Weapon – Devil’s Vanguard
The sign of a good… no, make that GREAT band, is looking back upon their creations and being able to hear an obvious progression where the core of their ideals and identity are firmly intact, yet the band effectively pushes their creativity/songwriting talents into vastly advanced territories that not only uphold and celebrate a genre, but more importantly, define it. Canada’s Weapon are such a band. Drakonian Paradigm and From the Devil’s Tomb both possess a vibrant sting of well written and venomous death metal, but Weapon always sounded like they had yet to fully enter into the void where the correct sound production and fire conjuring/memorable death unite to possess the soul. From the Devil’s Tomb was close to reaching this balance of sound and infectious blasphemy, but with Embers and Revelations Weapon have achieved this and so much more. The songs breathe with a pulse of malevolence. They thrive thanks to a sharp production. This allows the superior structures and melody-bloated riffs to rise above the heap of modern death metal bands that lose sight of good songwriting due to overly technical playing, or hide behind a wall of distortion to cover up their imperfections. You can hear the pride in these songs. The lust for metal and the aural realization of such well written and mighty material really rings out on this album. The Worm compound has been destroyed by Embers and Revelations and sought out the visionary behind this opus, Vetis Monarch, for a more candid look at what drives the intentions behind the Weapon being wielded with such apocalyptic perfection. -Marty
Worm Gear: Greetings and congratulations on Embers and Revelations! We feel it is by far the best death metal album we’ve heard this year. One right away notices a lot of growth and well crafted patience in this material. Modern sounding, yet so vibrantly empowered by the past. I’m certainly not discrediting the excellent-in-their-own-right albums that preceded it, but how do you view the growth of Weapon when looking back upon your body of work thus far now that the new album is finished and available?
Vetis Monarch: I honestly don’t know what other path we could have taken. We are so vehemently against staying stagnant – or worse yet – regressing, that it’s no longer even a part of the conscious dialogue for us that we would need to say, “Yes, we must develop. We must move forward.” It’s a given. When I look back at the discography: one demo tape, two EPs and three full-length albums (counting the new one), I see a band that has built upon it’s own foundation without losing touch with the roots whatsoever. Now this is my opinion, I’m sure some critic or fan somewhere has a different take on it and that’s fine; I’m not interested in telling people how they should channel music, not even my own. Make up your own mind. The metal subculture already has enough sheep-like behavior. ‘Embers And Revelations’ is Weapon 2012. “The Past Is Alive”, but we are not dwelling in the past and nor have we forgotten it.
WG: Embers and Revelations is further made unique by how clean and destructive it sounds. I think this is a very brave production for this style of music, for you have chosen NOT to hide behind a wall of noise that is often a crutch for this style of underground death metal. Was this the intention when entering the studio, or did the producer have a hand in bringing out the talent in the Weapon collective? How was the experience and do you think you have found the proper sound for this band?
VM: We absolutely wanted this album to sound the way it sounds, which was no accident. ‘Drakonian Paradigm’ would have sounded like this if we had the opportunity to do so, and so would ‘From The Devil’s Tomb’. In the case of ‘Drakonian Paradigm’ we made the mistake of recording at the “studio” of the incompetent moron who was playing bass in the band at the time – in hindsight, an amateurish production of paramount proportions. When we recorded ‘From The Devil’s Tomb’, we were able to go to a real studio but I feel as though we were slightly ripped off. It’s a great record but for the money that was spent on it, it should have sounded cleaner. On ‘Embers And Revelations’ we had a producer in the classic sense of the word. Terry Paholek certainly had a hand in the end result. He didn’t write any of the music of course, but he made suggestions regarding certain arrangements and it worked out for the best. Kudos to the guy for going the extra mile on this record.
As you said, it’s a very brave production for the style of music. Anyone can hide behind a wall of noise and call something ‘extreme’. It’s when you clean things up, and the evil still remains, is when you know you’ve done something right. I’m not saying all harsh death / black albums need to have a massive production – I wouldn’t want Archgoat to sound any different. There’s a charm to their sound; that’s what they do, and have always done. But for the majority of (newer) low-fi bands, shitty production tends to be a cover-up for being a shit band.
