"People are too scared to be that aggressive and aggravated band anymore. We figured that is who we want to be.” - Jack Simmons
Slaughter To Prevail have just released their long-awaited second album 'KOSTOLOM' via Sumerian.
After already establishing themselves as one of the hardest and heaviest bands in modern metal, the stage was already set for something extraordinary. But what the band have produced here is unlike anything anyone would have expected. Combining their signature brute forces with lashings of hardcore, nu-metal and straight-up arena-ready hard rock, this is a record that is as undeniably fun as it is wonderfully dangerous. It's big, brash and isn't afraid to crack a smile, and that's exactly what the scene needed at a time when it's been taking itself way too seriously.
To find out all about it, we jumped on the phone with guitarist Jack Simmons to talk creation, expectation and what's next....
So where would you say the first pieces of what would become ‘KOSTOLOM’ started to come together?
“The thing is that we write continuously. Even up to this point now, just before jumping on the phone for this conversation, I was writing music with Alex. So with that in mind, it’s difficult for us to pick the tracks we want to put together for an actual album. We wrote some of these songs even before the songs that made it on ‘Misery Sermon’, you know? We are constantly fighting to figure out what’s working and what we want our albums to be.
“So with ‘KOSTOLOM’, the first sort of inkling of what we wanted this to be was when we released ‘Agony’. That was September 2019, and the first moment we said, ‘This is where we want this new record to go’. So we decided to use some of the many tracks we had that would fit in and then rewriting the rest. So half of the album is brand new tracks that fit in with the new sound we were going for.
“When me and Alex write together, we always say that there feels like something is missing in extreme music right now. It feels like the trend has moved to the point where there’s nothing that feels really dangerous. People are too scared to be that aggressive and aggravated band anymore. We figured that is who we want to be.”
Fear and danger are such interesting concepts in music, especially in the way we consume it in 2021. But for you to want to not only progress as a band but also bring back that feeling that has so often got lost in the static is a pretty good place to start…
“The thing is, we have always known what Slaughter is to us; it’s just been a case of trying to bring that to life. With people being able to consume music so fast and bands and artists are dropping so much music every month of every year, you need to try and make what you’re doing something special. Every time we have dropped a song and a video, it has become a moment in itself. It’s trying to be the counter to having access to the music so easily by drip-feeding these exact music and visuals. It’s not like we have even done it consciously. We’ve just put the time and effort in naturally to make everything that we do mean something. Be that in how the videos look or how we come across to people.”
What’s it like for watching those moments you’ve created play out before your eyes? How does it drive you when it comes to picking out what the next move is?
“It’s a mixture of two feelings. One of them is vulnerability. This is everything I have ever wanted, but now the pressure is not to drop the ball. As a band, people never really had many expectations of us. It was more focused on our vocalist and our image more so than anything else. So to have a song like ‘Demolisher’, for example, do what it did gave us the feeling of, ‘Okay, we’re here now, so let’s not fuck it up. At the same time, it was a big drive because we had proven that we could do this. When I wrote ‘Demolisher’, I never thought about how it would be great for this or that. It was just trying to make the most demonic music I could with the resources I had. Seeing it hit in the way it did gave us the confidence to see how far we could go. It’s incredibly humbling to see your music respond to like that, but it also kicks you to keep going with the rest of what you’re writing. It made us think of what we wanted to do differently because we didn’t just want an album of this song and style. It would be too much of an easy way out to write that song 12 more times. That is that track, so let’s make everything just as ferocious and violent but in a different way.”
If there is an expectation of the band, it's that people may be coming to you just to hear the heaviest of heavy. But you’re in a position where you can bend those expectations and create something that is not just heavy but also scary and funny and exciting at the same time. Is that something you’ve been very conscious of utilising?
