"I never expected a band that was ultimately a side project about my favourite manga to grow to this level."
Brand Of Sacrifice are set to release their astonishing new album 'Lifeblood' on March 05.
Continuing to tell the dark and destructive story of the cult manga series Berserk by Kentaro Miura, the record is one of the most vicious and visceral slices of modern deathcore you will hear this year, with razor-sharp breakdowns, flickering synths and heavenly choirs clashing head-on below vocalist Kyle Anderson's utterly debaucherous vocal performance.
Forward-thinking yet accessible, guttural yet insatiably catchy, the band are in a complete league, let alone lane, of their own when it comes to creative heaviness and have forged an album that will appease fans of Berserk as much as fans of the pit.
We spoke to Kyle about the process of putting the record together, how the lines between fantasy and reality have blurred in their music and how having the band as his primary focus after originally being a fun side project feels...
Between the release of ‘God Hand’ and the start of making ‘Lifeblood’, what are the things that changed in terms of how you wanted to approach writing?
“Well first off, I never expected a band that was ultimately a side project about my favourite manga to grow to this level. But I think the main thing that helped move things forward was actually touring. We realised what parts were working for the band in a live scenario and what type of riffs get the biggest reactions through to what is overall enjoyable as part of a show. That definitely helped us to set our crosshairs on what parts of the Brand Of Sacrifice toolset were working and which ones we could toss out. I think that the other thing that was a focus for us was taking some of the most ridiculous and extreme music and make it something that other listeners of other genres may want to check out as well.”
In a lot of ways ‘God Hand’ was almost like you testing the waters, and it’s rare that you’re able to actually use a record in that manner to try out all of the things that you want from a band. Usually, there is too much pressure or things at stake…
“Oh, for sure. Another thing we wanted to do was streamline the sound a little bit as well. You saw this on ‘God Hand’ a little bit with songs like ‘Charlotte’, where there were repeated parts and a more typical song structure. We have wanted to do that but do it in a way where the listener still doesn’t really know what’s going to happen next. I think we’ve done a pretty decent job of doing that overall, especially with the title track on ‘Lifeblood’. Sometimes bands will try and streamline and reach a wider audience, but they will have also forgotten the things that made the music fun in the first place. That’s the whole point of this in the first place.”
So where did the conversation about going independent for this record come in? What was it that made that move the right one for this moment in time?
“As we approached this record, we were at the end of our Unique Leader contract anyway. It would have had to have been a new offer at that point and we were originally planning on doing the new record with them. We’ve always been a pretty DIY band anyway. Our music production is all in-house, our guitarist does all of the mixing and everything like that. We record everything ourselves. We handle a lot of our art direction ourselves. We like to be hands-on and deal with both the musical side and the business side all by ourselves. I think after a year of pretty extensive touring we learned the business a little bit more and understood the type of resources we need. We were also inspired by bands like Angelmaker and Shadow Of Intent, who as well as being our peers also doing things independently. Then with the success of other artists like GHOSTEMANE, that was the icing on the cake. Thus far, it’s definitely been challenging and required a lot of in-depth work, but it’s also been extremely rewarding. It’s the best thing for the band.”
So with ‘Lifeblood’, how do you feel as though the levels of storytelling you want the band to deliver changed? How did you go about figuring out what parts of Berserk you wanted to channel here?
“As far as storytelling goes, this record is from the perspective of the main protagonist from the series. His name is Guts. I tried to write things a little bit more high level and touch on things like inner demons and the struggle of dealing with immense loss. There are a lot of subjects on here that can connect with others who may not have read the series or even knowledge of it. You’re able to read the lyrics and not be completely lost, even though there are some specific references to the God Hand and such. ‘Lifeblood’ refers mainly to the resolve of the main character who continues on for his love interest. They are the lifeblood that pushes him to keep on moving forwards. That comes along with feelings of anger, hate and malice at the same time because he is seeking revenge for someone who did them wrong in the series. The record touches on so many of these emotions that we all go through ourselves in a real-life setting outside of a fantasy world.”
So when you first read the manga, was it those emotions and your association with them from your own life experiences that made you gravitate so strongly towards it?
