UNTIMELY DEMISE

INTERVIEW

A CURA DI R&MIMB

15/02/2014

On the metal scene since 2007, the Canadian thrashers UNTIMELY DEMISE have recruited a discreet following after the release of an EP and their debut album "City Of Steel". Now the band is "back for the attack" with yet another full-length, "Systematic Eradication", a no-frills, earnest and intense thrash bonanza. Rock & Metal In My Blood wanted to know more, so we decided to have a chat with two of the founding members of the band, the brothers Murray and Matt Cuthbertson.

R&MIMB: Hello guys! First of all what are the main models which have mostly influenced your latest release, "Systematic Eradication"?
Untimely Demise: Murray Cuthbertson ( Bass): Our band mantra since 2009 has been 'Fast, Tech & Greasy' and those were the quintessential elements that we wanted to harmoniously blend on 'Systematic Eradication'! The band sought out to progress and build off of the Thrash/Death Metal template that we had forged with our previous album 'City Of Steel'. Without sacrificing the brutal impact of our signature thrash riffs we wanted to place a stronger emphasis on songwriting, and incorporate melodic clean sections amongst bludgeoning death metal riffs and drumlines. The group sought to create an album that was heavier, more dynamic and listenable then anything we had ever done in the past. The album title is derived from a lyric in the opening song 'Spiritual Embezzlement' and it essentially stresses the importance of the individual triumphing over the draconian limitations and rules that life inundates us with on a daily basis. The band basically gathered all of the rage, angst and frustration that had been growing within us over the last couple of years of grinding on the road and fighting to be heard, and brought that fire into the studio! The album praises individual thought, personal growth, perseverance and "sticking to your guns" when the larger world is trying to impede your success. Freewill, skepticism, and learning through experience are the values that were a creative engine in the writing, arranging and recording of this album. Music provides a powerful medium to affect people's opinions and worldview - it was our intention to inspire people with this album and show that dedication and approaching your craft/life with a pure heart can allow one to achieve profound things and overcome seemingly impossible obstacles.

R&MIMB: Your song themes move freely from topical subjects ("Somali Pirates") to science-fiction ("Navigator's Choice"), but "The Last Guildsman" made me curious about a new subject: Medieval Guilds. Where did you draw inspiration for the song?
Untimely Demise: Murray C.: When it comes to writing lyrics we have consciously tried to avoid being pigeonholed as a one-trick pony that only focuses on one central subject. Our lyrical themes run the gamut from History, fiction, the disintegration of society, and so forth. For this album we just wrote about what seemed interesting to us and what would ultimately do the music justice. 'The Last Guildsman' is a tribute to the tenacity and dedication of local Saskatoon guitar-maker Glen McDougall (*He started Fury Guitars in 1962 and is still producing them by hand in his small Saskatoon workshop today). We draw comparisons between him, the guilds of medieval Europe, as well as the Far East, and the hardworking, talented bands of today that place artistic integrity and a quality song above money and notoriety. It infers that their contributions will leave a legacy that will stand the test of time above more trendy pursuits. For 'Spiritual Embezzlement' we were focused on an individual trying to overcome the obstacles he faces in life, whereas 'Somali Pirates' is influenced by modern day pirates operating on the high seas on the horn of Africa. 'Redemption' is very personal to myself and is a metaphor for some of the tough times we have had as a band and how we never falter in our approach and continue to move forward with the vigor that has always carried us through hardship. 'Navigator's Choice' is one of the truly fictional songs, where the protagonist is a hardened killer travelling through time, beating foe after foe until his entire world collapses into a black hole. 'A Warrior's Blood' is a fictional mission statement for all the 1%er outlaw bikers out there; it isn't pro or anti anything, it was just a subject that we found enthralling and wanted to juxtapose outlaw Motorcycle clubs and heavy metal headbanger subculture. 'Revolutions' is a song that was influenced by the Arab Spring uprisings that began in 2011 and continue to this day; it shows the demise of a pariah dictator after he succumbs to the will and power of the people. The final track on the album 'Escape From Supermax' is inspired by the movie Shawshank Redemption, featuring a wrongly imprisoned protagonist that escapes from a modern Super Maximum Security Prison. Our band is never afraid to try new things musically and lyrically because we realize that one has to follow their own intuition and taste. If you don't like it, no one else will!

