Seven Gates of Hell with BULLETBELT

21. května 2015 v 17:10 | RaznAgul |  seven gates of hell interviews
The aim of the open series of the blogzine´s Seven Gates of Hell interviews is to introduce the bands and their music that struck my metalhead´s heart and soul recently. In seven questions, the gates are open for those who make their music of true metal spirit, pure dedication and of what I understand as underground approach and aesthetics.
Today, the gates open for the New Zealand firing metal cadence BULLETBELT. They started charging their belt cartridges in 2009. After two EPs and a live album they came with their first-full length titled "Down in the Cold of Grave" (2012) and the last October with their second album "Rise of the Banshee". On the latter, I wrote a review for this blogzine, too. It´s been my pleasure to question for this interview the band´s lead guitarist Ross "Rots" Mallon.
I. When I bumped into the New Zealand horde BULLETBELT first, guessing out of the band´s name I expected some sort of thrashing war metal attacking my head from the blood-soaked battlefields. Then I happily realized that they play a great mixture of speedy heavy metal with thrashy energy and they call it black. More, they have a girl in charge of vocals, but they do not sound like a female-fronted band at all! Their music is fit with raw metal aggressiveness, yet stands out very accessible with its crafty heavy melodies. That is my impression out of listening to BULLETBELT´s second full-length "Rise of the Banshee". How would you describe and sort out your music to a metalhead who meets you for the first time?
Hey! Thanks for your kind words and interest in our band!
We broadly describe our music as black thrash, in that there are elements of 1st & 2nd wave black metal, and thrash metal. Where most people might more readily associate the "thrash" descriptive with the teutonic scene (Sodom, Kreator, Destruction), especially with a black metal influence, I would say we also take inspiration from the 'Bay Area/Big Four' American influenced thrash. This has resulted in some more progressive elements within our music, especially on the new album.

II. BULLETBELT is a five-year old beast. I guess, however, you must have had by far richer experience with playing heavy metal. What are your musical roots and past what landmarks have they sprouted into today´s BULLETBELT?
Yes, as you might guess, although BULLETBELT is a relatively new animal, it has evolved from various projects that we have all been involved in. They have included styles across the metal genre, and a few outside of them also.
Steve (drums) has played in Karnage and Demoniac, two early extreme metal bands from New Zealand. And more recently for Red Dawn, a power/trad metal band.
Tim (bass) has his own project called Intergracia where he is vox + guitar, and is self-described as progressive metal.
Jolene (vocals) has also sung for Pariah and Zirconium - thrash/black/death metal
Our new guitarist Evan has played for/in Subtract (melodic death/thrash), Cobra Khan (rock/metal/punk), and Concord Dawn (electronic).
My own history is that I have played drums for nearly all my musical career, more recently in a black/thrash band called Pervertor. However BULLETBELT is my first, and only band, that I play guitar in.
However the "landmark" that has possibly shaped the direction of BULLETBELT the most is that Steve (drums) and I both have very similar tastes in music. From hard rock 80's bands and traditional heavy metal, through to thrash, black and death metal. I think it has meant we communicate easily with ideas and have a broad knowledge of music that helps the song writing process.


III. Your last year´s "Rise of the Banshee" is just a masterpiece, I really enjoy it! I have not listened to your debut yet, but surely will when the time comes for it. Would you say something about the progress you made between the two recordings, spare a few words about each and maybe whet my appetite for listening to your first album?
Thanks again for the compliments! For me there are a few significant differences between our debut, "Down In The Cold Of The Grave", and our latest album "Rise Of The Banshee".
The debut was our first time recording a full length with that line-up and we had relatively recently added a 2nd guitarist. The majority of the debut album songs had been written with one guitarist in mind, in a live situation, and so I don't think we took full advantage of the different textures and nuances a 2nd guitar can add to a song. The song 'Ironclad', the last track on our debut, however, was written with two guitars in mind, and as such was closer to what we then continued with on "Rise Of The Banshee".
Also, while our debut had been relatively well "road tested" in a live setting, six of the eight songs on "Rise..." were written and recorded before unleashing them on a live audience. I don't think the songs suffered at all, it was just a different experience from a compositional point of view.
And we spent a lot more time recording and producing the vocals. On our debut, our previous vocalist Fergus, just went in and belted out exactly what we had been doing live. Which worked! However, on the new album we felt we could make some improvements by spending more time recording extra vocal lines, chorus parts etc.
Lastly, I think we progressed as song writers. I can remember thinking about some of the riffs/songs on the debut album being written mostly in the mind-set of a "black/thrash" band. Whereas on "Rise..." I definitely approached the riffs/songs not for a specific style of metal, just "heavy metal" in general. I obviously didn't want it to be a radical departure from our debut, or previous EPs, but felt that this was a closer representation of all of my influences forming a more unique sound.
In saying all that I still really like "Down…". The vocals in particular are very chaotic and the songs capture a great time in the band after we completed our first tour of New Zealand. Just as I've described above, I think "Down…" was also an improvement on the EPs we had recorded up until then, more maturity in riffs and composition. It also has the amazing artwork of Nick Keller who painted the cover using lyrical ideas from the song "Down In The Cold Of The Grave". This was also our first release on vinyl, and it sounds amazing! Definitely grab the album on black wax if you can as it really does capture what we were trying for.

