Scream Magazine interview 07/15/08

Since this is the first time we’re covering TOB, please give our readers a little insight in the history of the band. When and how did you hook up with each other?

Sure. In late 2001 I started jamming with Lance Wright, our current drummer. He had heard some of the songs I had written and was interested in getting a band going with me. Our former bassist (Garth Lovvorn) was just leaving his previous band, Fleshtized. He heard what we were doing and really liked it and we convinced him to join. We stayed a three-piece for quite a while, with me handling both guitar and vocals. We mainly played cover songs from all the old classic metal bands like Overkill, Slayer, Iron Maiden, Annihilator, Mercyful Fate, Death, and a lot of that stuff. We slowly started working original songs into the set. We kindof broke up a year or so after that, Lance had moved off to join another band and it just seemed to be time for a break. In 2004, when I found out Lance was moving back I also convinced my hot-shot guitarist friend from college (Matt Barnes) to move here and join us. He was living in New Hampshire at the time and couldn’t get a band going up there. He liked what we were doing and moved down here. The line-up was complete and work really got going on finishing the songs for our debut album “Prepare for the Judgement of Mankind”. I had the honor of meeting Ski from Deadly Blessing who performed vocals on our rendition of their song “Deliver Us From Evil”. The album was finally released and did really well. Being a metal band from Alabama who was playing a very un-trendy style of metal I really didn’t know what to expect but people seemed to really take to it and we got a lot of good reviews. After the release of the album we parted ways with Garth and got a new bass player, Jim Lewis who used to play with the progressive metal band Antithesis. I am a big Antithesis fan so it was really cool to work with him. We wrote the material for our second album, which was called “Overlord” and it came out in April 2008. We all think it showed a lot of overall improvement in songwriting, recording, and with the performances. On “Overlord” we also recorded a cover of the classic Forbidden song “Forbidden Evil” which was a lot of fun to learn and play!

The first album received some great reviews, also here in Scream. Did all these positive reviews affect the sales? How many copies have you pressed and sold of your debutalbum?

Yes, I remember the review in Scream and it was great to read that! As a musician you have to play music for the love and art of it all but it is nice when someone likes what you’re doing and you receive some encouragement. Yes, I think the good reviews and buzz did help the album to sell out finally. We pressed 1000 and it is almost completely sold out as far as I know.

It’s not unusual that a band releases their first album by themselves, but you have also opted to finance the follow-up by yourselves. How come? No interest from labels at all?

We had some interest from labels but couldn’t work it out with any of them. In the end we decided to remain independent and not solicit label interest. There are a lot of reasons we are independent for the time being. There are a lot of bands out there who are waiting for a record label to come in and do everything for them. I’m trying to be more realistic about this and just try to do everything myself that I can. It would be nice to have a supportive label behind us but they would have to do something for us that we can’t already do for ourselves. The standard deal you get with a small label doesn’t help you recoup the money you put into making an album and then on top of that they make all kinds of demands of you. In the end, I felt like I could manage ToB, promote us, and work harder on our behalf than a small label would be willing to. But I would be interested in hearing any offers if there is a label out there that is interested in signing us.

On the first album you covered “Deliver Us from Evil” from Deadly Blessing with Ski doing the vocals. On the new album you’re doing “Forbidden Evil”. Why have you chosen to cover these two songs in particular, and did you ever approach Russ Anderson to ask him to lay down the vocals on “Forbidden Evil”?

Well, the main reasons I chose those songs is they both rule! I love both those albums they are on. “Ascend from the Cauldron” and “Forbidden Evil” are total classics in my book. Those bands were just on fire back then. Those songs also both had some great pro-God lyrics that I could really enjoy on a spiritual level as well. Meeting Ski was just a dream come true for me. He is just one of the most mind-blowing, amazing vocalists in metal. We really hit it off after the recording and became friends and still keep in touch.

I see that you use the description “powerthrash” to label your music. To me it’s a mixture of everything that was good about the eighties – speed metal, thrash metal and power metal made in America. Do you agree?

