Blacking DieHard Hamagiri Metal!!

Japan's SABBAT is a really special band for both myself and a lot of other lovers of thrash metal. Actually, calling them "thrash" isn't quite right, for there is a lot of all kinds of metal styles in their music. One thing is for certain, they are a cult favorite, and will continue to be one in the future.

It seems like in several countries, there has been at least one band that has stood above all others, in both their music and their image. America has Blackie Lawless and W.A.S.P. England has had several, most notably MOTORHEAD and the mighty VENOM. But alongside these monsters of mayhem, one must also list Japan's SABBAT. To me, this trio of crazed metal worshippers has no equal, and I think all who have heard them would agree that they truly are something special. As you're about to see, bassist/ vocalist Gezol is one of a kind.

When SABBAT was first formed, were there a lot of bands in Japan playing this kind of metal, or were you one of the first?

That was back in '84. There were no satanic or black metal bands like SABBAT in Japan. So of course, we're the first band to play this kind of metal in Japan. Japanese metal around '84 was like the "Golden Era of Thrash Metal and Traditional." They were the best days. Do you know the bands CASBAH, JURASSIC JADE, DOOM, RAGING FURY... or LOUDNESS, .44 MAGNUM, SNIPER, REACTION? I hated to do the same thing as them, so naturally I selected satanic and black metal. This is "my way!" I liked things like the occult, spirits, satanism, strange tales, to it was natural for me, and also for the other members.

How much of a metal scene does Japan have? I know of only a few bands, including SABBAT, ABIGAIL, SIGH, and INTESTINE BAALISM. AAAAAARRRRGHHH!!!!

The Japanese scene is very small. Almost all the people do not support Japanese bands. People support the bands from overseas. We're always underground. But I'm satisfied with this situation. I like this Hell a lot! There are no suckers! Only the guys that really like us come to our live shows and buy our stuff. I don't need foolish people! So we, ABIGAIL, SIGH, INTESTINE BAALISM, and others are very special. Both us and them are so "die hard!" When most of the young bands realize how small the Japanese scene is, they break up quickly. Heavy metal is like fashion for them. But heavy metal is a way of life for us.

The Western world seems to maintain an image that Japan is a very conservative country. But your band really thrashes things up!

Japan is conservative? In Japan, there are many industrial and alternative rock bands. I think this kind of music comes from the USA. Almost all the people run to these foolish trends. Surely, the bands that have thrashy riffs are few. Only us, TERROR SQUAD, ...INTESTINE BAALISM is a little thrashy I think... or DEFILED are still around. Oh! JURASSIC JADE are still thrash metal. In Japan it's not that the 80s thrash style is not popular. It's that there's not many groups. In Japan, melodic power heavy metal is very popular. But the bands of this style are few... Why? I don't know either. When I began SABBAT, the scene was full of thrash, moshing, and headbanging! I'm influenced by BATHORY, SLAYER, DESTRUCTION, SODOM, and various other metal bands. The early days of thrash were so exciting. I can't forget them! I never run to trends. I don't like modern blast beats, because they're not metal. We cannot do any headbanging to it! Modern black metal's emphasis is on "black," but SABBAT's emphasis is on "metal." Don't forget it. SABBAT's lyrics are satanic or occultic, but the sound is more heavy metal and thrash metal. And I know how thrash metal was born. The New Wave of British Heavy Metal was in my time also. NWOBHM, then power and speed metal, next was thrash, and then death. Black metal existed in NWOBHM... it was VENOM! So NWOBHM was the root that created dark and evil metal.

Why are all of your releases so limited? Most are only in five hundred copies.

My purpose for releases is for promotion and for the metal maniacs. My label, Evil Records' distribution is not strong. It has limits, as I cannot do all the work myself. I think my most important thing is the creation of music. So I don't have extra money for advertisements and extra promotions. So if someone wants to release my material, I'm always welcome to the idea. And I like underground metal maniacs. So I can offer my original pressings to them. And when my original five hundred copies are sold out, I end up covering all my basic costs, and we can record a new one again. There is almost never any extra money. But I like recording, so we will record the next album soon. The business parts are not for me. Anyway, I think the demand for my music isn't big. Which makes business difficult. But the guys that really like SABBAT are the true metal fans, I think. This is my pride.

Since SABBAT albums are so limited, are you for or against them being bootlegged?

If our stuff was bootlegged, it's a very good thing for us. It's proof of being "cult." I have not seen LOUDNESS bootlegs, and they're a big name band. We are heavier than them. If anybody wants to release or bootleg my stuff, do it!

Do you end up re-releasing a lot of material on newer albums, such as the For Satan and Sacrifice CD?

