Feast Eternal – The Flesh is not the end

1feastI grew up like so many do that come to discover heavy and death metal… being utterly pissed and offended when it came to having to hear about other peoples belief in God. As a teen living in Northern Michigan, it seemed like there was a bible being shook in judgement everywhere I turned. All over the TV. On pamphlets in stores. By people knocking on my door to speak to me about God… it felt like an attack. Cross this with “our” music, and the rage used to flow through my teenage veins freely. How dare they? As age and maturity eventually set in and my world and spiritual view set out searching, I began to discover that I personally felt all forms of otherworldly religion were indeed something that really didn’t appeal to me. It feels foreign and oppressive. All of it. The satanic bands that dominated my sound system and still do are just as guilty. As I have come to adopt a “whatever gets you through your day” mentality over the years, I find my interest in all of this to be investigative on the personal level. I actually respect folks that believe in what they do and am curious as to why this is and how it affects them in their quest to create metal music. Let’s face it, the Christian metal scene, though they often preach to the choir in the past, have had to dodge a lot of stones over the years just to be who they are and express what they believe. Is that right? It isn’t. Part of my acceptance with this underground within an underground began to open up as I picked up and really liked bands like Believer, Mortification (the 1st 2), Trouble and countless others. To hear that a band rules, only to discover that they were Christian… A younger me used to feel betrayed, but anymore I realize the absurdity in my initial reactions to other peoples spiritual ideas. For me, the music is the religion and it has led me through a lot of joy and sorrow throughout my 42 years.

Feast Eternal fits into all of this of course, as they are a band that resides here in my home town, have been fighting hard with their music since 1992, and we have been close friends for a long time. The metal community is tiny up here in the north woods and you tend to run into each other. I have seen Feast go through a lot of turmoil over the years, but TJ Humlinski and Matt Skrzypczak are to be commended for holding it all together to let their music, friendship and message survive. They are people that I can relate to on a personal level due to our mutual love of metal music, and being from the same area. Though we differ greatly on the spiritual topic, and believe me, over the years we have all talked at length about it, I can further respect where they are coming from in their beliefs. When I heard Forward Through Blood for the first time, it was a great and noticable progression for Feast Eternal. The sound. The songs. They stick with you and beg for further listens much like a really well written Amon Amarth album does. But there is less of a commercial shine in sound, delivery and overall attack present here as Feast comes from the old-school DM mentality, while adding memorable riffage and movement in their songs to help make them stick. I have followed and liked Feast since their demo, but this new MCD made me a “fan”. The idea to interview my brothers has been with me for a long time, but with this new album, it seems like the perfect moment to make it happen. Also with Worm Gear paying so much lip-service over the years to bands that reflect satanic or pagan ideologies, I felt it would be interesting to step outside this comfort zone of familiarity for myself and all of our dear readers, to offer a flip side to the same rusty coin so to speak and let someone with a less than favorable spiritual viewpoint (in the metal world) have a chance to express themselves. TJ was gracious enough to run with it and share some deep insight into the realm of Feast Eternal, his beliefs and himself. Enjoy. -Marty

Worm Gear: With a demo, 2 full-lengths and a fresh new MCD in your catalog, Feast Eternal has been in existence since 1992! You’re definitely a long standing band that came from the past and to continue to embrace an old death metal attitude and style. Time certainly flies! How do you feel your band sits in the current metal climate and what do you think about your older material?

TJ Humlinski: it has been a long road for this band that’s for certain and after all these years, all the things that have come and gone and come again, I think we’ve managed to dig out our little niche, as small as it is. When I look at what metal music is today, I see it as vibrant as ever, gaining far more acceptance than it has enjoyed in years past. Still, it stays mostly beneath, underground as always, which is really the best possible climate for this music to truly be what it has always been. Extreme, different and personal, in a way that the majority of cookie cutter corporate schlock can never be. Even with the most “out there” styles of metal I still give it much respect because it is art, whether I like it or not. But of course, crap is crap. With the proliferation of the digital realms, we tend to get buried up to our eyeballs in musical garbage. That can be a double edged sword because when you do find something that truly shines in the midst of all the redundancy it makes it all the more awesome! And redundancy can be a killer musically. Well, for most artists. There are exceptions obviously. Some groups found a formula that just owns, and there they stayed. For the rest of us, it takes some progression. As musicians we have tried to grow Feast Eternal’s sound beyond our beginnings into something relevant. But not so much so that we stray away from the core of what brought us into loving this music to begin with. The speed, power and aggression that makes death metal what it is. Ultimately, we are always trying to please ourselves musically before anyone else, but we still want to make something worth the listeners while. On a personal level, I’ve always been fairly split about our earliest material. On one hand, there is so much about it that I’ve always loved and much I’ve hated. We have always struggled to try and do the best we could with production and recording, and its yielded mixed results, but I am more than humbled by the people that have always praised our efforts as worthy of their time. I am my own worst critic, but I try not to let that keep me from trying to write the best material I can. It has always seemed to me that our first two albums have had their share of raging fans and rabid critics. But again, what band doesn’t?