IV. If I was to choose just one most favourite song of "Rise of the Banshee", I would opt for "Sniper" with its jazzy guitar quavers and the very strong tune. But I like every song of the album and above all their heavy metal guitar parts, they really touch upon myself. Which of the songs would you choose to capture the very feeling of the album and why?
It's great that you picked out "Sniper" as a favourite. It's actually a cover by an old heavy metal band from New Zealand band called The Nod. They originally recorded it around 1992 and the main songwriter and lead guitarist, the very talented Darren Broughton, also played the solo on that track on our album.
I think the album overall is best presented by either the opening track "Death Tinted Red" or the last track "Black Banshee". Both songs capture the improvement in song writing from the debut and also represent the band with some more progressive and rock elements that have come into our sound. And a further note on the track listing, I definitely thought about the eight tracks as a whole album, and split into two halves, i.e. an 'A' and 'B' side which will come through on the vinyl and tape release (out later on in 2015 on HOTA REX).
So there are four "classic" BULLETBELT tracks "book ending" the album, and the four middle tracks are not necessarily more experimental but are the more compositionally straight forward. I think it just gives the album a greater flow when you listen to it from end to end - which is how it should be listened to!

V. Is it easy or, on the other hand, rather difficult for an extreme metal band with a female singer to kick the ass of the scene?
I try not to think in those terms. Every band, including well established signed bands, are finding it difficult to make their mark, or kick some ass, in the scene. There is so much competition for a listeners´ attention, and having a female singer isn't anything new now, even in extreme metal.
Jolene brings her own unique perspective and experience to the band as an individual. We try and incorporate her contribution into our original vision to improve on what we have done in the past. I think making strong, original, inspiring music is the best way to become successful, in however way you define that success.
We invited Jolene to try out for BULLETBELT on the pure basis of her enthusiasm and vocal ability. She had already provided some background vocals on our debut album, and so we knew we already liked her vocals. And it was just whether or not she was able to get along with the individuals within the band, and have the lyrical ability to contribute. So she definitely ticked all the boxes in what we were looking for.


VI. You have just toured with the US heavy/black metal cult Midnight. How did you happen to come to the conspiracy with Athenar? What did you learn from this great experience?
Steve (drums) is a huge fan of Midnight. When "Satanic Royalty" came out Steve raved about the album as a perfect mix of heavy styles of metal. So when they announced an appearance at an Australian festival called Evil Invaders in 2013 he made enquiries about bringing them to New Zealand. One thing led to another, and Steve and I promoted the show in NZ in Auckland under our Headless Horseman (promoter/distro/label) banner. Steve remained in contact with Athenar over the last couple of years talking about more shows in New Zealand. And then he asked if we could also take them through Australia as well. So we promoted the tour, and as BULLETBELT had already been to Australia in Oct 2014, and we were keen to go back, it was a good opportunity to play direct support to Midnight.
So the tour was for three shows in NZ, and three shows in Australia. It was a great experience. Especially seeing Midnight live six times in ten days! They are a great band live obviously, and really easy going people off stage. It was a pleasure to tour with them. It did make for a busy time for Steve and I as we promoted and tour managed all shows! But a great learning experience!
Once you take a band overseas, either your own, or someone elses, there are lots of things to learn about budgets, immigration visas and venue/backline booking etc. Everything is similar, but on a slightly larger scale, i.e. more money and time involved! We hope to do it again soon, and as we look towards our ultimate goal of touring Asia, Europe and the Americas, I think these early forays will put us in good stead for tours on a larger scale.

VII. Apart from the recent touring, would you share some other news or future plans of BULLETBELT?
Over the next month (May 2015) we'll be shooting two music videos. One for "Sniper", which is being filmed by a local production company. And the second will be for "Deathgasm" which is the title song of, and is featured in, a NZ horror/splatter/comedy film (in the vein of Peter Jackson's Dead Alive/Braindead). It is currently doing the rounds of the film festival circuit in North and South America, and should show here in NZ later on in the year. The "Deathgasm" music video has also received funding through the New Zealand government which will cover production costs. This is a fairly big deal, as normally heavy metal does not receive any government funding, and even less so a band seen as being on the more extreme end of the music spectrum!
We will also begin the writing process for album #3 in June with our new guitarist Evan. He has only just joined us, and with his experience in other bands and music production we think this will be a positive step (leap!) forward in the bands evolution.
We're also very proud to announce that Hallways Of The Always Records (www.hotarex.com) will be releasing "Rise Of The Banshee" on vinyl and cassette tape near the end of the year. This is a great new label that has shown enthusiasm and support for us so far, and we look forward to working with them on these two releases.

Thanks for the interview, you have my full support!!
No problem! And good luck with your zine and future endeavours!

 

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