As Warbringer prepared to open the show for Arch Enemy, we sat down with John Kevill, the lead singer of the band, to talk about the violent, ass-kicking, head-bashing thrash metal they brought with them.
Watch the unedited interview at the end!
Metal Blast: For thos who aren’t familiar with the band. How would you describe the Warbringer sound?
John Kivell: Basically, aggressive and fast thrash metal… with a few other things. It sounds like machine guns!
MB: What’s new in “Worlds Torn Asunder”, your latest record?
J: I think that although it has elements from both of our previous albums, it is more refined with tighter songwriting and every part of the songs fitting better than before. I think that it’s my best vocal performance.
We also experimented with some elements from punk, death metal, black metal and even some progressive metal.
The first part of the album is heavy and the second expands on that.
MB: You’re in charge of the lyrics. Is there a central unique theme in this album?
J : There’s not a single conscious theme, since I try to make all the songs about something different, but one common theme in our songs are the inherent problems with human as a species which, as you can see, is a recurrent thing throughout history.
MB: How important is “the message” in your music?
J: Well, I try not to be preaching with the lyrics, since it pisses me off when a band does that. I try to strike a balance between saying something and that “Hell yeah!” fist-in-the-air heavy metal factor, having with some catchy parts and cool-sounding stuff.
MB: What’s the songwriting process like?
J: I write the lyrics, I talk about them with the rest of the band, so that it’s not just my ideas there. Some songs have influence from other band members, since every time I tell the others what I’m writing about, I don’t simply do it.
We don’t have a specific process… typically I have an idea and wait for the right riffs to put it with. Other times I hear a set riffs that create a certain feeling, so I try to come up with the right lyrical topic for them; something that suits the sound of that music. For the writing of the music, the main influence that I’ll have on the actual music is in the structure, trying to keep the lyrical and vocal hooks strong, so that they go well with the music. Since I don’t play an instrument, my influence on the music isn’t so much on riffs, but I am involved in the structure, trying to make the songs flow.
MB: How do you feel about being described as a “Thrash Metal Revival” band?
J: I don’t like the name at all. I know that in and of itself it’s not such a bad term. Thrash metal is a style that wasn’t played very often for about a decade, with a lot of the classic thrash metal bands moving away from it, or even breaking up, in the early 90s.
I think that it was exciting when bands, such as ourselves, came out in the mid 2000s and started playing it again.
The problem with the term is that the press has labeled it as a retro-novelty thing, when for us it was never like that. It was more like “This is good music, why isn’t anybody playing it?”
With a term like “thrash metal revival” people think that “Oh, they’re a thrash metal band, so they must sound like Testament or Exodus”. This is a problem because although bands from a certain genre share some things, they are not the same.
What I’m saying is, we’re not a “thrash revival” band, we’re a thrash metal band! We’re not trying to revive anything; we just play the music we like.
MB: How did you get into Thrash Metal?
J: Well, after the awful music period that affects every 13-14 year old, I started to get into classic hard rock like Led Zepellin and Black Sabbath, from there I went to Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, from there to Manowar and Helloween. When I got Kreator’s “Pleasure to Kill” I thought it was a mess, I didn’t understand why people liked it… and then it sort of clicked. “I get it! It’s pure destruction!” Once my ears adjusted, since I wasn’t used to that old-school raw production style, I realized that “Oh, there are songs here too!”
I like Thrash over Black or Death Metal because I feel that it was more room for songs, because even if you’re being really heavy you can still have hooky, catchy parts.
MB: How do you think bands like Slayer, Testament, Megadeth and Metallica, the founders of Thrash Metal, have aged?
J: Well, it’s different for every band. I think Metallica’s new record is better than what they have been releasing-
J: Not that! That doesn’t count… although it might still be better than St. Anger, I can’t decide. I meant Death Magnetic, the last “proper” Metallica record. In any case, you can’t really call any of their latest works thrash metal, it’s something more commercial. It works for them, so more power to ‘em… but if we’re talking about thrash I believe that some bands are still making good records, like Exodus and Kreator, since their music is still riff-heavy and has all the things that I like about thrash.
Although bands like Metallica are known as thrash bands, the records they’re making now are not really thrash records. Of course, in the end is all up to taste and how much you like these new records and how good their live performances are. I think that it’s a case-by-case basis. Some bands, like Testament are still kicking ass with their music while others, I’m not going to say any names, have their best years behind them.
MB: Do you think, commercially, thrash metal is difficult to sell?
J: Yeah, especially really “thrashy thrash”. Most successful thrash bands, with the exception of Slayer… well, in the case of Metallica and Megadeth, although they’re definitely thrash metal bands, they’re not really into this thrashy thrash all the time. It’s not that thrash metal bands have to be like that all the time, but they don’t have that raw speed that makes it more inaccessible. This, obviously, doesn’t take anything away from classic Metallica or Megadeth, because that shit is awesome.
If your goal is to play really intense thrash, and I think that’s our goal, I think it’s really hard to be commercially successful. Slayer is the only one that does really fast, brutal thrash and that is also very commercially successful… with Kreator behind them. I think it’s well deserved, of course, since I love both bands.
MB: The band started as “Onslaught” and then changed into “Warbringer”.
Oh, I hate this question.
We were brainstorming for a name, and this is what we came up with. The “Onslaught” thing was that this was my first band, it was also Jon Laux’s first band, so we didn’t know a lot about other bands; we had listened to Megadeth maybe a couple of months before, so everything was very new to us. We just picked a “metal sounding” name, and that was Onslaught.
Oddly enough, we toured with Onslaught and we told them about this. You see, the truest of the true metalhead always give us shit like “Oh these guys are a bunch of posers, since they didn’t even know about Onslaught”. Obviously, the guys who say that knew about it as soon as they popped out of their moms.
For what it’s worth, Onslaught themselves actually told us that they stole the name from a Punk band!
MB: What’s in store for Warbringer?
J: More albums and more tours. We’re gonna keep trying to make the best metal we can. It’s as simple as that!