Cruel Bomb – Nuclear ExplosionThursday, 12th March 2020
These are thriving times for thrash. Veteran bands are still churning out high quality releases – spurring a second and third generation of musicians to also put their stamp on the proceedings. Add Pennsylvania band Cruel Bomb to that landscape, pushing an aggressive form of metal that has equal parts hardcore as it does thrash in terms of lyrical and musical content. They’ve released two EP’s to date, gaining modest buzz through the underground, also impressing audiences through their energetic live show performances.
We reached out to guitarist/vocalist Brandon Gilvary shortly after the release of their newest EP Trinity Terror, and he was happy to bring us up to speed on the trio lineup, thoughts on their recordings, views on the thrash genre as a whole, and also a healthy amount of discussion regarding DIY challenges, social media, and what the future holds.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of your earliest memories surrounding music growing up? At what point did you gravitate towards the metal genre, and the desire to pick up an instrument and start a band?
Brandon Gilvary: My mom had a CD when I was growing up called 100% Pure Metal. It was a compilation CD with hair metal like Poison, Quiet Riot, Living Colour. It may be embarrassing to admit this, but my uncle had a CD with Disturbed and “Down with the Sickness” was on. I remember one of the first songs I heard from them was called “Voices” – and that song was amazing. That was the first time where I got used to the darker part of metal. I got a Wal-Mart gift card, and I had no idea what I was going to do with it – so I saw a Megadeth CD and I remember buying that. And then video games had metal songs in them, so that’s where I gravitated towards metal.
I always wanted to pick up and play an instrument, but I lacked the hard work. I thought about it, and until a couple of years ago I started buckling down because I’m not getting any younger. I had to start doing it. There was a time in my life where all I had was a bass guitar, so that motivated me to learn how to play it before I picked up the guitar. There was a long period where I was self-taught, until I reached out to a guitar teacher Bill Hoffmann and I’ve been under his wings for a while. He taught me a lot of things I took into consideration. Every time I would do a lesson, I would take something and write it that would be a part of the Manhattan Mischief material. Not that he showed me how to play the songs, but I wrote the songs.
Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about the formation of Cruel Bomb – did you know the right players you wanted to assemble, as well as what you wanted to go for in terms of a style with the band, or was there a feeling out process in rehearsals to arrive at the sound of the band?
Gilvary: I spent a long time just learning the guitar by myself. I always wanted to find the right musicians to play thrash metal, but let me do my thing, if that makes any sense. So many people want to do different things, so it’s really hard to find people that have the same goal. Kyle has always been a phenomenal drummer, and he’s been around playing in a lot of local bands, we’ve been friends for a long time. Cruel Bomb just started with me writing stuff in my living room, I’d start writing, build drum tracks. Kyle thought what I was writing was really cool, and he encouraged me to record those songs studio-wise and go from there. He was in a band that couldn’t play a show in Philly, and my philosophy is you don’t cancel shows. We could play that show, we thought about some bass players and we asked Kenny to join. It’s been that way since, we’ve been working our asses off.
Dead Rhetoric: In March of last year Manhattan Mischief your debut EP came out – what can you tell us regarding the songwriting and recording sessions for this effort, and how do you feel about the final product and response at this point?
Gilvary: It’s awesome. The fact that I was able to do that just being in a situation of writing those songs in my living room, it’s amazing. The recording process was a dream come true, it’s something that I never thought I would get to in my life. Learning the inside of a studio, practicing my songs and rehearsing, honestly it’s a dream come true watching people love Manhattan Mischief EP and the material I write.
Dead Rhetoric: Trinity Terror is the latest EP for Cruel Bomb – where do you see the major differences in this recording compared to the last EP? Were there any surprises, obstacles, or changes that took place from the initial writing stages to the final development of the material?
Gilvary: It definitely is more aggressive. (We are) more experienced, I have the other EP under my belt and my formula of approaching things. We were able to go into things with a more steady outlook, and Kenny, Kyle and I have a relationship where we can give each other input and constructive criticism. Songs like “Atomic Demolition Munition” we molded and put our own aspects in there, it’s my favorite Cruel Bomb song. “The End” was challenging, just because that was the quickest song we ever have had to write because Kyle was moving away so we had to get those drums down. Kenny was trying to write lyrics, and that was the hardest song to write.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you try to come across with the lyrics for Cruel Bomb?
Gilvary: I’m really enthralled with nuclear warfare in general. I also like those hardcore lyrics, “Breathe” is really personal to me, motivational. It’s whatever I am really feeling. What I want to make sure with Cruel Bomb is not necessarily have a major theme on each record, I want to write about what I want to write about when it comes to the lyrics.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe Cruel Bomb when it comes to the stage versus your studio recordings? What do you hope to get across to the audience, and what have been some of the more memorable shows to date for the band?
Gilvary: I want to impress even more. A lot of people like the studio stuff, and I’m ecstatic about that. But I want them to see us live and think we are even better live. Kenny, Kyle, and I rehearse, we all practice a ton so we can have our live show be very impressive. We also want the studio recordings to be top notch as well.
