Last year an event of great importance took place in Chilean scene and worldwide, since old–school death metal band ATOMIC AGGRESSOR released their debut album "Sights of Suffering" almost 30 years after its formation. The band remained true to its roots and embraces the old school spirit with the same darkness, passion and fury of the old days, something CTODP respects and hails. Here is the interview with guitarist Enrique Zuñiga...
Hi Enrique, everything ok? Now a few months after the release of “Sights of Suffering”, your debut full length, how does it feel after so many years that you recorded your first demo in 1989?
Hi! Everything ok. The release of our album was our main objective since the reunion, so we’re very happy about it. It has received very good reviews everywhere, and the reaction of the people in concerts has been great too.
Tell about the recording, what was the recording process was? How long did it take the band to agree on the final product?
The album was recorded between December 2013 and March 2014, at Pulsar Estudios in Santiago. The recording process had several problems and delays, but we are very satisfied with the result. I think the sound reflects well what we were looking for. We wanted to sound good, but not modern or overproduced. We conceived the album like a continuation of the story we left unfinished in 1991.
After listening to the whole album it´s obvious that the band´s spirit remains pure to its roots, how would you describe the style on the album?
Thanks! That was our intention. I would call it old school Death Metal, with some Thrash influences. Since the old days, our main inspiration sources are Possessed and old Morbid Angel. In fact, to recover our style after so many years separated wasn’t easy at all. It took us some time to be satisfied with the new stuff we were creating.
Can you explain the lyrical contents of the album? Where do you draw your inspiration for the lyrics?
Lyrics are mainly inspired by H. P. Lovecaft and the mythology he created. Usually are stories about dark cults and the intervention of ancient gods in human life. There are some anti-christian themes too.
If I´m not wrong, you conceived and executed the artwork for “Bloody Ceremonial” and then you used a similar concept on subsequent releases, is it a visual projection of your music? Can you try to explain the artwork concept of “Sights of Suffering”?
I have made all the artwork for the band until now, except for the 7” split released by Grinder magazine and Doomentia Records (Unbodied Rites). Each cover has it’s own concept, but there is a certain common style. It’s hard to say that it’s a projection of our music.
The Sights of Suffering cover represents a bunch of suffering souls under the influence of dark arts.
Hells Headbangers released “Sights…” you are working with them since the release of “Rise of the Ancient Ones”, how did you get linked with them?
Our former drummer Pablo Clares got the contact. Since that moment, Chase have been a great support for the band.
They also released the split 7” with Death Yell, I know both bands have a strong brotherhood, so I´m sure both enjoyed to be featured on a split release…
Atomic Aggressor is part of the second generation of Chilean extreme metal bands, along with Death Yell, Sadism, Torturer and others. So we have a special relationship with all those guys. It was great to record a split with our friends of Death Yell. Besides it was the first song they recorded since their reunion.
Talking about 7”s, Grinder mag released a 7” featuring Atomic Aggressor and Unholy war, tell us about this release.
I remember we were on the road to a gig in Valparaíso, and Andrés of Grinder Magazine was in the van with us. He told me that the magazine was about to be published in Europe including 7” records with every future issue. So he offered to us the opportunity of appearing in the first split along with Unholy War, an old band of friends dissolved in the early 90’s.
The chosen song for the split was Unbodied Rites… one of my personal favorites from Sights of Suffering.
In your early days, Bloody Ceremonial had a huge impact on the Chilean scene and in South America, How do you look back at Bloody Ceremonial nowadays, what kind of memories do you have on the recording session?
“Bloody Ceremonial” was recorded in a studio called Rec, in Santiago. The sound engineer was José Luis Corral, who was also a big metal fan. In that studio there was a special price for metal bands who wanted to record a demo, so we took the opportunity.
It was our first experience in a recording studio, so everything was new for us. It was a humble production, but we learned a lot with it.
The reaction to the demo was awesome. Great reviews in a lot of fanzines in Chile and some other countries.
Chilean scene was very active and many demos began to be published in a short period of time, do you have any favorite from those days?
There were a lot of great demos. I think my favorites are Pentagram demo 1 and 2, Sadism “From the Perpetual Dark” and Darkness Demo 1.
