Entering the Underground #17: Inhuman Condition, Authentically Malicious Death Metal
New albums from old bands tend to sort of suck (with some obvious exceptions), and I can’t lie and say I’ve been particularly impressed by anything that Florida death metal legends Massacre have put out after their opus From Beyond. Someone in Massacre’s camp must have agreed with that, because two experienced musicians, Taylor Nordberg and Jeramie Kling, were brought in to write a new album and bring back some grit to the band. Though that didn’t work out, they decided to release the album instead with a new band titled Inhuman Condition alongside Terry Jones, the legendary bassist that played not only on From Beyond but also on Death’s Spiritual Healing and on the last couple of Obituary albums, among other things.
It’s a shame for Massacre that they didn’t manage to get what would become Rat°God under their own name, because this is the best Massacre album since the band’s classic days. Brutal, catchy, and well-written, it treads no new ground but appeals to that stripped-down death metal sound that so few bands have done well since the genre’s inception in a way that’s more than base nostalgia: Inhuman Condition have the riffs and songwriting skill to make it work. Even the gorgeous cover art that Dan Goldsworthy painted for it manages to simultaneously look like an ‘80s Repka cover without the lame pizza-grease HA BRO LOOK AT THAT attitude that stains so many similar modern attempts to recapture that long-gone age, which applies to pretty much everything on here: Rat°God is almost something that shouldn’t work, but instead really does.
Read below for an interview with guitarist Taylor (and cameo appearance from Terry Butler) and don’t miss one of the cooler albums of the year!
What made now the right time to start a new band, and what does it give you guys that your other bands don’t? For Terry in particular, how does it feel returning to the sort of material that you played in Massacre after these years?
Taylor: Jeramie and I were asked to join Massacre in the fall of 2019, and were asked to write the new album for the band. So we hammered out 14 songs over the course of a month or two and recorded our drums and guitars at our studio Smoke & Mirrors Productions. Over the course of the next year it became a situation that we had to leave, but we didn’t want to scrap the tunes, so we decided to just make a new band. The songs were written to be a Massacre album, so it was obvious that it sounded a bit like Massacre. We decided to call the band Inhuman Condition because A, it’s a killer band name, and B, because of the obvious nod to Massacre. Terry came into the picture and it made even more sense then, because he had written the song Inhuman Condition on the Massacre EP.
Terry: It’s been a blast to play this material. The music is killer and the guys did a great job capturing the sound of the late 80s and early 90s death metal.
Does that mean that there’s a surplus of written material to carry forward for future releases?
Taylor: Indeed! We originally had 14 completed songs, so we have 5 that will go on album #2. And it’s not that these songs weren’t as good as the 9 picked for Rat God, but they just had a “second album” feel, if that makes sense. Some riffs push the boundaries a bit that Rat God set, but it has a similar vibe as Rat God because it was all written and recorded at the same time. I can’t wait for those tunes to come out, because some of them are over 2 years old at this point, and some of them have my favorite parts from the original batch or songs.
Taylor, you mentioned a bit earlier that you and Jeramie were brought into Massacre and asked to write the next album for them; have you guys been brought in for that kind of thing before? Is joining an established band to write their music something that you like doing, and is it nerve-wracking at all trying to fit into the legacy of a legendary band?
Taylor: We were asked to join the band, and consequently write the album, rather than being asked to join as hired guns. It was stated when we joined that we would be equal band members and all that stuff, but they were gung-ho about writing new material so that was all the motivation we needed. We haven’t really been hired as a writing team before, but most of our bands we join at the same time, so we bring a certain sound in whatever project/band we play with. We don’t write the riffs for Ribspreader or Eye of Purgatory, but we get Rogga’s riffs and take them to all sorts of different places, whether that’s doubling his guitar tracks, adding harmonies, melodies, solos, keyboards, etc. I would love to start getting gigs as a hired writing team though! We love seeing how much of a chameleon we can become. That was basically what we did for the Smoke & Mirrors “All In One” album we did at the beginning of the pandemic. We wrote 12 different songs in 12 different sub-genres of metal, each written, recorded, mixed and released in 1 day each. I don’t think either of us feel any pressure stepping into an established band. We are going to bring our characteristic of playing no matter what, so we both fit in our own shoes pretty well, and have a confidence that we can more or less pull off anything. (Except maybe some ultra-tech brutal shreddy death stuff, haha!)
