Deströyer 666 II
by Niklas Göransson
Bridges to cross, bridges to burn. The second act of the Deströyer 666 saga reveals a new line-up fuelled by creative fervour and existential stakes, culminating in the groundbreaking opus Phoenix Rising.
MARK HOWITZER: My final show with DESTRÖYER 666 took place in Sydney around August 1997. There was no animosity between us at all; I just wanted to have a crack at getting GOSPEL OF THE HORNS going again. I remember thinking, ‘Oh, am I gonna regret this?’ Because I had to start from scratch and find new members.
Following the March 1997 release of “Unchain the Wolves”, Mark Howitzer left DESTRÖYER 666 to resurrect his old project, GOSPEL OF THE HORNS. Studio member Bullet Eater took his place on bass for local gigs, whereas Ryan Marauder – who also played with BESTIAL WARLUST and GOSPEL OF THE HORNS – was drafted for interstate shows.
RYAN MARAUDER: Keith (KK), Ian, and I were in the same circles, and they obviously knew that I was a guitarist. I can’t remember if I offered or if Keith asked me, but it was like, ‘Yeah, no problem. Easy.’
KK WARSLUT: Ryan was a good bloke – one of the gang – and could play bass, kind of. I’ve always tried to keep everything in-house with DESTRÖYER, except when we’ve had no choice. And it’s always been drummers we’ve had to pull in from the outside, which… let’s just say it has worked sometimes and not worked other times. But the people I’m at the front with will always be individuals I know and have some respect for.
Employing ANATOMY’s Wazza as session drummer, DESTRÖYER 666 promoted “Unchain the Wolves” through shows in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Melbourne. Towards the end of 1997, seventeen-year-old multi-instrumentalist Jarro Deceiver – who plays with NOCTURNAL GRAVES and PSYCHIC MASS these days – was brought to their attention. At the time, he lived with his parents in Kyabram, a rural town outside Melbourne.
JARRO DECEIVER: Jason Healey, the editor of Heresy Magazine, worked for Modern Invasion at the time. My distro stocked copies of his ‘zine, so we’d chat on the phone a bit. I sent Jason the DESTRUKTOR demo, and after listening to it, he said, ‘Man, DESTRÖYER are looking for a drummer – would you be interested?’ And I was like. ‘Yeah, one hundred per cent.’
Earlier that year, Deceiver had played the drums on DESTRUKTOR’s “The Holy Trinity… Denied!” demo.
DECEIVER: KK rang me and said, ‘Jason sent me your demo.’ I was like, ‘Oh yeah? What did you think?’ He goes, ‘I thought it was shit. The vocals are fucking terrible, but you can play the drums.’ So, we organised a rehearsal. I’d never been in what I perceived to be a real, serious band before; ‘Fucking hell, these guys play gigs and have albums out.’ My old man, being a drummer himself, advised me to head into the practice room and go through their material backwards and forwards. I just went nuts and learned every single song they’d recorded.
IAN SHRAPNEL: I remember Jarro’s dad dropping him off, which was hilarious for some reason. It’s not really that funny, but it just… it still cracks me up. Like, his old man taking him to rehearse with fucking DESTRÖYER 666 and then picking him up afterwards. Jarro was really baby-faced but certainly had the attitude <laughs>. And he could play.
DECEIVER: Ian would’ve been twenty-two, KK around the same age, and Phil (Bullet Eater) was in his thirties. I’m thinking, ‘Man, these cunts are really fucking old.’ Anyway, I set up my drums, and we were about to start jamming. They asked, ‘Which songs do you know?’ I’m like, ‘Whatever.’ Keith – as you can imagine, being Keith – immediately went, ‘What? You know all our songs?’ ‘Yeah.’ He just scoffed, ‘Mm, right-o. You can do “Unchain the Wolves” then? Let’s play that.’ Which we did. ‘What about “Six Curses…”?’ For fucks sake. ‘As I keep telling you: if you’ve recorded it, I can play it.’ ‘Pfft, sure’, you know, all pessimistic and paranoid, like, ‘I reckon this little cunt is lying.’