“Yeah, very much. But it’s a strange one. When Alex and I write music, we both have this idea that a song needs a specific moment to make it. That could be a breakdown or a chorus or a solo, but it needs to be something that we enjoy. Back when we were writing ‘Misery Sermon’ we were listening to a lot of deathcore and death metal, and in a lot of ways, it’s what we felt like we should be doing rather than what we wanted to do. This time around, there are moments where there’s a clean chorus that we contemplated whether we should have on there but are because we love it. If we love the song, then it should be there. Fuck it. We want to be able to surprise people with everything that we do. The expression that we want to show off is forever changing, and I would say that this record is the closest we have got to get it right. We still don’t think it’s 100% where we are going to be, but it’s about seeing our growth and our growing pains at the same time.”
How would you say that the personal relationship that you and Alex have has shifted over the years? You’ve always been creative together, and that process has adapted, but how have you adapted as friends?
"It’s changed. We connected purely through music at the start. We’re pretty much opposite people, but we have ended up becoming family through all of this. Through the highs and lows and experiences that come with being in a band together, we can both see who each of us is deep inside of all of that. As the band has grown and adapted and changed, so has our relationship. The consistency through all of that has been because we are super honest about everything. If either of us has an idea that the other one doesn’t like, we aren’t afraid, to be honest, and say if it’s shit or doesn’t work. Our personal relationship has grown in the same way with the same honesty. Especially with him being from a different country and culture to me, we’ve still managed to make it work."
Music has no border or boundary, but on that personal level, when you're coming from two very different places, there’s no certainty that what you're making could even work. Finding that honesty, especially when so many people have such strong opinions on what you do, is a victory in itself….
"For sure. When we go on tour with other bands, you don’t see as many actual friendships as you think there should be. We’ve had our fair share of arguments and disagreements, but at the end of all of this, we will always be friends. We met when we were teenagers and since have had all of these opportunities that we never thought were possible because of our passion for music. That will always be true, no matter what."
Where would you say were the scariest and most unfamiliar places you found yourself whilst putting this record together?
“I think the whole thing was pretty terrifying, to be honest, with us coming from a place where we’re a ‘deathcore’ band. The genre had become so stale because so many people weren’t willing to go out there and continue to make music built on the same vocals and riffs. Anything that steps out of that is all of sudden not deathcore too. That’s something we were aware of. We also knew that our strengths lie in breakdowns and super low vocals, so it was terrifying to let go of what must have been a whole album of songs that felt like that. Instead, we wanted to test ourselves and find something that was ultimately us. We had to dig super deep for that. There are a couple of songs on here that we contemplated whether we even wanted to release as Slaughter. There were so many risks that Alex personally took with singing and some of the clean guitar parts from my end that we had never done before. We wouldn’t have even considered doing anything like that previously. It would have almost been blasphemy. It took a lot to reach this point and a lot of consideration of whether it was right or not.”
Sometimes though, you’ve just got to take the leap and see what happens. You can’t just sit around with your finger on the button considering all of the ‘What Ifs’ and never actually launching it…
“Absolutely, we could easily keep going round and round in the same cycle, and there’s a comfort in that. The thing is that we would keep on writing what felt like better songs. Something like ‘Baba Yaga’, which we loved, was written right at the end of the process. It’s one of our favourite songs on the record. And we could either sit around for another six months trying to write more songs like that and considering everything again, or we could just go with it.”
Finally, how does it feel to be at a point what Slaughter To Prevail plays such a role in your life as it does? How does it feel to have this collection of songs here to represent this point in the journey?
“It just feels good, to be honest. We’re hungrier now. With us, the more that we get, the more than we want. That’s the kind of people we are. So from now, we want to keep on doing even more with it. We want to push absolutely everything. From the music to the live shows to the branding, we’re never truly content with where we are. But to look back on everything, this is the moment that we have wanted to achieve for our entire career. But because it’s not exactly how we imagined it, we want to keep on working to reach another level of satisfaction in what we’re doing. We’re just going to keep on pushing the culture.”