Deströyer 666 VII
by Niklas Göransson
Genocide and Wrath: in the spring of 2006, Deströyer 666 orchestrated a European assault alongside Revenge. Then, reinvigorated after years of hibernation, they set out on the Wolves over America tour.
KK WARSLUT: In early 2004, Matt moved to London and joined DESTRÖYER on bass. Being three Aussies again was great, and we’d all known each other for ages. Matt and I grew up together; we even had a band back in Whyalla called… <laughs> I wanted to call it ‘Explicit Void’ – just because I love anything with an X or a V in it. But even at fifteen, Matt had his scientific, fucking pedantic way of looking at things.
In 1997, Matt Razor moved from Adelaide in South Australia to Belgium to pursue a science degree. Before relocating, he and BC – a fellow Whyalla native who’d previously drummed for CORPSE MOLESTATION – recorded the RAZOR OF OCCAM demo “Diabologue”. Since the band’s conception, its thematic focus has been on the conflict between science and religion, the clash of reason and superstition, from a hardline atheist perspective.
WARSLUT: Matt goes, ‘What’s an explicit void?’ ‘You know, it’s a void that’s just there!’ After thinking for a moment, he said, ‘Hang on, a void can’t be explicit. That’s a paradox. It cannot be. If it’s a void, there’s nothing explicit about it. It’s the complete opposite.’ <laughs> ‘Fucken hell, must we overthink everything? It just sounds cool!’ But no. ‘Well, you’ll have to explain it to me better because I’m not getting it.’
ROB REIJNDERS: The first time Matthew and I met was at Stonehenge Festival in 1997, back when he lived in Belgium. Having recently moved to Europe, he didn’t know too many people and would often travel to my place on weekends so we could go to gigs. Then, a year or two later, Matthew went to Paris to study.
CHRIS MERSUS: For me, Matt joining DESTRÖYER was great news. I met him in ‘98 at a small festival in Koblenz called Desaster Metal Meeting. As you know, Matt has a lovely deep voice and an accent like someone stuffed a pair of socks down his throat – so no one understood him. Absolutely no one could understand a word he said. It was hilarious.
Following the February 2004 website update announcing Matt Razor’s inclusion, not much happened in the DESTRÖYER 666 camp.
SIMON BERSERKER: During the Aussie tour, I got the impression that DESTRÖYER was still on the rise, you know? I figured they were sorting their shit out in Europe anyway. But by that stage, Ian was trying to stay permanently in England, whereas Keith had been floating around Holland. And with Mersus in Germany, they were spread across three different countries, making everything harder.
IAN SHRAPNEL: For us to rehearse, I first had to get on a flight and then drive to wherever in Holland we were meeting up. Sometimes, we went to that Tilburg venue, 013 – they had practice rooms there. So yeah, it was kind of difficult to jam; not like the old days when we lived in the same house or just down the road from each other.
Do you think DESTRÖYER would’ve kept growing commercially if you’d remained active – as in, recording and touring – after the Australia tour?
SHRAPNEL: Perhaps? It’s hard to say. The band never really dropped off, though; it’s always been on an upward trajectory. I don’t know… if you’re stuck with the classic formula of doing an album, touring to support it, and then coming back to pump out another record – I wonder if it changes the music? I can’t help but think that it would affect the magic. If things are forced, it’s never gonna be as good as if they come naturally. I mean, if there’s a break, it’s a break; that’s just the way of things. So, no. I don’t think it damaged the band at all.
MERSUS: I would say yes because we heard the noise coming from the US – labels trying to push us, like, ‘Come on guys, it would be ridiculous to stop now.’ We had several offers for tours and whatnot in 2004 or 2005, but Keith just wasn’t interested. Nothing happened, and then we never really brought it up for discussion.
Did you think this would be the end of the band?
MERSUS: Kind of. I mean, honestly speaking, it was pretty much myself trying to push everyone to meet up, work on song ideas, or whatever. Ian and I had a few jam sessions, hoping to put some ideas on tape. We tried setting things in motion, but that went nowhere.
SHRAPNEL: A band needs to be constantly moving forward. If rehearsing and getting together becomes difficult, the momentum dies. And if there’s no momentum, there is no band. So yeah, we were suffering from the distance, and there was for sure some burnout.
MERSUS: 2005 was a year of silence. Keith told us, ‘Let’s put the band on hold. I’m getting stressed out from all the travelling for rehearsals, and we’re spending a fortune every time. We should give some serious thought to whether this is all worth it.’
WARSLUT: To rehearse, I had to drive through Holland to the most populated area of Germany. Those parts are a fucking maze of highways, so I got lost every single time. It defies comprehension. It should’ve taken ninety or so minutes, but I’d invariably arrive four hours later, fucking furious. I was caught by one of those speed enforcement cameras, and there’s a photo of me in this little Volkswagen Golf with my face distorted by rage, right up to the steering wheel… like, ‘AARRGH!’ <laughs>
MERSUS: Even when we played gigs and made a bit of cash, everything had to be poured straight back into keeping the band alive. So yeah, I could see where he was coming from – but for me, it wasn’t the end yet. I could feel it.
