Features200 Stab Wounds – Slicing Through the Pack

200 Stab Wounds – Slicing Through the Pack

Photo: Bailey Olinger

There’s a new generation of death metal bands garnering appeal on a younger audience bursting with energy to support musicians they can relate to. Ohio’s 200 Stab Wounds fit that mold – in five short years they’ve ascended from Maggot Stomp to Metal Blade, spending a lot of time on the road opening for numerous legendary / legacy acts like Obituary, Soulfly, Cannibal Corpse, and most recently Dying Fetus. Their newest album Manual Manic Procedures expands the brutality and sick riffs/grooves of the band – paying more attention to the minor details when it comes to stronger verse/chorus or lead play activities. We caught up with guitarist/vocalist Steven Buhl amidst a full press day on Zoom, getting caught up on their discography, what it’s like being on Metal Blade, thoughts on the new death metal brigade, favorite death metal albums (and a couple of underrated ones), the uniqueness of the Ohio death metal scene, what’s they’ve learned most being road dogs, and the busy schedule ahead for the rest of the year going into 2025.

Dead Rhetoric: Manual Manic Procedures is the second full-length for 200 Stab Wounds. Considering the amount of touring you did to support Slave to the Scalpel, how do you believe the band has grown or developed through this set of material? Where do you see the differences between the two records?

Steven Buhl: The differences between the two records is definitely the songwriting style as far as having acoustic guitars and an instrumental track – we have never done that before. Adding synth stuff over the actual band playing, which is cool. Verse / chorus type things which we’ve never done before – we would riff, riff, one after another. Slave to the Scalpel is just, riff salad, you know? Pounding it in your head type of shit. That’s definitely the biggest difference between the two (albums).

I personally think they coincide quite well. If you listen to one and then the next one after that, you can tell that it’s the same band, we are just a little bit more mature.

Dead Rhetoric: The band added guitarist Raymond MacDonald in 2023 replacing Lance Buckley. Where do you see the differences between Lance and Raymond as far as personalities and playing abilities – and how has it changed the band chemistry at this point?

Buhl: The biggest difference between them as players is Ray plays leads and Lance did not. I tried really hard to get Lance to do it, but he’s not really… he’s not originally a guitar player. Every band that I’ve ever played in with Lance, he was a bass player. I played in a band with him one time when he was playing guitar, but it was a very straightforward, hardcore band. There wasn’t much lead work involved there. When we started this band, it wasn’t supposed to be a lead type of thing. We slowly progressed into a band that had leads, I like dual leads that you hear with bands like Judas Priest, Slayer. He didn’t know how to do it, really, and you can’t force someone who doesn’t know how to do it.

As far as personalities go, Lance got a little sick of being around us 24/7 with touring. I don’t think he really liked touring that much – as much as we were doing it, I can’t blame it for that, but it turned into us butting heads. Now, any band has problems, but where we are at as far as chemistry goes, we can get into a fight and two minutes later we are cool about it. It wasn’t that simple with Lance in the band, it lingered a little bit.

Dead Rhetoric: You worked once again with Andy Nelson at Bricktop Recording – what do you enjoy most about his abilities, outlook, and attention that he gives that makes the final product sound ideal for 200 Stab Wounds?

Buhl: Andy is super open to whatever suggestions you have. He’s not too high on his horse. We are not engineers; we just know what sounds good. He’s always open to new techniques, if we have an idea. He doesn’t try to force us to do things that we don’t like. He’ll have ideas as far as maybe changing stuff or adding stuff, but if we are like this is how it’s supposed to be… we will do weird shit, something that technically may not be right because say I don’t know how to solo proficiently, he understands that he’s not going to try to make me play like someone that I’m not, like Yngwie Malmsteen. We’ll have guitars do one thing, and the bass do another, which technically doesn’t make sense or sound right, but it’s how we want it to sound. He’ll say something, is that supposed to happen? And we’ll say, yes, we didn’t fuck up, and he’ll understand that.

