Deströyer 666 IX
by Niklas Göransson
Riding hard the clarion of war – in 2010, Deströyer 666 recorded a new EP titled See You in Hell. Later that year, the World Defiance Tour heralded their most extensive US tour to date, coupled with a spell of European havoc alongside Watain.
MICHAEL BERBERIAN: Despite being well-received, “Defiance” is probably – and I guess you’d agree – my least favourite album of theirs. Essentially, it’s DESTRÖYER 666 without any KK in it. And honestly, I believe that was just Keith being lazy, so he let other people write it. But afterwards, he understood that ‘Maybe I should contribute some material to my own fucking band.’
In July 2010, one year after “Defiance” came out, DESTRÖYER 666 finished recording two new songs – both of which were later released by Invictus Productions and Poison Tongue as a seven-inch called “See You in Hell”. The title track was written by KK Warslut, and “Through the Broken Pentagram” by Ian Shrapnel.
IAN SHRAPNEL: “Through the Broken Pentagram” was originally meant for “Defiance” but didn’t make it. The drums were already recorded, so all we had to do was add strings and vocals. Matt and I tracked our guitars and bass in London and then sent everything to Mersus for mixing.
CHRIS MERSUS: Keith’s song was recorded using my setup. We had multiple guitar tracks and re-amped everything – all the while making sure to keep some roughness around the edges. We wanted it to sound exactly like how we envisioned DESTRÖYER 666 without an external producer telling us otherwise. The track itself was made up of fragments of “The Hurricane”, from that old, discarded EP I mentioned earlier.
KK WARSLUT: I think it was meant to be the B-side of the EP. To be honest, I haven’t listened to “See You in Hell” for so long that I can barely remember how it goes. You’re the only person who’s brought it up – seriously, no one has ever mentioned that track to me before – so I assumed people didn’t like it. What I do recall is that my song sounded very different from Ian’s: I suppose it was indicative of where I wanted to go with the band.
It occurred to me that the “See You in Hell” EP is where KK first introduced the half-shouted anthemic vocals that have taken such a prominent role in later records. There was a bit of that on “Defiance”, but not this ambitious or confident sounding.
WARSLUT: Once I’d started doing those vocals, I had this nagging thought in the back of my head, like, ‘Oh, this reminds me of something. But what?’ I dunno… but I concluded that I got it from my old man <laughs>. When I was a kid, he’d always be yelling at me from the fucking backdoor: ‘Keith! Stop doing that!’ or ‘Come here and do this!’
In the fall of 2010, DESTRÖYER 666 announced the “See You in Hell” EP. It sold out in the presale already, much to the chagrin of a fanbase already agitated that the previous EPs were impossible to find. Shortly thereafter came “To the Devil His Due”, an LP compilation of four out-of-print seven-inches – in only one thousand copies, all of which were gone upon release.
SHRAPNEL: I’m not sure why they were pressed in such small amounts. Obviously, our shit should be available to whoever is interested. But at the same time, we didn’t want our records to be something you’d see in every bloody bargain bin. Growing up, I’d go to music stores and always find the same bands in the second-hand section. I suppose we didn’t want DESTRÖYER to end up like that.
With “To the Devil His Due” – which was re-released by Hells Headbangers in 2011, and then Season of Mist in 2023 – one can follow the progression from “Satanic Speed Metal” to “King of Kings / Lord of the Wild” and further into the Dutch era all the way up to “See You in Hell”.
SHRAPNEL: All of our EPs are like a timestamp in the sense that listening to them takes me back to a specific period and place. But material-wise, I like the Dutch seven-inch (“…of Wolves, Women & War”) the best.
WARSLUT: I thought both “…Of Wolves, Women and War” and “Lord of the Wild” were quite interesting. I know that we discussed playing “Lord of the Wild” live… we might even have done it once. But the thing with seven inches is that people no longer seem to care about them – not like in the old days.
In 2010, after almost a decade in Europe – first Holland and then Denmark – KK relocated to London, where Matt and Ian lived.
