At War - Infidels Of Thrash Metal
By: Alon Miasnikov
Interview With: Paul Arnold (Vocals / Bass), At War
One of the heavier Thrash bands to hit the American metal scene in the 80's was Virginia's At War. This uncompromising three-men outfit released two classic albums - 1986's "Ordred To Kill" and 1988's "Retaliatory Strike" - and made a name for themselves as a strong live force with the aggressive music to fit their militaristic imagery and lyrics. After disbanding in 1993, the band seemed to disappear into history before regrouping, first for live gigs and now for a brand new album. 2009's "Infidel" is a true return to form, combining fast and furious Thrash with the uncompromising hardcore basis that the band always incorporated into it's music. To celebrate the band's return to the US metal scene, we spoke with bassist / vocalist Paul Arnold.
Hi Paul! thanks for doing this interview! I'd like to start with current events - what is the band doing these days
Thanks for asking, we are steady working on playing as much as possible and promoting the new album “Infidel”. We are also constantly perfecting our live set.
You just released your first album for 11 years, "Infidel". First, how does it feel to be back in action?
It feels absolutely incredible. We are very happy with the way it came out and it makes us very proud.
About the album, what does the title and cover speak off?
The cover represents defiance in the face of radical extremists and how people who are free and willing to live along side of all peoples of the world regardless of religion or race will NOT be enslaved by the radicals who see the world as theirs to rule.
The band was always very militaristic in nature and concept, how do the lyrics to the new album sit in with that?
This is a common misconception with the band. Although our lyrics speak of war at times and At War uses a military style in the visuals, it is not our main focus when it comes to songwriting or lyrics. Having said that, there are songs like "Assassins" that talk about covert operations and Special Forces and the jobs they do. The song "R.A.F." is a tribute to the British Royal Air Force. There are several songs that have nothing to do with war or the military. Songs like "Make Your Move" and "Vengeful Eyes".
Any band that features what seems have the militaristic image you have, is usually classified as deeply religious, republican and a staunch supporter on the right to bear arms in the US, where do you guys fit in with this?
That also is a common misconception and an extremely assumptive idea of how we as individuals feel on these issues. None of us are deeply religious and as far as I am concerned I am not religious at all. If anything I consider myself and agnostic. We do hold close the right to bear arms, but as far as political parties… f**k them all!
What is your opinion on the path the US is headed on right now, with President Obama first year in coming to an end, and the current state of things in Iraq and Afghanistan?
As far as I am concerned, I feel that I am unsure of where we are now. There has been so much upheaval economically I feel it eclipses both wars. I am deeply worried that for a very long time into the future that my children and their children will be paying for decisions being made now by the current administrations.
The album seems, though benefiting from a clear and excellent sound, as an aggressive and heavy return to basics. Was it your intention to dust-off any modern sounding metal and go straight for the jugular with this one?
We never had any sort of agenda as far as how we were going to record this “Infidel”. I get asked this question a lot. When we wrote the songs the only criteria we used for this was that we had to really dig the songs, if we did then they were in. When we talked about where to record our very first choice was to do it with Alex Perialas. We were so happy that he also wanted to work with us. We were NEVER going for a retro album or sound. All we wanted was an album that would tear your face off, and we got it!
Your music has always walked a fine-line between Thrash and Hardcore, how much of each is there in your music?
You nailed it man. I am a huge fan of old school hardcore punk like Agnostic Front, Broken Bones, Bad Brains and the like and perhaps more than the other guys, but I know it rears it’s head from time to time in what we do, but we follow no formulas when we write. What you hear is truly organic.
Even though the music in the album retains several elements of your earlier releases, there's definitely some stronger musicianship along with the better sound, how would you compare At War Anno 2009 to the one in the 80's?
We all feel more seasoned now and we also are concentrating on playing even more. We also feel we sound heavier and meaner now. All of this combined tends to feed of everything else and everything comes out more and more aggressive. I feel we as a band are much better now that we have ever been.
Now back in time, why did you guys cease operations back in 1988?
It was actually about 1993, but things just started developing in our personal lives that needed more attention along with the huge change in the music scene around that time. We never officially broke up and remained friends through all that time. It just sort of happened.
What did you do as a musician since?
I didn’t do much. I played with some friends, but never anything serious.
What made you guys regroup? And how did you decide on making a new album?
My main reason for getting it going again was to do that record that we never got to do in the early nineties, so that was a no-brainer. The timing just seemed to be right. We all kind of had the urge around the same time. It is a cyclical thing I think that drove us together again and it feels great!
Why did you go for Heavy Artillery records?
Dave from Heavy Artillery approached us and we struck up a conversation that lead to us working together. You see we had no intention of signing with anyone. We intended to release this on our own, but the guys at Heavy Artillery were such great guys who made us feel like we could do this as partners. It is a great match.
You guys come from Virginia, what kind of a metal scene was there in Virginia, and what kind of a metal scene was there when you started out over there, and what's it like now?
For the type of metal we play there was no scene back in the early eighties, and even now it hasn’t gotten much better. The internet has helped a lot though.
These last few years have seen somewhat of a resurgence in the Thrash metal genre, with many bands reforming, which ones did you keep track off and were happy to see back?
I really like several of the new younger Thrash bands that have come out in the past years. Bands like Gamma Bomb, and Merciless Death are friend of mine who are hard working as hell. I just heard that Bloodfeast is reforming and I dig that. We had Adam Tranquilly do a lead on “Infidel”. So it’s great to see them back.
What kind of crowds do you get at your live shows? Is it mainly original fans that return or new and younger fans as well?
We get an enthusiastic mix of the hard core old schoolers and the young Thrash maniacs. Our demographic has certainly broadened over the years. It’s one of the advantages of being around so long.
What are your plans now that the album is out? How far would you like to take this?
We are loving it now and intend on enjoying the ride as long as we feel good about it. We are highly motivated and very happy with where we are now. We want to take as far as we can!