Forged from the steel that was Usurper, Chicago’s Scythe play a combination of thrash/death metal with elements of dark atmospheres, classic heavy metal, and traditional rock and roll. Scythe have two releases out, the latest of which is titled Subterranean Steel. Take Five caught up with guitarist/vocalist Rick Scythe, who discussed everything Scythe.
How did you come to form Scythe in 2010?
Rick Scythe: “I was in a band called Usurper from 1992 to 2007. In that time we released six albums and toured all over the USA, Europe, Mexico, and Canada. We had a small but loyal following worldwide. In 2007 that band ended as a result of conflicts between the band members and conflicts with the record label, Earache Records.
“In 2009, I started getting a lot of offers for Usurper to reform, but unfortunately we couldn’t get it together personnel-wise, so that’s when I formed Scythe. At first it was going to be a solo project where I would just record some songs I had written for Usurper, as well as some new material. By 2010, things were sounding great and the line-up was very tight. It felt like a real band again, so Scythe became an actual power trio. Our first album, Beware the Scythe, was released worldwide in 2012. On September 11, 2013, our new album is coming out, this one called Subterranean Steel. The current line-up is as follows: Rick Scythe (guitar/vocals), Dan Geist (bass/vocals), and Joey Contreras (drums).”
How would you describe your musical approach?
Rick Scythe: “Scythe’s sound can best be described as true underground metal. Our approach is stylistically very similar to mid-80s speed metal/thrash metal combined with the heaviness and impact of early 90s death metal; we also incorporate elements of classic heavy metal anthems and 70s hard rock.”
Rick Scythe: “This album takes up where Beware the Scythe left off. It is a pummeling juggernaut of molten metal! The only criteria we had when writing this album was that every song had to be 100% headbangable and fistbangable! It is the type of album where you put it on with your brothers of metal, crack a cold one, and prepare for your brain to melt out of your ear holes!
“Lyrically we deal with topics such as conspiracies, end-time prophecies, monster folklore, giants, fallen angels, technology run amok, the occult roots of the global elite, and anthems paying homage to the glory of metal.”
What would you say is the best part of being in a metal band? What would you say is the worst part?
Rick Scythe: “The best part for me is the bond you make with the metal warriors in your band creating music, recording albums, and playing shows. Making friends and fans all over the world; people who you have a connection with regardless of their race, age, gender, nationality, or the ability to speak the same language. The metallic bond we share for the music we love and the metal lifestyle we live is stronger than steel. Nothing quite like cranking the metal on stage, full volume, hair getting tangled in the guitar strings, leather drenched in sweat, and seeing a roomful of diehard metal maniacs banging away and singing along.
“The worst part is the daily struggles of dedicating your life to underground metal. If you are a big rock band or play some form of mainstream metal, it is easy to tour and make a living off music only. Being dedicated to underground metal isn’t as lucrative.”
Tell me about the track “Monarch.” What inspired the lyrics? And how did you go about translating them from your brain and onto paper?
Rick Scythe: “‘Monarch’ is about mind control. It is about technology and hypnosis used to enslave and control people. It was inspired by books by Alex Constantine and Cathy O’Brien. As with every song, I kind of let the concept inspire the music and then the music inspire the lyrics, so that the music and lyrics work together to paint a picture in the listener’s head.
“A song like ‘Monarch’ isn’t written as a narrative in linear/chronological order; it’s not written as a story. It is more or less secret coded words and phrases, so the listener can interpret the meaning in different ways. There is a middle part where the 12-string acoustic guitar plays a melody right underneath a very hard and heavy riff, sort of like an audio hallucination or something. This song fades out with this same part along with some nearly subliminal talking. Even the main rhythm to that song is like a rolling machine, it has this weird rhythmic quality. To me it kind of feels like someone spiraling into deep psychosis.”
Any chance of you coming to New Mexico anytime soon? If so, when and where? If not, how close do you think you’ll come?
Rick Scythe: “We would love to play New Mexico! Many great metal heads in the desert Southwest along with a rich Native American history and fantastic, inspiring scenery. Unfortunately, we have not had any offers to play there yet. We are an underground band from Chicago, so we can only play shows wherever there is a demand for us. We plan on doing a South American tour in 2014 and possibly some European dates. If we ever get a serious offer to play New Mexico, we for sure will be there cranking the amps, slamming the skins, and releasing the molten steel! Until then you can buy our new album through www.scythe.us, as well as through digital distributors like iTunes, Amazon Mp3, and places like that . . . also check out some music for free at www.reverbnation.com/scythechicago and be sure to ‘Like’ us on facebook at www.facebook.com/scythe.chicago.”