Just like the last band I featured, Cromlech, Texas based Cruxiter is an up and coming act who has just released their debut album. As many bands had to do during the nineties, when traditional metal really went underground, Cruxiter has put out their album on their own, without the support of a label.
A review of the album will be up here at Metal Squadron soon, and I contacted vocalist Joe Gonzalez, one of four members of the band who also play in Hammerwhore, to get all the important facts on this melodic metal newcomer and their brand new self titled full length.
I believe Hammerwhore split up early in 2007, while Cruxiter wasn’t formed until some years later. Did you do anything musically during these years, on your own or together?
- Yes, in the summer of 2008 I got together with some local musicians in the neighborhood and started a heavy metal band called Mor-to-life. We played a few shows in Texas and we had about eight songs, five of which we recorded as Cruxiter on our latest release. I played guitar and vocals. but it just wasn’t very comfortable for me. So finally in 2009 Miggy (Ramirez, guitar) joined the band and I was able to focus on my vocals, and writing lyrics. Then in 2010 we lost our drummer, bass player and guitar player due to their job schedules so we asked my old band mates to help us out. After that we decided to change the name to Cruxiter and have a new start.
Talking about Miggy Ramirez. How did you hook up with him? Listening to the album, it sounds essential for the expression of the band to have two guitarists?
– Miggy is part of the metal scene here in the small Texas town we live in and we have always been friends. Before Cruxiter we never had the opportunity to work together. Miggy instantly became a very important member of the band and writing music became a lot easier. I think bringing Miggy and Rick (Ortiz, drums) into the band really took it to the next level and the songs we wrote together are the strongest tracks on the album. I really can’t wait to compete our next album with these very talented musicians. It’s actually essential to have three guitarist that’s why we recruited Beto Cavasos shortly after adding Andy (Gonzales, bass) and Carlos (Llanas, guitars), to help with our live performances and help us practice weekly since Andy and Carlos live about 500 miles away in Austin, Texas.
All bands formed during the last few years where traditional metal has made a rather strong comeback, are in line for questions about whether they have just jumped on a trend, and especially those who performed a different kind of metal earlier. You won’t get rich of playing this kind of metal, but there are possibilities for albums, tours and festivals. What were Cruxiter’s motives from the very beginning?
- I’ve noticed the huge wave of traditional metal and I don’t think it’s helped Cruxiter in any way. It’s great to finally be playing with other heavy metal acts instead of being the odd balls in an all death and thrash scene. Especially since we aren’t the heaviest band out there by far. If you listen to the Hammerwhore album you’ll notice that we were already playing heavy metal with songs like “Scream Bloody Rock & Roll” and “Mercy To None”. In fact “Devils Of Heavy Metal” was written and performed by Hammerwhore along with a few other songs that were a little too traditional for the band. That might have been one of the reason Hammerwhore disbanded. I think our music is continuously evolving and I am very excited about our next album. Cruxiter’s motives were to complete what we started and not give up, to get our songs recorded and out there and we still have a lot of work to do.
How did you end up with a name like Cruxiter? As far as I know, it’s a construction, more than an actual word.
- While writing lyrics and thinking of changing the name of the band I thought of Cruxiter. But only because when I write lyrics I like to create a different world and create a story line which is never apparent in the actual song. To get to the point, The Cruxiter is a fictional alien computer that works through touch actually connecting to the users nervous system and to the mind. The thing is, it doesn’t quiet work with human biology and drives anyone who attempts to use it insane.
Back in 2011 you had two releases out, first a promo containing three songs, and then later a demo called “The Church” containing two tracks. What was the purpose of these recordings? The track “Paradise Found” features on both releases, are these different recordings?
– The first release was our really terrible sounding demo. The second was released just to let people know that we were hard at work releasing an actual album and to get a reaction from fans but mostly to see if any labels were interested in our upcoming release. Yes they were different recordings.
The only track from these 2011 releases, that doesn’t feature on the new album, is the song “From Her Eyes”. As I understand that you are looking to record this one on your next full length, didn’t you feel it fit in on “Cruxiter”?
