“…soon you will all be hearing the roar of Scottish tank engines and the sound of their tracks on your doorstep…”. I knew it…the moment I’ve forwarded the new album of Death Kommander towards The Great Mack, I knew the bearded beer-drinkin’ Aussie bastard would polish his good ol’ flamethrower and grabbin’ an atlas in which the Soviet Union is still present, to search for the route to Ypres so he can be in the front line to curse towards the enemy. Poor enemy…While he is rattling 162 colourful synonyms for “cunt” per minute in the trenches, I took the time to fire some questions towards George (guitars), Ben (guitars), Kruxator (vocals), Matt (drums) & Mark (bass), the warmongers of Death Kommander… (Ricardo)
George: The idea behind the band came to my mind around 10 years ago, just before I moved to Edinburgh. I recorded “Onwards” and “Shellshock” as demos and then I completely forgot about them until I met Ben and showed the tracks to him. He liked them so we started working on more material in the same vein until we had the whole demo done except the drums and vocals. I met Kruxator through Mark and we had recorded already the third Demonic Obedience album so I asked him if he wanted to record the vocals for Death Kommander too, which he did. Then Kruxator brought Matt from their other band, Am Basteir and Mark joined last on the bass.
What inspired you to start a band in this style?
Ben: That’s an easy one haha! I’ve always been a huge fan of Asphyx and Hail of Bullets and of course Bolt Thrower. I think the release of the first Memoriam album got George and me talking about these bands and eventually we started the band. I actually really like the Memoriam debut and it’s been an influential album at least to my part of the songwriting.
Before we talk about your latest effort “Pro Patria Mori”, what’s your opinion on your demo “Summer Offensive ’18” (CD and self-released) nowadays? The Great Mack described it as “Absolutely essential” in his review and threatened to “playing the bagpipes as loud as is humanly possible” near you if don’t agree…
George: I still love our demo! It has this spark and it was a bit more raw than our debut, which I find great when it comes to Death Metal. It gave us the chance to play gigs in Edinburgh, London and Germany and people seemed to love it. The reaction in general was very positive from the press. As for the writing and recording process it was mainly down to me and Ben. Then the rest of the guys came to fill the gaps.
Matt: Hearing the songs on the demo was what ultimately convinced me to join the band. I was very impressed with the production quality for something that was recorded on such a tight budget. The vision these guys had was immediately clear to me: old-school honest death metal – crushing guitars, monster bass, slamming drums, and vocals that I felt struck the perfect balance of brutality and coherence.
Onwards to “Pro Patria Mori”…
Ben: Me and Kruxator both moved away from Scotland, which made writing and recording a bit more difficult. We prefer to write the music together in person, so I traveled to Scotland quite frequently when it was still possible. The recording of the album was mainly done in Switzerland apart from the vocals which we recorded in Estonia where Kruxator lives. This album was also my first attempt at mixing and mastering besides our demo. It’s pretty much all DIY with Death Kommander.
Brendon, a friend of mine, helped out with the artwork on the album. He already did the art on our demo and I think his art just perfectly captures the mood of the music. I’m super happy with the way it came out.
Kruxator: So far, the reactions to the album have been mixed. Some love it because it sounds like Bolt Thrower, some dislike it because of it. I mean, it’s our first (and self-made) album and we’re getting compared to one of the best bands in metal history, so obviously it’s hard to compete! But we’ll take the constructive feedback and I have faith in the guys that the next album will have more of our own style.
Regarding a memorable story: Ben was visiting me in Estonia to do the vocal recording together but it turned out to be more time-consuming than we thought. Ben was very picky with the pronunciation, so eventually I was spending half a year with over 20 sessions on the vocal recording alone… Can you imagine how hard it is for a native German to growl English without an accent?! At least there hasn’t been a single critique regarding pronunciation, haha!
Ben: I think “Pro Patria Mori” is pretty much a continuation of “Summer Offensive ‘18”. As a matter of fact “Incoming Death” and “Play of Death” were written in the same sessions as the songs on the demo. I would say the differences mainly come down to production.
I’ve been responsible for the lyrics. I’ve been reading many diaries and journals from world war one and I distill these personal stories into lyrics. These should paint a subjective and individual picture of the horrors of the war. To me they are a very important part of our music and a lot of work went into them.
Kruxator: Initially I was writing some lyrics for PPM but it soon turned out that my style cannot compete with Ben’s compact straight-to-the-point wording. So I gave him the drafts from some of my own lyrics and he wrote them into more suitable words in addition to what he already composed.
You released the album on your own label; Warhorn Records…
Kruxator: Well, basically the label exists because of our debut album. It was not due to megalamonia but rather because I was fed up with classical labels due to different reasons; one of them was that the exchange of music rights for a couple of CDs is not very satisfying.
