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New Feature! "The Hunt" Introduces You To Metal Hidden In The Thickets. Meet Canadian Thrashers, Mastery

By Brian Davis, Contributor
Wednesday, May 31, 2006 @ 12:59 AM

"We decided to just go balls t

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In this new and on-going feature, KNAC.COM contributor Brian Davis hunts down up-and-coming metal bands and, while the kill is still warm, introduces you to them. Welcome to The Hunt.

Labias and genitalmen, Thrash has been reborn. Welcome to the rise of Mastery, Canadian instrumental Trash titans whose abundant talent and dedication to their art are ushering in the full circle return of everything that was ever good about Thrash Metal. Mastery's debut EP "Lethal Legacy" is in all major music outlets now, and it'll be a sad, deprived day in the life of any true Thrash fan until you're holding this puppy in your grubby mitts. But hey-hearing is believing, so check out some tunes at www.myspace.com/masterymetal or www.masterymetal.com and get yourself some Thrash rash fever. Once you get the fever, try sinking your teeth into this proposition: If you get off your asses between now and June 30th, 2006, get out there and spread the word on Mastery the way Courtney Love spreads STDs, 5 very fortunate souls can earn the right to have Mastery come to your HOUSE and play in your backyard. Whether for a BBQ, Bah Mitzvah, or to celebrate uncle Earl's early probation, they will come to your house for FREE (anywhere in Canada or the US). To find out more, hit the sites mentioned above, as well as the band's record label at: www.myspace.com/spinerazor. It's too good to resist, admit it! So get out there-support Mastery and support Metal! Meanwhile, allow me to introduce Kevan Roy, the most dynamic and prolific Thrash drummer to hit the scene since the mighty Gene Hoglan:

KNAC.COM: Hey Kevan, how's it going?

MASTERY: Very well, very well.

KNAC.COM: Good, good. Good talking to you, man.

MASTERY: Yeah! (laughs) Thanks for the awesome review!

KNAC.COM: Hey, thanks for the awesome CD! (laughs)

MASTERY: Hopefully we can keep hearing some more of those. We were totally blown away by the very kind words you gave us. Awesome.

KNAC.COM: Kind, but honest.

MASTERY: Hey, we appreciate that.

KNAC.COM: I like what you guys are doing.

MASTERY: That's what it's all about, right? It's gratifying for us to just reach people and hear that they get what we're doing.

KNAC.COM: Alright, let's get some history. What got you guys going?

MASTERY: Well, [guitarist] Markus [Armellini] originally started the whole Mastery concept about four years ago or so. At the time he was working with a singer and another drummer, and that was it-it was just the three of them; [guitarist] Jeff [Dormer] wasn't part of the whole thing then and I hadn't even met them yet. Jeff met Markus about a year after they started, which is about a year before I started, and it was definitely when the three of us got together that it really-as far as what we're doing now-it really took shape. The drummer they had before wasn't really into what they were trying to do as far as the really aggressive hyper-Thrash; he was really more laid back. Same with the singer as well-he just wasn't into where things were going. So I came on board, and with the whole singer thing…well, no-one ever showed up. (laughs)

KNAC.COM: (laughs) So it was not necessarily planned, like "Hey, let's do an instrumental Thrash band." After all the searching you guys just said, "Screw it, let's do it."

MASTERY: Pretty much, yeah; it was totally by accident. It's actually kind of funny because my last band here in Toronto, we also had such huge singer challenges. One of the things is finding somebody who actually fits with your music, but then of course the whole personality issue just complicates things even more. So when I came into Mastery they had just recently parted ways with their singer, so we began working on new material and writing and really stepping up the aggressiveness of where things were at and spent some time auditioning, advertising, all that kind of stuff; we met some good guys-some guys were pretty good at what they did, but we just weren't hearing what we wanted to hear. And it kinda got to the point after six-eight months or so where it's like, "Do we sit here in the studio and keep waiting, or do we just go out there and do it anyways and just say 'Screw it?'" And the thought at the time was that by going and recording and by going ahead and doing shows and stuff like that, that by just being in the scene that the singer would find us. And the funny thing was that we weren't even expecting the kind of response that we got. I mean, we obviously were believing in what we were doing and were really excited about the idea of going out without a singer because-who's doing that? Nobody; and of course, just the nature of our music-it's a little bit different than a lot of Thrash bands; it's so instrumentally intensive-the riffing and the drumming and stuff. I think that people aren't going to get bored listening to us, especially in the live show watching us is apparently quite entertaining. It was funny, because the first five shows we did we didn't even have a bass player; we pre-recorded the bass and I played to a click. (laughs) It was quite hilarious. It was just the three of us on stage, and we actually felt quite humbled by the response we were getting. They were like, "Oh my God, don't get a singer!", which is kind of…almost again by accident just because we had so much things going on, we weren't actively advertising and we weren't actively auditioning at that point, and we just got more and more excited about what were doing with the instrumental thing. Especially for me-I mean, as a drummer having no vocals there really opened up some doors for me to fill in some space, almost as a necessity as far as not just laying back; there's room there to be a little more aggressive and up front in a sense.