REIJNDERS: After I left DESTRÖYER, the band didn’t do anything for over two years. Keith still lived in the Netherlands and seemed to be waiting for something to happen or for a new direction to present itself. I’m not entirely sure. However, everything picked up again when they received an offer to tour with REVENGE in 2006.
The reignition of DESTRÖYER 666 was brought about by a March 2006 tour with Canada’s REVENGE, courtesy of German underground promoter Steve MetalKommand – who is currently operating Parasite Gallows Bookings.
STEVE METALKOMMAND: That would’ve been my fifth or sixth self-organised tour under the MetalKommand banner. It was the first time for REVENGE on European soil, and DESTRÖYER hadn’t played in several years. The D666 line-up was a bit special back then – lots of strong personalities and not the easiest to deal with.
MERSUS: We were recording a ZARATHUSTRA album at Necromorbus Studio in Sweden when I saw Keith’s message: ‘Look, we’re cancelling the tour.’ Then, still staring at my phone, I got a call from Steve. ‘Are you fucking serious, guys? The tour starts in a few days!’ I said, ‘Wait, let me talk to him.’
SHRAPNEL: All the way up to the first date, it seemed as if the tour wasn’t going ahead. Keith was a bit up and down and wanted to cancel. I can’t remember his exact reason now… I mean, we knew it was gonna be a real grind to travel in a van as opposed to a nightliner. And if you keep dwelling on the negative aspects before a tour, it will affect your mindset.
WARSLUT: The fact that it was a van tour probably played some part because I was dealing with nasty back pain at the time. It later turned out to be sciatica, so I could’ve just gone to the doctor and got a prescription for anti-inflammatories – which probably would have fixed me up right away. But I didn’t know about that, so I was trying to deal with it by self-medicating.
MERSUS: I remember it well because my phone bill was extremely high! <laughs> This was in a time before smartphones and mobile data roaming, so I must’ve spent hundreds of euros trying to convince Keith that we should do the tour. And then, it was up to Ian and me to make sure it went ahead.
WARSLUT: I also didn’t like the idea of us headlining. I assumed that interest in DESTRÖYER had waned over the years since we hadn’t released anything or even played live. Like, ‘Why are we even touring?’ I figured that REVENGE must’ve outgrown us by then; I kept trying to get them to headline, but they were having none of it.
METALKOMMAND: In the end, the rest of the band harassed KK into doing it. And that was a tour for the books! Nine guys in one van – me, the two bands, plus Drakh from KATHARSIS on merch duties – doing eighteen dates in Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Holland, Belgium, the UK, Ireland, Austria, and Poland.
MERSUS: The day before it began, we had a rehearsal at my place in Germany. Keith was being grumpy and hating us for everything. And, of course, our merchandise looked like absolute shit; not the best way to start a tour, obviously. Then REVENGE turned up, acting all cool.
SHRAPNEL: The REVENGE boys – Pete, Chris (Vermin), and James (J Read) – were great, but it took a while for us to warm up to each other. They were a bit stiff and standoffish, but not in a bad way. Steve picked us up at Mersus’ rehearsal space, which is like a dark, underground bunker without windows. It was nighttime, and the Canadians all walked in wearing sunglasses. That was a bit odd.
MERSUS: After the second show, in Holland somewhere, all of us were sitting around a table backstage. The REVENGE guys… we hadn’t really spoken much at that stage. And then Matt, for whatever reason, started saying, ‘So fellas, what’s this Ross Bay Cult you’re on about? Ross Bay is just a fucking fishing village in Canada, yeah?’
Ross Bay Cemetery in Victoria, British Columbia, was brought to notoriety by the legendary black metal skinheads of BLASPHEMY. It has since gone on to become an icon for Canadian underground metal culture. Ryan Förster, who played with J Read in CONQUEROR, shaved his head at the burial grounds while blasting “Fallen Angel of Doom” on a boombox.
SHRAPNEL: Now, Matt is a real no-nonsense guy; he has a doctorate and is probably the smartest person I know. There was no one else around – it was just us and them – and they were all wearing shades indoors. Matt was like, ‘What are you doing? For fucks sake, just hang out.’
MERSUS: All of a sudden, things got really heated. James slammed his fist on the table: ‘You better watch your mouth!’ Then Keith joined in, and a huge discussion broke out – all about Ross Bay <laughs>. Man, you wouldn’t believe it; it was beyond classic. Steve tried to defuse the situation but just made everything worse.
SHRAPNEL: James sort of got in Matt’s face: ‘Do you think Ross Bay is a fucking joke? Do you think we’re some kind of joke?’ Matt just replied calmly, ‘I haven’t made up my mind yet, mate.’ <laughs> Oh my God, it was priceless.
