Back in 1995 Usurper’s debut album Diabolisis came out. This album is in my opinion one of the best metal albums to come out post 1989. When metal was ruled by the Floridian wave of death metal and all the Norwegian black metal scene was on the rise this band from Chicago was going against the grain of the scene and the metal community in general. Listening to this album I can feel there is such great song writing and memorable songs, I don’t get how this isn’t scene as an underground classic in the same conversation of other classic albums. So I figured I go and talk to the band members themselves to get their input on this album and it how it was recording this album, their favorite songs, and some memories from back in the day. I also wanted to hear from the labels that put this album out. Also, I got a band that they would consider peers due to the same outlook on music. Sadly, I was not able to get General Diabolical Slaughter to be part of this. However, I hope you enjoy this article. cheers!
1. Hello Joe, so could you tell me how you joined Usurper?
J: Hey man what's up well fuck I'll never forget the day myself rigor and Dave were at rehearsal in my patio and we were minus a member was a short period after a show we did at a dirty rat hole "hairmetal skank house" the thirsty while we were in a band for years but got caught in that run to the mill death metal scene we wanted to go back to our roots of fuck off heavy groove god damn metal we wanted to write songs we wanted to hear and enjoy hence as I said minus a member Rick turned to me when I asked where our big bass guy was and he asked if I was interested in continuing with himself and Dead Dave at the time when he was just a private before general and I was like fuck yes I'm in so we worked on Usurpers first hit yes I call it a hit it was "visions from the gods" and If my memory serves correct I think deep in the forest was being created man what fun we had jamming didn't even think about no bass we were just really digging the vibe finally no trendy death metal the name was brought up and I was in pure agreement kick ass there we were sworn to never play Chicago lol the scene was gay back then we just wanted to do it our way.
2. From the Demo to Diabolosis how do you feel your drumming changed? Or do you feel it changed at all?
J: My drumming I think stayed the same I always approached music and riffs differently than other drummers no I didn't invent the wheel or reshape it but man I liked to create out of that round circle I was in a weird frame of mind then and really put my thoughts into my parts when I listen to the drums on that old stuff I hear dimensions.
3. Did you rehearse a lot with the band before going to the studio to record Diabolosis?
J: Usurper was always a well rehearsed band we didn't fuck around we never skipped practice it was a minimal twice a week two hour plus rehearsal time's we were doing some weird covers and constantly writing it was fucking fun no pressure no mouths no bullshit weed beer and metal . So yes we knew what we wanted going into the studio but of course. Fuck for Diabolosis we had Jon Necromancer that was night and day I mean I love the bass sound on visions and could never be duplicated (that's Rigors secret) Jon just put the icing on the cake he was a filth hound metal head just like us we had other tryouts but we knew from the first time we even played together he was our man.
4. How was it recording with Brian Eaton? How did you get the drum sound that you got on Diabolosis? Is there any cool techniques you used?
J: Brian was great he was a drummer I was experimenting with triggers and he was a guru I'll never forget I was doing some rudiments with my kicks and he was like who the fuck are you guy what’s wrong with you he was a different drummer than I just played my ass off like I said we were well rehearsed for both recordings which actually were several different days I believe rick has dates documented which was cool cause each time we went back to hit the record button it was a different color each song had its own vibe he gave me some great depth with my lower toms and kicks I loved it
5. What was your reaction when you finally got to listen to the final product and hear your drumming on the album?
J: I was extremely happy nobody could capture my energy in prior bands to usurper I went to some big dollar named studios and the engineers never really got it
I was a weird force for any band visions to the day is one of my favorite recordings I've done brings me back to a different era in my time of jamming
6. Last question what's your favorite songs from the album? And looking back on 20 years are you proud of Diabalosis?
J: Too hard to have a favorite but god damn nobody was doing anything like "dusk" which was on visions what a weird song fucking freaks we were but diabolosis and hypnotic void is a tie for my favorite creation. Looking forward to hearing from me Riggs and Jon soon there will be a reunion gig when the question is.
Stan from R.I.P Records:
1. Hello, Stan so tell me how did your first come into contact with Usurper? And what was your first reaction to hearing them?
S: Hey Nathan, honestly I don't remember all details but I've been friends with the band since the beginning. Then the demo ended up in my hands. I believe I got it from General D. Slaughter. From that time on our bonds got even tighter. Of course the demo was great and from the get go one could tell... watch out for these hardrockers!
