Requiem – Collapse into Creative FreedomThursday, 22nd July 2021
Swiss veterans Requiem have been pulverizing their listeners with a fierce style of death metal since 1997. Familiar with a mix of old school veterans from the North American and European scenes, these musicians focus on brutality, proper transitions, plenty of catchy musical hooks, and versatility within this genre. Their latest album Collapse into Chaos contains twelve tightly written and executed tracks that don’t waste any time cementing themselves into your brain and body. We reached out to bassist Ralf W. Garcia who was happy to bring us up to date on the developments of the album, resigning with Massacre Records, the attraction to the death metal genre, favorite albums/shows, and what the future holds for this group.
Dead Rhetoric: Collapse into Chaos is the seventh studio album for Requiem – as well as the second time the band has been a part of the Massacre Records roster. How did you end up resigning with the label – and where do you see this record slotting in the catalog/discography for Requiem? Were there any specific ideas, challenges, obstacles, or surprises that took place from the initial songwriting sessions to the final product?
Ralf W. Garcia: Well first of all. Hello Matt – nice talking to you again. Regarding Massacre Records. As you might know already we released two albums via Massacre Records in the past. In 2006 Government Denies Knowledge and then our fourth output in 2007 with the album Premier Killing League. The music industry changed drastically as we all know since then and the beginnings of these changes were already very noticeable around 2008 and 2009. So back then that lead to the conclusion and mutual decision that we wouldn’t release another album with them after Premier Killing League. Mainly because of the massively declining album sales. It was a mutual and amicable agreement like I said and additionally we stayed in contact over all the years which then lead us right to where we are now. Our mutual past made it possible for us and Massacre Rec. to rejoin their roster for our newest album Collapse into Chaos.
In relation to the new full-length. Well for us it’s a mixture of all the typical Requiem characteristics. The typical old school death metal riffs are there, our mid-tempo based grooves, intricate rhythmic patterns paired with a pinch of harmonies and melodies but of course without losing any of that grind/crust/death brutality if you get my drift. Everything is on the album that makes us who we are in a musical sense but it is reduced to its’ essence. We deliberately got rid of unnecessary repetitions or embellishments in order to get to the true core of our own way of playing within the genre. Therefore I’d say for us the new album is at the top of our ranking in our own discography. It’s by far the most accomplished songwriting we ever had but that’s probably something almost every band says. But in fairness a recording is always just a snapshot of a certain time period and can never be repeated in the same way again. So for us at the moment it’s the pinnacle of our current musical achievements in that Requiem style but we will for sure be trying to challenge that and even excel it with the next future album.
In regards to the songwriting process. We didn’t experience any challenges and/or obstacles. The process we used is well-proven. We did it the same way we wrote the last two-three albums. So we knew that it’d work out well. The music (as always) developed itself in a very natural and organic way. Phil (Guitars) and Reto (Drums) who always write the skeletal structures of all our music know very well what works for us and what doesn’t and besides a very structured effort there’s still a lot of feeling involved. If a riff feels right it’ll be used for example. If it doesn’t it’ll be skipped and so on. The same applies for the song forms and or arrangements of all instruments. The songwriting process started in late 2019. So the only surprise we had was when we were about to record the final tracks that we had to change studios to finish the album when some lockdown restrictions were again set into place in autumn/winter 2020. It was originally planned to record everything at Iguana Studio (Germany) and then mix/master the album at Little Creek Studio (Switzerland). But it was only possible to record the drums and the first rhythm guitar tracks in Germany. So the rest was then recorded in Switzerland because of the already mentioned restrictions. But it all went very well as you can hear on these new songs.
Dead Rhetoric: Can you discuss the artwork with Kumislizer Design this time around? What did you want to accomplish with this piece, and what are your thoughts on the visual medium in today’s scene compared to the earlier years with the band – do you believe it’s still as important to make a good first impression today as it was when the band started?
Ralf W. Garcia: The last two album cover artworks before Collapse into Chaos were done by Dan Seagrave which is a name that most death metal fans probably heard before. The idea to use a cover design by Tata Kumislizer came after Phil (Guitars) who is a graphic designer himself scoured the internet in search of inspiration. He did some research and looked into the works of several illustrators who did mostly work for other metal bands and the communication with Tata Kumislizer was very convincing in the end. That particular cover artwork is just very fitting for our style of quite old school death metal mixed with influences from grindcore and crust/punk. It just felt right to use it.
