Angelus Apatrida – Brotherhood, Tolerance, and UnityThursday, 4th February 2021
Steadily making headway as one of the new breed of thrash acts since 2000, Spain’s Angelus Apatrida are a vicious four-piece that fuse together a love of the various influences past and present to create killer material. A part of the Century Media roster since their third album Clockwork in 2010, they’ve been touring machines across all parts of the world – performing at numerous festivals and all over Europe, Latin America, Australia, the Far East and even China. Their latest studio album is self-titled – featuring another modest supply of heavy riffs, catchy choruses, and ripping lead breaks that are sure to satisfy every headbanger around.
We reached out to vocalist/guitarist Guillermo Izquierdo, who was happy to bring us up to speed on the development behind the new record – giving us insight as well into the history of Spanish heavy metal, thoughts on the old school/new breed of thrash bands, favorite memories to date for the group, and hopes for some future North American touring down the line once this pandemic subsides.
Dead Rhetoric: Your seventh studio album is self-titled – fill us in on the songwriting and recording efforts for this outing. How would you say this album slots into the previous discography – and what did you get across this time that may be fresh or different than before?
Guillermo Izquierdo: First of all, as you first started talking about, this album was originally going to be only an EP. Because we toured a lot during 2019, and we were playing on touring all of 2020 so we planned to record three or four songs, an EP for the middle of the year. Since the pandemic started and we couldn’t go on tour anymore, we kept composing more songs and we got a full album. The highlights were composing these songs during this pandemic. Since we were not thinking about doing this, it’s something that just happened. That’s why things came so fresh and so new. There were small changes that made this new album something completely new in our career. Not only in the songwriting but in the sound itself. We changed our tuning and went one half step down, and we also started working with Zeuss for the mixing, the producer of Rob Zombie. So I think it was a mix of those small changes that made something new, something different from all of our previous albums.
Dead Rhetoric: You also worked with Juan Angel Lopez on the recording end of things, did that help distinguish the sound a little bit?
Izquierdo: Yes. Juan is a good friend of ours – he sometimes does our front of house sound when we play live. He owns a very professional studio here in our hometown, we were locked down during the summer because of COVID so we went with him because he is a good friend, and very professional. He has a great swimming pool so it made things better, and he’s like a 10 minute drive from our hometown. It was so easy to do this. We could have stayed there almost two months, relaxing and not having the pressure of being in another city or country having to pay for studio time recording – it was like doing it in our own house. The album is so relaxed because we could take a lot of time recording everything that we were not happy with – especially in the vocals and the drums which can be the most difficult part in recording an album.
Dead Rhetoric: Are you starting to feel comfortable as a vocalist, because I know in the beginning of the band, you got that role by default as well as being a guitarist?
Izquierdo: Yes, over the years. I’m starting to get used to this. That’s true- I never liked to sing or be the singer. I am a second guitar player – I don’t even feel comfortable playing lead guitar, I like being a rhythm guitarist. We live in a very small town and when our first singer left the band there was nobody else to sing. As you say, I covered the space and have for twenty years now. Obviously we are still looking for a singer (laughs).
Dead Rhetoric: There’s no shortage of social injustice, upheaval, and political strife/violent topics to tackle in the world for lyrical topics. What subjects and thoughts did you feel the need to get across for this record – and what do you hope people think about and maybe process/put into action as a result?
Izquierdo: Exactly that’s what we are talking about. We talk about social issues and the things that surround us in the world. This is the way we understand thrash metal, hardcore and punk music. Also heavy metal – it’s very important to criticize the system and look at social justice. For this time, all that happened during the pandemic last summer and all over the world, we got a lot of new ideas for writing lyrics. We tried to impress these social things in our music. This time we wanted to send this message that the heavy metal community it’s about brotherhood, it’s about tolerance, it’s about unity. During the last year and the first months of this year, we were watching a lot of people getting crazy in politics and everything. We just wanted to put this together on this album and finally it came up as the most aggressive and angry album ever with these lyrics. We recorded a video clip for “Indoctrinate” where a lot of different people appear, in our opinion there is no place for racism, homophobia, bigotry in the heavy metal community.
Dead Rhetoric: As a quartet in this lineup you’ve been together since the beginning – only shifting Victor Valera from bass to drums and yourself taking over the vocals to go along with guitar duties. What have been the key ingredients to be able to stick together for so long since 2000 – considering the ups and downs, trials and tribulations that come with life and keeping a thrash metal band together?
Izquierdo: Yes, that’s no secret. We have been friends since we were kids. I met Victor when I was 12 years old, I’ve known my brother all of my life. Thanks to him I heard heavy metal music for the first time through him, he taught me how to play guitar. It’s very important for us to be together. We’ve never had very important problems – we’ve had just small difficulties that happen between friends. Since the beginning we are all in the same boat and we all knew what everyone wanted. This band is not a one-man band or two people where they are the leaders and the rest of the guys adapt to this guy. This is 25% for each person and we have the same importance. This is very important for us to be as strong as we are. I can’t imagine being with any other guys in the band. At the same time, I don’t imagine to share my life without my girlfriend for example. It’s like a relationship with a woman or with your partner. I’m really thankful and really proud of this. I have shared more than half of my life with these three guys in the same band. I make a toast for at least another twenty years together.
