Spearheaded by guitarist/vocalist John Heidenreich (also of Annihilust), Northeast trio Rancorous has just issued their debut three-song demo, Into the Nuclear Fire. Featuring apt cover art by Annihilust co-conspirator Brian Vocal Terror, the outing unloads a mere six minutes of flawlessly executed late-'80s/early-'90s-inspired death/thrash with a frenzied, circle pit-inducing energy reminiscent of hardcore/punk.
At least to my ears, this style of barbarous, high-speed savagery is rarely delivered with such memorable zeal, and one simply cannot argue with song titles like "Perverse Subverter," so… what more can I say, really!? If diehard metal fanatics don't crack a smile at this shit, all hope may be lost…
Stream Into the Nuclear Fire (repeatedly) below, followed by an interview with—and some top-shelf recommendations from—Heidenreich himself…
Alright, so, Rancorous only has six minutes of music—which technically haven't even been released yet—so there's not much for me to go on here. Therefore, I'll begin with a perhaps boring but necessary boilerplate interview question: tell me about how the band came to be?
Into the Nuclear Fire just about came out of nowhere early last year. I mean, the riffs, arrangements, lyrics… everything at once. And it's obviously total '80s thrash/death worship, so the band name and overall approach had to follow. Most of it is just the result of operating on pure instinct. A bit of craftsmanship is involved, for sure, but then overthinking it always seems to fucking ruin this style of music. There was also a ton of infuriating real life bullshit going on last year—sparking off total murderous, irrational hatred and rage. Nothing worth explaining or complaining about, especially in hindsight [laughs]. Mundane real life is stupid and boring, what else is new? Worked out well in the end, though, because the fury only added to the overall intensity of the recording.
You mentioned to me earlier that this EP was inspired by the late-'80s/early-'90s timeframe when thrash was starting to cross over into death metal, but—like your other band, Annihilust—I was immediately picking up on a ton of hardcore/punk energy, too. Of course, the last time I interviewed Brian about Annihilust, he was surprised by that assessment. Am I "wrong" again!?
Yeah, after thinking it over, I can see where you'd pick up on that. Hardcore and punk definitely crops up in the listening rotation, but it's not a conscious influence. Not for this band, at least. I'm sure part of it is that this area produces a lot of quality hardcore and punk, and luckily I've got a couple of trusted comrades—including Brian—who are extremely knowledgeable about hardcore and have steered me toward the good stuff. There are a ton of great bands from New England… Siege in particular. Fucking christ, Siege is probably the most influential underground band ever to hail from Massachusetts. Disrupt. Jerry's Kids. Hell, those first couple of Blood for Blood records are great.
Perhaps I sense a hardcore/punk aesthetic because there's just this wild catchiness to the material that I don't typically associate with rugged, speed-centric death/thrash. Whatever the case, it really speaks to the quality of your riffs and songwriting.
When it comes to riff-making and then arranging them into songs, I aim to be as fucking ruthless as possible. Doesn't always happen, but that's the aim. Hypercritical. It drives bandmates nuts [laughs]. Riffs come first, always. That should go for virtually any rock, punk, metal, or hardcore band. No good riffs? Then you've got jack fucking shit. Your band could have the best logo, a really refined look, the smartest and most connected PR agent, the coolest cover art, Berklee-level musical training… none of that matters unless you've got the riffs. It sounds dead simple, and it is. That still doesn't stop a ton of bands from attempting to rely solely on image, atmosphere, and production value. When I see and hear a metal or hardcore band get everything right except that they didn't come up with any decent riffs, it drives me fucking nuts.
Since Into the Nuclear Fire was actually recorded last summer, is there anything new in the works at this point?
There's already a second demo completely written and ready to be recorded. We're looking to get that out later this year. I want to take the same approach with Rancorous that a lot of the older bands that I admire did and put out at least three solid demos before even thinking about recording an LP.
I'll end with something fun: in your opinion, what are three to five must-hear albums from the time period and style that inspired Rancorous?
Merciless, Unbound (No Fashion, 1993)
Their debut, The Awakening, is great in every way. One of the best debut albums in metal. That's the obvious choice, though. Unbound is arguably their best record. Great songs, great production, great performances.
Sodom, Get What You Deserve (Steamhammer, 1994)
Even though this isn't considered a total classic, it is still very, very good. For Sodom to be playing with this much speed and intensity in the mid-'90s is impressive, and shouldn't be forgotten or ignored. Great drumming, and a unique mix for a fast thrash metal record.
Sepultura, Beneath the Remains (Roadrunner, 1989)
Dead obvious one here. Important, though, because this was a gateway into a whole plethora of other bands and styles of metal and hardcore. Massive influence.
Pestilence, Consuming Impulse (Roadrunner, 1989)
Another dead obvious one. Every time I put this CD on, it stays in the player for about two weeks straight.
Martire, Martire (Dominator, 1991)
Sorely overlooked band. Totally worth checking out, especially if you like fast and uncompromising metal.