When last we encountered Dethlehem, on second full-length “The Ghorusalem Codex, Volume II: Of Magick and Tyranny,” an evil warlock had banished the group’s members to different dimensions, losing singer Lord Bonecrush in the process.
With the release of third album, “Destroyers of the Realm,” Brutalitus the Bloodbeard (Jeff Kerekes) makes his official recording debut with the knights of Pittsburgh death metal.
“Destroyers” is another evolution for the band that formed for a Halloween gig in 2008 and chose to keep the medieval good times rolling. Brutalitus, as drummer Overlord Brom (JT Penderville) explains, has a gruesome metal growl while also providing clean vocals, and Dethlehem backs him with bludgeoning, war-hammer-to-the-head intensity from Brom and bassist Grimshaw Longfellow (Buddy Hoebler) and clean, sharp melodic lines from guitarists Hildor (Doyle Daigle) and Bovice (Rick Serafini). Those who dare enter will also be treated to comical skits and occasional touches of jarring prog and elegant art rock.
If you’re a fan of GWAR, you owe it to yourself to check out Pittsburgh’s Middles Ages answer to the gnarly warriors from Richmond, Va.
Dethlehem unleashed “Destroyers of the Realm” this week, in advance of its appearance at the Strip District Music Fest (Altar Bar, 11:30 p.m. Jan. 17). It can be purchased at www.dethlehem.bandcamp.com.
Brom was kind enough to fill us in on the new Dethlehem dimension.
PG: First of all, no local release party?
Overlord Brom: Not this time. We’re going to unofficially treat the Strip District Music Fest on Jan. 17 as a kind of release party. We didn’t think playing two shows that close together would be beneficial, especially in the winter months when weather can notoriously ruin events. We’ll probably do a big headlining show in the spring, when we can have enough set time to play the whole album, which clocks in at close to an hour.
So, there's a concept to this record ...
Oh yes, definitely. This album is a direct continuation of the first two albums. We dropped The Ghorusalem Codex name, however, since this album actually takes place in another realm that, well, isn’t Ghorusalem. The end of the last album had us falling through a portal. The antagonist, Dregmour (an evil warlock) banished us. Lord Bonecrush was lost in time, but the rest of us made it through to the other side.
So, “Destroyers of the Realm” is about how we meet our new vocalist/leader, Brutalitus the Bloodbeard, (not really new anymore, he’s been in the band for like three years, haha), and how we have to help him defeat his corrupt evil demon brother named Knightmare.
With a K... get it? Clever, I know, hahaha.
Love it! Does the album have the lyrics so people can follow this? Or is it just semi-important?
The lyrics are included in the form of a .pdf when you download the album from our Bandcamp page. Also included is a digital comic book that we created a couple years ago that helps bridge the story gap between ‘Codex 2’ and ‘Destroyers of the Realm.’ That being said, we do have voice acted interludes in between a few songs on the album to help drive home the point that there is a story. They are, by design, extremely cheesy and comedic.
What creative impact has Brutalitus had on the band?
Brutalitus is great. He has a lot of great ideas, musically, and actually helped bring some more ‘brutal-ness’ to our songs. Ha. He has a great metal scream, and can also sing. He and Bovice worked really hard on the latter, to expand upon the clean singing vocal harmonies... which is something we’ve always had, but nothing to the degree of the final minute of ‘Mystic Island,’ for example.
Where did you find him?
In real life: We had some mutual friends, and when we were looking for a new vocalist a few years ago, he got wind of it and wanted to audition. I asked if he could do clean singing too, and he responded with a drunken video of him singing Erasure’s “Always” ... “Alwaysssss I want to be with you/and make believe with youuuu.”
Haha, no lie. Plus, he loves video games. Sense of humor and similar interests equals perfect fit.
The band sounds great on here. How would you say has it evolved musically? Is there more prog to it?
There is definitely more progressive elements! Thanks for noticing! This album has a lot more backing instruments. Pianos, violins, flute, brass, and woodwinds. We really wanted to utilize more instrumentation for dynamics. Plus, we just love the way they sound. A few songs even have the 8-bit Nintendo sound to them.
Where was it recorded?