– It is such a complex song we didn’t want to rush it, I really can’t wait to record “From Her Eyes” and get it perfect. I’m not sure if it would have fit our first album but I know it’s going to work perfectly on the next. It’s songs like “From Her Eyes” and our lyrical content that make us different from the other traditional metal band out there now.
To separate yourself from all the others out there, is that something you deliberately look to do? Regarding the lyrical content, it seems to be quite varied. Is it just as satisfying and challenging writing the lyrics to “From Her Eyes” as the ones to “Devils Of Heavy Metal”?
– Separating ourselves from the others is not a priority, but playing and recording the songs we write is. And we still believe in having diversity in the music we play, and for our music to have true meaning and speak to you in some way. Even though the lyrics and stories take place on other planets and may not be human. The problems they encounter are very similar to our own. Drug abuse, mental instability, trauma, and losses. The lyrics for “From Her Eyes” I had pretty much written before the music was ever written so that song was easy. I just had to adapt it to what Miggy wrote. “Devils Of Heavy Metal” is a part of the “Cruxiter” album, and it’s about a commander of metal war machines on a war torn planet who eventually goes mad, and spirals out of control and finally committing suicide.
- Nope, and it’s more the distance those members live from the rest of the band that is a hinderance. Miggy Rick and I lay the foundation, then the rest of the band comes in and contributes their parts. The next album will probably take a year and a half to complete even though I’m hoping we can get it done in a year. We learnt a lot from releasing this album so our next should go a lot smoother.
What were the most important things you learnt that you can profit from next time?
– Number one is the amount of time and work it takes to actually record an album you can be proud of and seeing other band members and myself record the same ten seconds of a song over and over till they were satisfied with their performance. Since we were recording in our own studio this kinda got out of hand. But we’ve been recording recently and nothing has changed. Number two is how hard it is for an independent band to promote an album, and being located in such a small town far from any metal scene, Especially for an introvert like myself. But I’m over coming that side of my personality. Number three is the process of polishing up the tracks we’ve recorded. And getting a good finished product. Next time I might try to get the album reviewed, promos out before the actual album is released.
Give us some insight into the song writing process within Cruxiter. Is it handled by a couple of members only or is it a band effort?
- It’s different for every song, but usually it’s either me or Miggy that puts something fresh on the table and the band as a whole decides structure and placement of riffs even adding or deleting riffs. Then we spice it up with some leads, and fills. And after that I spend hours humming, singing, and writing till the song is done.
A promo with some tracks from “Cruxiter” was put out a while before the full album. What was the purpose of this product?
– We did not think it would take us so long to complete this album, it was a lot more work than we initially thought plus we were playing so many shows. It was mostly a giveaway item to promo our upcoming release. I wanted to make sure that people knew we were out here, so we released a teaser. While the album was in production.
What would you name as the most essential influences for Cruxiter? Judging by the cover and the name, I have to admit I was expecting something more a bit more aggressive, but instead got a very melodic, rocking and restrained album. Was it important for you to do something that differs a lot from what you were doing in Hammerwhore?
– I can not speak for the rest of the band because each of us is very different when it come to the style of music we listen to. But for me it’s a combination of classic AOR, NWOBHM, eighties thrash and early seventies prog. Styx, Judas Priest, Lizzy Borden, Torch, Agent Steel, Overkill, were some of the first bands to really get me excited to pick up a guitar and sing. Really every time I hear a metal vocalist hit a high note or a guitar lead it really gets me going. As far as individual artists its Jon Oliva, Tommy Shaw & Dennis DeYoung, David Byron & Mick Box, Schmier, Tom Angelripper, Don Dokken, and Joey Tempest are all on the top of a very long list of talent that inspires me to play music. The objective really wasn’t to stray from Hammerwhore even though I felt I wanted to expand from the thrash label. Hammerwhore wasn’t ever about a single genre like thrash it was a tribute to all types of metal music. I really enjoy what I’m doing now because it gives me the opportunity to have more meaningful lyrics and to experiment more. We wanted this album to sound as clean and clear as possible. We purposefully turned the gain down on our guitar tones, and milked the cabs for a more natural guitar sounds, and added no effects. We want to stray from the noisy guitar tones, over processed vocals, and robotic drum beats with way too much double kick.
