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Oath Of Cruelty's Dave Callier: "…one can stay within a genre’s stylistic framework, while writing creative and interesting songs. Why wimp out, in the name of striving to be original or fresh? Just write better and catchier music, and stay heavy"

Interview with Dave Callier from Oath Of Cruelty
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 13 December 2019, 12:16 AM

Reliving the past in the present, that is a nice way to put it. One cannot deny the powerful moments of the old days, especially while the relics of that age still walk among crowd. The once project, now a band, Oath Of Cruelty, has been celebrating the qualities of the old days, while punching it hard and nasty in the now. With their debut album out, titled “Summary Execution at Dawn”, there is a fistful of Metal waiting for each listener in the back alley. Steinmetal had a talk with the veteran member, Dave Callier, about the finally released album, influences of the old school persuasion, riffs and solos and more…  

Hello Dave, it is great having you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing mate?

Doing great, thanks a bunch for sending it over to us! Psyched to answer the questions.

After nine years of existence, Oath of Cruelty made it happen with a debut album, titled “Summary Execution at Dawn”. Some would probably say it is about damn time, yet I guess that you probably thought that it wasn’t the right time for a full length record? What made you decide that 2019 will be the year where the band would unleash its mighty spiked fist right in the face in full?

Waiting that long to release our first LP wasn’t totally deliberate. For most of our existence, Oath had been a side project of our other bands, so there were lots of times that things just got pushed to the backburner. The songs from the record were written between 2010 and 2014, and we actually first started tracking in 2015 (yikes!). That being said, we are already churning out new riffs with menace, so there will be no such wait for the follow-up!

Though your old school Death Metal vision, the title provided for this debut is rather challenging and unexpected, well maybe the execution part. What stands behind this title? I presume that you didn’t name the album as such due to it being a cool title right?

Come on… it’s only four words long! Ha. No, but seriously - I’ve always been a fan of verbose titles. I like them to be long enough to create a ‘texture’, or ‘feel’. One or two words isn’t always enough space to tell the story or set the tone that one is going for. Besides, at this point, it would undoubtedly be a challenge to come up with a one-word title that hasn’t already been poached.

Without evening listening to the music, the sheer brutality of the tracklist says it all. Therefore, I have to ask, what compelled you to find the savagery within the human impact and explore it? Has it been like searching for answers kind of journey while coming up with the lyrical concepts of the songs?

The answer to the question kind of lies in itself – humans are savage. Mankind’s history has been pretty brutal, overall. I feel that lyrical themes such as medieval scenes of torture and wholesale violence lend themselves to our musical writing style. I want the overall experience to sound harsh, sadistic, and gripping, hence focusing on such things textually.

For an American band, your old school German extreme Thrash and Death Metal approach is inspiring, somewhat refreshing in light of the tons of modern extreme Metal groups laying down albums nowadays. What has been drawing you in the old days of extreme Metal while a majority only choose to progress and go forward?

Old German thrash metal, in its finer moments, epitomizes everything that’s good about the genre. Aggressive, jagged-sounding riffs, leads which were often either blindingly skilled (Frank Blackfire, dudes from Deathrow) or leads that were sloppy and sometimes out-of-key, but still classic and great (Mille Petrozza on the earlier records), harsh vocals (whereas many of their American counterparts sounded clean, weak, and glaringly unthreatening), as well as great drumming and memorable songs, of which much fewer became affected by ‘cute’ and humorous themes. As far as European old-school death metal bands which have influenced our songwriting, such as Agressor and Merciless, the appeal is obvious – fast, ripping brutality while keeping it simple but speed-picked.

As far as progression versus hailing the old school, I think that there is a space which can be occupied, in which bands can clearly define themselves in somewhat of a more old-school framework without copying their influences outright. Although I have an obvious bias, I feel that one can hear a lot of Oath of Cruelty’s influences, while, at the same time, our music isn’t super-derivative of the bands that inspire us.

I did notice that you are a fan of both Kreator and Sodom, both bands will be celebrating anniversaries for “Coma of Souls” and “Agent Orange”. Are you a fan of these records or rather prefer their early discography, which seems to be a totem within your style?

