Extreme metal is meant for the nighttime. Ok, so there’s obviously nothing wrong with blaring Celtic Frost at any time of day but the night just feels more appropriate for anything and everything extreme. Face it, your black Cause of Death T-shirt looks way cooler when it’s not 80 degrees and sunny out. Sure, outdoor festivals are great and a blast but who wants to wallow in the darkness and misery when there’s a glare? When the sun goes down, when the dingy clubs and venues start to open, when the cheery blaze of the sun disappears for another evening, that’s when those of us following the Left Hand Path feel empowered to roam freely. When the light fades and darkness descends, that’s the time for the Nocturnal Breed to hunt and feed.
Since forming in 1996, Norway’s Nocturnal Breed has sharpened their fangs on a series of killer albums melding traditional heavy metal with thrash and black metal. It’s a mix that always feels authentic and distinctly Nocturnal Breed, a band that has done things its own way throughout its decades long career. Nocturnal Breed has never been a band to follow trends or felt the need to appease the mainstream. These creatures of the night have always made music that they would want to hear and are just glad that you get something out of it too. With a new record in sight, vocalist/bassist S.A. Destroyer took some time to chat with Metal Plague about his band’s history and what the future holds for Nocturnal Breed.
First off, what is the origin of Nocturnal Breed? What made you want to start this band and how did it get started?
S.A. Destroyer: The idea of doing a more thrash and metal inspired band has been there since ’round 1995 when a wave of nostalgia for that music came over me. But of course I did several different thrash and death bands in the ’80s and early ’90s, before BM started to surface. So, it has always been in me. But the real trigger was during the 1996 Nemesis Devina tour I did with Satyricon…
During that tour I just came to the [realization] that the old school of BM was dying and a new era was arising. And I was never really in on the over-polished BM sound. And even the feel of the entire scene changed. So, when I got home from that tour, I had the full blueprint of Nocturnal Breed in my head. I wanted to go back to my origins, [which were] NWOBHM and thrash metal, foremost, but also the more epic metal and even the older veins of the DM bands. And only weeks after that Satyricon tour, I had recorded “Rape the Angels” and “Dead Dominions” on a crappy cassette deck studio. Just blindly recording whatever came into mind. And from there it was off to the races with fury and all we had!
How did you decide on the name and what does it mean to you? Were there others considered?
S.A. Destroyer: First of it was just the love for the word nocturnal. Being a ‘night person, it always resonated with me a lot. And I knew its meaning from very early on. And it fitted perfectly to paint a picture of people like myself… Children of the Night! I had no notion of bands like Nocturnal or Nocturnal Rites back then, so it also seemed like a name that stood out a bit.
In 1995, I had a short-lived project with Ed Damnator and a couple guys from Old Man’s Child and Covenant, called Grotesque Bizarre but it never led to anything, apart from the Death cover we did later with Nocturnal Breed, “Evil Dead.” It was one of those we did with Grotesque Bizarre.
Apart from that, it was straight onto Nocturnal Breed from the get-go and it has worked out pretty good as a name throughout the years, I think.
What got you guys into extreme metal in the first place and who are some of the bands that got you into the genre?
S.A. Destroyer: I can’t really talk for the other guys. We grew up in very different situations and places. But for myself… I was lucky enough to grow up with a lot of people much older than me, like 20 years older. So, I got the music intravenously from very early on, starting off with Twisted Sister, Ozzy Osbourne, and Iron Maiden. And then, within a very short time, I was in love with all of it and have followed it like a madman ever since. It didn’t take long to discover thrash metal, and by 1985 I was fully onto everything from Slayer and Metallica and Venom to Mercyful Fate, Helloween, and Celtic Frost. I was so lucky, growing up when they turned on the TV cable system, and from 1984 it bombarded me with videos and cool interviews etc. And that just became a part of me. And as most metalheads know, it’s a natural progression, just like with drugs or sex. You just want more and wilder, harder, and sicker. So, it just grew naturally. But I remember getting a bootleg tape of Morbid Angel live in Italy, recorded in 1987, I think, and at the same time Death had the Scream Bloody Gore album out and I remember feeling the cogwheels turning and thinking “There’s something even rawer lurking in the shadows.” And by the end of the ’80s and into 1990/91, it just grew into a monster. And so did I [laughs]. It was truly a “lovely” possession and it truly felt like “There’s no way back from this.”
What’s the writing process like for the music side of things? Has that changed as time has gone on?
S.A. Destroyer: Nah, not really. Some songs get jammed out between us while rehearsing, some are [chiseled] out in the studio while recording an album, and a lot are written separately, one by one, at home.