WARSLUT: J Read goes, ‘Right, that’s it, motherfucker – it’s on.’ I jumped in and managed to calm things down, but it got pretty close. J Read is certainly no slouch, and the other fella, Chris, is a big boy as well. He’s got shoulders like a fucking surfboard. I went to take a piss, and Pete Helmkamp was in there. I said, ‘Oh, it’s getting a bit feisty out there, mate’, and he goes, <American accent> ‘You know, within an hour or so of meeting you guys, we had a discussion about how much of this shit we were gonna tolerate.’
MERSUS: Then followed several days of listening to ROSE TATTOO non-stop in the small van, which completely broke the REVENGE guys’ psyche. Completely. James sat next to me with his fist clenched, going like this, <growls>, all the time. He was almost frothing at the mouth. I said, ‘Oh, calm down. Everything will be fine.’
METALKOMMAND: Yep, rings a bell. That was all part of checking each other out during the first three or four days. Also, a KK comment towards Pete Helmkamp when he was loading the van: ‘So, that´s how the ancient Egyptians loaded?’
WARSLUT: The beauty of it is that afterwards – once everyone realised that both parties were prepared to fight over fishing villages – we all got along like a house on fire. Top blokes, mate.
SHRAPNEL: I reckon that’s what it took to break the ice, you know? A few days in, everyone got along really well – which was a good thing because we were stuck doing long drives in a tiny van.
METALKOMMAND: This was in pre-smartphone days – when you drove to shows without a GPS and had to look things up on maps or ask taxi drivers. For ominous reasons, I myself was named ‘Stevie Wonder’ by KK.
SHRAPNEL: <laughs> I remember one show where Steve had trouble finding the way. We drove up what turned out to be a dead-end street, with about twenty minutes to go before REVENGE were supposed to be on stage. Steve insisted that the venue was just ahead, so we sprinted up the road with all our gear while people waited out front.
WARSLUT: Those Canadian motherfuckers… I gotta hand it to ‘em, mate. We were all real tired and hungry; my only thought was of food and something to drink. The REVENGE boys had to unload the van for twenty minutes and then immediately go on stage. There was no gap, just… bang! Gear on: start playing. And with that band, it’s straight into <hums a blast beat>. I remember sitting there – stuffing my guts and drinking a beer – going, ‘Fuck me, these guys are phenomenal.’
Photo: Artur Ślusarczyk
In a subsequent tour report on the DESTRÖYER 666 website, KK described REVENGE as ‘Folk whose actions reflect clearly their lyrics, image, and stance. An honour and pleasure for all in D666.’
WARSLUT: There were a number of occasions when we wanted to keep partying but had run out of booze. Where everyone else failed, J Read had this weird knack for approaching people in positions of power and getting alcohol out of them. He’d walk over – wearing his sunglasses, mind you – and say something quietly. Next thing, we’d have drinks brought out to us. It was quite a feat.
Did you ever find out how he did it?
WARSLUT: No, it remains a mystery to this day. I don’t know if he was intimidating them? Or maybe, because he was doing security work at the time, he just knew how to talk to bouncers and bar staff. Maybe the sunglasses at night threw people off? I have no idea, but J Read is a bit of a magician – that much is certain. We still talk every now and then.
The tour report also sends ‘thanks to Steve and Shaky Axel’ – the aforementioned Drakh from KATHARSIS, I presume – ‘for a massive effort in the face of sometimes dispiriting obstacles.’
MERSUS: Steve did a tremendous job – not only as tour manager but also as the driver. We had a couple of bus breakdowns, and he’d barely slept once it was fixed. So, Pete and I took turns behind the wheel while Steve got some rest. It really brought us together in a way where we could see, ‘Okay, now we’re truly experiencing this tour as a unit.’
WARSLUT: The KATHARSIS fella might’ve been a bit outta his depth. It got really stressful at times, and I’m not sure he was the right man to deal with it. They even let him drive occasionally. I remember going down some dodgy, shitty road somewhere in Poland, looking out the window. Every hundred meters, there were all these fucking crosses covered with flowers where people had crashed. And there’s Shaky behind the wheel, still shakin’… ‘Oh man, this is it. We’re gonna die here.’
Why the ‘Shaky’ nickname?
METALKOMMAND: Well, Axel was sometimes shaking out of sleep deprivation; there were a few times when I had to wake him up behind the merch table. Drugs were not very common back then – it was all about whiskey.
WARSLUT: Decent bloke, but yeah – the poor fucker was thrown into the deep end, dealing with shit-slinging Aussies. He wasn’t at all fond of the ‘Shaky’ thing and tried telling us off a couple of times. Like, <thick German accent> ‘Guys, you must stop calling me Shaky. It is not my name. My name is…’, whatever it was, I can’t remember. ‘Yeah, no worries. We won’t do it anymore, mate. Sorry, Shaky.’
METALKOMMAND: Good times, hard times, wild times – but memories never forgotten. Definitely one of the scene-defining tours of the mid-2000s.