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Interview: Rick Scythe from Usurper

Discovering veteran bands that have flown under your radar is always a great experience. Sure, you may silently bemoan not discovering a band earlier, but no one’s omniscient. Besides, as a different strain of veteran, it’s unnecessary to worry oneself with such concerns. In the case of Chicago’s blackened death-thrashing troupe Usurper, they’ll be releasing Lords of the Permafrost in the early spring. It’s their first album in 14 years and all you really need to know is that it’s pure metal goodness. I was able to get in touch with Usurper guitarist and founding member Rick Scythe to get the low down on the band’s reformation and subsequent album release.

Indy Metal Vault: Hey Rick, on behalf of Indy Metal Vault we’re glad to see that Usuper’s back in the game! Usurper’s been reactivated for approximately five years at this point. Could you bring us up to speed on what lead to Usurper getting back together?

Rick Scythe: We just felt like the time was right. We began getting offers for shows and fests in 2015, so we played those. The response was good, so we decided to record a new album, and here we are.

IMV: Has cutting a new record been a part of the agenda since reforming or did fate steer the band into that direction?

RS: At first we weren’t sure if we would just play shows or actually record a new album. We got offers to play Holiday of Horrors Fest, California Deathfest, Maryland Deathfest, and some other local shows. We had 64 songs in our back catalog at the time, so we didn’t want to come back after 13 years and play all new stuff. But after we played some shows we got a couple offers from some labels. We signed a deal with SoulSeller out of The Netherlands. I had many songs, riffs and ideas ready to go. Myself and Joe Warlord (drums) starting rehearsing these songs, and they sounded good. So once everyone else in the band began rehearsing the new songs, things fell into place. We recorded during the summer of 2018 and now the album is being released in March 2019.

IMV: One of the first things that I picked up on when listening to Lords of the Permafrost is that Usurper is a band that must be experienced live. With that in mind, what should an uninitiated fan be in store for when they purchase a ticket to see Usurper?

RS: Over our career, we’ve played a few hundred shows in 17 countries. Performing live is something we take seriously. We are more selective with live shows these days than ever before. We much prefer either big fests or headlining one-off shows, but if it the right situation arises, we will also do a direct support tour. A Usurper show is a full-on metal assault! Amps cranked to 10, leather, spikes, sweaty hair, smoke and powerful, sing-a-long metal anthems. We don’t preach, only celebrate metal. Our music is for any real headbanger no matter age, race, ethnicity, gender, whatever. If you are a die-hard headbanger, that is all we care about. If you are a hipster, douche-bag, or pop music fan, you must leave the hall!

IMV: If I had to describe Lords of the Permafrost in three words or less it would be “metal as fuck.” Everything about this album hits the right hesher spots, in particular, the song titles. “Cemetery Wolf” and “Warlock Moon” sound well thought out, which leads me to believe that Usurper are no strangers to the songwriting process. With that in mind, what’s the method that Usurper utilizes when it comes to creating new material?

RS: Same as always since the mid-’90s. I usually write the music, I show it to Joe, he comes up with the drum patterns and some arrangement ideas. Then I discuss lyrical topics with Dan Tyrantor (Vocals). Either we write words together, or he just writes the words himself, occasionally I will write the words. Then we rehearse as a band. The bassist will add his fills and tie in the accents with the drums. Scott Maelstrom, our new bassist, even wrote a few riffs too. So by the end, everybody pours their metal into the songs.

IMV: Another track that impressed me is “Gargoyle.” The tempo drop at 35 seconds is fucking sick and the song has a lot of active variety in it. I know the song title speaks for itself but since there’s presently no lyrics available, would you be willing to give everyone a taste of the story occurring in the song?

RS: “Gargoyle” is just a metaphor for being a die-hard, underground metal warrior. It is about being a misunderstood misfit, outcast or freak by society’s standards. It is about, banging away together in the concert hall. Living for metal, hoisting a beer, pumping your fists and headbanging in unison. Musically I wanted to have some power, but still some melodic elements. Balancing harmonies with the thick, primal metal chugging. We wanted it to rock, yet pummel. Like a death metal Thin Lizzy or something.

IMV: Usurper is releasing Lords of the Permafrost with true regalia at The Cobra Lounge alongside Morta Skuld, Faithxtractor, and Molder. All evidence suggests that it will be a slaughter. Will Midwest metal fans have any opportunities to catch the carnage firsthand after the release show?

RS: Yes, we are planning a few one-offs. So far we have the Chicago date, then Milwaukee. We will be headlining the Cactus Club stage for the Milwaukee Spring Bash 10. Then we are playing Brooklyn, New York doing a headlining show with Cult of Frost supporting at St. Vitus bar. We are planning some other Midwest headlining dates too, check the Usurper Facebook page for updates. After that, we plan on getting back to Europe.

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