Deströyer 666 III
by Niklas Göransson
With tongues of black fire, beating in the pulse of stars; at the dawn of the new millennium, Deströyer 666 brought in Simon Berserker and began plotting their predation of Europe.
KK WARSLUT: We first met Simon in ’98, when DESTRÖYER played in Newcastle, New South Wales. I remember that he wore a patched denim vest, which was quite unusual in Oz back then. It had all the right patches too, so we hit it off straight away. Simon was super chill: a great bloke.
SIMON BERSERKER: That was a killer show – just like my first time seeing DESTRÖYER two years earlier. They played in Sydney the night after Newcastle, and I was heading down to that anyway, so we hung out and got to know each other. I was in this terrible band called BERSERKER.
In early 1998, BERSERKER recorded “Devastating Aural Assaults” at Penis Studios. Ryan Marauder was kind enough to scan the booklet for me, but I’ve been unable to obtain any actual music, so I’m not sure what I’ve missed out on.
BERSERKER: Not a lot, in fairness. Penis Studios… fucking hell, I’d forgotten about this. The region I’m from is mostly a surfing area, and there were maybe two metal bands in all of the 90s. So, I played with whatever group of people into the heavier stuff I could get amongst.
What did the band sound like?
BERSERKER: I’d say it was a mishmash of sorts. My influences were mostly the old, dirty thrash and SADISTIK EXEKUTION, whereas the others were more into EMPEROR, CRADLE OF FILTH, and shit like that. We even had a keyboardist, and he was an idiot. I liked EMPEROR too but wanted to play something nastier than that era’s standard, oversaturated black metal.
In early 1999, after bassist Bullet Eater left DESTRÖYER 666, Simon Berserker was invited to join in his stead. Melbourne must’ve had a serious lack of musicians if they were considering bringing in a guitarist from another state on bass.
WARSLUT: There weren’t many musos around back then – not like today when there are more of ‘em than actual fans. And for people like us, proper metalheads, they were few and far between. It might sound a bit superficial, but people wearing vests and patches and fucking studs… livin’ the life, if ya know what I mean? So yeah, one kind of had to look around.
BERSERKER: Keith rang me up: ‘What’s going on?’ I told him, ‘I’m moving to Ireland. I already have my tickets and visa sorted.’ ‘Well, I was gonna ask if you wanted to join DESTRÖYER.’ I was like, ‘Fuck, I’d love to, but I can’t.’ Then, Keith said, ‘We’re probably going overseas later this year anyway; we’ll meet you in Europe and take it from there.’ So, I stuffed my luggage full of bullet belts, studded gauntlets, and all the hoo-ha – half-banking on it.
WARSLUT: Going overseas in ’99? Nah, I don’t think… um, actually – now I remember. One of the bits of bullshit Michael dangled in front of me to get us to sign with Season of Mist was the prospect of touring with fucking MANOWAR! <laughs> It’s hilarious now, but it didn’t even occur to us at the time that it might just have been a negotiation strategy.
BERSERKER: I was very much into the whole underground metal thing and spent a lot of time going to shows in Sydney and whatnot, but everyone in Australia knew that Europe was the place to be. I wanted to backpack and live in a different country, just to see what it was like – it’s almost like a rite of passage for Aussies in their early twenties. So, in a nutshell, that’s why I went there. Didn’t know anyone, had not a clue about anything.
Berserker ended up sharing a residence with Paul Thomas Kearns of ARCANE SUN, as well as AA Nemtheanga and Ciáran MacUiliam from PRIMORDIAL. Through them, Simon got to know other metalheads from the Dublin scene, such as Darragh O’Laoghaire of Invictus Productions.
BERSERKER: They were already aware of SAD-X and BESTIAL WARLUST, but I introduced them to stuff like GOSPEL OF THE HORNS, DESTRÖYER 666, and RAZOR OF OCCAM. I remember Darragh going, ‘You’re really into your own country’s bands, aren’t ya?’ The Irish lads found that a bit strange. I was like, ‘Well mate, they’re all we have to see live back home.’
Towards the end of 1999, after almost ten months overseas, Simon’s time in Dublin was coming to an end.
BERSERKER: I hit Keith up before I went home, and he said, ‘As soon as you get back, come to Melbourne.’ I think I made my way down there on January 2, 2000.
WARSLUT: Ryan Marauder was filling in on bass during that period, but he couldn’t do it full-time – nor did he have any interest in going overseas. Also, by then, he and Cozzy (Mark Howitzer) had GOSPEL OF THE HORNS up and running.
The first DESTRÖYER 666 recording with Simon Berserker took place six months later, in June 2000: “King of Kings / Lord of the Wild”, a seven-inch released by The Ajna Offensive. The label manager, Tyler Davis, was also the co-editor of US black metal publication Descent Magazine.
WARSLUT: Tyler interviewed me for Descent, and we stayed in touch. Our “Six Songs with the Devil” demo had artwork by Australian artist and occultist Rosaleen Norton – and Tyler, who is quite into the occult, knew of her. Oh, we also had a shared interest in everything related to Charles Manson.
Worthy of note here is that “King of Kings” – the song on side A – contains the foretelling line, ‘So let us break into a new world, far beyond these shores!’ In terms of music, both tracks sound closer to “Unchain the Wolves” than anything on “Phoenix Rising”. Perhaps that’s because Shane Rout, who played drums on the EP, also had a hand in the former.
