Toronto technical deathcore band Brand of Sacrifice kick off their campaign for sophomore album 'Lifeblood' today with the release of lead single 'Demon King', taking their Berserk-themed brutality to a different level of intensity and musical interest. Fans of God Hand will have plenty more metal to chew on but there's a renewed scope and ambition to 'Lifeblood' that makes it a far more devastating and remarkable experience, with 'Demon King' alone making it apparent how thick and venomous their sound has become.
Lead vocalist Kyle Anderson started the project with guitarist Michael Leo Valeri before their real arrival with 'God Hand' just a year ago in 2019, and we spoke to Kyle on the evolving tone of 'Demon King' and 'Lifeblood' and how this band is massively exceeding humble expectations.
With God Hand behind you first of all which certainly was the record that introduced you to a great deal of people, how do you feel about that album and cycle in hindsight?
To be honest with you it went a lot better than we expected. We saw a lot of opportunity arise from that record, such as playing on the Summer Slaughter tour in North America, doing two runs with Rings of Saturn, and the album actually hit the Billboard Heatseekers chart at I believe number 20. We definitely didn’t expect that to happen from a debut album so I think it very well considering some of the constraints we had to get everything all in order as far as mixing and mastering are concerned. We ended up changing the album mix completely from the original mixes that we had and there were a few things that didn’t end up aligning exactly as we wanted them to, but I am still happy overall with it and I am really grateful for the reception and the positive responses.
Was there anything you learned from it that fed into 'Lifeblood'?
Oh, certainly. We spent a lot more time ironing out songs and fleshing them out over time instead of just doing a bunch in rapid succession. The vocals for some of the songs were written very close to each other at the end of the process but as far as the instrumentals went, the album mix was pretty much selected beforehand and all of those little nuances where we could go in and get the volumes exactly how we wanted them for certain parts, so I think dynamically this record is a lot better as far as the audio goes. We just took more focusing on making big catchy chant choruses and things like that, so it’s just a lot more thought out compared to 'God Hand'.
Where does 'Demon King' fit into this?
I think this one definitely has a more streamlined structure. It’s got three choruses in it which we have done in the past but they were pretty few and far between, maybe 'Charlotte' on 'God Hand' has that and 'Fortress' as well, but we really wanted to focus on making things catchier while keeping it heavy.
One thing really noticeable about the new record in particular is how much larger a presence the electronic and almost industrial elements are. Do you feel that your generation of bands are less inhibited by genre tribalism, and do you feel like those things on this record will be readily accepted by your scene or will there be a little bit of kickback?
We’ve played around with it a little bit before on 'God Hand' and our debut EP, but as you mention it was not as present in the mix. To be honest I listened to that newest Lorna Shore album, who are a lot closer to the blackened side of deathcore than we are, but their synths and their choirs were very prominent and I really dug that and felt like that was something we could pump up to the next level. I think Leo was sorta doing that already but I spoke to him and we agreed to just blast up those choirs and electronics. It adds to those dynamics which I think is key to this album, it’s really heavy and aggressive but we tried to make it more varied. Many people may not know this but before this band we were in another band called The Afterimage which was like a progressive metalcore band. It was completely different style, I was doing clean singing and things like that in that band, but we have this background in things that are a little more technical and more obvious in playing around with the electronics. I think those early days are starting to come through a little bit more now. Video game soundtracks are a pretty key thing, I’ve been listening to a lot of the Doom soundtrack, but then I’ve also been listening to a lot of really old school deathcore like Salt the Wound and even old Suicide Silence and Whitechapel. Those bands were really good at certain chants and things like that and I’ve tried not to listen to too much modern deathcore and death metal when we were making this outside of bands who are my friends and want to support.
'Demon King' as an entry point to the album for fans is not necessarily the farthest leap in that regard either. What would you point to on the album as being the biggest step?
That’s a good question. I think our song 'Animal' is a good step in where we’re kinda headed, as well as the song 'Vengeance' which features Jamie Graham from Viscera over in the UK. He sang on the chorus for that and that one has a lot of the electronics on it too, with a really heavy atmosphere. We’re never gonna forget where we came from but as cliché as it sounds to say we are evolving more and this is where it felt the natural progression should be.
The technical and almost mathy at times elements of your sound definitely stand out against most deathcore or brutal death metal bands. Is that a conscious choice to try and subvert the traditional tropes of how you might expect a song like that to progress structurally, or the tricks like a subdrop that it will use?
When it comes to that technical edge I think it’s a combination of just the natural way we write and have written for years, and to try and purposefully change things up and give the listener something new. One thing we really like to do is slow breakdowns at odd times, sometimes two or three times. It’s not like where the song stops for a second, you hit that bell and down the breakdown goes in tempo, we change the BPM right in the middle of them and there are little things like that that make our music feel just that little bit different from some of the other bands you might listen to.
Your vocal approach here too also seems to try and push into some different sounds. How much was that something to push yourself on?
