(We are very happy to greet Comrade Aleks, who returns to NCS with an interview of guitarist Pete Slate of the doom/death band Druid Lord, whose new album Grotesque Offerings will be released by Hells Headbangers on January 18, 2018.)
Druid Lord from Orlando, Florida have nothing in common with elves, Celtic myths, or forest fairies. Their blood-soaked death/doom metal took form in their LP Hymns For The Wicked seven years ago when two ex-members of Acheron and Equinox – Pete Slate (guitars) and Tony Blakk (vocals, bass) – gathered their energy with Ben Ross (guitars) and Steve Splillers (ex-Equinox drummer).
Three years after Hymns For The Wicked, Druid Lord continued their ominous work recording split-albums and two EPs. But their latest effort Baron Blood saw the light of day in 2013, so I was wondering if we would ever hear new stories of horror and blood from Druid Lord. Here’s a fresh interview with Pete Slate, who’ll tell us not only about a new forthcoming full-length, Grotesque Offering, but also about his obsession with horror movies and about the band’s inner machinery.
Hi Pete! How are you? What’s going on in Druid Lord’s realm?
Hey brother! All sorts of evil deeds. We just finished up our Fall Doom Assault gigs. They were a series of shows that took us through FL and up the east coast a bit. We signed a deal with Hells Headbangers earlier in the year for our next release. Our latest album Grotesque Offerings is about to drop Nov 24th on CD/Tape here in the States. The international release including the LP will drop in early Jan’18. Things are going very well for the band.
Too much news all at once! First of all, what can you tell us about the Fall Doom Assault? How many cities did you visit during this operation? With what kind of bands did you share the stage?
Actually Fall Doom Assault was just a mini-tour of sorts. We did some shows here in FL, three dates including Swarmfest at the Brass Mug in Tampa, Fl with Nocturnus, Church of Disgust, and many other bands. Just want to mention a new band I saw, Knight Terror. Pure old school. We then teamed up with our old friends (since the late ’80s) and did two more dates. We played with some cool bands, Summoners Circle, Noctomb, Darth Kannabis. Newer bands in the US scene.
Can you name the highlights of this tour? How do Druid Lord tours usually go?
Really good. We try to hit the road at least once a year. It’s just a great time of bonding with each other and our friends/fans. We eat well and drink so much..haha. We are hoping once the new album comes out we can do a bigger tour. My hopes are to hook up with the right promoter and play Europe. I’ve still have never played over there, and it must happen for Druid Lord.
That deal with Hells Headbanger… are you now seriously considering the next album after this new one? Do you have some concept for it? Maybe you even have few tracks prepared?
Hells Headbangers is a very cool label in the States, and we are proud that the face of the new album will be with them. Yes, I’m already in the writing phase of our next album, but it will be awhile. No concept yet, but we’ll continue the path of the old horror-type lyrics mixed with old school doom/death metal.
Druid Lord was born in 2010, and in the same year you released the Hymns For The Wicked album pretty fast. What helped you to deal with that task so quickly?
The whole idea started with us just recording new tracks. It was thought of first as a demo in our minds, but we ended up recording a whole album. I knew of a label here in the US called HPGD (Horror Pain Gore Death), and the label owner Mike really liked the material, so he offered us a deal. I then contacted a new European label, Witches Tone, and they put out Hymns on LP.
Sounds like you had the plan! Did your experience in Equinox help you to build all these bridges with so much agility?
Sure, it helped being in the Metal Scene since the early ’90s. Equinox had a big following years ago, and that was before the social media boom. We did all the tape trading, zine interviews and reviews, playing shows. I just made sure the right people heard our music. When we started Druid Lord, MySpace was pretty popular, and that helped of course.
Druid Lord – House Of The Dripping Gore
What was your main goal when you started the band? Did you really want to play that cruel form of death/doom with horror-influenced lyrics from the very beginning? Or was it just your intuition and you started to do the things you could deal with better?
