Nervecell are stalwarts of the Middle East metal scene. The UAE based death metal band have released 2 full length albums, toured across Europe and performed alongside legendary metal acts like Metallica and recently Nile.
Next week the band release their third album Past, Present…Torture via Lifeforce Records (US/Europe) and Metal East Records (Middle East). The band have premiered 3 tracks from the album so far, a peek into their heaviest material yet. A few listens of the album was all it took for me to get convinced that Nervecell had topped their previous album Pscyhogencide.
I spoke to guitarist Barney Ribeiro about Past, Present…Torture, death metal in 2017 and also performing in India.
Transcending Obscurity (Peter K): Your third album Past, Present…Torture releases this month. How does it feel now that the album is going to be released?
Nervecell (Barney): Pretty damn good, we were in Lyon, France exactly around this same time last year (July 2016) tracking drums with Kevin. After which we brought the drum tracks back with us to Dubai and immediately went into Haven Studios to track the guitars, bass and vocal tracks. So even though the album is new to the rest of the world, those songs have actually been with us for the better half of the last 2 years that we’ve been working on and crafting. If anything it just amazes me how fast time flies. I’m just really glad we’re finally going to release this thing, the fans have been very patient waiting for new music from us and their going to get what they’ve been waiting for.
TO: The album has a post apocalyptic theme. What was the inspiration behind it?
Nervecell: Honestly it’s something we came up with very gradually as the song titles started to come in one after the other. The music has this post apocalyptic vibe in a lot of the songs and the subject matter of the lyrics that James was singing about too was resonating with us quite a lot during the writing stage, which had to do with past events and the dark ages. There is still so much of untold information out there from the past that people do not necessarily know about, and that is only until recently being brought into the limelight. One would expect we live in a modern civilized world today but the future has so much of unpredictability ahead of us that it will inevitably lead to the fall of the human race. The present basically represents us trying to do our bit and alarm everyone to start taking action before it gets too late, hence why you see the Nervecell Emblem arising from the grounds on the album artwork to resemble a sense of warning and symbolism to act now, so take matters in our own hands so to speak, before it’s too late.
TO: You’ve have upped the ante on the production of the album. Did you try anything different this time around with the recording process?
Nervecell: Thanks! Well we played around with loads of stuff. We’ve always been a band that is heavily involved throughout the entire recording process. I mean we used our own Engl guitar amp heads for starters. Basically what we use live, we wanted the very same sound we deliver live to be used in the studio. So we had Rami and my guitar tones intentionally set out differently in that aspect while recording each of our songs. We also have songs on the album that Rami wrote individually and songs that I wrote individually as well, which is different this time around as we used to always merge our ideas together in our songs on previous releases. There are only 2 songs on this album that the entire band contributed to as a whole. We also wrote almost all the drum parts on this record and got Kevin to basically perform / record our ideas while doing the drum tracking. Unlike the first 2 albums, where we pretty much left Dave Haley with a lot of freedom you can say. So all of that together with that fact that we utilized some atmospheric elements into the songs, very faint stuff but you do here these minor details that add that extra element that helps emphasize the mood of certain tracks. Also we’ve recorded the entire album on a different tuning in comparison to our older releases, which gave a different edge on how our songs sounded this time around. We just went into making this record knowing we wanted a brutal more technical sounding record and to keep it as organic as possible.
TO: Kevin Foley (One life All-in, Benigthed) has recorded the drums on the album. How did he become a part of the album?
Nervecell: Kevin has always been a guy we’ve been very close with. We’ve worked with various drummers over the years but you know not everyone is necessarily the same. Kevin honestly reminds me of us, he’s extremely down to earth, extremely talented, very versatile by the way in his playing style, completely drama free, real fun to hang with and also has loads of recording experience in him as well! I mean there is more to just being a good drummer that we look for when selecting who we want to have been a part of our band and perform on our songs. Chemistry is so very important to me and I make sure there is that chemistry that we get along with all the drummers we work with more that anything else I’d say. He just had it all man and like I said, a very good friend to the band. Don’t forget he’s toured with us all over Asia and Europe for a good 2 to 3 years so all that counts too.
