This interview with Pete
Helmkamp of Angelcorpse features questions by U. Amtey
1. I'm sitting here listening to Carcass's first album as I type these questions, and I remembered something that I felt you might be interested in: when this album came out, in 1989 or whenever it was, I remembered being somehow disappointed (already) that some of the 'spirit' of the earlier extreme metal bands (here I mean: Possessed, Bathory, Kreator, Celtic Frost, Slayer) was slowly but surely disappearing: their drive, enthusiasm, passion, etc. In place of these emotions we now had a sterile and almost manufactured sound: extremity for extremity's sake. Now as I sit here and listen to the Carcass again, I can't help but feel the same way about the newest crop of bands, the nth wave of death metal groups that I now feel don't have the same passion Carcass did...ironic? Is it always this way? Are just certain bands you grow up with and can't trade in for others? Was there really something special about those mid-'80s bands? Something they captured with their sound that can never return? Or is it just the benefit of hindsight? Is the pure quality of bands in the scene just getting worse and worse? Is there any practical way to remedy this?
First off, I am a metal purist in the sense you've described above. I've always been after the most extreme. After three albums (or less) most of the 'great' bands have dissapointed me. There honestly are NO exceptions. So be it. So it goes. ETC. I've always been an analytical person, so therefore I've applied it to that which inspires me to be who I am: metal. OK, so what does that mean. It means that things occur in waves. And each successive wave is that much more extreme than the last, yet each wave inspires that many more to exceed it. And to copy it. We've seen this ever since we all began listening to metal. There are a few core bands that have either defined a sound or an energy or a passion, and then there are the multitudes that have followed in their wake. Yet during this expansion period, when those who are at the forefront, and (unfortunately) those who are riding on their laurels have moved forward, the seeds of what will become the next wave are already growing...... It's about a 3 - 5 year cycle, and it will always happen. So in answer, I think that there are bands from every cycle that are 'great' and many many more that are not. Each band fills a niche in the entire scheme of metal, but there are always new horizons to be conquered, and new tastes to be fullfilled.
2. I recently bought your first album 'Hammer of Gods' again, the remastered version, and I wanted to tell you that you guys did an excellent job with the CD - it sounds a lot better, bringing out a lot of dynamics in the music that I think were lost in the muffled sound the first time. The soloing, for example, really stands out now. I really enjoyed your vicious cover of Possessed's 'Burning in Hell' - I thought it was about time Possessed got a nod in their direction, they are one of my favorite bands and are obviously influences on your musical convictions. How do you guys feel about your first album - are you still proud of it? Why do you think it had such an impact on the scene, gaining you so much attention so quickly? Did it accurately reflect the messages you wanted to put forth at the time? How do you think you have progressed beyond it? What did you take away from the first album's reception that changed your ideas about your own sound?
We are very proud of Hammer of Gods. As a first album it came across quite well. And of course as a first album, the band itself can only view it as a fledgling step in the proper direction. I myself think that although the musicianship was good on it, the chaos and brutality of Angelcorpse wasn't successfully captured in the recording. Exterminate definitely has this quality, and maybe a bit too much (but not for my tastes!), but The Inexorable splits the difference so to speak. Unfortunately too many people didn't view Hammer as a real and unique experience, they tried to categorize it with so many other trends: retro, black metal, whatever. They couldn't fathom the concept of Angelcorpse in and of itself. Funny, that seems to be the way it has always been for bands really pushing things forward and doing a unique thing: impossible for the common man to grasp and fully comprehend except by (and wrongly so) comparison.
3. 'The Inexorable' is, in my humble opinion, a very passionate and angry album, filled to the brim with an overwhelming hatred - what motivates these emotions? Do you see your music as a catharsis, an effective way to release your emotions, or is it something else - a vehicle for the spreading of your own convictions and/or beliefs, a musical equivalent of your own philosophical explorations? Can Angel Corpse be separated from your political/idealogical motives, or are they inextricably entwined? What are the main ideological tenets behind Angel Corpse's message?
