ENFORSAKEN "Chi-Town Contenders"

by Thrash-Head

Y¹know what¹s a really good feeling? Either going to a concert with local unsigned bands or getting handed a demo CD and realizing that the band onstage or on disc is bound to get signed just because they are so musically advanced that there is no way they wouldn¹t. This is where Chicago¹s Enforsaken come in. Some may be tempted to say that the whole Swedish hyper-death movement may be starting to come to a close as far as new and original bands are concerned.

Bands are beginning to sound more and more like their influences, whether it be the total blasting barrage of At The Gates, the unique song-writing of Arch Enemy, the original riffage of Soilwork, the sometimes off-beat-yet-still-able-to-work style of Night in Gales, the balls-out musicianship of Darkane, or the accessibility and melody of In Flames. While it is safe to say that in this early stage the band is wearing it¹s influences on it sleeve, it¹s also safe to say that it is so early in the young band¹s career that one can bet they will mature into a solid unit in their own right, proving that America too can belch out an awe-inspiring melodic death metal group. I decided to take the chance (while I still could) to interview Steve Stell, one half of the quintet¹s fantastic guitar duo, about these Chicagoans pretending to be Swedes.

Wormwood Chronicles: First off, I must say that I am fairly impressed with the professionalism of your style. This is a very tight unit that you play guitar for.

Steve Stell: Thank you. I guess there's always room for even more "tightness". It depends on what day you catch us on. We're capable of being very sloppy too! We've all been playing together for a while, so we're used to each others strong points as well as limitations, musically speaking. We find the balance somewhere in there, so the end result is an Enforsaken song. Or in some cases, a song that is eight minutes long, has 37 riffs in it, sounds like shit, and eventually ends up in the trash. Enforsaken is like a box of chocolates. You never know what the fuck you're gonna get.

WC: Can you give us a brief history of the band, how it formed, who formed it, who¹s in the band now, and what you guys originally set out to do?

SS: Pat and I formed the band back in 1998. Back then, it was just a side project for both Pat and I. We we're both playing in different bands. Both of these bands shared the same rehearsal room in Chicago, so occasionally Pat and I would get together and jam by ourselves. We wrote "Into The Everblack" And "Standing in the Shadows" as a two piece. We then recorded them in late1998 and put out our first release simply titled "promo 1999." We passed the tape around throughout the underground, but not many. Maybe only 200 copies of that tape are floating around out there. It got some very good reviews, so we decided to make Enforsaken a full time project. We got Joe DeGroot on guitar, Steve Sagala on vox, and Eric Kawa on bass. We've had the same line up now for about two years. We're all into metal, but also many other styles of music. So occasionally you can hear these other influences in our music. maybe not so much on "Embraced By Misery", but on our new material for sure. We're not straying too far from the style that we play, just a little. We haven't set out to do anything specific really. I personally just want to write catchy, heavy songs. Whatever the style. Just as long as they rock.

WC: Why did you decide to do things in this style of death metal, a la Arch Enemy, In Flames, At the Gates, as opposed to the more ³popular² version, the Cannibal Corpse, Deicide, Dying Fetus stuff?

SS: Well, we all are into European metal. We always have been. Joe, Pat and I have been playing this style for close to ten years now. I learned how to play guitar by jamming along with albums like Entombed's "Left Hand Path", Dismember's "Like an ever Flowing Stream", Pestilence's "Consuming Impulse", all of the Carcass albums etc. We've been doing this since we were 14 year old, zit faced, mullet headed high school kids. This is what we were raised on, this is what comes naturally for us. This is what we like. The ultra brutal Deicide, Fetus and Cryptopsy shit is cool too, but we're leaving that up to someone else I suppose.

WC: Do you ever feel like you¹re getting unfairly compared to certain bands, or are you maybe concerned that you¹ll just be written off as another Swedish-style death metal band?

SS: People can say what they want. I'll admit that "Embraced" is not some groundbreaking album, but it's still really good metal, at least I think so. We have the Swedish influences, but I don't think we're just a clone of In Flames or whoever. There's other things going on in there. We've thrown some American things into to mix as well. We've gotten a lot of very good reviews, the cd is selling very well and lots of people are really enjoying the album. Both here in the United States and overseas. Like I said, All we want to do is write good, catchy songs. Shit that you can sing along with in your car on the way home from work. We're not about to change a thing. If you don't like our style, go buy something else.

WC: The CD is cool not only in the sense of how the music is performed, but also in the production style. It¹s very Tomas Skogsberg-like.

SS: Chris Djuricic from Jungle Rot is responsible for that. We used his studio (Studio One), for the recording of "Embraced By Misery". It does sound like it came from Sunlight Studios, but that's not a bad thing. We didn't go in there and say "This thing has to sound exactly like a Dismember record", it just came out that way. We use Peavey 5150 guitar heads and Marshall cabinets, a Tama drum set, very limited effects etc. We would have liked to have been able to spend a few more days in the studio, but our budget wouldn't allow it. Some things could have been done better, but oh well... next time (it) will be different. We're still happy with it.