Early on for Nocturnal Breed, we made a lot of stuff on the spur feeling. Songs like “Warhorse,” “Thrash the Redeemer,” “Armageddon Nights,” “Possessed,” “Killernecro,” “Blaster or No Retreat” were all made on the spot. Not thinking, just feeling. Not giving a shit what anyone would think. Just tapping into that river of inspiration from all the years with metal music.
And we’ve tried to keep that way of making songs alive throughout the years with the band, but of course there’s also more complex songs and writing processes too, like the track “Napalm Nights” or “The Sabbath Man,” there’s much more thinking involved.
And as with all bands and musicians, some songs make themselves. It’s a part of the magic. You’ve always got those couple tracks where you go ‘Where the fuck did that come from?” I call it the Beatles syndrome. You just wake up with a brilliant song in your head, and it turns out to sonic magic in the end. The clue is in “listening” to those things that pop into your head and getting them down on tape before you fuck it up and forget it all.
What’s the writing process like for the lyrics side of things? What do you try to do with the words to a Nocturnal Breed song and is there anything that you turn to in particular for inspiration?
S.A. Destroyer: Well, I never thought one second about what anyone would get out of my lyrics. It’s not until later years I’ve realized that some of the lyrics have touched people in ways I never foresaw at all, and I never imagined anyone ever giving a shit. But these things grow with time, you know? In the start with Nocturnal Breed, we wrote “bad” lyrics on purpose… I have to underline that [laughs]. We were so smitten by the stumbling lyrics of old Sodom and Destruction and Sarcofago, etc. that we went out of our way to put shit a bit backwards. But as we got to the second album, I started taking more interest in the stories behind a lyric, and it became like an ever-flowing stream of inspiration, when I realized, I could put all these storylines I had in my head down on paper, almost like writing short novels in a way. And I really took to it. And now, it is one of my fave things to do. Thus, I write for tons of other bands, like 1349 and Nordjevel, etc.
As to where the inspiration comes from, at least for Nocturnal Breed, whose lyrics are at least 50% war related, I mostly tap into my own family. There’s been so much war and warriors and sick shit in my family. It’s like an unstoppable source of inspiration. And it was natural to talk about war when I grew up, and I became a full-out history nerd later, too. So, it’s all inspired from diving very far and very deep into that subject. Apart from that, well, it’s a dark fucking world, and I’ve lived a wild life. So, there’s never a “dull” moment you know, and all that creates a dark pool of things to write about. And of course, there’s a lot of inspiration in just being a metalhead. Writing about our ways and beliefs and antics spawns good songs like “Thrashiac” or “Alcoholic Rites,” just filled with the feeling of being in our shoes in our own way.
You guys always have had such a really cool and unique sound that blends elements of death, black, and thrash metal. Did you guys come about your sound in an organic way or were you attempting to blend different genres of metal that you already loved?
S.A. Destroyer: We never planned or “attempted” anything. It was purely organically born out of 100% focus on the feel it gave us. We have always been inspired by all the genres of the metal scene, so I guess it all just came out sounding like Nocturnal Breed. But in honesty, the emphasis was on simply “thrash metal,” with an emphasis on “metal.” Thus, I think Nocturnal Breed has a bit more “heavy metal” in our music than most of the other “black thrash” bands. And to underline that too, “black thrash” is a moniker we never really thrived under. It was not even a thing when we started. And later on it’s pretty much been forced onto us. But personally, we feel we are a “thrash and metal” band, with some influences for extreme metal like BM and DM.
But the main thing is that we never sat down over-trying anything. Even today, we just say “Fuck it” and record whatever comes into mind. If it makes us feel the fire, its good enough for us. And history shows, so do others too.
I’m always interested in how bands got to record their first album. How did Aggressor come about and what was the recording process like for that one? What did you learn from that process that you took to future recordings?
S.A. Destroyer: Actually, we had planned to never release an album and only keep Nocturnal Breed to a strict demo and cassette-based way of operating. But after we let Hot Records include two songs for their 1996 CD sampler Rape of the Holy Trinity, the offers had started pouring in.
And since we came from already big album recording bands like Gehenna, Satyricon, and Dimmu Borgir, the temptation just got too big to get our music out there and to make a difference in what was then a pretty shitty metal scene. Remember this was 1996. We call it the matrix…It’s when the whole sound and feel changed for a lot of the bands and the scene in general!
So, we took our demo songs and entered the legendary Gordon Studio in Oslo in March of 1997.
The title of the album came about purely from my love for the French band Agressor. I had a total hangup on their Satan’s Sodomy demo/EP and it seemed like a perfect title to go for, just adding the extra ‘G’ to claim it as our own in a way.