Dead Rhetoric: What would you consider some of the career highlights for Angelus Apatrida as far as albums, videos, live tours, festival appearances where you knew that you were making more of an impact with your music and a bigger connection/following? As you’ve been fortunate to tour in South America and various parts of Asia/the Far East beyond the normal European territories…
Izquierdo: Yes, absolutely. I would say our whole career is one successful thing after another because we never thought what would be the end or the goal to go up. There are two or three super highlights. The first one is when Century Media called us and said they wanted to sign us. Everything changed and our lives changed, we made that important step of quitting our normal jobs and dedicating things exclusively to our music in 2010. I like to say this is where everything started – we started to play together in 2000 but it was in 2010 things started to work together like machinery, like a gear. This is thanks to Century Media of course.
Later there were a lot of milestones in our career. As you said the first Latin American tour, the first time we were able to tour in Japan, Australia. Playing in one of the biggest festivals in the world, in Columbia – I think there were 100,000 people, that was insane. Touring with Slayer and Megadeth as well. Playing in Tokyo, Japan. I don’t like to think there is a ceiling- so I don’t expect anything for the future. Every time that something new happens to the band, it’s a highlight.
Dead Rhetoric: I remember watching a drinking game you did on YouTube with fellow Century Media band Skeletal Remains, you mentioned trying to teach people how to mosh in China and that didn’t turn out how you expected, can you fill us in on this story?
Izquierdo: (laughs). That time with Skeletal Remains was amazing, we got super drunk. The first time we played in China, we made a seventeen-date tour. China is huge, and in every town there is a close amount of people. The most important cities like Bejing, Shanghai, or Canton, all those cities have 30-40 million people, they do understand heavy metal and have seen heavy metal bands. There were other cities though where it would be the first time they saw a heavy metal band, but even people with long hair and tattoos. People were staring at us, and we tried to teach them how to mosh. There was this funny moment where I tried to explain how to make a circle pit, and they decided to embrace each other in a circle and dance like a traditional dance. We couldn’t stop laughing, it was so beautiful. I love China, it was a very good time there, and I’m looking forward to going back there and playing again.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe the state of the heavy metal scene within Spain? Is there enough support for domestic talent as well as the international bands that tour your country – and are there specific styles that go over better than others?
Izquierdo: The Spanish metal scene has been great since the 1980’s. We weren’t able to get things going earlier because of the fascist dictatorship. (The leader) died in 1975 so everything came so late here. Things grew in the 1980’s, but most of the Spanish bands sang in Spanish. They didn’t have easy ways to go outside of Spain but go to Latin America. There are a lot of people here who love heavy metal, we have 10 or 15 huge festivals that are always sold out. The international bands love playing Spain, it’s one of the best countries to play in Europe.
We are really lucky to be a big band here in Spain. We have a lot of success, we can headline tours here. It’s still a very young scene, we need to grow up more. For a lot of bands the first band they know of from Spain is Angelus Apatrida. We do have a lot more bands, and younger bands that sing in English and do different styles as well. I recommend people come and check out a lot of the Spanish bands.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you view the evolution of thrash from its inception during the 1980’s to the second and third generation of bands who are playing in this style? Do you believe it’s been that much harder to establish yourselves against the old guard, or do you think you’ve been able to generate a newer, younger generation who are happy to support bands like yourselves, Warbringer, Havok, Suicidal Angels, Crisix, etc.?
Izquierdo: It’s a very difficult question. To understand thrash bands in the 1980’s the timing was completely different. The world was in another situation. What happened in 2000 through 2010, tons of new thrash bands were coming up, but a lot of these bands were trying to copy the 1980’s. I’m really happy that as you said bands like Warbringer, Suicidal Angels, and Havok are still here and are the new wave of thrash metal. I could include Angelus Apatrida in there, and I am friends with the guys in Crisix. The big four and the European big ones, they are doing the best albums of their careers. I love what Death Angel, Anthrax, Megadeth, and Metallica are doing nowadays. I think it’s very interesting. Things have changed so much over forty years, and I’m really proud to be a part of this. The new breed of new bands, there are a lot of new bands from Spain that are watching Angelus Apatrida, and we are so proud of that influence. They are trying to make themselves known out of the country and push themselves into the world.
Dead Rhetoric: In an interview you did online a couple of years back for Decibel magazine, you mention that ‘I love Spain, but my Spain died in 1936.’ Can you tell us a bit more about your views on your home country, the government, and why things have been so different from that year forward in your eyes?
