Vader - Father Knows Best

By Dr. Abner Mality

If Vader had been around in World War II, I think Hitler might have been too scared to invade Poland. One blast of the veteran band's bloodthirsty death metal would have seen the Sturmtruppen running back across the border for polka and Richard Wagner.

Vader is one of those elite bands who helped to shape a genre, in this case death metal. But coming from disadvantaged Poland, the obstacles for them were tougher than they would be for, say, Obituary. But it's precisely this adversity that has forged the focused nature of their sound. Bridging the gap between Slayer and Morbid Angel, Vader plays with ferocity and tightness to challenge and maybe surpass both those bands.

"Impressions in Blood", the new Vader LP, comes hot on the heels of the "Art of War" EP. Both offerings demonstrate that after more than 20 years, complacency is not in the Vader vocabulary. On the recent Metal Crusade tour, which they undertook with Kataklysm, Destruction, Speed/Kill/Hate, Graveworm and The Absence, I got a chance to hook up with the band's "general", Peter. I have to thank my bodacious blonde companion Hydra, who banged on the tour bus door and yelled "Peter! I want Peter!" to get his attention. That never fails...

Anyway, here's the result of our conversation...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Is the Metal Crusade your first headlining tour of America?

PETER: No, not at all. Our first tour here was like 1993, but that was not a headliner. We were supporting Deicide at that time. After that, we headlined two or three times. But the Metal Crusade tour is pretty much way better prepared than anything we've done before, so we can say this is our first really big headlining tour. This is a pretty big package.

WC: How many years has Vader been around precisely? It has to be at least 20.

P: I think it's more. 1983 was the beginning. That's the year we took the name "Vader". But in those early years, we were looking for a style. We wanted to be an extreme band but extremity at that time meant something different. We were pretty much influenced by heavy metal such as Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Motorhead, Saxon. When Slayer came out with "Show No Mercy", they changed the way we thought about extremity. Around 1986 was when we started to play shows with the style we really wanted.

WC: You've been around for such a long span of time, things in Poland really changed so much, including the fall of Communism.

P: Yeah, but that didn't mean things always changed for the better. A lot of the passion during those old days was so intense, but now product from Vader is much more available so some of that passion has faded away. Not all, of course, but it's not the same. The motivation is not there as much when you have everything easily available. It doesn't mean as much as when you have to fight to get something.

WC: Despite that, Poland seems to be the home of so many great technical death metal bands. You had to be among the first...the forefathers of that scene.

P: It's funny because the word "Vader" in Dutch or Norwegian means "father". And we are kind of the fathers of extreme metal in Poland. We're not the only ones who started but we're the only ones who survived. That's an important thing.

WC: I've been following underground metal for a long time and I remember names like Turbo...

P: Turbo was pretty big in Poland. They had albums recorded when we were just trying to dream about doing them. That was in the days of vinyl records. We had to wait many, many years to get our first album out, in 1992.

WC: There were other old names like Acid Drinkers, Wolf Spider...

P: They are still existing! I'm talking more about the extreme scene, bands like Imperator, like Slaughter...yes, we had another one in Poland!(laughter). But these bands just disappeared over time.

WC: The Poles have an affinity for your type of technical death metal.

P: I got a chance on our tours to compare the scenes of different countries. Poland's scene is really strong because there are many different styles of metal and many bands are good technical composers because of this. There are so many bands worldwide playing metal and there are so few that can hold your attention. In Poland, the percentage of bands that can hold your attention is pretty high. In my opinion, they should have more of a chance to show themselves to the rest of the world.

WC: You recently changed your record label from Metal Blade to Regain Records. What was the reason for the switch?

P: The same reason we have changed labels in the past. Not enough attention for us. We don't expect anything special from a label but we do expect a kind of trust for our band and our music. We could not do anything more on our own than we did without support from a record label. We expect this sort of support from Regain and right now we are full of hope. Metal Blade in America is quite different from Metal Blade in Europe. Metal Blade in Europe did a lot for us...they wanted to help us. Metal Blade in America...I had the chance to talk to the bosses there and what I heard was "You're great, man!" and that was it. (chuckles) Nothing more!