WG: There is a definite brotherhood at the core of this band, united both by your shared vision for Feast Eternal and a long standing friendship. This prevails in spite of all the turmoil in life that has worked to slow FE’s progress. How would you describe this bands quest?

(TJ): Brotherhood indeed! I originally started the band back in 90 or 91 with John Greenman. Him and I had been friends for years, coming up in the scene together, sharing the same musical tastes from the onset. When we were introduced to Matt, he was basically a stranger to us. While we shared a mutual faith in Christ, we couldn’t have been more diametrically opposite from each other both musically and on a personal level. Its taken a lot of years to work out our differences, but the end result is one of the greatest friends that I’ve ever known. We have learned to use those differences to our advantage creatively speaking, and over time have used it to develop our musical direction and sound. It’s true that many of our contemporaries have released many times more material than we’ve been able to over the years, but often we have had to take a step back from the band to focus on greater obligations in our lives (yes, there are more important things than metal, but not many!) and this has caused us to work a little slower than a lot of bands. One of the great things about Feast Eternal, is that we’ve built such a sense of family from the foundations of the band, its been a great blessing. We’ve always tried to maintain strong friendships with each other regardless of what the band was doing at any given time. I feel like Feast Eternal has hit another “re-set stage” for the band. The new EP has turned out better than our wildest hopes and things look promising. We’ve had to take a more realistic approach to what we would like to do in the future. For a band like us, that couldn’t move much slower, we have to keep things a little grounded and try and be as realistic as we can about our goals. Keep writing killer material, get some more releases out, and hopefully toss a few live dates out into the mix.

WG: Having existed since ’92, Feast Eternal has had 1 working relationship with a label (Open Grave) that quickly passed. How hard has it been for you to do a majority of the promotion and production on your own? Has this been a hindrance to the band over the years, or a good thing?

61895_10152717821840147_1082980499_n(TJ) The Open Grave Records thing started out quite promising for us. We had been inactive for a while and had only just started prepping ourselves to start working on new material when we were contacted by Open Grave. They offered us a pretty decent deal, for a small time death metal band from northern Michigan anyway. Re release our first album (Prisons of Flesh) with bonus material, and put out our second (With Fire) for a sum of cash up front and merch (specified quantities of CD’s) with royalty payments after recouping costs etc etc. And they paid, up front, and got the rights from us. It was cool, and they made a lot of promises, which never really panned out. To be fair, they did try to live up to their agreements, but ultimately they couldn’t. They spent a lot of resources signing mediocre artists that just couldn’t deliver. And in the end it made a mess for a lot of people. We were getting emails from people asking why they didn’t pay their bills. I mean, seriously? It was exciting for us to try and be a part of what Open Grave was trying to do. We were apprehensive but we needed the financial backing, even if It wasn’t a lot. It still made “With Fire” possible. But then, it was a mixed blessing because having the pressure of the label on us to get the album out caused us to rush, and we were still learning how to really utilize our equipment at the time and suffice to say, the album suffered for it. There is some absolutely killer material on “With Fire” but so much of it gets mushed in the mix. It’s a bit of a sore spot for me really. I wrote 99.999% of the music on that record and in the end it just doesn’t sound like it should have. Chalk that up to inexperience. Previously, on “Prisons of Flesh” we worked in a proper studio, with far better results, in my opinion, though there were issues there too. But I’ve always been hyper critical of our work. Overall the albums have been fairly well accepted over the years, and we’ve gained a loyal following, which has been tough to do when your as slow going as this band is. Ultimately, if we’d had a little more experience with certain aspects of the recording process over the years it really would have brought our material a lot further, in my opinion anyway. We always did our best to promote what we were doing any way we could. Early on we played out live quite a bit, not as much as some, but we were averaging around 12 shows a year, which was quite a lot of being away for 3 dudes with wives and babies at home. We tried what we could over the years to get the word out about the band, but in the end it was the loyalty of fans that gained us the most notice.

WG: In this modern era, it seems that labels are no longer needed. Do you have any advice to offer bands just starting out in this over-saturated time?

TJ:It really depends. Its like this: if your really in control of what’s going on with your band and feel you have the ways and means to get your material noticed then by all means stay independent. It makes it a lot easier to do what you want, when you want, without the pressure of a label. On the other hand, there are still some great independent labels out there doing exceptional work with amazing artists. Getting the music shipped and advertised and marketed. If you can get noticed by one of these guys, and after checking them out a bit to see if you feel it’s a good fit then definitely give being with a label a shot. When you’ve got a good imprint backing you up it takes a lot of the work out of all the DIY aspects of things. Someone who really appreciates the music and the work that goes into it can really make a huge impact still.