For sure, the Alt Gallery in Allentown, it was amazing. We played a really sick show in Pittsburgh, an old bank that was turned into a coffee house. That was such a great show. That whole weekend in Ohio was really cool. The Wacken battle of the bands show was great too.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your thoughts on the thrash genre currently – do you believe things are healthy and vital not only because of the veteran artists, but also the younger bands who are injecting different influences across the board to keep the style interesting and fresh?
Gilvary: I’m so glad you asked that as I was just thinking about this today. Thrash is alive and well. There are a lot of new albums from the veterans that have come out recently. I can’t stop listening to them, they are so good. There’s even more subgenres of thrash out, and it’s really cool to see them all coming together. It’s doing great, I’m really excited to hear more new albums from the genre coming out this year.
Dead Rhetoric: Being a person who was there for that original thrash movement, it’s exciting to hear what some of these newer bands like Power Trip, Havok, Warbringer are doing, Municipal Waste to the veterans like Overkill and Death Angel…
Gilvary: The genre is not dead, it’s just underground.
Dead Rhetoric: Currently you are a three-piece – is the band content with the trio format, or would you consider adding a second guitarist if the chemistry and need would be filled adequately?
Gilvary: We do have a live member who plays with us, a live guitar player that adds harmonies for certain things. In “Teeth Grinder” we add a little harmony lick to it. We do use a live member, but he currently doesn’t do any writing for the band. That’s all he wants to be is a live guy. If the situation ever arises and we do meet a second guitar player, I may think about it. Right now I just want to worry about two people instead of three people.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider some of the greatest challenges facing the band as you try to rise up the ranks on a DIY/independent basis?
Gilvary: The challenges… huh. That’s a good question. Obviously, the goal is to rise to the top and be original and different. I’d say outreach. I don’t know how to answer this question. The challenging part can be to get people’s attention. I constantly try to overcome the challenge of how do I get our music into more people’s hands. Exposing Cruel Bomb to more people, so my day to day challenges are to stay relevant and continue to write new music. Just finding the time to keep writing and getting into the studio. Just trying to find the time to do it may be a challenge- as well as finding a way to get a tour going out to the West Coast.
Dead Rhetoric: Who are some of the bands that you admire either on a local or national/ international level that align well for Cruel Bomb – in terms of their musical output as well as the way they handle themselves on a professional and business basis?
Gilvary: Dissentience. They are great friends of mine – not just myself, but the whole band. They are very professional, and we are both very similar when it comes to handling our business. Silent Judgement in Philly. Power Trip, Stormtroopers of Death, Anthrax, Megadeth. I respect anyone who carries themselves with a level of professionalism as we do going into this. Music is an extreme passion of mine, and it’s great to see other local people have that same passion. Anyone who cares this much to do it, it doesn’t matter what genre.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you believe you have a fair amount of support from friends, families, and significant others when it comes to your musical endeavors?
Gilvary: Yes. I constantly feel supported, and I wouldn’t be here without any of those people in my life. My family, at family gatherings they are supportive. My girlfriend, she’s not into metal, but she’s supportive when I play her a riff and she thinks it’s catchy. It’s cool to have someone not with a metal ear listen to it to give things constructive criticism on it. My friends have been nothing but great – considering all the stuff I post about my band on social media.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you believe social media has levelled the playing field for an independent band like yourselves to compete against all of the label product and international bands out there?
Gilvary: I think so in a way. It also could be causing challenges for other people. Social media is a very important aspect to promotion, I think you need to know algorithms and when to post stuff. At least getting the aspect of music going into people’s hands may be easier, but even figuring that out is challenging because all people do is send friend requests on Facebook and try to get people from there to like their band.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your thoughts on the heavy music scene domestically versus internationally? If you had the ability to change anything, what would you consider changing and why?
Gilvary: I think we are slacking. I feel like Europe and South America, those people are so passionate. Megadeth loves playing Brazil, and those people seem super passionate about the music. There are a lot of thrash roots here in America. If I could play in Europe that would be one of the most wild and coolest things I could ever do. I want to do that, because those people seem super intense.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the next twelve months shaping up for Cruel Bomb in terms of activities? Are you hoping to continue putting out EP’s on a regular basis, or will you consider a full-length effort down the line?
Gilvary: What I’m currently thinking is I’m currently writing the next EP right now. That will take a little bit. If I have it my way, I would release EP’s all the time just because getting back to the relevancy, I want to keep putting out music. If we did a full-length it would probably take two years, there would be a lapse of playing shows. Right now, we can play shows, here are some new songs, and want to be writing good music. Release music, play shows, and keep rinsing and repeating until I can’t do that anymore.
We have some more shows in Philly in June. A bunch of local shows soon, as we have been out of the scene for a little while. We are doing the Wacken Battle of the Bands again in April in New York. There are some shows in St. Louis, Wisconsin, Indiana – so we have a lot of stuff to look forward to for sure.