Finding the line between thrash and death metal can sometimes feel like trying to determine the world’s shortest tall person. There’s not a lot of difference between the heaviest of thrash and death metal sometimes, and honestly, who cares? Genre definitions can be extremely limiting and, honestly, if a band is a thrash-influenced death metal band or a death-influenced thrash band, does that matter much to ‘ya if the music is killer? Sometimes you just want a band that’s the best of both worlds and, if that’s what you’re after, Canada’s Detherous has got you covered.
Formed in 2014, Detherous has spent the better part of the last decade tearing faces off the heads of metal fans throughout their hometown of Calgary and beyond. The band released its debut LP, Hacked to Death, in 2019 and followed up with last year’s ultra-brutal, Unrelenting Malevolence. Detherous’ particular brand of brutality should appeal to those heshers out there who like their trash and death on the border of each other and their lyrics filled with the mad and macabre. I recently caught up with vocalist/guitarist Damon MacDonald to talk about the history of his band and what the future holds.
First off, what is the origin of Detherous? What made you want to tackle this kind of band?
Damon: So the origin of the whole project is a pretty classic tale, in 2013 two friends who just entered high school wanted to start a band together and play music we love. Our original drummer, Chase, was very good for the time as he wasn’t really that far into learning drums; I on the other hand completely lied to him telling him I could play, do vocals, and even do both at the same time, this wasn’t the case. So for the next year we constantly grinded [and] our favourite bands were Metallica and Iron Maiden, so lots of covers to start. About a year goes by from when we first started and we are finally beginning to write songs and so on and so on. In 2015 we finally decided [on] a name and what style we wanted to play, few years go by, line up changes quite a bit throughout the years, sound became more aggressive and more flushed out and then here we are now, our strongest line up to date with some of the hardest working musicians I have ever met.
How did you decide on the name and what does it mean to you? Were there others considered?
Damon: From 2013-2015, coming up with a name was a struggle. We must have had 10 band names in the first year. It was at some point in the summer of 2015, we all finally sat down and kept smashing words together or anything that might sound like a really strong band name. At the end of it, Detherous is what was left. We spelt it out “Deth ‘R’ Us” but it didn’t really look too cool [laughs]. So [we] added the “E” and the “O” and thus the name was finalized. The name doesn’t really have any meaning to it but suits the style we play.
What got you into metal in the first place and who are some of the bands that got you into the genre?
Damon: The big four, for sure, and Motörhead, Sabbath, Judas Priest, Maiden. Just mainly the classics. But after a while, you start exploring all over the genre and influences begin to change.
What’s the writing process like for the music side of things?
Damon: We have tried a bunch of different approaches to our writing: writing together, writing on our own and bringing it to practice to be worked on together. With the latest album, the way it was all done was I wrote everything at home and sent it all to Dimitri [LaRose] so he could write drums to it and then we would change parts or cut stuff out until we got a product we liked.
What’s the writing process like for the lyrics side of things? What do you try to do with the words to a Detherous song and is there anything that you turn to in particular for inspiration?
Damon: For the lyrics, they are all mainly horror movies and gore influenced. [I] have always loved the more macabre lyrics in death and thrash so [I] really just wanted to play into that and make my own short horror stories really and it is a lot of fun, thankfully [laughs].
I’m always interested in how bands get the chance to make their first records. What was the writing/recording process like for the debut, Hacked to Death? How did the process go for you and how happy were you with the final product? What did you learn from the process that you took to subsequent recording/writing sessions?
Damon: The process of Hacked To Death was all over the place, between lineup changes, cutting songs completely out of the record, or reworking stuff completely. We started writing riffs for Hacked in 2015 but a lot of the stuff didn’t take shape until 2017 when Dimitri joined the band. At that point we were always writing together other than “NIRC,” “Monstrosity,” and “Practitioners Of Pain,” which I wrote on my own.
At the time of going to record Hacked To Death, we all had very minimal recording experience aside from making demos with no click tracks, which was a pain too [laughs]. We learned a lot from the Hacked recording sessions but the biggest thing I learned is to just be relaxed and less tense. Being stressed out won’t make tracking any easier. And where we record we are lucky because Devin Schum is a good friend of the band, so tracking at Black Page Studios is just a lot of fun, feels more like hanging out and messing around instead of tracking an album, which takes the stress off completely.
Going to the new record then, what was the writing/recording process like for that one? Was it a harder process than the debut or easier?
Damon: The process for this album was both easier and harder. Writing was more critical so we ended up writing a lot of stuff only to scrap it because I felt it didn’t meet the standard we needed it to be at, and I am writing most of it at home and just sending it to Dimitri so I had a lot of time to sit on some songs and just begin to hate them so they would be scrapped or changed a lot. But at the end of it we ended up with our best and most ruthless material yet and we are happy with the end product. The recording process this time around was way more smooth; we tracked good demos with click tracks and practiced them over and over again so when we went to go record we would breeze through everything. The only difference this time was I tracked all the guitars and bass, minus our new lead player Ryan Hunter’s solos, which he sent to us.
I wanted to ask about the inspiration for a few songs on that album. Could you tell me how the song “Suspended in Agony” came about from a musical and lyrical standpoint?
