BRUTAL TRUTH "The End Isn't Coming...It's Already Here"

By Thor

Anthrax, S.O.D., Nuclear Assault, Brutal Truth, Venomous Concept, Nunfuckritual, Nokturnal Hellstorm – if you’ve assumed I’m standing in the punk and metal section of your local record shop writing down random band names, I won’t hold it against you.  But what I’m actually doing is naming just some of the bands that prolific extreme metal pioneer Dan Lilker has been involved with.

Lilker’s bestowed his growling, subsonic blasphemy in myriad punk, metal, and grind projects over the last 30 years, all of them unique, irreverent, and influential.  The one project that represents a microcosm of Lilker’s incredible musical output is Brutal Truth, one of the first American grindcore bands and one band that’s still unapologetically and successfully pushing the envelope.

Lilker recently sat down to catch us up on Brutal Truth’s latest album END TIME, the method behind the madness of putting out such a project, and where to catch the next four-string manifestations of evil and aggression from this pillar of underground royalty.  Read on, Maniacs!  

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES:  Grind has been around long enough for it to have evolved into several iterations.  How do you define grind?

DAN LILKER:  Grind to me has always been a genre with lots of blasts, distorted bass and socially-aware lyrics. So, I don’t really acknowledge “porn-grind” since the lyrics are totally misogynistic, for example. I don’t stay up nights agonizing over what’s happened with this type of stuff, like I don’t sweat NSBM either, I just don’t consider either iteration a valid offshoot of their respective genres.

WC:  Where do you guys fit among the pantheon of grindcore bands, from Napalm Death to Noisear?  Do you think about your legacy in the underground?

DL:  I actually get told more about our legacy by enthusiastic grindfreaks than I think about it myself. But if I had to fit us in somewhere, I don’t think it would sound too arrogant to say that we were one of the pioneers of the genre, since we didn’t just copy what was there before us, we put our own stamp on the genre and also kicked up the speed a little to boot. Geographically, there were other US bands like Terrorizer, Phobia, but Terrorizer never did much live, and Phobia was more part of the DIY punk scene, whereas we had a “higher profile”.

WC:  How would you describe your latest album, END TIME, both conceptually and aesthetically?

DL:  Conceptually? It’s hard to describe things that are as “close to home” as albums we’ve done, when you’re immersed in the process, it can be hard to step away from it and analyze things, which I mostly leave to people like yourself. So, I’ll say that conceptually it’s a grindcore hammer. I purposely asked Hull (Scott, producer--Dr. Mality) to not leave much space between tracks so the listener is besieged and has no time to take a breath. Aesthetically, it has the look and sound of classic grindcore with the exception that our take on grind has always been a little more “out there’ than other bands musically, and I think that’s what separates us from ‘the pack”.

WC:  Does your song writing process change from album to album or do you have a go-to method of putting your stuff together?

DL:  Brutal Truth Mach 2 functions differently than the band we were in the 90s due to logistics. These days, Erik and I will get together now and then, rip a few tubes and start composing the basic skeletons of the songs, then Rich will come up from Philly for a weekend occasionally so we can flesh out what we have. This is how we’ve done things since the reformation. Back in the day, we all were basically centered around NYC and rehearsed there, where we wrote our music.

WC:  Members of Brutal Truth have played in metal, punk, and of course grind projects.  What elements do you pull from each respective genre to use in this band and why?

DL:  The way that we mix it up by including elements of other genres is mostly an unconscious process, I’ll write a riff and then think “Hmm, betcha Shane will wish I saved that for V.C.”, but it’s a “first-come first-served” situation. When it’s time to write a BT album, that’s the priority so that’s where the riffs go. Riffs are flexible creatures; by changing 2 chords, I could take some BT riffs I wrote for the last album and fit them in the black metal band I play in up here in Rochester (NOKTURNAL HELLSTORM). The main riff in “Fuck Cancer” is pretty fucking evil for example.