WG: Do you think being an openly Christian band is partially to blame for difficulties in finding the right label? What have been the pro’s and con’s to walking this path from a personal and musical perspective?

TJ: Being in a Christian death metal band has always been something of a mixed blessing to us, in so much as gaining greater acceptance amongst metal fans goes, but its also given us greater cause to grow in our faith and come to a stronger understanding of the realities of Gods word, and the sacrifice of Christ. That is to say, we’ve had to over the years, search ourselves to be certain of our standing, to know we weren’t seeking out something that may not have been meant for us. It has helped to reaffirm our faith, and to shake off a lot of heretical dogmas that really have no place in a Christian’s walk. Especially in areas that have to do with judgment and acceptance of people. Its so easy for people outside of the metal life style to look down on those of us who are metal heads. The way we dress or the music we listen to has always been something that other Christians have used as an excuse to try and say we do not know the lord. When the reality is that many other people from around the world that come from vastly different cultures than our neo-christian conservative background, come to worship the lord of lords and king of kings in some ways that we might find off putting, but not un biblical, and that is always the final word on these things. That’s where we’ve had to put our trust, in the word of God. Its always been a challenge for us to try and shed the stereotypes and present the other parts of the christian body, that if we are not all in sport coats and neck ties on Sunday morning, we might still actually know Christ. To some, that may seem odd to say…that death metal has grown my faith in Christ, but in truth it really has contributed. When, as a follower of Christ, you go pursuing a musical format that dominated by Satanic posers and general hatred for all things Jesus, you really have to try and examine your self, and your understanding of the scriptures and always be ready with an answer. Because at some point your gonna get tested. Christian brothers calling your faith false because you listen to “secular“ music, or non believers calling you hypocrite because you do. Also too, it tends to be a scarlet letter to the so called “secular scene” because many of the fans wont listen to Christian bands because they aren’t “evil” enough. Then there is the just the sheer absence of decent Christian bands. When there are so many sub par bands producing volumes of abysmal music, you tend to get lumped in with the bunch, and the fans wont give your material a fair shake. I don’t like to be so harsh, but I’m just being honest. Most Christian metal bands that have come and gone have been lousy. Now there have been exceptions obviously, and I’ll leave those choices up to the person reading this to decide. I have my opinion, they have theirs. So many bands that came up that have just tried to ride the band wagon of what was or is currently trendy, instead of leading the way, or rising above the junk. But like I said, there were some that managed to really set a standard for what good extreme metal with a Christian theme could be. In the early years, a lot of Christian labels came up and were making huge inroads with Christian metal bands. To the best of my knowledge most of those early labels have folded, for various and sometimes troubling reasons. Then there were the “secular” labels that were picking up Christian bands. Most notably in my mind is metal blades relationship with Mortification back in the day. We even had those guys(Metal Blade) sniffing around a little bit after we released Prisons of Flesh. But ultimately we dropped the ball on label support by just not getting enough copies into the right hands. The Christian scene has a tendency to be an underground within the underground and, there tends to be a lot of isolationism amongst the bands and fans. a lot of that tends to happen because people become spiritually conflicted about listening to so called “secular” music or becoming unequally yoked to unbelievers, which is a legitimate concern, but tends to get blown out of proportions when it comes to music. Personally, I’ve come to understand that the music I listen to does not determine the judgment I will face. Music is music. I do acknowledge its power to influence. I realize the lifestyle that comes with metal music especially, but those things do not detach me from the salvation of the living God who loved the whole world so much that he sent his own flesh and blood to earth to become a sacrifice for my failings, for my sins. I do know that there are some people who, once they’ve left the non christian music world behind, can never go back to that music again, much like a ex smoker cant stand to be around smoke, but that still is not something that separates man from God. As a christian, its more important to try and see the heart of things, and base my opinions on that.2345_135059785146_3144858_n

WG: As both of you are extremely passionate about metal music, I am curious what sort of conflicts you both may have had in your spiritual development getting into new bands or even maintaining a love for older bands who may uphold a violent or spiritual belief structure different from your own?

