Desaster is a band that has long shrugged off the trends polluting the scene instead opting to stick with the noble priority of Blackened Thrash Metal with just a touch of Death Metal. With over three decades of being true, they are no less than Teutonic Thrash Titans as displayed by their extensive discography. It was a pleasure to sit down with founding guitarist, Inferno, to chat about the new album Churches Without Saints which will drop next month via Metal Blade, their rich tradition in the scene, guitar insights, and much, much more.
ANTIHERO: To jump right in, I was able to get a copy of Churches Without Saints. Congratulations!
Inferno: Thank you very much! Do you like it?
ANTIHERO: Yes sir.
Inferno: Good to hear.
ANTIHERO: Is there a concept behind it?
Inferno: Do you mean the title?
Inferno: It’s no concept album, but the title is about the situation in the world right now. Religions are unfortunately still reigning in a lot of parts of the world. That is not good because you know there are so many wars and discussions about what the right religion is, what is the correct way of living. Some preachers want to tell you how to live. That has nothing to do with the modern world anymore in our opinion and that’s our way to show the finger to all the religions in the world that we don’t need the saints anymore. Please get out of the churches. Leave us alone and there will be not so much hassle and trouble in the world anymore. Also, the first song of the album, “Learn to Love the Void,” is about this theme but it is not a concept. If everybody would accept that there is nothing after you die. There is no Valhalla. If everybody would accept that there is nothing, that there is only the void, then there would be not that much trouble and problems in the world.
ANTIHERO: If you go back in history, all the major wars were fought over religion. Nothing really has changed. Afghanistan, Iraq, people have been fighting wars there for millennia.
Inferno: For example, the Catholic Church is still big in Germany. There are so many abuses of children going on still in 2021. I can’t accept that, that some priests abuse our children. It can’t go on any longer.
ANTIHERO: I’m sure you heard about what happened with Nergal (of Behemoth) in Poland.
Inferno: Yes, yes.
ANTIHERO: I had no idea the Catholic Church was so entrenched in politics over there. Over here, we always think of Europe as more liberal, progressive, but maybe not.
Inferno: Not in Poland. In Germany, we have the Catholic Church, we have the Protestants, and there is a variety. Poland is really ruled by the Catholic Church. They have so much power there. It’s really great that Nergal goes against this shit and fights against it. I support it 100%.
ANTIHERO: When I was going through the album, I picked out some tracks that stood out to me. I thought I would give you some of my impressions and bounce them off of you.
Inferno: That’s always great to hear, yes.
ANTIHERO: The first one, obviously, was “Learn to Love the Void”. I thought that was a perfect opening statement for the album – aggressive, brutal, right out of the gate.
Inferno: That was a good track to open the new album. I think we made a good choice to choose this track to open the album because it has the typical trademarks of Desaster. We have some fast Thrash like Voivod I would say, and it’s also a little bit Punky. We also love old Punk like The Exploited and stuff like that that also influences us. The middle part is more Black Metal feeling, you know. This is a perfect song to open a Desaster album and show off our Black Thrash style.
ANTIHERO: The next one that really jumped out at me is “Exile is Imminent”. I love the way you start out with the melodic intro and then just go into total, nasty Black Metal. That was great.
Inferno: Thank you very much. The intention of the song with this kind of intro was the Show No Mercy album with the song “Metal Storm/Face the Slayer”. The beginning of the song is only an introduction and I think it’s quite unusual for us with this melodic part. Also, the rhythms are nearly danceable, you know. It fits, it makes sense, and it’s a great way to open the gates for what I would say is more Death Metal. “Exile is Imminent” is more Death Metal than Black Metal. It’s inspired a bit by Bolt Thrower. I always liked Bolt Thrower. They have such a great sound.
ANTIHERO: You always know it’s them. It’s unmistakable. “Sadistic Salvation,” I thought that was a good, rowdy, hell-raising song.