Izquierdo: It’s quite difficult. With this information, I wanted to say in 1936 there was a civil war within Spain. There was a coup d’état from this fascist dictator, and it was a mess. In the beginning of the 20th century in Spain, we were an interesting country. We were one of the first countries to have a democratic constitution in Europe, rights for the people. Nowadays we still feel this separation, that Spain is divided into two sides. We can see it with the politicians, the extreme far right and the other ones – it’s messy. I would love to have the opportunity to be a republic and not a kingdom, Spain is still a kingdom. It would take me a lot of time to say properly in English what I want to say as I don’t want to be misunderstood.
Imagine if Germany were winning the war (World War II). Fortunately Hitler died and the Nazis were gone – but that didn’t happen in Spain, that took more than forty years of dictatorship. That is why Spain is somewhat delayed in time, especially when it comes to its culture. That is my own opinion.
Dead Rhetoric: How does the band balance all of the business/management activities that come about and still remain inspired and fresh from album to album? Do you believe you’ve been able to handle stress, anger, and frustration better now in your thirties than you did say ten or twenty years ago?
Izquierdo: I think I am more angry than when I was twenty years old. I would love to talk about funny things and love in my lyrics, it’s not possible yet because the world is upside down. I try to focus all of the bad emotions and frustrations in the music so I can be a healthy person with sanity. That’s the main reason I am a musician, it’s kind of therapy for me to write music and make violent and aggressive music. Doing this I can remain a very peaceful guy.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve done a lot of interesting covers over the years – from Pantera to Judas Priest, Chuck Berry to fellow Spanish band Panzer among others. Which one(s) were the most special to you – and how do you view the art of paying tribute to these artists?
Izquierdo: Maybe one of the most important covers was “Domination” from Pantera. Pantera is one of my favorite bands ever, and I remember when Dimebag was killed we wanted to thank that band for all of their work, and being a big influence. We sometimes still play “Domination” on stage, it’s a hell of a party. We covered Iron Maiden, my favorite band, Judas Priest as well. It was a challenge for me to sing as high as Rob Halford does. We love to make cover songs – on the last two (albums) we haven’t done bonus tracks as covers. We did a Deep Purple cover, and we would love to record more covers. In the beginning we did a cover of “Master of Puppets” from Metallica, almost nine-minutes and I think it’s on YouTube. This is the way we started to play together, covering our favorite artists.
Dead Rhetoric: Do musicians and other bands often seek out advice from you – and if so what sort of things do you have them think about? And what is the best piece of advice you ever received that you applied to your work in Angelus Apatrida?
Izquierdo: Since the very beginning we got a lot of advice, especially from the bigger bands. And then we started touring outside of Spain we got a lot of advice from foreign bands. Skeletonwitch, the guys were super nice and that was the first European tour that we ever did, playing with them and Warbringer. Those guys were so sweet, they showed us a lot of things. They told us how to put the merchandise in, how to behave in some kinds of situations we weren’t used to. We weren’t very good speaking English, they were super nice with us and I will be thankful for that. We’ve toured with bigger bands, and they would always tell us about certain people that can be dangerous in the industry. Always try to do things with a lawyer and try to be aware of bad people trying to get influence or taking advantage of you. We keep learning from other bands, our friends in Havok as well. Every time I’m writing new lyrics, I always text David (Sanchez), in order to help me correct the lyrics and giving his opinion to what he is reading, if it makes sense. I would love to do the same for other bands.
When we get asked for advice, we are super happy to help.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some hobbies or interests you have outside of the band?
Izquierdo: I love to play video games, I like to read horror books. Everything that I like, it’s related to music. David loves to play guitar, but I only play guitar when I am doing stuff with the band. He’s always playing, he is a guitar teacher. Victor loves video games, and he’s a drum teacher. My brother, he is an artisan. He likes to recycle things. I spend time with my friends, I love food and beer. Every time I’m not touring I like to go to restaurants.
Dead Rhetoric: How does it feel to be in a band this long with your older brother?
Izquierdo: My brother is like my best friend. I love him a lot, I am thankful that I am able to share my life with him. When I was seven or eight, I listened to Iron Maiden for the first time. The first time I played a guitar was his guitar. He was teaching me how to play. We got to go out together at bars when I was a teenager, he would take care of me. Sharing this life with him is one of the best things in my life.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the horizon for Angelus Apatrida following the release of the album over the next year or two? Will there be special anniversary celebration shows as you have been together now for over 20 years – and will we ever be able to witness the band on North American shores?
Izquerido: I think that the 20th anniversary is already over. The best thing is we recorded this new album. The next thing we are looking forward to is going back on tour, as soon as we can. This is what we love, and we do need to tour. We will plan some shows as we can. All over the world, and try to do our first American tour. We had solid plans last year, but this coronavirus happened. We want to play there hopefully in 2022- it’s the only main territory we haven’t played yet is North America, and we can’t wait to go there.