R&MIMB: In a musical context where the guitars stand out, how did you, as lead guitarist, face the "challenge" of so elaborate scores?
Untimely Demise: Matt C. (guitarist/ vocalist): With pretty much every song I like to first make sure there are plenty of exciting riff ideas to work with. So once I have about 5 to 7 good riffs in the same key I start to play them together and see how they fit. Then I'll play around with these ideas (like take the rhythm from one part and apply that to another one of the ideas or I'll take a tail from one and use it in another). Eventually I will have a whole guitar rhythm line that I'm happy with. At this point I come up with a second guitar part that accents the start of riffs, comes in with harmonies, or is a melodic lead. Then the bass comes and more and more lately we've been working really hard to make the low end stand out with its own melodic/ rhythmic identity. Once this is done, I grab my guitar and solo over the entire track, I don't use this but it's good to have my original lead ideas so when I do write the solo I've something to work with and other times I will use the guitar melodies/rhythms as vocal lines etc. Then we record the band playing the music to the song and use that track as our guide to write the lyrics (Murray writes all the lyrics).

R&MIMB: A lot of solos in this album have been recorded by Glen Drover, Megadeth and King Diamond's ex-guitarist. How did this collaboration come about?
Untimely Demise: Matt C.: Ever since we first started working with Glen back in 2008 for "Full Speed Metal" he has always understood what we were going for and has been more than happy to grace our albums with his amazing solos. He's a guitar player that loves playing, if he hears something he has to try it out in the studio and obviously we are always humbled that he puts his stamp of approval on our albums by soloing on them. As well, because I record all the guitars on our albums, Glen knows that having the second guitarist playing solos helps make the album more dynamic and it's exciting to have a back and forth soloing dialogue!

R&MIMB: The vocals in the album have positively surprised me for all the different vocal changes. What type of effect did you wish to obtain passing from clean to screaming vocals?
Untimely Demise: Murray C.: For this album we strove to showcase the growth and diversity of Matt's singing. Since the riffs and music itself goes through so many voltas and twists we thought it would be appropriate to highlight his hybrid vocal style. The 'cleaner' power singing sections are inspired by thrash greats like Chuck Billy from Testament and Steve 'Zetro' Souza from Exodus, while the death metal vocals are cut from the same cloth as Death, Carcass and Kreator. As listeners too we realize that the same vocal timbre the whole time can get tedious, so that was our reasoning in placing a paramount focus on variety.

R&MIMB: As for the artwork of "Systematic Eradication", drawn by world-famous Ed Repka, did you give the artist any guidelines? Did Repka manage to represent faithfully what you wanted for the album cover?
Untimely Demise: Murray C.: We have been working with the legendary Ed Repka for the last three albums now. For the first two ("Full Speed Metal" EP & "City Of Steel") we gave him a close guideline to work within. In the end we always give him the creative latitude to take it wherever he sees fit. I really don't like forcing artists to follow a rigid design when it is up to them to be expressive and innovative in their work. Ed's main thing is that the cover artwork must compliment and work with the album title. For this one we had sent him the track 'Escape From Supermax' and told him some of the primary album themes. From there he envisaged a prisoner escaping from a futuristic human extermination factory, mere seconds from being slaughtered by a Terminator-esque robot. We were/are stoked on the concept and just let the master take it from there. So far the reaction to the album and cover art has exceeded our expectations. Thanks Ed!!

