(With a new album and a new split under their belts for 2022 so far, Druid Lord have made a strong start for the year, and the time was right for Comrade Aleks to reach out to Druid Lord guitarist Pete Slate for a new conversation — and you’ll find the results below.)
I love Druid Lord, and I bet that you love them. Their debut album Hymns for the Wicked (2010), which represented wicked death-doom metal, offered a few absolutely thrilling tracks and a sweet old-school attitude which was propelled ahead through a series of splits and EPs until the sophomore full-length Grotesque Offerings (2018) appeared.
Druid Lord introduced me to a few old horror movies that I didn’t know, as well as their death-doom colleagues Wooden Stake, another great band with a similar concept behind it. I couldn’t skip their new album Relics of the Dead, released by Hells Headbangers Records earlier in 2022, and now – in addition – Me Saco Un Ojo Records has announced Druid Lord’s split with Anatomia which is scheduled for release on May 15th. Another good reason to get in touch with mister Pete Slate (guitars), who’s always ready to talk about “doom/death metal with horror themes and overtones”.
Hail Druid Lord! How are you? What’s going on in your lair?
Hello from the gloomy, moldy crypts of our lair! Druid Lord is getting ready to do some shows over the next few weeks. We just played the Death Nexus Festival in Philadelphia, PA this weekend and it was incredible. Some sick underground bands on the fest. Then we return to FL and play select cities in Orlando, Tampa, and later a Metal Festival in Jacksonville. We are also working on the final details with Kill Town Booking for our November European tour with Anatomia.
Musically speaking, Gurgling Gore Records is releasing our previous 7” EPs Druid Death Cult and Baron Blood on cassette tape very soon. We also have a split 7” EP with Anatomia coming out on Me Saco Un Ojo Records.
I didn’t hear about your split with Anatomia! Did you prepare new songs for this release?
We were in contact with Anatomia about doing a split 7” EP months before we started recording the Relics album. When it came time to record our last album, we recorded an extra track special for the split. We asked Mark Riddick to do a wrap-around art piece so that both bands would have their own artwork on each side of the EP but when opened it makes for one large drawing. The whole package looks amazing. There will be a black and white vinyl version on Me Saco Un Ojo Records.
The situation changes each month, but I hope that you’ll be able to play that European tour. What are your ambitions? How many gigs do you plan to perform?
I believe there are 9 dates planned. Maybe a few festivals. The itinerary is not quite completed as of yet so we are waiting for the actual routing. I do know that one of the dates is the Winter Rising Festival with Varathron and others. I believe it’s in Paris, France. We are so eager to get to Europe and play some heavy tunes.
Your previous album Grotesque Offerings was released back in 2018, and Relics of the Dead appeared just three months ago. How did you spend this period between albums?
We spent 2019 playing shows. We did a small tour here in the States that included the Metal Threat Festival in Chicago. We started writing the new album and working on the material for Relics. We then played the Total Death over Mexico 3 Fest in early 2020 and then covid went into full force. Unfortunately, we had a planned tour with Hooded Menace for the summer of ’20 but that was all canceled. Very disappointed as we were planning on that. However, that gave us the down time to finish writing the album and really make sure it was going in the direction we wanted. With covid we recorded remotely, and it took time to mix/master properly, but in the end everything worked out. We had all the music done fall of 2021.
There was the whole pandemic period and a lot of other shit between the two albums. Was it different for you to keep Druid Lord alive in comparison with those years before 2019?
I don’t think so. We didn’t play many shows after Total Death over Mexico Fest since the pandemic. We felt the need to just take some time off to get this album ready and done for Hells Headbangers. We did a few “pandemic live videos (at our rehearsal place) during that time and one for Helsinki Death Fest. That was to keep us going and playing music when we could. I think the pandemic break forced us to really focus on the album and not get distracted with playing shows.
Pete, you started in Acheron, then you spent 17 years in Equinox. Do you stay in touch with the people who supported your stuff in the pre-Druid Lord days? Distributors, journalists, etc? How many shops and fanzines were closed before your eyes?
I do. There are quite a few people who were aware of my activities in Equinox. Currently we are in dealings with VIC records to re-release our first two albums on CD/Vinyl with bonus material. I feel it’s a good time to have these albums finally re-emerge with a proper label. The songs have been remastered as well. Who knows, there could even be some new Equinox down the road if the proper deal was proposed. I’m excited to get these albums out there to newer fans also who may of not know of the band. It’s good to keep in contact with the people who lived and supported metal in those days.
People’s reactions and support are very important for any artist. Did anything change on this side from your point of view?
This support for Relics of the Dead and Druid Lord has been so much bigger than our previous albums. Some people are hearing Druid Lord for the first time, which is interesting since we’ve been around since 2010. The new album is turning people on to our older albums and the response has been great. We’ve gotten more attention. I feel this album really strikes a chord with our supporters, as we were incorporating more fast and aggressive parts but keeping the slow and heavy parts intact.
How did you work with the Relics of the Dead material? What was on your mind when you entered Blakk Magick Studios in the spring of 2021?
We knew we wanted a different sound for this album. More organic and natural, but still heavy. We recorded all the drums, guitars, and bass parts first. Then Tony added his vocals. We then we worked with Dan Lowndes at Resonance Studios, who did all the mixing/re-amping. Dan is a master of his craft, so we knew we had to work with him. The final mastering went off to Greg Chandler at Priory Studios.
I knew the album had to flow from one song to the next creating this sinister, dark, foreboding feeling. The lyrics and vocals had to have that evil and haunting rasp, and the guitar parts had to weave in and out of the rhythms to create this dark gloomy atmosphere. We pulled it off quite well.
