Krisiun – Hammer of the MessiahTuesday, 19th July 2022
Fresh off a Latin American tour and gearing up for another video shoot, these are active times for Krisiun. Their latest album Mortem Solis keeps this extreme death metal act sharp and vital – you know exactly what to expect from this veteran unit, and they keep delivering to the hordes. Relentless in their approach, this Brazilian trio of brothers show no signs of slowing down as far as their global touring/festival presence.
We reached out to drummer Max Kolesne and he was happy to fill us in on the work behind the latest album, his approach to the drums for the band, video/cover art thoughts, favorite album/tour memories, the importance of Sepultura in regards to their abilities to continue forward in gaining a worldwide foothold when it comes to extreme metal, plus his thoughts on the genre and future plans.
Dead Rhetoric: Mortem Solis in the twelfth studio album for Krisiun. Where do you see this material sitting in the catalog of albums for the band – and did the pandemic allow the band to dig deeper into the details of songwriting, recording, and production values differently than if you were under the gun time-wise due to impending business or touring obligations?
Max Kolesne: Yeah, I think so. The fact that we had a break from touring and writing and recording. We have been doing this for so long for so many years, following the same cycle of writing, recording, and touring. I felt like at the end of 2019 we needed a break from doing that, to recharge the batteries. With Mortem Solis, we are energized again, we have recharged the batteries. We became more inspired with full force, full throttle. I think people can tell when they hear the album, it’s very energetic, it’s straightforward, brutal. It carries out the truest assets of the band. It might sound a little cliché, but the new album is the perfect mix of the old Krisiun from Black Force Domain and Conquerors of Armageddon along with the newer stuff, we are more mature and a more experienced band. This album brought back that same energy and aggression we had back in the day.
When we started writing the new stuff, we use the same system. Moyses always comes up with the riffs and ideas, and we start jamming together. Every single song we build in the studio, in our rehearsal room, playing together, changing ideas. It’s all about the passion and the vibe. We had a lot of time because we were in our home. The studio is in our home too, we live close to each other. We could spend day and night jamming. Mortem Solis as you said before, we could pay more attention to the details and the little things for the album.
Dead Rhetoric: When it comes to your own personal parts recording an album, can you discuss the process you engage in from initially developing and becoming comfortable with a song until you reach what you are going to deliver on each track? As I would imagine due to the extreme nature of the material and varying speeds, tempos, and transitions, it takes a combination of muscle memory and physical ability to achieve what you want, correct?
Kolesne: Yeah, man. That’s the spirit. When I first start listening to riffs and start to get the concepts for the songs. I right away think about how I can play a blast beat over this riff, it’s a part of our style. It’s always like that – certain riffs, sometimes it’s difficult to play because the tempo is really high and fast. But I know I will practice until I feel comfortable playing it. Some of the stuff at first is difficult, but I have in my mind what I want to do, it can take a few days to feel comfortable and have the right stamina or technique to play what I want to play. This time, we had the same vision: me, Moyses, and Alex on this album. To come back to the roots of pure speed, aggression and brutality. That’s how we did it. There are a few parts where we slowed down a little bit, but it’s mostly about the speed. I have been doing this for so many years, I feel comfortable playing in this style. Some of the songs take some time to feel comfortable, to add the blast beats to the song, and make it feel groovy to have the right chemistry with the rest of the band.
Dead Rhetoric: And where did you want to come across lyrically with the content for this record?
Kolesne: Basically, it’s a lot about humanity, mankind, and the bloodshed from religion, politicians. Humankind is a self-destructive species, there are so many things that inspired us. Not just today, but among the years. When it comes to history, everywhere man goes there is like a trail of blood, man hasn’t learned from the cultures. Greed is destroying everything. Mortem Solis means the death of the sun, we are talking about the sun being the source of life for us here on the planet. It’s dying because we are destroying ourselves, we are destroying everything with this concept of religion, hate, race, we are separating and getting worse and worse.
We still keep some of the Satanism and anti-religious stuff in our lyrics but portray it in a more realistic way. And also, we talk about gladiators sometimes, warriors in an arena. We play in a band, you have to keep on fighting and never give up, we have ups and downs, and you have to stay strong. It’s the connection about the old ancient battles that have to do with the fight that we have to do nowadays, being in a band playing extreme death metal.
Dead Rhetoric: Mantus (Marcelo Vasco) from PR2 Design handled the striking cover art this time around. What was the initial idea and concept behind this piece – did you allow Mantus free reign to create what he wanted based on the music or was it a back-and-forth collaboration to get to this final product?