TJ: Early on, as a new christian, I did have a lot of personal conflicts on a spiritual level with music. While I always believed that music was not a wicked thing in and of itself, I understood the impact it can have on the hearts and minds of people. I struggled with listening to the bands I loved vs. trying to live in holiness as we are called to do. This is not an issue of being perfect, but rather, trying from day to day, to be more like the God who spared me from eternal death, and putting away things from a past way of living that ultimately lead to death. At one point I surrendered it all and pitched my entire collection of music, as an example of my willingness to give up the world in order to spare my soul. It wasn’t meant to be an example of works bringing me salvation, but rather my faith leading me to a deeper desire to do what is right. In retrospect, I do not regret that, but I know it was a necessary step in my growth as a follower of Christ. In order to find myself where I am now, and able to explain to those younger than me in their walks that listening to music is not going to separate them from the salvation that is freely given through Christ. It’s the heart that is judged, the life lived in pursuit of Christ. Prayerful, repentant, loving others as you love yourself, mindful of the whole word of God , rightly divided and applied, not subject to vain or selfish interpretations but studied and discerned in spirit and in truth. Sure, the lord God of heaven and earth, creator of all things is probably not a fan of bands like Rotting Christ or Anal Cunt, but I doubt he concerns himself about such folly. The Lords greatest concern is “what have you done with my son Jesus?” “Who do you say he is?” This is the standard by which all men are judged. Each man must work out his faith with fear and trembling before God. That is to say…we all face God as an individual person, and our walk with him is our own. While we are given fellowship in order to draw strength from one another, we ultimately must walk alone, pray alone with the Lord. Our sins are our own, and for no man to judge. Only the father which is in heaven can judge us. So… forgive the sermon, but my point is that as time has gone on, I’ve embraced metal music as much, if not more, than ever. And I make no real distinction between “secular” vs. “christian” metal, per se… although I still greatly support my christian brethren and the good work they are doing, I choose not to divide over it, but also gladly wear the distinction on my sleeve. I will admit though, there are times when some bands can rub me the wrong way. Whether its just the sheer ignorance in their lyrics or just a certain repugnant blasphemy that may thread its way through that particular artists music, I get turned off somewhat, so I just don’t listen to it. Overall, I still absolutely cherish the classics. Things like Slayer’s Haunting the Chapel EP and Hell Awaits. Blood Feast’s Kill for Pleasure and Face Fate EP (absolutely worship those slabs!!) or any of the really killer new stuff, take your pick.

WG: Line-up instability or simply the lack of members is nothing new to Feast Eternal. Seems like it would be even more difficult in Northern Michigan to not only find a musician compatible to your skills and desire to create death metal, but one that also shares your beliefs. What are some of the struggles you have faced with this over the years?

TJ: Yeah we’ve had our little revolving door in the band. But always there had been the core membership. Me, Matt and Johnny. Johnny was usually the first to cycle out of the band for various reasons over the years, but then again too, I had my extended hiatus from Feast for a time as well. We had replaced John with Josh Protrafka on bass back in the day when we were running the band as a power trio, but when I left to settle personal matters of my own, that’s when josh left. Then the original core of the band got back together shortly after that, with john playing guitar with me in the band, but we were never able to find a stable bass player. Its just something we’ve dealt with over the years. Its been frustrating, but we have come to accept it. We’ve always had a few strikes against us as a band living in this part of the world. 1: We are into extreme metal
music… while there is a decent scene up here in northern Michigan, it’s not enough to support a great cast of musicians, that even remotely understand let alone get into death metal, looking to throw down with a band that does. 2: We are deeply devoted Christians and that alone creates even more issues with trying to find members that can share not only your musical tastes, but your world view and faith as well. While have tried to hook up with a few people over the years to fill the spots, until recently, no one really worked. It was always something or the other that prevented it. Their skill set just wasn’t up to par, or their personal lives were just such a mess that they couldn’t really commit, or both.

WG: It seems that Aaron Byrnes has filled a much needed position in the bands ranks. What creative elements has he brought to Feast Eternal? Will you guys be playing live again and how do you approach the writing process now with him involved?

TJ: Aaron kinda just came out of the blue. It was his wife who actually contacted us about him possibly getting together with us. He doesn’t really participate in social media, so his wife took it upon herself to bust him loose a little from his incredibly hectic work/business schedule and see if we could all get together. Aaron has a decidedly different approach to creating music than Matt and I. Over the years our process was basically TJ writes riffs, Matt and TJ bash away at riffs until magic happens and we make a song. Trial and error, bouncing things off one another until we feel we’ve got something solid. Aaron takes a more solitary approach to the writing process, preferring to work on things at home and then come to class prepared so to speak. Then tweaking out the frameworks of things until its finished. For me personally, it’s a bit frustrating, because its something I’m not accustomed to, but the end results so far are undeniable! Forward Through blood turned out just incredible, and that is in no small part do to Aaron and his talents. Im a riff guy, that’s just what I do. I can pump them out all day and for the most part I can chain them together in a way that makes musical sense, but I have my issues when it comes to arrangements and such. That’s why for me, I’ve always been at my best when I can work closely with another writer. It really helps to bring my ideas out in full. While Matt and I really know how to click back and forth, Arron is more of a sit and think about it kind of writer, so he likes to take the stuff and sit with it for a while so he can get a feel for it, then he will shoot his ideas in there. We really embraced the digital recording process this time around, and it was a different beast to be certain. And that again, was Aaron’s doing. We already had a decent, semi digital studio set up of our own when he came into the band, but Aaron wanted to contribute by bringing the band all the way into the digital realm with recording. I was apprehensive about it, but I wanted to give a lot of space to the “new guy” and just see where it would take the band. I still love the old school ways of delivering a recording, the studio time and just the sound you get from that whole process, but, the digital recording process just makes sense for a band like us. Limited investment in equipment and time, with maximum outcome and quality. And when you consider the fact that its all ones and zeros anymore, it was not a hard thing to do. And Aaron has some considerable skill sets when it comes to mixing and mastering, and it really paid of for us, as the finished product demonstrates!

