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Blood of Christ

Met ‘Unrelenting Declivity of Anguish’ melden de Canadese ‘Purveyors of Epic Dark Metal’ Blood of Christ zich weer aan het death metal front na een afwezigheid van twaalf jaar. Met een geschiedenis die teruggaat naar het jaar 1993 en drie albums uitgebracht tussen 1995 en 2003 was de band uit Ontario een waar begrip in de scene, maar vooral in hun thuisland waar de band veel shows speelde met Cryptopsy, Kataklysm, Incantation, Morbid Angel en vele andere bekende death metal bands. Met het ijzersterke comeback album dat ‘Unrelenting Declivity of Anguish’ is, street Blood of Christ ditmaal voor muzikale wereldheerschappij (zeker nu Slayer een stapje terug doet) en ze zouden daar best nog eens in kunnen slagen. Ik spreek met gitarist Jeff Longo over het verleden, het heden en de toekomst van Blood of Christ.

Door: Dennis | Archiveer onder death metal / grindcore

Thank you for taking the time to speak with us, Dennis! Very nice to hear from an old school friend in the scene after all these years.

You have just played a support show for Satyricon in Toronto, on the release date of your new album ‘Unrelenting Declivity of Anguish’. How did the show go?
Overall, it was excellent. Another stellar opportunity (offered to us by Inertia Entertainment, whom have been supportive of us since 1997) to share our music with an audience that might not normally check us out, as a death metal band. It is my feeling that we were well received and we gained new fans. It is a good testing ground, to show me that my confidence in Blood of Christ is justified and that we are ready to take our tanks on the road, everywhere.

Did you play a bunch of new songs and how did the crowd react to the new material?
Yes, definitely. We are showcasing at least 4 songs off of the new album, ‘Unrelenting Declivity of Anguish’. They go over very well, especially ‘Dragooned by Jupiter’; that one is monolithic and has some downright vicious pit riffs and moments. The new stuff definitely seems to generate ample amounts of excitement for the hordes down in the mosh pit, which is what drives us to bring the power and grind on stage.

So let’s continue with a little bit of history, it’s been fifteen years since the last release ‘Breeding Chaos’. Where have you guys been?
That’s a lengthy story that I wouldn’t want to inflict boredom on your readers with. Behind the scenes, I was always writing for and working on rebuilding Blood of Christ. Essentially, back in 2006, things just weren’t going in the right direction and the anima/inspiration for what Blood of Christ really was supposed to be, was lost and being marred by poor decisions made by newer band members. I won’t make that mistake again. A hiatus was a necessary event to bring about some healing for the epic dark metal entity that people knew and loved in the nineties and during that decade hiatus; there was rebuilding and strengthening. The time to finally again unleash this beast came in 2016, and I couldn’t be any happier with what we have done thus far, from that resurrection. Blood of Christ is stronger than ever and the wait was worth it.

Back in 2003 Jason left Blood of Christ and Jeff continued the band until 2006, but no new material was recorded anymore after 2003’s ‘Breeding Chaos’ album. What was the reason for the split back then?
Without airing dirty laundry, I would suggest that sibling rivalry was a ticking time bomb and that tension may have planted the seeds for a severance. That was a very difficult time, and it was at the end of 2004 that the split between Blood of Christ and Jason Longo occurred. Jason being asked to take a break from the band was what ultimately lead to the disgusting events of 2006 and me being the sole surviving original member; having to tolerate certain hobby musicians controlling my band’s destiny: awful. I am not sure why we didn’t make any albums after 2004, but in hindsight I am glad there aren’t any recordings from that era. It just didn’t have the focus that Blood of Christ should have had.

