After covering the thrash metal revival for a good few years, I have noticed the slow increase in the number of acts that are the the effort of a single individual. Toxic Holocaust is undoubtedly the most well known of these solo projects (although Joel Grind has now permanently hired a drummer, he still is responsible for writing and recording the majority of the music). Look beyond Toxic Holocaust and you begin to discover a number of acts writing and playing music as solo projects. You will also discover that many of these acts occupy the same position in the thrash metal spectrum: they mostly play rough-and-ready, low-fi thrash metal, often with a strong influence from the early days of black metal. I find it fascinating that most of these bands have developed music with a very similar aesthetic despite likely having no connection with each other: there is also an even spread of countries producing metal one man acts. One might expect to find, and will find, the usual countries such as Germany to appear but I was surprised to find acts from Chile, Russia, Scotland and Italy producing worthwhile music. Common musical sources of inspiration appear to be Motorhead, Celtic Frost, Bathory, Venom, etc.
So what has encouraged the people behind these acts to go the solo route? Is it geographical? Ideological? Technological? Undoubtedly, technology will play a part. In this age we now live in, home recording software and equipment can be purchased at relatively reasonable prices thus allowing more and more people to create music. Secondly, as metal spreads to new parts of the world, so it may find new individuals who feel the need create music and who may not have like-minded souls near enough to participate. After all, the days of people only getting together in basements and rehearsal spaces to write and practice are long gone. if I decided to reach out to my favourite artist from this area and see if they can shed light on the solo scene.
Thrashmania: Why choose to pursue a solo route for creating your music?
Hellripper: Originally, it was because I couldn’t find any like-minded people around me to perform this style of music. But it also gives me the freedom to write/record/say what I want with no compromises. That can be both a good and bad thing. Good in the sense that I can do what I want and not have to worry about other people disliking my ideas or wanting to change things etc., and also bad because obviously I have a particular way of writing and creating riffs etc so I have to try and avoid letting my riffs and songs become stale. I feel I’ve managed to do that so far and I do try and filter a lot of the shit out.
TM: What was,or is, your original inspiration for making music?
HR: I just enjoy it, that’s all. I love playing guitar and I love writing songs.
TM: Does writing music solo help or hinder the creative process
HR: It helps in the sense that the end-product usually ends up as I envisioned because there was no one else to “interfere” and as I stated before, it lets me write/record/say what I want which is nice. It can hinder it because, again, as I stated before, I have to avoid becoming stale sounding and too repetitive. I am limited in my abilities too. I’m mostly fine when it comes to writing and playing the rhythm guitar stuff but I am not a very skilled lead guitar player. In most cases, the lead guitar parts are fine and I can perform them but if I feel a more “technical” part is needed, I sometimes can’t manage. Luckily it has worked out fine so far as my friend Mark is a much better lead guitarist than myself and has been happy to help with recording a few parts.
TM: Can you offer any insights into why one-man bands tend to pursue more virulent, chaotic types of thrash and speed metal, instead of more mainstream forms? If the term ‘mainstream’ can be applied here.
HR: I honestly couldn’t tell you. My best guess would be that a lot of people were in a similar situation to myself in that there was nobody else around that wanted to play this kind of music.
TM: One reason I began to listen to heavy metal, in all it’s forms, was as escapism. Does your music constitute a form of escapism for you? Or do you use your music to talk about topics that societal restrictions prevent you from addressing in the ‘normal’ world?
HR: I wouldn’t necessarily say it was a form of escapism for me. I like to listen to a whole bunch of different music as well as metal too. Music is just fun for me. I love hearing a good song whatever the genre and I love writing songs no matter the genre. It’s more of a hobby. I listen to music at any opportunity and when I’m at home just on the computer or watching TV I will often just pick up an acoustic guitar and play about. I don’t use my music personally as an outlet to express my opinions on certain topics because that’s not what I want to do.
TM: Are you attempting to convey a particular message through your music? If so, what is it and why do you feel it is important for people to hear said message?
HR: Not really. I want my music to be fun to listen to, that’s about it (I would also like it to be good). The lyrics for Hellripper are mainly sort of horror stories, both fictional and some based on true stories. Those are the more “serious” lyrics, and then there’s the silly over-the-top blasphemy and nonsense lyrics that I like to write just for a bit of fun. I don’t believe in God, Satan, Heaven or Hell at all and I don’t practice any form of forest based goat-worship in candlelight like some bands claim to do. It’s just fun, fast music to bang your head and dance to.
Finally, I have collected 10 solo projects that I believe represent the best of the one man bands. Some will be familiar to you already and I hope that some will become familiar to you as well.
- Hellripper – Regular visitors to the Facebook page will probably be familiar with this Scottish project. I named the 2016 compilation as one of my favourite records of that year and the debut full length, Coagulating Darkness, the debut full length, was one of my favourite records 2017 too. Blackened speed metal played with conviction and skill. James recently began playing live towards the end of 2017 and has appears to have plans to make this a regular thing. Follow Hellripper’s facebook page to see if they come to your area.
- Burial Ground – Hailing from Russia, this act are unsigned but that has not stopped Alex from amassing a considerable discography over the last 2 years: With surprisingly consistent and competent results. Alex also records some cleaner speed/thrash metal under the name of From Beyond.
- Morti viventi – An anomaly on this list as this guy doesn’t play black metal influenced speed or thrash metal with a very old-school production. Instead, this record has more influences from the classic bay area template recorded with a modern production. This benefits the guitars, in particular, which have a very meaty crunch to them.
- Quintessenz – Creator Genözider has been around for a while: he served time in Bulldozing Bastard and Obsessör, is part of heavy metallers Luzifer and speed metal mercenaries Vulture and this experience shows in Quintessenz: Genözider has carved out a slightly different niche for himself as the music has more of a cavernous atmosphere and slightly slower, more considered feel, as opposed to the full speed, outright necro style of many others.
- Diabolic Night – Straight up black/speed metal is the order of the day here. Tom G Warrior comes to mind when listening to the vocals and the overall package suggests murky, subterranean behaviour taking place just out of sight. No new music since 2015, but the facebook page indicates an album is being written and rehearsed as you read this
- Ruins – Ruins practice a style of thrash with the pure black metal influence more prominent in the music. Some wonderfully over-the-top artwork makes them a very entertaining prospect.
- Demon Bell – In a land known primarily to the uninitiated for Lacuna Coil, flowery power metal and lots of symphonic bands, Italy’s thrash scene seems under-represented in the wider metal media, and not without good reason. Demon Bell, however, do not deserve to languish in obscurity. Resolutely old school as fuck metal that longs for the days of 1985 all over again. Top stuff.
- Raw Poison, Greece – Hard rockin’, black-punk-thrashin’, horror movie-slashin’ stuff here. Simplistic drums and, to be honest, riffs too, but then that’s part of the charm of this type of thing, right? They love singing about rock’n’roll, demon worship and the ways of the old school. And I like listening to it.
- Night Ambush – Punked-out clattering from Chile. Possibly the undiscovered soundtrack to an upcoming biker movie, probably containing strippers, shotguns and zombies. Heads down riffing and no fucks given about subtlety or progressive songwriting. And sometimes, that’s what you need.
- Positronic Brain – thrash metal inspired by the Star Trek universe. Often I find novelty bands rather frivolous and one dimensional (and I suppose that’s deliberate) but Mike Taylor, the starfleet officer in command of the USS Positronic Brain, writes to a high enough degree that you approach this as a serious piece of music.