Kolesne: We sent him some of the lyrics and some of the songs. The first concept that he ended up sending us back is the cover art for the album. He captured exactly what we were looking for. The concept with the warrior, the battle, the gladiator, has a lot to do with the lyrics and the music. For him, he is such an amazing artist. It was very easy for him to capture the vibe of the album. He sent us the first art, and we told him that is what we are looking for, he didn’t have to change anything.
Dead Rhetoric: Was it an easy process to decide which song to premiere as the video, and how do you feel the video shoot went?
Kolesne: Yes. In the beginning it’s never easy because everything is so fresh. What is the best song? Only time will tell which are the best tracks for the album. The vision of the band, it’s always the right vision. We thought that “Serpent Messiah” is the best first single – it starts really heavy with a modern riff in the beginning and then it gets really fast. It’s always good to leave the fans with this doubt – what is the rest of the album going to sound like that follows? It’s pure metal, inspired by older Slayer. The more songs they know, the more they are going to like – especially if they are true death metal fans.
The video process was just basic. We went to this place with old buildings, the producer is our friend. He is actually the owner of the studio where we recorded the album. The video came out pretty good, and we have prepared the next video now and that’s going to be a good one too.
Dead Rhetoric: As brothers growing up in Brazil, can you discuss some of those early challenges and obstacles you had to overcome to get attention and be taken seriously as an artist versus bands from other territories like North America or mainland Europe? Did you look to the development of Sepultura for instance as a proving ground that you could achieve success on a global scale through determination, perseverance, and hard work ethics?
Kolesne: Yes. Sepultura was the main influence for us. One of the only reasons that we believed we could achieve something outside of Brazil was because of Sepultura. They did show us that it is possible for a Brazilian band to achieve a certain level of success outside of the country. You see there are a lot of bands from Brazil, really good bands from the 80’s, that people will never know about. Maybe nowadays with the internet it gets easier to find out about these bands, Brazilian bands from the 80’s and 90’s, but back in the 90’s for us, nobody knew anything about Brazil except for Sepultura. It’s possible to believe that if you have some quality and if you work hard, it is possible to achieve success.
Since the beginning of the 90’s we were trading tapes and we would buy some metal magazines, get addresses from the record labels, find fans, send out demo tapes, send letters, all that kind of stuff. We always believed we could achieve some success. It was a lot of persistence; we never gave up. For a couple of years, not much happened, then one day we recorded Black Force Domain, a small record label Dynamo Records took on the release – we sold 500 copies in Europe. A lot of people started loving our band, and a few guys like Trey from Morbid Angel, Lord Ahriman from Dark Funeral, Abbath from Immortal, they were wearing our shirts and talking about that album. It is brutal death metal, old school, aggressive and inspirational from the good metal days. That was the real stuff for us – the underground helped us take off. I remember when Moyses, he went to Europe in 1996, when Black Force Domain was out, he went to festivals and gave out albums, and people were talking a lot about Krisiun. The Europeans love that old school aspect – we had our first tour there, got our first deal with a German record label.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe the approach and outlook of Krisiun live versus what we hear on record? And what have been some of your favorite tours or festivals you’ve done over the years – as you have performed on a mixture of bills worldwide?
Kolesne: I would say we are very similar when it comes to hearing us live and what we are like on the album. We try to keep the album, the recordings, as real as possible. I think you can tell – there are a lot of bands you listen to nowadays, there is a lot of over producing, computerized… it’s so perfect, so fast, and so amazing, they can’t do that stuff live. It can computerize your performance, and it kills the vibe and the feelings. It’s like jamming when we record, we try to make one take for each song. Even though it’s never going to be perfect, sometimes I slow down a little bit, sometimes I play faster – but it’s the way it’s supposed to be, it’s being played by a human. The studio, there will be a little attitude, we try to be as real and as authentic as possible. When you see Krisiun live, I don’t think there’s going to be any big disappointment. Sometimes you have bad sound or a bad night, but we try to keep things as real and as live as possible.
You ask about some of the tours and festivals. We have done so many good tours, with so many bands we love. I remember the first tour we did with Morbid Angel, such a great honor for us. Kreator, Immortal, Dark Funeral, Sepultura, so many tours and shows we’ve played. A lot of great festivals in Europe, like Brutal Assault, Summer Breeze. We have played Hellfest. It’s hard to pick.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you view the current metal scene in Brazil versus other parts of the world? Are there specific styles and bands that are garnering attention that maybe we need to look into and know more about?