Since all of us are die-hard metal fans, we thought why not keep it true to ourselves and release it the way we want, without anyone dictating us or limiting our own ideas. Mark encouraged me actively to pursue the idea and thus the label was born. Since we have a band democracy, I had to convince the rest of the group but luckily they liked the idea. And looking at the outcome, it seems to have been the right decision.
For future material however, I believe we should first discuss what we want. If we find a label which has the right ideas, why not? But that’s a discussion for when the next album is in the making.
What will the future bring for Death Kommander in the future?
George: We have a lot of material for our next album but because of the pandemic and the distance (we are spread in 3 different countries), it is not very easy to work on it. It may take some time to have the new songs completed but it will happen eventually. As for differences between the new and the old material, I would say that we naturally grow as composers and there will always be something different but not as big as changing our style for example.
You’re involved with other acts as well. Any news on them to tell our readers?.
George: With Demonic Obedience, we have our fourth album almost done and I believe that it will be our last album since me and Mark started a new project called Tymvos and we are getting pretty busy with it. We will soon start recording our first full length album and we have already our demo released.
As I Suffer Silently is a project of my friend George, in Greece and I only help him out so it’s up to him when or if we release a new album.
Kruxator: With Wolfskrone we’ve just released our debut album but have plans for the upcoming summer to release the successor. Regarding Ziegenhorn, we will likely hit the realm of recording in the beginning of 2022, so our second full-length is within reach. There’s another project called “Schein der Katharsis”, which might see the world in 2022 but first things first. Oh, and of course as George mentioned the final Demonic Obedience album is in the making. In my opinion it will be a very worthy last release since George and Mark did fantastic work on the song writing – really excited when this one will be unleashed!
Ben: I’ve just finished recording the debut with my new Swiss band called Vorax and the material should get released very soon. I think it’ll be worth checking out.
Are you involved in any other way in the music scene?
Kruxator: As mentioned before, I am running a small underground label called “Warhorn Records”, where I’m releasing bands with the right Underground spirit (and music of course), with main focus on Estonian extreme metal. It’s a time- and money-consuming hobby, yet we managed to release 6 records in 2021; one of them being our debut album “Pro Patria Mori”. If you’re interested in what the Tarbathian scene has to offer, feel free to check out our youtube-channel!
Our bass player Mark is too humble to write it himself but he’s a talented artist and would surely create more if it wasn’t for his consuming full-time job. He created the logos for Death Kommander and Tymvos.
Are there any bands or albums of your recent playlist you would like to mention? A rediscovery, an overlooked gem or an unsigned demo band that deserves attention? Any other bands of your region of International that are worth mentioning and to check out for our readers?
George: I absolutely loved Plague’s and Inhuman Condition’s debut albums! Probably the best releases that I listened to recently. Then Benediction’s “Scriptures” is a masterpiece and Coffin Mulch from Glasgow are a band that everyone should listen to!
Kruxator: I’d say give the Estonian music scene a chance if you have never heard about it before. There’s an absolute jewel called “Koffin”, who unfortunately only released a demo (and a song on Tarbathian Fortress) before splitting up. Another pearl is Swarn, both their debut album and latest EP (Abysmal Hallucinations) are really grand!
Mark: Australian scene always has a special place in my metal heart, I’m looking forward to upcoming album from Nocturnal Graves. My shout-out goes to Bastardizer and Stormbane, just to mention some “newer” bands. From my region I have to mention Ragehammer, guys seriously kick ass! As for the region I currently live in, Valaraukar is something to keep an ear out for. Don’t forget to check Kruxator’s other band Ziegenhorn, it’s good stuff! Also Old Coven got my attention, and many, many more. It’s an endless topic haha.
Do you have a favourite illustrator / cover artist? Any favourite zines?
Kruxator: Skadvaldur is not only one of the coolest and most creative individuals of the whole metal scene. Equally one of the most unknown. He is a top-notch artist (Skaðvaldur), musician (Urðun, Sküllfükk Satänik Slüts, Igor Mortis, Graveater, …) and even has his own Fanzine (Morbid Writes), which is the funniest shit I’ve ever read. Seriously, he is a one-off and with a second of his liking, the world would probably explode.
Before we wrap up this interview, Is there something I’ve forgotten to ask you which you would like to mention? Thanks for your time!
Kruxator: You certainly wanted to ask about live-gigs, didn’t you!? We want to bring our raw energy onto the stage as we did in the past. Due to some mysterious reason, playing live has been a tad difficult lately. Once the whole situation has calmed down, we will aim to play 2-3 times per year. It’s not a lot but since we’re far apart and also have other projects (not even mentioning full-time jobs) we won’t be able to have much more. However, it gives us the opportunity to make every single gig worthwhile. And we certainly will.