WG: Do you still consider Feast Eternal to be a ministry first, and a band 2nd? What brought you all to this medium of expression?

TJ: Yes and no is the only way I can really answer that. Yes, Feast Eternal is a vehicle by which we, the members of the band, who are Christians, will share our faith with those who will listen. When asked, we will always share our faith. We will proudly wear that distinction on our sleeves always. We will minister the gospel, which is the good news of Jesus Christ to all. But, are we a ministry, with alter calls and sermons and such? No, we are not. We are a band of Christians, our everyday life should be and is a ministry. We are followers of Christ first, and strive to let our lives reflect that, but Feast Eternal is not, in the classical sense, a ministry. Does the band come second to our faith? Yes. A Christian band, a band of Christians, take your pick. Early on we tried the hard core evangelical approach. Trying to preach in between songs and delivering a message every time we spoke. But we soon realized that wasn’t who we really were as men. It just didn’t work for us like it did with some other bands. Some groups have really been called to use their bands as a true outreach, and can go out and really deliver church from the stage, and that is very cool. But we saw in ourselves that just wasn’t what we were being led to do. We make our music, we put our faith, ourselves into it. We make it clear what our message is, we make no attempt to hide it away. Sure, some of our lyrics don’t mention Jesus, but the intent or world view is clear. We are always ready to reach out to anyone with our faith, at shows, online or just wherever. For me, metal music has been something that’s been a part of my life since I was young. Music in general has been something that’s been with me since I was very young, and when I came to know the salvation that comes through Christ, taking my God given talents and using them to express my faith was just an obvious choice. By the time that happened, I was already completely ensconced in my passions for all things heavy and metal. It was a transition I knew I had to make as a musician and believer.

WG: It seems that a vessel of communication such as death metal would be frowned upon and not understood by the often conservative church. Has this ever been a concern for the band? Or are times changing?

TJ: Musical mediums and their acceptance by the “church” has always been a bit of a frustration for me. While they will completely embrace things such as country and western music or hip hop with open arms, they shun other things like rock and metal. The distinction they draw between the formats is really a bit of a mystery to me. Ive always assumed it is because the aforementioned musical styles are so widely accepted and commercialized that the “church” was far more eager to embrace them, because more of the faithful are likely to listen to country or rap. Even though both formats have musical back stories replete with violence, misogyny, and a complete disrespect for anything godly. I suppose it’s the lack of any purely satanic country and western bands as opposed to the overtly devil worshiping personas presented by so many of Feast Eternal’s metal peers that tends to turn the “church” away from extreme musical formats. Had Johnny Cash sang of a burnin’ ring of fire where you could go party with the devil and so on and so forth, christian traditionalist might be less inclined to embrace the style. And to me this is a very hypocritical position for the “church” to take. But, this just comes with the territory. When your dealing with people, and the influence others take over them, you run into these misconceptions and dogmatic ideas. But over the years, the fear mongering over the “devils music” has died off a great deal. More and more Christians are really coming to understand that a musical “style” does not constitute a sinful act. The mentality originates back to a more puritanical time I suppose, when so much as showing a woman’s ankle in public would be grounds for instantaneous damnation. So there is a tradition amongst the faithful that only the church hymnal or more tame forms of music can serve to deliver worship to our Living God. There was a time in history when even classical music (which, in its day was just music) was frowned upon by the “church”. while I do agree that as a Christian, I need to be cautious about sending mixed messages to people that listen to my music. Ultimately I feel that music is just artistic expression and musical styles have no bearing on whether or not a person can come to know the fullness of Gods grace.2345_135057140146_3772960_n

WG: I recall the early years of the Christian metal scene and how it always seemed like an uphill fight for them to earn wider recognition. There was an “us” and “them” attitude with a lot of animosity existing amongst the metal fans. Have you ever experienced this? Would you agree that there is a wider level of acceptance in 2013? Why is that? Have the bands simply gotten better?

