“Churches Without Saints” and Metal Without End: Desaster’s Black/Thrash Reign Continues (Interview)
It’s a rare band that starts off extreme, gets a chance to keep it going on a big label, and retains the things that made them special in the first place across the years. It’s even less common when you go all the way back to the beginning, to the earliest days of extreme metal; bands went goth, prog, garage rock, groove, djent, or just outright lost their passion as trends came and went around them.
Germany's Desaster are one of the only bands around to start strong and stay consistent, prolific, and retain their quality level. Their first album, A Touch of Medieval Darkness, is an uncontested classic of black/thrash—but so is Hellfire’s Dominion, their second one, and each album and era of the band has worshippers. Churches Without Saints is Desaster’s ninth album and magically it’s still really fucking good despite that, with the band never having lost their fire across all those decades.
The heart and soul of Desaster is their only remaining original member, Infernal, who has been with his band a champion of the evil underground since all the way back at the tail end of the ‘80s. Years of success haven’t taken away anything from his love for true metal, and Infernal is here now to talk about Churches Without Saints and Desaster’s long history.
Thank you for doing this interview with Invisible Oranges!
Thank you for the interest! Thank you!
Yeah! So, why don’t you just tell me a little bit about the new album before we really get into it.
We are very proud of the new album. I think it’s a very good album. It’s the ninth album already of Desaster. It’s still something special for us to release an album, and I think on this one we managed to get all of the trademarks of Desaster together in a very good balance of songs on the album. I really like it, and it seems that also the fans and the press, the media, likes it, so the response is overwhelming. It’s great. Of course, it makes us proud after over 30 years in the “music business” it’s always great if you get this great response. That makes us go on, you know? The fire is still burning, we’re still hot, and we love the metal we play. It’s great.
It’s been 25 years now since A Touch of Medieval Darkness, and back then you were on Merciless Records, right?
It’s been 25 years. These days you’re on Metal Blade, and you guys are a big band. How does that feel looking back at that classic material?
It’s a great feeling. We never expected something like that when we started in 1988. Back then we were just kids doing some noise, and we never imagined to do interviews with the other side of the world, and play on the other side of the world. It’s fucking great! We still have a special sort of feeling to ourselves because we have never become a real professional band. We don’t live from our music, we have all regular jobs, and the music is still our passion and not our job. I think this is the reason why we are still hot, laying some good shit, and we enjoy what we are doing. We don’t have a record company that just says, you have to do an album every second year, you have to go on tour every year for three months or five months. It’s our decision. When we want to do some music, we go to the rehearsal room, enjoy ourselves, drink some beer, make some noise, have fun, you know. I think this is the spirit that is needed to make good music.
Is the fact that you guys are still just doing it for fun and for yourselves why you like to do split releases and EPs and stuff like that?
Yes, yes! We are record collectors ourselves, and we of course like to do special stuff like this, not only the regular albums. I think this okay, this is the business, the record company wants of course albums, but we love to do some special editions. Splits, singles, we did a shaped single, 10” records. I think we haven’t missed any format. We already did our music on every format which is possible, and it was always our aim to do something like that because we want to have this in our own collection, you know? [Laughs]
It’s great to play a single on the record player, and to be together on the split with some bands we all also appreciate and like and love. It’s a good sign of friendship in the scene if you do a split. It’s always a good sign to show the people that it’s not only business stuff, you can’t earn much money with the split singles in the quantity of 100 copies, but it’s a sign that we are also fans of the music and we love to do things like this.
Do you have any particular favorite splits that you guys have done over the years?
Well of course we are very proud of our very first split 7” with the German band Ungod. That was our first release on vinyl, and of course it was fantastic to hold your own vinyl in your hands! Before we did some demo tapes on cassette and this was the first time we were on a real format, and it was good to play that on the record player. We are still proud of this one. It’s one song, called “The Hill of a Thousand Souls,” and we are still proud of this song, and we still like to play it live from time to time.
Speaking of playing live, any plans to come back to the United States once the pandemic allows?
Yes! We have some plans to go to South America, perhaps if it’s possible at the end of the year we’ll go to Brazil and Chile, and of course it’d be cool to come back to the United States. We were really surprised at how great the underground scene is in the USA. We didn’t expect something like that, and it was cool to play there and to meet the maniacs. We played in LA, we played in Chicago, we played in Houston, and it was cool to travel around. It was great, we were very surprised it was so fucking maniacs there. We thought it was like a little bit how it is in Germany, how you can go to concerts every day, people are a little bit fed up with concerts and music, but there are still some maniacs out there and we appreciate that. So of course we want to come back! Invite us! [Laughs]
Sounds like a plan!
