It’s been a turbulent three decades years for Colorado’s Satan’s Host. After the cult classic ”Metal From Hell” (1986) the band dissolved to fade into obscurity before guitarist Patrick Evil resurrected the band in the late 1990’s to churn out some pretty extreme black metal albums for the next decade to come. Following the unexpected return of original singer Harry Conklin in 2010 Satan’s Host again chose the left hand path and have released three slabs of death/black metal style music held together by Conklin’s clean but powerful air raid siren.
In 2015 their struggle to carve their own niche has reached its ultimate goal with the devilish double assault ”Pre-Dating God” parts 1 and 2. Satan’s Host drags you down into a maelstrom of apocalyptic heavy metal devoid of limitiations, defying description. Metal Squadron guest writer Per-Ola Nilsson hooked up with Patrick Evil for a chat about the past, the present, the future and the devil.
Why are you releasing two full length albums simultaneously?
– We recorded a ton of material and with the concept and all we thought it would be easier for the fans to grasp if it was two albums rather than one super long. When I listen to ”By the Hands of the Devil” (2011) and ”Virgin Sails” (2013) I love them but when I get to the end I feel kind of worn out. Even though I love all the songs it might have been too much for people and maybe it hurt us more than it helped us. If you look at the old days like when we did our first album ”Metal From Hell” all albums were about 45 minutes. We wanted to give it more of a classic feel that way. Now let’s see how people react to it. It was really easy for us to record these albums. We wanted to go with a more classic feel overall. We have had kind of click-e-ty sounding drums on the last couple of albums but now we have been trying to make them sound bigger and more real and record the actual drums instead of using triggers.
Would you prefer for people to listen to the albums as separate entities or as one?
– Often people will pick up the first one and they’ll like it so much they get the second as well. They’re kind of grouped together. It’s all one concept. We put everything we had into it. I’d say the second part is a bit heavier while the first has got a bit more of a dreamy feel.
How do you feel you have progressed musically since vocalist Harry Conklin rejoined in 2010?
– Getting Harry back into the band gave us more inspiration. It brought us more of a palette to work with as far as the colors in the music and our sound. Harry had read something that Eli (aka LCF Elixir, Satan’s Host singer 1999-2009, editor’s note) had put out that Harry could never do what he did. Harry took that as a personal challenge so he’s trying to do the death growls and all his operatic vocals at the same time. I think that has opened up the doors for us to make more unique sounding music. Better music, I think.
I hear a lot more classic heavy/power metal influences and less black metal this time, but how would you say these two albums differ from, let’s say the first album you did after Harry’s return, ”By the Hands of the Devil”?
– I think that we’ve developed our writing skills a little more. I love ”By the Hands of the Devil”, I love every album that we have done, but I think we got better at song writing and structures. We have got more comfortable with each other. We have had the same lineup since ”By the Hands of the Devil” which is probably the longest any lineup of Satan’s Host has stayed together. That makes a big difference too because we can develop chemistry together.
What lead up to Harry coming back to the band in 2010?
– Eli was getting really unhappy with the band and Harry had contacted me about doing the Keep It True festival in Germany. I agreed to do it with him and once we started getting back together the chemistry was there. We always knew we would get back together because we never split on bad terms in the first place. We just couldn’t get guys to do what we wanted at the time back in the old days. After we started playing together again we knew we would stick together. It worked out really great. We’re writing another album already that we’re going to record probably in March or April. Since nobody wants to book us, we really want to tour around the world but nobody’s offering us anything that’s worth our time, so instead of just wasting our time practicing for nothing we just keep writing new music. We kind of got our own studio now where we can write and archive our material. We’re on fire now as far as writing goes so we might as well catch as much as we can.
Why doesn’t anybody want to book you?
– I’m not quite sure. We had offers but nobody makes it worth our time to go around. We’re trying to set up our own tour now trough our label for the summertime in America. We’re probably gonna do that, go all around America in support of these albums. Then after that we’re probably gonna have the next album out in October or November. It will already be recorded when we go on tour. We’ll see if that can open up more doors because we got some people that want us to go down to South America and do a bunch of shows.
Would being on a bigger label help get the touring rolling?
– It would probably help us but so far Moribund is the only label that’s really offered us anything. We went out and played in Las Vegas but the guy from Century Media seemed like he was more interested in getting Jag Panzer back together. Harry didn’t really have any interest in getting back with Jag Panzer. He told the guy that Satan’s Host is his band. We all love each other and we have a good time so we stick together. Jag Panzer is a great band too but I think we have opened up doors for Harry to use more of his vocal range.