No. SABBAT's first album [Envenom] was re-released by Italy's Entropy Records. And the second album [Evoke] will be re-released by Nazgul's Eyrie Productions from Germany. I'm always welcome to offers from SABBAT maniacs. Re-releases are no problem for me. To be honest, I don't want to do the work of distros, ads and promotions.... I only want to do music, whether it's creating it or communicating with fans. So I've got a contract with NEP. He says he'll pay all recording and album press costs. This is the best way for us and all musicians, I think. The Black Up Your Soul and For Satan and Sacrifice CDs were special albums for us and all SABBAT freaks, for the tenth anniversary. My ten years were never fast but were long. But I wanted to prove the neverchanging SABBAT attitude. "Black up your soul for Satan and sacrifice" is a slogan from the early days.

Are there plans to collect your many 7" records onto one CD?

They will never see a CD pressing! But, one German guy told me he wants to relase our early 7" records onto on vinyl LP. So I don't have a problem with it. I've recently told him to do it. I don't want to do a release of all vinyl EPs and LPs onto CDs! This is my "die hard" attitude. This is my respect to fans. I love SABBAT fans, and the fans love SABBAT. If the respect isn't together, the die hard metal spirit will be nothing. CDs are very convenient, but this is in respect to the many vinyl maniacs. That German guy runs Iron Pegasus Records and Tales of the Macabre mag. His name is Costa [Stoios]. He will be releasing my side project METALUCIFER Heavy Metal Drill, in a European version. If you're interested in it, contact him. The CD will be $15 or DM23. His address is Costa Stoios, Brunnenstr. 6, 54538 Hetzhof, Germany. After SABBAT toured in Germany, he contacted me. He understood my attitude well. He is already a "Kamikaze Killer!"

Why is it that some albums are only on vinyl, such as the Live 666: Japanese Armageddon? Do you prefer vinyl over CDs?

Live 666 is also a "special edition" for all SABBAT fans and will never see CD! In Japan, making vinyl is very expensive. So, I did it! That was the "20th Century the Very Last Japanese Heavy Metal Vinyl LP" plan! This was a foolish plan to most people. But, it may have been a fuckin' great plan for SABBAT maniacs and vinyl maniacs. Almost all Japanese releases are on CD. So will I become a part of history? If anyone does the same as me, my next plan is "21st Century the Very First...."! HA!

Is SABBAT against using synth in metal music? Not that I have a problem with you not using it!

It is a problem about "how to use" a synthesizer. Basically, I don't like them. They're not metal. But if it's being used to create a sound effect, then no problem. So SABBAT have tried using some synth on some songs on each album. Temis Osmond [guitars] was learning the piano. Sound effects are important to create emotional atmospheres. But the current trendy black metal bands are boring. Their synth is not effective. I cannot feel the evil power from them. Boring!

How difficult was it to create The Dwelling album? As a one hour long song, it seems like it would have been very difficult to write and perform.

It was a bit difficult. But basically, it wasn't a problem. The Dwelling is well calculated. The sound quality is also well calculated. I like Italian horror movies. They've got such a "B-grade" image, and they fit into my concept. The Dwelling was created honestly. It wasn't made with extra "machine sounds." So, there is realism, I think. Moreover, can you feel the traditional SABBAT "blacking metal"? This is another important point for both us and the fans. Heavy metal is my way!!!!

You've also got a series of releases called Harmaggeddons. Are these in any way your answer to VENOM's "Assault" series?

You're right! This idea had been offered to me by Isten magazine's Janne Sarna, from Finland. His original idea was that SABBAT sing "Black Fire" in each country's language. But my capacity to study languages is poor. Anyway, I cannot even speak Japanese well! HA! So I took the good parts from his idea, and like VENOM's "Assault" series, I planned to "Harmageddon" bomb every area on the Earth! SABBAT's releases are even more mega-limited than VENOM's "Assault" series. So I'm enjoying watching people rush to buy ours. Am I evil? HA! But it's no problem for you who are already SABBAT maniacs. You know that this is SABBAT's way, and the limited editions are a fuckin' delight for the true fans. Don't anybody repent later on.

Why will it take so long to release the new album? It won't be out until 1999?

The next one will be the "Japanesque" album. The lyrics are all original Japanese. And the music is metal with some Japanese melodies. But I'll enclose the English translations in the cover. NEP will release this CD. Well, the recording will be in the beginning of 1999. Don't you think that 1999 and 2000, or 2001 are important numbers? I want to leave my mark of my work on those years. Anyway, I don't have any money now. HA! I want to save money so I can work on the Harmageddon series and the new album. Last year, we toured in Europe. So lots of yen flew! HA! We must wait until '99. Right now we're rehearsing Asian Harmageddon. American Harmageddon will be released by Holycaust Records in Spring of '98. After Asian Harmageddon we'll rehearse the next album. Don't worry! SABBAT's new album is going to be "Japaneseque," but of course it will be with the SABBAT style. It will be thrashy and evil metal! Also, after the new album in '99, we're rehearse the one after that! The recording plan is for 2000! This album will be more straight, with the feeling of more black thrash! I already have some ideas. Some tunes are already written!

