In the world of extreme metal, the Chicagoland area is an underrated spot. Sure, Florida, New York, and California get a lot of attention, and deservedly so, too. That being said, Chicago’s contributions to extreme metal and the bands that call that area home have been criminally overlooked by the national media. Plenty of cool venues, exciting musicians, and memorable festivals have made Chicago the Midwest’s premiere destination for metal. Among those great northern Illinois bands is the area’s own Cardiac Arrest.
After forming in 1997, Cardiac Arrest honed their sound before releasing their debut album, Morgue Mutilations, in 2006. Since then, the group has not gone more than four years without putting out a full-length, all of them being of the highest quality. With a new album starting to gestate and some exciting shows on the horizon, 2022 should be an exciting year for Cardiac Arrest fans. I recently caught up with vocalist/guitarist Adam Scott over Zoom to get the rundown on the band’s history and upcoming Maryland Deathfest performance.
How did you get into death metal in the first place?
Adam: Well, originally when I became a metal fan was probably when I was 10 or 11 years old. This was probably early ’90s or so. I had a cousin that was into a lot of the glam metal stuff like Mötley Crüe and Guns N’ Roses and I discovered Metallica in that way too. That was kind of the stuff that I kind of gravitated toward. I was into that stuff and I still am to this day. As I got older, I didn’t really get into the extreme side until the mid-’90s were starting to peak, around ’94 or so. I found this one kid that I saw in junior high and he’s wearing a Slayer shirt. I was like “Alright, I gotta start getting into this kind of shit.” Then, lo and behold, I started jamming with him and I found out about a lot of other stuff through him too. In a way it was definitely an evolution.
Who were some of your early inspirations in death metal?
Adam: Let’s see, Morbid Angel I would have to say would probably be the first then soon after that Deicide’s Once Upon the Cross came out and I remember buying that thing. This was right around my birthday and I remember it just came out, maybe a month afterwards, and I open it up and see Jesus and his entrails all over the fucking place and I’m like, holy shit, these guys are fucking serious! Then I heard it and I’m blown away by it. Then I discover Cannibal Corpse later on after that. I got Butchered at Birth then and I became a fucked up human being ever since then (laughs)! It ruined my life, as they say (laughs).
How’d you get into playing the guitar?
Adam: It was around then. My mom’s side of the family was a lot of the musician side of the family. I played viola when I was maybe 10-years old. I guess I was pretty good at it. I got to play, when I was in grade school, a recital so I guess I was pretty good to even do that. Then somewhere later on when I started discovering rock and metal, it was like, alright, I wanna try this guitar thing and maybe I’ll be good at it. Then, yeah, that’s kind of where it came from.
What was your experience in bands before forming Cardiac Arrest?
Adam: I was in another band before that. We were in that band, it was me and the other guy that I formed Cardiac with, we joined with a couple of guys we knew from high school and one singer that was maybe 10 years older than us. We had our fun but at the same token, the guy was kind of a control freak. The guy was one of those guys that never amounted to anything in his whole life but yet he had the answer for everything and thought he knew everything about the music industry and the music business and knew what it takes to be successful. It was just like, “Dude, you’re so full of shit. Fuck you.” We were trying to get Cardiac Arrest going at the time too and (he’s) telling us “You’ll never amount to anything with it” and I’m just like, if only I saw the guy now. Here we are, seven albums later, twenty-something-odd years later, at least for me, and yeah, it’s just like, well, look where I’m at now asshole.
How did Cardiac Arrest get started then?
Adam: Well the original start was hanging out with a mutual friend who had also shared similar interests and wanted to play really heavy shit. We wanted to try and do something and then, around maybe high school, we decided that we wanted to try and be somewhat serious about it. (That) didn’t really work out so well as far as trying to find other members, at least that were relatively interested but somehow it worked out. It took a few years but it was very hard, at least where we were from at the time. We wanted to keep it somewhat local but somewhat, I don’t know, convenient so it’s kind of hard, especially when you don’t have driver’s licenses at the time. It’s not like we could just beg our parents and be like, “Hey mom, take me to band practice! Drop my friend off.” That’s a little weird. They’re probably like “I worked a 40-hour work week kid, you do it.” At least that’s what my dad would have said then.
Are you guys based in the suburbs up there in Chicago?
Adam: It’s in the suburbs. We still are, actually. There’ve been a lot of lineup changes throughout the years but right now it’s the most consistent it’s been in the last 15 years or so.
What was that Chicago scene like when you guys were starting out?