Kolesne: It’s similar to what is happening to here now. It’s easier to get connections with the rest of the world. There are a bunch of really talented bands out there playing good music and being really professional. I still miss a little bit of the old school style; I am really looking for new bands to really kick my ass. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of really talented guys. We just finished the Latin American tour with the band Crypta, an all-girl band that is a killer band, they did an amazing job.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some activities that you like to participate in outside of music when you have the free time and energy to do so?
Kolesne: Oh man. I like to read a lot. I need to exercise. I’m almost 50 and play this kind of music. I need to keep in shape, I’m not too crazy about it, but you have to keep your body strong enough to keep doing this, your stamina. Your muscles too. I take care of myself when I have free time, I go jogging and walking. That’s what I like to do to unwind.
Dead Rhetoric: What would you consider three of the most important albums that helped shape your outlook on the metal genre – and what’s your favorite concert memory of a show or festival you took in purely as an audience member, and what made that show so special and memorable to you?
Kolesne: Ace of Spades – Motörhead, Reign in Blood – Slayer, and Altars of Madness – Morbid Angel. That’s very hard to only mention three. That’s what came to mind right away. When I saw Slayer, Dave Lombardo is my main influence as a drummer, and I never had a chance to see him perform with Slayer. When he got back in the band, I got the chance to see him, with Slayer and Jeff Hanneman in the band, that was probably the most amazing show I saw in my life. It was the Christ Illusion tour; it was definitely some of the best shows I had ever seen. Dave was destroying the drums, the band was perfect, they were fast and furious, aggressive.
Dead Rhetoric: Do fans or other musicians ever ask you for advice regarding your technique and abilities on the drums – if so, what sorts of advice do you give them?
Kolesne: They always ask things. How can I play very fast, the blast beats, other kinds of stuff? It’s hard when you try to explain, the way I play, everybody has a different way to achieve the right technique to play the way you want to play. I use different pedals, the springs are very tight, it doesn’t work for other guys. Try to play relaxed, try to have fun, that’s the most important thing. Some guys, they have certain things they can play fast, for other guys it’s not as easy for them to play fast stuff. It doesn’t mean that you are not as good as the guy who can play fast. Some people are better doing groovier stuff, heavier stuff. Everybody has a different style; everybody has their own way. It’s important to find your own identity, your own style. Never try to be like somebody else.
One thing that is kind of sad nowadays is that a lot of bands keep changing members the whole time. And I see a lot of musicians, especially drummers, they can play really well, really fast and technical, but they stay in a band for one or two years, and then they burn out, and look for younger guys that can play faster. It’s like a waste of talent, the drummers get exposure, but if you keep doing this you are never going to develop your own style with your own band. Play the stuff you love to play, and you can keep playing this forever. To see very old bands changing members the whole time and picking up all these younger members that play as fast as they want, that’s weird.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the biggest differences in the approach and outlook of extreme metal from bands of your generation and the younger, newer acts that are developing?
Kolesne: As I said, people try to follow the same standard. The same kind of blast beat, double bass approach. Especially when you hear certain albums that sound very similar. I remember back in the day when you hear for example Darkness Descends and Reign in Blood, you could tell who Gene Hoglan is and who is Dave Lombardo. They had their own styles. To me it’s very important, and now we are not allowed to be this way in some of the bands. It’s very important to bring your own style – for example, Iron Maiden. You can hear Nicko McBrain playing, ten seconds of his isolated drums, I can hear his playing. That’s what is important for people. It doesn’t matter how technical or how fast you are, have your own style. That will make the band have their own personality.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve already announced a lot of touring and festival action across the world to support the new record. What else is on the agenda for the next year or so, and how long can you see Krisiun continuing forward?
Kolesne: We are already working on the next year as far as touring. There will be a lot of festivals, more tours in the whole world: Europe, North America, Latin America, Asia. We are having a lot of offers. We are working hard to play as much as possible. Now after this horrible pandemic we appreciate more and more the tours and the chances we have to do what we love to do. Try to deliver the best shows we can to our audiences.
We are going to keep moving forward. We feel energized right now, better than we have been in years. We have managed to play this music and still have a lot of fun. It’s hard to say how far we can go. At some point after our sixties, we may play more rock and roll in old bars.