Bonded – March into BlacknessTuesday, 9th November 2021
Thrash has accelerated from its Bay Area roots during the early 1980’s into worldwide acclaim. German thrash has also been a steady staple in the scene: Kreator, Sodom, and Destruction well-known for their decades of songwriting, discography and throttling live performances. Bonded came together with a lineup of seasoned musicians from acts like Sodom, Assassin, and Suicidal Angels among others – keeping the tradition of brutality and aggression strong while adding a bit of melody and hook angles to the cause. Their second full-length Into Blackness will be a welcome addition to any thrash follower’s collection because of this dual threat factor.
We reached out to guitarist Bernemann to get the scoop on this latest record, the lack of shows due to the pandemic, thoughts on keeping the same production/artist team for both albums, the support for thrash in Germany and worldwide, plus special memories in his life including meeting his wife.
Dead Rhetoric: Into Blackness is the second Bonded album. Do you believe the lack of touring opportunities due to the pandemic allowed the band to become more productive in getting the material together quicker for this follow-up to Rest in Violence? And where do you see the growth and development for the new record compared to your debut?
Bernemann: Hopefully, we have some dates for the end of this year. And we can promote the new album this time. Last time, it was impossible. Directly after the release from Rest in Violence, the lockdown occurred, and our promotion stopped before it began. We hope the release being on the 12th of November, we want to go on tour together with Rage – twelve shows in Europe and a couple of shows around Christmas with some festivals.
I see it clearly for me. I see the development; we’ve become a band more. Because of COVID-19, we had more time. Nothing changed in terms of the songwriting process. Like in the Sodom days, we did the same thing. I’m collecting some riffs and ideas, and later on I meet with Makka. We have a framework from the song. In this case, nothing really changed. It was like Rest in Violence, or Sodom with Decision Day. In the meantime, we’ve become more of a band. We had more time to work on the songs. We make very detailed pre-production this time. We worked very hard on the vocal lines this time. You can hear with this second release; you can hear Bonded as a band that has grown together.
Dead Rhetoric: You originally had over forty songs to pour through for Rest in Violence – did any of those other ideas/songs become final tracks for Into Darkness, or did you go into this with all fresh material?
Bernemann: We have just new material – but again I had more than forty songs. I was collecting so many ideas. We choose our favorites for Into Blackness. I will wait for a while – sometimes I end up listening to the songs a couple of months later, and then you will figure things out. The next album we will start again from the beginning.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the band decide upon eleven tracks for the main edition and the two bonus tracks “Humanity on Sale” and “Will to Survive”? As musicians, isn’t it a pain to sort through what becomes ‘bonus’ material, especially given the struggle to achieve adequate physical product sales in all markets?
Bernemann: Yes. When we were doing the pre-production, we had maybe twenty songs more or less. Together with our producer Corny, we went into the studio. There was a raw structure for these twenty songs, the rhythm guitar and drums without bass and without leads. Ingo is singing these songs, he worked on the lyrics. It was easier for us, and then that helps make the decisions better for us. Which songs are more catchy. In the end, we had more or less the band discussing which songs we will choose. After the vocals it becomes more or less clear to pick out the eleven to thirteen songs.
Dead Rhetoric: You mentioned that you worked with Corny again as a producer and you also worked with Björn for the cover art. Were there specific reasons to stick with the same team in those roles?
Bernemann: Yes. We were really happy with their work. Especially Corny, he is somebody that we know we can work together very well with. Corny worked for us years ago in Sodom. We can work really well together, a really good team. I enjoy working with him. The band is doing a co-production with him, every day we are in dialogue about the songs, about the sounds. Working is very easy with him. It’s the same with Björn for the artwork. Not only with the music, we wanted to continue the artwork theme. When you see the scene for the second album, it’s obvious that it’s the same guy who worked on the first one. We don’t want to change all the time.
Dead Rhetoric: You chose to develop a four-track war themed storyline on the album based on the Richard Rhys Jones novel The Division of the Damned. What made this book so special to the band, and how did you handle the challenges of telling the story through these tracks in a cohesive manner?
Bernemann: It was Ingo’s idea. He is responsible for the lyrics, he’s very impressed by this book. He told us about this idea. We have in total four songs on the CD, regarding this book. “Lilith (Queen of Blood)”, “The Holy Whore”, “Division of the Damned”, and “Into the Blackness of a Wartime Night”. He told us about the story – what happens. Let’s do it, it sounds good. Not only the lyrics, we chose the title for the album from this.
Dead Rhetoric: Would you say you’ve established certain aspects or trademarks to the songwriting and performances within Bonded that help make your sound and style distinct compared to other thrash bands past or present?
Bernemann: In my eyes I see the difference is, especially for the vocals, in the choruses we try to be different. We like to leave enough space for the singer to sing good hook lines, vocal lines. Maybe in the verses it could be more thrash metal-oriented, but in the choruses it’s a little more melodic. On the guitars, I try to play sometimes some melodies. This is the difference. When I listen to typical thrash metal bands, it’s straight in your face the whole song. We want to make it a little different. We love the contrast between the brutality and the melodies as well. This is something special, and what makes our style.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the differences in your guitar style versus Chris’ for the band?
Bernemann: Chris is so good! He’s a young guy, thirty years old. He is a guitarist. When he is playing the solos, he’s so good at the leads. When I take the guitar at home, I try to create riffs and songs. This is for me more important. Chris is really fast, and he’s a great guitarist. I’ve known him for a long time, and I’m really proud that he’s into the band. In my eyes it’s a good combination. Chris is the better lead guitarist.