Inferno: Yeah, the songwriting for this song was a little bit difficult because the middle part of the song is a little bit similar to an old song of ours from the second album, Hellfire’s Dominion called “Past, Present, Forever” so the working title was “Past, Present, Forever Part Two”. (laughs) We tried to open with this middle part which is a little bit inspired by Running Wild…
ANTIHERO: Yeah, it’s got a Speed Metal vibe. I really like the picking style…
Inferno: Yeah, but to start with this middle part was not sounding good because it was too similar to the old song. We had the idea to start with the Black Metal thrashing and then changing over to these great melodies of the middle part, especially the drums in the middle part, we are very proud of it. Our new drummer, Hont, he shows his skills on this middle part and it sounds fantastic, I think.
ANTIHERO: How did you guys hook up with him?
Inferno: Our old drummer, Tormentor, he joined Asphyx, the Dutch Death Metal band, and then he also joined Sodom (laughs) so it was really hard to find time to rehearse and Desaster is a band that lives off the rehearsal room. We need the spirit in the rehearsal room, the smell of cigarettes and beer. We love to make noise together in the rehearsal room. We are not exchanging files via the internet. We are too old school for that. It was but we are still friends with Tormentor. It was no longer possible. It’s a pity because we were no longer able to go on with him because he has so many other projects. He also moved away from our hometown because of his job. It was really hard, but we decided to go with another guy. In fact, it was Tormentor’s suggestion to ask another drummer to be in the band for live shows. So, we asked Hont a good friend of our singer. They were together in a band twenty-five years ago. It was a good decision because he’s a very skilled drummer and I think he also studied the style Tormentor played in Desaster, and he knows what my riffs need. He knows the rhythms, what are needed to make a good Desaster song, but he also brings some new and fresh elements in the music.
ANTIHERO: It’s a very lively performance, very energetic. I like the aggressive, hard-driving approach.
Inferno: What do you think of the sound of the album?
ANTIHERO: I like the sound. It sounds live. It sounds like I would expect you guys to sound if I was in the front with amps blasting in my face. I like that old-school feel.
Inferno: That was the intention, the goal to achieve, to sound more old school. Our last albums had a more modern sound I would say, and I wanted to go back to the past to the old albums, especially Tyrants of the Netherworld, our third album. I really love the sound of the album. It’s not a “good” sound, but it is very hellish, a little bit grumpy, growling sound, you know. This was the sound I wanted to reach with the band and this time we had to go back to this.
ANTIHERO: On a side note, we have a Tyrants of the Netherworld flag hanging in our kitchen.
Inferno: Great! (laughs)
ANTIHERO: I love that album. 2000 was a very crucial year for Metal. Obviously, because of the new millennium, but that was a statement.
Inferno: Thank you very much. I think Tyrants… was our best album because everything was perfect, the title, the cover, the sound, the songs are great, and it has a great spirit. I really like this album. Of course, I love all my children. If I have to choose, I always choose the Tyrants… album as the best.
ANTIHERO: The one other song I wanted to ask you about from the new album is the final track, “Aus Asche”. That’s quite a departure. How did that one come about?
Inferno: Yeah, it was a kind of experiment. I had these non-distorted guitar riffs in my collection of ideas. It’s inspired by old Gothic Wave bands. When I was 10 or 11 years old, I was listening to The Cure a lot, but there was also an album that inspired me, a split between Primordial and Katatonia. The Katatonia song on the split had a non-distorted guitar that I liked a lot. The song is boring, but the guitar sound is great. So, I wanted to try this. We just tried it in the rehearsal room. Our singer, Sataniac, he had just written a kind of poem that fit well with it. “Aus Asche” means “From Ashes,” and it really fit well with this sound. It’s a kind of experiment. Don’t be afraid. Desaster is not wimping out.
ANTIHERO: I wasn’t worried at all!
Inferno: You know, in the past, on the old albums and on the demos, we always had these kinds of medieval outros. They were all the same and became a little bit boring. This time we tried something new as an experiment. Don’t take it too seriously. It’s only the outro, but I like it.
ANTIHERO: Having done this for so long, how do you toe the line between being true and evolving?
Inferno: I think, keeping a band alive for over thirty years, you need a passion for that. So, it’s a love for the music. It’s a love for Heavy Metal. I think what contributes to this is we are not a professional band. We only do this in our free time. We all have our regular jobs. We don’t have to pay our rent with our musical stuff we do. So, we are able to go to the rehearsal room when we want to. We don’t have to record an album every second year and go on tour for months. That’s not our job. We have still the fire in us even if we are old farts right now.