Ah, Kreator and Sodom… Two of my true loves. Haha. I am, personally, a fan of both records, but as per my own taste, each band must be considered in their own light – With Kreator, this is the last record of theirs that has songs which I like. There are some good songs (especially the first one), and the production of the guitar is pretty crushing, but I prefer something like “Pleasure to Kill”, which is the pinnacle of their work for me, in its utter sonic heaviness, deathly atmosphere, and relentless riffing. Almost every song from “Pleasure To Kill” makes me want to turn a table over. Similarly, “Flag of Hate” is a massive anvil of crushing death, with one of the best guitar sounds ever recorded. I also love “Endless Pain” (of course) and “Terrible Certainty” (extreme rippage), but by the time of “Extreme Aggression” and “Coma of Souls”, things were getting quite commercial. So, it’s more of a mixed bag there (but Extreme Aggression has some real motherfucker-riffs). Sodom, on the other hand, has a discography which is often sonically inconsistent, what with all their different members, but their records are much more consistent in terms of quality, compared to Kreator. I love most of the Sodom records. While my favorite record by them is “Expurse of Sodomy”, I do, indeed, think that "Agent Orange" kicks total ass. Although some of the songs have pointless slow parts that go nowhere, every song still totally crushes life. The element of catchiness of each track isn’t put on or contrived, they’re just all great, well-written songs. The drum fills on that LP are still crazy, the lyrics still have enough strange, pseudo-Germanic turns of phrase to satisfy fellow disciples of Angelripper, and the riffs/solos are still fucking godly.

Such ferocious speed, always rigid, storming the scene like maniacs, that is pretty much the spirituality of “Summary Execution at Dawn”. When you first listened to the finished product, what did you feel exactly? Were there electric charges involved in the process?

Listening to the final, mastered product was definitely quite gratifying. The record took a while to come together, and it sounds pretty aggressive, I think, in the end. There are always things that you want to change slightly, when it’s you who you recorded the record, but such is the inherently self-critical nature of musicians.

Although Oath of Cruelty is what is considered as the primitive ways of playing Death mixed with Thrash Metal, there is always room for maturing and growth, especially for a band such as yourselves, running more than 9 years. How would you say that the band’s music developed over the years while comparing to your previous EP for example?

I think that on the LP, there are some songs with somewhat more ‘busy’ and involved riffs than the songs from the two demos and the 7”. The proverbial waters aren’t totally clear, as some of the LP songs were written before the first demo (such as “Through Alchemy and Killing”), but I think this is still true, as a general trend. Danny, our other guitarist, brings his own riffing style to the table, and uses much more legato-style parts in his compositions, whereas my riffs are usually just fast or super-fast power chords. The soloing on the LP is much more developed than on the earlier releases, as well, owing largely to Danny’s more competent ability therein.

How can you describe the songwriting for “Summary Execution at Dawn”? Do you believe that with the experience you gathered along the way, you used a different approach to writing songs? Is the songwriting a group effort in Oath Of Cruelty?

I would say that more than half of the songs for this record were written in our rehearsal room. One of us would come up with some riffs spontaneously, and work them together with whatever drum parts did the trick for that particular part, and sometimes someone else would propose how a transition or part should go. There is also about 3 songs that were written entirely at home by an individual member, and brought to practice to show the other guys. I personally prefer when the songwriting is done at least semi-spontaneously, as either a group effort, or an endeavor spearheaded by one person with input by others. It ends up being more fun and more gratifying.

One of the album’s strongest aspects is the implementation of energized soloing bursts, one has to admire the powerful instant air raids. Would you say that this kind of soloing is somewhat of a miss nowadays in Death Metal?

That’s a good question. Danny is a much, much better lead composer and player than I, so he brings a really competent, expressive lead playing style to the band. I personally am not a ‘real’ lead guitarist, (although I have recorded solos in almost every OOC song), so I just try to write something that sounds good in my head, and then not to fuck it up too bad live. Ha! I think that soloing in death metal is easy to overdo, and isn’t always essential, but when it’s done well, it can really add a memorable dynamic to the songs.

