Vulture - Interview

The spirit of the good old traditional thrash/speed metal from the 80's still lives on, as long as there are numerous pure and passionate bands who never stray off their path and always stay true to themselves, without letting pretentiousness and ego get in their way. Case and point are the German band Vulture, who have been doing great for nearly a decade since their inception, especially with all the full-length albums and shows that they play in front of many crazed old-school metal fans around the world. As their cult following grows bigger and bigger, their latest album "Sentinels" grows even stronger, especially with all the positive comments that they received from fans and critics who were more than pleased with the final result. A lot of people, including myself, consider "Sentinels" to be their best album so far, especially because they continued where they left off with their previous album "Dealin' Death" from 2021, and have only expanded their sound since then. Vulture is like a gift that keeps on giving, always providing plenty of amazing stuff from start to finish, and never leading anyone to disappointment or frustration. As of recently, I had a nice chat with their drummer Gereon Nikolay via Zoom, where we talked about the album "Sentinels", Vulture's overall progress, and we also tackled many other things along the way, including the subject of Slayer's reunion in 2024. I hope that this conversation will be pleasant and engaging for you as it was for me, because we really had a great time discussing all these aforementioned subjects, to which I am sure would interest you too.


Hi Gereon, how are you doing brother?

I am good, just finished work. I was working until basically just like a minute ago, and yeah, I am doing the interview now hahah. 

So, recently I was listening to your latest album "Sentinels" back and forth, and I have to say that this one really surpassed all my expectations. I would probably say that this is your best album since "Ghastly Waves & Battered Graves", if not THE best Vulture album so far.

Thank you very much man hahah.

How do you guys feel about the overall feedback you got from fans and critics?

So far, we have been very overwhelmed, everyone else is also very positive about the album, everybody really likes it. Didn't really have any bad comments in the video or bad reviews or something, like everything was very good. We are very happy and proud about it.

The great thing about this album is that even though it's done in a very old-school speed/thrash metal fashion, the ideas really are incredibly fresh and nothing sounds out of style or incredibly generic. How did the band approach the work on this album? What were you trying to get most out of "Sentinels"?

For the latest records, Ghastly Waves & Battered Graves and Dealin' Death, we always had like very elegant and strong ideas for it. For Ghastly Waves it was just a lot going on in the end, the whole sound was very full of reverb and I think we overdid it a bit, so for Dealin' Death we also had this idea of scaling everything a bit down, and maybe not going too crazy, just trying to get more catchy songs and not too complex song structures. That was our plan for Dealin' Death, but for Sentinels it was kind of the same but also, the whole songwriting process was more natural. We just wrote the songs together and did a pre-production and we took a bit more time, normally it always takes more or less two years until the new album, now it was three. We just wrote more songs than we needed to do, and then we also didn't take every song we have. We just picked our favorite ones and then reworked them after a while, some songs weren't finished and then we touched them after half a year or so, to check if they are still good enough and maybe see if there is something to add. Like, for 'Oathbreaker', the latest single we did, the song was basically written down and finished, but then Stefan had the idea that maybe we need an intro for it to make it feel more complete for example, so all this detail work was more on the spot or more feeling of your body, if you know what I mean. It was a bit more relaxed without too many thoughts beforehand; I think it's also the best idea we had.

Yeah, and the result is wonderful. Basically, you ended up with an album where people have a hard time picking their favorite songs because from start to finish the album is all killer and overall, it's non-stop fun, but I have to say that 'Realm Of The Impaler', 'Where There's A Whip (There Is A Way)', 'Death Row', 'Oathbreaker' and 'Sentinels (Heavier Than Time)' are some exceptional examples. Which songs stand out to you the most and for what reason?

I think the song which stands out for me is 'Sentinels' because this is by far our slowest song, from the first listen you might think that this may be the least Vulture-esque song, but this is one of my favorite tracks from the album, because it's got like a heavy metal feeling, not too much of a speed metal vibe, but also has this kind nice mix of Accept and Exodus vibe but with like Leo (L. Steeler) on the vocals, also this middle part which is almost like a bit of disco, so I think this stands out the most because it's got like this heavy stuff and also like this speed metal influence, of course the double lead in the middle. I think this is the one that stands out the most. My favorite song is 'Where There's A Whip (There Is A Way)', because I think this song combines everything Vulture stands for like "high speed metal", double leads, catchy chorus and I think those two are definitely my favorite picks from the album.