I think the main ideas that I had for this album were that I wanted to do a lot more mid-range screams as well as the gutturals but particularly to focus a lot more on the articulation. I wanted the enunciation to be a lot clearer than the last record which was so much more focused on being brutal, tying in to what I was saying with the dynamics and the catchiness. The mix has this real larger than life approach which I wanted the vocals to compliment.
Obviously last year saw the release of 'God Hand' and plenty of subsequent touring, where this year hasn't been able to happen. Did the lack of ability to do that at all allow for any more time or work to try new things on this record you wouldn't have reached otherwise?
We have a bit of a weird set-up with our band. The main composer and writer is not a full time touring member with us. That’s Michael Leo, and he did do our European run with us, but he’s working from home right now and he would have been home anyway writing the record and handling the mixing. One thing that did help I think is the fact that I was able to be home. I put myself completely in a writing head-space instead of having to come home for a little bit, record, then go back on the road with writing in-between. The mixing and writing likely went the same way if I’m totally honest but the vocal delivery and the amount of time I had to flesh those things out definitely did have that push in that time. There were multiple times where I’d track a whole song then scrap it and redo it again so it went through a lot more iterations than it usually would, 'God Hand' I maybe did two or three edits to a couple of songs across the whole record and then submitted it.
Your lyrics are largely based on the anime/manga series Berserk. For people who aren't familiar with the series, what it is about that that led you to fixate on it specifically, and in what sense is 'Lifeblood' differentiated from 'God Hand'?
Yeah, so this project was originally meant to be like a one-off EP that myself and Michael were going to do. Michael hadn’t mixed a record or anything at that point and we thought let’s do a cool Berserk-themed EP that we can play with. I always felt the Berserk series is very dark but also has beautiful moments and very detailed, extreme artwork, and that translates very well into the death metal medium. I just thought it’d be interesting to write a few quick songs and that’d be that, because we were focused on other project at the time. Oddly enough this has ended up being the main project and I’m excited I get to continue to do this. The last record was about the God Hand and the impact that they had on the world of Berserk and some of the main characters, but this record while it is still based around the ideas of Berserk I think the average person will be able to understand it a little more. That connection is there more obviously, it’s talking about general ideas of pain and hate, anger and dealing with loss and how mentally you navigate those issues. It’s from the perspective of the main Berserk protagonist Guts who you can call something like The Struggler, he is branded and for those who don’t know the world the brand is something that attracts demons to attack someone, and from there you can have the wider idea of just being tormented by your demons and attempting to manage that 24/7. Who knows, maybe we won’t stick with this subject forever into the future, but I at least wanted to have this record touch on it in what is a more accessible way.
Is it part of an ongoing narrative or a different corner of the same world?
It’s a different corner of the same world. It changes perspective, I guess you could say. It’s now the protagonist’s perspective and how he is interacting with some of the things from the last record I guess, like it includes some of the God Hand members briefly, but it is mainly those other themes that I mentioned.
How much does that go into building the sonics of each song?
Michael doesn’t have as much of the anime and manga background, so I’ll give him rough ideas of how I want things to feel with a general vibe, and he is really good at picking up on that without necessarily having to understand the context of the particular specific story or scene. It’s ended up working out as we’ve been working together for a long time now. Sometimes I might send him soundtrack songs from time to time, not even from Berserk all of the time like I’ve sent him tracks from Hunter x Hunter or Akira or Killer Instinct, but just certain vibes to strive for.
Cross-media influences and nerd culture have always had a huge part in metal, and anime in particular can sometimes have a bit of a stigma from Westerners unfamiliar with it. Is that something you proudly fly the flag for?
Yeah I would proudly fly that flag. I think luckily we’re living in an era when it’s becoming accepted more and becoming more mainstream. You see many SoundCloud rappers talking about different anime or whatever and that’s pretty widespread these days. Something I constantly see is the connection between manga and anime and the scene that we are involved with, it’s a very minimal amount of people who haven’t at least had a taste of what that world has to offer.
With the release of 'Demon King' you're also launching the Discovering Lifeblood website which has an interactive AR element to it. What exactly does that entail and what can fans get out of it?
The main idea behind this is for the fan to be able to uncover the full album artwork, and look at it in a more detailed manner that allows them to experience more the world that we’re setting this album in. The cool thing about the cover is that it’s kinda like a combination of 'The Interstice' artwork and 'God Hand'. The female character has now disconnected herself from the monster that she was and is ascending from there, with the monster retreating into the Earth. You can uncover the full concept there and just enjoy it in a different way to us just dumping the artwork on social media to look at right away. You can click around and then have access to watch the 'Demon King' video, pre-order the record, and so becomes a hub for all the links associated with the record as well.
Band of Sacrifice unleashes their new album Lifeblood on March 5th on Blood Blast Distribution. Album artwork and pre-orders are currently available - HERE
Watch the premiere of "Demon King" from Brand of Sacrifice below.