WC: They didn't have a plan, in other words.

P: Right, right. If a record company puts all their attention on three other bands, they're not the record company for us, because we need to be one of those bands! We need to have a chance. We spent a long time waiting for more from Metal Blade America and we expected more.

WC: Vader is similar to the band you're playing with tonight, Kataklysm, in that you have both slowly and steadily built up a following instead of just exploding on the scene with a big hit. That's the preferable way to do things, wouldn't you think?

P: Probably that's why we're still here after so many years. We never expected overnight success like "Boom"! A fast success usually kills a band pretty easy. I've watched bands who were as high up as you could get. Then a few years later...nothing. This is a business. If a record company gives you money, they expect to get that money and more back. If you can't satisfy them....(chuckles).

WC: It seems these days that anybody can put out a record, but very few can make money from it!

P: It's stupid to think about money when you're playing metal, especially the kind of metal we play. Of course, I'm happy we've become a professional band. This is our job, we put all our attention on the music. The creation of it, practicing, touring. This is the meaning of Vader...playing tours for the fans. But the touring came later, after a lot of hard work and belief in what we are doing. Not too many people know that there is a price for what we do. We don't really have a private life, to be honest. We spend a big part of every year touring or spending time in the studio.

WC: It takes a lot of discipline.

P: Really! The fans see success...they see your picture in the magazine or on a poster or they see you at a show. But they
don't know how much you have to pay for that. The only way to do this is to be dedicated, 100%. It's the only way to realize yourself and your potential.

WC: The next question is kind of intense. When you're up on stage this year, do you ever look back at the drumkit and still see Doc there? (Former Vader drummer Doc died in 2005 after a long battle with addiction--Mality)

P: Actually, I don't think that way. I knew Doc a long time, I tried to help him so many times. I lost a passion for it after many years of trials, of trying to explain to him what was so clear for everybody else. So he was my friend. I'm so sorry that something like this happened, that I could do nothing after so many attempts. So this should be a lesson for stories end when you can't control yourself. That's about all I can say about that. What we're trying to do now is to help Doc's family.

WC: That's a great attitude to have. Moving on, I know that some members of Vader are involved in "side projects" such as Dies Irae...

P: That's our guitarist Mauser's band. They have about 3 albums out. What I know from him is that they are taking a long break.

WC: So despite the side projects, Vader is always the primary concern.

P: It is. But we have projects besides Mauser's. Our drummer Daray is in the band Vesania, which has members from Behemoth in it as well. I have a project which is more heavy metal, the style which influenced me in the 80's and 90's. If I can get more time outside of Vader, we'll start recording with this project.

WC: What was the last CD you picked up just for your own enjoyment?

P: Got a vinyl copy of Saxon's "Wheels of Steel" just last week.

WC: You can't go wrong with that!

P: Vinyl is my passion. It was magic, you know.

WC: Definitely! (laughter) There was something about opening them up and smelling that smell...

P: It was a ritual! You'd put the disc on the pad; wait for the arm to come around...

WC: Remember the gatefold sleeves? No CD can duplicate that!

P: No, not at all.

WC: And there's something about the sound too, even if it crackles and pops.

P: Right. It was more dynamic, more real.

WC: In the long career of Vader, is there any kind of Spinal Tap moment you'd like to share with the fans?

P: We travel a lot, we play a lot, there's always something happening, it's hard for any one thing to stand out. I don't have a hard disk in my mind to remember it all! (laughter)

WC: Any tidbits on the full-length Vader coming out this year?

P: Yes, it's going to be out in Europe in September. It's gonna be delayed in the States as always. I'm hoping just a month and not any more. It's going to be called "Impressions in Blood".

WC: Your recent EP "The Art of War" was outstanding. It was so focused and there was nothing wasted.

P: It's going to be something similar but better. (chuckles)

WC: I'm really looking forward to it!

Vader's Official Website