a full-on beginning, verse, chorus, which was kind of cool. Four bands kind of stemmed out of the whole thing, because it was a lot of fun.
A group of songs fit into the lexicon of what I wanted to do with End Reign.
Stephen King wrote a book about writing and he was talking about how he writes two or three pages a day no matter how bad it is because that’s how he gets his ideas out.
So true. Good company.
Mike Score was the second person who got involved with End Reign. Had you worked with him before or was this just happy circumstances?
We’ve been friends but we’ve never done music together. Since the ’90s, I’ve always been a big All Out War fan. It was something that came together, that song “House of Thieves” that was the Decibel flexi. We just wanted to write a song that sounded like Cro-Mags’ Best Wishes album but faster. I sent it to him because we both love Best Wishes, it was an awesome fit.
That was the lynchpin that turned End Reign from one song into an actual, full-on production.
Once you and Mike realized that the collaboration was going so well, you recruited Jarvis, Sebastian and Arthur. These were people you had kind of hand picked for these positions, right?
Originally, I wrote the songs over the pandemic, whether it was a drum machine or sometimes I’d get together with Joshy from Ilsa. I’d just bring a bag of riffs and lay them out, cobble together what’s going to happen, but when it came time to actually lay down the record, my three rules were that I wanted to have everybody on the record be somebody I’d never made a record with before, I wanted it to be recorded somewhere I’d never worked before and I wanted all the songs to follow the verse/chorus structure. That was the three goals I had for it.
That’s kind of the impetus between picking everybody. Mike we just talked about. Jarvis and I used to work at a guitar store together, fifteen-something years ago, when Pulling Teeth and Misery Index were both kind of starting out. … I found out he lives like a street away from me, so we started getting together and hammering out the songs. That was it, it was going to be me, Jarvis and Mike was going to sing. We decided to go to Landmine Studios which is in Ewing, New Jersey and my friend Len [Carmichael] records out of there. He’s always been super happy with little things I need with Integrity over the years, so we booked a block of time to just go over there and figure it out.
What ended up happening was Bloodlet was going through a lineup shift to the lineup that they have now, which doesn’t include Art. Art had just been transitioned out of there and I’m like “Oh, he’s probably not doing anything.” So I called him and I was like “I know this is short notice, we’re doing a record next week. Do you want to play on it?”
On Sebastian Phillips joining End Reign:
I was doing guitar solos and the song “Chasing Divinity” came up and I couldn’t figure out what to play and I was like “You know what? I’m gonna ask Sebastian,” who’s a good friend of mine. His solo on “Chasing Divinity” was so good, it was amazing. I laughed when I heard it. It was amazing. It was like Marty Friedman showed up and just ripped it. I had him go back and we split all the solos on the record. Half of the solos are me and half the solos are me, like a Hanneman/King type scenario.
It’s cool because you can tell who’s who. Either song has a solo by me or by him, you can always tell who’s doing what. He really, really brought an extra thing I wasn’t anticipating.
People probably expected you to work with Dylan Walker and Dwid and guys like that. You’re working with Ed from The Legendary Pink Dots. You also talked about working with new people, recording somewhere new, were you trying to buck expectations that people have of you?
I think with every record, bands consisted of who I wanted and I always had an idea of who should be doing what. In this way, it’s a little similar in that aspect and all three of those guys have things. I didn’t have intentions for Dylan to be on the record but we did this song “Chaos Masked as Order” and none of us could really do a good guttural vocal. It just wasn’t happening and then I was like, “Who can I call?” and he’s one of the best, he can do it in his sleep. Obviously we’re old friends, we have a history together. I’ve always wanted to do something with him.
Dwid’s song, “Giving Life to Tragedy,” that song was written as an acoustic, like Neil Young-sounding song that would have been on Harvest or after Gold Rush. Real sad and the guitar melody was supposed to be the vocals, one acoustic guitar. I showed Dwid a demo and I was like, “What do you think of this?” and he was like “You should Integrify it, it should be a power ballad.” The song is such a huge nod to Integrity, I couldn’t not have him on it.
Once again circling back to “Chaos Masked as Order,” I’ve always loved The Legendary Pink Dots and that whole lexicon of, those aren’t Wax Trax bands but it started with finding Wax Trax bands. That whole Skinny Puppy-adjacent world was always something I was into growing up. I’ve always loved how both somber and disturbing Edward sounds when he does his vocals.
I’d never talked to the guy but I just reached out to him with my idea. He was just the coolest, most down to earth—he was so easy. He was awesome, I made a friend in the process with somebody that I’ve looked up to for most of my life. What a treat. I hope people find the magic I found in it, and maybe some common ground with other people.
Do you foresee this as remaining a studio project? Is it a one-off thing, will it become a touring thing?
I have my version of what I hope it’s going to be but it’s almost like it shot itself in the foot coming right out of the gate. Jarvis is in like 20 successful bands, Sebastian is always doing stuff, Mike has All Out War and his career and his family, and I’m super busy doing family stuff that takes up all my time. I’m spread thin and Art is the hardest guy to pin down out of everybody.
I’m kind of just treating it like a thing where if the universe decides it’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen. Maybe someone will offer something where all of us are available and want to do it. I would be delighted, I would jump at any chance to do it, but I don’t want to cheapen it by having it be someone else. I think its real magic is that it’s those five guys.