Adam: When starting out, I really didn’t know much about a Chicago scene much until maybe the late ’90s. I knew there was one but I wasn’t really able to travel around all that well because, again, there was only so much I could do at the time without having a driver’s license. Being a young kid, it’s kind of hard but you find out about bands and you find out about the scene and what’s going on at times through flyers and demo tapes and all that stuff. That’s really the way you had to find out about stuff while the internet was kind of in its infancy stages. The only way to find out about shows was, well, you actually had to go to shows! That’s when guys would be passing out flyers and stuff. Plus going to record stores and music shops and finding (bands). In a way, I kind of miss that. Say you have a show coming up and you have all these flyers and you wanna promote in your local area first like, “Hey go to this place, go to that place.” In a way, there’s kind of a thrill to that.
Compared to that, everything seems a little too easy now.
Adam: Yeah, now everything is like, here, click on my event. I am inviting you to my event. It’s just, like, wow. While it’s convenient, I don’t really even do that anymore. If I decide I’m gonna go, I’m gonna go. I’m not gonna click on it and renege on it. There’s a lot of people that do that too and I don’t like doing that to people, especially if I happen to be friends with that certain band.
Do you have a favorite hometown venue?
Adam: Oh yeah. We have a place called Reggie’s and, to me, that’s the coolest place in Chicago to play if you’re a band. Saw plenty of bands there, played many shows there and yeah, we’re gonna be playing there again around Halloween weekend with Autopsy. Can’t wait to play with Autopsy again.
How did you guys come up with the name?
Adam: We were kind of tossing around different ideas at the time, at least me and my buddy (were). We were still trying to, when it was just us the few and the proud, we didn’t’ know what we were doing. We had a few names in mind but one time we were in class and, I think it was sometime after class, he thought of it. He was like “Dude, how does Cardiac Arrest sound for a band name?” I’m like “Well, that’s as good of a name as I can think of.” We found out later on that there was another Cardiac Arrest but I think we’ve been around longer. I don’t know but this Cardiac Arrest is actually a crossover hardcore punk band out of St. Louis. We actually played a show with them the last time we were in St. Louis however many years ago. We wanted to do it with them and they wanted to do it with us. It was just, like, “Hey, Cardiac Arrest? Cardiac Arrest! What’s going on?”
What’s the music writing process like for the band and has that changed over the years?
Adam: It definitely has. Certain members have gone and it comes down to, a lot of times early on, I’d be the one hammering out a whole song and then another week maybe hammer out another song and we’d all learn it. Then, as other members had other input and they had ideas, it kinda changed to be like, ok, here’s a riff and then maybe someone will add on to that or I’ll add on to it as well and then it’s like, hey, cool, we’ve got another song. Those kinds of dynamics are what changes.
When you do have those openings, what do you look for in a potential member?
Adam: One thing that’s always been (important) is, it’s cool if they’re a great fucking musician or whatever but we’ve gotta get along with each other first. That’s the number one. They can be the greatest drummer, guitar player, vocalist, bass player, whatever. They could be the greatest thing you could come across ever but they could be the biggest douche canoe on the planet. That’s one thing I don’t wanna be stuck with. Luckily, it hasn’t happened, at least with any of us. We all get along with each other and it’s just, hey, you’re gonna have your differences. I don’t care if you’re in a band with your best friend, you’re gonna have quarrels at times, that’s just how it is. If you can coexist with each other, that’s the number one thing.
What’s your lyric writing process like and has that changed as time has gone on?
Adam: I’d have to say it’s gotten more consistent. Certain things might have changed but the inspiration has always been horror-based. Obviously, you know, being a big Texas Chainsaw Massacre guy, that’s been a big influence. If I watch a horror movie or see something, I’ll try and base that off of that.
Horror and metal, especially death metal, really are a natural fit. What appeals to you about the genre?
Adam: I don’t know. I’ve been into that kind of stuff since I was maybe 10 years old. I remember reading these books, I remember going to the local library and seeing all the Universal Monsters stuff. They were these black and white books with pictures in it and you could tell they were from the movies. I was reading those all the time. I almost every other week would be begging my parents to take me to the library to get me one of those kinds of books. They’re like “Oh God, Adam, what the hell’s wrong with you?” But hey, it was one of those things where I knew that was something that fascinated me for whatever reason. I don’t know if it was just the dark subjects or if it was the whole aura or just a part of history that I was always into. I was always big into history growing up, too. Hell, that was one thing I paid attention to when I was in school!
How did the first album, Morgue Mutilations, come about?
Adam: A lot of that was mostly just from stuff that was written beforehand. Our drummer at the time, Jim Deabenderfer, he just joined maybe a year prior and half the songs were already written and we wanted to write maybe another three songs. A lot of it was already written and then when Dave Holland, our bass player, joined, he had a little bit of input on it. Otherwise it was pretty much all written.