IAN SHRAPNEL: I remember jamming with him, though I doubt he contributed very much. Keith might’ve done some sessions with Routy, but I don’t think he had any part in the songs besides doing those beats. To be honest, he was kind of told what to play. He’d always be fucking late for rehearsal, too.
WARSLUT: Nah, it was just the style of the material that happened to be available at the time. I’ve always regarded EPs as a bit of a reprieve that allows you to do something different from your albums.
Shane Rout’s participation was as a session member for that recording only. Despite the momentum DESTRÖYER 666 had at the time, they struggled to find a capable full-time drummer.
BERSERKER: We put up flyers in record shops: ‘Drummer needed’ and so on, but there were just no replies. That surprised me because, at least in my mind, DESTRÖYER was a pretty big band. I’d been thinking, like, ‘This actually has the potential to go somewhere.’
WARSLUT: We had someone called Red Face coming down all the way from Geelong. It was scorching hot, we were in our fucking shorts and flip-flops, and he got there wearing skin-tight jeans, army boots up to his knees, and a black leather jacket in thirty-six-degree weather.
BERSERKER: It was boiling hot, and this guy showed up dressed pretty heavily. I remember his long hair being in the way as he set up his kit, and he smoked Winnie Reds – which back then were known as jail cigarettes. You know, they tear a fuckin’ hole in your lungs.
WARSLUT: And his face was full of acne, the poor cunt. Once we started playing, it got even hotter in our rehearsal room than outside. He kept pounding away, growing redder and redder, until his face looked like it was about to explode and send yellow fucking pus flying everywhere.
SHRAPNEL: We really struggled to find someone suitable. I mean, you can be a great drummer, but we also have to click. You gotta be someone I can hang out and potentially be friends with. So, it comes down to both skill and personality. Maybe they’ve got a girlfriend who’s a fucking dickhead – that’s gonna be a problem. They must also have a job that allows them to take time off for tours; a lot of boxes need to be ticked.
WARSLUT: In June 2000, I went to Europe to follow GOSPEL OF THE HORNS on tour. I ended up staying over there for three months, and when I got back, they’d met this fella from Ballarat.
BERSERKER: Someone told us, ‘Check out this guy.’ He played in some band… I’ve forgotten their name now, but it was that raw death metal type of sound. I know the singer was in INVERTED PROPHET. Anyway, Ian and I were like, ‘Let’s go up to Ballarat and check him out.’ As I recall, he played fine. Quite good, actually.
SHRAPNEL: This guy could play, and he could play fast. It was so long ago now that I can’t remember his name, but he was called Mushroom Stabber. Apparently, he’d had a bad trip on mushrooms and ended up stabbing his mum.
BERSERKER: He said, ‘You guys can stay at our place’, so we went back there, and it was just Australian country deros sitting around the house choofing bongs. Mushroom Stabber’s dad was there, and he was a fruitcake. We were chatting and drinking and… yeah, all the rest. Later, we crashed out in some messy spare room full of boxes and bicycles. Then, in the middle of the night, we heard smashing and fucking bashing. Mushroom Stabber started yelling, ‘No papa, no papa!’ I don’t know if his old man was trying to fight him or one of his mates. And yes, that should’ve been a warning sign.
WARSLUT: To complicate matters, I stumbled across an advertisement for my dream job: working in the reptile department of a fauna park. It was in Ballarat, an hour’s drive away, but I thought, ‘Fuck, I could do it.’ I went there and did the interview. Afterwards, we walked around, checking out the snakes, the lizards, and so on, when she said, ‘So Keith, what do you do in your spare time?’ ‘Well, I’ve got a band…’ ‘Really? What kind of music?’ ‘Uh, death-thrash metal kind of stuff.’ ‘Ah, I see.’ A couple of days later, fuckin’ Mushroom Stabber calls me. ‘I heard you had an interview with my mum!’ ‘That’s your mum? Well, there goes that job.’ He’d been listening to CANNIBAL CORPSE during his trip – and as an elderly woman, you might just blame songs like “Fucked with a Knife” for your son stabbing you on mushrooms.
How was he as a bandmate?
WARSLUT: He came to every rehearsal with his girlfriend, a bong, and a big bag of weed. You know, I smoked a little bit – but it wasn’t as if I’d be doing bong hits at someone’s house in front of strangers. It was bizarre. Mushroom Stabber wasn’t too bad of a drummer, though. The man was obviously good enough for us to think, ‘Okay, maybe he could do it.’ But as soon as we got on stage, he fell apart. I don’t know if it was a lack of weed or too much of it, but he just crumbled. He obviously had some screws loose, as you can tell by the fucking stabbing incident.
SHRAPNEL: Mushroom Stabber couldn’t perform under the pressure of a show; he’d crack. We played this big festival in Canberra called Metal for the Brain, and he made some playing mistakes and then got lost. Instead of trying to drop back in on the next part, he just kept blasting. It got to the point where we all stopped playing and turned around to look at him. And he’s still pounding away… like, ‘Fucking stop!’ I think Keith even announced on stage that we were looking for a new drummer.
WARSLUT: That’s the only gig where I’ve had to stop playing, turn around, and go, ‘What the fuck are you doing, mate? Just give it a rest.’ Mushroom Stabber had brought his old man along, and he approached me afterwards. ‘So, what do you reckon – is the lad in the band?’ I said, ‘Well, didn’t you see the show?’ He goes, ‘Yeah, I thought he did alright.’ ‘We’ll let him know, mate.’ It was a bit of a blow because “Phoenix Rising” was just about to come out; Metal for the Brain was a huge event, but we made a complete balls-up of it.