You guys have played shows all over the globe. Are there any particular locations that are left on the wish list that you want to play?
Yeah, definitely, definitely! There are some countries that I always wanted to visit, like Iceland. It’s a European island in the very north with a lot of snow, and our singer has been there to make some holidays, and he told us that it’s so fucking great landscapes, and it would be cool to go there, play a concert, travel around the country, that would be a dream of me. Yeah.
Excellent! So, you guys did special anniversary collections for the 10th and the 20th anniversaries. Were there any plans to do something similar for the 30th anniversary?
We did, but not a big collection box or something like that. We only did a little 7” single, which was called Black Celebration. We did a song called Black Celebration on it, and on the side B there was already a song from the forthcoming album which will be out in a month now, or three weeks, and it was a great thing. We celebrated the 30th anniversary with a little concert here in our region with some diehard fans, and it was great. Drinking, meeting them, and the lead single was released then.
Of course the material is running out! [Laughs] We have done the 10 Years of Total Desaster, 20 Years of Total Desaster, and we have all our old stuff put on these releases, so we decided to do something new on this celebration day.
Would you be open to talking at all about Moontowers?
It’s a new band. We’ve run it for four years now. It’s great! To play some different kind of music, not the extreme metal like in Desaster, we’re more heavy based with doom elements, it’s great to play with those other guys. I enjoy it a lot. It’s great.
Why did you decide to launch a second band?
Why? I was never into this thousands of projects like other guys in bands do, I always thought that my ideas for riffs are always used for Desaster, but there are some riffs not fitting to Desaster. Not evil enough, but they were too good to throw away, so I always had it in the back, and yeah. It was already in 2000, at the turn of the millennium, when our old drummer and me carried out this old riffs and we make some normal heavy metal songs and it was the plan to do it with a good voice. My dream was to get a good female singer, but I didn’t manage to find a woman like this, so I met the other guys of Moontowers and our singer. Dommermuth is his name. He is not that pretty but he has a great voice, and I love this.
That’s really killer! Why did you decide to self release the Moontowers album?
When we did the first demo CD, three tracks also self financed, we sent it out to some record companies. I don’t know why, somebody said it doesn’t fit to our roster, others said we are fed up with bands, and so we decided to release it on our own. Of course the whole pandemic was very hard for us, because when you release an album on your own and can’t play live you can’t play live, can’t sell CDs and vinyl at the show, so we are hoping that as the situation is going better that more people will know Moontowers, that we will be able to play some festivals so that people can recognize the music of Moontowers. I think it’s worth listening to it. I like it very much, we are just doing new songs, new Moontowers songs, and they are really ass kicking and fucking great, and I hope that we can find a record deal this time.
Would you say that there were any advantages to doing it yourself like you did with the Black Celebration 7”, or do you wish that a label had put it out?
I think we released on every kind of format. I know that Metal Blade will do a shape single again with two songs of the new album, which is coming out in September or something like that, and of course I appreciate things like this. We don’t have a real plan with what is going on in the future. We are just meeting and drinking in the rehearsal room and then we make some plans. Perhaps another split single will be coming up in the future. Who knows? There was always a plan to do a split with American Nunslaughter, with friends of ours, but unfortunately the drummer died and so the project was never realized, but something like that would be great.
Other than Nunslaughter are there any other bands you’d want to do a split with?
Well, also the American Absu are good friends with us. Proscriptor, the drummer and singer of Absu, already did some guest vocals on an album of Desaster in the past, and that would be a good idea I think to ask him if he wants to do a split single. Why not?
Kinda similarly, a few years ago there was a double CD tribute with dozens of bands covering Desaster songs. If there was a followup what bands would you like to participate?
You mean a Volume 2? [Laughs]
Of course, I’d love to hear what Metallica does with Desaster songs! [Laughs] Slayer has to reunion to cover Desaster, that would be great!
I’d listen to that.
But yeah we were very proud when somebody planned to do a release like this. It was fucking great to listen to all the songs played by bands all around the world. They did so fucking great versions of our songs. It was really, really cool to listen to that release.
What’s next for Desaster?
I hope that we can rehearse as soon as possible again. We are hot to play and we can’t play at the moment. Germany is still in a lockdown, no concerts, it’s a real pity but we hope that in the end of the year we can play live again and we are looking forward to it a lot. To play the new songs live is our aim. There are no other plans at the open. Just drink beer and wait!
Churches Without Saints releases this Friday, June 4th via Metal Blade Records.