We’ve been recording with him since we were kids, since we were 13 or 14 years old. Some of the first full-length albums we’ve ever done with other bands, he was there. Another thing that we love about him is he is always getting better. If anyone reading this knows anything about us personally, you can listen to the old records that we did with our original bands, and you listen to this new album, every single time he gets better. And it’s not subconsciously, it’s just him trying to be better. It’s just the type of person that he is, that’s why we keep going back to him.

Dead Rhetoric: The lyrical content is split 50/50 between yourself and bassist Ezra Cook – and you mention in the bio that the stories can be a mix of classic gore-metal horror subject matter as well as true life events with a twist. What sources fuel this inspiration – is it a mixture of books, movies, tv series, podcasts, or real-life events?

Buhl: Ezra’s lyrics I can’t speak about. I think he just has that kind of mind that’s super creative, he can think of shit off the cuff. Myself, I more write about stuff that I personally deal with. Dreams I have, thoughts I have, things I think of in my head. We don’t really pull too much inspiration from anything real. We don’t watch movies and say to ourselves, I’m going to write about this movie, or what happened on tv, so I’ll write about that – that doesn’t happen too often. We have a couple of songs like that, it’s more so just things we think of, really.

Dead Rhetoric: You are now a part of Metal Blade after spending time on Maggot Stomp – how does it feel to be on such a legendary label and where you believe their knowledge and resources can take the band in North America and abroad?

Buhl: It’s awesome to be with them. They have such a legendary catalog. That’s one of the major reasons we went with them, because a lot of our favorite bands (are there). Metallica, that band pretty much started because of Brian Slagel. Slayer, the first three Slayer records, so on and so forth. Cannibal Corpse, The Black Dahlia Murder, I’m pretty sure they’ve both been with Metal Blade since the beginning, and that says something right there. The thing we love about Metal Blade is when we first got with them, there’s always a little bit of growing pains. They had suggestions for us that we weren’t too fond of and really didn’t think were going to benefit the band at all, and they were a little worried about that. We do what we do, and pretty much they let us do whatever we want. We aren’t a band that doesn’t really need a lot of guidance as far as our music is concerned.

We may need help with interviews and the business side of things, yeah for sure – as far as the music and the visual aspects of the band, they trust us pretty much 100% because they know that we take it really seriously. We accept guidance and opinions, but in my mind, I think a label is more the business side of things. Everyone at Metal Blade is obviously a fan of the music. That’s more what the producer is for, the mixing engineers. They let us do what we want, and we are super happy with them.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel about the burgeoning development of newer death metal bands and their impact on the scene? Do you believe this is due to a strong network/support system where even veteran bands are willing to take younger artists out on tour to foster audience development between generations?

Buhl: Yeah, it has to do with a mix between that and the new kids that are getting into death metal. I feel that a lot of the older metalheads wouldn’t be into this, but a lot of the newer wave and these kids are making a buzz about this. Our shows have a mix of very young children, teenagers, young adults and older people. Also, the legendary bands taking out bands like us. We pretty much owe everything to bands like Soulfly, Obituary, Cannibal Corpse, Dying Fetus, all those bands taking us out in the first place. No one would even know about us if those bands hadn’t been willing to take us out on tour.

Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider three essential death metal albums in your collection – plus what would you consider an underrated album or two that you believe people need to dig deeper into and discover?

Buhl: Essential death metal – Entombed – Left Hand Path. Morbid Angel – Covenant. I’m going to get shit for this, but I don’t care. I think the first death metal record, people can call me out on it, I don’t care – Slayer – Hell Awaits. I’ll throw that in there too, death-ish metal.