Was that a tough one to record at all, being your first?
Adam: Actually, for me, it was an easy process. One story I can definitely say is when we were recording the drums, Jim recorded everything in a day. We were loading the drums out of his house and all of a sudden his ankle snapped on him and he fell face first onto the pavement of the house. It’s pretty messed up. I kinda laugh about it now but I wasn’t laughing about it then.
Were you guys pretty happy with how that one turned out?
Adam: Musically, yeah. At the time we were kind of having a little bit of issues. We were all butting heads on how the mixing went but overall, for the most part, I think I was pretty happy with it. We all go back and forth on it but, looking back, I think it’s a pretty heavy effort.
Was recording Cadaverous Presence, the second album, a different process since the first one was mainly material you already had?
Adam: Slightly. I thought of a name beforehand and everybody pretty much thought it was a cool name for an album. Yeah, we had a few songs after Morgue was already done, written, in the can. Plus, we just acquired our other guitar player, Tom (Knizner) and he also was in Severed at the time. He also was throwing in his own input and we just went writing crazy on that one, which is probably why the album is as long as it is. I definitely agree that it shouldn’t have been as long as it is but whatever, it is what it is. Overall, I think as a collaborative effort, we are definitely very happy with it.
Do you feel like the band grew between the albums?
Adam: Oh yeah. We definitely matured and the sound definitely expanded. We found a little bit more of a niche of who we are as a band.
That third one, Haven for the Insane, is probably my favorite from the band. What was recording that one like?
Adam: Thanks, man. We definitely had a groove going. We just kept on writing and we wanted it to be a little more raw this time but not as raw as it was. Overall, we wanted to have a little more feel in some of the songs, which I think we got. A little bit of a thing was that we lost our practice spot at the time. We were supposed to go in to record in January of that year that we were supposed to do it. What happened was (that) we were out for a month, we practiced everything at the guy who we recorded (with)’s house and right after that, we went in cold raw after that. Everything went as good as it could, which I think might have added to the rawness of it.
Were you guys more comfortable in the studio at that point?
Adam: Oh yeah, I think so.
How about with mixing? I know you said that was a bit of an issue early on, was that easier at this point?
Adam: Yeah, I think so. I try not to get involved with mixing because it can be a fucking headache. Overall, I know what I want to hear but sometimes what you hear in the control room or on the soundboard isn’t exactly what you’ll hear on the CD player in the car or at home. Plus, we were listening to stuff on these close proximity speakers, which everything sounds fucking amazing on that. Then you listen back to it in the car on the way home and it doesn’t sound anything like that.
You guys have never had long gaps between records. What’s kept the train rolling at such a consistent pace?
Adam: Part of that is that we enjoy just getting together at least once a week or whatever. Plus, I’m always inspired to do something as well, which keeps the ball rolling. It helps that we enjoy getting together and making sure we can do shit and just shoot the shit and rib each other.
What was the recording process like for the newest album, The Day That Death Prevailed?
Adam: That was definitely a very easy and quick one because we recorded that ourselves. That was the second time we’d done this too. We recorded it at our practice spot, at Tom’s house. Plus, Nick (Gallichio), our current drummer, he’s actually been in the band for more than 10 years now, he’s got all the gear and knows how to record and everything. We sort of took our time with everything but yeah, it was definitely a very easygoing process for the most part. It’s kind of hard when you have certain quotas you want to meet from labels and shit like that if you have a deadline but bear in mind, this was also in the middle of the pandemic or right around the time the world went to shit. In a way it was like, hey, I can just easily go there and not deal with traffic.
I meant to ask, what effect did the COVID pandemic have on the band?
Adam: At first, we didn’t know what the hell was going on, plus one of the guys was supposed to go out of town but that ended up not happening for the obvious reasons. It didn’t really affect anything as far as the release. It got out there and people liked it. I’m sure if we had anything going on, show wise, we would have been able to move a lot more copies. I know the vinyl version of it sold out pretty quick, at least it sold really well on the pre-orders, between us and the label and other sources.
Were you guys pretty happy with the final product then?
Adam: Oh yeah, very happy with it. I can tell you it’s easily my favorite vocal performance on my end. I remember mowing down the tracks on a Saturday night. I was pretty jacked up on caffeine too, which probably had something to do with it. I remember there was this one blood curdling scream I had and I almost blacked out in the room. That’s the stuff you put yourself through to put out the good metal.
The previous one, A Parallel Dimension of Despair, had some more atmospheric elements than your other releases. Was that a conscious choice?