WARSLUT: Um, honestly… I’m sorry man, but I can’t remember all these little details. What I do recall is Jarro bringing along this 1970s glam rock kit; it was fucking massive. Like, Abaddon-sized with eight toms and really, stupidly long kick drums. They must’ve been ten inches longer than ya regular kick drum. And the whole kit was in this blue, glittery colour. If KISS had used a blue drum kit, it would’ve been that one – ya get the idea. Jarro was fresh out of the countryside: a kid in the big smoke.
DECEIVER: I remember that Keith had his hair in a ponytail. We did about four tracks, and then he goes, ‘Do you seriously fucking know every song we’ve recorded?’ ‘Yes, I do’, and he’s like, ‘Alright, killer. Now play’… say, “An Endless Stream of Bombers”. Then he let his hair out: ‘Let’s fucken go!’ and started headbanging. We did a couple more, and Keith said, ‘Man, do you want the gig?’ ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’
SHRAPNEL: That New Year’s Eve, a whole bunch of us headbangers brought along a stereo and went to this fucking hippie festival and took heaps of booze and drugs. This was on some beach with all these people sort of dancing around with incense and Bob Marley. And we’re cranking out RAZOR, METALLICA, and SLAYER.
WARSLUT: The hippies didn’t like it. ‘You’re ruining the vibe, guys. Why did you come here with your shitty music?’ They had this massive board-like grid with the festival programme. Say, ’2:20 pm, Dolphin sunrise meditation class. 3 pm, Lama pregnancy techniques’, or something. So, Matt and I scrubbed a couple out and put in ‘4:40, Extreme satanic hatred session’ and then just stood there watching the hippies coming up to read it. ‘Hmm, okay, first we do the Lama love at 3 pm, and then we have… satanic hatred!?’ <laughs>
Matt Razor – who would later form RAZOR OF OCCAM – grew up with KK and Howitzer in a small town in South Australia called Whyalla. As did VOMITOR frontman Rob Death Dealer, who was also present.
WARSLUT: That night, while wandering around mocking random hippy folks, Rob started singing this Christian song, “March on, Christian Soldiers” – cleverly reinterpreted to ‘March on, Satan’s soldiers… hateful and triumphant!’ Rob and I had brought along a two-by-two metre banner with poles on either side holding it up. If memory serves me correctly, it was proudly emblazoned with ‘Satanic Metal HQ’.
The party went on for several more days. Somewhere in this blur, KK started thinking about organising a spontaneous studio visit.
WARSLUT: Quickly cobbling together a few tracks and recording ‘em was a brand-new concept for us. We’d seen some friends of ours do it. Before, I’d always worked extensively on songs and fucked around with them for a long time. So, I put the idea to Rob: ‘Mate, we should do a song about this lifestyle of ours’, and that’s what became “SS Metal”. He even chipped in a few lyrics. ‘Whiskey, metal, leather, and sex – traditions upheld these years to the next.’ That was Rob.
On January 5, 1998, a studio called Stable Sound hosted the “Satanic Speed Metal” session.
DECEIVER: Keith, Ian, and I turned up there in the morning. We set up and sound-checked the drums and all that. Then, all of a sudden – because the studio was attached to these rehearsal rooms – Marcus Hellcunt and Joe Skullfucker were rolling in amps. And it’s like, ‘What are you guys doing here?’ ‘We’re rehearsing with BESTIAL WARLUST.’ ‘Oh, right. We’re recording with DESTRÖYER.’
WARSLUT: It wasn’t our first time working with this engineer; he hated metal and didn’t wanna sit through it again. We’d been there two years earlier to record a demo for “Unchain the Wolves”. After the first take, Coz went, ‘Let’s try it again.’ And when we looked into the control room, this guy was shaking his head and groaning – after a handful of minutes. The man was clearly in the wrong business.
SHRAPNEL: It was fucking hilarious. We’d literally been there for like fifteen minutes and tried a couple of takes when Coz says, ‘Look at him now!’ – by that point, the engineer was bent over, looking down, hands over his face… like, ‘Gah, what the fuck am I doing here?’
DECEIVER: We got the drum tracks done, then did the rhythms and all that. Throughout the day, friends of the band started rocking up to the studio – Rob, Matt Razor, Damon Bloodstorm, Slasher, Skullfucker, and a bunch of others. People rang their mates: ‘DESTRÖYER are recording! They wanna do a track with people cheering and raging, like “Live Undead” (SLAYER).’ There must’ve been twenty of us, boozing and carrying on. And the studio dude was just like… ‘What the fuck?’