The part where you mentioned Accept, because of that mid-tempo heavy metal, that's one of those things I noticed, and Exodus and of course early Metallica. A lot of those bands have incorporated that mid-tempo heavy, borderline slow thrash stuff. I was really happy to have heard that on the album because this is one of those albums where it throws you back to the first time when you heard those bands and kind of you experience that all again, so it's like nostalgia in a way.

Yeah, exactly. Of course, it pays tribute to the bands we all love, but we try to make it our own in a way, especially with the song 'Sentinels', this is something new for us, this almost slow-tempo in comparison to our other stuff, but yeah, I think it's super fun and we're definitely gonna continue in the future writing these kinds of songs, because it's just so much fun to play and I think also all the other people really like it, everybody who listened to the album really liked this stuff. I think it really loosens up the whole record, it's not just full power/full throttle, it also gives some space to breathe, I would say.

It's great that you expanded your sound in such a way, it's a risky decision but it worked out in the end. I am really looking forward to hearing more of that kind of stuff in the future.

Thank you.

I saw the recently uploaded behind-the-scenes YouTube videos regarding the recording of the album, and judging by what we've seen happen along the way, you can safely say that you managed to come out triumphant in the end despite the challenges you have faced during that whole process. Was there anything else that happened during the making of the album or sometime in the pre-release period?

What we always do, before the actual record, we always do demos, so for the songs we wrote, we do like a proper demo recording of it so we could actually hear how it would sound with a good production, not just from the rehearsal room. We always take a lot of time to do this, and also prior to the recording, we always have like very long talks with our producer Marco from Hellforge Studios, where we talk a lot about sound in general like how we want everything to sound. We always give him examples of how we want the guitars to sound and how we want the drums to sound. We give him examples from old records and stuff, so before we go in the studios, we have a lot of pre-thinking before we start recording, there is like less things we have to worry about in the end, because there's going to be something in the studio which can go wrong or we're not satisfied with the sound. This process always happens before that.

Yeah, I really like the overall production of the album, it's very organic and of course it all comes down to the drum sound and to the guitar sound. You know how it works nowadays, a lot of the bands try so hard to make their albums sound as high quality as possible, very top-notch modern production and everything just sounds very sterile and there isn't really any kind of substance along the way when you actually think about it. The bands that incorporate that kind of production, they are always like "style over substance", but I am glad that Vulture isn't one of those bands like "yeah, we play old-school speed and thrash metal" and sound all the same. Basically, you can take for example bands like Exodus, what they sound like nowadays, compared to what they were like in the 80's, it's like a totally different band, there is nothing really about them that really says "Yeah, we want to be heavy, we want to be mean, we don't care if it's professional or not, we just want people to have fun". That's one of the things I really like about Vulture, when I first heard the band some years ago, I was like "this is everything that I would probably binge listen to in my angry teenage years", so that's it.

Yeah perfect, that's exactly what we want to do hahah. It's interesting that you mentioned Exodus for example, I guess with like the most of the bigger thrash metal bands from back then, I think when they were younger how we are like now in our age, and they started with the bands and the production they had back in the days, I think they haven't really been aware of it, it's just how you produced back then and this just captured records of the time. When they grew older, when technology also evolved, maybe they really didn't think too much about it and just said "Okay, it's 2005/2006 now, triggering drums is like a thing now, maybe it's more professional to do it", that's how the sound has just evolved in metal in general I would say, but this is not the sound we especially fell in love with. When we think about old-school metal we think about huge snare drums with a lot of reverb and guitars with reverb, this is the stuff we want to hear. Our producer Marco, I think he is perfect for this job, because he really understood what old-school metal records from the 80's had to have. He did it in the way that it sounds like old-school but also modern in a way, this is like a perfect mix of both. Like you said, it's not old fashioned, it's not like a band that tries desperately to sound old-school, maybe cheap even, I think Marco does a perfect job by combining both, a modern production with like an old-school sound.

That's one of the things that really stands out with the music, it doesn't sound digital, it has that edge in the riffs and also production-wise. But when you said that you're not like one of those bands that just tries to sound as old-school as possible but then not really try to work on something like a very good song with a good chorus. When people look at Vulture and see that all the guitar players have a red B.C. Rich Ironbird, and all of them look like the band came out of 1983/1984, the people would probably be like "Oh my god, these guys are trying so hard to be like those bands", but I am glad that there aren't any people that say any of that stuff. I think that people understand and they can see what Vulture is really about, and I am very glad that you guys are one of the most respected contemporary bands that does this like old-school traditional speed/thrash metal style.