I personally believe that a good visual impression is still very important for us as a band and beyond that. Especially in Metal music an eye-catching cover artwork that tells a story enhances the visual and sonic experiences of listeners and music fans and it’s something we as people and musicians still celebrate to this day for we are still fans of various music ourselves.
Dead Rhetoric: The lyrical content on this record is a bit deeper and more intelligent/thought provoking than many death acts that go for shock/gore or fictional/zombie apocalypse angles. What fuels the subject matter for Requiem – do you believe your fans appreciate the substance and different topics you tackle?
Ralf W. Garcia: Well our lyrical content always was a bit different compared to other death metal bands. We never were into the shock/splatter/gore kind of thing too much. We had a few songs about serial killers in the past but that’s just about it. Real life topics are much more brutal in my opinion anyway than any fictional content and apart from that it’s just that certain events, scientific studies, philosophic and psychological reports, natural catastrophes, social struggles and environmental problems initiate so many thought processes that it’s very obvious, to me at least, to use these real life subjects as the basis for our lyrical content. These things are concerning all of us in one way or another. That’s why it’s so obvious for us to process these topics in the lyrics. Additionally, it’s a kind of vent of frustration sometimes as well.
I personally think that some fans may appreciate these topics. Some wrote us over the years that they feel understood when they’re listening to our songs which is by the way something that we don’t take for granted. But we are realistic enough to know that a lot of people probably won’t care that much which is fine too. Maybe it’ll lead to some way of thought process for some and others would maybe just like the death metal experience while banging their heads while listening. That’s all equally as true and fine of course.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe the outlook and philosophy of Requiem when it comes to your live performances versus the studio albums? And what have been some of your favorite or more memorable tours, festivals, special shows over the years – are there specific clubs or countries you like to play that have developed a deep affinity for Requiem?
Ralf W. Garcia: Requiem is a quite simple band regarding our approach towards live performances like club shows and/or festival gigs. Our songs are always written in a way so we’ll be able to always play them live as they were recorded on the albums. So there’s no additional arranging on the albums that couldn’t be reproduced in a live setting. We just hit the stage and play in the tightest way possible with a lot of enthusiasm and spirit for our way of playing death metal. Speaking about tours, festivals and live shows in general. There were a lot over the course of the past 25 years. We shared stages with all the big and well-known names and had night liner tours in Europe with Vader, Belphegor, Vital Remains, Dismember and more obscure bands like Lowbrow (with ex-members of Nasty Savage and Death) or Lividity for example. There were festival appearances with Morbid Angel and Obituary and many others but at the end of the day what we like best are well run and decent club shows. We played in almost every country in Europe sans Spain and Portugal. Club shows in the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia were always good. There are too many to really remember all the details. But we made a few new friends along the way I’d say. So naturally we’re eager to get back on the stage and to meet/see familiar and new faces in the crowd.
Dead Rhetoric: What would you say is the biggest challenge Requiem faces this deep into your career? And how do you stay fresh and inspired when it comes to the songwriting and performances, without repeating yourselves or becoming stagnant/ predictable?
Ralf W. Garcia: That’s a really interesting question which we or I only thought about recently when a similar question came up in another interview. Honestly we don’t really think about new songs or albums as challenges. It’s similar to what I said earlier. Everything about Requiem happens in a very natural and organic way. Nothing is forced even though we have a very clear and straight work ethic to reach our goals when it’s about writing and finishing a new album for example. What still drives us is the pure joy of playing, writing and performing music that we still like to listen to ourselves. We seem to have a built-in stamina and drive when it’s about Requiem. By now we all as people changed with age too of course and we all appreciate what we have as a band and as a collective of musicians. It wasn’t always without challenges of course but we’re glad and appreciative about where we are and what we already achieved.
Creative freedom and complete independence plays a big part I’d say. All these things play into keeping our music fresh, brutal and enthusiastic I guess. Like I said it’s not something we ever thought about on purpose. If something feels right we do it. If it doesn’t feel right we won’t do it. Sounds very simple but that’s more or less how we work. Over the course of 25 years we developed our own style within the genre and of course we still show our appreciation of our influences by mixing the aforementioned death metal with elements of grind/crust/punk etc. I believe that even though we move within these parameters we still have a lot of space for interesting song forms, rhythmic patterns and thoughtful arrangements. The fact that we play together for so long and that we know each other very well adds to our formula as well. If there even is a formula. Like I said we never thought about all of this consciously.
