There is virtue in simplicity. While some modern extreme metal acts try to push the boundaries of the sub-genres (which mostly results in unimpressive ways for me); Avenger, the sole member of Front Beast, pursues the simplicity of the old. Active in many different projects ranging from traditional occult doom to black/thrash to grind or death metal, Avenger focuses his efforts for Front Beast on paying tributes to the forefathers of black metal like Bathory, Venom, or Hellhammer. Shadows is the latest output of this black/thrash/heavy metal act and it stays on the path Front Beast has always consistently been walking on for the past 20 years.
Just with the many EPs and splits that came before, Shadows has a strong rehearsal feel in tone and production: fuzzy, dirty yet just clean enough to distinguish all instruments and small intricacies in songwriting. Keeping the mid-tempo black metal sound of Hellhammer for the most part, Avenger manages to break the potential monotony with occasional clean sounding heavy metal riffs or small guitar solos. Tracks like “Morbid Visions” show that for this project Avenger skips all the young branches of black metal and goes straight to the core for inspiration.
Shadows, the newest addition to the extensive collection of Front Beast material, is coming out on November 15th officially from Helldprod Records. You can hear the full EP – exclusive Ride Into Glory premiere – and read a short interview with Avenger below.
Shadows full stream
2019 marks 20 years with Front Beast. If I’m not mistaken it is one of your oldest metal activities and the first solo project you started. What was your vision in late 90s when you started writing for Front Beast? Looking back now, are you content with where the band is?
It´s safe to say that there was no real vision in the early days of FRONT BEAST. I just put all the material which did not fit to BESTIAL DESECRATION (Pre-NOCTURNAL) aside and what came out was FRONT BEAST. I think I just got more confident in what I want to do with FB and got more focused with the first album. That also was the reason why “Black Spells of the damned” just came 6-7 years after I first started with FB. Nowadays I know exactly what I want to do, but since I got way more critical with what I put out this also means things take longer and not are not so spontaneous anymore like in the early days.
Even with only three full-length albums, Front Beast is one of your most prolific projects. How frequently do you work on writing new material? How long did Shadows take from conceptual writing to having the actual release ready to go?
In the last years I honestly did not do much with it. The last song I recorded was “Travel through eternity” for the Split 7” with MOURNFUL WINTER. And that was in 2017. The material for “Shadows” I recorded shortly after the last album. Basically in the time frame after I finished the recordings and “Third scourge…” was in the mixing process I already had “Shadows” recorded.
I wanted it to have a rougher feel so I handled the mixing myself and after mixing I did put the mixdown through an amp simulator to fuck up the sound even more. I had the recordings laying dormant for over 2 years because I had no real desire to ask around labels to release it. Usually when I felt like that I just put it out myself but since i´m totally out of the “running a label” game nowadays this was not an option. And a while ago I asked Pedro of Helldprod. If he would do it, he said yes and here we are… The “Shadows” recordings are not really a good example of focused and conceptional writing since they actually came to life in a very short time rather spontaneous in comparison to the album shortly before.
Thanks to plenty splits and 7”s you released, you had the opportunity to work with numerous different underground labels. You also run your own label, Deathstrike Records, for 20 years at this point. Within the underground metal sphere, what do you think makes a label worth working with?
Unfortunately DEATHSTRIKE is no more… already since some years actually. The MOURNFUL WINTER Split just came out after I was sick asking for labels to release it for over a year, so we just released it ourselves between both bands but under the DEATHSTRIKE banner. Especially finding a label willing to release a 7” became a miracle these days. I know it´s financially anything than profitable and it got almost impossible to sell them nowadays. This is also one of the reasons why I quit DEATHSTRIKE, people just buy overhyped shit or nothing at all anymore. But enough of the whining, what makes a good label to me is that they keep what they promise, don´t take a year to put something out, the product looks and sounds good and the distribution somewhat works.
