The world of heavy metal is endlessly going through phases of popularity. Amidst the hordes of current thrash and black metal trend followers are genuine artists, writing music because that's all that they know. They like their music fast, loud, abrasive, and pay no regard to what others think of them. Scene Point Blank recently spoke with guitarist Eddie Chainsaw of up and coming Philadelphia-based metal band Infernal Stronghold.
Thinking about underground metal in America, I think of the golden era, or perhaps more appropriately, the blackest era: the early eighties. This was a time when groups gained popularity through tape trading, features in photocopied paper zines, and shows that were small. Bands were few and spread out across America, existing simply because of fans' ravenous appetite for something faster and more morbid than what was coming out of England at the time. Perhaps the apex of the underground metal scene was East Bay, California, spawning several bands including the one who penned "Metal Militia" and "Creeping Death." Perhaps more horrific than the violent imagery the band sung about is that they now sell albums through video-game endorsements. To think this is the same band that covers Diamond Head's "Am I Evil." Somewhere, Cliff Burton is rolling in his grave.
Is there even an underground metal scene anymore or is it a rotting corpse badly in need of exhumation? Many would say "Hell yeah," but their understanding of underground are the bands found on the second stage at Ozzfest, believing these groups to be both "brutal" and "grim," acts that earned their cred and sharpened their supposedly already razor teeth by forking up five figure payouts to Clear Channel to play the marketing sponsored circus.
While it seems like metal may be nothing more than a commercial ploy commissioned by Hot Topic, there are still basements around the world, poorly lit and filled with bands playing metal and thrash with more snarl and acidity than Mustaine circa 1984. Scene Point Blank talks with Eddie Chainsaw of Infernal Stronghold about what proportions of booze and blasphemy a band needs to be truly evil.
Scene Point Blank: Can you give a history of the band, from your beginnings to your current incarnation?
Eddie Chainsaw: Our drummer, Grzesiek, and I met in middle school after learning we were the only kids at school who liked heavier music. He asked me to learn bass, though I decided to learn guitar instead. This was the earliest formation of Infernal Stronghold. Grzesiek did vocals and I played guitar; finding a drummer was difficult though; we were pissed off because no drummer we met had any concept of a fucking blast beat, so Grzesiek bought a drum set and learned how to play while I took over vocals. We met Richie Rabid and Jim, our current bassist and lead guitarist, in high school and the rest is history. Shortly after that, the band started putting out demos and playing any show we could get on. Eventually we were going on our little tours and spreading our brand of evil.
Scene Point Blank: I know that Eddie and Grzesiek met at a catholic school for boys, what influence does that have on the lyrical themes in Infernal Stronghold songs?
Eddie Chainsaw: Everyone in the band went to catholic school, but that didn't have too much of a direct influence on the content of our songs. Infernal Stronghold as a whole is really just into evil themes and blasphemy. I suppose you could say that being in Catholic School helped fuel our need to bash the name of God. Being educated in a school like that, where religious doctrines always loom over your head, gave us a lot of ideas and continues to do so despite having graduated, but I'd say the bulk of our influence just comes from the want and need for pure blasphemy.
Scene Point Blank: There's a need for blasphemy? From what I understand from public media, there aren't enough moral, church going Americans any more, you disagree?
Eddie Chainsaw: There is a huge need for blasphemy. The media is shit. You go outside and explore this country and you'll find droves of religious sheep spewing stupidity all over the place. Look at the presidential inauguration that recently took place; there was a fifteen-minute prayer service...on national television! I thought that church and state was supposed to be separate? Oh well...Satan lives.
Scene Point Blank: Thinking of your quote "guns and bats, not swords and axes", it speaks to how hokey metal can be sometimes. Does the band feel a bit alienated from the image of bands they could be associated with, some of which are an influence to Infernal Stronghold's sound?
Eddie Chainsaw: Though we like it, we sort of discontinued the quote (laughs). I suppose we are somewhat alienated from the imagery usually associated with black metal though it's not an issue for us. We dig it, but that's just not who we are as people or as a band. Infernal Stronghold came up with the quote I think to break away from the clichés of black metal; we didn't want listeners to hear us and immediately write the band off as another pack of forest dwellers. The quote was an attempt to state that we are a black metal band from a major city with our own style and agenda. Besides, you don't really see anyone walking around Philadelphia wearing gauntlets and corpse paint. Also, I would say it's a jab at bands that say they are uber kvlt and grim when they just aren't. I think it served its purpose and ran whatever course it was going to run.
Scene Point Blank: You have a lot of thrash elements to your sound and in the last four or five years thrash has gone through a revival. Do you think the genre has become a bit oversaturated?
Eddie Chainsaw: I'd say party thrash is totally played out, though it had its moments if only briefly. Our thrash influence comes from a more brutal side of things like Morbid Visions era Sepultura. I want listeners to hear that kind of thrash in our sound, not the goofy stuff that's getting a revival now.
Scene Point Blank: That's another issue of imagery; it seems like everything toxic mutants, monsters and, kegs. While that's not necessarily a bad thing, it takes away from the musicianship of thrash and the serious sentiments people are trying to make. What are you're thoughts?
Eddie Chainsaw: Naw, I don't think it takes away from the seriousness of anything. People know when they are hearing a good time party thrash band and a thrash band that wants to scare the balls off its listeners.
Scene Point Blank: I've seen you play a few times, always in basements in or VFW type halls, but I know you've played some established clubs in the northeast, what are the differences in playing those types of venues? Is they're usually a different vibe? Is it weird playing through PA's not doused in cheap beer?
Eddie Chainsaw: We are definitely way more into playing house shows and basement shows. There is a different vibe with those bigger venue shows. Maybe were just not used to it yet, but the majority of them are kind of lame; dealing with PAs and sound checks sucks. We'd rather just show up and plug in. Crowds at bigger venues seem a bit staler too. Maybe it's because they don't know us to well, but in the same situation at a basement, the crowd seems to be more into what were doing. The experience of playing larger shows has been getting better, though I don't think playing larger shows will become a habit for us, which is sweet.
Scene Point Blank: While your sound isn't too far of a stretch from what the label Bullshit Propaganda puts out, you're certainly one of the more metal and thrash acts they put out. How did you hook up with that label?
Eddie Chainsaw: We became friends with the Connecticut grind band Hip Cops and Will from BSP was playing bass for them at the time. We went on a Southern/East Coast tour last summer with them and Nothing is Over and more or less became brothers in noise. Will likes our music and wanted to release us and has just put out our newest split 7" with Gatt. That's that.
Scene Point Blank: Most of your songs top out between the two and half to three minute mark, relatively short for metal songs, but a reminder of Slayer's Reign in Blood, one of the most influential metal albums, which is ten songs in twenty-nine minutes. Do you believe the fast and ruthless formula makes for a more punishing song?
Eddie Chainsaw: Fuck yes it does! Long songs are sweet when done right but two minutes blast rituals are perfect. We just recorded a new full length which is ten songs and in roughly twenty-eight minutes! We wanted our music to be a fist...one fist...across your face. We also have an unwritten rule that no show we play will be longer than twenty minutes, which we try to stick by. Get on stage...blast and shred and scream...get off. Nothing extra, no surprises. Straight brutality. Slayer look out. Also, I'd like to add that this new album is going to drop on your head like rain...and when it rains, it pours.
- Official Website: http://infernalstronghold.com/
- Official Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/infernalstronghold