Damon: “Suspended In Agony” is my personal favourite from the record and was a lot of fun to write. So in the middle of the winter of 2021 this was written, super cold Canadian winter, and I was reading and watching a lot of stuff about cryonics and people’s desperate search for immortality and the lengths they are willing to go for it. So I was thinking about that, mixed with doctors who have killed patients or just general malpractice for money or more sinister intent like blood lust. The riffs were the more challenging part of the song. When I write a song out I like to have the lyrical idea or theme in mind so that way while I am writing, I can think about it [like this] part should be more chaotic or panicked or have a darker tone. It really helps map out how the song will go and with all of that put together, it really made “Suspended” my favourite from just how chaotic and sinister it is and it just has some of the most fun riffs to play.
“Wretched Formations of Flesh” is another favorite of mine. Where did the ideas for that one come from?
Damon: So with “Wretched Formations Of Flesh,” I wanted to dive a little bit more into the death metal side since we walk the balance of death and thrash, and at the time we had a new lead guitarist, Travis Hahn who plays in Stench Of Death. He comes from a more death metal background to begin with so I wanted to write something he would be into. When it came to the lyrics, I really enjoy body horror and to me the most unsettling thing to look at is two people conjoining together, especially if one of them has no control over it. So the lyrics are about an ancient evil that needs a living vessel to merge to in order to be resurrected, so this deity has a cult following who have gone out and kidnapped someone to be forcefully conjoined to this evil entity for it to come back to life. The deity takes control of the body and mind while the host has no control over it and the two become more like a hive mind, hence why I did a couple layered vocals around the end of the song once the ritual was complete. This is also Dimitri’s favourite song on the record.
“Tormented By the Dead” is another really epic song I really dig from there. Could you talk about the inspiration for that one?
Damon: “Tormented By The Dead” was written around the end of the writing process, I wanted to make more of a hooky song that had some more thrash elements blended into it and I think we nailed the mark for it! The lyrical concept is about a butcher who kills people, embalms them and turns the bodies into sculptures of gruesome art, kind of like the old movie Waxwork. But one night the spirits of these dead are possessed by a powerful vengeance and they seek revenge on the butcher for murdering them and taking away their eternal rest to be formed into twisted pieces of art. They then proceed to exact the same process on the butcher but instead of killing him, they mangle and contort his body so he has to feel the pain until he slowly dies.
How did you decide on the Demolition Hammer cover for the album? It’s a hell of a great cover and definitely fits in with your style.
Damon: It was very obvious for us to do a Demolition Hammer cover this time around. They are the greatest, brutalist, and heaviest band on earth. They are our biggest influence in the way we approach our style and writing so we thought it would be a lot of fun to pay tribute to the greats. Along with that we got Chris Monroy from Skeletal Remains to do the solos on it. Demo Hammer is one of his favourite bands as well and Skeletal Remains is one of our favourite bands, so we like to include Chris on stuff when he is down to do so. Demolition Hammer actually reached out to us in a comment section on one of our posts and said they like the album and our cover so that is about the highest praise we could ever receive [laughs].
That cover to the album really jumps out to me as well. Who did it and how much direction did you give them? To you, why does that image best represent this album?
Damon: We went with Karl Dahmer again! He rules, so easy to work with and he always knows exactly what we want, which is awesome. I never really guide him through, I give him a rough sketch, and I mean really rough [laughs]. The fact he can make anything out of it is beyond me, so a rough sketch and a couple ideas and he always just kills it every time for us. I think since Hacked To Death, his artwork is a statement to our music as well. The last three releases we have done have all featured his artwork. He has such a greasy looking style and it just works so well with our music. For this album I told him I wanted a very Hellish, infernal looking landscape, very dead and desolate with
some evil overtones to it and to have a little Demolition Hammer tribute (look at the right side of the artwork and Demolition Hammer’s Epidemic Of Violence) and he absolutely crushed it. There couldn’t be a better artwork for this album.
What do you look for in a potential member of Detherous when you have those openings and how do you manage to keep a healthy band dynamic?
Damon: The two biggest things we look for in new members are commitment and ability to get along to work together. If you don’t like who you are working with then nothing will ever get done, touring is a nightmare, and it becomes a dreadful experience. When it comes to band dynamic, we are still feeling it out and trying all sorts of ways for everyone to be happy with what we are trying to achieve, writing more actively together, trying ways of writing and riff styles, trying to let everyone have a say in how a song will go and how the final product will be. At the end of the day, it is all just balance and fun to be working with friends and very talented musicians.
What is the metal scene like where you live and how has it shaped the band?
Damon: The metal scene in Calgary, Alberta is alive and well. Over the last six years of us playing here the reception we have gotten has always been very positive, which has been very nice. The scene here is very supportive and the people in it, whether friends, fans, peers, or even strangers, are great. Bands get treated really well here. With how the band has been shaped, we realized early on here how responsive the crowd is to our music and the energy we have on stage so we have really just worked on building that energy up the best we can. We feed off the crowd and they feed off us, so it’s give and take every show, and the payoff is always great when we see pits starting and people banging their heads as hard as they can, it’s a good feeling.
Lastly, what’s next for Detherous? What are your goals for the future of the band?
Damon: The future for Detherous is tour and write as much as we can. When this band was formed, it was always going to be a touring band. We want to go anywhere and everywhere we humanly can and bring our music to anywhere we might have people who like what we are doing. Being Canadian, the visa process and costs slow us down a little bit but we won’t let it stop us whenever we can. We have started working on our next album too, two songs down so far and they sound pretty sick, so we are excited to get the rest of it together and get it out there!
We would like to say thanks to Metal Plague for reaching out to us for the interview, and to
Redefining Darkness Records for getting this album out for us. Vinyl and CDs are available through them so be sure to pick something up. Thank you!
Photo at top provided to Metal Plague by the band.