Sometimes you feel like a jackanape. You can spend an inordinate amount of time researching and discovering new bands, but there’s always that one band that you keep forgetting to listen to. Their name keeps coming up and you keep hearing great things about their new album, but for reasons unexplained you inadvertently skip past them. Such was the case with Death of Kings and their 2017 release Kneel Before None. When word reached me that this Atlanta quartet was going to be making a stop in Indianapolis not to eat or use the bathroom but to PLAY LIVE SONGS, I knew it was time to give Death of Kings a listen. To say that I was amazed by Kneel Before None is a vast understatement and my sloth-like approach to getting around to Death of Kings deserves a 90 day suspension of my Metal card. Such as it is, the fact that Death of Kings will be rampaging through Naptown is a momentous occasion, and I was able to get in touch with guitarist/vocalist Matt Matson to get the scoop on how Death of Kings has progressed over the course of the band’s nine-year existence.
Indy Metal Vault: Hey Matt, thanks for taking the time out of your schedule to chat with us. Since its release last year, Kneel Before None has received plenty of buzz from the metal underground. Death of Kings formed in 2009 and have produced a respectable body of work prior to your debut LP, but I have noticed that there’s been quite a number of lineup changes over the last eight years. Would it be fair to say that the release of Kneel Before None is an indicator that the band’s lineup has stabilized?
Matt Matson: The lineup has changed quite a bit in the last several years, mostly due to family obligations, babies, marriages etc. Thankfully those that did leave contributed little to none in terms of writing and revolved mostly around rhythm or bass guitars. I feel like this happens with a lot of bands as they evolve from their initial conceptions, but not many can sustain such changes.
IMV: Making an observation from a new listener’s perspective, if I had to use one term to describe Death of King’s music it would be draconian. That sort of “cut off the thief’s hands!” vibe is difficult to come by in thrash. Was this planned or was it a natural progression?
MM: I love your use of ‘draconian,’ and I thank you for such a great compliment. There was somewhat of a natural and organic progression, but I personally have always had a sense of this deep down. I went to Catholic school most of my life so there has always been this sense of harsh realities, punishment, and dread which has bled into my own writings. Like life itself, as the band progressed, evolved and grew, I feel like certain musical mentalities changed as well. So planned and mapped out yes, but a natural progression was there as well. I think if you read the lyrics to the songs on the album you will get a better sense of what I mean. Wait till you read the lyrics in the next chapter of music we create!
IMV: While getting better acquainted with Death of King’s back catalogue, I noticed that several of the tracks on Kneel Before None have made appearances as singles and on the Regicidal demo. Did having ready-to-go tracks available give the band an edge during the recording of Kneel Before None? Were you guys tempted to make any changes to the previously written songs?
MM: For the full-length we needed to have new songs, but we also wanted some songs from the past that helped define us. There were other songs from past recordings I would have loved to have re-recorded, but we didn’t want to move backwards. “Knifehammer” was a natural choice to include, since it was our first record. It was a way to tie everything together. The only thing we changed from the original version of “Knifehammer” to the one that ended up on Kneel Before None was the solo section. In the original there is a guitar and bass solo that goes back and forth. That bass player is no longer with us so it made more sense to do dueling guitar solos. I was excited to see Matt Kilpatrick (from Cemetery Filth) add his solo to the missing parts.
IMV: I’m still a Death of Kings neophyte (something that will be changing in the future), but ”Knifehammer” is my favorite track. Since I don’t currently have the lyrics at my disposal, could you tell us a little bit about the song? I noticed the Knifehammer appears regularly in your artwork. Is it your mascot’s weapon of choice? Would it be fair to say the weapon is a mascot in its own right?
MM: “Knifehammer” started as a title alone by way of Amos our drummer. A cool sounding name, but with some slight tongue in cheek. With that in mind, I was tasked to formulate a song based solely on that title itself. My main idea was imperialism and the destruction of native peoples by way of war and total annihilation. The best example of “Knifehammer” itself is the end of the first verse: “The jagged blade cuts them down to the ground. The hammer falls and pounds them down. Cutting off the head of the snake. Bludgeoned. Indoctrinate.” We used that imagery quite a bit when the “Knifehammer” record came out. It just made sense, that was the theme so to speak at that time. Since then we have gotten away from it since we did not want to be roped in with other bands that rely heavily on medieval themes and images. As with our music we do not want to be any one thing. The name Death of Kings itself means a variety of things. Kill your king/ruler/politician/priest whatever. Death to what oppresses you.
IMV: Death of Kings is getting ready to hit the road with Deceased and Savage Master. Will this be Death of King’s first time performing and/or touring with either band?
MM: We are extremely excited and honored to be touring with Savage Master and Deceased. We have played several times with Savage Master here in Atlanta and at one-off shows in other states as well, but never a dedicated tour. We get along great with those guys so this should be a blast. It will be our first time playing and touring with Deceased, though. We have been huge fans for quite some time and Amos was able to secure them last year at his Mass Destruction Metal Fest here in Atlanta and talk of touring slowly began from that.
IMV: How has fan reaction changed for Death of Kings over the years, especially on your home turf of Atlanta? Any notable cities where Death of Kings has won over the populace?
MM: The metal scene has really improved here in Atlanta, and I think in a lot of places. It’s always a welcome surprise to see such awesome turnouts and reactions from smaller local shows or when we’ve opened for larger acts like Gwar or Exodus most recently. On the road it’s great to play in front of new people and to win them them over and see their perceptions change. One show off the top of my head was Boston about a year ago. We’ve played there before but this was a different venue and crowd, and they went completely apeshit. Definitely one for the books.
IMV: If a first time listener were to purchase Kneel Before None without having any prior knowledge of Death of Kings, what would be the one thing that they should be aware of prior to pressing play?
MM: If a first time listener were about to listen to Kneel Before None with having any prior knowledge of Death of Kings…damn, prepare yourself for an unholy and unnerving assault on the senses.
IMV: Any additional information that you would like to add?
MM: I want to say thank you for taking interest in us and what we are doing as a band. We worked very hard on this this last record and take great pride in the final product of our endeavors.
Be sure to catch Death of Kings on August 10th at Black Circle Brewing Co. alongside death thrashing legends Deceased, heavy metal road warriors Savage Master, and Circle City death metal O.G.s Obscene.