Two songs might be all we’ve heard so far, but when they’re so damn good as “The Horror” and “Satan’s Hallow” are, the expectations are immediately raised. So far, the two tracks are only available through Bandcamp, but they are soon to be released both on tape and 7” through Sword & Chains and Underground Power respectively.
So far, little information about the band seem to be available, something that is more than reason good enough to catch up with the band to clarify a few things. Singer Mandy Martillo (MM) and drummer Rusty are the ones answering our questions.
The formation of the band is estimated to around late 2013, early 2014. Who formed the band, and with what kind of intentions?
MM: – Von Jugel and Mendoza met through mutual friends and realized that they shared tons of the same interest in classic metal. They both love listening to it, so why not form a band and start playing it? It’s not some long, deep, cathartic exploration, Satan’s Hallow is straight ahead traditional metal with nothing to prove.
If my information is right, Rusty joined the band a bit later. Was it a full lineup to begin with, or were you the first drummer the band worked with?
Rusty: – There was a drummer before me, early 2014. I first joined up with Satan’s Hallow in July 2014 with the band to “fill in” in on drums for the Alehorn of Power 2014 show, featuring Slough Feg and High Spirits. Unfortunately we ended up having to cancel the gig when the original singer and bassist left. After that, Von Jugel and Mendoza asked me to stick around and here we are today!
Did Satan’s Hallow have a male vocalist to start with? Where and how did Mandy and Poncho (bass) enter the frame?
Rusty: – Our original vocalist was female. She and the bassist are both amazing people, but unfortunately it did not work out for them to stay in the band. Von Jugel and Mendoza met Mandy at a show by chance and discovered she was a singer. So we had her come out and jam with us. Right away we felt confident that we found the voice of Satan’s Hallow! Poncho is a good friend of Mendoza, and we are happy that he decided to join us and complete the lineup.
Satan’s Hallow is the name of a storm drain in Ohio, where satanists supposedly used to meet to conduct rituals. Is this where you got your name from?
MM: – Satan’s Hollow was the original idea for the band name, but not because of the Ohio storm drain , actually it was an arcade game in the eighties. As it turns out there’s been at least one other band called Satan’s Hollow. So we went with Satan’s Hallow instead, it sounds cooler anyway. As far as the whole Midwestern portal to hell thing is concerned, we’ve never been there, but urban legends and ghost stories are right up our alley. If we ever pass it on tour we’ll have to stop and add our band sticker to all the other graffiti.
You are making it pretty easy for people to be biased, using Satan in your band name, having those kind of song titles and even a female singer. I guess some people will accuse you of having jumped on the occult heavy metal trend?
MM: – People can go ahead and say whatever the fuck they want. If they’re forming an opinion about why we’re doing this, it means they’ve heard of us in the first place and they might have actually listened to us, too. The whole point is to bring our stuff to the table, to contribute something that we like. A good song doesn’t have to be ground breaking, a good song stays with you no matter what it reminds you of.
So originality isn’t really important for Satan’s Hallow? What, in your opinion are the essential elements in a good Satan’s Hallow-song?
MM: – Originality is important, but other people’s biases based on our genre, our band name, and me being a woman, are not important. It’s very hard to write an original classic, isn’t it? That’s the journey we choose. Part of me wants to deflect these kinds of questions because good music should stand on its own and I don’t want to analyze allthe cool out of it. But on the other hand I am a huge sap and I’m dying to talk about all the things that have made me fall in love with these songs. At this point I’m not a primary writer in this project, but I joined up because I dig the tunes and if I wasn’t in this band, I’d still pay a cover to hear them play. First and foremost they are true to a feeling, the sound is heavy enough to scratch this itch that I get from being a musician and a metal fan in an increasingly fucked up, phony world. I get a big fix from Von Jugel and Mendoza’s twin leads. They aren’t featured as much on “The Horror” and “Satan’s Hallow” –those songs have more trading than twining, but I think people will like how they shine on the stuff we’re getting ready to put out. At the very least a good metal song should have an edgy setup, some shiny licks, and a hook, right? I’d like to think that each of our songs has at least two out of three. In my opinion there are two kinds of heavy: the kind that feeds the urge to kick somebody’s ass, and the kind that makes me feel like I actually could kick somebody’s ass. I prefer the latter.