Oh yes, that is definitely what I am shooting for. I like all the great riffy, speedy bands from the 80s and also all the bands that had the great, tasty melodies.

Being a Christian band, how important is it for you that the listener pays attention to the lyrics? I am not a Christian, but I love the oldschool-approach in your music. Am I just as good a TOB-fan as the fan who also cares about the message that you put across?

Of course you are! We just try to be a good band, to play good music and for people to have a good time and enjoy themselves. When we played shows, I did not preach from the stage, we put on a metal show. When it is time for me to write music, I write the style of music I love with all my heart, which is the classic 80s power/speed/thrash metal. When I write lyrics, I write with the beliefs that I love with all my heart. I think Jesus Christ is the greatest person who ever lived and his message is the most important thing in the world so that is what I write about. I have to do what I do with all my heart or else it is not worth doing.

Some metalfans will probably be put off by your lyrics. Especially here in Norway, where the black metal-scene is quite strong. Is it frustrating to think that you would probably have reached a wider audience if you weren’t a Christian band with Christian lyrics?

I think we’d be bigger without Christian lyrics but I don’t care. Like I said before, I have to do this with all my heart or else it is not worth doing at all. It takes a lot of time and hard work to be in a band like this. We’re certainly not making any money off of it. You have to love it to do it. If I really wanted to be popular, we’d try to play metal core or something but that would just be denying the things that I really love just to gain a few fair-weather fans.

I have noticed that some Christian bands/distros/zines always compare a Christian band to another Christian band. For instance, if a new band sounds like Iron Maiden, they say it sounds like Barren Cross. And if a band sounds like Judas Priest, they say it sounds like Saint. It seems like it’s important for some individuals and bands in the Christian metal-scene to distance themselves from the “ordinary” heavy metal-scene. Your view on this? And is it important for TOB?

I know what you’re saying and I’ve seen that too. I think some people who buy Christian albums only buy Christian albums so they don’t know the secular bands as well. They may know Stryper but not know Judas Priest, for example. So they are probably just trying to compare them to bands they already know. Also, I think people probably do that to promote other Christian bands (like Barren Cross or Saint) that aren’t as popular as some of their secular counterparts. Yeah, we’ve gotten compared to some other Christian metal bands that I don’t think we sound much of anything like. My main music influences are secular: Megadeth, Judas Priest, Annihilator, Dark Angel, Deadly Blessing, Fates Warning, Helstar, Testament, Forbidden, and all that stuff. I also really love some of the stuff by some Christian bands like Faith Factor, Sacred Warrior, Deliverance, and Tourniquet.

If you compare your first album to the new one, “Overlord”, what would you say are the most significant difference? In which area have you improved most as a unit?

Hmm, well to me the songs are better written. I think the production is much better, our drummer Lance is a studio engineer and I think he did a good job. We were able to spend more time on writing and working out the parts and learn our lessons from recording the first album. I think it just represents a continued progression and a band that is more experienced and more sure what it wants to do.

I really love the new album, the feeling, the riffs and the songs themselves. However, I feel that the vocals is a bit low in the mix. Would you agree?

Thanks a lot! Glad you have enjoyed it. Yeah, the vocals are a little low on some songs. I think there are a variety of reasons for that but we’ll make sure on the next disc to make them a bit louder.

When it comes to playing live, is it important to you to perform alongside other Christian bands? Are there any kind of band which you would not play on the same bill as?

Well, we haven’t played a show in a while but when we were we rarely played with Christian bands. There was only really one other Christian band around and I think we only played with them once. Really, there weren’t any other thrash bands around either. Most bands were doing the extreme metal thing or they were metal core or something. Hmm, is there a band we wouldn’t play with? Right off of the top of my head I would say no but I wouldn’t play a show that was billed as “Hellfest” or something like that and I wouldn’t play with a giant pentagram in back of me or anything. But we’d be fine letting other bands do what they do as long as they are cool with us getting up there and playing our music.