MANTIC RITUAL "A Matter of Execution"

Interview by Dr. Abner Mality

The thrash wave rolls on and at the crest is Mantic Ritual. Formerly known as Meltdown, they've been plying their trade for four years now and have landed a strong deal with Nuclear Blast Records. The result is the debut album "Executioner" where the band demonstrate their strong Bay Area chops with catchy yet potent tunes echoing the best of Exodus and Metallica.

Will the current thrash revival stay strong or fizzle out? I talked to guitarist Jeff Potts about the potential for both, but one thing's for sure...Mantic Ritual plans on being around for a while no matter what the prevailing winds of taste are...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Mantic Ritual will be a new name to a lot of people but you've actually been around for a while. Is this the first real band for you guys or were you involved in some prior projects?

JEFF POTTS: Our previous bands were nothing that really did a lot of gigging or playing. Our drummer was in a grind band. I was in a rock band in high school and briefly in a prog metal band in college. I think our bass player was involved in something else. For our singer Dan, this is his first band. He's the one who formed it.

WC: Did you know right from the beginning that Mantic Ritual was something special or did it just evolve that way?

JP: It evolved pretty naturally but I can definitely say that within a very short time of being in this band, I knew it was something good. Here we are with four competent musicians. Everybody shows up to practice on time, nobody has anything better to do, nobody would rather do something besides play a gig that weekend. Everyone was dedicated and it wasn't even a question. It was like, what else could we be doing? We like doing this.

WC: It's cool when you see all the pieces fit together.

JP: Yeah, it's cool. It's like, dude, this is what I've been looking for. The chemistry with the musicians is there, I like playing with these guys.

WC: What does the name Mantic Ritual mean and where did it come from?

JP: We were called Meltdown but there was another band called Meltdown. We wanted to avoid any future hassles we decided to change our name before we do the label release. "Mantic" means prophetic or seeing the future. You can take what you want from that.

WC: Was it hard giving up the Meltdown name?

JP: Yeah, we had it for four years. At first, it was like, oh man, I can't believe we've got to change the name. But I think Mantic Ritual is cool because it's more of a general metal name. You can't hear it and immediately think of what the band sounds like. With Meltdown, it has a thrashy sound to like it. Well, what if we don't always sound like that, you know?

WC: Right now, you're unashamedly a thrash metal band. What attracts you to thrash as opposed to metalcore, death metal or one of the other metal genres?

JP: We've always liked stuff that's fast and aggressive, wtih a lot of solos. A lot of people think because we play thrash that we're into all thrash that's every happened, that we have an encyclopedic knowledge of it. That's not really true. We like the thrash that's CATCHY! We're all big Beatles fans,too! We're punk rock fans. We like stuff that's catchy. Stuff like the early Metallica songs...those are just well put together songs. That's what we want to be.

WC: You've got one song called "Next Attack" which is so much like a "Kill 'Em All" track that it brought tears to my eyes!

JP: You can tell which songs were written earlier because those are the purely Metallica influenced songs.

WC: Is there one particular band more than any other which inspired you?

JP: Yeah, definitely "Kill 'Em All/ Ride The Lightning/Master of Puppets" era Metallica.

WC: It's no secret that there are a lot of thrash bands popping out of the woodwork right now. How do you plan to stand out from the pack?

JP: Number one, we always try to stand out with our live show. We have some passion about what we do. We play like we mean it. We think that comes through...I hope that comes through. And also definitely what I was talking about earlier...catchiness. Catchy songs has always been so big for us. And it's not just for metal. In our opinion, that's what makes better music. Having that influence, tyring to be as good as we can at our instruments but not overtly showing off...that helps,too.

WC: There's a difference between playing tight and overdoing it.

JP: We try to be good at our instruments so we can make our songs sound good, not so we can write the most insane things you've ever heard. We leave that to the death metal bands, because they're better at it than we are anyway.

WC: What do you think was the greatest thrash album that was ever put out?

JP: The first thing that comes to my head is "Kill 'Em All" but I also am really drawn to "Rust In Peace" by Megadeth. Some people don't think it's real thrash. I want to talk about a good but technical metal album, it's perfect.

WC: There is very raw thrash and then there is a more musical version and that's what Megadeth is.

JP: I really love that stuff. I don't know about some of the other guys. Some of them are like, ehhhh, I'm OK with Megadeth. But I'm a really big fan.

WC: Do you guys play out a lot? Are you pretty active that way?

JP: Oh yeah. Even before we signed the deal, we were going somewhere on every weekend. We just finished a tour with Rotting Christ in January, we played a couple of dates with Exodus in December which was super cool. We'll be going out with Destruction and Krisiun in March and then Sworn Enemy and Pro-Pain in June and July and we're working on stuff for fall right now. (They will be opening for Marduk on their first US tour, which is a strange pairing...Dr. M)

WC: Sounds like you've got a lot on your guys are originally from Pittsburgh. Was there any kind of metal scene there or were you guys lone wolves?

JP: We were sorta lone wolves. There are some really cool bands here, there's bands we really like, but in metal, there's not a lot. I can think of five bands.

WC: I believe you relocated to the West Coast...

JP: Yeah. There were some cool bands and music in Pittsburgh, but not a lot of venues. It's the same 25 people going to all the shows. We talked to some bands from LA and in the summer of 2006, we went out there and played some gigs. As soon as we did that, we were like, we had to be here.

WC: We've talked to some thrashers from there. Merciless Death are pretty cool guys...

JP: Yeah, we actually crashed at their house when we were out there the first time.

WC: How do you guys come up with songs? Do you have a mastermind or does everybody throw something into the pot?

