(Photo Credit: Richard Haick)
Interview With Eric Peterson by The Grim Lord
If you’re a thrash fan at all, then chances are that you’ve heard of Eric Peterson. Testament are just as influential to the thrash movement as Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax ever were, plus they experimented with more extreme forms of metal to create death/thrash releases that I will never forget. Go check out The Gathering if you haven’t already done so. But what you may not have known, is that Peterson formed another band that mixed black metal into his unique caliber of thrash called Dragonlord, and despite Dimmu Borgir comparisons, the long-awaited new album Dominion marks the most diverse musical release of his career.
The Grim Tower: Let me just start this interview by saying, wow. I was taken aback when I noticed that a new Dragonlord was coming out. I remember the project years ago, around the time that Dimmu Borgir was peaking in popularity and a lot of artists were jumping into black metal. So tell me, why the sudden interest in reigniting this project now? Has this been something you’ve wanted to do for quite a while and just hadn’t been able to find the time?
Eric Peterson: Yeah, it’s definitely been awhile! But I’ve been working on this project since 2011-2012, and time has just seem to have flown by quickly…being busy doing TESTAMENT at least it made seem that way. The idea was always to have another Dragonlord record out, but just not this late. I’m definitely happy with it though.
TGT: So, let’s talk about the album. Dominion is definitely not what I would have expected. The record is hugely complex and feels like a lot of work went into it. Tell me a little about the writing and recording process and how long you’ve been working on this monster.
EP: You’re exactly right. It was a beast to make, but some of the most challenging bits were getting in the zone only to have to shelf those ideas for another day.
But I’d say picking out the orchestral ideas and sounds and the right instruments and where they go for example with “THE DISCORD OF MELKOR” was quite a challenge but a lot of fun too. Also all of the coming back to it had its advantages too, fresher ideas would come to play, like thinking of LEAH to come into the recording to do all the female choirs again, putting it on a whole different level from just the keyboards only doing those bits.
The record took four good sessions to do: The drums, then keyboards (that took awhile and threw us into over time) and then another big break, then the guitars and finally the vocals which had to be done the following year because of a new TESTAMENT record and a world tour to follow. I was able to get into the studio and track a song or two in between touring continents.
Then I must’ve hit a wall on mixing and finishing the last two sets of lyrics for the songs “SERPENTS OF FIRE” & “THE DISCORD OF MELKOR” especially the latter, because it was difficult. That’s because the song is so insane and I had come to be comfortable with it as a musical, since it had a lot of landscapes of orchestral type sounds and a mid breakdown of a full on orchestral piece in the middle of song, but it really was arranged for vocals so it wasn’t until I had been reading Tolkien’s “THE SILMARILLION” that I found my story! The genesis of the first age of the Lord Of The Rings saga.
TGT: Considering your work in Testament, I was surprised to hear actual thrash moments on the disc with the same vocal tone that you’ve been known for. The black metal sections are spot on, but it’s so much more than mere Emperor worship. Compared to your last two Dragonlord discs, this is the thrashiest you’ve ever sounded. Was this originally your intention for the album? It really feels like a mix of classic thrash and black metal.
EP: It’s always been that mixture, but I guess taking the time to get all the pieces in their spots and getting the mix right, it shined through more? I’ve always intended on it being black symphonic thrash metal, but maybe the songwriting came across more thrash this time. Of course I’m influenced by all the bands mentioned above, but with each recording I’m finding my own wickedness and character in vocals that is Dragonlord!
TGT: Tell me a little about the ballad “Love Of The Damned” which actually reminded me a bit of Iced Earth. I was taken aback a bit by it, to be honest –he keys doing the coloring though not in a bad way. This was refreshing to hear as not many bands that I’m handed can write several different types of songs on one disc these days.
EP: That song is the future of what we are capable of. There’s no screaming but it is still a darker content lyrically, with soft subtle orchestral sounds like the smooth keys uprising, begging only to get walloped by a SABBATH-esque chord structure. SURE, it’s different but it all ties together lyrically and was placed on the disc to where it flows musically as well.
TGT: What is your opinion on the current state of heavy metal? I’m a bit older than some of the other guys in this scene right now, but I hang around in several metal groups and notice that the younger generation has a completely different voice for it. They don’t like the term metalhead, they like their music highly technical and they’re very diverse in terms of the music genres that they listen to. They’re also hugely critical of the classics.
EP: Yes, me too! I grew up listening to everything when radio was big and you had to find Ma and Pop shops to find bands like The SCORPIONS, IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST, ANGEL WITCH, VENOM, MERCYFUL FATE, etc. but having the variety of the radio helped crossover into melody which applied to the new METAL sound being heavy as fuck in all genres. Thrash, Death and Black metal are all linked to thrash.
TGT: What is your opinion on black metal these days? Obviously, there’s been a great deal of controversy around it as our world is probably the most politically charged that I’ve ever seen it. A lot of bands aren’t even allowed to play certain venues and tours have been cancelled outright in the US by protesters.
EP: Well, certainly. It’s bannered behind Satanism and these bands were not just singing behind the ideology but doing the work. They brought in dead animals, blood and fire. I like the image for sure, it’s interesting to me but not to where there is consequences from your art, meaning harming others. There’s really a fine line telling a story then doing the deed of your story as an artist. Yikes!
TGT: I’d also like to talk a little conspiracy regarding something you’d mentioned in an article years ago. You were talking about driving through the desert and noticing that you had perfect cellular reception because the government was supposedly working on some underground city. By now, they should have that completed. Then we have the talk about AI and robotics, which seems like they are both going to be a major part of the world in years to come. We even have virtual and augmented reality to some extent, despite a huge political uproar. Some are even talking about a civil war. Not only that, but most people are now hopelessly addicted to their phones. What do you think about all this?
EP: In this world, if you can imagine it, it’ll happen! All things come around again, just in different forms. Regarding phones, these are very powerful instruments with undeniable information. It’s like a spider web to the masses. I think people have lost their sense of consequences really with their phones. But it’s all been done before. We’re bewitched and cast upon this tragic world with no love!
TGT: Finally, tell me a little about what you do for leisure outside of making music. What are something things that you recently enjoyed that you’d recommend people go check out? What kind of music are digging these days? Or movies, books, video games, etc.?
EP: Sometimes absolutely nothing! Just vegging out for a week or two, (after a long tour) but this brings restlessness and triggers a voice in my head that says, “Let’s roll, baby roll!”
I like the outdoors, I appreciate my second amendment and I like to go shooting for practice. Archery can also be relaxing in the woods or somewhere safe. Reading is a great escape but most people don’t read anymore. The trick is to find a book that you can really get lost in. I’m currently reading “THE MASTER AND MARGARITA.” This is amazing literature from Russia and it is full of surprises!
Pre-order The Album HERE (Amazon, Releases September 21st)