I knew what I wanted. 4 guys playing Doom/Death Metal. Nothing pretty or overproduced. Just nasty music taking from the influences I grew up with, like Hellhammer, Celtic Frost, Cirth Ungol, Necrovore. I’m a huge fan of B-type horror movies from the ’60s and ’70s. The music, lyrics, and artwork all had to flow together to make one horrid package. I didn’t care if anyone didn’t like it…it’s what we wanted for the band.
How do you value Hymns For The Wicked today when you have a new album in your hands?
I think it was a very solid first album for us. Looking back, I wish now we would have had more time to record the whole album. The production could have been a lot bigger in terms of heaviness, but people really liked it. I’m very proud of Hymns.
I think Grotesque Offerings is just a natural progression for us. I like to bridge Doom and Death metal in our own style. BTW this is the first time we had a full-color artwork for the front and back, and it looks damned awesome. The fact that we were able to have Daniel Corcuera was very exciting for us. I’ve been a HUGE fan of his artwork for many years and we were in touch for a long time. He agreed and did an amazing job.
Peter, I’ve always wanted to ask you: what kind of Druid did you have in mind in naming the band this way? ‘Cause you know, the title is perfect for some pagan metal or folk band… and this image of a Druid all washed with gore and the knife in his hand… it’s something I see when I listen to your stuff.
I’m fascinated with the Druids and how they played a part in Celtic history. Many were thought of as priests, poets, philosophers, and in folklore many were thought of as magicians or wizards. Druids were connected with the forces of nature and the world around them. They celebrated Samhain during the last harvest (I’m a huge Halloween freak). So it made sense to tie those ideas into the band.
The Idea of a Druid King or Druid Lord was the perfect name that seemed to fit with the heaviness of the band. You’ll see a lot of skeletal forms in our artwork as this pays homage to the dead Druids of past times. Basically I had the name of the band even before the band existed.
Pete, maybe you just have Celtic roots? Or you love Halloween as a part of American culture? By the way, how do you like Acid Witch? The way they celebrate their own crazy eternal Halloween?
I had family from Wales so I think that counts. Honestly, I’ve had a huge fascination with Halloween every since I was a child. My mother was born on 10/31, so that day was always special. I remember being a small kid going to houses that were all decorated in horror and scary props. I was drawn to it. Even now I set up a haunted house for the kids and usually throw an ‘adult’ Halloween celebration.
Hell yes! Acid Witch are great. I would have done the whole Halloween thing but they beat me to it..haha. I collect all their LPs, and Slasher Dave writes some creepy music. I feel we have some of that element in Druid Lord’s music.
Usually, death/doom bands are grounded in the Peaceville Three legacy. What do you think about the origin of such bands as yours, and Hooded Menace, Wooden Stake, and a few others? Some people find elements of early Cathedral in Druid Lord’s songs.
I was never really a big fan of Cathedral myself personally. My roots come from early Celtic Frost, Hellhammer, Winter, and more traditional bands like I said before — Cirith Ungol, Omen, Witchfinder General. Our Death metal side is more influenced by Possessed, Necrovore, old Massacre. As far as other bands, I’m really into Hooded Menace, and Skeletal Specter and Wooden Stake are great too. They have their own sound.
There are so many good bands I follow now, and doom/death bands are going in all sorts of directions. My old band Equinox was heavily influenced by old style death and old black metal. I was around when Darkthrone, Mayhem, and Immortal first started, so that stays with me.
Hymns For The Wicked was released seven years ago. What made you return with a new full-length now? I started to think that the band was no more. How active were you through all these years?
Well, we just played a lot of shows and did a split EP, split 7″‘s, and a few of of our own EPs. So we had music, just no full-length. We had some line-up issues that we had to work out, but we are back on track.
How long did you actually work on composing and recording Grotesque Offerings?
Over two years. Half the songs were written by myself and structured with my former drummer. When he left the band we had to re-structure the songs with our new drummer Elden. That’s when we finished the last three songs. Took us some time to find the right person to mix and master the album and then secure the record deal.
Hells Headbangers is already streaming online “House Of Dripping Gore”, the first song of Grotesque Offerings. Can we form an impression of the whole album by this single track?
