Wednesday, June 14, 2017

interview: Death of Kings

A long time ago the legendary Charlie Daniels told everyone that the devil went down to Georgia, but one thing that the devil did not see was the heavy metal band Death of Kings, because if the devil had heard this music s/he would have loved the rowdy bunch who play uptempo, shredding thrashing that moves objects that refuse to be moved through moshing and headbanging, and wild screams, real drums, piles of riffs and solos in abundance. Death of Kings is home in Atlanta, Georgia in the U.S. Their new 2017 album is called Kneel Before None and this summer the plan is to tour with the message of headbanging heavy metal music and get rich big time prime time or at least make a few bucks to eat once, or twice a day if at all possible. That’s the life of luxury of the rock and roll train. The link to hear the complete album is at the end of this interview. If you don’t bang your head to the music, surprise, you’re already dead inside, and Charlie Daniels might have been right about you all along. The monster behind the drums answered this interview and he answers to the name of Amos Rifkin.
Hey, Death of Kings, what’s going on in the ATL?! Man, it’s embarrassing, I know basically nothing about the metal bands from Atlanta, Georgia! I know Hellgoat and Vimur. How is life for Death of Kings in Atlanta in 2017?
Hey, thanks for speaking with us! We're extremely lucky to call Atlanta our home, especially with the overwhelming amount of talented bands keeping busy inside the city. It makes my job as a local promoter so much easier with a treasure trove of bands to support touring acts. Vimur and Hellgoat definitely have the black metal market cornered in town, and even though Mangled and Disfigurement left a huge void in the death metal scene when they broke up or moved away, we've got bands like Malformity, Repulsory, and Cemetery Filth (fronted by our own Matt Kilpatrick) that have continued to carry the torch. When it comes to thrash, we're certainly not the only game in town; bands like Sadistic Ritual and Paladin are blazing their own trails alongside us.
Sludge and doom music was once Atlanta's crown jewel, with Zoroaster and Demonaut destroying all who opposed, but with them gone, bands like Order of the Owl, Royal Thunder, Canopy, and Day Old Man have stepped up and picked up where they left off. Factor in a handful of genre-defying local crushers like Lazer/Wulf, Dropout, Dead Register, and Old Thrones, and there's truly something for everybody here in ATL.
Local label Boris Records has been also instrumental in helping many of these bands put out their records, including our past 2 singles and full-length album. We're so thankful to have people like them working so hard to make sure this incredible local music gets into the ears of those outside of town.
By the time you get these questions you will very busy preparing for your June tour in the United States. How did you go about setting up this tour? How many such tours have y’all done?
We've toured around the country pretty regularly, but this is our first time hitting the East Coast with this particular line-up. We typically try to hit the road as much as our lives allow, but the last year mainly consisted of recording the album and a couple short runs around the Southeast. In the past, I've done all of the booking both in and out of town, but this time was more of a group effort, with me and Matt Kilpatrick setting up about two thirds of the tour, and our booking agent friend Aaron Gray setting up our run down the East Coast with our Boston bros Black Mass. We're excited to get back there, especially armed with brand new material and new personnel, and we look forward to banging the head that doesn't bang.
Congratulations on your new album, Kneel Before None! I am listening to it right now. I’m liking your particular combination of high speed heavy metal spirits and thrashing energies! I’m also glad to hear that you have spent time working on those ripping solos and those riffs. There’s nothing better than to hear a metal band that wants to be good musicians and is willing to spend the time on the instruments.
Thank you for the praise of the new album! We definitely worked harder than ever to refine our sound into something more dynamic, darker and faster. Thrashy, but not straight thrash. In the past we've been slowed by various line-up changes and getting the new recruits trained on old material, but when our previous bassist Ash decided to step away back in 2014, Matson and I immediately started working on new material that wound up becoming our 2015 demo, and thus the blueprints for Kneel Before None. When Matt Kilpatrick joined, we had a slew of new material to focus on and were able to look ahead and continue writing with the new lineup rather than waste time learning old material that no longer represented the true sound of the band.
Does Death of Kings insist on having real drums for your music? The drums sound good, not plastic. Are we hearing the real live drums from the studio?
This is what I mean, an anti-trigger machine! Real drums all the way. Personally I don't mind triggers if they're use tastefully and seamlessly, but I never saw much use for them in this band. I'd rather practice incessantly and keep the strength, stamina, and precision where it needs to be instead of letting triggers do some of the work for me. No offense to those that use them, but I've got no designs on adding a trigger module or set up to my kit anytime soon. I'm lazy enough when I'm not behind the kit, I don't need any more reasons to not work as hard when I'm drumming!
Is it true that Death of Kings began in 2009? Do you remember what made y’all form a band in Atlanta? Were you going to metal shows in the city back then? Is it correct that your vocalist/guitarists Matt Matson has appeared on all the recordings so far?
Death of Kings kind of evolved out of a previous heavy rock band of Matson's called Das Manics. Him and original guitarist Steve Casey decided to give into the desire to play faster, harder, heavier, and more technical music. Matson remains the only original member at this point although I joined on drums not long after the release of the early 2010 self-titled demo, and it seemed to catalyze the new direction the band was heading. 2012 saw the release of our first EP, Crushed Beneath the Steel, which took a step away from standard traditional heavy metal fare and started creeping ever closer to the metal thrashing madness we play these days. Every release shows significant growth as musicians and songwriters, and we've gone to great lengths to ensure that our debut album is the pinnacle of our years of hard work.
