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Hellspike's Zellpike: "There is no news anymore, just propaganda, warmongering, enhanced crisis to legitimize oppression. Nothing is for real anymore…"

Interview with Zellpike from Hellspike
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 06 March 2022, 9:58 PM

Things have been on the rise, an escalation, some are quite visible, and some are dormant, silent, in waiting to erupt. On a daily basis, it becomes apparent that something wicked this way comes, yet it is still unknown when it will eventually strike, maybe never, who knows. Something is certain though, that Hellspike's guitarist, Zellpike, has quite a belly over things that have been happening, in particular with the pandemic and how the authorities use it for various gains. Introducing the band's new album, "Dynasties of Decay", once again through Metal On Metal Records, explores beyond Thrash Metal, and into traditional lands, along with the strong message. Steinmetal had a great chat with Zellpike, that had a lot on his mind about the world order.

Hello again Zellpike, I am pleased to have you for yet another conversation with Metal Temple online magazine. What has been going on at your end?

Hi Lior, great to have another good conversation with you about everything that is going on with Hellspike. I moved to the south of Portugal last September and just came back from Lisbon where I saw Alcoholocaust opening for Hexecutor last Saturday. What a blast! They both performed with tons of energy. Those French maniacs know for sure how to perform live! Things are going well so far.

Last year was the first time that we chatted, focusing on your debut album, "Lords of War", and here we are again, talking about your second one. Since touring hasn’t really been an option during the pandemic, you could focus on writing new material, but were you in a rush or was there any pressure to release the next album just one year after the first one?

I basically had more time to play. The pandemic coincided with the end of my working contract with a company operating in logistics. A branch of activity that has been hammered by all the supply disruptions that are now taking place. I also had the chance to improve my guitar capabilities during the “Lords of War” recording process, therefore I decided to continue composing for “Dynasties of Decay” throughout the whole year of 2020 (it took exactly one year to compose it) by taking advantage of some of those improvements and exploring them in my playing.

Somewhere in April/May 2021 I decided to move away from Lisbon to the south, however by that time, the recordings had already started in the beginning of 2021. Everything went fast and smooth. I was also slightly worried with the international chaos rising and felt it was time to get things done.

Talking about live opportunities, since there were periods of loosened restrictions, were you able to support "Lords of War" as a live unit?

Unfortunately, no. By the time the restrictions were loosened, we were already working hard on the next album. All the uncertainty surrounding possible events didn't help either.

Your new album is titled "Dynasties of Decay", and you're continuing your partnership with Metal on Metal Records. How have the reactions to the new record been from the metal community?

There has been more positive reviews and more feedback that looks very genuine. People are more pleased with this record, I guess. Everyone says it's a very good follow up to “Lords of War”. It makes me feel that all the effort was worth it. Mission accomplished so far. Metal on Metal records is the label Hellspike needs.

I think you've taken it to the next level when it comes to social criticism - you are quite distraught. It seems that no matter how hard you kick that door, it wouldn’t budge, and nothing changes. What motivates you to continue condemning the corruption?

Hellspike is my chance to speak out. People seem to lack self-awareness in a globally corrupted world. I need to find ways to shout it out and unleash all this anger inside me. There is no news anymore, just propaganda, warmongering, enhanced crisis to legitimize oppression. Nothing is for real anymore. Just dystopian lives in a failing society. I am lucky to have some artistic means to express myself and somehow escape this madness.

Bands like Running Wild or Grave Digger in their early years also frequently wrote about freedom, oppression, war, prejudice we face when we are branded and exiled and also about our daily struggles. Somehow it fits speed metal in such a deep way that is hard to define. It's a very proud/pure feeling to stand out for all this. METAL is freedom!

How did the pandemic influence "Dynasties of Decay", if at all? How is your perception of this reality, which became an integral part of our lives, channelled throughout the record?

The hypocrisy around us that has been surrounding the pandemic, is becoming so harmful and evil, it definitely played an important role in this album. These radical “health” measures imposed on everyone regardless of their age, health or immunological protection is making everyone sicker and more susceptible to die when exposed to viruses, bacteria or any other adverse clinical condition in the future. Preventing people from doing routine exams or having the means to pay for medical treatments with increasing inequality and unemployment is predatory, vicious and is not made to save as many lives as possible. That's why I find it so hypocritical. If it was all about saving lives, global elites would have raised vaccine patents to have global production in many countries as quick as possible or would openly talk about how can we live healthier lives. It's all about money interests, corruption, oppression and control.