So why are you able to keep him in the band but Jag Panzer is not?
– Me and Harry are such good friends. All of us in Satan’s Host have the same ambition. We want this band to go really far. I’m not quite sure what the deal is with Jag Panzer. Mark Briody is a good friend of mine too. Harry has just told me he’s really comfortable with us. I just think we give Harry all the freedom to do whatever he wants. Not sure exactly what goes on with Jag Panzer but I know that they kind of had a fallout that made Harry mad. I’m not quite sure the reason why. I’ve told Harry if he ever wants to do Jag Panzer, Titan Force or whatever I’m not gonna hold him back. Like I said we’re all on the same page in this band. We sit down and have meetings and try to figure out what to do. Since we can’t tour and get on a bigger label all we do is write and have fun you know. We don’t let the business interrupt and get us all pissed off at each other.
Once Harry was back and you started writing what was to become ”By the Hands of the Devil”, what kind of plans did you have about what you wanted to create with this new lineup?
– We all had been doing this for so long, although we never enjoyed the success that many other bands did, so we all knew we had the talent to channel all that anger instead of getting angry at each other and feeling sorry for ourselves. We thought ”what would we want to buy if we were kids out to buy music?”. That’s how we approached it, like when we first started. We kind of searched our roots and just started writing.
The direction probably surprised a lot of people that thought you were just gonna try to copy your debut album ”Metal From Hell”.
– We learned all those songs when we first got back together and it really wasn’t a challenge for us to play that stuff anymore. It’s a lot easier now that we have Hobbit on the drums. I had some of the new songs already and me and Harry and Hobbit just got together and started writing. We all kind of threw in our ideas and it started coming out like magic. We didn’t realize how much music we were writing at the time. It just kept coming. We have songs that we recorded but didn’t put on ”By the Hands of the Devil” that we’ll release at some point.
Is it important for you not to be a retro band that would try to do copy your first album?
– I don’t know if that really ever crossed our minds. We love ”Metal From Hell” but at the time and with the lack of label support and people that didn’t understand us we really couldn’t get our vision 100 percent clear and recorded the way we wanted to. Even though we love that album and it was magical we felt like we never showed people what we could do. We tried even harder now to put out the music that we wanted instead of listening to other people.
Does having a traditional heavy metal type of voice like Harry’s instead of the black metal type of voice you had for so many years make you go diffent ways as a song writer?
– I think that has influenced the song writing a bit but mind you Harry is a big fan of black metal. He says a lot of that is more challenging to him than the operatic stuff. Sometime he’ll sing a whole song in black metal style and then just start laughing. Harry has so much fun when we play and experiments a lot with his voice. We have versions of songs we’ve recorded that don’t sound like what will be on the album and when we get to an album recording we don’t really have a set way for what we’re gonna do. We just do what we feel at the time and seems magical to us. Harry experiments so much with different voices he probably records a hundred tracks per song.
I guess having such a versatile singer gives you a lot of options?
– Yeah, and Harry is a really good song writer himself too. We got a song called ”Soul Wrent” on ”Pre-Dating God Part 2”. He actually hummed out the guitar riffs and stuff to me and had all the ideas. ”Valley of Blood” on part 1 too. Harry kind of just went with it and wrote those songs. Me and him just sat down, he gave me his ideas for guitar riffs that I refined and I had ideas for vocals and we just worked together on those songs. I think those are some of our best songs. Harry likes a lot of the black metal and death metal more than he likes traditional heavy metal. I think it is because he never really had a chance to do that with Jag Panzer and it represents a challenge to him.
Would you say Satan’s Host is or ever was a black metal band?
– We don’t really consider us any style of band. We just like being heavy metal or metal from hell like we call ourselves. We still remember when Venom put out an album called ”Black Metal” and we never wanted to be put under that kind of label that was another band’s idea. We always wanted to be original, that’s why we called our album ”Metal From Hell”. That’s what we consider ourselves. I think putting labels on music can strangle you. We can play anything. Like on ”By the Hands of the Devil” we put ”Bleeding Hearts of the Damned” which is a mellower style. We even throw in some traditional blues in some of the new stuff we’re working on now.
How do you feel about the LCF Elixir fronted ”black metal period” of Satan’s Host today?
