After a change in lineup, Denial Fiend returns this year with their sophomore full length album, Horror Holocaust, featuring a more thrashy sound compared to their debut They Rise. We talk to Sam and Terry to find out more.
HMT: Greetings Denial Fiend! “Horror Holocaust” will be released in early August, and even before its official release, great reviews have already gotten out. What can fans of the band expect in the new album?
Sam: It’s definitely different. I think for the better, obviously. A lot of reviewers seem to be agreeing. I think the songs and the playing have hugely improved since the last album. And I think the sound has evolved quite a bit. We’ve had a couple of obvious line-up changes that affect the sound, prominently. But the songs were also starting to go in a more thrash direction before the line-up change occurred. So I’d say some improvements on a lot of things. And also a conscious evolution of the sound.
Terry: The record is more aggressive. It’s tighter, meaner feels like it has a purpose. They Rise has its moments but there was something missing. With Blaine and Rob in the band it feels complete, like that missing piece of the puzzle.
Before we move on, would it be possible to tell our readers more about the history of the band? The band includes prominent members like Terry, and previously, Kam Lee. How did the original lineup come about, and what was the original intention of Denial Fiend?
Sam: I had worked with Kam on a song, previously. At that time we got along quite well and the song turned out good. I had wanted to try my hand at a new genre (as I’d previously only played punk with bands like Down By Law). I had met Terry and Curt through a mutual friend. So I called everyone up to do a recording project called Shadows With Knives. It sounded pretty cool. Long story short, after that I thought we should solidify the line-up, focus our sound and get more serious about touring and recording. Everyone agreed. So we started Denial Fiend.
The most prominent thing that struck me about “Horror Holocaust” is the inclusion of new vocalist Blaine. How did the current lineup with Blaine and Rob come about?
Sam: Denial Fiend was doing pretty well and growing rapidly. But personality conflicts led to it not being very fun, at one point. So after we had finished our touring cycle, we took a little break. I had twins. Terry was busy in SFU. When it was time to get back together to do a new record, I wasn’t all that thrilled. But I wanted to try and make it work. It didn’t. But Terry and I had put a lot of work into the band, and we weren’t ready to throw it out the window.
I had met Rob years earlier at a show DRI played with Down By Law. And I had been playing with him in another project called the Spears. As soon as I started playing with him, I thought ‘This guy’s style is exactly what I would envision for where Denial Fiend is headed’. I mentioned him to Terry, and Terry was into DRI so he was down with the idea. When the need arose, Rob was totally down with it as well.
I had met Blaine working together on the same recording that I had met Kam on, ironically. Well, when we began writing for the new Denial Fiend record, I remember consciously thinking ‘We should go a little faster. I want to sound like a death metal version of the Accused’. They were always probably the biggest influence for the band, in my opinion. Because we’ve always occupied the space of metal with a bit of punk thrown in. I see us as kind of an oddball band like the Accused, in a way. Anyway, I thought Blaine’s voice would fit the new stuff perfectly, and Terry agreed. Blaine has always been super, super gracious the whole time I’ve known him. So he was totally down with singing for us.
Blaine and Rob also have a more crossover and thrash musical background, coming from bands like D.R.I. and The Accused. When looking for new members, were such factors looked into?
Sam: Yeah, as I mentioned, that is sort of the direction Terry and I felt we were headed. I mean, if you’re a thrash band with punk tendencies looking for members, how could you possibly do any better than a guy from DRI and a guy from the Accused? On paper, it seems perfectly matched. And to our ears at least, the final product bears witness to that.
Terry: As I said earlier Blaine and Rob are perfect fit. D.R.I. and the Accused are big influences for both of us and musically we have similar elements. I’ve been into punk for just as long as thrash and death metal. The Tampa area has a big history for punk and hardcore.
“Horror Holocaust” personally feels like a record leaning more towards straightforward thrash metal instead of the death/thrash sound that was presented in 2007’s “They Rise”. Was this an intentional move on the part of the band, or was it a natural progression?
Terry: Some times you don’t force the song writing into a certain area,it just flows out of you and it takes life on its own. I think the songs on Horror Holocaust were written this way. Sam would give me a cd of a song and it would blow me away. I was like “how did you come up with that” So I think it’s a natural progression.
Sam: I think the conscious part was putting more into the writing of the songs. Not so much to change genres, or anything. I thought we should go a little faster and a little more technical and really focus on each song being as good as possible. After striving to do all of that, listeners have come away classifying it as more of a thrash record. That’s fine, I guess. We’re just trying to improve at what we were already doing, as I see it.
