ASSAULTER – The Great Subterfuge
Central Coast, New South Wales, Australia-based thrash / death metal outfit Assaulter formed in 2004, the brainchild of Simon Turner (better known as Simon Berserker), vocalist, guitarist and bassist for the group. Berserker had previously been a member of an Australian collective named Deströyer 666; recorded at Sound Suite Studio, Marseille from January 6th to February 6th 2002, he performed bass on third full-length Cold Steel… For An Iron Age (2002, Seasons Of Mist). Based in Holland at the time, Berserker left Deströyer 666 and returned to Australia. “I didn’t do much music-wise for a few years,” Simon admits. “Basically, there was no clear idea at the start. I had a couple of jams with a mate of mine on the drums and we just recorded a few songs – they were rough and ready, but it actually came out alright. I thought ‘Well, may as well release it and get a band together,’ and I just came up with the name Assaulter because it was just a one-word name. Trying to get a full band together was a task back then, back in 2005. After that we did a second demo (Omnipotent) with another drummer named A. C., and beyond that we did a seven-inch (Subservience) with Iron Bonehead Productions which was in 2008. That was followed quickly by the first LP, and again it was still just the two of us at that stage. It wasn’t until after the first LP Salvation Like Destruction came out that we got another guitarist, and we’ve had 50 bass players or whatever. A. C. was replaced on drums by Peter Hunt, and we’ve just done Boundless! Before the recording of that LP the line-up was still minus a bass player; Pete actually left the band straight after that anyway, so we’re back to two people. That’s where we are now, yeah.”
On October 11th, 2007, it was publicly announced that Assaulter had inked a record contract with Pulverised Records. “At that stage we’d just released the second demo Omnipotent, and we sent that out everywhere,” the vocalist explains. “I think we got rid of about 600 copies; either distros were buying them at – I don’t know – a dollar a disc or something minus postage or whatever, or I was just getting distros to pay for postage and sending out multiple copies so they could just chuck it into their mail-order to get the name around. It did to a certain extent. Once people heard that demo, which was rough, tough and ready and all the rest of it, firstly we got approached by Iron Bonehead in Germany to do our first seven-inch, Subservience. Shortly after that we were approached by Pulverised, because they’d heard the demo as well. That’s how it happened.”
Assaulter’s relationship with Pulverised Records resulted in the issue of debut full-length outing Salvation Like Destruction in September 2008. “At the time we were with Pulverised Records and they gave us the impression they were behind us, but they didn’t give us much money to record with,” Simon reflects. “I think we were looking at 2000 Australian dollars which isn’t much, especially when you’ve got to spread it over mastering and what have you. We were screwed there from the outset. I think the songs were generally there, but halfway through the recording I was like ‘Ugh, this isn’t going too well.’ We made a few poor choices with where we had to record the drums and what not. The drumming didn’t come out that well; it was a trial by fire, and it is what it is. I’m relatively happy with the songs and what not, but as an album I knew that we had to do better.”
Metal Blade Records’ agreement with Poison Tongue Records to handle distribution on their behalf was publicly revealed in August 5th, 2010. Helmed by Primordial frontman Alan ‘Nemtheanga’ Averill, Assaulter was one of Poison Tongue’s first acquisitions. “I’ve known Alan since 1999,” the bassist discloses. “I actually lived in Dublin for just under a year, and yeah, I’ve known the man since then. He was keeping track of what we were doing, and the first album – like I said – is as rough as guts and what not, but it gave him a bit of a kick. He had this idea that he’d approach Metal Blade to have an underground label for bands he thinks may deserve a bit more attention and what have you. He ran it by Metal Blade, and they were like ‘Yeah, yeah.’ He approached us, and yeah, we’re the first band to get a release via this Poison Tongue moniker. So yeah, it’s pretty good. It’s actually really fucking good, because a lot of work has been done by Metal Blade with the promotion and what not.
“Pulverised promoted Salvation Like Destruction well, but it was very short and I think they lumped us in with this retro-thrash kind of thing, which we’re not at all. We’ve got nothing to do with that at all, and I’d like to make that very clear. They were trying to promote us alongside bands like Guillotine and all this kind of stuff, but Metal Blade are really pushing it on its own merits. So yeah, it’s definitely great.”
Sophomore record Boundless! saw the light of day in March 2011, Assaulter’s first to be released through Poison Tongue Records / Metal Blade Records. “Basically, what we’re playing or how we see ourselves playing is a real form of aggressive and quite rough and tough metal,” Simon feels regarding Assaulter’s sound. “It’s got the speed of thrash, but it’s still dark and heavy like death metal. There are lots of heavy metal hooks in there too though, which is something we really stick by. Tommy Hellfinder plays lead guitar, so he’s adding a lot of heavy metal flavour with a lot of his leads and what not. But yeah, I just don’t like this notion we’re a thrash band which I’ve seen a lot. Yeah, we’ve got thrash elements definitely, but on the strength of that you could say we’re a death metal band or a heavy metal band as well because there’s just as much that as there’s speed and thrash. Yeah, I’m not too keen on the retro-thrash tag at all. When you hear it, you’ll understand what I’m saying (laughs). I guess with this whole retro-thrash thing, straight away I think of these bands of 18 to 20-year-olds in California in their Reebok Hi-tops just playing Exodus riffs. That’s really not what we are, so we try to steer clear as far away as possible from that association.”