TJ: For us in the early years the majority of our live shows were “preaching to the choir” so to speak. That is to say, we were always playing christian venues or christian organized events, so back then our exposure to such things was limited to so called “secular” press from various fan zines. A lot of times you we did get criticized for just what we believed in. Didn’t matter too much whether or not the music was any good. But then there would always be someone out there that would really praise us for our music, regardless of the message. So to some degree I have personally felt this kind of tension, but I’ve never really let it stifle my passion for what I’m trying to do, both as a man of faith and as a metal musician. And honestly today, I suppose you could say there is a far more broader range of acceptance to be sure as far as metal music goes. I mean, there still are the detractors out there. All you need do is google something like “ should Christians listen to rock and roll” and you’ll come across a wide variety of articles and essays on the pros and cons of such musical tastes where the christian is concerned. But as I’ve said before, these anti-rock Christians tend to come at these things from a point of view that stems from dogmatic traditions that really are more based on works of the flesh than deeds of the faithful. Its really not biblical to try and pigeon hole one particular style of music, as opposed to another. Its either one and all or none. And as to the bands, admittedly the caliber of artists identifying as christian metal has improved drastically over the years. A lot more of these guys want to get out and lead rather than follow, and that’s how it should be. If you want someone to stand up and listen to what your saying, you’d better be ready to thrown down with the sickest metal, period! No one is gonna give a crap what you have to say if your band sucks!

WG: Another obvious evolution by Christian bands is some have eased up on the fire and brimstone/evangelical message, instead becoming more cryptic or simply “positive” with their lyrics in hopes to blend in with the scene at large. How do you feel about this? Do you see this as more of a palatable way to reach people or is it bands straying from the path to sustain their careers?

TJ: It’s really all of that all rolled together. You’ve got groups that start out completely embracing their faith, pull no punches and deliver the undiluted gospel message, but over time and with some greater success’ they have a tenancy to bow to pressures to tone it down, or they become overwhelmed by notoriety and succumb to the pressures of the world, and then the message gets lost. I know for us, our direction lyrically has shifted somewhat. As a song writer, I’ve always had the desire to be as poetic as possible. Its something I greatly enjoy. I see it as a challenge to try and paint a picture with words, that doesn’t leave someone scratching their heads, but at the same time lets the listener find their own way through the lyrics without getting lost. Honestly, fire and brimstone has its place. Sometimes we need to be reminded that separation from the God who created us is pain. That every single man and woman will be judged. It makes no difference. So I absolutely embrace the concept of “fire and brimstone” but it must be delivered in context. If you take the time to read what Christ taught, you’ll see that he revealed grace for some, judgment for others. Who was judgment for? The false teachers, those who led the flock of the lord astray, for the wicked. Grace for who? Those that sought out the truth of repentance and faith. Those that would have ears to hear the good news. If you’re in a band, and you’re a believer that doesn’t necessarily mean that its your “ministry” per se. but you shouldn’t hide it either. If your covering it up, then you probably didn’t have faith to begin with. And I’ve seen a few “christian” bands seemingly dispose of their trappings of faith once they struck it semi big. I find it to be unfortunate, but its not for me to say…the right and the wrong of it, other than I do not agree. It’s really an issue of examining yourself, and being willing to pray and seek guidance so you can be confident in the steps you are trying to take as a band. Just because you’re a believer in Christ doesn’t necessarily mean your band has to be exactly like Stryper.

WG: Perhaps we can all agree that “faith” does not equal “fact” and that religion is a personal quest for the individual to rely on/embrace, or reject. For myself, the problem with aggressive Christianity is that people try to impose their beliefs, or run the country/make life changing decisions on something that is faith based. What are your thoughts on the religion as a whole and how it is sometimes used as a source of control?