Dead Rhetoric: What initially attracted you to the death metal genre, and how do you view the movement these days, as there seems to be many different factions under the umbrella of death from an old school as well as modern perspective?
Ralf W. Garcia: We are all more or less the same age. So I personally grew into the death metal genre at the end of the 80s into the early 90s and beyond. I started to listen to metal in the early 80s with the typical stuff that was present at the time and then from the mid 80s thrash metal had a big impact on me with bands like Dark Angel, Forbidden, Exodus, Overkill for example. After that I was rather drawn to the extremes. Everything that was faster and heavier than everything else I’d like and listen to instantly. A typical 80s kid’s story probably. I remember that for example I bought Scream Bloody Gore by Death the day it came out and from then on it had happened. That death metal thing pulled me right in and all the nowadays’ classic death metal albums followed after that. I still own all of these albums. Me, my friends and my band members at that time we all listened to the same stuff. Autopsy, Dismember, Entombed, Morbid Angel, Obituary, Malevolent Creation, Bolt Thrower, Cancer, Carcass, Napalm Death, Immolation, Monstrosity, Massacre, Deicide, Death and so on and so forth. We didn’t put music into drawers that much back then. Not like it’s sometimes nowadays I guess. I guess what really attracted me in the first place was that it was somehow new and different and of course very over-the-top heavy and brutal for my ears back then.
Nowadays we’re all more used to brutal and heavy in general and you could even say that some of these older productions weren’t that brutal in comparison to todays’ stuff. But they worked very well back then. For us at least. Everything was just metal music which we enjoyed. These days it’s very nice to see that the movement that started decades ago is still existing and of course like everything else in life there are certain changes and genres/styles mix with other stuff. I personally think that the development and variation of music is always a good thing. Now having said that I mostly still listen to stuff from the early days because it still speaks to me personally. But there are some newer bands I like as well and of course some older bands still put out records too. So as far as I can see the underground death metal movement is very alive and well.
Dead Rhetoric: What would you consider three of the most important albums that shaped your outlook on the heavy metal genre as a whole? And what have been some of your favorite concert memories, purely ones that you attended as a fan in the audience – and what made these show(s) stick out to you?
Ralf W. Garcia: Now that’s a tricky question. Only three albums. That’s another thing I never really gave much thought. Ok since there are no right or wrong answers, here is it. So the first pick would be something by Iron Maiden. Probably Powerslave because it was the first Maiden album I could get my hands on back when I was a kid. Although nowadays I prefer Killers most of the time. Anyway. Then maybe Taking Over by Overkill even though I love Darkness Descends by Dark Angel equally and Realm Of Chaos by Bolt Thrower. But I could have named the whole Bolt Thrower discography to be honest. There’s so much more of course, So having only three picks isn’t really satisfying.
As for favorite concert memories. I’ve seen so many shows in my life so far. Mostly as well because I work as a guitar/bass tech for international touring bands. But the one I’ll always remember instantly was the first metal show I went to in a local youth club when I was just a kid. It was The Exploited and a German thrash band called Accuser and some other band I can’t remember. Anyway it was very exciting. That was in 1986 I think. The same year I started to play bass. Then the first Bolt Thrower show I saw. I’ll never forget that. Just because of the sheer intensity of these songs. My very first Kiss concert with full make up etc. was impressive as well. Classic rock and roll show with an over-the-top show is always class. Type O Negative was always very intense and impressive live. Even towards the end of their career. What else…of course Black Sabbath live. I saw the very last tour and the tour before that. Very impressive and emotional to see and hear these iconic and groundbreaking songs.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe the state of the music industry in 2021? If you had unlimited time, resources, and funding – what changes would you make for everyone involved?