Passionate and angry indeed: it is the essence of my existence. I use Angelcorpse as a cathartic release as well as a medium to pass along my ideaology. A vehicle on several levels. See me on stage, I am animalistic and pure passion, see me off the stage, I am intellectual and deliberating, educating. I have come to grips with the multi-facets of my being, and I am not afraid to allow these shapes to come into being. In fact I've designed my world around me to allow these things to occur. Main idealogical tenets: struggle brings triumph. One must never sleep, the enemy is here and always lying in wait. Therefore prepare for war. Build strength, build wisdom, solidify one's own world with powerful and positive associates, so that when hurdles appear they can be overcome, and when negative actions and folk push themselves into your sphere, they can be dispatched quickly, effectively and without blinking. A morality to suit our purpose, but on a macrocosmic perspective. Can you understand? Perhaps you should try.
4. In finishing the thoughts from the above question: tell me a little more about your writing, both the process of scribing lyrics for Angel Corpse and the books you have finished - what are your direct motivations for writing? Are there any particular environments or situations that you find particularly inspiring? What do you hope to accomplish with the books you have written? Do you think it's necessary for followers of Angel Corpse to read your longer works? How has the response been to your books so far? Is 'Stormgods Unbound' closest in theme to your books out of all your songs?
I am a messenger. Nothing that I write is anything out of the ordinary, unusual, original. Yet it is in this day and age. Why? And I ask myself that everyday. So therefore I feel that much more compelled to spread what I have felt necessary to write down. If all these things were in effect, then my actions would be redundant, even foolish. But we have become so lost. The obvious is now the intangible, the un-understandable. The incredible. I don't think it's necessary for Angelcorpse fans to read my works, actually I'd prefer a much wider audience than simply metal fans. In my experience, most metal fans are far from the ideals I'm proposing........ Some shall ascend though. Stormgods Unbound is a tribute in some respects: a vision that was pure in intent yet clouded in direction and results. A brilliant ideal to strive for in the future, once the flaws have been exposed and remedied.
5. Why do you feel it's necessary to remind the people who read your interviews that Angel Corpse are a 'live band' primarily? Did you ever receive criticism on this front - people saying that you lacked experience in this aspect? Why do you think it's so important for a band to be willing to tour or play live? I know that your band has been touring almost constantly, having recently returned from a European tour with Marduk - how did the tour go? Were there any experiences that really stand out? How did the crowds react to the newest material?
We don't feel the necessity to alert people to the fact that Angelcorpse is a live band - that much is obvious. However, I don't respect bands that can't or won't play live: metal is a live experience. So be it. Our latest tour was fantastic: Marduk are an incredible band live, and are like-minded brothers, so our time together was a great one. Hopefully we'll see something like this occur in the States. Europe has definitely been assaulted now three times by Angelcorpse, and I think the crowds are getting better everytime. Poland and France are evidence enough - pure chaos and aggression! They were shouting along with the lyrics, particularly on the new album. Highest hails to them!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We'll return to scourge those shores in June, so beware!
The scourge of the French shores...
6. Are there any themes or subject areas that you think are particularly the domain of Angel Corpse - things that you deal with that everyone else misses or avoids? What makes Angel Corpse original? Are there any other bands in the world scene that you think are allied closely with Angel Corpse's convictions and/or sound?
Conviction: Centurion, Krisiun, Rebaelliun, Diabolic, Conqueror, Abominator. As far as sound I really can't say: I feel that Angelcorpse really has a unique sound even among the new wave of extreme death metal. But that just may be my own near-sightedness...... Musically we push the limits, but doesn't everyone? Lyrically as well: I push the limits of all that should and shouldn't be discussed. And haven't folks in the past done this as well? Of course, and some have been extolled, and some have been burned at the stake. Yet we know no other way. What is right is right. It remains to be seen whether the ears are turned in our direction.
7. What direction do you want to take Angel Corpse in now, after this latest release? Do you see the sound of the band evolving naturally, growing towards a certain goal, or do you have definite ideas about the way that you want the band to sound in the future - things that you are going to introduce forcefully? I have a feeling that the aesthetic side of Angel Corpse's sound is really controlled by your convictions and Gene's preferences...but do you ever feel pressured, for example, to change your sound in any way? Do you feel pressured to try to take the sound to a level of extremity that sometimes doesn't fit the music very well?
To be quite honest, its not that deliberate of an approach. Its instinct and passion at its utmost. As much as it is forceful, it is also flowing: we just allow that which is inside us to spew out. I really can't explain why I write what I write. It just is. And that's one of my theories on life: there is no 'why' only 'is'. Don't question, just do. That's why I am where I am today. Because IS is important, and unstoppable. One can try to stop it, but it only leads towards negative paths and pitfalls. Follow the IS and look back in triumph at the acccomplishments and conquests - or be dead in the trying. Either way is honorable.