JP: It's a little bit of both. Dan our singer is the main songwriter. He'l come up with some ideas and work some stuff out with our drummer Adam and then we all get together to work out details and structure the song. If there's gonna be solos, we figure out who's doing them and where. We just tweak things..see if we can play a certain riff in a certain key...and over time, the song evolves into its final form.

WC: In the future, how do you see Mantic Ritual evolving? Will it change significantly or will it still to the template laid out on "Executioner"?

JP: There's definitely gonna be an evolution. We will always have the fast, aggressive songs, but there's also gonna be changes. We're doing a lot of writing right now because we're at home, we wanted to get something done. I think you'll see more influence from stuff besides thrash. Probably more melody. We're all knowledgeable musicians and we want to use what we know, but do it in a tasteful way.

WC: Do you want to avoid taking it as far as Metallica did in the 90's? You want to put melody in but not blunt your edge?

JP: Definitely not. I think Metallica had melody on "Ride The Lightning" and "Master of Puppets" and it was great. That's the kind of melody we're talking about. Megadeth had some great melodic stuff. Or like Mercyful Fate, you know? As a band, Fate might be our favorite band.

WC: As far as guitar solos go, it's hard to beat Mercyful Fate.

JP: Oh yeah. As far as Dan goes, that's his main influence. On all the tracks on "Executioner", you can hear how much this guy loves Fate.

WC: Speaking of Metallica, do you think they are still relevant? What did you think of "Death Magnetic", is that a step back in the right direction?

JP: I dunno, it's just so contrived because people have been bitching at them to play fast again for almost 20 years now. They're kinda screwed either way now, because now you can't help thinking, are they just doing this because thrash and the guitar solo is popular again? They're playing fast and putting a million riffs in their songs but I don't think they're putting the songs together as well as they used to. Their songs used to be so perfectly written and put together. You hear these new songs and it's like, you've got some pretty cool riffs but I'm just not feeling it, you know?

WC: What do you say to people who say the new wave of thrash is just another fad like nu-metal or grunge that's going to pass by pretty soon?

JP: Part of me thinks that they are probably right. There's so many bands right now, it's so saturated. Every label says lets pick up a couple of thrash bands and cram them in everybody's face.

WC: I've seen it before. It happened in 1989. The labels picked up bands I'd never heard of before. Right now, in Southern California, you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a thrash band.

JP: Oh yeah, it's true. When we were living out there, it was insane. Any kids could put on high tops and buy a guitar and say they're a thrash band. Bam! Built-in fan base!(laughs)

WC: Well, the wheat gets separated from the chaff pretty quickly.

JP: That's when these fads happen. The labels pick up bands left and right and they're not ready for it.

WC: In the 80's, a band had to prove themselves for quite a while before they got signed. They'd have to have hundreds of shows underneath their belt, do demos,7 inches and EPs before they could even think about signing. Now it's pretty easy to get your music heard but it's almost impossible to make any money at it.

JP: That's very true. Some bands have barely played live and the label will not even see them but still they'll sign them. Are you kidding me?

WC: Well, you can have two million "friends" on Myspace, but how many of them will buy the album if it comes out?

JP: Exactly.

WC: Let's get into the lyrical end of Mantic Ritual. The topics so far seem to be serial killers, monster on the rampage and fun stuff. Is there more to it that I'm missing?

JP: A lot of it is just the fun aggressive stuff like killing and murder but we're definitely getting away from that on the new
stuff. There's a song on "Executioner" called "Thrashatonement" that I really like. It's about how nobody thinks for themselves, commercialism does all their thinking for them.

WC: In the old days, there was a mixture of the cool fantasy stuff and hard-edged political thought. That seems to be a good way to go.

JP: Yeah, if you listen to "Rust In Peace", you'd have a song like "Holy Wars" and then something like "Five Magics".

WC: Is there one ideal band that you'd like to share a stage with?

JP: We'd all love to go back out with Exodus again. There's so many bands I'd like to play with, I'd love to go with Megadeth. Personally, I'd like to play with Blind Guardian, but I don't see us fitting with them.

WC: Your best best there would be to get on a big festival with them over in Europe. Have you ever played in Europe yet?

JP: No, we recorded the album out there, though. We were booked for a festival out there but we had to back out. We were going to try and tour around it, but it just didn't work. It was the Keep It True Festival and we had to pull out, which we felt really bad about. It made no sense to fly to Europe to play just one show.

WC: What was the last CD you got just because you wanted to check it out?

JP: Hmmmm, I got a lot of CDs lately. Let me think...I got the new Angra recently.

WC: What was the last show you went to just because you wanted to check out the band?

JP: I was on tour so much, I didn't get to check out many shows. Actually, I went to go see Warbringer when they played Pittsburgh not long ago.

WC: That would be a natural band for you to hook up with.

JP: We actually know those guys, they're cool dudes.

WC: Has there ever been any Spinal Tap moment in the history of your band that you want to share with the readers?

JP: Wow! (chuckles) Lots of 'em! I can say that in my first actual gig with the band, the singer Dan got his hair caught in my guitar strings and almost yanked the guitar right out of my hands!

WC: That could have been tragic!

JP: We got shocked by the crappy power at a shitty venue once. I almost fell over, I forgot what song we were playing. I felt like I got punched in the face and I looked over at Dan and he looked the exact same way. That was pretty funny!

WC: Did if cause your hair to stick up in the air?

JP: Yeah, it was pretty insane!

WC: Any last words for the fans?

JP: Hopefully we'll meet you on the road. Stop by the merch table after the show and say hi, we love to hang out.