WG: I have always found it fascinating how a geographical location affects a musical style. Look at Norway in 1994/5, Sweden in the early 90’s, Germany in the 80’s… they all produced bands that offered genre defining traits and shared a similar musical heritage. Having formed Weapon in Canada, how would you describe that country’s influence on your music? Did it change at all when you relocated back to Bangladesh for a short while?
VM: Like you, I also find it fascinating, but I don’t necessarily endorse it. When bands sound like each other from a certain place that suggests to me that there is a lack of originality and creativity. I prefer to stick to the originals. Much like the places you mentioned, western Canada (specifically Edmonton) generated a bunch of bands (in the mid to late ‘90s) that are considered war metal. I never wanted anything to do with that and sonically stayed as far away from it as possible. I’m not slagging the bands themselves, my point is that that’s not a sound I ever wanted for Weapon. So yes, in a sense that scene influenced me to NOT be a certain way.
1994 onwards, if your band came from Norway, it was a safe bet that your band would sound like Darkthrone. For someone like me who doesn’t give two shits about Darkthrone, neither old nor new, I never wasted my time with that. A band’s location should not determine their popularity, or lack thereof. When I relocated to Bangladesh, people (half)jokingly said things like, “Ah, you’re going to do this 3rd world style now. Instant cred with the NWN crowd.” Yeah, no. We are hated by the NWN crowd. For those of you who weren’t around, the early ‘00s was when that killer Goat Semen demo was the hottest commodity in the underground. Some 3rd world bands were given instant cult status just solely for the fact they were from a 3rd world country. Total fucking bullshit, if you ask me. Good bands from Europe and North America got overlooked because they weren’t exotic enough for some gas mask-wearing scene twat.
Being in a certain environment will indubitably shape your mood and therefore your actions, so yes, I’m certain that my tenure back in Bangladesh for a year shaped some of the music. But it’s not something I have harnessed consciously.
WG: It seems like you went as far as you possibly could from your homeland… why is this? What was so appealing about living up north?
VM: Even though Bangladesh is a fairly liberal place, it’s not somewhere where someone like myself could exist ‘freely’. I don’t like being told what to do, being constantly monitored by nosey fuckheads that have no business in my life. Not to mention it’s not the most ideal place to make a living off a satanic death metal band. Also, I am absolutely horrible at family stuff. There must be a part of my brain that isn’t wired right for such things, so I maintain as much distance as possible from my relatives. That’s not why I came up north, but that certainly has a hand in keeping me here. The main reason is Weapon of course, because Canada is Weapon’s home. I haven’t lived in Bangladesh for a long time now, so I don’t even know what the fuck I would do there. A visit with old friends and some family would be nice but I think I might miss the snow if I was gone for too long. How fucking absurd is that?
WG: Are there any current bands amongst the bevy of Canadian talent these days you feel a kinship with or would recommend to those interested in sounds emanating from that area?
VM: Canada has always been about quality over quantity. I recently discovered a band called Chthe’ilist that’s some of the most interesting death metal I’ve heard in a long time. And of course there’s Mitochondrion, Antediluvian, Tyrant’s Blood, Auroch, Archspire, A.M.S.G. and a few others.
WG: With the rise of the internet and globalization slowly making a lot of the bigger cities interchangeable/devoid of culture, does it even matter where one resides anymore? What are your thoughts on all of this?
VM: In terms of metal, I think it matters now more than ever if you’re from Europe or not, Scandinavia to be more specific. I don’t mean to disrespect my friends that play in some great European bands, but it’s quite apparent that people in North America are far more eager to accept a Swedish or a Norwegian band than say an European would be in regards to an American or a Canadian band. I don’t know why this is, but it’s nonsense. The biggest black metal band right now is from Sweden, and in my opinion they have a good live show and average songs. That’s about it. Nothing about their music to me has lasting power. But, they appeal to an impressionable crowd due to over-the-top gimmicks, and if you add 3 parts Sweden – voila! Cover of Metal Hammer! How many people in Europe even know about a GREAT band like The Chasm? I’ll bet not as many as there should be. Anyway, this “double standard”, for lack of a better term, only makes us work harder. What are we going do, stop playing metal because our album didn’t sell well in Aalborg? Fuck no. We will make more metal.
WG: Having seemingly succumbed to/embraced your demons on occasion over the years, you have endured some things that would have killed or crippled the spirit of a lesser man. All through this, Weapon has survived and flourished. How has this musical entity affected (saved?) you/your life and even survived at all for that matter through the hard times?
