It’s been a long road out of Hell but, if you’re a fan of speed metal, you’re probably damn sure that Hellcrash made the journey. After forming in 2013 and dropping their Ready to Burn in Hell demo, audiences were left with scant offerings from Hellcrash over the next set of years. Outside of a split and a second demo, both released in 2015, Hellcrash went silent (at least to most international audiences) until the release of their killer debut, Krvcifix Invertör in 2021. The debut capitalized on all the early promise displayed in those original recordings and announced the band to speed metal fans worldwide.
This year, at the end of March, Hellcrash made a much quicker return with their sophomore outing, Demonic Assassinatiön. The band’s second effort showed that the first time around was anything but a fluke and that Hellcrash is both here and here to stay. For Skullcrusher (bass), Hellraiser (vocals/guitars), and Nightkiller (drums), playing down-and-dirty speed metal is what comes naturally and, luckily for fans, the band has no plans of slowing down anytime soon. I recently caught up with Skullcrusher to talk about the origins of Hellcrash, the exciting new record, and what the future holds for the band.
First off, how did Hellcrash get started? What made you want to start this kind of band together with this group of individuals?
Skullcrusher: Me and Hellraiser grew up together basically, listening to Maiden, Venom, Bulldozer, and so on every day. Apart from wanting to kill yourself there is nothing to do in our town, so it was just a matter of time before we decided to put a band together. We started rehearsing in 2013 and after a few weeks we “recorded” Ready to Burn in Hell, our first demo. We couldn’t find a drummer so me (the most hopeless dude at playing drums) and Hellraiser played it. It’s terrible, but still better than what most 14 years old guys play at that age.
How did you get into metal in the first place and who are some of the bigger influences within the genre on the band?
Skullcrusher: I started listening to metal after discovering that Iron Maiden were featured in Dario Argento’s Phenomena soundtrack. I was (still I am!) obsessed with old horror movies and their soundtracks, and when I heard “Flash of the Blade” for the first time I got struck. Almost at the same time Hellraiser discovered Maiden too, and our lives went downhill from there!
Maiden is still a great influence to us, especially when it comes to songwriting. But most people associate us with Venom, which is not surprising considering they’re Hellraiser’s favorite band and he writes most of the songs. You can surely name Bulldozer, KAT, Baphomet’s Blood, and a lot more bands as our main influences anyway.
You guys initially put out a few demos and a split but then had a bit of a gap before that first album. What led to the time between releases and what led to the creative resurgence that you’re still riding now?
Skullcrusher: We concentrated on playing live shows, mostly. We recorded what was supposed to be our first album in 2016 but we were not happy with the result so we scrapped it. We knew nothing about how to record a proper album, so in the meantime we just kept writing new songs and playing live. In 2020 we decided we were finally ready to record Krvcifix Invertör and the rest is history.
What’s your process like for writing the music side of things?
Skullcrusher: Usually me and Hellraiser come with the full songs at the rehearsals and we start playing them, adjusting some stuff here and there. Sometimes those are small changes, sometimes we transform the song into another.
How do you write the lyrics for the band? What do you turn to for inspiration for the songs?
Skullcrusher: We usually have an idea on what the song is about and we start doing some research on that matter. But the thing is: we’re stupid. So a lot of times the lyrics are about Satan, rapes, and the usual stuff. I’m not saying they have no meaning, and some verses are really cool indeed, we just make the theme of the lyrics a bit more personal. Creative license, one would say.
How did getting to record that killer debut, Krvcifix Invertör, come about? What was the recording process like and what did you learn that you have taken to future recordings? Looking back, is there anything you’d change about that record?
Skullcrusher: We learned that we did everything wrong with that album [laughs]! We went into the studio with still some doubts about one or two songs, but that’s because due to the pandemic we didn’t rehearse as much as we wanted. We were also excited to finally record a proper album, so we hurried up things more than we should have. I think that from the first day of recording to having the final master, just a single month had passed. The mixing part was very difficult, considering the fuckers locked us at home one more time and we basically did everything through e-mails and links. If I were to record it now, I would definitely spend more time doing the mix and the master. That being said, the songs are really good in my opinion, and people liked the overall sound a lot, so maybe we shouldn’t change anything.
The new record, Demonic Assassinatiön, is a totally badass follow-up to the debut. What was the writing/recording process like for this record? Did you want to continue what you were doing on the debut or add anything new to the mix? How happy were you when you heard the final mix?