Yeah, when you mentioned the looks, I think when someone sees a band picture of us with all the studs, leather and of course B.C. Rich guitars, old-school drum now, if you didn't listen to the music before I'd probably also say "Oh these guys really try to relive the 80's I guess", because there's a lot of cliches, also in the music, but I think when you listen to the music itself I think you can hear that it's not just a clone of an old band, we really try to develop our own style with the old-school style, to make like a nice blend and make something new.

That's one of the things that Geddy Lee of Rush said about originality. It is very hard to be original these days and what is originality, because it's hard to be unique. But Geddy Lee said something like: "What is originality? Originality is when you have many influences from different sides, and you work on all the stuff, you combine your influences and when they all come together it's like you don't really sound like one band, you have all of the things that mold into this big pile ideas that come together as one". What I want to say is that Vulture doesn't sound like any other band, even though there are moments where it reminds me of a certain 80's band, I would never say that you guys try to be like Destruction, Sodom or Exumer. Do you think that a lot of people today, musicians or bands, are obsessed with originality? Like, in the sense that they are too obsessed with originality, rather than focusing on their creativity and trying to achieve as much as possible with simplistic ideas that they put in their work.

Good question hahah, I'd have to think about this. I think, especially in our kind of music, with this oldschool metal, it's very difficult to make something new out of it, because it has been done for such a long time already and it has been done perfectly, so I think it's very difficult to get your own voice in this big pile of bands and styles that really stand out, but I don't think bands should not focus on this because I think this is also important. I mean, Vulture for example, when we started out, we all had these Ibanez Destroyer guitars, I mean it's just for example, but still people wanted to see it, when we played on stage and maybe when we didn't have the Destroyers or the B.C. Rich guitars, people also ask us like "Huh?", it's weird like, maybe the bass player has a different bass and didn't look like uniform or whatever, because people recognize it. I think if you can develop something like this trademark for example, this is super important, but these trademarks and the whole look, also the logos and the album covers arts and stuff, this is like equally important as the production and the songwriting itself, because having the signature stuff which happens in the music is equally important as everything outside of the band. I mean, I am a musician, in the end I would say that the songs themselves are more important of course, but the overall concept has to be important, because nowadays bands focus a lot on the song itself but not too much of the overall concept of a band, or maybe they think about this a bit too late, but this is equally important I'd say. Also, with the production for example and our producer Marco, I think this is super important for our sound. Like, if it was produced by someone else, I think people would maybe lose this Vulture feeling which they have with our production, because that's what he adds to our music, I think the production itself makes like at least 50% of our music in general. I mean we also wouldn't listen to a good song if it was shitty produced, it makes a big difference if a song is produced well, and the band should not underestimate this factor, because people always get a feeling of something. For example, you can listen to a band and maybe you can get a catch from the first second because you just like the overall feeling of it, that's also like with Vulture records, this old-school metal feeling with pounding drums, sharp guitars with reverb, that's just the feel for people.

I want to talk with you about the fantastic cover art by Mario López, because I like how it's so stylistically beautiful to look at and it perfectly fits with your updated band logo. Also, it's definitely faithful to your previous artworks by Velio Josto. Is there some hidden meaning behind the hourglass, the chessboard and the hand with the knife that comes out of the clouds on the album cover?

Yeah, like the whole cover artwork is based on the lyrics of 'Sentinels'. The killer hand, we always had this on our album covers, so this killer hand with the knife is like a signature thing which we always had on our records, and I think this will never change *laugh*. This chess board from the album cover that was inspired by the lyrics, I think the whole idea came from Stefan. Also, don't quote me on this, but I think that the setting on the chess board, how the figures are positioned, this is also like a famous position in an old chess game, so this is kind of the background behind it. Also, the hour glass comes with the lyrics 'Heavier Than Time', I don't know whose idea it was for the hourglass on the album cover, maybe it was also Stefan, but it's just parts of the lyrics of the song.

I know it's a weird question to ask but is Stefan perhaps a big chess fan or perhaps a skilled chess player because he incorporated that on the album cover hahah?

Heheh, no I can safely say that he's not a good chess player, sometimes him and me we play chess online, because we are not living in the same city, we all live like quite far away from each other, but to stay in contact we do not just write songs and do the Vulture stuff, sometimes we just play games on the computer, sometimes we also play chess, but we're far away from being professional hahah. I think for the idea, he just had this idea for the chess board and I think he just googled for like the famous chess positions, I think it's "Mate in 1", so people who actually play chess and are good in chess will notice this like a nice gimmick or an easter egg.

I know Vulture has been signed to Metal Blade Records for some time now, and so far, you managed to put out a total of three albums, hopefully with more amazing albums in the future. It's a pretty big deal to be signed to a label such as Metal Blade, especially because they have released a lot of classic 80's metal stuff you guys grew up with. How do you guys personally feel to be part of such a big and respected label?