VM: Since I can only speak from personal experience, and the experiences I witnessed of some close friends who USED to be in active bands, I can say that heroin kills the creative fire. It doesn’t add anything. It made me lethargic and indifferent. Just to be clear, I’m not saying don’t use heroin / coke / meth whatever – it’s your life; you have a brain, do whatever the fuck you want. But be responsible for your decisions. Don’t say that you have a disease because you can’t stay away from the crack pipe. That’s such fucking bullshit. Lymphoma is a disease, shooting up junk is not. I’m finally at a point now where I can be in a room full of people who are all doing lines of coke and I just don’t care. It doesn’t appeal to me. I’d rather have a glass of Jameson’s in my hand and a pretty girl on my lap. Anyway, I just had to make a choice whether I wanted to be a full time musician or a full time drug addict. I couldn’t do both, and I’m glad I chose the former. We became a real band. The guys I have in my corner now would not stick around if I were to become a junkie like that again, because these guys are serious, talented musicians. Their time is worth something to me, as mine is to them.
WG: What do you attribute this creative resolve to?
VM: Fireborn individuals aren’t meant to waste away like that. A near-death experience, deaths of a couple of close friends, friends ending up in prison, losing a lot of my personal belongings – none of that made me want to change. Feeling that inner spark flicker away – that really woke me up. It had to be rekindled, and for that to happen, the drugs had to go.
WG: Having said that, I recall some time ago that you were considering ending Weapon. Since this has been your main musical focus, why would you have done this and what would have taken its place?
VM: This would have been roughly a year ago I believe. We were just having some internal problems and the stress was at an all time high. Legal problems, lineup issues and personal issues – you name it. 2011 was heavy. When it seemed like we might not be able to pull through, I considered ending the band because I do not have the desire to start from scratch with a new lineup. No thanks. I’m not entirely sure what would have replaced Weapon, but I definitely would have gone off the metal grid for a significant amount of time.
WG: From the opening salvo in The First Witnesses of Lucifer…
I am the burning fire in man,
Final tryst of sophia and pride;
Dwelling beyond causal limitations,
All-seeing, acausal third eye.
My will: the line in the sand;
Sole ember that ignites your flame;
Constitution of cenotaphs,
I am I, the crimson tide.
Your lyrical content strikes me as atypical, very poetic and powerful. What sort of writings have inspired them and how do your personal experiences in life and your beliefs mold the message of Weapon?
VM: There are a wide variety of authors who have shaped my words in a certain way. C.G. Jung, William Blake, Charles Dickens, Umberto Eco, Ayn Rand, Thomas Karlsson, Nikolai Gogol, Aleister Crowley, Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, Mikhail Bulgakov, etc are some past and recent favorites. I’d say those authors have structured my delivery and cadence more so than the lyrical content, actually.
I am a Satanist, and Weapon will always be a band immersed in Satanism, death-worship and the LHP facets of the occult. The darkness is everywhere, one just needs to be open to it, let it in. The more time I spend on this path, in one way it gets easier for me to apply the knowledge to the music, but in another way it gets increasingly difficult. The more I learn the more I need to learn, unearth, dissect, absorb – because yet again, stagnation and regression are not options.
WG: Having seen Weapon described in the press as possessing a “black”, or “war” (this happened more frequently on older releases) metal sound, I am once again reminded at how ill-equipped many critics are in the metal world to offer “educated” opinions. Weapon to my ears has more to do with Altars era Morbid Angel than Revenge or Darkthrone. Having created this art and unleashed it upon the world, you know where this inspiration comes from and how has it been for you seeing something that you have poured your soul into, misrepresented, or even torn apart in the press? I know every band has to endure this, but I often wonder if one becomes desensitized to off handed comments over the years, or if it’s even a concern anymore?
VM: The days when only metalheads wrote for metal magazines are long gone. I know that’s a pretty general statement I just made, but for every writer of a major publication who actually is a bonafide metalhead, there are twelve writers there that have no fucking clue. They think Black Metal started with Darkthrone, deathcore and death metal are more or less the same thing and anything with a bad production is probably safe to be called war metal. The fuck it is!