WARSLUT: Everyone was drinking and yelling and carrying on. Later in the evening, we went to a pub in St Kilda. Ian probably told you this story? We brought that massive fucking banner we made for the hippy fest and set it up right behind us next to the bar.
SHRAPNEL: We went to the Prince of Wales in St Kilda – a big bar that would usually be packed with a few hundred people. And there we were, proudly holding this huge banner with a massive fucking pentagram and ‘Satanic Metal HQ’ written on it, drinking and chanting <laughs>. Just ridiculous.
WARSLUT: ‘Raise the banner, raise the banner!’ <laughs> Later that night, we smashed that thing against every overhanging shop sign along the main street – caused quite the commotion. Did Ian tell you about his brother? No? His brother was relaying a story to him a few weeks later. ‘There was a fucking riot in St Kilda!’ Ian asks, ‘Oh really? What happened?’ ‘These assholes, yelling and smashing stuff. They kept on chanting all the way up the street’… ‘Ahem, something about a banner?’ and his brother goes, ‘Exactly, about a banner!’ ‘Oh. Yeah, I heard about that. Just terrible.’
The first DESTRÖYER 666 show with Deceiver took place at Melbourne’s The Tote in February 1998. I came across some video footage and marvelled at the absolutely mental crowd.
SHRAPNEL: Yeah, it was pretty good; the Melbourne metalheads were great back then. Lots of headbanging – no sitting up the back. There was some fire in their bellies.
WARSLUT: “Unchain the Wolves” had come out, and the local underground really embraced it. I remember being at a bar and… I don’t know if they knew I was there, but these two lads were singing DESTRÖYER lyrics. I thought, ‘Fuck, this is cool.’ That was the intended result: lyrics you can sing along to. I wouldn’t say the album knocked the town dead or anything, but people seemed to like it.
The following weekend, DESTRÖYER 666 set out for gigs in Sydney and Canberra.
DECEIVER: Sydney was my first road trip with DESTRÖYER. You had to be twenty-one to drive the rental, so Ryan and I were just drinking and carrying on in the backseat, being fucking idiots. We started bashing the window at women driving on the highway, pointing and going, ‘Your car is gonna explode. Pull over!’ After a while, Keith turned around, ‘What are you guys doing back there?’ ‘Oh, we’re doing this.’ And Ian’s like, ‘You arseholes. They’ll be stuck on the side of the road for hours, not knowing what to do.’
SHRAPNEL: Yeah, they were doing dumb shit: pointing at people as we’re driving past, like ‘Fuck! You gotta pull over!’ Just freaking them out. Of course, it was funny at the time. And we were always giving each other abuse. I remember everyone started hanging shit on Jarro until he, somewhere halfway up to Sydney, threatened to leave the band. Then he goes, ‘That’s it, I quit!’ <laughs>
DECEIVER: That’s when I met Kriss Hades from SADISTIK EXEKUTION for the first time. We were at a bar after the gig; it was 9 am or something. He told me this full-on story about fucking some chick in the ass and getting covered in shit. And Slasher was trying to pick a fight with someone at the bar. I mean, you’re seventeen, and you’re looking around going… ‘Man, it’s nine in the morning, and we’re in Sydney. Kriss Hades is telling me about fucking some chick covered in shit, and Slasher is over there threatening people with an armband full of nails.’ And it’s like, ‘This is outta control!’ but classic at the same time, you know? Yeah.
MARAUDER: Those Sydney guys were nuts. Slasher… fucking hell, man. I’m sure you’ve heard about him. Kriss Hades is quite a character as well. Crazy guys with insane stories. There was a lot of bravado with people trying to impress the Melbourne crew. A lot of showmanship and exaggerated anecdotes – but that has always been the case.
Once the tour was over, the studio line-up of DESTRÖYER 666 started preparing for their third album, “Phoenix Rising”.
DECEIVER: We rehearsed fuckloads; at least thrice a week. I moved in with Keith, and we set up a jam room in the house. We’d play from midday until 5 pm when we went to get dinner. Then, we rehearsed for another four hours. The mood was really creative. I lived out the back in a bungalow sort of thing, and I’d often come in and find Ian and Keith in the lounge room, jamming with guitars only. Nobody had jobs either – we were all unemployed. Well, Ian worked a few hours per week at some warehouse that sold bongs and shit.