TJ: Actually, I can’t really agree with the first part of your question. Religion aside for just a moment, to make a point: every single day we rise and meet the world relying on faith to guide us in everything we do. We have faith that the gas pipes in the house didn’t leak and wont explode. We have faith that our cars tires wont go flat on the way to work and we have faith that we will keep on breathing throughout the day. Even though we understand that those things are not always a given, we still have “faith” that all will be right with the world. Faith is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead. And again without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to him must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those that diligently seek him. The thing is this….I do not espouse or endorse a “religion” or a philosophy . I believe in the living, one true God. The creator of all things. I seek him on a personal, one on one basis. Religion as it sits today, and even in Christ’s time really, is something that can be twisted by men, and often is. It is defiantly used to manipulate the hearts and the minds of the downtrodden masses, people who legitimately seek Gods presence in their lives and are led astray, or its used nefariously as an excuse to drum up support for political causes on both sides of the aisle. Christ himself railed against the religious, sycophantic, heretical leaders of his time. It’s what ultimately lead to them seeking to put him to death, although that was always part of the plan..I digress….the reality is this: that over time, the wickedness of men has permeated the truth of what a believer in Christ should represent. The bible is a clear guide to this. Its not something that needs to be interpreted by a pope or bishop, or that needs to be divinely revealed to the pastor. Its black and white, plain and simple, given to us by God himself, that we might surely know his intent. That’s one reason why things have become so twisted over the years, is that people try to read into it more than whats there or they take things so far out of context that the intent of what is being said gets lost. It is not now nor has it ever been Gods will to control mankind. All you need do is read the book of genesis to see this. God made us free. Free to choose, free to decide, and a freedom to choose doesn’t automatically free us from the consequences of our actions either. But when we chose sin, he still made a way out of our choices through Christ. It’s certainly true that many Christians are abrasive and that’s unfortunate. Trying to damn someone to eternal separation from God, in order to “deliver us from our sins“ trying to draw them in by condemning them is really a failed idea. While I understand the mindset, a lot of believers that push this kind of message overlook the overwhelming grace that is offered to us by God through Christ. This has always been the core of the gospel message, that a savior has come, and that we only need believe in him to receive this gift. So many evangelists, and preachers have gotten so hung up on other peoples sin that they overlook their own, and instead of loving people to Christ, they push them away. I firmly believe, just as the scripture has taught us for ages, that the day is coming when the world will say it is doing itself a favor by killing Christians. And the faithful will stand there with their arms up in confusion and amazement and ask “why do you hate us?” And they will say “it’s because you hated us first, you and your Jesus!” Christ warned us, and we have ignored him. But what else is new?

WG: “Satanic” bands tend to sensationalize with imagery and dark themes lyrically, where the other side takes it to a more personal, “you need to believe this to change your life” level of interaction with the listener. Perhaps this is why the Christian scene has always been so off-putting to some in a genre hell bent on rebellion? Why is the message so important to convey?

TJ: Because the message is the core of what we believe. The great commission as we have come to call it: Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” its by this that the whole of the world came to know the good news, which is Christ Jesus. We share our faith through our gifts in order to be a light unto a dark and fallen world. And like so much else in this world, rebellion is the core feature of anything that rails against Christ. These “satanic” bands seek out evil imagery and dark themes because of whatever internal and personal experiences that lead them to believe that somehow they will be better served by rejecting the saving grace of God. The reasons are many. Ive heard them all. There is no freedom in Christ. Too much judgment. I’ve been insulted or offended by someone in the church. And I could spend gigabytes discussing this. But I will simply say that we men in Feast Eternal speak of what we believe, what we know in our heart of hearts to be truth. Whether it’s from a purely scriptural point of view, or we are tackling a political idea or a personal or emotional idea. We cannot hide our faith away. Being offensive is never the objective, but if it’s the outcome, then perhaps that person needed to be offended, in order to realize their error. Put it like this: when Christ confronted the religious elite of his day, he called them vipers, and servants of satan, because he knew they were completely aware of their sinfulness in the eyes of God. In the same way, I am willing to call things as I see them. To point out that there is a better path to follow. I will call sin “sin” and I will call a heretic, a heretic. Not to judge, but to simply state a fact. The truth is that most people who deny Christ simply refuse to be held accountable for their actions. They do not want to admit they need a savior. This is not a way to shame mankind, but rather to warn them to understand the reality of it. I mean, look around! To deny the fact that this world is spiraling into the abyss would be ignorant to say the least. And to think that mankind, after all these centuries, can now somehow save itself is just foolish. We couldn’t do it 3000 years ago, and we sure as hell cant do it now.

WG: Feast Eternal lyrics have always expressed an underlying personal connection with your beliefs, enveloped by darker/more aggressive, even poetic imagery. What do you hope the listener takes away from your message?

TJ: I’ve tried very hard over the years to write things that can be more than just simple rhymes and words. I strive to create something that can be vivid and moving. Something that can draw the reader into what I’m trying to convey. I don’t know if it works or not but it is my intent. I’ve gone through a few changes over the years in the way I try and write, and the things I try to connect to a lyric writer. Early on it was pretty standard stuff. Love Jesus, reject sin, etc etc. but I’ve moved away from certain aspects of those things, trying to reach deeper into myself on a personal level. Ever since the death of my father I’ve rally had a need to be a little more introspective, to try and deal with the emotions attached to his death. As well as becoming a lot more civically minded and acutely aware of the corruptness of our present world and geo political situations as they relate to us all on a personal and prophetic level. I hope people can be drawn in enough to seek out the things that drive us, that a door can open and they will step through to a deeper understanding of our living God.

