Hail of bullets are a fast, brutal and incredibly exciting assault on the senses who have successfully combined intelligent lyrics and an extreme edge to the delight of death metal fans and heavy metal fans alike. Enlisting the help of legendary producer Dan Swano (who has, amongst other things, worked with the mighty Bloodbath) clearly helped HOB to hit the ground running but in truth their passion for the genre, the accuracy and intelligence of their lyrics and the sheer blistering proficiency of the band is waht makes HOB a very special prospect indeed. Having touched upon the savage fighting of the Eastern front and the brutal repression of the 1944 Warsaw uprising (which, for those of you who are unnaware of one of the greatest crimes of the war, is chronicled by the excellent writer Norman Davies) HOB have, with their new album, turned to the rise and fall of the Japanese Empire for lyrical inspiration.
SonicAbuse are proud to have had the opportunity to pose some questions to a band who produce such epic, exciting music and here we get to question HOB about their lyrical inspiration, the possibility of UK tour dates and more. We hope you enjoy this brief chat with a band who seem to get stronger and stronger with every release.
1. Just to start with some history – how did you manage to get involved with Dan Swano for your promo CD – To work with someone so revered must have been a big boost?
Stephan: It started out with Ed, our drummer, talking to Rogga Johansson (Paganizer, Ribspreader, Demiurg) on the Gorefest Internet forum. Since Rogga was in a band with Dan Swanö (Demiurg), Ed asked him if he could check if Dan Swanö (who is one of his favorite producers of all time) would be interested in producing/mixing this new death metal “project” Ed was asked to be part of….Swanö agreed but only if Ed, who turned out to be one of his favorite drummers, would appear on the next Demiurg album. So the deal was made! After hearing the songs for the promo CD Dan made another demand by saying he really wanted to add some vocals to one of the tracks. How could we refuse?! The guy had a sore throat for 2 days since he wasn’t used to doing death metal vocals anymore but the result turned out great. We decided to stick with Dan for the following releases since he knows exactly what we want and he’s very easy going.
2. In terms of lyrical themes the Eastern front is seriously heavy – what made you specifically choose that?
Martin was already walking around with the idea to do a concept album about the Eastern Front long before he joined Hail of Bullets. When we played him the first couple of songs we’d written, he immediately knew that this album would be the perfect soundtrack for his lyrical theme. And yes, it is seriously heavy stuff and that’s why we appropached with a lot of accuracy and tried to tell the stories as historically accurate as possible an we also tried to tell the stories from different perspectives…
3. Do you find it is ever difficult to balance the intensity of your subject matter with the ‘entertainment’ aspect of producing music?
Not really difficult, but it takes a lot of work to find the right balance for sure. With Of Frost and War the music for 4 to 5 tracks was already there when Martin came up with the concept. After hearing the concept we tried to build the songs a bit more around the battles and to end with the final blow to the Third Reich and the fall of Berlin. this time we knew the subject matter from the start, so we approached the song writing a bit different. We knew we wanted to start with a furious track about the attack on Pearl Harbour and then go back in time to the actual start of the conflict and then chronologically build up to the capitulation of Japan which had to be a doomy, atmospheric doom. A song title like ‘Kamikaze’ simply asks for a fast, aggressive song and ‘Tokyo Napalm Holocaust’ should sound like hell on earth; very sinister and desperate.. The lyrics are very important to us, cause they add a lot of atmosphere to the songs, but in the end the individual songs should be strong enough to be judged purely as death metal songs and I think they can all pass that test.
4. What made you decide to cover a twisted sister song for the Warsaw rising EP?
We were thinking about different songs to cover. We thought about Venom songs like ‘Leave me in hell’ or ‘Witching Hour’, Motörhead’s ‘Bomber’ but we just could not decide. Then someone came up with ‘Destroyer’ and it turned out everybody in the band liked that song and it would be a challenge to turn it into this ultra heavy monster. It is of course a quite heavy song itself, but now it sounds like getting crushed by a fucking Sherman tank!
5. On the new album you’ve set your sights on the rise and fall of the Japanese empire – is it possible to cram such a huge swathe of history into one album?
Well, it’s not easy and you have to concentrate on certain points and leave others out, but I think we managed quite well for the 2nd time. With the first album we really felt we should have included the Warsaw uprising so we did that on the Warsaw Rising EP, cause the debut album already lasted 57 minutes. I think s.th. like 50 minutes is long enough for an album so we didn’t want to puch that any further
6. Do you ever find that the necessarily harsh nature of the vocals
detract from the intelligence of your lyrics?
No, we really don’t think or care about that at all. We play death metal for (death) metal fans and I really don’t care what the mainstream audiences think about our music. There are enough metalfans that read and appreciate the lyrics and the ones who simply come to the shows for the music and the growls, for having a good time and to get wasted are equally welcome. We include the lyrics and when you take the time you’ll find that Martin’s vocals can be deciphered pretty easily. If people don’t take the time and dismiss the music and vocals as senseless noise then that’s their problem, not mine…
7. The artwork for the new album looks pretty stunning – did the band work with Mick Koopman to attain the desired result or was he given a free hand to produce what he wanted?
Mick will be pleased to hear that. We gave him some rough ideas and then he came up with his first sketches/rough versions. I think the actual cover is pretty much the same thing he came up with from the start. We were in touch all the time about the design and lay out of the booklet, album cover etc. Actually Mick told us this would be his last piece of album art for the time being, but maybe we can persuade him to work with us again next time…
8. Which bands do you consider influences?
Our main influences are Autopsy, (old) Death, Bolt Thrower, Massacre and Hellhammer/Celtic Frost, there’s no denying that…
9. Do you work hard to research your lyrics and if so what books/authors did you reference for your work on the eastern campaign and on Japan?
I know Martin constantly reads books. He actually devours books about WWII, so it’s hard to pick out one particular book or author. He draws inspiration from all the books he reads and then transforms the most important/interesting facts to lyrics…
10. What other topics would you consider exploring in the future?
We have a few ideas for the next album already but we might also consider doing a non-conceptual album with 10 songs about different war situations. We’re not limiting ourselves to WWII but it’s such an interesting topic that we might cover another chapter. who knows. There also seem to be a few bands more or less ‘jumping on the war bandwagon’ now so we’re not giving away too much…
11. With the new album out now when can we expect UK tour dates?
Well we only played London and Ireland once so far, so it’s about time we made it back to the UK. We hope to play some UK dates early next year. We’ve already told our booking agent to get us over there and he’s waiting for the right offers to pour in now…
All photos by Caroline Traitle except the cover art.