But over the years working with many different labels from everywhere in the world I experienced probably every possible situation. But you always have to keep in mind they are usually no professional businesses but run by maniacs who do this in their spare time, so you have to be patient.
What’s the biggest difference for you between solo projects and working with a full functioning band? Do you feel you put out better material when you have the freedom of controlling everything or when you have input from different members of the bands?
Both has it´s advantages. Sometimes it´s annoying you are dependent on 4 different people to make things happen, sorting schedules, personal preferences of everyone and all the arguing, but it´s also everyone brings in ideas and of course their own identity and talent. I guess I´m somewhat a control freak, because even in the bands I work with other members I practically tell everyone how I want things to be done. Of course I let them their space but the general direction comes from me. Sometimes I miss the days the time frame from the idea to putting a recording out was just a matter of weeks just because I had everything in my hands. From recording to putting the layout together, getting the covers xeroxed, dubbing the tapes and trading it out to the world. Nowadays since I focus on putting out albums everything takes longer… usually when the recordings and art is finished it still takes 6 months to a year until the final thing is out. And that´s just when you already have a label for it. The whole business part takes a lot from my motivation. But in general when you get people involved who really know what they are doing in their department, be it mixing, layout etc. the overall product is a lot better for sure.
In pretty much every band and project you were involved in, you’ve always had a strong old school approach that stood against all kinds of trends. I feel like recently we see more and more young bands paying their tributes to 80s old school metal (traditional heavy or extreme metal). What in your opinion separates unique new “old school worship” bands from the uninspired copies of old classics?
I think I can´t really put my finger on what makes a “old school” sounding band great and what not. It´s a very subjective topic and varies from case to case. Already 20 years ago people said you can´t put out something new and unique anymore and somehow still something great pops out of nowhere here and then even today. Don´t forget people love to complain, I remember years ago people complained about the sterile productions which ruin everything which I totally agree, but now that we hear more natural sounding recordings again I hear the same people call it “retro” whatever that means and out of date and all that bullshit… We always tend to think in the past everything was better, but it´s just that what we remember is the good stuff, and somehow we think that everything in that time was great. But if you look deeper there were always uninspired, mediocre and plain bad copycat bands around, be it in the 70´s, 80´s, 90´s doesn’t matter. For myself I don´t force things too much, I just play the music which I love and which works for me. Apparently it works for others too, and to a lot more it does not. But who cares….
You are strongly influenced by many classic metal bands from the 80s and 90s, be it traditional heavy or extreme metal. Are you keeping up with new bands, do you have any recent favourites?
The older I get the less I keep up with new bands. But the last ones which left a good impression where MYSTIK, VULTURE, HEXECUTOR, SPHINX, STÄLKER, and DEVIL MASTER.
How do you split your time between different active bands you’re involved in? If you have any idea already, which releases from you will we see next?
The only band which plays live on a regular basis is NOCTURNAL. So this is the band which is my total priority and therefore takes most of my time. ANGEL OF DAMNATION is a full band but since we don´t really rehearse until we have a live gig scheduled. Fortunately all the members are really great musicians so it´s never really a problem to get the set going even when we did not do anything for a year. Then there´s THE FOG which is unfortunately quite inactive these days, but we have a split 12” with VARCOLAC coming out this winter and have songs for a new album which need to be worked out. In general it´s just a question of time management. For the outside it must look like i´m doing music 24/7 which actually absolutely not the case. Sometimes I don´t touch any instrument for weeks. Just released got the SKKRAPNEL “Cleaning Process” 7”EP which is a project of some friends and I handled the recording and laid down the bass tracks. Next is a split 7” of NOCTURNAL and NUCTEMERON and the aforementioned THE FOG / VARCOLAC Split 12”LP. Early 2020 we will record a new NOCTURNAL album. After that I will probably do another TERRORAZOR or FRONT BEAST album. Depends on how I feel what to do then. But I will definitely do both,