How many songs on the album have never appeared in your earlier recordings? How was the sound quality on those earlier versions? Do the new versions have additional parts (or parts taken out) in comparison with the earlier versions?
Out of the 9 songs on the album, 3 of them are unreleased. The 4 songs from the Regicidal demo were rerecorded, as were previous singles Knifehammer and Hell Comes to Life. The demo songs were tracked live with minimal overdubs, so it's nice to see these songs come alive in a whole new way. Most of our songs have fully evolved by the time we record them, so there's not a whole lot of structural difference between the demo and album versions. Josh Lamar wound up engineering both the demo and the full length album, so there's some similarities in the production between those two, but the demo we tried to record and release as fast as possible. We spent significantly more time nitpicking the album until it couldn't sound any better, and wound up being extremely satisfied with the results.
When will the new album be available for people to listen to the complete work? What else do you have coming? Any videos in the works? What about lyric videos and playthrough videos?
The album is already out and available for all to enjoy! You can stream the whole thing from our friends at Metal Injection, or listen and order from Bandcamp or from Boris Records. As soon as we get off the road, we'll get back into writing mode again and start cranking out the next batch of songs. We've discussed music videos in the past, but something like a playthrough or lyric video would be a lot of fun, definitely looking into those options currently!
Is there an overall theme that connects the songs on the album? Do you consider yourselves an anti-religious or an irreligious band? In metal it is common to criticize Christianity. Do you feel the same way about Islam? How do you see religion in the year 2017?
Defiance seems to be the overall theme of most of songs, whether it be from religious leaders, the government, or your own personal demons. I don't believe anybody in the band is overtly religious, though. I was raised in a Jewish household but realized at an early age that any kind of organized religion was complete bulls##. I can understand how a lot of it is based in tradition, and I'm not one to criticize anybody's beliefs for being different than my own, but you shouldn't need the fear of a higher deity to convince you to be a good and decent person. Personally, I believe that any religious or political discussion is pointless, at the core of the discussion you're trying to get the other party to see it your way and share your beliefs, and that couldn't be more of a waste of time. Let's talk about something we can actually bond over, like which Judas Priest album is the best (it's Sin after Sin, btw).
You probably already know that in the northern liberal parts of the United States there is arrogance and stereotypes towards the South. It is also common for entertainers, like comedians, to make fun of the South and people from South as being racists and stupid. Can you tell us about the Atlanta, about the Georgia that you know? What do you like about living in Georgia? Do those ignorant stereotypes and jokes about the South bother you?
It's funny, even though Atlanta is a Southern city, I don't really consider it "The South." We live in a very liberal and diverse urban city that's landlocked by a state that's essentially the opposite. The city is full of transplanted residents. I was born in New York and grew up in DC, but after living in Atlanta for 25 years, it doesn't seem a whole lot different here than any other major metropolitan area, outside of the occasional deep accent. Honestly, if you go about 1-2 hours outside of any major city, you're going to find the same amount of prejudice and ignorant hatred no matter what part of the country you're in, so I think the Southern stereotypes are pretty far off the mark. I love living in Atlanta, though. Even with the recent trend of overdevelopment and condo-addiction, it remains one of the most cost effective cities to live in. You're about an hour away in any direction from mountains, lakes, rivers, beautiful nature of every kind, plus have an abundance of art and music to enjoy. I don't see myself leaving anytime soon.
This brings me to a related point. I notice that the metal music media often likes to talk down to the fans. The media often like to talk about how racist, sexist and homophobic we are. However, I find that metal fans really don’t have that type of hate in their hearts and they just listen to the music. What has been your experience in your time as metal musicians? What have you seen?
I've found the majority of metalheads to be among the most accepting people I've ever met, to be honest. Racism, sexism, and homophobia definitely isn't a music genre-specific trait by any means, and unfortunately/ you're gonna find a few bad apples in any bunch. You do have a point about the metal music media talking down to the fans a bit, I've seen many a site attempt to tell their readers how they should be thinking or feeling about a certain band or issue. It seems today's call-out culture prevents the bad seeds from taking root, but every now and then you see some lousy people slip through the cracks. It's pretty gratifying to see a scene or subculture come together to speak out about a problem and eventually work to rid itself of the problem.
I have heard your album some four times today. It sounds good every time! Your band and your recording team have done a good job on the album for sure. I hope that metal fans notice that there are good bands in Atlanta like Death of Kings, bands that care about musicianship and thrashing! Take care. Maybe one of these days you will come to the West Coast!
Hell yeah, glad you dig the record! We're extremely proud to have captured the intensity and aggression of our live shows onto this album, we're hoping to get out West next year and ripping it up for you metalheads on the Left Coast. Thanks a ton for your time!

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