Yes, to a certain extent we are completely desensitized to it, because what does it really matter if a noob compares Weapon to “insert name of war metal band here”. It doesn’t change anything for us in the grand scheme of things. But sometimes it is annoying. Like when I see us lumped in the same category as hipster hippy “metal” or as you said, war metal. What in the actual fuck is wrong with these people? Clean out your ears – or better yet – leave the fucking hall.
WG: As mentioned, nods to the past in your sound are reverential in delivery, without being obvious; Weapon has achieved that delicate balance and is deservedly praised for it. What specific albums do you find yourself returning to time and again that help inform your outlook, personally and musically?
VM: This list could get ridiculously big, so I’ll keep it limited to black and death metal. Of course there’s ‘Altars of Madness’, I doubt I will ever get tired of that record. Some other obvious ones for me are –
Mayhem ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’
Sadistik Exekution ‘The Magus’
Entombed ‘Left Hand Path’
Mortuary Drape ‘Secret Sudaria’
Carcass ‘Symphonies of Sickness’
Armoured Angel ‘Mysterium’
Autopsy ‘Severed Survivial’
Archgoat ‘ Angelcunt’
Bolt Thrower ‘War Master’
Immolation ‘Dawn of Possession’
Mortem ‘The Devil Speaks In Tongues’
Blasphemy ‘Blood Upon The Altar’
Von ‘Satanic Blood’
Root ‘Hell Symphony’
Death ‘Scream Bloody Gore’
Samael ‘Blood Ritual’
Abhorer ‘Zygotical Sabbatory Anabapt’
Dismember ‘Like An Everflowing Stream’
…and many, many more. These albums put things in perspective for me. They remind me why I do what I do.
WG: Weapon strikes me as a lot more serious and dark death metal minded than Relapse Records has been supporting in recent years. How did this union come together and do you see it as a beneficial fit?
VM: Relapse Records’ merch dept. contacted us with the interest of making an exclusive t-shirt. That’s how this all began. By way of the t-shirt discussion the dialogue with Relapse opened up about us possibly working with them. Around this time Eric Greif was at Relapse HQ negotiating the Death reissues. Eric essentially took the legal reins and steered us into our arrangement with Relapse, and since then he has actually become our lawyer and my very good friend. It most certainly is a beneficial fit, because I have maintained time and again that Weapon is a band that will continue to grow. I don’t think Relapse has released anything this sinister since the days of Incantation, and for us as an ambitious band, we benefit from the presence that a label of Relapse’s size commands in terms of touring, promotion and distribution.
WG: A trip through the Metal Archives found another band operating under the “Weapon” moniker. Has this been resolved? Did you ever think that the true Weapon would ever have the legal backing to do something about this, other than drive to their town and “knock on their door”? For other bands out there who have experienced similar problems and don’t have a clue how to solve them, how does one tackle such an obstacle?
VM: When I formed the band in 2003, I was aware of an obscure NWOBHM band of the same name, but they were split-up. If they were active I obviously wouldn’t have chosen the name WEAPON. Around 2005 they started doing live gigs again, why I don’t know, but they contacted me asking that I should change the name. They were polite about it, and I got back to them clarifying that the two bands play such vastly different styles of metal, no one would ever confuse the two. To drive the point home, I even sent the main guy of the band a ‘Within The Flesh Of Satanist’ tape. Of course once he heard it, he was in total agreement with me and we amicably agreed to coexist. I didn’t hear from them again. I guess they went on their merry way doing live shows (they STILL don’t have an album out) and we proceeded to release two EPs and two full-length albums. Fast forward to summer 2012, and we are on tour with Marduk, 1349 and Withered all across North America; album number three is en route. Weapon-UK contacted Relapse Records with some copyright claim and naturally this concerned our record label, who do things by the book. Before any legal steps came into the picture, I personally reached out to these guys to see what the issue was. As far as I was concerned, we had agreed to coexist and there were never any issues from our side. Long story short, they didn’t wanna play ball. They demanded we change the name. Yeah, no fucking way, pal. We are three albums into our career now, we aren’t changing anything. WE are WEAPON. So our legal muscle / metal shaman Eric Greif did what any good lawyer and friend should – he trademarked the name WEAPON for us in the UK (2625821), USA (85685112) and Canada (1598895). Without boring you with a bunch of legal jargon, let’s just say that Eric ensured that this other band wasn’t going to cause any more problems for us, which again I assert, was started by them to begin with.