Ralf W. Garcia: A good and very complex question. It’d depend on the perspective. For some the music industry is very much alive and well and for others it is moving towards its’ last breath according to the word on the street. I’d say from our point of view we’re happy where we are in relation to that. We don’t have to rely on the music industry at all. We appreciate the support and collaboration of Massacre Records very much and the current work to support and promote our new album Collapse into Chaos was and is really fantastic to be honest. But we are very independent from the music industry which gives us a lot of freedom in so many ways. I see it with other bands and how it is and can be for them. It’s not always easy. So I personally think the music industry is still changing a lot and only time will tell where this will all go from here. If I had unlimited resources, time and funding I’d make the whole thing fairer for bands and artists because they are (we are) the ones who create the content (music and art in general) in the first place. Without bands and artists there wouldn’t be a music industry at all. A fair compensation is still needed for bands, artists and creators in general. The story is as old as music itself I guess. On the other hand I’d wish and work for more creative diversity and to reminisce about what music is really about. It’s a form of art first and foremost and therefore very essential for all of us and mankind. That’s something that seems to be overlooked and even forgotten sometimes.
Dead Rhetoric: What types of hobbies, interests, and passions do the members of Requiem like to participate in away from the music when you have the free time and energy to do so? And do the members have the proper support from friends, family, and significant others – or is it a balancing act to do the band activities while keeping those relationships in tact?
Ralf W. Garcia: We are all very diverse people. A very mixed bunch so to say. Phil (Guitars) and Michi (Vocals) have families with kids. Michi (Vocals) is a mechanic by trade but sometimes works on classic cars or other car/van projects in his time off. Phil (Guitars) takes care of his dogs in addition to his family and he’s a big fan of television series and all sorts of horror movies besides running his own bar/metal club. Reto (Drums) likes to travel a lot. Especially to the south of Europe and Matze (Guitars) is into travelling, reading and studying as well. Regarding my personal hobbies, interests and passions. My personal life is almost 100% filled with music since I’m teaching music theory and bass, writing, playing, practicing etc. most of my day anyway. Apart from that I like to read a lot, walk the dogs and watch a lot of television series with my wife. Before I forget. We all have a fondness for good food and fine drinks too. So that’s that.
We all luckily have the full support from our families and significant others for which we are very grateful of course. They’re used to it by now after a quarter of a century I guess.
Dead Rhetoric: What concerns do you have about the world that we live in today?
Ralf W. Garcia: I had a massive tendency to worry a lot about my immediate social surroundings and global events when I was younger. The older I get the less I’m concerned about stuff maybe because you just get used to so many things after spending nearly 50 years on this planet. Who knows. I think the one thing I tend to think about the most is the gap between rich and poor and that it widens up increasingly. The global economic system and free liberal market approach since the second world war doesn’t really seem to work anymore for a lot of people. Well it only works for a few people and only a few are still profiting off of it. How will the next generation after us make a living and built a life for themselves? What’s with affordable healthcare and housing and all of these existential aspects for example? So these are maybe very mundane questions I sometimes ask myself but at the same time these are very real too at the same time. Questions, topics, aspects and challenges that concern all of us in one way or another.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the next year or two shaping up for Requiem as far as supporting this record? Are there other projects or band activities that the members are working on outside of Requiem that we can expect in the near future?
Ralf W. Garcia: Sometimes it’d be nice to foresee the future but then again it’d be rather boring if we’d know what’s about to happen wouldn’t it? So as far as we know now we’re working on playing gigs again. We’ve a few gigs already booked for the end of this year. A full European tour in 2022 is something that we talked about. It would just make sense to go out and play as many shows as possible to deliver the new songs to people who’d be interested. When and how that’ll happen is currently not very clear in relation to the ongoing situation across Europe and the prospects of further restrictions. But we were always a band that adapted very fast. We’ll make the best out of the situation anyway independent from further developments. But in summary it is our goal to play club shows, festivals next year and possibly a full tour as support for one or more bigger bands. That’s the plan at least.
Regarding other projects and/or band activities outside of Requiem. I’m always writing and recording stuff as I mentioned before but that just comes with the job I guess. Apart from that Reto (Drums) and I have a classic Doom Metal band named Wolf Counsel for a few years now and we’re in the middle of writing and recording our fifth album. We found a new singer here in Ireland where I live now too since last year. So that’s gonna be exciting to work within that kind of style again. Just for a change. It’s music that’s roughly between classic epic Doom with a slight tendency to progressive or rather technical Doom in the veins of Solitude Aeturnus and Confessor maybe. It’s just another creative playground for us while Requiem will still be our main focus and priority of course.