Dead Rhetoric: How much does your previous experience in groups like Sodom, Assassin, and Suicidal Angels give Bonded a bit more of a head start as far as establishing a following and credibility with fans? Or do you always feel like you are having to start fresh and prove yourselves again because it’s a newer band?
Bernemann: Of course it was helpful. I was in Sodom nearly twenty-two years, we know a lot of people in the business. We have many fans, so many contacts, that was very helpful for us. Then with Chris playing with Suicidal Angels, Ingo from Assassin, people expect from us good music. We are not normal newcomers, even with our debut two years ago. The experience we have collected after all these years. Makka and me, if we didn’t have this experience, we founded a new band, signed with Century Media, and released two albums in four years – you can only do this with experience. In the end, no matter what you have done in the past, when you release a CD you have to make the fans headbang or not. It’s not important what you have done in the past, but what you do now, and it’s helpful for sure.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your thoughts on aligning with Century Media as a label? Where do you see the differences in how labels work today compared to their importance say twenty to thirty years ago?
Bernemann: First of all, now the media is different. Twenty years ago to do interviews was different. Now we have Zoom, we have Skype, we have email interviews. This is something that changed. Money rules the world, and it’s not easier than before. When you have to discuss the money for the production and all this stuff. The label may not have as much patience. If you don’t do as well after the first or second album, they will drop you. The business is hard, everything is not a surprise that it’s about money. It’s harder than the years before.
We are very happy to be with Century Media. Century Media is in our hometown for Macca and myself in Dortmund. We were both many years ago, members of the Century Media family. 1990-91 Macca was with Despair, and I was with my band the Crows in 1991. We know the people for a long time, and we are happy to have this strong partnership with our label.
Dead Rhetoric: How have you seen the evolution of thrash, especially the German thrash scene, over the years? Do you believe there is a strong network of support between the fans, bands, promoters of not just the old guard, but the newer breed of artists?
Bernemann: The support is still there. At the moment it’s a big problem, (the fans) are not willing to buy pre-sale tickets for festivals because of COVID-19. After all, the thrash scene, especially in our whole area of Dortmund, the best thrash metal bands came from this area like Sodom, Kreator, there is a big scene. We have the full support from the people. Playing shows or planning festivals is complicated, people are afraid. We thought with the first festivals when they start, people will love it.
Dead Rhetoric: Is the other problem the measures each country has for safety protocols when it comes to the shows?
Bernemann: At the moment that is the next problem. In Germany, we have a 3G rule. If you want to have a festival, you need a vaccine or a test, or if you have already been infected and you are not symptomatic. Probably the next time we will have 2G, they won’t accept a test, you can only enter if you are vaccinated or already infected from COVID-19 and you are healthy. This is a problem, people are confused. Some cities have a 2G rule, others have a 3G rule. It’s changing all the time.
Last weekend was a festival here, and people had to sit on tables. It was an open air festival. The venue of 7,000 people only had 1,700 people, we had to keep distance. Our last show in October of last year was in a church, the people had to sit. I really don’t like that, this is not a thrash metal feeling.
Dead Rhetoric: You have a European tour scheduled later this fall with Rage and Manimal – how hopeful are you that the proper measures and safety protocols will be in place to see this happen, and what are your hopes playing on this diverse type of tour package?
Bernemann: First of all, we want to get out and play. The last show was in October, and before that was January of 2020. You can imagine, we would really love to go out and play, see other people, meet the fans and see the reaction. We want to promote our songs. All this promotion, meet the fans, meet other musicians, we have known Rage for a long time. You don’t feel like a band if you are sitting at home and only rehearsing the material at home. We want to feel like a band again, be on the road and we are really hungry, waiting for this.
Dead Rhetoric: When looking back at your career as a musician, what do you consider some of the highlights? And are there any regrets or things that you wish you could change in retrospect, specific decisions you made (or didn’t make) that maybe changed the course of your life as a musician?
Bernemann: I have so many highlights. I’m really grateful to look back on all these years with the bands. We had so many great moments, some festivals in South America were great. I met my wife on tour, and I had so many really unforgettable moments. I don’t know if I would have changed at any points. I guess everything is like it is. I’m looking back at many years and I really enjoyed things. Looking forward, we hopefully can continue again with Bonded. This is what I want. I’m proud.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you have a preference for the studio or the stage when it comes to yourself as a musician?
Bernemann: I absolutely prefer playing live. The studio is okay, but compared with playing live it’s not the same. I like the contact with the people – you know so many people, technicians, promoters, stagehands, other people. And the fans here also. It’s always a big pleasure for me to meet with people. It’s much more important. I enjoy the songwriting. I’m always looking for the ultimate riff, searching all the time. In the end, it’s much more important to play live and be on stage with the boys together.
Dead Rhetoric: Beyond touring, what’s on the agenda for Bonded over the next year or so? Can we expect other work from Ingo with Assassin or Chris with Exarsis in the pipeline as well?
Bernemann: Yes, there will be some problems, maybe because of the time. All of us, we are working regular jobs. If then, you have musicians playing in two bands, it’s not easy to coordinate everything. In December, should we stop the show with Rage because he has a show with Assassin? Two days ago, that Assassin show was cancelled, so he will stay with us. Fortunately we solved that problem. Hopefully we can handle this in the future. We have to live with that. We cannot change the situation. I asked Ingo if he could leave Assassin, but he will stay there.