WARSLUT: This long-distance shit can only be done for so long. It’s not like being in a regular band; you can’t just spontaneously jam out an idea, perfect it over the next few days, and then you’ve got a pretty good song the following week. That doesn’t happen. You get one weekend to work on your live set plus try to squeeze in some other stuff. I suppose that was starting to get to everyone.
MERSUS: Oh man, where do I even start…? First of all, the band tried to convince me to move to fucking London. I immediately went, ‘No way – completely out of the question. That is the biggest shithole on Earth.’
WARSLUT: When I moved to the UK, it was like, ‘Right, we’re all here apart from Chris.’ Every rehearsal entailed flights, pickups, renting a studio, and so on – all for two quick jams. It was a lot of money spent for a short amount of time. Usually, it would cost a couple hundred bucks, which is what most bands pay per month for a practice room they can use whenever they want. So, it was neither practical nor financially viable.
MERSUS: We argued a lot, and you could feel it in the vibe. Everyone was pissed off, and this affected our shows. We weren’t really having such a great time on stage anymore – but at least we could channel all the anger and frustration into our performances. I was also told that I shouldn’t be so ‘professional’ with my job. ‘You know Chris, we left everything behind for DESTRÖYER’, and so on.
WARSLUT: Honestly, I’m finding it hard to remember all these little dramas. I guess I’ve never found careers to be all that important. Like, ‘Why does he care about his job so much?’ It made no sense to me. I figured he could just find other work if they wouldn’t accommodate his tour schedule. But I think he actually liked his job. Perhaps it’s a German trait – that strong, Protestant work ethic.
MERSUS: Suddenly, they wanted to get out on the road more. I said, ‘Well, that’s a very different tune from just a few years ago. So now you want to do two major tours and a lot of weekend dates’ – because we had a shitload of festivals lined up – ‘all in one year? By all means, go ahead; but it will have to be without me.’ Apparently, they already had Perra from NOMINON on standby.
How did you feel about that?
MERSUS: I was absolutely fine with it. I like Perra a lot; he’s a great drummer and a perfect fit for DESTRÖYER. I told them, ‘Why not? Go for it.’
PERRA KARLSSON: I flew over to London for what was supposed to be four days of jamming. But after only a day or two, the boys thought it sounded so good that they went, ‘Fuck it – let’s skip rehearsals tomorrow and hit the pub instead.’ So, we started drinking and raising hell.
Were you already familiar with the material?
PERRA: Mostly their early albums. Even though “Defiance” had only been out for a year, they seemed almost sick of it. As I recall, we only rehearsed two songs from that record. It kind of felt like, ‘Let’s do this one from “Cold Steel…” or “Unchain…” instead.’ I got the sense that they wanted to move on from “Defiance”.
SHRAPNEL: Since the “Defiance” material wasn’t written in a rehearsal room, some of those songs were never jammed together as a band. So, the tracks we played live were the ones we knew worked well to a point.
WARSLUT: For most of the “Defiance” writing process, I only worked on the vocal arrangements. When it came to actually learning Matt’s riffs, I was like, ‘What the fuck? There’s no way I’ll be able to play that and sing at the same time!’ – which is why we’ve only ever done two songs from “Defiance” live.
Come August 2010, a year since their last appearance Stateside, DESTRÖYER 666 descended upon North America for twenty-three shows supporting Belgian black metal veterans ENTHRONED.
SHRAPNEL: That whole tour was an interesting experience; how we made it to the end is just outta control. The promoter had been trying to bring over DESTRÖYER for a long time, and now he’d managed to convince us. But there were so many issues. For starters, our visas didn’t arrive in time, which meant that we missed the flight over.
PERRA: Even though we’d been to the embassy, done all the interviews, and received our documents and permits, this visa shit kept dragging on. Keith was pissed off at everything and everyone – which I can understand because it took a hell of a long time.
Was this due to the embassy being slow?