ANTIHERO: The fire still burns!
Inferno: Yes! It’s great to come together in the rehearsal room and there’s some magic in the air. We drink and smoke and listen to old Slayer or something like that. We play our stuff and it’s great to see the songs coming out naturally out of us. It’s still very satisfying.
ANTIHERO: Interviewing bands, I always ask, “do you guys jam on anything?” or “what’s it like when you guys rehearse?” Nobody rehearses together anymore! Everybody sends files to each other over the computer. To me, that would take a lot of the fun away from being in a band, that energy like you were talking about in the room.
Inferno: Yeah, that’s definitely the point. I couldn’t imagine how this can work. Of course, we also use moder4n technology. We record ourselves in the rehearsal room and I work on the computer with it, but we don’t exchange files and stuff like that. The spirit can only be captured when you come together in the rehearsal room. That’s one of the reasons why we have to say goodbye to our drummer because he suggested to exchange files. I said no. That is not the way Desaster works.
ANTIHERO: I wanted to ask you about your guitar tone. It’s so unique.
Inferno: Thank you.
ANTIHERO: What kind of rig do you play?
Inferno: I play an old Ibanez guitar. I use the Metal Zone pedal which is very good. Everybody uses the Heavy Metal pedal, but I like the Metal Zone more. The equipment is always the same. I never change it. I’m not into the technical stuff that much. I want to play on ten and that’s good. For years, I’ve played the same amplifier. I have a very old Hiwatt amplifier. It’s only one year younger than me. It’s from 1974, very old amplifier but great sound. If you watch old Iron Maiden videos, you don’t see Marshall amps in the background, you see Hiwatt. I use Marshall speakers. That’s my equipment.
ANTIHERO: That’s simple…
Inferno: I have only one other pedal, a delay.
ANTIHERO: Who were some of your guitar heroes that got you inspired to get into playing?
Inferno: Who really taught me to play was James Hetfield. I was a very, very big Metallica fan when I was young. I had their posters all over my room. It was always my dream to play like James Hetfield. I love his riffs. I bought the songbook of Kill ‘Em All with the tabs in it. This was my guitar lesson, the only one I ever got. I never had a real teacher or some lessons, but I played the songs from Kill ‘Em All, and I learned to play guitar. I’m still on this level, but it’s enough for Desaster. I never had the aim to become the next Ritchie Blackmore who is of course one of my idols, but I could never play like him. That’s real magic what he plays, and of course, Tony Iommi, is a big hero to me.
ANTIHERO: The man that started it all!
Inferno: All Heavy Metal riffs are Tony Iommi riffs.
ANTIHERO: It’s true. Some people say Blue Cheer or even Steppenwolf, but I say Sabbath started it all. It’s amazing that they released their first two albums in 1970.
Inferno: That’s really unbelievable, but in the past, that was usual. Bands like them and Judas Priest recording albums like that in a row. I don’t know how they could do that. We need five years to produce a new album. Of course, we can’t be compared with the bands like we mentioned or with the times. They were different times. The record companies were really about it, behind it, to push the bands to produce an album after an album to make them bigger. They had no YouTube videos or MTV so that was the way to promote with album after album.
ANTIHERO: Speaking of the old school, how would you compare the scene when you were starting out with now?
Inferno: I would say, of course, some things change, especially the status of music generally changes a lot because nowadays music is not that worthy anymore. I have thoughts about that because the kids are just listening to music on YouTube. After three seconds, they skip to the next. In the past, you bought an album with your money and listened to it again and again for weeks. There wasn’t another way of listening. This changes a lot. Talking about the scene in general, I would say, nowadays for me, it seems it’s normal to listen to ‘70s Rock and Polish Black Metal together. That’s no problem. In the past, the scenes were more separated. Today, it’s normal that everybody has a wide spectrum of Heavy Metal genres to listen to. I think it’s cool. On the other hand, sometimes I miss the old school days when the Thrash Metal guys were beating the Hardcore guys (laughs). There were really some fights going on because of music. It’s really as stupid as religion, but sometimes it was fun (laughs).
ANTIHERO: I saw some crazy fights back in the day, but nothing compared to some of my friends’ stories seeing D.R.I. or Carnivore.