Underrated album – can I get two? A band from Ohio in the 90s called Gutted – the record is Bleed For Us To Live. Not a lot of people know about that – you listen to that record, you will see where we get a lot of our inspiration from, the heavy grooves. Another one would be Morbid Saint – Destruction System. Some people know about them, but they are not as big as they should be, in my opinion. I’m pretty sure they are still doing stuff, still playing shows. My old band played a show with them seven years ago, so I’m pretty sure they are still doing stuff to this day.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you have the proper support from friends and family when it comes to your musical career? Have you reached a point where you are able to make music more of a full-time job, or do you still have to balance out day jobs to make ends meet?

Buhl: We have a great support system, really. All of our families support our careers. It was tougher in the early days, in the prior bands that we had because there was really no money involved. You blow a tire out on the road on the side of a mountain, and you don’t even have twenty dollars, how are you going to replace a tire? So, it was a little tougher back then when we first started playing, doing tours. With this band we are doing well, it’s not the same situation anymore. Everyone we know definitely supports this 100%.

As far as the day jobs, I think Ezra still has a job. I don’t get into anyone’s personal stuff, but I think Ezra may do it because he’s bored when he’s home. I don’t know, we do well in this band. It depends on the person and what their personal life is.

Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the state of the death metal scene in the Cleveland, Ohio area? Who are some artists that we need to look more into?

Buhl: I’m not really from Cleveland, but I was from Ohio. Mutalitred, they are such a good band. They’ve been a band for a long time, ten years. Let’s see, who else? Inoculation is another great band, they are tech-death type stuff. They are from Cleveland, Mutilation Barbecue, they are a newer band but still you have to check them out. There are so many bands from Ohio. The state of it is amazing. All of the bands from Ohio, they sound different. Like us and Sanguisugabogg, Mutalitred and Inoculation, they all sound completely different. There’s not one band that sounds the same to what everyone else is doing. It’s really unique, and I know that’s not the case for everywhere.

Some places, they are known for a specific sound, and you can tell. I don’t know if there is really an Ohio sound, so that makes things kind of interesting as far as the metal scene goes. There’s a lot of camaraderie, everyone is just good friends. When we roll through town and play, we get to hang out with our friends and have a really good time. It’s just fun and feels like home.

Dead Rhetoric: What have you learned the most being road dogs – how do you maintain a level of sanity amidst all the moving parts day after day, and what are some tips you could pass onto other acts when it comes to handling yourselves properly on tour?

Buhl: What we run into the most is equipment breaking. That’s the thing we run into the most. Advice I have for other bands – listen and learn. If you are going on tour with a band that’s been around for thirty years, you have to sit back and if you are doing something wrong and somebody yells at you for it, someone on the crew or someone in the band, unless they are being an asshole, if it’s a viable reason for yelling at you, look at it and see what you are doing wrong, and never do it. Lead by example on other tours. We messed up a lot in the early days, and we toured with bands who were very nice to us and didn’t say anything. After doing other tours and doing the same thing and getting yelled at, we soak it all in and do the best we can to be respectful of everybody, it’s not a joke. It’s supposed to be fun, and it’s still a job. You are working with so many other people, you don’t want to make everyone’s time or day miserable when you are all out there together.

Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for anything related to 200 Stab Wounds over the next year or so for touring, promotion, etc.? Where would you like to see yourselves at the end of this touring cycle in terms of establishing your following?

Buhl: What we have so far is we have two months off, and then we will announce another tour run for the states and Canada. There will be a headline tour that veers off into another tour we are going to be on. We go to Europe at the end of the year with Gatecreeper. And we are working on a spring 2025 tour. After this touring cycle, I would like to do more headline stuff. We’ve been a support band for a solid four years at this point. I want to play more songs and be able to do more of what we want to do with a show. As opposed to being restricted – and that’s no disrespect to any of the bands that have previously taken us out, it is what it is. You are restricted with a support slot, you can’t really do as much as you want to do, a very limited amount of time to play and you can’t have as much fun with the crowd because you want to play as many songs as you can.

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