WARSLUT: I think it was more the booker on the US end. The whole thing was an absolute fucking fiasco, mate. No one told us that we weren’t flying out until the very same morning. We’d been up all night, and then ‘Nah, you’re not leaving today. Maybe tomorrow.’ So, you can imagine the anxiety and stress. Every little aspect of it was fucked up.
SHRAPNEL: Our visas arrived the following day. I called the promoter, ‘We’ll miss the first two shows, but we’re still coming. Make the tour happen!’ And he’s like, ‘Okay. Fly over, and I’ll figure something out.’
WARSLUT: I really don’t like flying, so I thought that if I stayed up until the morning getting high, I’d just crash out by the time I got on the plane. So, me and Perra spent the entire night doing this, that, and the other.
PERRA: Keith had bought some stuff and went, ‘We have to finish this before leaving.’ I think the evening got a bit more intense than intended. That was a very strange experience for me; I certainly wasn’t used to it. I’d never done drugs at that level.
WARSLUT: It must be said that my plan worked a treat. Well, first Ian dropped me off at the wrong fucking airport terminal, so I had to do a mad dash from one end of Heathrow to the other. But once we’d boarded, I passed out and slept until breakfast – absolute perfection. Let that be a lesson to everyone if you wanna get through a long-haul flight.
SHRAPNEL: With our first tour date gone, we lost the nightliner. How tours work is that you play, get your money, and then pay for a day’s worth of petrol before going to the next town. The promoter organised a new bus to meet us in Atlanta – but getting all the way down there from New York is quite a distance, right? At the airport, we were met by two guys in a minivan. ‘Get in; we’re taking you to the next show.’
WARSLUT: The hippy tour manager and a driver picked us up. But once the drums were loaded in, we couldn’t fit our remaining gear into the van. They hadn’t thought about that. I’m not even sure how we did it now, but the entire backseat had to be removed. I mean, you can’t just lift it out, so I think we had to unbolt the fucking thing. We left it in the parking lot, and off we went. So, the van would’ve been returned to the rental place minus a backseat.
SHRAPNEL: And then followed this long, drawn-out clusterfuck of dramas as we tried to catch up to the tour. Like, they couldn’t figure out who was supposed to pay for petrol. ‘What about the driver? There’s no money for him.’ The whole thing was just weird.
WARSLUT: By then, we were all stressed out and fucking furious. We’d been promised a professional tour, and now we’d just missed the first two dates. I remember the start of our long, stinkin’ hot, fucking horrible journey to Atlanta. Suddenly, I heard this… BANG! BANG! I turned around and saw Ian – the calmest guy in the band – punching the roof. ‘FUCK! FUCK THIS!’ No one said a word; we’d never seen him that angry before, not at such close range. There was just this deathly silence in the van, like <hums radio static>.
PERRA: To be honest, I don’t remember much from the time we landed until we got down to the first gig. It was a long drive, but I didn’t care. I felt so relieved we’d even made it over and been let in – that our documents were in order and so forth.
WARSLUT: I looked over at the hippy in the front, and that’s when I noticed his hands shaking, ‘cause he had three horribly, bitterly, rageful Aussies in the van. I’m talking pure rage, if ya know what I mean. And he’s on his phone, trying to send a text, literally trembling. I thought, ‘Oh god, this is never gonna work.’ We were… what? Maybe four hours in, and our tour manager was already on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
SHRAPNEL: It was fucked. Anyway, long story short: we made it to Atlanta and managed to get the tour going.
PERRA: Just as we were about to go on stage, Ian said something like, ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this with a Swede!’ <laughs> My response was, ‘It’s about fucking time – get ready for it.’ And then it was just this inferno of energy as all the pent-up frustration and aggression came pouring out. I remember thinking, ‘Damn, what a fucking discharge!’ And the audience clearly felt it too.
SHRAPNEL: We received a lot of support on that tour. Our set at Maryland Deathfest the year before kind of broke DESTRÖYER 666 in the States, so the band’s name had grown quite strong.
