Demolizer – Delivering Capital PunishmentSunday, 23rd July 2023
Photo by: Anders Dalhøj
Aware of this Danish four-piece in the early stages of their career through the Ghoul debut EP of 2018, Demolizer garnered the interest of Mighty Music who signed the group to release the full-length Thrashmageddon in 2020. Whirling about in a mix of technical riffs against conventional Bay Area thrash influences, it’s easy to understand why these gentlemen appeal to a lot of the old school sensibilities within this genre. Their latest album Post Necrotic Human ups the level of musicianship, power, and finesse even more – giving us a solid opportunity to discuss all things Demolizer with guitarist/vocalist Ben Radtleff. You’ll learn more about his punk to metal background, thoughts on the new record, video/cover artwork, memorable shows, thoughts on the old/new Danish thrash metal scene, and how cooking influences lyrical content for the band.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of your earliest memories of music growing up in childhood? At what point did you discover heavier forms of music, and eventually the desire to pick up an instrument to start performing your own music in bands?
Ben Radtleff: That’s a very interesting question. The first memory I have, my cousin, he and I would sit in his room very often, we were playing video games and he put on very loud music. He was really into Green Day, when American Idiot was released. It had a very distorted guitar, and I was very into this. And then, I started having an interest in music. When I went to school, I was introduced to punk, the Sex Pistols, The Ramones, by some of the teachers there. That made me like punk a lot, we ended up starting a lot of punk bands in my local area.
Then I picked up the guitar because I thought that was the coolest with the whole punk thing. When I saw Pantera online for the first time, I got more into metal. I had been listening to Metallica, but I was more into heavy stuff, Pantera I thought was really heavy at the time. I got into Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Carcass, stuff like that.
Dead Rhetoric: The latest album from Demolizer is Post Necrotic Human. How did the songwriting and recording sessions go for this set of material – were there any surprises, obstacles, or interesting stories that took place during this time?
Radtleff: It was very homey, and very different than the last record. The last record was done in a proper studio, with a producer. This time due to time and money things, we just decided to do it ourselves. I have a studio, and I recorded a lot of the stuff at home, and I mixed it whenever I wanted to, so it was a very relaxed experience. We met a couple of times, recorded our parts, and it was great.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you believe this album sits next to your previous offerings Thrashmageddon and the subsequent Upgrade EP in terms of similarities or differences?
Radtleff: I think the only real similarity is that it’s a thrash record. We did a lot more technical things than the last record. It’s a different sound. The songwriting style, we are trying to lean a bit more into the death metal kind of stuff. We did the Upgrade EP because with the old material we found that we were playing it too fast. We were in the studio, and we were going to be a few days short. We recorded a couple of more songs, and the Annihilator cover we recorded (“King of the Kill”) because we had the extra time and we wanted to do it.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the cover art come about with Andrej of All Things Rotten – and how do you feel about the relationship between strong cover art imagery in heavy metal over the 50 plus year existence of the movement?
Radtleff: I have no idea how he does it – I just tell him to make something fucked up and he does it. (laughs). I let Andrej do his own thing, I will tell him if he’s a little bit far out in places. We usually come to an agreement, but usually the creative part is on him most of the time.
I think it’s very important that cover art looks cool. If I see a cover with skulls and flames on it, I’m like dude- hell yes! But it can also be simple. I think our artwork is very intriguing, compared to our music, and it suits us really well. I like the crazy colors and the imagery, and I can also just appreciate a black background with some skulls. We went with Andrej because he reminds me of old school comics.
Dead Rhetoric: Where did you want to come across for the lyrical content on this record?
Radtleff: Usually I’m just very pissed at someone. We have a couple of songs that are really political, but those are also just me being mad at the world because a lot of us are still idiots for shooting each other, and we talk about it. It’s very barbaric, and then I was pretty mad that America had pulled out of Afghanistan, leaving the people to rot. I know it’s a never-ending war, but I still think it’s an important one to fight. People’s well-being is being sacrificed there.
Dead Rhetoric: Speaking of war, what are your thoughts on the Ukraine – Russia war that has a lot of effects on the European continent these days?
Radtleff: I have a lot of friends in Russia and the Ukraine, which all are against the war. Of course, I’m against the war as well, we wrote a song about it on the record called “Warmonger”. I think it speaks for itself (laughs).
Dead Rhetoric: You shot a video for the title track with Kasper Erichsen at K.E. Cameraworks. How do you feel the shoot went, who came up with the narrative scenes and how did you secure the actors for those roles?