WC:  Your song, WARM EMBRACE OF POVERTY is a slow, oppressively heavy, almost doomy piece and it’s followed by OLD WORLD ORDER, an aggressive, fast-as-fuck punk tune.  These two songs are nearly perfect opposites in extreme music terms, yet they’re arranged back-to-back on the album.  This type of juxtaposition occurs throughout END TIME, but the album is really cohesive.  There’s no doubting that this is a Brutal Truth album from start to finish.  So what is the essence of the Brutal Truth sound or approach that ties all these things together?

DL:  I’m the guy in the band in charge of sequencing our albums, and I try to construct a rollercoaster of some sorts. Warm Embrace is the slow crawl to the top, and Old World Order is the sickening plunge back down. Even without that analogy, it’s just a question of arranging the tunes so there’s almost a “storyline” like a movie. There has to be a dynamic contrast flowing through the whole thing, with a beginning, middle and end. So, the essence of the sound that ties it all together is that it’s extreme as fuck no matter what speed it is, and then it’s just a matter of taking all the pieces and putting them in the “right” order.

WC:  What were you guys listening to at the time that compelled you to start this band and how did it come to pass?

DL:  Napalm Death, Dark Angel, Extreme Noise Terror, Celtic Frost. Nuclear Assault had some time off in 1990, so we all did side projects that reflected our tastes. Obviously, BT became a little more than that (laughs). I just found dudes I knew could do it and went from there.

WC:  When Brutal Truth formed did you have a mission statement, so to speak?  Musically and conceptually, what was Brutal Truth’s original objective?

DL:  No, not really, it’s again more of a subconscious thing. We just wanted to play REALLY fast and have some cool lyrics over the racket. We never said “We’re gonna play faster than anyone else”, that just happened.

WC:  Do socio-economic and political phenomena determine the things you write about or is it more personal than that?

DL:  That’s not really my department in this band, but I will venture to say that Kevin’s lyrics reside right in-between where socio-political phenomena and personal issues meet.

WC:  Does your material resonate more when times are tough, when people are mad, scared, and frustrated about not being able to put food on the table?  Is there a noticeable difference in the reaction to your more pointed material?

DL:  I’ve been told so, but there are bands with far more specific agendas than ours concerning perceived injustices and the whole class-war concept. Mostly, we channel the apocalyptic vibe with insane grind.

WC:  What are you passionate about that’s non-musical?

DL:  Keeping the country I live in safe from the clutches of sanctimonious and hypocritical right-wing Christian politicians. I don’t actually do much to accomplish this, but I think about it a lot, so that’s the passionate part.

WC:  Your black metal project Nunfuckritual is completely different from anything you've done before. What are some of the challenges of playing slower, atmospheric black metal?

DL:  Anytime I’m not playing super-fast stuff the challenge is to make my parts more interesting, since there is more time to mess around and riff out. With this band in particular, I had to maintain that cold, grim atmosphere while also throwing in some “tasty” stuff. But I think I pulled it off.

WC:  Have you got any other bands/projects that you're working on currently?

DL:  Yes, Nokturnal Hellstorm, vicious black metal. We have now signed with United Underground, a subsidiary of Sevared Records.

WC:  Is there any more Nuclear Assault in the future?

DL:  Very little, if any... our drummer’s approaching his mid 50s and may not want to beat himself up much longer.

WC:  Does Brutal Truth have a Spinal Tap moment?

DL:  We’ve had all of them. The in-store with nobody there, the inability to find the stage, if it happened in that movie, it happened to us.

WC:  Where can fans find you guys and what can they look forward to in the coming year?

DL:  All we have on tap now is a festival in Mexico in early March, Hellfest in June, and we just got offered a show in Puerto Rico in mid-March, as did Nokturnal Hellstorm. I hope I can get a break that night in-between playing brutal black metal and void-speed grindcore. Whew!