By Keith Carman
This infernal thrash metal resurgence has gone on long enough.
Don’t get us wrong: we love that people are finally taking up the cause for a genre that was unceremoniously thrust into the shitter when bands offering a sloppy, derivative take on old school punk ethics enmeshed with Pixies-ish dynamics pushed it to the wayside. Of course, that also thankfully negated other more effeminate forms of “metal.” Still, the onslaught of bands clearly not understanding the true essence of that which they ape is growing tiresome.
Enter Birth A.D. and debut EP Stillbirth Of A Nation to clean up the mess; pick the peanuts out of the turds as it were. How so? By delivering a wallop of sincere, tongue-in-cheek crossover the world hasn’t seen since umlaut-touting acts like The Accüsed could still fit into board shorts and Motörhead were turning their Sabre-toothed mascot into a locomotive. Actually, to be exact, it’s more akin to when punks/metallers were finding common ground though truncated band names such as D.R.I., S.O.D. and M.D.C.
At that, while actually recorded in 2009 and only seeing the light of day now, Stillbirth Of A Nation‘s ten rousingly ephemeral blasts are just plain exciting. A bastion of chug patterns offset by hyperactive double-kick and anthemic anti-societal rants/chants demanding the obliteration of mankind, they ravage, savage and enthuse in a way only the aforementioned hardcore-infused metal acts—and maybe Cryptic Slaughter or early Suicidal Tendencies—have delivered since Reagan entered office, let alone left it.
Comprised of bassist/vocalist Jeff Tandy, guitarist Brian Morrison and drummer Mark Perry, it’s no surprise this power trio is capable of such maniacal blasts of sincere bitterness. Spending most of their time in higher-profile acts such as black metal brigade Averse Sefira, death dealers Death Of Millions and Incantation, they know their way a bludgeoning riff or two. In fact, as this relentless assailment of snide aggression catches on, don’t be surprised if the tide turns and Birth A.D. becomes the more notorious band.
Discussing the modus behind Stillbirth Of A Nation, Tandy reveals that Birth A.D. might only be getting off their ass some two years after its completion but the whole concept has actually been in the works for far longer that anyone could have anticipated.
Hellbound: How did the idea to work on Birth A.D. come about?
Bassist/vocalist Jeff Tandy: It unofficially started in 1989 as a thrash band called Afterbirth. It wasn’t anything serious but it was a great exercise because we’d commit songs to tape the same day that we wrote them. I always wanted to get back to that kind of commando song creation and I also felt like plenty of newer bands had the opportunity to revisit crossover but never really did for some reason. There was a gap that needed to be filled, so I decided to step into it.
Did you delve into it right away or has this been something toyed with over time?
I’d been thinking about it for almost a decade. I was committed full-time to my other band and I also worked a regular full-time job (though I don’t anymore, thankfully) so there wasn’t a clear window of opportunity.
What made you opt to work on it at this point in time?
Once I started intensifying band activities and working as a free-lance contractor, it seemed more feasible in general. Then, in 2008 we had to cancel a tour with the band and my drummer and I found ourselves at loose ends. It seemed like the right time, though admittedly I was worried that we’d look very late to the table, so to speak.
When you were working on the material, did you steep yourselves in old school crossover or is this just a natural state of mind?
It is actually where my mind always goes when I write. I learned to play guitar listening to D.R.I., S.O.D., Nuclear Assault and a bunch of similar bands, so it is imprinted whether I like it or not. The good news is that it allows me to write Birth A.D. material almost automatically.
What makes a black metal dude want to step over into crossover anyway?
That’s actually an easy question. My other band was an expression of something much larger than myself; a monument if you will. It will always represent an essential part of my mind and spirit. Birth A.D., on the other hand, is a way for me to exercise complaints over the “daily life” portion of my existence. People are stupid, traffic sucks, everyone has cancer and so on. But it’s important to note that one band doesn’t negate the other in any way. It’s merely two different sides of me, kind of like the whole Rocky/Rambo thing that Sylvester Stallone did (or maybe that’s a weird example). Outside of the black metal realm I’m known for being funny and very sarcastic, so it was easy to set it to music. I like the immediacy of it as well. Black metal is boundless in its potential but it also requires an incredible amount of brain power to create something significant.
Were there any aspects you felt were dire for Birth A.D./Stillborn…? Lyrical content? Sound? Direction?
In some regards, yes, because the theme of the EP is that America is a doomed society. That’s not a terribly original idea but it has been heading in that direction since the end of World War II. I didn’t want to write songs that whined or demanded some kind of idealized solution, though. I took an egocentric posture and peppered it with enough hyperbole to make the material resonate with people without turning it into a outright joke. The exaggeration points back to the practical issues but sometimes it’s more fun to scream, “Kill everybody!” I get really amused when fans tell me they agree with everything I’m saying. They want the planet to explode? Wow!
Do you think this will appeal to both new-school revivalists and longhorns?
So far, so good! Younger fans are the ones who buy the majority of our merchandise but the old-schoolers talk us up a lot as well, which is especially validating because they’re the ones who really know the difference.
At that, do you really care?
As a matter of fact, I do because if I was only able to rely on the support of scene lifers, then the band would only get so far. New blood keeps every movement vital, so we gladly welcome young fans. If we’re their gateway band to a whole history of great albums, then everyone wins. Moreover, I think Birth A.D. stands against this cutesy, Hello Kitty style of neo-thrash that has been coming down the pipe in the last couple of years. I don’t want anyone new to thrash fandom to mistakenly think that it’s just a collection of dopey joke songs.
Will Birth A.D. always be a side-project or might it have a life of its own?
It’s alive in its own right. I did it to myself! The response was incredibly positive from the beginning and for once we felt like we were at the right place at the right time. So I’m happy about it and I like having two bands for a change.
Why did it take so long to get Stillbirth… out into public domain anyway? Wasn’t this created almost two years ago?
It was and we tried to hold our fire on self-releasing it in the hopes of snagging label involvement. We got a lot of positive feedback but these days it’s unusual for labels to grab a brand new artist and develop them. After we toured Japan in 2009, word was getting around and it became clear that we needed to officially announce ourselves.
What are the next steps for the band? When will we hear something new or see you on tour?
Shows outside of Texas are in the works, maybe in the summer or Autumn. I’ve got a slew of new songs for a full-length on the burner, so with any luck this is going to be our breakthrough year.
Final advice for ‘bangers?
As always, cause problems! It worked for Egypt!