– We still love doing that. We actually got some new songs now that are even heavier than anything we’ve ever done. Harry just loves black metal. He wants us to work more in that area so we’re doing a couple of songs. I really enjoy a lot of the really technical death metal. Hobbit really likes the traditional heavy metal like Accept and Saxon while Mark likes really strange bands like Orange Goblin so we all have different influences and bring different ideas to the band.
Why did you decide to release the album ”Celebration for the Love of Satan” with mostly songs from the ”black metal period” rerecorded with Harry on vocals a couple of years ago?
– We had our 25th anniversary since the release of ”Metal From Hell”. Moribund wanted us to do a compilation album but I told them I was never really into that, so why don’t why record it like it’s a brand new album and rewrite the songs a little to give the fans something new? This way they could hear where we were at with Harry. I thought that was a much better idea. We’re gonna do the same thing for the 30th anniversary in 2016.
Has any other band ever really hammered out the kind of black metal music with almost solely a clean heavy metal voice that you did on that album and ”By the Hands of the Devil” in particular?
– I have never really heard any other bands do it. I noticed a few more that are trying to do that now but they don’t quite do it like we do. We always try to progress as a band, grow and learn to play new styles. Having Hobbit really helps on the drums. I had Pete 3 Wicked before and he did most of the really extreme albums we did but he was more like a machine and I couldn’t really expand. Hobbit knows how to make the music flow a little better and I think the combination of him and Harry really just changed our sound to a crossover between both worlds.
Speaking of rerecordings; will you ever completely rerecord ”Metal From Hell” and the unreleased ”Midnight Wind” album like you have talked about?
– We’re gonna do both of those albums. We will release the originals and rerecord them and put them all in one package kind of like a box. We already got that planned for 2015. Probably by the end of the year we’re gonna start recording. We already got all those songs rehearsed plus we got extra songs that we never put on ”Midnight Wind” but were supposed to be on there that we’ll put on. Then the fans get to hear even more new stuff from us. That’s the question I get the most, how do we come up with all these albums and ideas? I come from back when bands would put out an album or two every year. I think that’s what we should do. Going on a tour cycle for three or four years before the next album bores us. We want to put out fresh music for the fans all the time.
Once and for all – what is acually wrong with the final producion of ”Metal From Hell”?
– When we recorded that we went to 17 different engineers because they would all freak out when Harry would bring in upside down crosses and burn black candles and being in his black robe when singing. I’d come in and I’d be on fire and all evil and I just don’t think people could handle it around here. We’re in the bible belt here in Colorado. We couldn’t find a studio that would really record us properly and between the record label switching engineers they wouldn’t really let us go in and mix it down. They took the recording and did whatever they wanted. It took two years for that album to come out. We originally recorded it in 1984 and it came out in 1986. The album is actually missing all the rhythm tracks and I don’t know what they did to my guitar tone. The drums got lost somewhere along the way too. We wanted to remix it but the two inch tapes weren’t stored right so they were shot. All we have is the master tape so we don’t have any chance to remix it. We do have ”Midnight Wind” all separated and ready to mix though.
I thought ”Midnight Wind” was never properly recorded. Wasn’t that just a rehearsal room recording or something?
– It was recorded but the mix was just a really quick mix. They just set the levels, threw a little bit of echo on and gave it to us. It was just supposed to be a demo. We were actually working with Metal Blade to sign to them at the time but Web Records kind of fought with us and kind of sabotaged that whole thing.
In the mid 1980’s the lyrics and imagery of Satan’s Host must have been pretty extreme, right?
– It was but we get more people getting pissed of at us now than we did then which I don’t understand. I get people writing us telling us we’re devil worshipers and whatnot, but I don’t care. Weak people got to open up their minds. It’s not like we’re religion, we make music. That’s what a lot of people forget. We just love music and we like to write about the left hand path and the darker things in life. We’re not trying to push being a Satanist or anything down people’s throats. We do take it seriously but we’re not gonna go out there and be representatives of the Satanic church and preach to people. I hate when people preach to me.
So there is some kind of ideology behind your lyris?