TORTURER and SADISM achieved to record the debut LP. But you and DEATH YELL that were considered by many the reference bands of the scene and having international recognition couldn´t get to the debut album, in your case, what could be the cause(s) for this. You even got an offer for a full length album from a strong label like Peaceville, why did the band break up 1992
Some time after the second demo, our drummer Pablo decided to quit the band. It was after we had some great shows and we were very surprised and shocked by his decision. After that we began the search for a new drummer again, but we started to lose the motivation to keep the band alive. Besides that, the 3 members had other priorities growing and new responsibilities. We often think about the great opportunity we lost with Peaceville.
Same thing happened to PENTAGRAM, who saw the release of their full length last year, what´s your opinion about PENTAGRAM and “The Malefice?
The story of Pentagram have some coincidences with our story. For me they are one of the greatest metal bands in Chile, but the album didn’t filled my expectations. I mean it’s a very good album, but there are many riffs that remember the old songs a lot.
Afterwards you joined SADISM and recorded three albums with them, how was your time with them? What have the other guys did?
Sadism are our brothers too. I joined them in 1997 and left in 2009. I had a great time in that band, including some great gigs with Kreator, Sodom, Cannibal Corpse and Morbid Angel in Santiago, and with Hate Eternal in Brazil. Sadism now has some new members and a new album out.
I interviewed VULCANO a few months ago, who are one of the very few bands that have released an official live album before a studio album? You released in 2013 “Live ceremonial” how did you initially have the idea of recording the live album? did you feel a special vibe during the show?
The recording of Live Ceremonial wasn’t very much planned. The album was delayed and we wanted to release something new. We seized the opportunity in a gig in December 2012, because our friends of Torturer were recording a DVD and had the set up ready to record audio. They offered to share the expenses and we accepted it.
The band celebrates 30 years of existence in 2015, what can you remember of the early days? What was the main inspiration to start playing as ATOMIC AGGRESSOR and which bands influenced you?
Yes, 30 years!!!
But we were separated for 15 years in between.
But we were separated for 15 years in between.
At the beginning I had a lot of influences, including Venom, Slayer, Mercyful Fate, but when I listened to Sodom “In the sign of evil” and Celtic Frost “Morbid Tales” I decided to start a band. But for me the band really started in 1988, when we decided to play death metal and recruited Alejandro and Jaime. In that moment we defined Possessed and Morbid Angel as our main influences.
How did you live the Chilean scene back then, what were your feelings and thoughts from the inside?
The Chilean scene was very amateur but there was a lot of talent and friendship. We had a lot of gigs and usually the sound quality was awful, but the fans always supported the bands. There were a lot of fanzines too. I think Chilean scene was specially active and productive for a small and poor country.
If I´m not wrong there were many shows back then, and a lot of bands came from abroad to play in Chile, do you remember any special show?
In Santiago there were 2 main venues: a small stadium called Manuel Plaza and an old theater called Sala Lautaro. There were gigs almost every weekend. I remember shows with some bands from Brazil and Uruguay, like Vulcano, Angkor Vat and Inner Sanctum. [CULT and amazing bands! - Chris]
Personally I´d say that the Chilean scene was as prolific as the Brazilian scene but without the existence of a label like Cogumelo records, would you dare to say that if a strong label lie Cogumelo in Chile supporting all those young but talented bands the Chilean scene could have had a major impact outside South America?
Certainly to have a record label could have been a great support for the Chilean bands in those years. Chile is a very remote and small country, so it’s been always harder for Chilean bands to be noticed in the rest of the world.
Are there any chances of touring Europe soon?
Yes, there are!!! We are now working on it, but I can’t give any details right now. It will happen during 2015. Very soon we will inform about that.
What´s the strangest place and the most shocking one that you have been?
In Chile under the dictatorship of Pinochet.
Tell us about the next steps of the band.
During 2015 we will do more gigs in Chile and maybe other places to promote Sights of Suffering. After that, there are not fixed plans. I think we will start writing some new stuff.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I would like to thank you for the interview and for help us on the promotion of Sights of Suffering. Keep it brutal!