This cycle is perpetuated through dynasties of decay that have sold out, long ago, to the highest bidding. Dynasties because no matter how much time they remain in power, their tentacles keep perpetuating their interests and influence like ancient families did in the past. They never let a good crisis go to waste and became more sophisticated. It is now easier to domesticate dissent, rule through hateful division, legalize slave-like working conditions. I found myself working in places where human potential was definitely thrown to the garbage bin and gone to waste. However, the empire of greed is crumbling in its own contradictions. The world is watching. The age of awareness depends on you…

Also, the cover artwork seems to reflect how extreme our situation is. There's a force or an entity that decides whether we live or die. What can you tell us about the idea and vision behind this painting?

Absolutely. This entity is a global ideology that has been under construction over the last couple of decades. We no longer have politicians, just puppets that are here to distract us and deflect attention. Global elites run the show in the shadows and have now corrupted all these puppets who pretend to be saviours and different from each other. They don't need us anymore.

This degrading political theatre is now vomiting demented figures that look more sinister and depraved as time goes by. It reminds me of those cartoonish evil empires I loved when I was a kid. Magnificent thrones of darkness coming from the obscurity of the Middle Ages as we move towards an age of neo feudalism. Once this societal model is no longer sustainable, they are now seizing power. Crisis like pandemics, energy, climate, terrorism are all good justifications for more power grab. But who took us along this path of emergencies and total disasters? By exhausting resources to the last minute, never ending wars, lack of pandemic preparedness and no real effective health service reinforcements even during a pandemic, big money in politics, social progress no longer in equation etc. While there was money to be gained, all was fine, but now what?!

Through fear we should feel guilty, comply, and suffer the consequences if not going along the path they chose for you. But we need to beware as we watch the dismantling of society the way we know it. A new world order shaped to their benefit is about to arrive. With global hegemony, that is now possible. As greed is causing global financial distress with excessive money printing, we have bad allocation of resources causing abysmal inequality and compromising our ability to rise to authoritarianism. Vaccine mandates cause unemployment and social unrest. Remember there is always phony money to rescue the opulent who are too big to fail. Meritocracy is now a lie. The arrogance replaces hard work. Monopolies are supreme. The breakup is complete.

Some of us have noticed this fire spreading that can be seen in the cover artwork. The rapacity of the faceless master might burn us all. Only a few of us of shall survive this. We need critical spirit and self-awareness. Fight for what we believe. Reach common grounds, unite against tyranny, fight for metal! Hellspike was born under deranged times. Now it's your turn to escape this evil masterplan. Which way will you go?

I have the impression your new album leans slightly more towards Traditional Metal than Thrash in comparison to its predecessor…

That is correct. It's something not entirely deliberate, but probably it occurred due to some improvement of my playing. I've also always listened more to heavy metal than any other metal sub genres which is worth mentioning. I like to create the analogy between Iron Angel or Angel Dust who started with more raw and primitive sound then improving their skills that led them to open their sound to a more melodic approach. Even in that sense, Hellspike is a tribute to those bands.

Did you change anything in the songwriting and recording process in order to reach the next level with "Dynasties of Decay"? Have your inspirations remained the same?

Nothing fundamentally changed. The main difference was that for the “Lords of War” I was probably listening to a broader spectrum of bands like Grave Digger, Warlock, Tony Macalpine, Merciless from Sweden, Samael, Fifth Angel, Kreator, Necronomicon, King Diamond, Marshall Law (UK), Running Wild etc., finding my identity and still shaping the sound of Hellspike.

With “Dynasties of Decay” I could develop more intricate solos from my heavy metal heroes that I could not emulate enough previously. I began doing a lot of covers at home in order to practice more stuff from Judas Priest, George Lynch or even early Def Leppard during those times of “Dynasties of Decay” in 2020.

I believe that like in life, you learn new things and gain experience when you work on new music. What did "Dynasties of Decay" teach you in regards to band chemistry, songwriting and applying your vision to your sound for instance?

It is very important to have a tight band with like-minded people, but also the experiences you share with the people around you that are not necessarily in the band, can also be very significant. For instance, with Rick, we worked harder this time on his voice delivery with more hours spent trying to create a good range of melodies, working hard trying to match and replicate our great inspirations. That happened because we felt there was room for improvement after having the experience with “Lords of War”. Sharing ideas with friends can also bring added value. He was the one who came up with this idea that we needed to make this album something closer to the great German classics where vocalists were very creative and memorable. We needed to do that as well no matter how hard the challenge could be.