R&MIMB: The fans consider your debut album more melodic than your latest release. What do you think about it? Is "Systematic Eradication" the natural evolution of "City of Steel"?
Untimely Demise: Matt C.: Hmmmm?In my opinion "Systematic Eradication" is more melodic than "City Of Steel"! There are plenty of clean guitars underneath the main rhythm tracks that augment the melodies and songs like 'The Last Guildman' and certain parts of 'Navigator's Choice' are also extremely melodic. But with that being said, we did explore some heavier rhythms and grooves with songs like 'Redemption' and 'Escape from Supermax', so I guess you could say that "Systematic Eradication" is an album of extremes, where it can be very melodic or extremely bludgeoning.

R&MIMB: Bass and drums always give rise to an outstanding groove in your music. Where does your songwriting start? Does it start from the rhythm section or guitar riffs?
Untimely Demise: Matt C.: More often than not I write the guitar parts first and then bring them to the band. But with this album we had a few songs that were originally inspired by Scott's drum beats. For example, we were jamming one afternoon and Scott started playing this crazy rhythm and I immediately started ringing out some random chords over it and eventually began copying the rhythm with my guitar. This became the intro to 'Navigator's Choice'. It was pretty much the same story for the intro to 'Escape from Supermax'.

R&MIMB: What has inspired your distinctive moniker? Is there a story behind the name?
Untimely Demise: Matt C.:The name "Untimely Demise" comes from the fact that premature deaths are very prominent within the Rock n Roll/ Metal world. One can sight countless examples of this such as Randy Rhoads, Cliff Burton, Jimi Hendrix, and so on. The nature of the music game with all the travel and hard partying has made this a reoccurring phenomenon. The name is not glorifying death but rather paying homage to these greats along with some of our close buddies that were taken from this earth too soon.

R&MIMB: When you think of thrash metal you think of Bay Area, San Francisco. How was it, for Canadian musicians like you, to fit in the "mainstream" thrash environment?
Untimely Demise: Matt C.: Saskatoon for the most part has always been very detached from any major Metal scenes. This was good for us in the sense that we forged our style by picking all the parts of Metal that we liked from all the various genres and we never felt compelled to fit in to a certain scene to find success. The internet for the most part has been a tool that we've utilized to help us reach the entire world.

Murray C.: As soon as Thrash was born in California in the early 1980's it has been spreading like wildfire to every corner of the globe. It is such a powerful and accessible form of music that everyone can relate to it! For us it has always been a positive outlet to release all the aggression and stress of everyday life, and it has remained that way for all the kids currently starting thrash bands around the world. We definitely have some exemplary thrash godfathers in Canada that have inspired us, most notably Sacrifice, Razor and Annihilator. Aside from the seminal American Thrash bands we have also been strongly influenced and driven by the music of the Teutonic thrash bands like Kreator, Sodom and Destruction. Our vocals follow the grit and harsh template that was pioneered by those groups.

R&MIMB: How is the Canadian metal scene? Is it difficult for up-and-coming young musicians to find a club where they can play metal and rock music?
Untimely Demise: Murray C.: I would say for a country of 32 million people we have a better than average metal scene! What makes our nation special is that there is a plethora of dedicated, talented bands out there, which are gaining international followings in spite of all the obstacles that are in front of them. For the larger touring international bands the support is evident in the sold-out arena shows that are commonplace here. The underground and emerging metal band scene still has that grinder mentality however, where certain cities/shows are packed with enthusiastic headbangers, while other gigs can be under-attended. Touring Canada is expensive and difficult due to the geographically herculian drives that are involved in doing a true cross country tour. In Europe you can hit a dozen countries in no time. Whereas a Canadian metal band travelling from Saskatoon to Toronto and back involves a 6000km trek. Although we have fans across the country and care about them all, I would say that the best metal scenes are found in Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto and Quebec. Finding solid all-ages venues in our hometown has been very cumbersome for the last 10 years, so that is an area that could use improvement in the scene. There are lots of dedicated promoters and support members in the Canadian metal scene that keep things running smoothly, so I would say the future looks bright!