The recording was nothing like anything that goes on today. The party factor and the fuck it feel was beyond control and it manifested really well onto tape. And yes, tape! We used tape up into the early 2000s. And I mean old, 15-minutes massive tapes. This, combined with producer Thomas Soerlie’s willingness to let us be wild as fuck amongst very expensive equipment, and even managing to get the best bits down on tape, that was priceless. This is the magic on our first three albums: tape and an old-school studio and record producer. And of course, the will to rage forwards with a musical idea that at the time was frowned upon by fucking everybody. Even internally both the BM scene and the DM scene never took it seriously and that just spurred the flame on even more.
I think a lot of people in the scene started losing grip of their origins and roots back in ’96-’97. And that wave of pretentious, navel-focused bullshit that came with those years was always a thorn in the old mind, as to just give it all that much more “fuck you!”
What we got out of this first album with Nocturnal Breed was a self-assurance and belief in what we did as the right path for us. We realized, that the more we didn’t give a shit and just freely experimented on what we felt inside, the result would manifest itself in pretty good music in the end.
And coming from the much stricter doctrine we had in Gehenna and Satyricon, it was a blessing to “open up the valves,” so to say [and] create more freely and exploratory. It felt like a release to record in that way. The old way! Using such an array of old cabinets and amps, instruments, and gadgets combined with a lot of alcohol and good times, it made it all into a new way of seeing music recording.
We even had the studio full of people on our 3 first albums. Just good friend partying, doing drugs, and drinking. And it worked as a “meter” on how well the songs were doing. If they all banged their heads and jumped around… we realized we were onto something!
What can you tell me about the new album that you’re working on? What can fans expect musically and lyrically from the album and when can they expect to hear it?
S.A. Destroyer: Starting with the more practical sides of it, it will be out before the summer of 2023. The exact date we haven’t got yet, as at the time of this interview, we are waiting for the test prints. So people just have to keep an eye out the coming weeks for a set release date.
But it will all be properly announced in due time. We changed to the Norwegian label Dark Essence in 2021 and this new release will have a bit more “oomph” on it than on the last couple labels. A full package will be on sale, LP, CD, MC, merch, etc., all at the same time, something we have struggled to get labels to understand how to do, for years. So, it will be a nice change of stride. It is so nice to be on a Norwegian label, finally being able to talk to people and they actually get what we say.
The title of the new album will be revealed in a few weeks too. But I can guarantee that we haven’t lost our way or touch. It’s very much fully a Nocturnal Breed album. And being the seventh album, it was time to take it a bit further.
That meaning it is darker, and at times more “heavy Metal,” but it’s hard and cruel as fuck. A bit more atmospheric at times too but not in any romantical form. I just had more freedom on this recording. It took almost 2 years and a lot of it was recorded at my own studio “Necrolab,” so I had all the time in the world to soak up all the shit that is going on on this planet and filter it into a dark recording. It also let all the other guys have good time to experiment wildly on their parts, leaving the album with some of the most stunning guitar work I have ever heard on a Norwegian “thrash” album.
So, we are pleased to the bone with it. It feels real and personal, and I think the all-out organic recording, with both equipment and studio equipment being old and rotten adding its very own touch and feel. And I think the fans that know the band will enjoy it a lot. Those who never heard of us, well, they will get a thorough kick in the face.
Having been doing this with Nocturnal Breed since the mid-’90s, do you find it harder to make an album now or easier? With technology, I assume it’s easier to get some things accomplished but harder to not repeat yourself since you have a good amount of albums out already.
S.A. Destroyer: That’s why we took it a step further on this new album. I’m getting a bit tired of myself so I felt it was time to explore a couple avenues not used so much by us, and even returning to some old tricks, too.
But the way we record and make songs, new equipment has nothing to do with us. I fucking hate generic sterile albums and it’s been 20 odd fucking years of that sound now. So, we dive deep in the pool of old equipment and ways to record. No plugins or instruments straight into a fucking computer. We mic up old amps, even IS series. So, you get a 100% original sound, and not digitally tinkered with.
Even the synth on the new album is miked up through two old amps, one bass, and one guitar. Then a proper microphone on that. It makes my 1989 ole Casio sound like a beast, man. And it sounds old ’80s and not like a silicone orchestra.
The mixing is the only place I like to have it all on a big 50-inch screen in front of me and on this new album, I mixed the album alone, in my own studio. And I could not have done that on an old desk, I’m sure. It was hard enough doing it as it was, taking over three months. And that’s after two other studios had their try on it so, kids, if you’re gonna record shit the old way, make sure to inform the people around you. We met a wall of complications since the whole world is set on a very different way of producing albums nowadays.