In the eighties we had some killer,female fronted heavy metal bands, like Chastain, Black Lace and Acid to name a few of my personal faves. Lately there have been some new bands entering the scene, Italy’s Sign Of The Jackal, Portugal’s Unholy, Black Sword Thunder Attack from Greece or Savage Master from the states. In general, why do you think women are suddenly fronting heavy metal bands again?
MM: – With respect, the question should not be why women are “suddenly” fronting metal bands again. We don’t care why! It’s fucking awesome! The more important question is, “Why haven’t we heard of more female metal artists in the last 30 years?” There are probably plenty of talented ladies who have been playing heavy music all this time, but never get heard because they’re facing a tougher game. They’re getting judged for more than their music, they’re being judged for how “hot” they are. Of all the ladies you see promoted in metal today, how many of them are not conventionally hot? Meanwhile there are plenty of pudgy ass, dog-faced dudes getting worshipped for their music. So to the chicks out there who think they’re tough enough to melt our faces off, we say go for it! We’re gonna judge you by your licks, not your promo pics.
As mentioned in the beginning of this feature, the two tracks are soon to be released on tape and pressed onto wax. Mike from Swords & Chains told me you have known each other for a long time, and since Moros Nyx released their 7” through Helle Mueller’s Underground Power, I guess both of these collaborations were no brainers for you?
Rusty: – I have known Mike a long time and he runs a quality label. He put out demo tapes for Ancient Dreams and Moros Nyx. It was because of him that I got in contact with Helle at Underground Power for the Moros Nyx 7”. Both of these guys are so easy to work with, and truly care about helping new bands get their music out. It really was a definitely a no brainer to show them the Satan’s Hallow songs. Luckily they dug the tunes and now we have physical releases coming out soon!
The cassette is limited to only 100 copies, and the vinyl to 300. Do you think these 400 copies is enough to satisfy the fans who want some kind of physical product, not only the songs downloaded?
MM: – Band policy: Leave them wanting more.
I was really impressed by Mandy’s vocals. Having watched a video on YouTube, she definitely is a more than capable heavy metal vocalist, but it looks like she has chosen a completely different stage outfit than for instance Stacey from Savage Master. What can you tell me about your background, and is the image toned down deliberately to have full focus on the music?
MM: – I’m flattered by this critique of my vocals. I’ve been singing in bands since before I was legal. I’ve always been into heavy music, but this is my first stab at a metal project and I’m really pouring every ounce of energy into these songs. Stacey Savage takes her own vocal skills and talents to stellar heights. A comparison to her is treasured compliment, and it would be even if she didn’t have a killer wardrobe. I’ve never been much of a shopper.
I am a bit familiar with Rusty through his involvement in Ancient Dreams and Moros Nyx, and we have already spoken about Mandy, but please give us some information on the rest of the members, the guitarists Von Jugel and Mendoza as well as the bass player Poncho.
Rusty: – Von Jugel and Mendoza are the guitar duo of Satan’s Hallow and the two remaining founding members. Poncho started jamming with band late 2014. He is also the mastermind of the Chicago doom band, Question of Madness.
How would you describe the song writing process in Satan’s Hallow? Is it a joint effort, or do you have one or maybe two main song writers?
MM: – Von Jugel has been the primary writer in this project. As we develop new material, other band members are contributing more and more. Maybe Mendoza and I will put our heads together on a progression and melody. And then maybe Rusty will pitch another whole song he’s written. I’ve contributed lyrics on a couple songs. We don’t really have an assembly line at this point, we’re all just driven to be worthy of a full length album and all the effort that will require.
From what I have seen and heard, “The Horror” seems to be the most popular track out of the two you have made available on your Bandcamp site. The track has gotten a really excellent reception, and is a real hit. When you wrote this song, did you have a feeling that you were onto something special, and was it also your favorite out of the two?
MM: – We couldn’t be happier with the reception that “The Horror” has gotten. But every band member would probably give a different answer to the question about favorites, though.