WG: Is this band becoming more of a personal visionary quest for its members as they try to understand their place in this world and faith in what lies ahead for you in the end? I ask this because the lyrics for Forward Through Blood struck me as more open ended and personal this time around. Perhaps less fire and brimstone and more reflective… Sad even…

TJ: As I grown in my faith over the years, I’ve become more aware of the reality of this world. So many Christians ignore the greater super natural aspects of the world around us and the battle we fight every day with the unseen forces of this world. They are much more content to sit in church on Sunday and pray for revival, or seek out the prosperity doctrines preached by so many charlatans of the church. This has led me to a lot more introspective or reflective writing, as well as to be a bit more confrontational in my tone. Not so much to confront the lost, but rather to stand before my brethren and shove a finger in their faces and say “wake up you fools!” or to be accepting of the the possible realities of martyrdom, which is a reality many Christians will eventually face. As we begin to work on new material for a new full length, I can assure you that there will be some fire and brimstone in there, but its intended targets may not be what some would expect.

WG: The title track in particular struck me as an expansion for the band. It’s more of an observation of the politically corrupt/oppressive world we are living in with an undertone of sadness and disgust. So much turmoil and uncertainty are knocking at the door. What are your thoughts regarding the future? Being men of god, how do you perceive or react to the impending changes?

TJ: Everything that I see is filtered through a worldview that is based in biblical prophesy. I see the daily events that unfold around the globe and I examine them in relation to what the scriptures have to say. While I realize that the lyrics of the song “Forward Through Blood” do not have an overtly religious tone, the core of what is being said is based solely in our faith. The corruption of wicked political leaders, the oppression of our God given rights under the guise of freedom and safety, our utter disgust with those who refuse to acknowledge the rights of liberty. We have grown a great passion for our rights and liberties, and we just want to put that out there as well. It does have a direct bearing on our faith, because the minute they take one freedom from us, soon after the rest come tumbling down. And without the freedom to say what I believe, to worship how I believe, to defend myself, whatever, I am not truly free. And I see a future in this country where we are stripped of our freedoms. All in the name of keeping us safe. In the end, I truly believe people will be begging to give up their rights. Literally beating down the gates to detention camps, demanding their “rights as an American” to be imprisoned, because they are scared and hungry. You can see it come in bits and pieces. Little by little we are programmed, and indoctrinated by the unseen rulers of this age. You don’t have to look very far to have your eyes blown wide open.

WG: I see Forward Through Blood as a massive evolution for the band on all fronts… most notably in sound quality and overall composition. It is like you have creatively thrown down the gauntlet not only for yourselves, but the Christian scene as well. Do you feel like you broke into a larger world with the 4 songs on this MCD?

TJ: I’d like to think we have opened a new door for the band with this release. Its still a little soon to know, but we have high hopes. As to the gauntlet throwing, I feel like that may have been done by some other bands before us. There are some really stellar new christian bands out these days and its really great to see them stepping up. Hopefully we can be a part of this new trend. And ultimately, we would like to think that this MCD will grow our brand, and let us move out into the world with the band a little more. Time will tell.

WG: Where does Feast Eternal go from here? Is there still more you hope to accomplish with this band?

TJ: For me, I will continue on making music on some level until I cant hold a guitar anymore. Hopefully that will be with Feast Eternal. I look forward to getting our next full length written, recorded and released and just trying to get us out there a little more.

WG: What would you say the biggest misconception metal fans have in regards to Christian bands?

TJ: That we are all like Pat Robertson. That we think we are holier than thou.
While I admit that attitude is pervasive with Christians in general, its really not a commonality amongst the Christian metal community.

WG: Do you think the Christian metal sub-genre still exists, should exist, or even exists at all? Is there any brotherhood left there?

TJ: Oh sure, its still there, as much as it ever was. But there is more blending. Like you mentioned before, some groups are trying to cast off the stigma of the old Christian scene and just be “dudes in a band”. That’s fine as long as they don’t compromise their beliefs. I absolutely love the Christian scene, and I will always try and help grow it. it’s a place where we can come together as believers and share our faiths and our love of extreme music. But we should strive to push out from there, because our message belongs out in the world. Preaching to the choir is great, but our greatest calling is to those who need the grace and love of Christ.

WG: Many thanks for taking the time with this interview. Forward Through Blood is a massive and endlessly memorable release and we extend our congratulations! The final words are yours!

TJ: I just want to say thanks to you Marty, and to the new and improved Worm Gear Zine for giving us this opportunity to rant and preach in your hallowed pages. Worm Gear rules, and you guys are awesome!! I hope your readers can bear through this epic undertaking of an interview. Its been a total challenge and an absolute blast! God bless you and yours friend!!

Here’s the title track from Forward Through Blood for you to preview:

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~ by martyworm on November 27, 2013.

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