What’s your local scene like these days and how has that affected the development of the band over the years?
S.A. Destroyer: Laughs] I have no idea! The scene here, I live in the deep woods, consists of squirrels and bears and elk and wolves, doing their regular animal shit and, as to the rest of Norway, I have no idea there either. I get some news from the net and friends and people I meet in relation to the scene but I mostly keep to myself and the scene is very far from here. I do get a lot of music sent my way so I hear the sound and inspiration seems to be growing out there. And that was bout’ time, cuz the last decades have been boring as fuck. So, I guess it’s going better out there. The COVID shit had its toll but it seems like a lot of bands came back stronger after it. Personally, I just wish some of the old bigger bands got their heads out of the “modern sterile” soundscapes and added a little more feel to their albums and music.
Over your time with the band, how do you feel that you’ve grown and improved as a musician? What is it about this particular band that has kept you coming back to it year after year?
S.A. Destroyer: What keeps me coming back to it is the simple fact that this is based in my own personal roots in metal music and those formative years and inspirations never leave your soul. I guess that’s why you see some bands go here and there and back and forth in genres and styles: Their shit is not based on their original foundation, it’s based on trends and whims and short-lived styles. Base your shit in what is truly real for you and I’m sure it lasts a pretty long time. Thus, I and we keep coming back to Nocturnal Breed. Not too often though. I don’t want us to be one of those bands that spew out similar albums every year.
I like the creative process of an album the most out of all I do. And I guess with time I’m becoming more interested in the composer/songwriter side of things. I can sit down and re-train my fingers and skills back into pretty good form during an album-writing process but it has never been my thing to focus on the technical side of things. I leave that to others. A two-note simple riff can be just as possessing as a super complex, endless riff. So, I guess I’ve learned over the years not to look at others as to what they “expect” a musician to do. Think out of the box, experiment like a madman, and let the overall feel be the main thing. There are one-riff songs that beat whole albums, so I like to just let it flow and see where it takes me, now much more than earlier. Guess it’s the freedom of age and not giving a shit.
Having been in the world of metal for decades now, what do you feel about the current state of the genre? Is it in a stronger place than when you were starting out or a weaker spot? What do bands have to do to keep the spirit of metal alive going forward?
S.A. Destroyer: The spirit is alive, and it will never go away either, I think. But to compare it to the ’70s-’90s is impossible but that’s got just as much to do with society in general. It was just a completely different world back then. And no matter what we do, that specific feeling will never return. But metal doesn’t die. It is ok, now, but nothing to write home about. The time from the late ’90s till now has been pretty bad and a lot of horrible metal styles and trends have come and gone in popularity. But it seems like “metal” has been much more in focus the last five years and I truly hope we are heading into a better decade for metal. I keep putting us side by side with the ’80s, so nowadays we should be where we were in 1983, so quite a bit to go. But as the world around us goes to Hell, that too will color the scene and music and I hope we are coming into an era of total inspiration forwards. At least that’s what it felt like during the last two years producing this new Nocturnal Breed album. And I guess that’s why it turned out much more inspired by those first three to four years of metal in the ’80s.
How affected was the band by the COVID pandemic, either in terms of live plans or getting music recorded?
S.A. Destroyer: We did a show in Finland late in January of 2020 and on the way home from that gig, we noticed the hysteria slowly escalating. And since that we haven’t done a single live show.
As with many other artists, COVID gave us the time to concentrate and work on the music without any other side-tracking and, as far as I can see, this was good for the artists’ scenes all over the world.
It stopped the fucking rush for a couple years and I loved that.
I’m not a social person so I enjoyed that everyone fucked off for a while and, the modern world being such a fake-ass scam as it is, I don’t mind seeing it terrified either. I rather enjoyed the whole shit-show man. I still do!
Lastly, what are your goals for the future of the band? Are there any big accomplishments that you’re still shooting for?
S.A. Destroyer: We work in short term goals nowadays so we basically are focused on the release of the new album. What comes after that is up to the Gods of War and Metal.
As to accomplishments… Oh, there’s always things growing and being created in this mind. And there’s always projects and products I strive to get done. A lot is personal up until the time I actually get a “contract” for it so it stays hidden. Others are more out there. I have a lot of other bands and projects, so there’s several releases coming every year. And as to my bigger ambitions, well, there’s some work I’d love to get done on several movie and book projects. Guess time will show huh…
Photo at top provided to Metal Plague by S.A. Destroyer.