Listenable Insanity Records seems like a smaller, newer label than Inhuman Condition could have ended up on given the band’s experience. Why did you decide to give them a shot for this album, and how’s the experience been?
Taylor: When we decided to make this band, we wanted to do everything ourselves and be in control of the album’s release from top to bottom. We had several offers from labels around the world, but we wanted to keep everything in-house. Listenable Insanity Records is a label that Jeramie and I started about 5 years ago to release our side projects. We own the publishing to the songs, we own the artwork, merch designs, etc, so the middle man was cut out. We did sign several licensing deals with some smaller labels around the world which released different versions of the album (some digipak, some jewel case, some cassettes, etc).
We weren’t sure how the reaction would go, since it’s a new band, but the reaction has been absolutely stellar!! I personally sent out all our orders and it was overwhelming with the positive response.
Is it difficult balancing out your time shipping orders and managing logistics with actually being a part of the band? Do you think it’ll be sustainable when touring starts picking up again?
Taylor: It isn’t too difficult, however handling most of the “managerial” stuff is very time consuming. All three of us are pretty good about handling the social media stuff, which is unfortunately a job, these days. So that helps, whether it’s answering messages or posting about upcoming events, etc. For the first month or two after the album’s release, it was pretty busy in our shipping zone. I personally sent out all of the orders from our Bandcamp, so that was basically a full-time job for a while! We are all glad to bust our butts for this band though, and it’s no problem, because we believe in what we’re doing and really feel strongly about this band and the music we make. If we get into heavy touring it may get difficult, but our fans understand that when we are on tour, there’s no way we can manage our store as well, unless we figure out some other arrangement or bring the store on the road. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it, haha!
The artwork on Rat God is some of the coolest in that style I’ve seen in years. Where did the concept come from and how did you guys settle on Dan Goldsworthy to do the art?
Taylor: Jeramie had come up with the concept for the art originally. I had stumbled on Dan’s artwork after seeing the Xentrix album cover he did, which is totally killer! He has a cool 80s/90s vibe, which fit perfectly with the sound we were trying to capture. So we had a few facetime conversations and phone calls regarding the concept of some scummy fellow walking on corpses up a set of stairs. Dan sent over a sketch a few days later and it was incredible! Once he sent the final piece over we were completely wow-ed. It’s such an amazing piece. In fact, he blew us away so much that we dubbed him Dan “Babe Ruth” Goldsworthy because he knocked it out of the park!
Will Mr. “Ruth” continue doing your covers for future releases? Do you particularly value consistency with working relationships for bands and aesthetics?
Taylor: I think all mutual parties are very interested in working together again! Jeramie has a few art ideas in mind, and I’m sure Dan does as well, because he’s also an ultra-creative nutcase! We’ll never say “we’re using Dan for the next 4 albums, then switching” or anything, but we are definitely using him for the next album’s art, and Merch designs as well. Some bands don’t rely on aesthetics, or don’t find that it’s important, and a lot of them fall off track and get skipped over. Marketing is a big part of why heavy metal has been so popular. How many times have you heard people buying Iron Maiden albums because of the art? Or Death? Or Cannibal Corpse? Or Venom? Iron Maiden are geniuses for using Eddie and having something so recognizable that it’s like seeing the Golden Arches of McDonald’s or the Wal-Mart logo. Marketing is key, and I am so glad we have such killer artwork for our first album, because that has been a major selling point. We’ll try to out-do ourselves as far as packaging and merchandizing for album #2, so that is something I’m truly excited about.
Was it ever difficult coordinating busy schedules to make Inhuman Condition happen? Will the band continue to exist in the form it is in now when heavy touring starts to happen again with your main bands?
Taylor: Jeramie and I had no problem on our end, because I live about 20 feet from him and the studio, so it was actually a super easy process! Terry had a few Obituary live-streams that he had to work on when we asked him to join the band, but he had his bass parts worked out and came up to record and hammered 14 songs out in 2 days. It was a really easy-going, stress-free process! The band is 100% a real band and will continue to record and tour as much as we can. We will have to work our schedules around the Venom Inc (Jeramie) and Obituary (Terry) schedules, but we have a few things in the works so stay tuned!
Will Terry be more of a writing force going forward now that the band is established?
Taylor: Yes I think so! We have only really just started the writing of our next album (other than the 5 completed songs), but we’ll write until we feel we wrote enough, so hopefully Terry will be able to crank some riffs out while he’s on tour, and we’ll have some of his classic riffs on there!
Rat°God released June 4th, 2021 via Listenable Insanity Records.