Cleveland, Ohio’s Rust Belt Thrash Bastards Return With Ten New Tracks of Skull Smashing Metal Mastery!
Even amongst the underground’s harshest diehard critics, AUBURN RECORDS is renown for some of the most revered releases of the last 25 years. The label continues to harness excellent metal talent in and around Cleveland, Ohio, which has led to their bands earning prestigious stints on the international stage, including some of Europe’s largest festivals, like Wacken, Bang Your Head, Headbangers Open Air and Keep It True, in Germany, or Up The Hammers, in Greece. Caustic vocal thrashers SOULLESS now join that impressive roster. “Younger kids might call us death metal,” says singer Jim Lippucci, “but I’d say we’re sort of German thrash meets IRON MAIDEN. It’s not brutal, in the death metal sense, and there’s no breakdowns. We grew up on the original thrash movement. Back in the day, you didn’t have the delineation of the music. POSSESSED, VENOM, EXODUS, they were all just called ‘thrash.’ We try to have a couple songs on each record that also have some doomy parts. We love TROUBLE and try to pay homage to our predecessors.” On this record, that includes the opening riffs to ‘Burnt Earth.’ The frontman agrees, adding, “Overall, this might be our slowest record.”
SOULLESS are not some locally-based newcomers. Members have played in touring bands like CHARRED WALLS OF THE DAMNED, BEYOND FEAR and RINGWORM. They were cited by BW&BK’s for Best Demo and In Death’s Grip now marks the outfit’s fourth full-length, including a pair for Japan’s World Chaos label: Agony’s Lament and Forever Defiant. According to Lippucci (whose vocal approach recalls Baloff-era EXODUS), it was time to bring the marketing/promotion arm closer to home, working with longtime supporter/AUBURN president Bill Peters, “We’ve been doing In Death’s Grip all on our own and as we were finishing it up, we talked to him; ‘We’re going to have to shop this ourselves.’ Then he stepped in. We’ve always wanted to work with Bill, but I guess we’re too Satanic for him, or maybe we drink (labelmates) DESTRUCTOR’s beer too much. We’ve listened to his radio show since we were 16, drinking beer in my friend’s mom’s basement. It’s cool to be on his label now.”
In a genre known for dour faces and vitriol, Lippucci’s and SOULLESS great sense of humor shines through, although it never invades the music. “We’re partiers and goofballs. There’s rarely a serious moment when you’re around us. We are the sum of our experiences, the Cleveland winters and the crushing economy in this town,” he half-heartedly mocks, before turning serious. “I’ve always liked the serious approach to music. If there’s going to be something humorous in there, I’d prefer it to be an inside joke.”
The twelve songs comprising In Death’s Grip are no laughing matter, even though there’s no titular track. “Originally, album was going to be World Of Ruin, which is a song on the album, but a Canadian band issued one called that, so we decided to change it. I’d written the lyrics to, ‘Death’s Icy Grip’ and then our drummer had the idea for that (title) variation knocking around in his head. The song was actually written by our former guitarist. It’s a little different, but it’s representative of our attitude. We’re hesitant to throw something out that someone brings to the table. We like it to be a true amalgamation of all our influences. It’s also a good title to illustrate around.” Which brings us to the cover art, featuring the band’s mascot, “He’s getting ground up by this giant machine, anvils smashing his head in. It ties in with the concept of In Death’s Grip. The album intro, ‘Vindictae Dei’ means God’s vengeance. It’s inspired by the cover, an audio picture of the artwork. On our last record, Forever Defiant, our mascot had freed himself from the torment of the first album (artwork). There are a bunch of dead angels at his feet and he’s looking up at the Heavens, pissed at God. Well on this one, he’s got his comeuppance: imprisoned in this machine that’s grinding him to pieces. This is the third cover Matt Cavotta’s done for us. He does a lot of Magic; The Gathering stuff and illustrates Dungeons & Dragons books. He also did an AUTOPSY Ep cover not too long ago.”
Asked his opinion about the strongest material on In Death’s Grip, Lippucci doesn’t hesitate, “Serpent Reaper’ is one of my favorites. I utilized some lyrics I had kicking around, a ghost story. The name actually comes from a nickname that a friend of our guitarist Wayne gave me. I have no idea what (nickname) means, but thought it sounded cool as Hell, so I incorporated it into the song. That one has all the stuff we like about SOULLESS. It has melody, slower parts, faster stuff. Most people agree, that’s one of the stronger songs on the album. ‘Bury The Cross’ is one of the cooler tunes. It’s an upbeat shredder.”