Another great experience came from the close ties I have with friends of the metal family that followed Hellspike. I've always been a big cinema freak and after talking to a friend who also plays heavy metal and shared my passion for '80s movies, he advised me to go watch the movie “They Live”. I was astonished with that great film, and after a while I found myself in a very good position to replicate all this great movie making into my music. Everything is way more interconnected than we might think. There are no limits for art to express itself.

One of the album's aspects which I see as a major improvement is the quality of the lead guitar work. Highly memorable, sometimes crossing the line between Metal and Rock, I found there more than a few emotive, driving and uplifting leads. And it all sounds even more '80s than before. Tell us something about the guitar work on the record.

Guitar solos are a total gift from the gods of iron! Usually, the music section I like the most in every metal song. If well executed with good taste, is just pure state of the art craftsmanship and the best way to express your feelings. To be honest, solos are what really grabbed my attention when listening to metal. Solos were enhanced and sounded even better with delay effects which was very common in the '80s. This brought an extra mystical feature to the identity of traditional heavy metal that I just can't live without. I'm so used to it now. 90% of the heavy metal I hear and always heard since my early days is '80s metal. I cannot listen to solos from today's bands without any kind of reverb or delay. It sounds kinda empty and sterile. With Hellspike I needed to focus real hard on that to be totally fulfilled. Even when practicing, I always put lots of delay in my guitar because it feels much more inspiring to create melodies.

Maybe the reason the solos on “Dynasties of Decay” may sound like hard rock sometimes, is mainly because I've entered the metal world through hard rock with bands like Scorpions, Europe, Whitesnake, Kix and stuff like that. Even with Saxon I've always preferred the mid '80s phase much more than when they were pure NWOTHM rock'n'roll. Maybe Don Dokken was right when he said: “it's all about the melody”. Indeed it was, that's why they sounded way better and more metal than Poison, Motley Crue or even Skid Row. Besides all this, what you hear on “Dynasties of Decay” is my tribute to the most successful British metal bands touring the United States in the mid '80s: Def Leppard (when Steve Clarke was alive) and Judas Priest. It was just astounding to see how good, memorable, and catchy both bands were. Pure class.

One of the songs that caught my attention was "Hegemony Defied". Like the other songs, it's quite heavy and Speed Metal in style, but the C part was a surprise - it displays a great Hard Rock mixed with Heavy Metal feel, which was refreshing. What can you tell about the making of this track?

What I can tell you about this track is that it all began with a riff inspired by Judas Priest's “Love Bites”. You know, that one they play after the solo section, and everybody freaks out! That is pure metal, but with some hard rock feel I cannot explain. Just like the whole “Defenders of the Faith” album is a mix of pure steel with some hard rockin' vibe, and that's why it still is my favorite heavy metal album of all times. That is the driving riff in most of “Hegemony Defied” and that's it. The rest is history.

On "On Through the Times" the stage was set just for you, Zellspike. It's an enticing instrumental, which at the end even has some keyboards giving it a somewhat AOR-ish feel. Was it intended to be an instrumental from the get-go?

This time it was intended to be an instrumental from the get-go. Absolutely. This time I wanted to have only one instrumental. I love solos as you now know and doing instrumentals, but I must recognize that most people who will hear the album might skip it and stick to the songs with voice. That's perfectly understandable. In times where electric guitar has fewer options to display, it sounds almost kind of selfish for me to have more than one instrumental. The best I can do is to show some identity and compose a good instrumental section that is enjoyable and listenable. The keyboard at the end is my tribute to bands like Warlock or Mania who did great stuff with keyboards with a very nostalgic '80s German feel. That final part also paved the way for hope and harmony in our lives that makes a good contrast with the unholy wicked invasion from the next song. That's what evil empires do.

What went through your mind when you listened to the finished product for the first time?

Relief as the sound was finally to my liking. Not too compressed and with dynamics. Mission accomplished.

Even though nothing is certain nowadays, do you expect to play live anywhere in 2022? How did the pandemic impact the local scene over there in Portugal?

Nothing is certain nowadays, but I am not expecting to play live anywhere in 2022 unfortunately. I've moved to the south of Portugal in Alentejo and our drummer is on his way to London to work there. The pandemic impacted the local Portuguese scene 100%. It was devastating. I'm amazed that the promoters of the last concert I saw are still alive. I'm happy for them. I know they are struggling just like most other promoters in Lisbon. The price of raw materials is also rising and that will impact the vinyl industry. This year will be crucial for the music industry, especially regarding concerts.

Zellspike, once again, it was a pleasure for me to have you for another talk, I really enjoyed the record and think it should be a part of every '80s-die-hard's collection.

Thank you Lior, all the best


 



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