Hurtlocker have been around for quite a few years now. Finally they have laid down a brutal, ferocious slab of traditional death metal, with some modern leanings.
I recently caught up with vocalist, Grant Belcher and guitarist, Tim Moe, to get the low-down from Chicagoís finest death metallers.
Hurtlocker have been around for quite a while now, yet 'Fear in a Handful of Dust' is your first release on Napalm Records. Is this your first complete album? I know you have done a few demos and released, 'Reflection Of Desperation'.
GB: Yes this is our first complete album. We released demo after demo for a while because it was an affordable way to keep new music coming out to the kids. Prior to having a label and distribution there was really no reason for us to spend the money on a full length. And to be honest hearing ďFearĒ today makes me think it was a good thing to wait so long because I am really proud of how the band has evolved up to this point. I think if we were to have written a full length long ago it wouldnít have come out near as violent as ďfearĒ did.
How did you hook up with Napalm Records? It seems unusual for a Chicago band to hook up with an Austrian label?
GB: A friend of ours here in Chicago used to own a record label back in the day and he received and email from Napalm stating they were looking for an American metal band. He forwarded their info to us and we had just gotten finished recording ďReflectionĒ And at the time were in talks with a few US labels but nothing that was really appealing to us. Most of the labels just wanted the album for free basically and werenít offering the commitment that Napalm came to the table with.
Was it difficult to get a deal?
GB: No. We have had offers on the table for 6 years but like I said they werenít offering really anything that we as a band couldnít do for ourselves. When NAPALM stepped up it was with enthusiasm and commitment to HL from tour support to advertising to distribution. So we finally thought we had found a partner in all this. And so far so good!
TM: Napalm really made us feel wanted as with the other labels we got this feeling like yeah we want you but we canít do much for you. When Napalm sent their offer they were really upfront about making us a priority especially over here in the states seeing we are their only US band. We just felt like this was in are best interest.
'Fear In A Handful Of Dust' is a brutal album, was this your intention?
Or is it just something that came naturally?
GB: Both. As a band we have naturally always been heavy but in the past we had tried to put in hooks or even some melodies trying to think of what might go well with others out there or what might the labels like etc. But with ďFearĒ we said F*ck it we are just going to play fast and heavy ad blast beats and hyper doubles lots of triplets and not think about what others might like but what we feel good playing. And it worked! So the direction on Fear was defiantly very intentional. And in the future we intend on going even more brutal. Why stop now you know?
I can hear some classic death metal influences on the album, do you listen to any particular band that influences your sound, or do you take lots of little things from many bands?
TM: I would have to say that I try to take as much as I can, but I have a definite select few that are the main influence. If you listen to our older stuff you would hear more slayer type stuff and as the years went on I think that we started adding more death metal to the mix and I mean old death metal like your Malevolent Creations and Obituaryís stuff like that. I still listen to those bands today as well as bands like Exhorder and Demolition Hammer and I still will draw influence from them. Itís a mixture of those bands I just mentioned and your bay area thrash movement that have had the biggest effect on my playing so thatís why you probably hear these things.
For myself it was quite a shock to hear something this heavy. I normally listen to what you call melodic death metal. Yet the album was almost instantly appealing to me.
TM: Thatís one thing we hear a lot, and the other is that it took a few listens to understand where we are coming from. I think that the songs are heavy and fast and sometimes people donít hear all the little things that make these songs what they are. We tried to be very aggressive on the album and try to capture some of the energy from our live shows because I would say we are more of a live monster than anything. We just like the fact that people can listen to this album and just get there asses kicked for 30 minutes and then they can go about their day. Even with the heaviness of the album I think people can relate to the songs and just shout out with the lyrics and get some aggression out also.
Having such an intense sound on album, I am taking a wild guess that your live show is even more brutal and intense?
TM: The live show is something we take great pride in. We have shared the stage with many big names and we have held our own every time. It is as crazy as can be and recently we have added a second guitar player Pete Manzella to thicken it up and it sounds sick to say the least. The songs have a tendency to get a little faster and just fly, we can play the whole album in a 30 minute set but we probably will not play, ĎLie To Meí any time soon.
You've toured with lots of bigger acts, who was the best to tour with?
Do you enjoy touring and supporting the more well known bands?
We really havenít toured with these bands as much as just got on local shows as they came through Chicago. We really like jamming with big named bands and using them as a measuring stick to where we are as a live band. Some of the best shows we had were with Anthrax , Dying Fetus, Lamb Of God these were all killer shows and we fit well with the crowds who from the bands mentioned are a little different. We would play a show with anyone, we used to have a saying give us beer and gas money and will play anywhere.
Lots of so called death metal acts, without naming names, have changed their sound rather drastically. What's you opinion on the current death metal scene and can you see Hurtlocker changing their sound too much in the future?
TM: I personally hate when a band puts out a few albums and then out of the blue switches direction. I donít mind bands that try different things but in death metal donít change from a brutal blast band to some weak groove metal with death vocals because itís crap and the fans can see right through it. I think the scene is making a comeback over here, I have no idea of what it is like in Europe but it was dead here for a while. In the near future Hurtlocker is probably going to get heavier, but not noise heavy. We are not going to tune so low itís not understandable, but definitely heavier.
Do any of the band have days jobs? How does this mix with recording and touring with the band? Is it tough juggling the two and perhaps a family life as well?
TM: Everybody in the band has a day job and we all hate them about the same. It is a little difficult for some of the members to commit to stuff knowing we are an opening act and we do not get compensated very well. I think for the most part you donít play this type of music because you want to be rich; you play it because you love the music. We have been through members in the past that have had to step away because of personal reasons, but thatís the way things go. As bad as it may seem if you arenít going to give this your all you shouldnít even get involved in the first place.
Hailing from Chicago and being a massive baseball fan myself, I have to ask are any of the band White Sox fans? Or Cubs fans? How good was it to be from Chicago when the WS title was clinched in Houston?
TM: I am a huge baseball fan and it was great to see the White Sox win it all this year. Grant is from Texas originally so during the series the sh*t talking was on with his buddies from Houston but that was over just like the Astros. Itís always good for Chicago to have a successful team, the fans of sports and music here in this city are diehards. They deserve to have a team every now and then, do something great.
Interview © 2006