“I think that’s pretty true. I think that’s the main thing that draws you to any strong protagonist in any series. Take Spiderman, for example, he’s just a normal teenager with the same issues as us. In this world, it’s a little darker. We’re talking about demons and adult-themed issues, but still full of this that people face in real life. As far as my story goes, dealing with things like depression and our own demons, whether that is mental illness or addiction, and the fact that those things are almost like a brand on your skin that bleeds and haunts you, you can still survive. That was the main thing that I was able to take from it. It’s a story of survival.”
So what is ‘Lifeblood’ to you? What does that title mean to you beyond the Berserk world? What meaning to does that term have in the other parts of your life away from the band?
“If we were to talk about the line, ‘You are my lifeblood’ that appears in the title track, it’s something that drives us to better, whether that be a significant other or religion or anything. In the case of the song, it’s Casca, the protagonist's love interest, but everybody has something that drives them to want to succeed and push past those demons that we all face. It doesn’t even have to be a person. As far as day-to-day life goes, I think that the band has become that for me. From dealing with the Coronavirus stuff, which did initially take its toll on me, the fact that we have been able to still put out music and have people respond to it has been my lifeblood lately.”
What did it feel like watching people respond to this campaign kicking off with ‘Demon King’? You’ve mentioned how it was the biggest reaction to a song you’ve ever had, so how was it seeing so many people discover the band in almost real time?
“Honestly, pretty overwhelming. Especially when you consider that things like reaction channels are so prevalent and also extremely important to the culture. I don’t think a lot of people have realised this yet, as far as when it comes to other bands. Reactions really have a huge bearing on how things typically go, especially if there are a few of them. But seeing so many people jamming out to that song and being impressed by certain sections is really cool. I’ve been listening to these songs for so long and got so used to how they are, seeing other people enjoy them makes it feel like I’m hearing them for the first time again. We like to be really involved in the community of people that support us, but it’s also overwhelming when you’re in the spotlight and unsure how things will really go. The whole thing has been so positive and I’m so humbled and thankful for the amount of support we are seeing for this. People seem so happy to be able to enjoy new music at this time, and I’m so happy to be there with them.”
It’s interesting for you to be on the cusp of a new way for people to consume music as well. To launch a new chapter within a new model with the people who want to support you is pretty special…
“It’s overwhelming again in some ways because you have to almost try and keep up with it. Though I also think that bands that don’t engage with their audience on a personal level are missing out. There’s a lot to be gained in terms of friendships and discussions and stories. We’re all in this together, what with the enjoyment of heavy music. We all have a common goal, so it’s awesome and really rewarding to have that connection with people.”
How does it feel for you looking at where the band is now with this body of work ready to release into the world compared to where things were when it was simply an idea in the back of your mind?
“Well, originally when the idea for the band came about I was in a pretty low state. I was working an insurance office job and was also in another band called The Afterimage. It was a progressive metalcore band. I did that on and off whilst trying to start a career in the insurance industry. We put the band on hiatus in 2015, came back in 2018 and put out a record that flopped I guess you could say. There were a lot of things around it that we didn’t really want at the time and at that point, I felt like I was maybe done with all of this stuff. I loved creating music but I didn’t know if I could push to anything that could lead to anything. At that time Michael [Leo Valeri, Guitarist] wasn’t involved with The Afterimage, he used to be a part of the band and we lived together because he also took a step back to work on his career. He had an itch to make some music though and I was up for doing something that was heavy and fun. I sent him some examples of what I wanted to go for and that’s where [‘18’s] ‘The Interstice’ EP came from. It was created at a low point but was just a fun experience.”
“Opportunities started arising and it went from there. It had this snowball effect that I really wasn’t expecting. To look at that time to now, it’s almost night and day. I never expected this band to be anything like my primary focus and become my lifeblood. I’m actually in shock about it, to be quite honest. I’m 30 years old now and I tried for many years to make touring music my primary focus and it never really panned out. I was putting music on the shelf and hanging up the mic, and to be now touring full time now is really crazy to me."
The thing that will always prevail is belief and passion. That’s the thing that will keep you going…
“Exactly. It was always the dream to be doing this, even since I was young. I had some success in the insurance industry, but I didn’t feel the same level of purpose or fire. I’m just floored that I can do this today and people are enjoying this whacky music that we are coming up with. It's a product of love and passion.”