In 2016, after thirteen years of not playing in Blood of Christ together, you started jamming again with Blood of Christ. What was the reason you picked up the pieces and starting out new again?
Actually, 2016 wasn’t the first time. We started again in 2006 (as well as 2010 when Jason helped me out in another band), after a certain hobby, grumpy musician couldn’t handle our touring schedule… We called upon Jason Longo to again take the throne and participate in some gigs. However, one of the other aforementioned hobbyists in my band couldn’t decide if he wanted Jason Longo back in the fold again, so it was put on hold and I, unfortunately, let that happen. I regret it to this day. Letting some sideline weakling control Blood of Christ’s destiny was a major slipup on my part. Anyhow, since then I had always harbored feelings of wanting Jason Longo back in Blood of Christ and knew he was the right man for the job to handle my twisted riffs and writing. Sometimes, other priorities and life get in the way and things happen when the time is right. That time came in 2016. The reason we picked up the pieces? My life felt empty without being able to create, perform and record my epic dark metal.

How did it feel once you were playing death metal together again after such a long time? And how soon did you realize that the new cooperation was working out that well and that you needed a bass player and singer to complete the new line up?
We knew it was working out straight away and it felt monolithic and triumphant. Even before the first time Jason and I rehearsed again, we knew who we needed and wanted to achieve a ‘comeback’. I had my eye on both Chris Gooding (vocals) and Mark Chandler (the bass player) for many years before this all came to fruition and finally had the perfect time to invite them in to Blood of Christ. They both accepted and the result is a very strong beast.

Your old singer Conan Bulani unfortunately passed away in 2011, so you knew you had to find a suitable replacement for that spot. You found a more than worthy replacement in Chris Gooding (ex-Soul Less Divine). Was it hard to find a new singer?
I only had three suitable choices, Stefano Manera (former Blood of Christ singer and ex-Unborn Dead singer – whom was not interested in singing again at that time), Jason Deaville (original singer for Blood of Christ) and Chris Gooding. I actually approached Chris back in 2012 about singing for another band that I had going at that time, but he turned me down – and I’m glad he declined it, because it wasn’t suitable. That band wasn’t me, and it wasn’t Chris’ cup of tea either. Having him in that sideline band might have prevented this Blood of Christ resurrection from happening. Near miss there! Good thing it didn’t happen. Truth be told; the first person I asked to come help Blood of Christ on vocals was Jason Deaville. Chris was on my mind, but at that time I didn’t think he would be interested. At that time, Deaville had other obligations that would have prevented him from committing to the demands of a death metal band. Due to this, after a quick discussion with Jason Longo, we decided to approach Chris Gooding and to our delight; he was into it. So overall, I would say it wasn’t hard to find a new singer; albeit it was a bit of an anxious feeling not knowing who would stand up front for us and bring the death metal gutturals back to our epic dark metal numbers. Conan Bulani was a legend and an absolute beast on the microphone. He was also a good friend and we miss him, our new album is dedicated in part to him. It is my feeling that Conan would approve of Chris Gooding being the vocalist for Blood of Christ and what Chris has done with our songs.

Did you also consider taking back your old bass player Marek Kopala in the band?
These are well researched questions here Dennis! Yes, I did have discussions with Marek Kopala back in 2016 or thereabouts. The intent didn’t really seem to be, on his part, to full on get in a tank and follow us into battle; but rather Marek seemed interested in helping with writing and any other way he could. The thought was appreciated, because Marek was my original writing partner and we crafted some of my all-time favorite Blood of Christ songs together. However, it didn’t work out at that time and we were already considering Mark Chandler for the role; so as they say I guess the rest is history.

How did you and Mark Chandler get in contact?
Oh man, I can’t remember the first time I met Mark Chandler. I think it was in 2005, when he was playing bass in the legendary brutal death band ‘Orchidectomy’. I definitely know I saw him around that time at a gig in Cambridge, and I was floored by his skills. He reminded me of Alex Webster from Cannibal Corpse, who happens to be my all-time favorite bassist. At that time, I don’t think I approached Mark though, no, no I didn’t. I just observed him and put a pin in it, somewhere in the colonnades of my outrageous mind. In reality, I wanted to though; I wanted to fire the then current Blood of Christ bassist and ‘hire’ Mark Chandler. So, to be honest; I can’t remember how I first met and formally spoke with Mark Chandler, but; I do know that in 2016 I simply sent him an email asking if he would be interested. He responded back with some details about having been a fan of Blood of Christ back in the day and he would be honored to do it!