On the other hand, Weapon-NL were completely understanding and cooperative about the whole thing. Eric sent them a friendly email saying that we have trademarked the name, and they immediately took steps to change things. It’s not like one day we just decided to start enforcing laws upon others, we really have better things to do, like write music, release albums, tour, etc. Eric Greif is a very busy entertainment lawyer, an university professor and the overlord of the Death back catalogue. But don’t fuck with us. These are the cards we were dealt, and we are playing to win. And no, I never imagined we would have legal backing in any capacity. I am very much a “knock on the door and sort it out” sorta person, so this is all very new for me! It’s better this way, because now I won’t have any assault charges.
If your band has any desire to stick around, I strongly advise that you explore the legal facets of being in a professional band. It’s worth the time and effort. That’s what we have learned out of all this.
WG: As record labels struggle to adapt to a changing marketplace, it is no secret that the digital world has changed the way the industry conducts business. As both of us are older and have been a part of this scene for ages, we both still prefer buying music, but the younger generation does not. What are your thoughts on this?
VM: I will never not buy music and books. When I was homeless last year, I obviously couldn’t afford it. But I didn’t go into music stores and bookstores and steal what I wanted. My point being, you and I (and most people our age in metal) don’t have a misplaced sense of entitlement. I’m sure there are some 18 – 23 yr olds that may actually buy the things they want, but the percentage is deplorable. Record labels now stream entire albums online in the hopes that people will buy the record when it comes out. But for every 100 sold, there are 1000 blogspots that are giving it away for free. I don’t know; that’s not how I am and I cannot reconcile just taking something that someone has labored over for months and years. It shows weakness in character and a foundation built on deceit.
WG: As a band, how have you worked to evolve with this changing tide? As a fan, does the free sharing of your music bother you? Is it taken as promotion or thievery?
VM: Of course it’s annoying. We don’t play black / death metal because we think we’ll be limo-riding, satanic rock stars one day. But, it sure as hell would be great if hardworking bands didn’t have to work citizen jobs full time, wouldn’t it? The other day I was reading a statement made by Frank Mullen that he can no longer go on long tours with Suffocation because of his day job, since death metal no longer pays the bills. When the vocalist of a legendary death metal band has to make decisions like this, does one even have to ask how badly free downloading affects underground metal? I doubt Mullen ever made hundreds of thousands of dollars with Suffocation, and anyone in their right mind is aware that this music will not make you rich. But people are essentially stealing music, and I don’t support that, and I never will. When I go to gigs and see people with their shiny new patches, “occult” jewelry and shiny new boots, I think, “Hey cuntface, this isn’t a fashion show. Spend money on MUSIC. I’ll bet that you own 4 ‘diehard’ records but 4 terabytes of downloaded music. You are a tourist and you are making it even more difficult to survive in what is already the toughest music to survive in. Now please kill yourself.”
WG: Metal music is often created in a veil of misanthropy, but Weapon has become more social by way of touring this past year. Was it difficult for you to make this transition and how does this material translate live? I can only envision more of a raw intensity! Did being on the road suit you? It seems like touring bands tend to slip into an altered state of reality…
VM: When the band was started I had no intention of playing live. That’s the truth. This changed when Kha Tumos (bass guitar) came on board. He just couldn’t comprehend why we would not play these tunes live. Then the more we discussed it the more it became apparent that our original decision was flawed. Weapon is absolutely a live band. I wouldn’t say we are overly social, because I personally don’t see us as entertainers. Playing live is a very ritualistic and spiritual experience for us. The ritual begins with composing the music, the recording (realization) of said music is the middle, and the live performance is the execution / finale of the ritual. Being on the road for 5 weeks was great. We had nothing to lose except for money, and even there we did okay. Honestly, the life of a touring band is hard to describe. It’s something one has to experience – kinda like heroin – to fully appreciate it. Altered state of reality, indeed.
WG: Many thanks Vetis Monarch for your thoughts and taking the time to validate these questions… the final word is yours!
VM: I have spent many hours reading your work in the old days of Metal Maniacs and when Worm Gear was a print ‘zine, so I must say that it was a blast sparring with you. Now start a print magazine already and take back what is rightfully yours.
All relevant Weapon information can be found at weaponchakra.com.
~ by martyworm on November 6, 2012.