So why were these two songs chosen as the first tasters of what Satan’s Hallow is about? Were they the only ones finished when you recorded, or did you choose them from a bunch of tracks?
MM: – At the time of the recording we had six originals, but we knew time and money would limit us to just two songs for this release. This band is full of strong personalities, so we had some fun and heated discussions about what to get out there first. “The Horror” is definitely representative of the punch we’re packing. We wanted the B side to mix it up a little style-wise and “Satan’s Hallow” is more of a creeper than a screamer. It also happens that those were the first two songs written by the band, before we even had this current lineup, so that seemed like a natural place to start.
Have you already started thinking about what will be the next release for Satan’s Hallow? An EP, a full length album or what?
MM: – Our next effort will be a full length album, look for it in early 2016.
Will you be looking for another label to release this one, or will it be put out by Sword & Chains who have started releasing CDs as well? Has there been any interest from other labels after you put the songs online?
MM: – We haven’t been approached by any other labels at this point, but we’re definitely open to working with folks who want to get it out there. Right now we’re all just pumped about making a record.
Apparently you performed at the release party for the anthology “Swords Of Steel” under the name ,Midnight Dice. Please fill us in on the idea behind this “stunt” and how it was received?
MM: – The Swords of Steel show was supposed to be a chance for us to get on stage together and work out the bugs a little bit without blowing any of our mystery for our “official” debut at Ragnarökkr. There’s been a little bit of buzz around our name in the local scene and we’d hoped that would boost attendance for our 5:00 PM opening festival set. So we made up a bullshit band name, prepped six songs, and got psyched to share the stage with Winterhawk. Our plan was to get on and off stage by 8:30 before most people would be there. As it turned out, the club owner had double booked the show with a standup comedy open mic which was hilarious, not because of the comedians’ jokes, but because of the whole scene. When we finally took the stage at like 10:30 the place was full of metal heads who were ready to hear anything other than a guy in green corduroys asking who likes Pantera. It was a much bigger crowd than we’d planned on, the “secret” dissolved immediately, but fuck it! They gave us a lot of respect, considering that we hadn’t even released any material. It was a great start for the band.
You are going to make your “real” live debut at Ragnarökkr Metal Apocalypse in May. How are the preparations going, and what will you live set look like? The two tracks from the single of course, but what else will you find place for? A cover song maybe, or just self penned material?
MM: – It will be a short set for us, but we’re confident we can cram in seven originals, including “The Horror” and “Satan’s Hallow” from our debut release. We have a cover in our pocket, too.
You might not want to spoil the fun by giving away the name of the cover song, but what are you looking for in a cover? What type of songs fits the bill?
MM: – Everyone in the band would have a different answer for this. In a traditional genre I think nostalgia is key. Playing a song from the past is like a new dance with an old flame. Mendoza goes for the obscure gems to resurrect. Rusty wants to metal-up a Kinks song someday. Personally, I like a cover that pushes the band, gives us something to live up to on a technical level. The one we’re doing for Ragnarökkr, which is Von Jugel’s pick, is definitely pushing my vocals. We’ll all see if I can pass the test. I think Rusty will have the most fun with it.
The lineup for this year’s festival is pretty awesome. How important is Ragnarökkr for the metal scene in Chicago? It seems like a good festival in the sense that it gives upcoming and new acts a chance to gig with some of the legends? Rusty is playing there with Moros Nyx as well, but should nevertheless get a chance to see a bit of the other bands as well. What do you look forward to?
Rusty: – It has been such a pleasure to see Ragnarökkr grow larger year after year. The fest really does strive to bring new bands and I think has a great balance between new and classic bands. There is a smaller side stage that is totally focused on giving new bands a venue to play. We are truly honored to playing the fest this year. I have to say I am most looking forward seeing all the same people from around the world that attend the fest every year as well seeing some new faces! As far as bands, it’s really hard to pick but I am looking forward to seeing Liege Lord, High Spirits, Züül, and Hrom and catching some other acts I that I am not as familiar with.Thank you for the thoughtful questions! We really appreciate all the support and interest in Satan’s Hallow.