Last year you released the first single ‘Echoes From The 7th Dimension’, a killer death metal song and the first new piece of music in fourteen years. How were the reactions from old and new fans?
So far, we have received nothing but positive feedback. It has been flattering and exciting and I am grateful that people take the time to check us out. In this day and age, there are thousands of songs and artists to choose from. It’s great that we are one that people take interest in.

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Supposedly you have written about 16 new songs before you started recording the album, but only seven have landed on the new record. Enough material for another record? Or were these seven songs the absolute strongest compositions that you used?
It might not be fair for me to say that our songs are or are not strong, since I love them all and I am bias. Those seven songs that ended up on the album happened to be the ones that we had ready from top to bottom and were enthusiastic about at that time. There are many, many more songs in the Blood of Christ library of doom waiting to be captured on tape. Definitely, there is enough material for another album very soon. Having said that, we also don’t want to over saturate the listeners. As aforementioned, there is a lot of music out there these days and the EP format seems to be more well received. I’m not saying that our new album is an EP, not by any means, but; Blood of Christ songs tend to be lengthy and we somewhat have to hold back so that the album doesn’t end up being two hours long. Songs could get overlooked that way, these days; and I don’t want that to happen. I feel that all our songs have interesting qualities and identities of their own and deserve to be heard, equally. They’ll get their deserved treatment when the time is right. The seven songs that are featured on our new album, ‘Unrelenting Declivity of Anguish’ work well together and suit the theme of the album.

You recorded ‘Unrelenting Declivity of Anguish’ in the last three months of 2017. Can you tell us something about the recording process?
Yes absolutely I can Dennis. That’s correct, we recorded in the Autumn of 2017 with Thomas Ireland at Icehouse Studio in Goderich, Ontario. I highly recommend that other bands check him out. We took a slightly different approach than what we were accustomed to in the past, this time; but, I feel that it yielded a powerful end result. Recording with Thomas is very comfortable and low pressure. He has a good ear for a tight performance and he’s also very patient. Typically, in the past we would have recorded the drums first with a live off-the-floor scratch guitar track. This time, however, we tackled the guitars first and built a solid foundation with 4 thick and sick guitar tracks, as well as a tempo map (click track). Then, Jason Longo came in and recorded his drums over the completed guitars, same for Chris and Mark. This allowed for everyone to comfortably record at their own pace and such. We also keep everything natural when recording, no re-amping, no triggering the drums; just old school vintage instruments and some beast musicians laying down their epic dark metal. All taking place in a quiet little lakeside town in Ontario, where they happen to have the best donuts ever by the way. It is pretty nice to record there, that town holds a special place in my anima from my childhood.

You had Jean-Francois Dagenais master the album and the sound turned our really powerful, with a bigger production that all the other three albums you have put out. Are you satisfied with the result?
Fuck yeah! I think it sounds perfectly underground and swampy. Loud bludgeoning drums and vocals with nice crunchy swamp guitars and bass, just sitting there like a crocodile ready to attack! To me, it isn’t a typical death metal production though. It’s more organic feeling, more like the old school albums that we grew up on and love. I hope that people agree when they hear it. For Blood of Christ in 2017/2018, it is the perfect sounding album.