Adam: Part of it was random, part of it was consciousness. We did have a few different things with it and yeah, I’d have to say, not our favorite but there’s a lot of good stuff in it. There’s a lot of stuff I’m proud of musically. We were just jamming out a few of the songs last week so we still like playing those songs.
Do you have a favorite of your records?
Adam: It’s hard to say, at least on my end. I’m completely unbiased but I’d have to say, I’m definitely very happy with this last one. I’m definitely very happy with And Death Shall Set You Free and I’m very happy with Cadaverous Presence. When something feels more like a collaborative effort, which they all are for the most (part), but when you feel there’s something special with it, you kind of hold that shit in very high regard.
How hard is it to choose from all that material to put together a setlist? I imagine that has to be quite the process.
Adam: Oh yeah (laughs). There’s songs I want to play, a lot of songs we all want to play, and you only get a set time of so much. Really, it comes to a point where, say you have a release that you’re trying to promote or be somewhat new album heavy, and have a few classics here and there. As a fan, if a band is touring on a certain album or promoting it, sure you want to see some of those songs but the inner fan in you wants them to play that song or something off this album or whatever. I try and consider that.
And the more albums you put out, the harder that’s gotta be.
Adam: Oh yeah. I can only imagine how it must be for someone like an Iron Maiden or a Judas Priest.
This is your second album for Memento Mori records. How did that partnership come about?
Adam: At the time, when we were searching for a label, we didn’t know what the hell to do. There was definitely interest, maybe not the kind of interest I was hoping to get at the time. We weren’t too happy with the current label situation we had. It did nothing for us, really, so it was like, alright, let’s try and get the word out and put a three-song promo out of some new shit and see what we can get. I knew Raul (Sampedro) from Memento Mori was out there. I’d ordered from him, I’d traded with him, and he knew of us. I asked him, what can you do for us? It definitely appealed and it was like, alright, let’s do this. I’m super happy with it. He’s a super cool dude to work with. For what it is, it’s definitely a good underground death metal label. They have my support all the way for sure.
When it’s time to get a new record going, how does that process usually start?
Adam: Obviously we gotta have the material first. We just decide, ok, what do we have going on in our lives? We’ve had a couple of small hurdles, at least for the last couple months, but nothing that wasn’t too huge and nothing that’s going to set anything to a standstill. Sometime after MDF, we’re gonna start tightening the tourniquet so to speak and hopefully we’ll start recording in the summertime.
How did the upcoming Maryland Deathfest set come about and how stoked are you for that?
Adam: Oh we’re very stoked, for sure. We’ve been wanting to play it for a long time. It’s just a weird process how they apparently work. I don’t know how to say it but how it really started was that back in 2020, before all this COVID shit happened, we got asked about doing the pre-fest along with doing a few dates with Demilich and Divine Eve. We were more than willing and ready to go for that one but unfortunately, that’s not how it went and we just remained in contact with the organizers at MDF and it just turned out that they wanted to add more bands onto the fest so they asked us about that and we’d be fucking idiots not to! That’s the metal show, the metal fest in the U.S., or at least it will be hopefully, maybe it’ll continue. We’ll see what happens after this year cause we all heard the announcement through the internet, unfortunately. That’s what happens. Heck, every promoter I can think of has had to take a break with finances and everything. I can only imagine what goes through it financially. At least as far as America is concerned, it’s probably the biggest thing we’ve ever played.
It’s my first time going to it. I can’t wait.
Adam: Yeah, I’m looking forward to it. It’s my first time, too. I’ve never had the opportunity to go or anything but yeah, I’m happy to do it for sure.
How up-to-date do you stay on what’s going on in the world of death metal?
Adam: It’s a little tough, at least that’s what I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older. If I hear about certain bands or if someone tells me about so-and-so or whatever, I’m always open to give something a shot. Nothing is going to compare to stuff I grew up with or anything like that. I mean, that’s just a known fact with anybody. That’s not me acting like a bitter, jaded old man like “Oh, the ’80s stuff is better” or whatever time period you got into it was. That’s just a known fact. If I hear of something or look something up or if I trade with another band that I happen to like their shit or whatever, it’s cool.
What’s the best way for fans to support the band?
Adam: I’m always huge on being the advocate for physical media, personally. If you’re able to get it, get it in that way. Obviously a lot of people like to download stuff and things like Bandcamp are really good. Since we’ve got a Bandcamp profile it’s definitely helped us reach other people. But yeah, physical media. If you’re able to see a band and you like the band, hey, cool, go check out their albums as well.
Photo at top: The Day That Death Prevailed album cover.