Of course, that was not to say that the band has totally discarded the death metal influences as still evident on the heavy riffs that are present on the record. What were some of the musical influences when writing the music for “Horror Holocaust”?
Sam: Same as usual, really. The Accused, Massacre, Death, Carcass, Poison Idea, Celtic Frost, St. Vitus, Mercyful Fate, Septic Death, Morbid Angel. From the beginning we’ve been influenced equally by hardcore, thrash, punk and death metal bands. I’ve also been getting into Pantera a lot, recently.
As already mentioned above, the inclusion of Blaine on vocals has certainly added a different edge to the band’s music and honestly it took me a couple of listens to get into the new album. How do you think fans will react to the more thrashy sound of the album and what will you say to those who refuse to listen to the new album because of a different vocalist from previous releases?
Sam: Wow. Do people really do that? ha. You really have to approach this album with fresh ears. In my mind, the band was always going to evolve. Even if the line-up change had not occurred. But anyway, the two main music writers are still in the band. I think if you liked the first DF album, musically, then you will probably like this one too as long as you’re open minded (which you pretty much had to be in order to like the first one). However, I think the big difference is that people that maybe didn’t like They Rise should give this album a fair chance.
Vocally, Blaine’s high screech couldn’t sound more different than Kam’s low growl. In my opinion, it would’ve been a real mistake to get any old death metal singer after having Kam in the band. Blaine has an equally identifiable vocal style, which is what we wanted. Any time you switch singers, some people will like it and some people won’t. No sweat. All we can ask is to give it a chance.
I really don’t get the whole genre loyalty/purism thing, anyway.
Terry: Sam nailed it. If someone liked the first album it shows that they are already open minded. The vocal approach tonaly may sound different but it has the same affect.
With new members on board, what was the songwriting process like? How was it different compared to the process when writing for 2007’s “They Rise”?
Terry: The writing process was the same for the new cd. Sam is a writing machine. sometimes he hands me two songs at time. One big diffrence on “Horror Holocaust” is that Sam and I wrote lyrics along with Blaine. That was a first for me.
Sam: The sharing of lyric duties was really cool. Everyone did a really good job. And a really cool, atmospheric instrumental that Terry and Rob came up with. Also, the song Hell Asylum was interesting because Rob wrote the drum parts first. Then we made up stuff on top of it. Everyone kind of threw in. And I think it’s one of the best songs on the record. It was an unusual way of putting one together, in my experience.
On top of the new album, Denial Fiend also contributed a track to the “After Party Massacre Soundtrack”. How did that decision come about?
Sam: Those guys just happened to be putting the soundtrack together with Ibex Moon when we were recording and writing lyrics. One song didn’t have lyrics yet and their movie didn’t have a title track yet. Blaine had asked for lyrical ideas, so I told him the plot of the movie. So we ended up having the title track for the movie. It was a lucky timing thing, really. And I really admire those dudes for having the gumption to make a movie. That’s pretty cool. I look forward to seeing it.
Are members of the band fans of gore and horror films, and what are some of the band’s favourite films?
Sam: I guess it’s cliche’… but I’m a huge zombie fan. I like almost all of the old movies. My absolute favorites being Dawn Of The Dead and Return of the Living Dead. I think Walking Dead is the best show on TV in the history of mankind (I’m actually a huge comic fan and have a letter printed in one of the early issues as I was an early supporter). I also really, really love old Hammer films. I think I go more for atmosphere than any thing else in horror movies.
How big are these films an influence when writing music for Denial Fiend, in particular on “Horror Holocaust”?
Terry: Ever since I can remember I have been drawn to the darker side of things and movies are included. I like things that make people cringe and uncomfortable. So naturally I like having that subject matter in lyrics and album covers. It can be inspiring when writing songs because you want the songs to be dark and agressive.
Terry joined Obituary back in 2010, and also with Rob also involved in D.R.I. and Blaine with Toe Tag, how do the individual members of the band managed to juggle the different duties and different bands?
Sam: It can be quite difficult. DRI and Obituary are very busy these days. But there should be some time available for us to squeeze some stuff in for DF. Everyone in the band is really psyched on this record and can’t wait to push it.
Terry: We will definitely find time to bring Denial Fiend to your town!!!
Finally, the last words are reserved for the band!
Sam: I couldn’t be more proud of this record.
Terry: Hold on to your toupees!!