Hatriot – Luminous Shadows AheadThursday, 14th July 2022
Comfortable now in their latest incarnation, Hatriot feels its time to add different nuances to their thrash base for their fourth album The Vale of Shadows. Listeners can expect a bit more diverse angst across the melodic death, hardcore, extreme metal, and metalcore realms, without losing that intensity and purity that put them in the game right away almost a decade ago. We spoke to bassist/vocalist Cody Souza who was very exuberant regarding the new record, the future plans to take Hatriot as more of a full-time touring entity to move up the ranks, thoughts on stepping away from his dad to establish the credibility of Hatriot, how Twitch factored into his pandemic downtime, plus details on new management and staying focused on the business side of things.
Dead Rhetoric: The latest Hatriot album is The Vale of Shadows – the fourth with the group and your second handling bass and lead vocals. How would you assess the development of this material and your skills handling double duty for the band – do you believe you are more confident in your abilities now than you were on the previous effort?
Cody Souza: Dude, definitely! So much so. I thought that when the last album came out, I was so proud of my vocal performance, properly taking over from Pops (Steve ‘Zetro’). The reception overall was good and that I could run the band without him, being our own entity. This one I am that much prouder of, the vocals are that much more intense, I am more comfortable, the writing is much more comfortable. We went into a new direction, a bit more melodic death/thrash as people have been calling it. A little bit more modern and metalcore at times. We are a more refined unit, and this is a bit more of what Hatriot’s sound will be like moving forward. Let alone there is still a thrash base of what makes us, us – but we want to move into more of a modern tone for sure.
Dead Rhetoric: You seem to be incorporating even more death metal, hardcore, and metalcore influences into Hatriot to separate yourselves from being a prototypical thrash act. Do you believe this helps the band engage the modern listeners in a different way, and establish a bit more of an original take on things?
Souza: Yeah, I hope so. I hope it highlights who we are and where we came from but also just doing us and what we enjoy. All the things that we enjoy that we can incorporate into our writing, our inspirations. I hope it grabs new ears, the people that are into Jinjer, Shadow of Intent, and those that were on the Power Trip train moving forward. Enforced is coming up hard, and if it would unlock us to that level that would be awesome. We are just doing us at this point.
Dead Rhetoric: Are there specific songs for this record that took on great transformations or changes from their initial conception to the final delivery – and discuss the importance of mixing/mastering with a seasoned veteran like Juan Urteaga and what he brings to the table for the band?
Souza: We have an instrumental “Murderous Tranquility” which is a first for Hatriot on a record, along with the final single that will be coming out soon which will have a video “Horns & Halos” shows a contrast of Hatriot that I don’t think you really hear listening to Weapons of Class Destruction, it sounds almost like two opposite things but somehow we hold it together with bubble gum and popsicle sticks and it is still the same band. We deliver that, and we will bring both of those songs to a setlist, and it will flow. The broadness of spectrums there as well as the lack of elitism moving forward may help us appeal to even more people. “Horns & Halos” I think is strong enough to get us onto Sirius XM, whereas “Venomous and Vile” is very death metal. You will still get some Hatriot thrashers, there is something for everybody moving forward.
Working with Juan for the fourth time around is like literally working with Uncle Juan at this point. We make jokes at each other, when you can just be yourself with someone that is that professional and holds that well of a sound to their ear. He’s worked with so many bands like Heathen, Machine Head, Testament, Exodus, moving down the list – that’s cool. It’s priceless within its own right. He lives very close to where we reside, there’s no hotel time we have to take. On top of we are blessed to have minds like him and Zach Ohren in the Bay Area, if one is booked or the price isn’t right you have another one to work with. It all depends on what record labels often times give you for a budget. It’s to the point with Juan where if you don’t feel you are doing something right, you aren’t embarrassed to bring it up. He wants you to do better, he has been a vocalist in the past with his band Vile, let alone with what he’s worked with in the past, it’s awesome.
Dead Rhetoric: What can you tell us regarding the killer cover art for the new record from Paolo Girardi? How does the process work from inspiration to final outcome – is it a back-and-forth engagement from the band to artist, and do you feel this still has great importance in building the brand of the band before people press play on the music?