R&MIMB: Good to hear Murray! Speaking of gigs, what was the most important concert you took part in? Have you ever supported any famous acts?
Untimely Demise: Murray C.: I guess the most important concert we were involved in would be the one that brought us into the spotlight in our hometown, and served as a springboard for booking and playing larger venues, shows and tours over the years - that gig would be the first time we opened for 3 Inches Of Blood at Amigos Cantina in Saskatoon, SK, Canada on October 1st, 2007. This was a show that we really wanted to be a part of as soon as we heard they were coming. We emailed and phoned everyone that we could to beg to get on the bill. Finally we got a call back from the booker at Amigos and he said it was impossible. I expressed my disappointment with his decision and urged him to listen to some of the new (higher-quality) demos that we had just posted on Myspace. The call ended. Then I got a call back 30 seconds later saying 'all right you sound good, you can play it'. We were beyond stoked to play with our heroes and in the end the show was sold out (crowd was wicked throughout!). I remember we circulated about 4 dozen of our new demos to the crowd and from there our reputation as a tight, vicious live band began to blossom. It is too hard to breakdown all the huge shows and tours that we have played, but we have definitely had the honour of playing with some of the finest metal bands out there, specifically playing numerous gigs with Anvil, Skeletonwitch, Massacre, Suffocation, 3 Inches Of Blood, Into Eternity, Goatwhore, Evile, Death Angel, Toxic Holocaust, Gama Bomb, Bonded By Blood, Abysmal Dawn and Obscura.

R&MIMB: Are you on tour at the moment, promoting the album? Are you planning to come to Europe or Italy?
Untimely Demise: Murray C.: The promotion of the album has been a time consuming but worthwhile venture. "Systematic Eradication" seems to be selling well and all the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive! It was a huge honour the other day to get the mail and see that BURNN! Magazine out of Japan had given us an 85/100 review and sent us a copy at their expense (classy move). Also had a nice feature in the new Terrorizer Magazine, so if all this momentum continues we should be in a good place. As far as live actions, we are working on setting up tours right now, hopefully beginning in the Spring/Early Summer. The band wants to tour throughout continental Europe (Italy will be included of course, as that is where our label is based-out of). There were some options that could have brought us over sooner, but none of them served in our best interests and as an independent band we have to be careful with how we spend our money. Touring the United States, possibly the Far East and Canada are all on the to-do list. The band is quite anxious to get back on tour with this new album and show the world what we do best. Can't wait to see all our old and new friends on the killing road!

R&MIMB: When you guys started to play you were a tech-punk band. Now, you have changed your sound. Why have you changed in so drastically a way?
Untimely Demise: Matt C.: When we started as a tech-punk band we still had our music full of maiden-esque third harmonies, lots of riffs and plenty of solos. It was mostly the straight forward drumming and cleaner power vocals that made it punk. That band eventually broke up with the other 2 members not wanting to go for it anymore, leaving Murray and I to find new musicians to work with. We grew as musicians, listeners and writers and it seemed reasonable to want to take our music in a heavier direction. With this new incarnation of the band we wanted to play music inspired by the Bay Area scene (especially Megadeth), as well as bands like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, In Flames, Arch Enemy, Death, etc. We eventually hooked up with Scott Cross ('Untimely Demise' drummer from 2006-2012) and began writing music, playing shows and touring the country. Now with the line up complete (myself, Murray, Cory Thomas and Sam Martz) we continually thrive to achieve more, write better songs and play places we've never been to before.

R&MIMB: Well good luck on that!! Now how about a message to all the fans of our webzine, Rock & Metal In My Blood?
Untimely Demise: Matt C.: It is the whole band's goal to do whatever it takes to get our asses to Europe and play some gigs over there! European Promoters and Bands should contact us about this. Please buy the album(s) and 'Like' us on Facebook, so we can communicate regularly with you. Until then, thanks readers and everybody at Rock & Metal for supporting the Untimely Demise camp, we hope to see you all soon?Stay thirsty my friends!!!

Giacomo Bianco and Lucia Rossi