TO: What are your thoughts on the current state of death metal?
Nervecell: It’s coming back like a fucking tsumani, I mean we’ve got all the iconic death metal bands either releasing/released or working on new albums this year like ourselves, it’s ridiculous. Morbid Angel, Deicide, Suffocation, Decapitated, Cannibal Corpse, Broken Hope, Origin, Decrepit Birth, Obituary and a shit load of newer extreme metal bands too of course…I can keep naming them but anyway. I put up a post about this earlier this year on my Facebook stating how if there was anyone out there who claims Death Metal is dead or going nowhere in 2017 can seriously F#*k off! There are a lot more players now in the genre and the competition is getting real hot. I love it because we coming from the Middle East are used to the heat (and by heat I mean more of those who are envious and jealous of others success – especially in this region), so we are sooo super stoked to kick the shit out of all the non-believers with this new record and let the music speak for itself. “Past, Present…Torture” is going to seal the deal that we aren’t stopping anytime soon, and we are going out there proudly representing the Middle East for Extreme Metal in general.
TO: What have you been listening to lately (metal and non-metal)? Are there any acts that have inspired you of late?
Nervecell: Honestly I haven’t been inspired for the last 4 to 5 years musically. Even in Metal there hasn’t really been anything that really does it for me anymore. There is this whole new wave of Death core bands that I just really can’t get into man. I mean I get it, it’s brutal, break-downs, crisp production etc. but they have like 20 laptops on stage playing backing tracks man…I’m sorry I don’t give in to that shit! Part of me liking metal is that raw, unpredictable and spontaneous energy you get when performing live that keeps this genre pure and different from the rest for me personally. I can’t stand these bands with their choreographed performances. I always keep an open ear for new music though, but really if there is anything I’ve been listening to lately it’s just the classic Thrash and Death metal bands I grew up to man. There just don’t make good old-school quality music like that anymore, the closest to that sound I can relate to today is probably Bloodbath, although that last album they did with Nick Holmes was rather disappointing. If I want to just chill and mellow out I’ll pop in some Sithu Aye, Plini, God is an Astronaut, Massive Attack, Anathema, Leprous…and perhaps even some Extol too, another very underrated band.
TO: You did a short tour of India in 2010. What are your memories from then?
Nervecell: I’ll keep this one short. That Blue Frog venue we played in Mumbai, India was one of the best live shows I’ve ever played with Nervecell. Dudes in the crowd went absolute nuts! I have no idea why the hell we haven’t been back there again since… I mean we almost sold out that venue and it was only our first time in Mumbai. Apart from that, we enjoyed the food and came back home to Dubai humbled, cause every time you feel you have something to complain about in your life, one must go visit India, shit will wake you the fuck up there and make you appreciate every little thing you got going. I’m just grateful we got fans there!
TO: You recently performed with Nile in Dubai. How did the show go?
Nervecell: It was excellent, we haven’t played in Dubai for almost 3 years, so it was nice to come back and perform at home again one last time before we release the new album officially. As always there were a lot of new faces in the audience, but that’s something we are used to being based here through out our entire career. We will probably look at playing Dubai again and other neighboring countries in the Middle East once the new album is released later this month.
TO: Do you have any more shows/tours planned this year?
Nervecell: Nothing as of now, but we sure as hell plan on touring a lot for the better half of next year in support of our new album “Past, Present…Torture”.
TO: Thanks for doing this interview. Do you have any final words?
Nervecell: Well thank you for having me here Peter. Nervecell fans, don’t forget the new album “Past, Present…Torture” comes out on August 25th around the world. Fans in the Middle East can pick it up on shelves post August 25th via Metal East Records and fans from North America / Europe can pick it up from your local music stores via Lifeforce Records. We can’t wait to hear all of your feedback and we definitely look forward to playing in your cities very soon. Cheers!