Souza: I think so. I will answer the last part first. I think it’s important to have artwork distinctive of each other record to record. Where it can become common – sometimes I talk about the Wretched albums, I can’t always remember the names of the albums, but I remember the yellow colors or the purple colors, those albums smack hard. They choose a main color scheme for an album and do well across that. That does well with people that may have a priest theme for one album, or the one with a castle.
The name of the album and the theme for the artwork came up at the same sitting in a Hatriot practice. We were talking about The Vale of Shadows, which is actually a reference to Stranger Things and The Upside Down, they call it the vale of shadows a few times in the earlier seasons. We ran with that; we wanted the artwork when you flipped it upside down to be a completely different image. It is a castle looking at it, when upside down it becomes an image of a skull in a cavern. We thought that was fun and help us stick out a little bit. We still deliver – we live in a digital age, but somebody who looks at it may draw them to our work. Paolo definitely delivered on that. He is phenomenal. He asked us one time what we wanted, he came in and delivered. We were on our way there.
Dead Rhetoric: Where did you want to come across lyrically with the content on this record?
Souza: It is typical Hatriot. We have a song about a monster, the last three songs are kind of a concept a little bit. You will get a song about a serial killer; you are going to get a song about domestic violence. You get will a song about a bunch of space clones getting attacked by a bunch of trade federation robots. There is a Star Wars reference in there if you can catch us. We just stay in a lane within our genre. There isn’t much that’s explicit as far as lyrical content compared to the previous record.
Dead Rhetoric: How did you and the other members of Hatriot handle the downtime away from playing shows and the entertainment industry seemingly grinding to a halt over the past couple of years from COVID-19? Do you believe there is a newfound love and respect for the arts coming back to life?
Souza: I do man. Not to take a page out of Matt Heafy, I think he’s a brilliant musician and business mind, I keep an eye on his goals. Twitch has been a big platform for me – I have found a place where I can combine two things I really love which is videogames, playing music, and acting like a fool in front of my friends. Put them all in one place. We do podcasts on Monday nights. We are going to have the boys from Lich King come on there. We found some fun in the dark times. We didn’t get depressed, put our heads down in the sand – we wrote and made a new album, I have a studio where I have made a bunch of content. There is a newfound love. I took for granted that I could go to a concert almost any night of the week in the Bay Area. It went away, so there was nothing to do, and you were stuck in your house. When shows started going again, I was obsessive about needing to go to shows. I did a rebrand in my life, put down my job in order to pursue Hatriot. I still can go back to that career at any time, but I’d like to pursue my dream and follow in my father’s footsteps. That was a big awakening as far as Hatriot is concerned.
Some bands I haven’t heard a peep from yet. Some venues closed too, and that sucks. We have some venues that got hurt.
Dead Rhetoric: What have been some standout moments so far in the career of Hatriot – specific special shows, albums, video shoots, or other encounters where you feel like you have made a decent impression with your craft or moving forward in terms of increasing your following?
Souza: I think anything we have done since I’ve taken over. Not to slight anything that we did with Pops. We did some amazing albums with Pops; it was the two sons with a father and two other musicians. That was cool that I have forever that no one can take away forever. Going to Europe with that lineup, for the little tour we had back in 2013. Moving forward as a family and as musicians, my father going out of the fold. Maturing as a vocalist and a front man, learning management to handle all the pieces that I can in this crazy industry I love. It’s all highlights. Every time I go to a show, I make a good connection. Every time Hatriot makes a move, something good or positive comes out from it. We want to keep growing as a brand and a band to take this out to more people.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you and Nick feel any additional pressure as sons of a legendary thrash singer to prove yourselves as worthwhile musicians on your own accord – as it helps to have Zetro make inroads to get doors open, but doesn’t necessarily guarantee immediate success, correct?