Because you are tired of it?
– I have never been a fan of the digital noise Im talking about. Noisy guitar tones are great for punk rock, hardcore, and thrash. But I don’t like digital, unnatural guitar tones like what I’ve been hearing from a lot of recent heavy metal bands. Combined with drum tracks that sound like drum machines. I don’t want to get too opinionated and point fingers but I think it’s the ruination of heavy metal music.
You have released the album on your own. Because it felt like the right thing to do, or because of a lack of interest from labels? What is the most demanding task about putting something out on your own?
– We had some interest from a few labels and we felt that Heaven and Hell records would be a good fit, but after putting so much work and money into this album we felt we should just go ahead and self release. We wanted to distribute the album and promote it ourselves which turned out to be pretty difficult for a band that is so isolated in a small town in south Texas with so little experience. I wanted to have as many promotional copies as possible to get our music out there. I would really like to work with a label for the next album as long as we all feel its necessary to take the band to the next level. Right now we are just an independent metal band and things are going great people seem to really enjoy the album.
The songs “The Church/May Eve” and “The Key” forms “The Story Of Wilbur Whateley”. Is H.P. Lovecraft a big inspiration for your lyrics? What about Wilbur attracted you so much that you wanted to do not one, but two songs about him?
- Yes, Lovecraft is a huge influence on my writing and two of my favorite stories are “Dunwich Horror” and “Shadow Over Innsmouth”, but I just never liked how Wilbur gets killed by a pack of dogs. So in Cruxiter’s the Horror, after being turned away at the miskatonic university Wilbur heads to an ,old Church in Innsmouth where a halfbreed priest is keeping an ancient untranslated copy of the Necronomicon that only Whateley can transcribe. So he makes a deal with the deep ones but after keeping his end of the deal he ends up being held against his will and has to make an escape from Innsmouth. After this both have all they need to achieve their goals, Whateley breaks the barrier between dimensions and the priest awakens the deep one destroying the world as we know it.
Why have you included a live version of the opening tune “Traveller” at the very end of the album? Obviously you must feel that this version offers something different than the studio version?
– I personally love how we as a band perform live I feel more comfortable as a vocalist on stage. Plus we have three guitar players on stage so we pull off all the three guitar harmony/melodies on the album outside of the studio. It’s awesome! I really want for people to hear a live performance.
Has someone outside the band been involved in the production, or have you handled everything yourselves? In my opinion, it sounds more than okay to be a self financed album, but would you have changed much if you had an unlimited budget?
– We recorded the album in our home studio, then sent the tracks to Kenny Brieger a close friends of ours who had just finished engineering school to mix the album, then Jaime King did an amazing job mastering the album I really love his work. No I would not have changed anything do to our limited budget. Just our lack experience, I am very happy to have been able to have the opportunity to learn so much from releasing this album.
I feel that your voice has a lot of character, but I have to be honest and admit I am not fully convinced when you do the really high stuff. Having done the vocals in a few black metal acts, did it take a lot of practice/experimenting to find your style for Cruxiter? What do you see as your strengths as a singer and which areas will you seek to improve?
– As a vocalist I understand that I will be criticized a bit more than the rest of the band and singing the way I do with little to no effects is also a risk. I do have lots to improve as a vocalist everyday I step in the studio to rehearse I feel more and more comfortable with my voice. One thing that I am working very hard to improve is my performance in the vocal booth. Singing with headphone, singing with no body movement it just takes time to get used to. I have been tracking vocals lately and it’s starting to feel more natural to me. It would be awesome to have a vocal coach in the studio with me. I’ve always tried to sing clear vocals just never had the balls to do it. To scared I wasn’t good enough to do the vocals that I wanted to hear from an album. But in 2008 I decided to attempt it I took vocal lessons and did everything I could to become a vocalist even put down my guitar. I’m enjoying the fact that I can focus on just one aspect of the music. The difference between singing for black/thrash and metal is obvious it’s the melody, and it was hard at first to make the transition but i think it is a lot easier for me since most of the music I listen to is very lyric and vocal oriented. I have improved a lot since the recording of the album and I’m determined to display my skills on the next album.