We recorded at my house in Carnegie. Sent to it my friend, Lee Rule, in Sheffield, UK for mixing; then had Jens Bogren master in Sweden. Jens Bogren is known for producing Opeth, Soilwork, Katatonia, and the new At The Gates album that was just released a couple months ago. We actually had a very successful Kickstarter to help pay for that. We treated it like an album pre-order basically. Then we used that money to pay Jens Bogren to do the mastering.
Whoa. Swedish death metal. Awesome. Does this label of ‘melodic death metal’ suit the band?
You can ask any metal head and they would give you a different answer, because metal heads LOVE their subgenres and nitpicking who belongs to what... but, I would say yes. We’re happy with that label. Death Metal because of the screaming vocals, and melodic because of the guitar harmonies over pretty much EVERYTHING, haha. Which we love. Harmonies for all!
I’ve noticed that usually the bands don’t care what you call them ... Are a lot of your fans also GWAR fans? I would imagine so.
I think so, yeah. We cater a lot to that crowd. We don’t have the money or the stagehands to help put on a theatrical performance like GWAR, but I think their fans appreciate what we are doing with the resources we have available to us. This year, we started sequencing video and the backing tracks (violins, woodwinds, piano, etc.) to our live show, and we’ve received a lot of positive feedback for that. The videos really add to the experience. But hey, maybe one day, the money and the crew will come, and we’ll be able to do an even bigger theatrical show! That’s always been the plan. Until then, we work within our means.
The art work is sick. Who creates it?
Our artwork is done by our guitarist, Hildor (Doyle Daigle). Brutalitus (Jeff Kerekes) also helps with the graphic design. Together, they are our art department. They play to their strengths. Doyle is great with digital painting, and Jeff is awesome at layouts and logo design.
Not sure the best way to ask this, so I’ll be blunt: Why aren’t you guys huge (like playing Mayhem Fest or something)?
And that’s the question of the decade... No one has asked us and any emails we send or contact we make with people who run bigger events like that lead nowhere. We’d love to play a big festival (or 10) or grab an opening slot on someone’s tour. The music industry is tough, man!
You need to be on Roadrunner, Metal Blade or some such label ...
Yeah, I think that would legitimize us a bit... we actually sent this album to Metal Blade yesterday, now that it’s officially released and all. They are one of the only labels that still accept unsolicited submissions, which is cool of them.
Labels don’t take submissions?
Well, metal labels. Not sure about the major labels.
I’m not a huge fan of the cookie monster vocal thing but the album is great.
Thanks man! Yeah, I know the cookie monster vocals are an acquired taste.
Bet chicks don’t dig it.
Small percentages, hahaha. Let’s just say Dethlehem isn’t known for attracting the female groupie fans like the ’80s hair metal bands of yore. We actually have to heavily rely on our charming personalities for that.
We touched on this a little but has anything changed in the stage production with the roll out of the album?
The stage production is pretty similar to what it’s always been — costumes are a must, the occasional skit between songs, but now with supplemental live video and some pre-recorded backing tracks to fill in the music we don’t have members for... Maybe one day we can get the Pittsburgh Symphony to learn our songs and we can do what Metallica did with their album “S&M,” haha!
Well, the symphony is doing a night of Pokemon music, so it wouldn’t be a huge leap! You do some touring. How has that gone?
Touring is always a lot of fun for us. We need to do more of it, but sometimes vacation time prevents that. We do as much as we can, though. Last year we did a short run to Madison, WI, and back (with a few stops along the way). This year, we’d like to do a few weeks in the summer. It’d be great if we could get an opening spot with a bigger headliner. I’ll be sending out a lot of emails in February, that’s for sure, haha.
Do you guys listen to a variety of music?
Variety is the spice of life! I’m a huge ’80s pop and ’90s alternative fan. Actually, most of the guys love ’90s alternative: Foo Fighters, Weezer, Green Day, The Offspring.
Who are the guitarists influenced by?
Bovice (Rick) is heavily influenced by Paul Gilbert. Hildor (Doyle) is influenced by a lot of things. As far as metal goes, he draws a lot of inspiration from many European metal bands. One that comes to mind is In Flames, but definitely their early catalogue... not so much their newer stuff.
How bout you...drummers?
I’m a huge fan of Chris Pennie (ex-Coheed & Cambria, ex-Dillinger Escape Plan), but hell if I’ll ever be able to play like him. He’s insanely good! If I can even pull in 5 percent of his talent, I’ll be happy.