All of Druid Lord’s albums were recorded at Blakk Magick Studios… I’ve found only Black Magic Pizza and Black Magic Hair Studios in Florida, so what’s it about? Didn’t Tony make it… “official”?
It’s Tony’s “home” studio where he records some of the FL bands. Having Blakk Magick really allows us to work at our own pace and figure out all the music. It’s not his full-time gig as he has a family and runs his own business, but he enjoys recording and working with other bands.
What about your own “business”? Is it easy to find time for the band nowadays?
I have a full-time sales job working in property and casualty insurance. One of my band members is a teacher, and the other guys own their own business. We know how important music and this band is, so we make time for the band. We make it a priority. At the same time, we have lives to live, bills to pay, and family/kids. It’s all about balance and how to make things work. I’ve been doing this a long time. In my early 20s I was off doing things the “wrong” way. I feel fortunate at this point in my life I can play metal and make it all work.
It seems the death metal essence almost prevails over the death-doom stuff in Relics of the Dead. How organic was this change for you?
It was a very natural change for us. We all come from death metal backgrounds. Acheron, Equinox, our guitar player Chris is also in Killing Addiction, so the death metal elements were second nature to us. I felt after playing more shows that this album needed to become harsher and more aggressive. Our thoughts were to keep the doom parts heavy but incorporate them into the fast, more death metal arrangements. It was a very natural progression that will continue moving forward.
“All songs are like children”… I know, I know! What’s your favorite child from Relics of the Dead?
All of them.haha… If I had to choose ONE… it would be “Festering Tombs”. The song is dark, moody, and has some really atmospheric changes.
And I understand your point! Tell us more about “Festering Tombs” please! How did you compose this one?
“Festering Tombs” was the last song written for Relics… I wanted the song to be slower than the rest and really capture the mood. It’s got these eerie notes in the beginning and then the middle section has these haunting notes (almost in a black metal mood) going into some cool guitar harmonies. The way the lyrics/vocals flow into the music just works for me. We made a special visualizer video for the song, and it came out very cool. Hells Headbangers put it up on YouTube. Still gives me goosebumps listening to it even now.
How serious are you regarding the songs’ lyrics? You’re in metal for more than 30 years, and you know everything about how difficult it is to write something new for a death metal or death-doom album.
Let’s put it this way: Lyrically, about every subject in metal has been done. We are not reinventing the wheel here, and we are certainly not going to change the world with our lyrics… haha. It’s all about finding those subjects and topics that we find interesting. We do this for us #1. Druid Lord is doom/death metal with horror themes and overtones. That’s what we do. Tony and I write what we feel the mood of the song is. Sometimes we already have a title (theme) in mind. Then we write the music, then lyrics last.
A lot of your songs are based on horror movie plots, and you pay attention to creating the right atmosphere even in your own brutal way. Which movies inspired you for the Relics of the Dead songs?
For certain songs off the record we went more American horror vibes this time. Carpenter, King, Wes Craven… again just for inspiration. We get ideas from certain films/directors from movies like Evil Dead, Friday the 13th, Incredible Melting Man, but still keeping elements from movies like Tombs of the Blind Dead, Bloody Judge. We are just a huge mixed bag of horror junkies.
How do you like modern horror movie trends? You know, I’d like to tell that I’m fan of good old VHS era stuff, because I watched a lot of movies from the ’80s… during 90s. But nowadays only a minor part of those films evokes any feelings, though there are absolute masterpieces, no doubt! And at the same time we have new horror movies (even a few mainstream ones) which are sheer killer.
We also grew up in the VHS era of horror movies so that’s where we get most of our ideas from. There are some good modern horror movies but most the time my inspiration is from the old B-horror. However, movies from the 2000s that I’ve really enjoyed were Hostel, Mandy, The Others, Drag me to Hell, 28 Days Later… the list goes on and on. If the movie is well-written and the acting is good then I’m on board.
How long ago did Druid Lord play its songs on stage?
We just played our first show of 2022 about a month ago in Ocala, FL. We also finished the Death Nexus Fest. This weekend starts a busier schedule and getting back out there booking as many shows/fests as we can.
Are you satisfied with the way things go around the band? The scene is enormously bigger now than before, and it looks like a lot of bands have the same limits, like a limited number of CD runs, fewer people on gigs, and so on.
I am satisfied for the most part. Druid Lord is getting great momentum and we want to keep that going. There is no doubt we’ve seen a change over the last 10 years. Maybe now that the pandemic is over more people will come out to the shows. Vinyl now is always behind schedule and that’s disappointing. However, as long as there are people into the music that’s all that matters to us.
We have certain goals moving forward. For example, at this point we are looking for a proper booking agency or management to assist us with getting better gigs and proper tours. You’re right there are TONS of bands popping up. The way social media is, one person can pick up and a guitar and form a (one man) band. I feel a lot of good bands get lost in the shuffle. However, the strong bands that are serious will stick around and keep progressing. We don’t concern ourselves with all that. We do our thing and push forward the death-doom into everyone faces.
Thanks for the interview Pete! Let’s hope this year will be a successful one for Druid Lord! Any final words of horrifying shocking wisdom for our readers?
Huge thanx for taking the time composing your questions. We are 100% dedicated to the underground, and we appreciate the work you do. Get ready for more shows and dark music from the Druid Lord Horde. We have more work to do. Check out Druidlordoffical on Instagram and for merchandise www.druidlord.com