Can you tell me why you have chosen the title ‘Unrelenting Declivity of Anguish’ for your new album? Is there a story behind the titletrack?
It is a fun album title for sure! However, I honestly can’t recall how we came up with it. It might have been in some of Chris’ lyrics perhaps and we were attracted to it. Essentially, the overall sweeping statement of what this album is about would be: human suffering over time because of the prison our governments have created that we call society. We exist, as humans, in a dangerous and difficult era now. Life isn’t easy, and in fact it is more difficult for many people than it ever has been. From beginning to end, your life can be a downward spiral into anguish, especially if you’re a ‘have not’ in this society. Humans in general are a destructive force both on each other and on nature, and it is disgusting. Blood of Christ lyrics have always contained an element of human suffering. This album expands on that. That’s what happened to the guy on the album cover, he gored and dismembered himself because he was at his wits’ end.

During the course of Blood of Christ’s existence you have played a lot of shows with the bigger names from the Canadian scene like Kataklysm, Cryptopsy and Gorguts, but mainly you have played in Canada. Why haven’t you played so much outside of Canada, and is this something that you would like to do with the new reincarnation of the band?
Definitely, absolutely we would. Getting Blood of Christ over to Europe, Asia and anywhere else people would like to see us is priority number one right now. We’re working on it and we will find a way. Why haven’t we before? That is a question that I ask myself, on a daily basis; and to which I have no reasoning. We have had several gigs booked outside of Canada, in the States to be more specific; over the years and every time we have had something booked: the end result is cancelation or postponements, and so on. To me, it is not known why this has been our destiny; but we aim to change that very soon.

’Unrelenting Declivity of Anguish’ will be released through CDN Records. Do you think they have the proper marketing and distribution channels to push Blood of Christ and give you the audience that you deserve?
Absolutely, but I am not sure what we ‘deserve’. Both CDN Records and Black Element (the CDN Marketing/PR team) have been beyond incredible in helping us promote both the band and our new album. This album is doing and will do well for us, that’s my gut feeling.

I noticed you are using your old hand drawn The Blood of Christ logo from the early days of the band again. Why did you decide to go back to the roots with the logo?
Nostalgia perhaps, and because Jason Longo wanted to. He felt that it represented the more aggressive side of Blood of Christ, as opposed to the gothic side that we touched upon here and there. It is a nice throwback and I am happy that we have both the 1994 logo and the script logo in rotation.

Jason played drums for Incantation on four of their Canadian tourdates last year. How did that come about and how did he experience this?
Jason did help out Incantation with their Canadian dates on the Marduk tour, and he is doing so again later this year for Incantation on a tour with Dying Fetus. It came about because of Jay and Kim at Black Element, they recommended Jason Longo to John from Incantation, and the rest is history. From what Jason (Longo) has told me, the tour was excellent and he had a great time. It was really mind blowing to see Jason Longo up on stage with Incantation, playing songs that I grew up listening to.

So, with the new album out and some live shows played, what else can we expect from Blood of Christ, and what are your goals with the band in the long term?
Long term? Global Domination. With one of the big four retiring, there’s a pretty huge vacancy. Where do we apply for the gig? We would like to again stand alongside giants like it was in the nineties and bring our music anywhere that people would like to have us. We are already working on a new album, our 5th, as well as a reboot of our third album and hope to tackle one of those projects in early 2019. It is my hope that we pump out something new every year until we physically can’t play anymore because of old age. Also, we are planning a split 7’ vinyl release with Deformatory via CDN Records later this year. They’re a crushing death metal band from Ottawa, Ontario and are also on CDN Records. It’ll have two new songs from each band. So short term plan; record those two new songs probably in September, with Thomas Ireland. Aside from recording plans, we hope to get out on some mini-tours in new regions to showcase and support our 4th album and hopefully make new fans in the process!

Any last words for our readers?
Thank you Dennis for taking the time to speak with me, for showing interest and for supporting this heavy metal genre that we love. For your readers, if you take the time to check us out I am thankful and hope that you enjoy our album and music. If we are ever in your time, please come say hello and check out our gig! That’s how we will keep this genre alive and thriving, supporting the underground. Thank you!

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