On For Satan and Sacrifice there's a song titled "Kiss of Death." It sounds almost entirely like old IRON MAIDEN. What's the story behind its creation?

"Kiss of Death" is not a SABBAT song! Are you young? It's a song from the NWOBHM. It's by SATAN. I like their first album, and their legendary first 7" EP a lot. So I played this song. I like IRON MAIDEN. I'm influenced by them. Their early albums are my unholy bible, as are VENOM. What do you think about "Satan's Serenade" on the Black Up Your Soul CD? It's also a song from the NWOBHM! It's by QUARTZ. NWOBHM has many legendary songs! Now you know! Black up your soul for Satan and sacrifice!

Yes! NWOBHM is the foundation for a lot of current metal! Too bad that much of it has been forgotten or is not known. And I am one of the ones who are guilty for not knowing enough about it. But this reminds me, what can you tell me about the SABBAT side band, METALUCIFER?

METALUCIFER is not black metal. It is my side project, with the sound of NWOBHM and 80s traditional European heavy metal. The members are also different from those of SABBAT. But it's still part of the SABBAT family. I love traditional heavy metal and black metal. I'm doing black metal with SABBAT, but I was not doing traditional heavy metal. I wanted to release my version of traditional heavy metal music. METALUCIFER has already gotten very good reactions from all over the world. I fuckin' hate modern alternative, grunge, false heavy rockers!! Why did I begin METALUCIFER? Well, when I began SABBAT, I liked both barbaric and brutal metal like black metal and thrash, and also pure traditional metal. I chose SABBAT's brutal metal to look for the ultimate Kamikaze spirit!!! Youth is violent and merciless! I think you understand that. But, I've continued listening to traditional metal at the same time. The present scene of brutal metal is full of mega-bands in the underground, and some of them are a bit mainstream. But traditional metal is too poor. Morevoer, the media is full of fucking foolish alternative, grunge, industrial rockers. It has provoked me! Now it's the very fuckin' Harmageddon! There is a Japanese proverb that says, "Know old stuff, and realize the new stuff." It's Samurai spirit! We must know and realize the root of true metal. So I've created METALUCIFER. The roots are simple, and the best! I think the evolution of traditional pure heavy metal has already died, and was finished around 1986. I think thrash, black metal, and death metal still stay on some partly pure lines. But I cannot welcom crossover. I, and we, need rhythm to which we can headbang! Headbanging! What a beautiful word! It is the very proof of metal!! We must realize the true METAL spirit in chaotic Harmageddon! Now is the time for it!

How did you get Bill Andrews to play drums for the new METALUCIFER release?

Iron Pegasus Records is re-releasing METALUCIFER's Heavy Metal Drill CD. After it, they will release a 7" EP vinyl split of METALUCIFER and IRON SWORD from Portugal. I decided to employ a real drummer for the recording of the 7" EP. I found Bill Andrews, formerly of DEATH and MASSACRE, so you already know his drum playing. Also, he's an American. He's a very big fan of the 80s traditional metal too. You can see that in his t-shirt in the MASSACRE album cover I think.... [editor's note: in the From Beyond photos, Bill is wearing a SATAN JOKERS shirt. However, guitarist Rick Rozz is wearing an ANVIL shirt.] I know he was working at my friend's record shop in my area. So I asked him, "Can you play with me for the recording of the 7" EP release?" He said, "I don't want to play for some black metal band." "HA! It's no black metal band, it's my project, METALUCIFER!!" "OK, I see. No problem." It was very easy. But he's now in the USA. But he will return back to Japan around the end of January, it seems. We'll record it at the end of February. Bill is playing the old and new METALUCIFER songs in his home, I think. It will be a very exciting recording experience for us. After the recording, I want to make a mini album with Bill's drumming, but it hasn't been decided yet. Bill is not a regular member of METALUCIFER. He is just a helper. Moreover, he will certainly return to his life in America. His wish is to play with a band like NASTY SAVAGE. But in Japan it's impossible to find a band that has such a sound. If the present METALUCIFER goes with Bill to play Europe, then he'd be a fuckin' mega great member!!! But I'm very busy with SABBAT. METALUCIFER has not played over here yet. I want to play with METALUCIFER and Bill. For the present, I'm waiting for a chance to do so over here. But now is not the time.

Are there plans for SABBAT to tour outside of Japan?

SABBAT did tour in Europe last year. That wasn't a big tour. But, I'm very satisfied. I've met many real SABBAT fans, and could talk with them about music and various things. They were great days. If possible, I want to play or tour in Europe again! Or America! But for now, the plan is no. I'm looking forward to seeing you some day. Don't forget "Blacking Die Hard Hamagiri Metal" SABBAT!! Thanks!