Most of the early extreme metal bands from the 1980s have completely given up on both the underground and extreme metal. The musicians from cult bands like Cartilage (Fin), Dominus (DE), and Repugnant (Swe) have become legendary for playing with bands like Nightwish, Volbeat, and Ghost at this time. The majority of the classic death metal bands that didn’t completely disband ended up playing well-liked varieties of groove metal, goth rock, or other more lucrative genres as early as on their second album.
The number of musicians from that era who are still as dedicated to repulsive underground death metal filth can nearly be counted on one hand, even if the first wave of USDM was undoubtedly more committed to the genre over the years than the European bands I listed. Mortem, Dead, Pentacle, and a few others… also the Ares Kingdom.
The band was founded by Mike Miller and Chuck Keller from the mighty Order From Chaos shortly after the band split, and the continuation is obvious: Keller’s writing is Keller’s writing, and no amount of years, changes in trends, label support or a lack of it, or anything else have ever changed that. Ares Kingdom themselves did not begin until the middle of the ’90s. In Darkness at Last by Ares Kingdom is the band’s most recent album and the logical continuation of about 35 years of underground death metal madness. It is fiercer, more original, raw, and better written than nearly anything else available.
Young talent and spirit are frequently praised, but there is also merit in having an abundance of talent. Although Keller’s passion for extremeness keeps his writing from ever feeling worn out even after all these years, In Darkness at Last does not sound like an album that a younger band could write. The aggression and even perhaps Keller’s riffing approach could be mistaken for the vigor of a new writer, but undoubtedly the class that lurks behind the hateful riffs is not something that could be accomplished without building a strong, true songwriting base.
The band’s covers of bands like Dokken and Van Halen further establish Keller’s roots in the ’70s and ’80s, and the melodicism these influences bring ties together the entire riffing package to create something that is uniquely Ares Kingdom. Keller has frequently discussed his love of heavy metal and punk. The complete package includes an album that is as thrilling on its own merits as it is for being from one of my favorite bands. Add to that Keller’s fantastic shredding (really, Shrapnel Records phoned and requested for their guitarist back). Miller’s strong drumming.
For an interview with Chuck Keller, continue reading below, and play In Darkness at Last loudly. Hey, brothers, hail and kill.
You just got back from a tour with Deceased and Bulldozer. Tell me about that!
It was incredibly unique. It was the closest thing you could get to an authentic old-school tour in today’s world. Bulldozer was 100 percent real, sounding just like they did in the middle of the 1980s. There couldn’t have been a better fit because the other bands on the tour, including us, Dead, and Demiser, clearly draw inspiration from the attitude and spirit of the 1980s. There were at least a dozen gigs, and because the bands got along so well, everything ran well every single time. A west coast leg with the same roster is currently being planned for late summer or fall of the following year.
What to you makes for an “old school” tour as opposed to other less old school ones you’ve done in recent years?
For starters, Bulldozer was the headlining act on the last tour and only performed songs from their debut two albums, The Day of Wrath and The Final Separation. That is about as throwback to the 1980s as you can get. I’m aware that the word is frequently used, and people are free to disagree as to what exactly constitutes “old school,” but for me, the old school ended in 1989 when death metal overtook thrash, which had sadly withered away…with only a few notable exceptions.
What are some of those notable exceptions?
Up until 1989, bands like Bathory, Sodom, Voivod, Living Death, Carnivore, Razor, and Infernal Majesty were releasing excellent music, but there was also a ton of crap being released at the same time, making it tough to go through it all. In those days, I worked at a record shop as the buyer of metal and punk music, so I witnessed the never-ending stream of brand-new albums. I’d become briefly giddy when a new record came out, pop it open, and start listening. The majority of the time, I would be dissatisfied, re-shrinkwrap it, and silently place it in the record bins in the hopes that someone would purchase it before we had to discount it. I would then share with my group of friends what I believed to be positive and negative.
The majority of the time, I would be dissatisfied, re-shrinkwrap it, and silently place it in the record bins in the hopes that someone would purchase it before we had to discount it. I would then share with my group of pals what I believed to be great and terrible, hehe!
For my money, In Darkness At Last has perhaps the best and most live-like production that Ares Kingdom has ever had. What did you do differently?
Except than spending more time recording the drums, which was still a mechanical process, we really didn’t do anything differently. We only use acoustic methods; there are no triggers or fake replacement tones.
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I believe what you are hearing is a variation in production tones, which always differ from record to album. It’s true that the drums are a little more prominent on this album, but what matters most is that they’re entirely acoustic. Also, my obscenely loud guitar tone is included, so the adage “everything louder …