– Harry and I have both been in the Satanic church for just about all our lives and we’re part of Luciferian organizations and stuff but that’s all in our private lives. We just enjoy the darker side of life. We try to open up people’s minds. The whole concept behind ”Pre-Dating God” isn’t that we’re trying to go against God; we’re trying to show people that there are other thing in life that the government has hidden from us throughout the centuries. If you go back to the beginning of time and look, there are scientists that say that our gene line pool has been manipulated by aliens or whatever you want to call them. That’s kind of where we went with ”Pre-Dating God” because we believe in that philosophy ourselves. We’re trying to show people that we’ve been lied to and there’s things that pre-date God out there if you learn about them and have a more open mind. The whole bible is just a moral system. They were trying to get morals for society because we’re such savages.
What is it that makes Satanism meaningful to you?
– Instead of having a fear of God and thinking we will go to Hell and suffer like they try to teach us when we’re young, I think we need to be more open minded and learn different things. You can study every different religion in the world and learn something. Satanism is kind of empowering at first. A lot kids get into Satanism and think they’re just gonna conquer the world all of a sudden. Throughout the years you learn that you need to learn, open your mind, find out and expose all the lies we’ve been told. The whole school system and belief system in America have lied to us all along. If we get more people to expose it maybe things can change for the better for everyone. That’s what we believe in.
What does the idea of the devil represent to you?
– I think we all have the spirit of the devil, Satan and Lucifer inside of us. Lucifer is enlightening. Once minds are enlightened you start having free will and free thinking. Opening up your mind is the devil because it’s going against what they want us to believe. It’s been going on for centuries. Look at the witch trials or how the Romans killed people. They even killed Jesus you know. If Jesus ever existed that is. Nobody’s ever proven that so it’s not a fact. That’s part of the big lie we’re living. The church and the whole belief system try to tell us it’s a fact but it’s not. It’s faith, which is not the same thing as fact. So I think the spirit of the devil lives inside of every person. Especially in metalheads because we enjoy extreme metal and it evokes a feeling inside of us. It awakens that primal spirit within us. It awakens our true will and our true minds and that’s what the devil represents to me. The devil is more of a frame of mind than a person. I don’t think there’s actually a devil with a pitchfork that’s coming to kill you. Neither do I think there’s a God out there that’s such a savage he’s gonna throw you into Hell to let you suffer. If you look at the concept of God that all these people want to believe God is supposed to be a loving and caring being, but if you look at the God in the bible that guy is way more ruthless than the devil ever was. He’s a warrior, he’s got a sword and he’s ready to kill you if you don’t believe what he wants you to. I can’t accept something like that. I believe that everybody’s got some good inside of them. I think every person has got strength and a use. Well, there are useless people too you know, because they just don’t want to wake up.
What kind of reactions were you getting back in the 1980’s?
– We were getting protesters and there was this organization called Mother’s Against Satan’s Host. When we were going on tour with bands like Possessed, Kreator, Dark Angel and all the different bands we played with people would protest outside. We still get that when we go out and play in America. I don’t understand it. There’s bands like Watain out there that are more extreme in what they believe than we are. They’re all good friends of mine. I guess if you have the word Satan in your band name it just scares the hell out of people. When we first started we didn’t really start the band as a Satanic band. We just wanted a band name that would stick out even next to Black Sabbath. We were always Satanists but we did it our own way. We never wanted to be blasphemers like Deicide. There are enough bands doing that. We want to separate ourselves from that and seem like we have more intelligence so when people read the lyrics they will think a little more.
Was the protesting good or bad for your trying to make a career?
– Sometimes it would piss us off that it was holding us back from going to where we were wanting to get but we’re so far into it now that we would never change the name of the band. If people can’t accept it it’s their loss. They miss a lot of great music. The ones that do understand it get to be fans for life. We build up a fan base that will have longevity and never go away. When we’re gone the music will still sound fresh to them. That’s what we’re trying to achieve.
In today’s climate, is it even possible to start a band that would be extreme and stick out?
– I think you could do it but the problem today is you get labeled so much you might just fall into the same circle as all these other bands. It’s hard for bands to just be original. There’s so much competition out there. Listen to death metal. There’s so many great death metal bands but I can’t tell one from the other. They all sound the same. Same with the black metal. Half the black metal I listen to I can’t even tell you the name of the band. You got to have your own signature sound. I think, no matter what style of music you play, when you put on the CD or vinyl you got to be able to hear yeah that’s Satan’s Host, that’s Black Sabbath, that’s… whatever band it is you should have your own sound. Once you can do that you know you’re doing something special.
Do you think you have achieved that?
– I’m trying my best and I think we have. When I hear our music I can definitely tell it’s us and a lot of other people tell me the same thing. We don’t really try to sound like other bands or be influenced by other bands.