Skullcrusher: We knew we made some mistakes with the debut album, so we decided to take our time to record this one. We’ve been playing songs like “Okkvlthammer” or “Usurper of Hell” live for a year before we even had an idea on when to enter the studio. When we decided to start recording, we took two months just to do the drums parts. We recorded different takes, different parts. You know, the normal stuff you do when recording an album, but that we didn’t with our first one. We spent a lot of time trying different solutions for the mix, and we were really satisfied when we heard the final product for the first time. There is still some stuff that we want to do in a better way, so I think we should start thinking about our third album…
I wanted to ask about a few songs on the record specifically to get the story behind the musical/lyrical inspiration for them. What’s the origin of the “Volcanic Outburst?”
Skullcrusher: “Volcanic Outburst” is, in part, a remake of a song we used to play in 2017, called “The Rise of the Sulphur Lord.” The chorus and some other parts come from there, of course improved. The lyrics are about an apocalyptic scenario where Satan rules, basically. Again, nothing too original, but some parts are really cool.
What about the origin of “Usurper of Hell?”
Skullcrusher: When I first started working on it, the song was called something like “From Ashes to Hell,” and it was about the son of the Devil taking over his Father’s throne. While the theme is the same, Hellraiser suggested that “Usurper of Hell” was a better title. Musically speaking I tried to create the whole song using the main riff and its variations.
How about the story behind “Finit Hic Deo?”
Skullcrusher: It’s funny because when I started writing it the idea was to compose a song in the style of Exciter’s “Iron Dogs” and it turned out to have nothing in common with that song, apart from having a “slow” part and a fast one! The beginning was supposed to be a classic mid-tempo, way slower than the final version. But when we rehearse we’re usually drunk and crazy and we play everything very fast, so the slow part is still faster than most songs from other speed metal bands!
The lyrics are about the demon from The Conjuring movies, Valak. I also quoted some dialogues from The Nun movie, and the title itself comes from the writing on the door you can see in the film (which is wrong, by the way, but it sounds cool). The movie sucked big time, but writing about the real demon was going to be even worse, considering it’s not a 6-meters tall blasphemous nun.
That title track was another favorite of mine. How did that one come about?
Skullcrusher: That song is probably my favorite on the album. Hellraiser wanted to write something in the style of Venom’s “At War With Satan,” and I think he nailed it. There is a lot of Iron Maiden in there too.
I think it’s our most epic song as of now, and yet the lyrics are about a funny story a friend of ours kept telling. Basically, near our hometown in 1800, there was this man, who didn’t believe in God and kept swearing at him. One day he got sick, and he asked God to not die, trading his wife’s life for his and saying he would build a votive chapel. He got better, but nothing in his lifestyle changed. One day he returned home to his wife, completely covered in shit: he shat himself because he saw the Devil. Then he became a devoted fellow and he built the votive chapel (which you can actually visit!). We rearranged some parts here and there, but that’s basically the story which the song is about.
That cover is another really memorable and confrontational piece of art, which there can never be enough of in metal. Who does your covers and how much direction do you give them? How stoked were you when you saw the final art for this one?
Skullcrusher: Samuele Scalise did the artwork, as he did the one for our first album. Hellraiser usually sends him a poorly designed draft and he starts working from there. He’s very talented. Usually when we see the new album cover we decide to hurry things up because we want to see the final physical product.
What’s your local scene like where you are in Italy? Is there one to be active in and what kind of effect has it had on you all as musicians?
Skullcrusher: Italy has a lot of great bands. Witchunter, Bunker 66, Baphomet’s Blood, Barbarian, Violentor, Dethroner, Loculo, Miscreance, and so on, not forgetting about old legends like Fingernails, Bulldozer, Strana Officina, etc.
However, playing live is very difficult these days. There is less audience every time, and 99% of the audience is in their 40/50s. Seeing a young kid at a metal show in Italy…it’s almost impossible. Clubs keep booking cover bands, and I can’t blame them since they probably earn 10 times what they would with 2/3 original metal bands. It’s shitty, but at least from what I saw in Europe last year, things are very different outside Italy.
Lastly, what’s next for Hellcrash? What are your goals for the future of the band and plans for the rest of 2023?
Skullcrusher: We hope to die after hearing “Total Eclipse” live during Iron Maiden’s Future Past Tour.
If that won’t happen, we will probably keep writing the songs for our third album and try to book a European tour in October.
Photo at top: Demonic Assassinatiön album cover.