Souza: Yes, that’s one of the things we got a lot of hate for at first. We got signed to Massacre Records which is nice, and I think the demo was good enough to speak for itself. We’ve gone to Europe, and we’ve put some records out, but we are trying to still grow this. There was no freebie ride being Zetro’s sons. We have a US and European touring agent with Continental, they are great and will have us out in the states with Exmortus coming up within a month. We have to get this act on the road and sell that. You have to stay active and busy. That is one good thing for the metal fans – you are never going to fool them into what’s real or good. A little bit of pressure on my brother and myself, but with Kosta V. as our main musical writer, we help him arrange things and then we write the lyrics to what he has, we have a good formula going on. We are a bunch of dudes that organically love metal, regardless of what era it came from or not.
Dead Rhetoric: What have been some of the biggest learning curves or experiences that took place in your twenties that have set up Hatriot or any other future musical endeavors for the greater good? How do you define success in today’s music industry landscape?
Souza: Man, I would say setting up longevity when you ask what I thought about in my twenties. Hatriot went through a rebranding process – we got a new manager Kragen Lum of Heathen. That was during COVID, and I bought a house and got married. I have payments on the house, I have established my bills really low, putting my career down to do this. I have a 40 hour a week job, but it doesn’t pay me what my career used to pay me and allows me to tour when I need to. We have all realized what we want to do. We have taken the last nine to ten years of Hatriot’s time, solidified ourselves. Being sure that we could make this ongoing and prosper, moving forward. We did that in our own lives, marriages, relationships. To continue doing music going forward and knowing what animal we are getting into. We saw Pops get kicked out of Exodus twice, the ups and downs. We will continue struggling, making friends, and going forward as much as we can go.
Dead Rhetoric: What excites you in the heavy metal realm these days as far as albums and live concerts – as I’ve seen through your social media platforms a lot of engagement with shows now that things are opening up again?
Souza: Shows are big now again. I love going to concerts. I miss festivals like the Ozzfest and Mayhem ones that would come around. We have Aftershock in Sacramento, a little over an hour from us. I just miss that all-day festival, the whole go to, go to. I love the small tours, the industry, all my friends that I love making music. The challenges of overcoming things. Getting up close with musicians through their Twitch pages, live streams. Content – if you talk about it in watercolors, it may be watered down but there is so much color in all the content that is out there. How much of a super fan are you – and how far do you want to dive down that rabbit hole?
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel being a part of the Massacre Records roster for the entire discography of Hatriot? Has your relationship with the label and its staff grown over the years, and do you feel they have a good understanding of how to promote and push Hatriot worldwide?
Souza: Yes, we love Massacre Records. Our deal was actually up with them after From Days into Darkness, and we did go shopping. They ultimately showed the best partnership for us and wanted to continue moving together forward. We happily shook hands, signed with them again, and owe them two more records after this one. It’s grown well, I’m stoked to see what future content will come out with the label. It’s funny to think of the fact that I’m the only original member left at a Hatriot show. It was Zetro, Glen Alvelais from Forbidden/ Testament, Alex Bent, Drew Gage and me. Weird to think that I have gone from a bass player to the majority hand in operations for Hatriot: vocals, bass, everything that we do on the day to day.
Dead Rhetoric: What worries or concerns do you have about the world that we live in today?
Souza: I’m going to stay away from the generics on this and keep it within the metal scene. It is so hard for a younger band to try to get on the road now, right? Gasoline prices, the financials for a small band to go out there and do their thing without going negative is tough. We are blessed that we do okay when we go out, but it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. You can’t get to city to city without gasoline. There is no stable way to do it. That is some of my worries. The smaller festival circuits like Ozzfest, they are done. You have people that are for profit that are doing it.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the next year or so looking for Hatriot when it comes to live shows, touring, promotion for the record? Has work already begun behind the scenes on the follow-up outing, to hopefully ensure a decent turnaround for album five?
Souza: We are busy, busy. We are starting to demo the next album. We have a soaking process for the new material, we want to do this as much in advance as possible. We talk about demoing material on a weekly basis. We are going to tour with Exmortus and Silver Talon in the month of July, on the left side of the United States. We have a few things we are talking about. We will be on the Days of the Green festival with Lich King, Dead Kennedys, Queensrÿche, Dokken. Hopefully impress some of our agent friends and getting Hatriot on the road consistently.