KNAC.COM: Yeah, you've got to step it up.

MASTERY: Totally. So our new songs now have evolved around that and become even more instrumentally intensive than the "Lethal Legacy" CD. But at the same time, all the songs have been written for vocals-I mean, the structure and the ideas when Markus and Jeff are coming up with riffs are totally to accommodate vocals. So whether someone is going to be able to show up and do that is yet to be seen, but we're still kind of going on the premise that the right person is going to find us.

KNAC.COM: And until then…

MASTERY: Yeah, until then we're just going to see where it takes us.

KNAC.COM: So you haven't specifically ruled out finding a singer?

MASTERY: Absolutely not; it's going to be interesting to see where it all goes. Going back a year, we were just doing our first shows together and going out there not knowing at all what to expect doing instrumentals, and quite honestly we didn't expect it to catch quite the momentum it seems to be. (laughs) And I guess it's because we are doing something a little different; but the idea has always been that if the right person shows up that can totally blow us away, then we're obviously going to go with it. We definitely don't have the mindset that we are an instrumental band and that's the final thing, you know? Whatever is best for the music and wherever it takes us.

KNAC.COM: One of my main things in the review was that some people would initially cringe at the idea of no vocals, thinking that's the whole part of the Thrash sound, but then again think of how many CDs have been over the top and then some jackass mongoloid singer comes in and just ruins it.

MASTERY: Exactly, and that's been our experience as well, even just with auditioning. It's a fine line because musically, vocals or no vocals, I think that we're doing something that's a little on the edge of what is common place right now. I like to think at least that it's different; I mean, you can definitely tell where our influences come from, but it's not like so many other bands out there where you can say, "Oh, that sounds like this and that sounds like this and that riff is from them"-I don't think we're really doing that; I hope we're not! (laughs) So vocally we also wanted to have some who doesn't sound like so-and-so and doesn't sound like so-and-so, but sounds like Mastery. And that is definitely going to prove to be the biggest challenge, because the whole screaming your head off thing-it's been done; the Death vocals-it's been done; all that stuff has been done. So to find someone who has uniqueness about them-it's definitely going to be a challenge, and we hope we can find them. But we're not…I guess that was the critical moment of choice when we were deciding how we were going to approach this whole thing-we're just going to throw caution to the wind here and go out there instrumentally not knowing what to expect instead of what bands tend to do-they get a singer that's not best for the music but they're not sure about going out there without a singer. We believe so much in what we're doing musically and have something we definitely want to express musically; we didn't want to have it totally distracted by some guy up there screaming for the sake of screaming.

KNAC.COM: The sound you guys have-it's pretty encompassing; it has a very distinct appeal to the old school Thrashers, the die-hards, the ones that can't even stand new music, and at the same time you've got the Progressive edge, the taste of different that a lot of people are hungry for now. So it really kind of wraps it all up nicely in a little box.

MASTERY: That's what we're hoping; we're hoping that the timing is right for us. Everything has kind of come full circle; you think about the '80s and where Thrash metal was then, and then through the '90s and early 2000's with the Emo and Punk and stuff-I think it's really come all the way back around where people are wanting to see the aggressive stuff played.

KNAC.COM: (laughs) Yes, please! Save us now!

MASTERY: (laughs) Exactly! So it's exciting for us just to be in the right place, timing wise.

KNAC.COM: Myspace.com-obviously that's where I found you guys; you seem to have a huge following there-do you think that's been a pretty vital element in where you are now?

MASTERY: Definitely. We've been so surprised, and again just completely humbled and blown away by the response we've gotten on there, the comments and the people we've met on there like yourself; it's been awesome.

KNAC.COM: It really puts the fans in close contact with the music and with the bands themselves; that interaction is very enticing to everybody and it just builds.

MASTERY: I guess it's a sign of the times and the difference between what makes some people successful or not. If you look at just a couple years ago, it was all about, "Gotta have the website, gotta promote the website"-everything was about the website, and that's where we were at as well mentally; but it's done a complete 180-now who cares about the website? Its amazing-it's got that whole community appeal to it, and websites now-to me-seem distant and cold.

KNAC.COM: Did you independently produce the "Lethal Legacy" album? Was it all out of your own pockets?