So Assaulter want to be trend-setters as opposed to trend-followers then Simon? “The aim isn’t to set a trend,” the frontman clarifies. “What we play comes to us quite naturally, so we’re not a part of this ‘flavour of the month’ crap. That’s another thing that’s rearing its ugly head I guess you could say, this revival of old-school death metal as well. All of a sudden, there’s 700 bands all sounding like Autopsy. All these things go in cycles, but yeah, we’ll just stick to what we play. Once you hear it, you’ll hear a load of heavy metal-ness – there’s quite a few epic passages in there as well with choirs and what not. It mixes it up, but at the end of the day it’s just metal, real metal. That’s our take on it.
“The first one definitely has more of this thrashy aggression like Sodom and Kreator, their older styles. Also there were epic songs on it like the album’s closer, but this new one Boundless!… Yeah, it’s very mid-paced. You’ve got a couple of fast songs, but a lot of them are mid-paced headbangers. There’s a couple of epic, sprawling songs as well, so we’ve definitely come more into our own on this album.”
Incorporating elements of thrash and death metal, Simon loves the old riffing of Metallica. “We take that kind of riffing and we’ve got some of the rhythms of say Mercyful Fate or something, and lacings of leads,” he ventures. “Lots of leads are linked in-between the vocal passages and what not, and then the straight-out dark tremolo aggression and death metal like old Sodom or something like that. It’s very much rooted in what these days is quite old music, I guess. To me those are still my favourite kinds of bands, so naturally I’m gonna draw more influence from them. Having said that though, I still listen to bands from today. In the case of Assaulter though, we tend to draw our influences from those kinds of bands. When Tom the lead guitarist came along, he’d actually fallen out of the loop of what was happening in the underground in metal and what have you since the early 90s. He brought in his playing which is directly influenced by the late 80s, early 90s, and that added to the band as well. I know that contradicts what I was saying before about not trying to be retro, but we’re not. I think when you hear it, you’ll see how it’s rooted in traditional metal values but it’s not trying to just sound like fucking 80s bands.”
Boundless! generally explores the trappings of absolute power, lyrically speaking. “I get a bit of a kick when I read these stories of – for example – Pol Pot or someone like that, and just the absolute power that comes about with someone who’s a head of state,” the vocalist comments. “I think it was George Orwell who said ‘Absolute power corrupts absolutely,’ so that whole concept to me is quite fascinating. Generally speaking, across the album a lot of the songs deal with the same type of subjects. I’m gonna keep it broad because I prefer it if people read the lyrics themselves and draw their own interpretation, but that’s the general gist of it. From song to song there are different themes. There’s definitely some anti-Christianity going on in there, but yeah, I think it’s best if people listen and read them themselves.”
Bereft of an online biography page proper, scarce information exists regarding Assaulter. “That’s actually on purpose; there used to be that stuff around I guess, but we’re looking to focus on the now and not the boring details,” Simon declares. “It’s alright for you because you’ve gotta work out questions and ask questions and what not, but I know trawling through the internet to check out new bands or whatever that they have a long biography about how the bass player was a neighbour of the guitarist, they had a beer once and they decided to do a logo… It’s just fucking boring. I’ve always tried to steer clear of that where possible, so any biographical information that’s featured on MySpace or ReverbNation or what have you is all in the now. It’s all what we’re doing right now. I guess if people wanna know what the history is, they’re always welcome to ask because I’ll happily answer . Yeah though, I don’t think a full-page bio is really all that interesting. I like to let the music speak.”
To create intrigue Simon? “Yeah. Well, that’s what we all used to do I guess before the rise of the internet – it was all what you heard, or what someone played you. It was all about the music, and I think that’s the most important thing yeah, definitely. If there’s too much information given out straight away, people are gonna draw their own conclusions before they’ve heard anything. ‘Oh, they’re influenced by those bands. Alright, well fuck it – I’m not interested.’ ‘Oh ok, cool. They’re influenced by those bands, but they don’t really sound like them.’ Have a listen; the songs are around – there’s a few songs around at the moment from Boundless! I think people should just have a listen, and work it out without needing any other background information.”
The Assaulter vocalist and bassist describes Australia’s 2011 metal scene as “small, very small. It’s not like it once was in the early to mid 90s where there were quite a few people going to local shows and watching local bands. I guess there are people around; if an international band plays, all of a sudden there are headbangers and metalheads everywhere. For the local shows though, especially with the kind of stuff we play or bands like Trench Hell or Vomitor or any of those kinds of bands, you’re probably looking at – I don’t know – 200 people maximum at a show, which isn’t too bad. It’s quite good, but you’re shooting yourself in the foot if you play more than twice a year in any of the major cities like Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne really. It’s small, but there’s definitely quite a few bands and all these bands are of the same kind of ilk – we all know each other and what not. There is a small scene, yeah. It’s not like Germany as you’d expect, or Sweden or any of those lucky bastard countries where metal’s just everywhere. Yeah, I think it’s great like that over there in Sweden. I mean, look at Nifelheim; a lot of people know who Nifelheim are over there. Yeah, it’s small but it’s still healthy and it’s still here in Australia. Definitely we have good bands, I’ll say that much.”
Naturally, Assaulter would love to tour internationally. “We’re gonna come over to Europe next year definitely, once we get an idea of whether the album’s doing ok,” Simon divulges. “The deal is through Poison Tongue which is a sub-label of Metal Blade, but Metal Blade will be pushing the album above the underground. Poison Tongue will be working with Invictus in Ireland to get it spread out in the underground though. If that’s well received, then we’ll definitely be over there and we’ll start planning it very soon. 2012 is the plan, yeah.”
Boundless! was released on March 11th, 2011 in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, on the 14th in Europe and on the 15th in North America, all through Poison Tongue Records.
Interview published in March 2011.
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