From the genteel streets and charming landscape of Norwich, England comes SHRAPNEL. They are a new breed who play a vicious old-school style of thrash metal. It’s as if the British quartet came straight out of the eighties with their energetic exuberance and veteran chops which belies their age. The young thrashers tear the roof off of its debut full-length release, The Virus Conspires (released Jan. 21 through Candlelight Records). It’s one part SLAYER, one part MEGADETH, a bit of early METALLICA and some German thrash such as SODOM and KREATOR thrown in for good measure.
Formed in 2009, the band consists of Jae Hadley (vocals), Nathan Sadd (guitar), Chris Martin (guitar), Shaun Mcelhinney (bass) and Simon Jackson (drums). During a recent phone interview, Martin discussed the band’s origins, the new album and what sets Shrapnel apart from the countless other bands that make up the so-called new thrash revival.
BraveWords: How did Shrapnel form?
Chris Martin: "I had wanted to be in a band and I just moved into my own house and my roommate’s mate wanted to be in a MUNICIPAL WASTE type thrash band. We started jamming with a couple of guys from the university we were at but we found out rather quickly that we needed a new guitarist. I put up a post online at a local musicians forum and Nate (Sadd), our guitarist now, applied within a couple of days. He came in and jammed with us and he brought one of his mates to play bass. But we were rubbish, just terrible. The singer and drummer at the time got bored quickly and decided they didn’t want to do it anymore. We found out we both knew Jae (Hadley) and Nate had known him through other music circles. So we asked him to come in and sing for us and he happened to know Chris Williams, our original drummer. So it sort of came together that way. Norwich is a small place so we all kind of knew each other through people but not directly until people got together."
BraveWords: How did you get into thrash, because Shrapnel sounds pretty authentic.
Martin: "My parents weren’t music fans at all. I got into thrash through my mates at school. METALLICA for me was the first metal band that really turned me onto that stuff. Then through them I found MEGADETH and then I found more various bands. With this sort of metal you tend to have to go back, because that’s where all the good stuff is!"
BraveWords: There’s a lot of old-school thrash elements on the new album. Who do you cite as your major influences?
Martin: "Slayer is obviously a massive influence on us. We like the fact that through the ’90s a lot of bands didn’t lighten up or get a bit softer. Sodom, Slayer and TESTAMENT, who went the other way and had the death metal stuff. And we like that as well and we tend to lean more toward that. I’m a Megadeth freak and Nate’s a massive Slayer freak. So we’re influenced by anything that’s just a bit ballsier and has the really harsh riffs."
BraveWords: How is the thrash scene around Norwich?
Martin: "In our area, there’s nothing. There’s not really a scene for it at all. Norwich is such a quiet and small place that there’s not much of a scene at all for any kind of music. There’s some good gigs and there’s some good bands, but if you really want to be discovered in the scene you have to go out to London, which would be the closest place for us. Nottingham is not too much further away and Birmingham is awesome as well. But Norwich itself, there’s nothing."
BraveWords: For a band that will most likely get lumped into the retro thrash genre, what do you bring to the table? What are you out to prove?
Martin: "We’re going to try and push things really hard with everything we do. From the first to the second EP, there was a massively different writing process. We did the first EP locally four months after forming and got a really good response. We did a lot of cool shows. We supported SEPULTURA within six months of forming. So when we did the second EP we really pushed the envelope and reached an audience that like NAPALM DEATH, EVILE and a bunch of huge bands, and we didn’t think it was really possible at the time to go and do that, but we did it. With this album, we really want to push it again. That’s how we want to keep doing things. We want to change it up each time and bring in new things."
BraveWords: You sound like you’re straight out of the ’80s with an authentic and convincing sound.
Martin: "I think it’s all genuine. There’s a lot of bands that are genuinely pissed off and then there are bands that are trying to be more clever. There’s a lot of unnecessary things in modern metal music. If you strip it back and try to get it angry again. I think that’s what we’re trying to go for. To bring that pure adrenaline and anger to the music."
BraveWords: What’s the concept behind the title track ‘The Virus Conspires’?
Martin: "That’s about the recession and everything going on. It’s something to get angry about. It’s relevant and has a lot of substance to it. It’s a lot about certain politics and systems, and things that should be different. It’s about how horrible people can be in general and tying that into poor people having no money and desperate times. (It’s about) people who are trying to take control that shouldn’t be.”
BraveWords: What does Shrapnel try to accomplish in the live setting?
Martin: "There’s some shows we’ve been to and they were relentless. They don’t let up. The bands were just non-stop and we love them. A couple of times we’ve been to see Sodom and OVERKILL at the Underworld in London and it’s always like a punishment. And it’s awesome. And that’s kind of what we want to do. We don’t want to let up at all. There are very few moments on the album that aren’t Mach 10. A lot of it transfers to the live shows. We’ve done some of the biggest shows and the more we’ve had our shows the more you realize what works at a festival, what gets people moving.”
BraveWords: What’s next for Shrapnel? What’s your touring plans?
Martin: "We just want to play as much as possible. Money’s been pretty tight for quite awhile but we want to get as far as possible. We want to get as many shows as possible under our belt and hopefully play some festivals as well. We played Bloodstock this year on the second stage and we got Hammerfest in March in Wales. It’s a pretty cool lineup and it should be fun."