Black Death from the OC. Gnarly Charlie's Chat with Winterthrall

By Charlie Steffens aka Gnarly Charlie, Writer/Photographer
Tuesday, July 6, 2010 @ 5:12 PM

"I have a hard enough time playing, much less trying to figure out how Iím gonna put makeup on."

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Hailing from Orange County are four guys who would rather remain true to their uncompromising musical vision than set the world on fire in a quick spark of popularity. If some measure of success was hinged on going it any other direction than their way, the band would just as soon stay in the garage. United they stand as Winterthrall, a band comprised of Steve Nelson on vocals and guitar, Josh Standifer on guitar, Ruben Lugo on bass and vocals, and Rob Alaniz on drums.

Winterthrallís emergence onto the underground scene has been a slow burn since its inception back in late 2001. At that time, founders Nelson and Alaniz, who had played in such acts as Noctuary and Evil Dead, decided to put together a brutally grim, sonic concoction of black/death metal, adding former guitarist Elizabeth Schall and Lugo for bass duties.

With the latest release, Stormraven, and an ever-growing conviction to annihilate stages with their straight-ahead brand of brutality, Winterthrall is coiled and ready to strike.

The new album shines on what made Winterthrall stand out from the beginning, says Lugo. "We werenít really death metal, we werenít really black metal. We had all those parts. What stood us apart was the fact we broke from that and actually had an aspect with melody. Thatís whatís helped Winterthrall, I think, since the beginning. We didnít taper ourselves into one genre. It was always a mix of everything. A lot of people appreciate that, especially with this new album now."

The writing of the music for Stormraven was divvied up between guitarists Nelson and Standifer. Up until this release, most Winterthrall songs had been written solely by Nelson. Standifer, who handled the majority of lead guitar on the new album, admits he and Nelson have different methods of attack on guitar. Nonetheless, it works for the benefit of the bands axe-heavy sound. Standifer explains: "Itís a good mix, because heís so outside the box, and I was trained by a jazz musician for a couple years, so I learned theory, modes, scales, composition. So I was outside the box a little with my writing style. Scales and modes are already floating in my head, whereas heís self-taught. We meet in the middle."

Drummer Alaniz is a man of few words, and lets his music do the talking. He has drummed for several bands, and recently did a European tour with power metal legends, Abattoir, which Alaniz regards as a dream come true. "I started, actually, as a drum tech for Abattoir," reveals Alaniz. "I was sound-checking for their drummer at one of the shows they didóa big show. The sound man told the bass player that I was way better than their drummer. So Mel [Sanchez] called me after Abattoir broke up and we started Evil Dead."

Winterthrallís sound could be classified more as a black metal band than anything else. Whatís refreshing about these guys is their warped sense of humor. They just donít seem to take themselves too seriously. When sharing stages with other bands, they are usually standing out as the band not wearing the standard corpse paint. "I have no problem with any band donning corpse paint and doing the theatrics." says Nelson. "We just never got into it in any band weíve ever done. If somebody wants to do it, thatís fine. I have a hard enough time playing, much less trying to figure out how Iím gonna put makeup on."

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