First of all, congratulations on your killer debut, ‘The Virus Conspires’. But before we get more into that, Shrapnel is still a pretty young band and seeing that this is the first time we do an interview with you guys, please take the time to tell a bit about your history in order to introduce the band to our readers.
Thank You, yeah we started in April 2009 so it’s been five years now. We started out just for fun, we wanted to play some thrashy stuff and decided to get something together. We knew each other through past bands, the scene in Norwich, school etc so it was pretty easy to get things going. We have had some small line-up changes since the beginning, recorded two EP’s and jumped into recording this album in 2012.
‘The Virus Conspires’ is released on Candlelight Records. The ‘No Saviours’ and ‘The Devastation to Come’ EPs were quite strong, but still getting signed with Candlelight is quite an achievement. How did the contact and contract with Candlelight take place? Did you have the album finished already before getting in touch with record companies?
The EP’s were us learning how to record and write, we managed to get Russ Russell to record the Devastation to Come in 2010 and we had fun doing it, it was mutually exciting to be able to get a full album done and we did that off our own backs. With the record being that strong and finished, from an unsigned band, we were hoping for some interest and Candlelight were keen to take the album further. We had everything covered, the album was fully recorded and mastered with Russ out of our pockets, the artwork was finished by Eliran Kantor and the only thing that needed doing was press and print. We were put in touch with the label through Dom Lawson of Metal Hammer and Oaf fame and after that everything moved pretty quickly.
The second EP followed the first one rather quickly, but it took you guys four years to release the debut album. What took you so long to finally realize ‘The Virus Conspires’?
The first EP we threw together in like six months, we just got a few songs together and went for it. We realised quite quickly that we could do something and achieve something if we released something better. We spent a year writing and gigging as much as possible and recorded the second EP in 2010. While we did the EP we were learning and finding our feet, the whole recording process was a learning experience and we knew then we wanted to make sure the album was as good as we could make it. After the recording for the ‘Devastation’ EP Chris Williams, our original Drummer left. We spent over 6 months getting a replacement sorted before we could finish the writing process and get gig ready so there was a bit of time lost there. Once Simon stepped in though it took us a year to finish writing and get into the studio in 2012. The album has been finished since then and it’s taken a bit of time to get a label on board and then get it pressed and out there.
Thrash metal in general has been resurrecting in the last few years. Most new bands concentrate on the old-school sound and it looks as if the music comes straight from the eighties. As mentioned already, Shrapnel also refers to the “classics”, but with a whole different and even modern approach, without losing the old-school vibe. Do you think in that way the band distinguishes itself from the many colleague thrashers in a positive way?
I wouldn’t say we think about it in that way. We take our main influences from those classic albums and the classic era of Thrash but I think having other influences brings in that something different. Between us we like everything from The Beatles to Taake and beyond so it’s taking what we love and if it works we use it. I think having that wide variety of influences and reference points gives us something a little different while our core influences keep us grounded in what we are.
I also think that one of the things that makes Shrapnel interesting is that, unlike many colleagues, you don’t keep to one sub-genre of thrash but take influences from typical German thrash like Kreator, Destruction and Sodom, Bay Area influences like Exodus, Testament and (obviously) Slayer, and Sepultura and of course your own Onslaught. As I mentioned in my review, all of these influences have been melted together into one thrash blast that will apply to a broad audience. In how far can you agree on this? Is that what you had in mind or did it come more or less naturally?
It’s all natural, we just play what we love. We listen to all of the above and at different points a part or a riff will pop up and you make the connection to a certain band or song and we will either use those kind of ideas or we will avoid them and do our own thing but yeah it’s all filtered down from Thrash as a whole and then spiced up with everything else we listen to.
Speaking of the “comeback” of thrash, why do you think more and more young bands, including yourself, and musicians choose for this style again nowadays? Except for the love for the music of course.
We get a buzz playing this stuff live. It’s challenging and it pushes you but the reactions live are so rewarding. It’s also long lasting. Thrash has been around for so long and while it’s currently being viewed as a ‘comeback’ it was still always there and with many genres and fads in music now being so temporary or throw-away I think Thrash and Traditional Heavy metal has more appeal, you know you’re in for the long haul.
One of the striking points on ‘The Virus Conspires’ is also definitely the fantastic production. You recorded the album with Russ Russell, who has delivered a clear, heavy and very strong sound. Can you tell more about your choice for Russ as producer and his influence on the band and the album?
We love the guy to bits, he did an amazing job on our second EP and we learnt so much from him so we couldn’t not do the album with him. It took everything we had to be able to pull it off but we couldn’t be happier with the result. He had an idea of what we were after and he delivered, he’s been our producer, teacher, mentor and good friend for the last few years and help us immeasurably in achieving some of our goals.
What can you tell about the lyrical themes you deal with? The majority of the songs are dealing with war in general, but are there also subjects on a more personal note and are you trying to bring a message across with your lyrics?
We try to mix it up as much as possible and actually avoided the war subject almost entirely on The Virus Conspires. We try to stray subjects we have done previously and what other bands are covering. The title track and the closing tracks cover the economic situation of the last decade and was hard to avoid with it being so relevant to current climates. We also cover historical and political themes with Red Terror, about Bolshevik Russian history and 22 which covers the atrocities of North Korean prison camps. There’s also songs like Braindead which is an attack on the current media and reality TV trends, Titan which is a Sci-Fi spin, Kingdom and Watchers which have religious themes and more. It’s pretty varied.
How is the metal scene in the UK nowadays in general? By that I also mean how difficult it is for underground metal bands like yourself to get a decent rehearsal room, gigs and promotion in your local, national scene?
Rehearsing isn’t a problem There’s plenty of options although it’s got quite expensive in recent years. Gigging and promotion is also pretty great if you’re willing to work at it. The bands who network and push themselves out there do well for themselves so it’s what you make of it. We’ve been lucky in getting on some bills with our favourite bands and at our favourite venues but it’s also been a lot of hard work.
Speaking of gigs; I couldn’t see if there are any gigs scheduled yet to support the album. Is there a chance to see the band on stage soon across Europe?
Europe is next on our hit-list. We recently started working with Factory Music and have plenty in the pipeline that we are waiting to confirm. We did a small UK run after the album dropped with Overkill and Xentrix which was a lot of fun and there’s some pretty exciting things on the horizon!
Well, I guess the last question for now is what can we expect from Shrapnel in the near future?
Tour dates and hopefully some new music! We want to keep the wheels rolling now we’ve been able to get things moving and hopefully we can follow up with another strong album next year and in the mean time we will be playing as much as possible.
Alright then, I guess we can wrap it up for this time. Unless of course there is anything left that you’d like to mention.
Thanks and Take Care!