8. How do you feel about the music industry? I know that you (or Gene) are also busy releasing Angel Corpse vinyl on the side - do you find that releasing CDs on a major scale (with long delays between them) doesn't satisfy your need to put out songs when they are prepared? Would you rather just release material as it is readied and not have to wait for album-length productions? I recently started trying to regain my record collection...are you guys fans of vinyl still - lusting after it for your collections, etc.? Are there any particular items that you really prize in your personal collection? Why do you think the metal scene has always been so fond of vinyl?
The music industry: a necessary evil. So be it. We release EPs cos we feel the need: maybe some extra tracks, maybe something that wouldn't necessarily fit so well on an album,, whatever. I prefer full length albums: you can have the ebb and flow required to properly put across that which you want to put across. Funny, I recently started parting with my collection. I realized that the world is full of intangibles and pseudo-glories. And I looked at a huge collection of records and thought to myself. What is this in the whole scheme of things? The music absolutely, but the medium? False. But I do applaud the metal scene in desiring those collectibles I'm currently selling off! And no offense: if it makes someone happy to get their hands on 'x' album, which I've had for 15 years and has outlived its usefullness for me, then great, we both benefit. Hell, I can buy new equipment or get tattoos - both of which are of greater importance than holding on to some relic of the past that I have branded in my memory and therefore do not need a concrete item to remind me of.
9. Why do you think so many extreme metal bands - or heavy metal bands in general - usually stay very close to mystical and occult topics in their music? Is it just tradition now - going all the way back to Black Sabbath, a part of the 'style', or are there deeper reasons for it? Do you think that an occult path is indispensable for metal musicians? Is the occult path really a true avenue to enlightenment? What are the most important lessons to be learned if someone wanted to follow such a path?
I don't have any concern with the occult. It seems a mindless sidetrack if you ask me. Anti-christianity yes. Anti-egalitarianism yes. But I have no respect for the voodoo hocus pocus offered up by any charlatan, be they left hand or right hand path. I've transcended that long ago. My writings, particularly in "the Conqueror Manifesto" could be misconstrued as occult, but I only use certain aspects of that, but all in relation to REALITY. For that is really what we're concerned with isn't it? Or at least it should be. There really isn't any real need to explore the occult: just pick up some Nietzsche or Machiavelli or Sun Tzu. Iconoclastic and reality-based thinking that is applicable to modern society.
10. Do you find any other styles or genres of music inspiring to you other than metal? If so, why? Do you think metal is the best format for expressing 'extreme' emotions?
Noise music like NON, MZ 412, Merzbow, Masonna and other various Jap stuff, etc. It fits into my weltanschauung of what I like to hear. Also brutal hardcore like Genocide SS, Wolfpack, Integrity, Nasum..... And some classical as well: Penderecki, Moussorgsky, Grieg, Orff. To be quite honest, metal doesn't really satisfy what I want to hear alot of the time. Not because it can't, but because it doesn't. Only a few new metal bands are really on the right track. I've mentioned a few above, but also Destroyer 666, Spear of Longinus, Impiety, Abhorrence. Brutal, bestial, sadistic, savage, overthetop warfare. Fuck the rest.
11. What is the story behind that bass you use, Pete? What kind of instrument is it and where the hell did you pick it up? Do you use it for recording as well as live shows? It has to be one of the most gnarled bass guitars I have ever seen...
Ahh the Panzerbass. A pure bastard if I ever knew one. Traded a Venom "Welcome to Hell" picture disc for it (plus $300 to get it repaired), so you damn well know that I fucking wanted it for sure. First off, Cronos and Angelripper used a similar shape, and secondly, its got winter camo! Sounds like a fucking Tiger tank roaring down the road and looks even better! I've got an Ibanez Iceman now as my mainstay, but the Panzerbass is used for the down tuned tracks.... It's not going anywhere.
12. And to finish this interview up: what can we expect from Angel Corpse in the future? Are you guys currently working on new material? In the space left please leave any information you want the readers of this magazine to see.
Well we're touring again in May with Vader and Krisiun in the States, and then off to Europe again in late June. Be there or beware!!!!!!!!!!