Radtleff: Kasper did everything. He is a very talented videographer – and he’s also a musician. He went into that wholeheartedly, and I love that. He’s also a dear friend of the band. Of course, he has done almost all of our videos, except the animated ones. The actors are just our friends, people we know. We would say, hey – you would be a good doctor. You should be in a video! (laughs). The location is at a Copenhagen distillery, they make the greatest whiskey with a little taste. We shot things in their kitchen and stuff around there, it’s cool.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you classify your brand of thrash metal – do you believe your influenced just as much from the old pioneers / originators as you are from the current breed of newer bands? Are there specific trademarks that have to be in an ideal Demolizer composition?
Radtleff: Oh man, you are really good at asking questions! I love Testament, and that’s very transparent, but I also love Slayer, all the classics. I don’t really think we are trying to be a thrash band; we just end up in that category. I came from the punk scene, Max our drummer listened to a lot of technical death metal, Megadeth, Metallica. Because of us being influenced by those bands, we ended up sounding like them without really it being our intention at first. Then we started to embrace it, and here we are. The riffs are riffier, the drums have more drum parts to them. There are a lot of double pedal parts with technical guitar riffs. I know there are people that can play those types of riffs though way faster than I can.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you work out the solos between yourself and Aria?
Radtleff: We do, but I tend to try to put certain parts away from me. I’m not really good at the solos, Aria is better at the shredding, and I will go for the riffs, and we will find a great middle ground there.
Dead Rhetoric: Was it a challenge live to do the vocals and guitar playing yourself at first, or has it come natural to you?
Radtleff: No. I wouldn’t say so. It’s always been my role, as we didn’t have a lot of musicians in my local area. I was the only one who also had the balls to scream at people. I would just do both, I wanted to do guitar and vocals, it made a lot of sense for me to do both.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider some of the biggest challenges currently facing Demolizer in terms of establishing a stronger following not just in Denmark, but on a global scale?
Radtleff: I think you need to be very active in your local scene. You need to have a strong profile. Imagery that can catch people’s attention. We recently changed our logo, because I believe we needed a stronger visual profile, more in line with what we do. Our first logo was something I made; I wasn’t really happy with it. My friend made us an amazing, cool logo that I am happier with. I immediately felt like people respected us more because the visual profile was stronger.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve played over 100 shows to date as a band. How would you describe what Demolizer live is like compared to what people experience on the records? And what have been some of the most memorable shows you’ve done with the band to date?
Radtleff: We are a very dynamic band. I think we go from really, extremely fast to extremely heavy. I am a huge Pantera fan; I had some influences from there as far as the heavy stuff. The rest of the guys like very fast and aggressive stuff. One of the more memorable ones – there are a lot of memorable ones. We played at a local venue in my area, one that people know well as Meshuggah had played there. We played there two years later, and it felt like a huge accomplishment. We have played Viborg Metal festival, that was crazy, an amazing crowd. We have also played the Metal Magic festival, that was such a great experience.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your thoughts on the state of thrash metal – what excites you about the movement, and what changes (if any) do you think need to be taken into consideration for the overall health of the scene?
Radtleff: Thrash metal is not really a big thing around here – Denmark is very much a death metal country. There is hope. I see a lot of young thrashers in Denmark, and I feel like the movement will grow. Us and Killing started, and I feel like the scene has had a revival with some small bands starting to pop up. We have Persecutor, I really like them, they smell a lot more like Hatesphere – whereas we smell a lot more like Artillery, with screams on.
Dead Rhetoric: I remember a lot of strong thrash bands like Artillery, Invocator too from Denmark…
Radtleff: Oh yes, Invocator! I love Invocator, they were an amazing band. Hatesphere is cool as well. Artillery, I have a little shout out to drummer Josua (Madsen) who passed away. I miss him, he was one of the first in the Danish music scene that wanted to wear our shirts when he was playing concerts. I have a lot of respect for the band. The Danish thrash scene genuinely is very supportive of each other. I hope it will keep being like that.
Dead Rhetoric: When you feel overwhelmed or you have lost your focus, what types of things do you like to do to regain perspective?
Radtleff: I do a lot of things. I focus a lot on the music and speak a lot through it. I like cooking at home, that’s a very relaxing thing for me to do. When I am walking around, doing that, it’s when a lot of the lyrics start popping out of my head. It’s easier to put down in writing.
Dead Rhetoric: Over the past three to six months, what would you say are some of the bands and albums that you have been thoroughly enjoying?
Radtleff: I had this band called Kommand, it’s like a death metal band. Bolt Thrower, Pantera, Slayer, old school stuff. That’s been what I have been listening to a lot lately.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s next on the agenda for Demolizer over the next twelve months as far as promotion, live shows, etc.?
Radtleff: We are going on tour with Artillery. We will start writing the next album.