PERRA: A lot of fans mentioned that Maryland Deathfest gig – everyone said it was really energetic and heavy. But seeing DESTRÖYER again on this tour was an additional step up; they were fucking floored. It felt a bit strange that ENTHRONED headlined, which they probably thought too. As soon as we finished playing, folks started dropping off. ENTHRONED did their thing on stage, but DESTRÖYER had this kind of spark that people were drawn to.
SHRAPNEL: ENTHRONED headlined but appeared to be struggling with some of the turnouts. Those guys are awesome, so it’s nothing against them – but the crowds were clearly there to see us.
PERRA: We were asked to headline certain dates but said, ‘Nah, we’ll stick to our original slot as direct support.’ That’s what DESTRÖYER were there for and, I presume, got paid accordingly. As headliners, ENTHRONED probably earned a bit more. But since I wasn’t a member of the band, I had no insight into the finances. We’d agreed beforehand that I’d receive a lump sum for my efforts, and that’s what I got. Probably a good thing, seeing as how the tour funds were such a mess.
WARSLUT: The shows were all well-attended. Nevertheless, sixteen fuckin’ dates in, and we still hadn’t made any money. Not a cent. We were always in the red – every single day. I’m like, ‘Where’s all the fucking money going?’
SHRAPNEL: Nothing was organised, and I don’t think we had any contracts. Some local promoters told us there was no money for the bands. This is how ridiculous it was: our useless fucking tour manager had a drunk driving conviction in the States, so he couldn’t come with us into Canada. The guy who was supposed to collect all the money and handle everything wasn’t even allowed to enter the country.
WARSLUT: He was our only roadie as well – which means that he should’ve been near the stage or at the mixing desk for both bands every day. One night, something went wrong; I kept calling out for him but to no avail. Turns out he got stoned and fell asleep on the bus. How a guy like that can end up in charge… it’s insane it could even happen.
PERRA: This fella wasn’t exactly ‘manager material’; he was a bit boyish almost. He’d worked for PENTAGRAM on a US tour a few years prior and reckoned it went well, so the booking company thought, ‘Let’s use this guy.’ But clearly, he wasn’t the right man for the job.
SHRAPNEL: He was also mishandling the nightliner fees, so there were times when the driver pulled over and went, ‘You gotta gimme some money, or we’re not going anywhere.’
PERRA: The bus company were unhappy with the payments and said, ‘That’s enough; we haven’t received what was promised. When you arrive at the next city, the bus will stay put until you pay us.’ That happened several times.
WARSLUT: Eventually, it was decided that we were gonna stage an intervention and basically fire him from the tour. And we’re all trying to be nice about it, like, ‘Look, it just hasn’t worked out. Maybe you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.’ But then Matt comes out with, ‘Face it, mate – you’re fucken useless.’ <laughs> I was like, ‘Easy, mate. He’s not useless. I mean, he got us pizza that one time.’ But the poor cunt started crying, and it got real uncomfortable.
SHRAPNEL: Nick Hood – who was doing merch for us – took over, and he soon discovered that the tour was in complete shambles. There was no organisation, no clarifications about the finances, and different deals with different promoters, which made everything seem shady.
WARSLUT: Our merch guy did the books in a couple of hours, and then he goes, ‘You’ve been making money since day four. That dickhead has been paying the driver and the bus company, but he’s also sent the nightliner fee – which is like $1500 a day – to the booking agency.’ So, for fifteen shows or so, this clown of a tour manager had been paying the same costs twice; about three thousand per day. That’s where all the fucking money went. I knew we weren’t gonna get it back because the booker was too scared to come and meet us.
SHRAPNEL: The guy who organised it, Dan Rosenblum, wasn’t answering his phone. He was meant to come to a show but cancelled when he heard how fucking angry we all were.
WARSLUT: The bus driver was sick of it as well. He was a great bloke – this big old black fella. He used to be a biker and would run drugs from Mexico into America through El Paso. I spent so many mornings when everyone else was sleeping just listening to his outlaw stories from the 70s and 80s while gazing out at the desert landscapes, picturing it all. I have fond memories of those conversations.