Inferno: I think it was a total different time back then. There was a lot of fighting against each other going on.
ANTIHERO: What do you think distinguishes German Thrash from American Thrash?
Inferno: I think if you compare the old bands with each other, the German bands had a little bit more evil intent. Bonded by Blood by Exodus is a great album and Paul Baloff is singing about Satan and stuff like that, but I think a band like Destruction or Sodom or even Kreator on the first one, they had more evil feeling in the riffs, you know. This is only taking place I think in Slayer, of course, in American bands, but the rest of the Bay Area bands were more fun-oriented. I think most of the German Thrash bands, they had more kind of Satanic and evil concepts back then. Of course, they wanted to get rid of that image at the end of the ‘80s. I remember Tom Angelripper was saying live at the gigs, “We are not a Satanic band anymore. We now play songs about war.” It was really a bad thing to be Satanic. We hated it. We wanted to have the old style and that’s why Desaster was always walking around with bullet belts and we had lyrics about the devil, of course in the past. I think that’s the main difference between those scenes.
ANTIHERO: Do you think that might be because of the bigger influence Venom had in Europe?
Inferno: Perhaps. Of course, Venom also toured America. I have the great video Venom, Slayer, Exodus. They played at Studio 55. It’s such a fucking great video. Perhaps it’s because Venom has a big influence on all the European bands. I can imagine also Slayer were Venom fans!
ANTIHERO: I’ve always heard a lot of Show No Mercy in Desaster which has always been my favorite Slayer record. I almost wish they had stayed on that path.
Inferno: That would be great, yes (laughs). That would really be great. Of course, I also love the Hell Awaits album which is much more progressive. Of course, like everybody, I love the Reign in Blood album, which for me is still the most aggressive album with the most aggressive sound of all time. Show No Mercy has the more Heavy Metal feeling. You can hear Slayer were inspired by old Heavy Metal bands. If I had to choose the best Slayer album, I’d choose the Reign in Blood album because it was the first album I listened to. I started with Metal in ’86 and the album came out that year. Every old Slayer album is a milestone.
ANTIHERO: Yeah, especially Show No Mercy through Seasons in the Abyss. Those albums can’t be topped.
Inferno: Yes, after that, honestly, there is nothing good coming from Slayer anymore after Seasons in the Abyss.
ANTIHERO: How are things in Germany with the pandemic right now?
Inferno: We have very strict rules. It’s really annoying, you know. We see, for example, Great Britain is opening the bars again outside you can drink beer. Also, our Dutch neighbors are opening. You can sit outside and eat. It’s still forbidden in Germany. Also, concerts are far away. The next concert is in August, but I don’t think that it can take place in Germany. The Germans are very afraid all the time. We always fear something. The bureaucrats are very big in Germany and they want to make rules over everything. The vaccine is so slow in Germany because of all the bureaucracy. It’s a real pity.
ANTIHERO: That’s crazy. Over here, they say there are more vaccines than people signing up to get them.
Inferno: Yeah, I heard that we could have a vaccine from you now so that’s cool. Thank you.
ANTIHERO: I was going to ask about the festivals. I know that is so intrinsic to the scene over there.
Inferno: There are plans. Some big festivals want to take place with a concept, but I really doubt they could do that. It’s really annoying, but we can’t do anything against it. Of course, there is a virus going around killing old people. If my parents were alive, I’d be afraid for them. We are Blackened Death Metal fans. We don’t have any fear of this virus (laughs). Don’t tell anybody, but we also broke a lot of rules recording the new Desaster album (laughs).
ANTIHERO: Oh no, you were less than six feet apart? (laughs) One thing I wanted to ask you about. It ties into an interview I did recently that I did with Alex Webster from Cannibal Corpse. I didn’t realize that when they play in Germany that they aren’t allowed to play quite a few of their songs.
Inferno: Yeah, that was really in the media in Germany. There was one feminist political woman that was so upset about the lyrics and covers of Cannibal Corpse that she launched a real revolution against them. They were really not allowed to play some songs. That’s so stupid. We are proud to be a country where free speech is allowed. Shit like this going on is not good.
ANTIHERO: Is that something you guys have encountered?
Inferno: No. We are lucky that we are a little band, you know. We are not too important, so we are glad that nobody has restrictions against us.