The Great Eastern Trendkill
CoC chats with Damian Montgomery of Ritual Carnage
by: David Rocher
Many bands suddenly seem to be developing pretentious ideals of bringing the "true spirit" of heavy metal back to life, and merely use this new philosophy in life as a pretext to rip the sleeves of their jeans jackets and align a few simplistic, unimaginative riffs and solos. However, Ritual Carnage's first offering, _The Highest Law_, stood out among the tasteless mass of generally lame revival/tribute bands, with its sweaty, ultra mean leather n' spikes attitude, simple but incredibly addictive songs, and, last but not least, its excellently cliched cover. Obviously enough, bassist, grunter in chief and band mastermind Damian Montgomery proved to be an authentic, no-frills, poseur-bashing, nun-devouring kind of gentleman, an enthusiastic metalhead truly in love with the lifestyle he preaches... and unquestionably practises. The following interview was heroically performed during Driller Killer's soundcheck in Le Gibus, in Paris, France, with the assistance of the mighty Joey Jaffrezic ("JJ"), who co-hosts the Breton radio show "Metal Invasion".

CoC: What is the history of the band?

Damian Montgomery: I started the band in 1994 -- I formed it, so it's kind of my band. The original members didn't last too long; the first bassist was a Finnish guy living in Japan, and he went back to Finland about a year later, and our first drummer had another band -- he couldn't dedicate himself to [Ritual Carnage] full-time, so we went separate ways. While I was doing Ritual Carnage, I was also playing with another Japanese band called Tyrant [signed on Singapore's Pulverised Records -- David], and I left that band just before they recorded their album -- I had more confidence in Ritual Carnage. In 1996, [we found] Eddie, our guitarist, and Hamaii, our drummer. They had a band called Krakkbrain, that had been together for quite a while. After it broke up, I told them what I wanted to do with Ritual Carnage, so they joined, and Shige, our other guitarist, joined the band this February. On _The Highest Law_, I play guitars; we had a bassist at the time, but he left the band in July due to personal problems, so I'm doing the bass and vocals right now. Eddie and Shige do the lead guitars.

CoC: How did you get signed by Osmose? Were no American or Japanese labels interested?

DM: Actually, there are no labels in Japan at all that do anything for any extreme metal bands. After we recorded the album in January, I sent four songs from the album to labels we respected, but... from the beginning, we wanted to be on Osmose, we love all the bands on the label. I don't think there are any poseur bands on that label, which is very important -- and Osmose was the first label that contacted us, about a week after I sent it out. We had other offers that we didn't follow, because we wanted to be on Osmose, period! So -- it's a dream come true! <laughs>

CoC: How did you choose the name Ritual Carnage, and your album cover? Don't you think they sound kind of cliched?

DM: The name was actually something I thought of years ago, probably back in the early '90s. I got the idea from a newspaper, something about Algeria, the crazy Muslims killing all the people, and there was the name Ritual Carnage -- so I stole it.

CoC: What about the album cover?

DM: I guess we're not offended to hear it's a cliched jacket, but back when we were young -- I'm 32 years old -- [we listened] to bands like Manowar, Saxon, Motorhead... it's -that- metal image we wanted. The '90s metal image has kind of worn out a bit.

CoC: There are quite a few bands now who play '80s metal with a '90s edge to it, pretty much like Children of Bodom; do you appreciate this kind of music?

DM: Yeah, I like Children of Bodom, and I really like '80s metal more than the brutal stuff -- I'm not really into brutal music, I like -real- heavy metal you can bang your fucking head to! I like those bands... but they really need to give the keyboards up! <laughs>

CoC: Don't you think keyboards have a place in metal?

DM: Not in heavy metal!

JJ: Black metal?

DM: Well, even the "symphonic" stuff... <pauses> The band that used a keyboard to the best effect was Emperor, on their first album, it was fucking perfect! It wasn't too loud, it wasn't too soft, it was great! But now, well... the way Cradle of Filth use them is pretty cool, but you've got to be careful with how you use them.

JJ: Since Loudness, Japanese metal seems to be having difficulties exporting to Europe and America. How do you explain that?

DM: From my point of view -- I'm not Japanese, so I don't know what the Japanese think of it, but I know the guys in the band don't like Loudness, they laugh at it, and I do too! The early '80s just totally -fucked- metal; the big record companies and stuff did it all for fucking money, you know, and I can't look at a band like Loudness and say "Wow, they were great!" I think it was a band that was nothing original; I guess the thing that helped them a lot was that they were Japanese, that's what made people become interested in them. To an extent, I think it's the same for Ritual Carnage, Tyrant and Sigh. Westerners have an interest in the East, you don't hear a lot from bands from there, so when something comes out, people look at it, and think that even if it doesn't have a lot of originality, it's not westerners playing it -- and that draws a lot of interest.

CoC: Why is it that so many old, unsuccessful metal bands seem to have great success over in Japan?