WARSLUT: I actually had a job when we first started. I worked the graveyard shift miles away from home. It started around eleven o’clock at night and continued until seven in the morning. I’d get home at eight, be asleep by nine, and these cunts would come around at 1 pm to jam. Oh, I was in a foul, foul mood. I mean… ya ain’t slept properly, you’re in the kitchen making coffee – trying to wake up – and then it’s like ‘Bang, bang, bang, bang!’ and squealing guitars. Eventually, I had to quit. The job, that is. I’m usually reasonably unbearable, but then I was just completely unbearable: always fucking angry and pissed off.
The unique style of Canada’s CONQUEROR resulted from Ryan Förster and James Read residing together in Victoria, BC, with the ability to rehearse at any hour of the day. By living and breathing CONQUEROR, they came up with ideas such as the crazy pick-slides and spiralling song arrangements. Gene Palubicki tells a similar tale about the foundations of ANGELCORPSE, which were laid once he’d moved in with Pete Helmkamp in Kansas City. It appears to have been the same kind of tunnel vision that birthed “Phoenix Rising”.
WARSLUT: There was nothing else going on, mate; we just had the band. I was never under any illusions that we’d get big and make a living out of it. But like most young muso dickheads, we were just so fucking passionate. The band and training were the only things we wanted to do. Weightlifting and DESTRÖYER – that’s pretty much all Ian and I did and talked about. And women.
SHRAPNEL: There was the tenacious drive to try to push it. We used to get together, smoke weed, and jam out ideas. We had to drag Jarro out of bed, or he’d just sleep all fucking day. I’ve got a photo of him with his electric frying pan, sitting there alone like a bum, cooking some shit food like baked beans or something <laughs>. Anyway, it was a good environment to be creative in – that’s for sure.
DECEIVER: Many of the memorable song parts came from just fucking around. Keith and I were jamming stoned one afternoon, just improvising. We’d play without any idea or thought about where things were going. A riff emerged, and we messed around with it for a bit and then, suddenly… bang! That whole midsection of “I Am the Wargod” happened.
WARSLUT: Man, I don’t know if it’s all the partying, but I have no recollection of this. It’s amazing that Jarro remembers it. Having a drummer literally in-house was killer, though; being able to jam whenever I wanted to. I mean, some material I wrote by myself, but other stuff was a collaborative effort. It’s a chemistry that arises between you. The drummer comes up with a beat, and you go, ‘Oh!’ and then he induces you to go there or do this, ya know?
DECEIVER: KK started playing that midsection melody <hums>, and then I began catching the <hums>. Both of us were like, ‘Fuck, something’s definitely cooking here!’ And it just went from there. Then we rang Ian, ‘Man, you gotta hear the killer shit we came up with today.’
SHRAPNEL: No? Yeah, maybe. Possibly? I’m aware of the midsection you’re referring to, obviously, but I don’t remember getting a call and coming over. Sorry, Jarro.
WARSLUT: I do remember that Phil came up with the beginning of “I am the Wargod”. I told him I wanted a bass intro, so he wrote one and – unless I’m mistaken – also the melody line at the beginning. And then once the beat kicks in, that’s all me.
DECEIVER: That classic heavy-as-fuck middle part of “Lone Wolf Winter” came from jamming with Phil. He gets ultra-enthusiastic when he’s hit something; he jumps on it straight away and gets real excited, which is great because it boosts everyone else. Keith wrote that main guitar melody, <hums>. But originally, he said, ‘After the last notes, we let it ring out.’ Phil and I were like, ‘No, no! Do it like a dead stop.’ ‘Nah, that’s fucking stupid.’ ‘Come on, just try it.’ So, we do it … <hums> and immediately, bang! Phil is like, ‘Oof! and Keith goes, ‘Yeah, all right. Sold.’
WARSLUT: Fuck, they’ve got good memories. I don’t doubt them, but these are tiny details. Phil is a proper musical brain, whereas I’m not, so he’d help me bridge things. Ian was also a huge help; “Lone Wolf Winter”, for example – we wrote that one together. The opening riff was originally very black metal and droney with dissonant chords, but I made it a bit thrashier and put our distinct catchiness into it. It was a pure collaboration, for sure. I’m not claiming that any of this stuff was just some genius of mine, ‘cause it most certainly wasn’t.