WC: Also, how did you manage to get Carlos (ex-keyboardist of Soilwork) to do the artwork and layout?

SS: I just contacted him through the internet. I knew that he'd done a lot of cool pieces for Soilwork and other bands, so I figured i'd give him a shot. He came up with several different things for us, but we settled on the "Nurse/corpse" picture. It's very gloomy and dark. I think it sets the mood of the cd very well. Carlos will be doing our next cd cover as well. He's cool as hell, and a pleasure to work with. He has a huge drinking problem though! Which is not a bad thing i guess. He would email me while he was working on the art, totally fucking wasted, saying how sick it was looking or whatever. But he rules for sure.

WC: Tell us about the hidden trackŠ why did you decide to do it?

SS: Three words... Carcass fucking rules! Carcass have been a very big influence on us. They are the greatest metal band of all time as far as I'm concerned. We did it becuase that song is a classic Carcass song, and we knew we could perform a cool version of it. I remember when they broke up.I wept like a little bitch for weeks! (Kinda like I did when Abba packed it in!--Dr. Mality)

WC: Generally speaking, how is the Chicago scene treating you?

SS: Very good. We've made a lot of new fans and friends at every show we've played. There are a lot of gore grind and black metal bands starting to sprout up around here too. Well, there's always been brutal bands, and that's good, but a lot of really fucking crappy black metal shit is coming from here nowadays. I'm sorry, but there is no such thing as "True Nordic Black Metal From Naperville, Rockford, Chicago etc." It's ridiculous. That "raw" black metal sound died 5 years ago in my eyes.

Your fucking corpsepaint/howling at the moon in the forest in the 2000's is the equivalent to the 1980's hair metal and lipstick; it sucks. Not just in Illinois, but everywhere. If you're not from Norway, please just stop it! Venificum are good, Night on Armon too. But they just take a few of the influences. They know how to play their instruments. We have some early/mid 90's Bm influences as well, but we don't go all crazy over it. Whatever. I could bitch for hours on this subject.

WC: Do you ever find it difficult to find bands to play shows with? It seems to me that most of the death metal bands are that whole ³Beat-each-other-to-the-end-of-the-song²-style and most other band that play European-style metal are power metal or black metal.

SS: No, not really. We've played with all kinds of bands, even hardcore. Some crowds are better than others. There is another very good band from Illinois called Abolisher that we've played with a couple of times. They're very, very good. They remind me of Opeth, but not a rip off or anything. They're very unique. Keep your eyes open for them!

WC: Have any labels shown any interest in you yet?

SS: Whoops! Somebody didn't read our bio! ha ha! We're signed to Lifeforce Records. They are a German label that usually just deals with hardcore. We are their first 100% metal band. They have been doing lots of great things for us in Europe. I'd say that 10 times as many people know of us in Europe than in the States. The cd is selling very well, and we are all pleased with Lifeforce. Everyone needs to check out Say hello to Stefan!

WC: Any weird stories you could tell us about playing shows? Any ³Spinal Tap² moments, as we call Œem?

SS: No, not yet! Actually, when we were recording "Embraced", I got into a fistfight with Pat. It was a very ugly moment for sure. He opened the bathroom door on me while I was busy with a "number 2". I was pissed, so I came out, started to get in his face about it. He picked me up and threw me on the floor, being the huge manly man that he is. Then I got up and decked the motherfucker in the jaw. He couldn't believe that i actually cracked him. So, for like the entire mixing process, we didn't talk to each other and were talking shit. We eventually became friends again when he ran out of cigarettes and needed to bum one off of me. Then he was really nice.

WC: (just for shits and giggles) On to a somewhat more personal question pertaining to you, I noticed in the CD booklet that you had long hair, but at Metalfest you were well-groomed and short-haired! What made you decide to cut it short?

SS: Clean cut! I'm not well groomed at all. I have some of the hairiest sideburns and lots of back/butt hair. Ha! Just kidding. Well,I cut my hair just because i wanted a bit of a change.I was also sick of getting it stuck in closing doors, all of the tangles, ponytails etc. I'm 25 now. I had long hair for over 10 years, be it a mullet in the early 90's, Kurt Cobain style, Down past my nipples all around, whatever. it's starting to grow back now. I think I'll grow it all back when I'm an old man. Old men with long hair are cool... not that I'm gay or anything!

WC: Any last words?

SS: Arnold, Thank you very much for taking some time out to chat with me. Wormwood is a great zine, and I wish all of you guys the best of luck with it. Everyone please check our "Embraced by Misery" cd. You can get more info on Enforsaken by visiting Thanks again!!