When we joined Metal Blade, I think this was 2017 when we signed the label deal. We were super hyped of course, because like you said, this is the label which signed so many of our favorite bands and released so many of our favorite records. So, I think this is like the record label, when it comes to metal music, which has the longest history of bands and famous records in the scene. To step into those footsteps of Slayer for example, or Powerlord or like all the Metal Blade bands, this is such a big honor for us. It's crazy, if you think about it that the boss of it is still Brian Slagel, the guy who signed Slayer back in the day and to be like a part of this family is crazy, even now if you think about it.

Basically, once you mentioned Slayer I keep thinking about that video where you and the bass player Andreas were like showing all your favorite Metal Blade Records and all of them were Slayer and I was like "YES".

Yeah, easy choice, just put all the Slayer records, right? Hahah.

Yeah, I love the fact that it's all the classic early Slayer stuff, which is my favorite era of Slayer, from the EP and the first two albums.

Yeah, I mean, we got this idea of doing this video because Metal Blade Records had this promotional idea of doing this video, and we thought about which records do we like and we said "let's make a little joke out of it and just show all the Slayer records", but also not really a joke because obviously we love all of these records, which were also an influence of course.

Yeah, it's not like "A word from our sponsor, Metal Blade Records!" hahah.

No, of course not hahah, and we're not sponsored by Slayer, it would be nice but no. I mean, of course they are a big influence on us.

What do you think about the overall reunion thing that they have been doing right now? I am asking because for me it's like a mixed taste, I am not really into their later stuff and of course once they rejoin it basically loses the whole point of going to a retirement and everything. How do you feel about it?

Actually, I didn't really think about it too much because I thought it was a rumor, because there were some statements and some Kerry King statements popping up about that he didn't know about this at all and that his lawyers are like involved, but I thought it was a hoax. Is it true that they're gonna play again?

Well, the thing is, I saw that they had like literal schedules for two or three shows in the US, and I even looked into the Metal Archives because I am "the crazy Metal Archives guy", and I went to see if the band is active and it said "2024-present", I am like "Shit!".

Yeah, I didn't know hahah.

When that happened, I wasn't that surprised because the same thing happened with Motley Crue and all the bands that were like "This is our farewell tour!" and then "Hello, we're back after five years!".

Yeah, like you said it's the same with all the other bands who retired and came back, it has a weird taste to it. I mean we're from Germany and when the Scorpions retired for the first time, I think this was in 2008 or something, since then they're basically on like a farewell tour over 10 years, and I think it's a bit ridiculous. But, to be honest, if Slayer would come to Europe again and play a headline show, of course I would like to see it, but it's a bit weird also with the lineup now, especially for me as a drummer it's weird that Dave Lombardo is not playing there and also Kerry King. Is Kerry King playing with them or what? I don't know.

I am not sure, because so far Tom Araya, Paul Bostaph and Gary Holt are initially there, but I don't think Kerry is gonna come back because he started his solo project, unless it really doesn't work out that well in the end and goes like "Eh you know what, screw this project" and then goes back to Slayer.

Yeah, maybe money-wise it's better hahah. But I think it's just weird, if you think about Slayer, you have four people in mind like Dave Lombardo, Jeff Hanneman, Kerry King and Tom Araya. Jeff Hanneman will never come back of course, but it's weird to see this band in this formation, maybe even not with Kerry King anymore, but also not with Dave Lombardo anymore. Ah, I don't know, it doesn't really feel like Slayer, maybe it would be just better to retire than to earn more money.

Yeah, but they basically live on old habits and this is one of those things when you continue as a legacy act, you basically have to live off past glory and that's it right there. They definitely know that people aren't gonna see them if they are in other bands, because people are gonna expect it to sound like Slayer. When Kerry King's project showed up, everybody expected that it was going to sound like Slayer and of course it wasn't really a surprise in the end.

Yeah, of course not.

Okay, it's time to wrap this up! Thank you so much for doing this interview, Gere! I am really looking forward to seeing Vulture live someday, hopefully as soon as possible. Are there any final words you'd like to say before we wrap this up?

Yeah, also thank you so much for the interview, it was all super nice questions and I really liked to do this interview. Also, thank you for being so hyped about the record, this really means a lot for all of us, the people really dig the record. Thank you for your time, I hope we can play as many shows as possible to support the record as much as possible, maybe to do a European tour soon, so we can show the songs live to you and as many people as possible.

Entered: 5/1/2024 12:22:07 PM

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