I think so. The songs are heavier on this album. Meaning there are a lot of slow parts but we still have elements of death metal in our music. Some of the tracks are longer compared to our first album… over 7 minutes. Each track has its own personality but overall it flows very well from one into the next. “House of Dripping Gor”e is my favorite track but I’m proud of each one. There are also three instrumentals on the album.
Did you use some new special equipment for this record?
We used the equipment we play live with. I play thru an Orange and Marshall 100 amp with a variety of guitar pedals. I used varied pedals, including one that can emulate an old Mellotron. I used that on one song. It adds that haunting effect.
How do you decide when a new song really works? Does it usually take a lot of time to find the right balance between slow and fast, melodic and straightforward components?
As I get older and write more material I become more meticulous and picky about the songs. I probably scrapped four songs that I felt weren’t up to par. For this album we wanted a slower vibe but of course we needed those fast parts. I mean, we are all death metal musicians but we were able to weave the songs together. I’m not the typical verse, chorus, verse, chorus writer. Many of my riffs just intertwine with each other. For our next album I may go back to more fast parts. As long as the song flows then it makes sense.
Druid Lord – Black Candle Seance
What was the most difficult song for you on the new album?
As far as writing, we have a song called “Evil That Haunts This Ground”. The music was just not coming together. The song has influences from bands like early Mayhem/Necrovore, but a very creepy ending. Took forever to finish. At the end of the recording sessions I was still not 100% comfortable with it but it actually came our very well.
We also re-recorded an old song, “Black Candle Seance”. We were not sure of doing an older song, but we play it live a lot and our fans really like that track. We slowed it down just a bit (for the heaviness) and it came out very cool.
Can you name differences between Grotesque Offerings and Hymns…? Did you seek to make a different album this time?
Yes, we felt the need to go slower to convey feelings of dread and gloom. We wanted a different sound or production on this album. We wanted artwork in dark colors instead of black and white. It was time to progress and step up our game.
You have a new drummer in Druid Lord. How did you lure Elden Santos into the band? Did he take part in he songwriting for Grotesque Offerings?
Yes, Elden is an amazing drummer and good friend. He’s been in the band after our former drummer Stephen left. He was in another band at the time and used to come out to our shows. We knew he could easily play the material so we asked him to join. That was two years ago. He stepped in during the last half of the writing phase. He added his own parts and helped arrange the new songs. He recorded the new album with us. Great drummer who’s into doom/death/and black metal as much as we are.
There’s at least one song strictly inspired by a horror movie in your discography — it’s “Baron Blood”. Do you have some songs of that kind in Grotesque Offerings?
“House of Dripping Gore” is inspired by the 19th-century serial killer HH Holmes. “Murderous Mr Hyde” was based off of the Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde book and movies. “Last Drop of Blood” is based on the movie Inquisition. And then some of the lyrics are based off our own dark thoughts.
Okay, what affects your own dark thoughts? Do you watch TV-news?
I rarely watch the news. So much suffering, hate, and bullshit you hear about every day. The media is just negative and feeds off the misery of others. My escape is my music. I mean, I’m into shows about fantasy and horror, but I’m also a huge art fan. Sometimes a piece of art can inspire me to write the most ghastly riffs or come up with a certain song title. I’m also a huge history nut. Just to go back and research history and ancient civilizations. There is inspiration all around us.
Do you remember the first horror movie you ever saw? What was it? Did it influence your perception somehow?
I was fascinated by horror movies as a kid. The Exorcist scared the hell out of me. Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things was another I watched early on. From there I was just curious and wanted to find any midnight movie on television channels that showed horror movies. I saw The Shining 14 times when it came out… haha.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy! Pete, I guess we already have a cool interview, so thanks for your time and the energy you put into it. How would you summarize Druid Lord’s sinister plans for 2018?
Thanks my friend for the great interview. Our goal is simple. Get out there and do some touring. Cities and places we’ve not reached before. Try and put out another album by the end of next year, and continue our plague of misery.
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