 “At the Tyrant's Behest” is a sort of an oddity in comparison to the blasting speed demons on the album. It is also musically one of the most interesting tracks, delivering fine melodies while not letting go of its fine extreme measures. What is your take on this track? Do you find it special? On what it is all about? What can you tell of its writing and recording?

I agree. It’s a pretty cool song – it was the first one that Danny wrote entirely by himself, when he had been in the band for less than a year, and I think that’s why it stands as somewhat of a stylistic outlier. He did a great job – it’s epic without being long-winded, has melodies you remember. Also, his solo in this song is really great.

With that said, and I challenge you here, which of the album’s tracks won’t let you ears rest? Please elaborate on your pick.

It’s hard for me to pick favorite songs from my own band’s record, but, to answer from another angle, the sequence of each song is pretty deliberate. It was, for example, important to start the LP with an aggressive and fast song like “Pounding Hooves of Shrapnel”. Few things in this world are more boring than long intros to metal records. Quit fucking around! Likewise, it felt important to follow that song up with “Stabbing Forth with Invincible Damnation”, which is likewise a fast, blast-beat-heavy one. With this methodology of presentation, we are able to declare our intentions right out of the gates. The Merciless cover (‘Denied Birth’) is definitely special for us. For Oath of Cruelty, Merciless has been a great inspiration, with their sheer intensity, and Kreator/Sodom-esque riffage played at 45 RPM. So, it was great to pay homage to them in this way.

With its rawness, “Summary Execution at Dawn” sounds like a late 80s album, maintaining the same magic as the older albums. How was it engineered? Was there a shred of the old ways of making the old school sound in the studio such as analogue and such or was it all digital? What is your appreciation of this rotten to the core sound?

Sadly, the recording process was fairly contemporary. We tracked the instruments with modern recording software. It would be cool for us to record something to tape - always makes a huge difference for the better with the sound. I personally haven’t done that in almost 20 years, and it might perhaps be a challenge to achieve clean rhythm guitar overdubs like that. There is surely no substitute, however, for the guitar sounds of bands from the 80’s and early 90’s. Maybe recording to tape can be our next effort, haha.

Old school Death Metal music has always been in the underground, yet in the last two decades, while being served in a contemporary platter, it received a little more recognition within Metal music. Do you think that the old school approach still has an effect on its listeners today? And I am not talking on the bigger bands that eventually would fade away.

I think that the old-school approach to songwriting still resonates with people, the way it did before. Again, one can stay within a genre’s stylistic framework, while writing creative and interesting songs. Why wimp out, in the name of striving to be original or fresh? Just write better and catchier music, and stay heavy.

Signing with Dark Descent Records is quite a step for you guys, and no doubt you found the right home for you. Was it a mutual interest by both parties to sign or was it your best offer? Do you believe that with Dark Descent will be reaching everywhere possible to inject the album’s poisonous nature?

We did speak with other labels, some of which have great output, a lot of visibility, and are well-distributed. Matt (Dark Descent) is, to us, the best fit in a number of ways. We agree with how he does things, and dealing with him is a breeze. He’s straightforward, articulate about everything, keeps us informed at every step of the whole process, and is generally just a very nice guy. No stress. He has been doing a fantastic job of promoting the record, and I’m sure this trend will continue. Dark Descent is definitely the right home for us.

Looking forward into the not too distant future, what do you think will be the challenges of Oath of Cruelty? While not merely referring to supporting “Summary Execution at Dawn”, but beyond

I think that the biggest challenge for us is finding time to play as much as we would like. We are all between the ages of 35 and 40, and have jobs that are either very busy, or sometimes all-consuming. So finding opportunities to get away and travel can be a challenge, although we do all find time, more than the average working American.

On which stages will you be seen in the coming year? Have you been exploring the options of touring? Perhaps even reaching Europe? 

Time will tell! Most of the shows we currently have booked are in our hometown, but yes – Europe is where it’s at. We have all toured there with our other bands, and can’t wait to play there with Oath of Cruelty.

Dave, I wish to thank you for this interview. You guys blasted with enough energy to drain a power plant, nothing but the best for you guys. Cheers.

Thanks so much for the interesting and penetrative questions! You rule, keep up the good work. Prost!


 



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