DM: I think that's another thing with the record companies, they really push [bands], and after a record company pushes one and puts it in the kids' minds and fans' minds that they should listen to it, they do! And I think that, to an extent, it's the same with Ritual Carnage, because we're busting our ass to promote the record in Japan, and it's selling very well. We haven't had somebody to promote us in Japan, we're doing everything ourselves; and the most influent record chain in Japan, Discunion, really like the band, and they're really helping us.

CoC: What do you think of the practice that consists in releasing Japanese versions of CDs that feature between two and five bonus tracks when compared to the European version?

DM: I think it's fucked, I think the West should get them too. Another thing with Japan is when they release those CDs with the bonus tracks, they're paying an extra five dollars for the CD, so... Our CD sells in record shops for about 17 or 18 US dollars.

JJ: Your first album is extremely fast and violent; don't you think it can be dangerous releasing this kind of a first album, as if Slayer had first released _Reign in Blood_?

DM: Well, it was weird, the way everything in the band formed the way it did... Our first drummer really held us back from our capabilities. We had so much we could do, but he didn't want to play fast stuff, so when Krakkbrain broke up, Eddie joined the band, and we still had our old drummer -- and we knew that he wasn't going to work out, so we had him leave the band, and then Hamaii joined, and we just started with the real aggressive stuff that we wanted to do, and that's what came out! I mean, we didn't say "hey, let's do something like _Reign in Blood_!" I think you can get so much more done in a song if you just fucking cut out all the bullshit, just go right at it, and that's what we did! Most of our songs on _The Highest Law_ only have five riffs at most, and a couple of songs only have three riffs -- so you can just work with three to five riffs, and do killer stuff!

CoC: What do you think of the way cult bands like Metallica, Slayer and Sepultura have gone?

DM: Ah, I fucking hate it! <laughs> I was really pissed when Metallica fell -- I can tolerate them up to _... And Justice for All_, but after that, if they want to go the money way and live off the band, that's their choice, but at the same time, they're loosing fans -- they've lost me! We do a Metallica cover ["Hit the Lights"] because we love their first album, but... it's the same with Slayer, I was really disappointed with the new record, there's a couple of really aggressive songs, but on most parts, they sold out. I love _Divine Intervention_, but on the new record, it sounds like they're rapping or something, you know, ta-dam, ta-dam, ta-dam! -- like Machine Head and Korn and stuff like that. I was really pissed off that -they- did that. And even in style, they've just gone... I love the metal style, man! The leather, the spikes and shit like that -- I bought the first Slayer record, not because I knew what they sounded like, but I looked at the back and saw what they were wearing, and thought, "this must be a killer!"

JJ: To me, Saxon's _Unleash the Beast_ was one of the best albums of 1997, a comeback to true heavy metal; did you listen to it?

DM: Yeah, it's cool, I like it. It's a lot better than some of their older stuff. But I think the best comeback -- they're on the same label as us -- was Exciter's _The Dark Command_. I'm so pissed off that so many magazines just turned their backs to that album, it's fucking brilliant, man! Razor, they released _Decibels_ last year, well, it's a piece of shit; Infernal Majesty's released a new album, which is total shit. But the fucking Exciter is a killer, I love every song on that album, it's great, man!

JJ: Do you know Nasty Savage have reformed?

DM: <Amazed> No way?!

JJ: Really! Last September, they played at a gig in Germany.

DM: Killer! Ritual Carnage used to do a Nasty Savage cover, "Metal Knights"! <laughs>

CoC: Yeah, heavy metal is resurfacing now, with wimpish bands like Ratt and shit like that who are reforming... What do you think of this new trend in the metal scene?

DM: Well, to me, Ratt are not a fucking metal band, that's -not- heavy metal! I come from the early '80s -- heavy metal, to me, was Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Saxon, stuff like that. I'm not into any of that Los Angeles bullshit, it totally killed true heavy metal.

CoC: And what do you think of the endless succession of trends in metal?

DM: When I played with Tyrant, I told the guys in the band that we should do something a little different, and put some more heavy metal influences into it, because black metal has hit its peak -- you can't go anywhere else with it. I told them that they should try something different, but they weren't interested, they'd rather go the way they did. I knew it was gonna happen, and I predicted that; a big example was Immortal's _Blizzard Beasts_, they totally went over to more of a death metal sound.

JJ: What do you think of the bands on Osmose who try to give older metal a second life, like Bewitched or Demoniac? Do you like them?

DM: Oh yeah, I fucking love Bewitched, they're one of my favorite bands, actually!

CoC: How is extreme metal perceived by the masses in Japan?

DM: Actually, it's unbelievable, the American record companies have so much money and so much fucking power in Japan, that they force it into the kids' heads to listen to stuff that is so fucking boring it's unbelievable! I did an interview with a German magazine, and they said most Germans laugh at Helloween, but in Japan, they're fucking -huge-! They sell out all their shows, and it's just the record companies that are influencing this.