MASTERY: Oh yeah, yeah we did everything. (laughs) It took a while, but it was part of the whole plan as far as doing instrumentals. It's a funny thing-because we're doing something that's against the grain, people early on in the industry were kind of like, "Hey, cool music. Call me when you get a singer." And we weren't gonna wait, so we just went ahead with it. I did all of the recording and engineering things, and Markus did all of the artwork, so we were able to keep everything in-house, which at the end of the day turned out to be a really cool thing because we still own everything. (laughs)

KNAC.COM: Hey, I'm all for that. The fewer external fingers you have in your pie the better the chance of doing it the way you really wanted.

MASTERY: Yeah, I think that's exactly what it came down to. None of us are 20 year old kids anymore; we want to obviously make a career out of this and we take what we're doing very seriously, so we wanted to make an impact with this whole thing and decided to just go balls to the wall, go over the top with everything to help separate us from the crowd.

KNAC.COM: You mentioned new material-what's on the horizon? Are you gonna do another EP, or shoot for a full length?

MASTERY: Well, the "Lethal Legacy" EP we did with the six tracks, in retrospect, is kind of a double-edged sword. We decided to go with six tracks only because we had no idea how the whole instrumental thing was going to be received, and the thought was that we'd test the water. We could put out ten songs and everybody would be bored of it; you never know. But so far, because of the response we're getting, next time I think it's going to be a full length.

KNAC.COM: Yeah, "Lethal Legacy" kinda leaves you with a junkie fixation; by then end you're like, "Yeah! I need more!"

MASTERY: Exactly, and believe me, it was no accident in that. The flip side as well was that if this thing does take off as far as people receiving it well, then it's gonna leave you hungry.

KNAC.COM: Definitely-plant the seed and get 'em fiending. So what kind of time frame are you looking at? Are you gonna do some more touring in support of "Lethal Legacy", or are you gonna focus on the new album and push that?

MASTERY: Well, we got North American distribution for "Lethal Legacy" so it's going to be in all the record stores across North America, and we're definitely going to go out and tour to support that. We are going to be playing new material in the live show-we're not just going to be playing the "Lethal Legacy" cd. So as far as the timeline for the next cd, we don't know-it's going to depend on where touring takes us.

KNAC.COM: Good; I hate to see a cd come out that is so good but so drastically overlooked that you have to move on when there's so much opportunity to tap into with it. Into Eternity was like that-they came out with "Buried In Oblivion" and was out for almost a year before they finally got to tour; they were getting pretty discouraged and then the next thing you know they did like six North American tours. You definitely want to get your full value out of the music.

MASTERY: Exactly; we want "Lethal Legacy" to attract attention and we want it to reach its full potential before we put out something else and take away from that. But I think right now, tentatively the plan is that-depending on touring-we'll be in the studio no later than next spring.

KNAC.COM: So how much will you be in the States?

MASTERY: Well, right now we're looking at a 95 city, 20 week long tour. (laughs) Obviously right now, for Canadian bands to get into the US is a lot of paperwork; it's quite a nightmare. But that's just part of it, so once we get all of that red tape out of the way we're fully onboard with doing a pretty comprehensive US tour.

KNAC.COM: I think it will go over really well here, certainly on the West Coast; everyone is still kicking and thriving on the Bay Area Thrash scene from 20 years ago.

MASTERY: We're definitely excited about that.

KNAC.COM: I understand that you have one of the most extreme drum set ups in the scene. (laughs)

MASTERY: (laughs) It seems to be. (laughs) It's over top, that's for sure. But then again, for me it's all about marketing, in the sense that we want to make a statement. And I've always loved big drum kits, because part of it is that nobody is doing that kind of stuff anymore, and also it's opened up so many doors for me. The art of drumming-especially with a lot of the Hardcore stuff and certain styles of metal-it's so standard. They've got a six, seven, eight piece kit, it's very standard rolling, very standard fills, and a lot of it is just kick drum; the kick patterns are what's stepping them up. And my own philosophy for drumming is to really use the drums as a melodic instrument.

KNAC.COM: As opposed to just being background noise and keeping a basic beat.

MASTERY: Totally-just really play off the guitars; so it's really pretty intense. (laughs)

KNAC.COM: That's one of the main highlights of the album-that you can carry the music and you can go off and do your own thing; it's wide open.

MASTERY: Yeah, I'm actually building a drum kit now that's even a little more extreme. (laughs)

KNAC.COM: (laughs) Excellent-are you gonna do a Tommy Lee and spin around up in the air?

MASTERY: Actually, it's funny because…it's hard to tell with the pictures that are over on Myspace.com, but I made a custom cage for the drums so all the cymbals are suspended-everything but the snare drum is mounted on the cage, so we've joked that I could actually do something like that where we'd be able to lift the whole cage and rotate it. We'll see what the budgets allow for down the road. (laughs)

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