2. When was it decided to releases Diabolosis on vinyl?
S: As soon as HNF decided not to do it. Old fucks like us liked vinyl and these guys loved the idea of their debut album being on this format. Was this in 1995? Man the older you get the faster time flies.
3. Looking back on Diabolosis 20 years now, is there quite a bit of nostalgia for you? Also, do you have any favorite songs of that release?
S: Of course. There was a lot of excitement at that time for both the band and us (I had a partner in the beginning).
Usurper was a very young band and we just started with RIP Records. Designing this gatefold LP with the poster without any experience and prior graphic education. We were determined and the outcome surpassed our expectations. It was a lot of work and money put into it but it was well worth it.
To me the album is very even and doesn't have weak or hit songs. I would say I probably like Dusk, Nulla... and Anno Satanas the most. In addition I was glad I did my part in helping the band become successful. Many people surely regret Usurper's break up at the peak of their career.
1. So when did you first hear of Usurper? How did you get in contact with them?
W: I heard the ‘Visions…’ demo tape first. I don’t recall from which distro I obtained it as I bought loads of demos from European distros back in the days, but that’s the first time I heard Usurper. I remember receiving the tape and looked at the artwork. It was the same design Sinister used for the tour shirt they sold at the Dutch Disharmonic Orchestra/Entombed tour they supported in 1990. What a coincidence... Anyway, Usurper carried a strong Frost-vibe which is a big plus in my book, so I got carried away from the beginning and loved the tape. I had to get used to the ‘Robot’ vocals first, but somehow they fitted the overall concept. It was a strong first release: great sound, professional packaging, awesome songs, killer vocals. One of the quality tapes in collection!
W: The first Usurper interview I read was either in Voices from the Darkside or Tales of the Macabre. One of them for sure. It was great discovering bands like Usurper. The biggest part of the Death Metal scene had turned very stale and turned into mere copycats. And although I enjoy(ed) many second wave Black Metal acts too, it was just great picking demos up from US bands like Eternal Hatred, Equinox, Scepter and Usurper of course. All these bands were very much inspired by the old gods of extreme Metal and it’s no secret I adore the originators of our beloved scene, so it was awesome hearing these bands with a very strong 80’s vibe, yet trying to create something of their own. I felt very related to such bands as Pentacle was (and still is) following the same direction, so there was a mutual link and cause straight away. Bonded by Metal, right?
2. What was your reaction when you first heard Diabolisis?
W: I bought ‘Diabolosis’ on CD as soon as it was released. I got it from Metalion himself, I belief. It’s a well-balanced album with many high lights. Loads of catchy riffs and arrangements and I still dig it. I think the album stood the test of time and aged very well. It doesn’t sound obsolete at all. Still as powerful as the day it was recorded and released. Jeroen from Damnation Records (our label at time) brought me a vinyl copy of ‘Diabolosis’ later on when he returned from some Metal fair in Belgium, I think. It was a Sunday evening for sure. I was still living in my very small apartment in Eindhoven and although it was totally crammed with all kind of records, tapes, CD’s and posters, I put the lyric poster on the wall above the fridge. It stayed on the same spot for several years, haha!
I remember our old guitarist Edwin entering our rehearsal place wearing a ‘Diabolosis’ shirt and I just freaked out! I asked him where did he get the shirt and he answered through Displeased Records which did some trading with R.I.P. Records (they released the shirt), so I gave him some money and made sure he would bring me one as well. A couple of rehearsals later Edwin gave it to me and I still have it!
I wrote the band and it was General D. who answered the call. He wrote back and we started trading shirts etc. That was before ‘Threshold...’. Yes, because both shirts I received from him later on featured the artwork and/or the title of the MCD. Fucking amazing release! The first time we met in the flesh was when Usurper toured Europe as support for Enthroned. I met the guys at De Baroeg, Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Rick was wearing a ‘Morbid Tales’ shirt while I wore a ‘To Mega Therion’ one, so we bonded immediately. The gig was very good and I had a great time in the front row!
3. Do you have any favorite songs from Diabolosis?
W: Fave songs? Let me see... ‘Anno Satanas’ (LP-version), ‘Full Moon Harvest’, ‘Blood Passion’ and ‘Dusk’. But the whole record is a blast!