JJ: How did you convince Eric Rutan and George "Corpsegrinder" to play with you?

DM: Well, I first met George back in '96, when Cannibal Corpse toured Japan. We hung out, drank some beers and traded a few letters, and when we recorded our album, in January, Cannibal Corpse were recording their album at the same time, so when they were mixing their record, we were hanging out with them and bullshitting... They were mixing the Sacrifice cover, and I told George we were doing an cover of Onslaught. And he said "great, man!", and I just said "hey, wanna sing with me on it?" and he said "allright". And I met Eric in a record store, we started talking, I asked him if he wanted to play leads too, and he was all up for it, so it was cool! <laughs>

JJ: I have heard that when Deep Purple played in Japan in the early '70s, the Japanese crowds were very still, and I'd like to know if things have changed.

DM: It wasn't even the early '70s -- when I first went over [to Japan] in 1988, Anthrax came over, and I went to see the show. It's the security, with the insurance and responsibility; if people start stagediving and stuff and get hurt, they can sue [the organisers]. It was the security and promoters, they wouldn't let people leave their seats! Morbid Angel and Death all came over and played in venues that were basically free for all -- you come in, you're on your own, there were signs and stuff saying that they were not responsible if you got hurt, so people knew they had better not stay in front if they couldn't handle the intensity -- but it's pretty crazy!

CoC: Your CD mentions that you "vomit on Buddha, shit on the star and desecrate the cross". You only mention monotheistic religions, what is your opinion on forms of paganism?

DM: I don't know -- the religions that I attacked on the album are the ones that affected me. I've grown up around religion, and when I first went to Japan, I was in the military -- my grandfather fought in World War II, my father was in Vietnam -- so I joined the military basically out of respect for them, you know? They did something for their country, and in America, there are a lot of religions -- obviously there's Christianism and Judaism, but [there are] also Muslims, and Hindus, and Buddhists, and I lost an awful lot of respect for those religions -- they can live in America, but -they- would not do anything for their country. I'm not a right-winger or anything like that, but those religions, the laws and stuff that they follow are out of hand, if you ask me. For example, everybody right now is dealing with the Asian collapse in the economy, most Japanese are Buddhists, but these supposedly Buddhist businessmen are totally fucking greedy, and they caused all these scandals and rip-offs -- they've fucked the whole country, you know?

JJ: I have the impression you are a kind of father for the other members of the band; am I right, are you a kind of leader for them?

DM: Yeah, obviously, I have to do everything here, because none of them can speak English, but I'm not the leader to say "hey, you do this, you play that!" Basically, the songwriting and the image we want for the band is what I have control over, but they live their lives and do what they want. But as far as the songs are concerned, when they write a riff, I may tell them "I don't think it's Ritual Carnage-sounding" -- I make that decision, if it's Ritual Carnage or not, so that's basically what my leadership within the band is.

CoC: I guess you are getting new material ready; what's it going to be like?

DM: Our music's still gonna be aggressive, like on _The Highest Law_, but the Judas Priest and Metallica influences will definitely come out more. With _The Highest Law_, we went back to our roots, but on the next album, we plan to use those roots and go back even a little bit further with it all, new wave of British heavy metal sounds and stuff like that!

CoC: What do you think of bands that don't really seem to evolve, like Iron Maiden?

DM: Well, I don't know... Even off the latest stuff by Iron Maiden, there are good songs, but there's also stuff that I'm bored with. But I have no problems with their song structures and the way they arrange their music -- if they did it any differently, it wouldn't be Iron Maiden!

CoC: Like Bolt Thrower.

DM: Yeah, like Bolt Thrower -- I think the new album's fucking brilliant, you know? I think they're a great band, and they're a good example of a band that stays by its original sound. They might add a couple of little things, but you still know it's Bolt Thrower.

CoC: Concerning the attitude you demonstrate on your album, what do you think of all these bands that try acting "evil"?

DM: When it gets real childish in the interviews and the kids try to sound like they're larger than life, I think that's really so cheesy! I personally believe in Satanism in the same ways as King Diamond does, you know? I feel that I am my own god and creator, but I feel that a lot of these bands, like Graveland, they take Satanism and make it sound like it's a game. But I look at Satanism as intelligence and rational thinking -- when I see something I don't like, I can just laugh at it, and not attack it to the point that it gets stupid and brings out the unintelligent side of me.

CoC: Okay! Last words?

DM: I hope everybody likes our record... Our next record is gonna be just as good, definitely better; if you like lead guitars, there's gonna be twice as many leads -- everywhere I'm not singing, there's gonna be leads, so it's gonna be a real fun album!

(article submitted 2/13/1999)


ALBUMS
9/1/2002 A Wee 7.5 Ritual Carnage - The Birth of Tragedy
5/25/2000 D Rocher 8 Ritual Carnage - Every Nerve Alive
1/16/1999 P Schwarz 3 Ritual Carnage - The Highest Law
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