by Ryan Meehan
Pentagram was formed in 1985 by Anton Reisenegger (vocals, lead guitar) and
Juan Pablo Uribe (rhythm guitar), two teenagers whose main interests were
underground metal and alcohol. Influenced by the likes of SLAYER, VENOM,
KREATOR and POSSESSED, the pair started writing songs in Reisenegger’s bedroom
until their live debut on December 28th, 1985 with Eduardo Topelberg of CHRONOS
helping out on drums. The band spent most of 1986 rehearsing and
perfecting their sound, until recording their first demo tape in January 1987.
With Topelberg now in the band as an official member and Reisenegger handling
bass duties in the studio, the “Demo I” included three tracks, “Fatal
Predictions”, “Demoniac Possession” and “Spell of the Pentagram”, the first two
of which were later released as Pentagram’s infamous 7″ single by
Switzerland’s Chainsaw Murder Records. In September of the same year, the
band entered the studio again to record their “Demo II”, now with a permanent
bass player, Alfredo Peña. Including three tracks again – “The Malefice”,
“Profaner” and “Temple of Perdition” – the recording showed a much more
mature Pentagram with complex song structures and intricate riffs, yet
without losing any of the band’s raw, brutal energy. Soon they were
playing to hundreds of fans in Chile and being handled as one of South
America’s most promising death metal bands in the burgeoning international
metal undeground, but the band broke up in early 1988. Internal troubles, the
frustration of a record deal that didn’t materialize and especially the Chilean
crowd’s custom to spit on the bands that were playing on stage had taken their
toll on the band. However, the demos kept spreading worldwide through
tape trading far beyond the band’s demise, inspiring a whole generation of extreme
metal musicians including NAPALM DEATH, ENTOMBED, DARKTHRONE and AT THE
GATES. In 2012, the band decided to officially change their name
to Pentagram Chile in order to avoid confusions with the much longer
running US doom rock band fronted by Bobby Liebling. Pentagram
Chile vocalist and guitarist Anton Reisenegger is our guest
today in 7 Questions.
RM: Growing up what were the environmental factors of your South American
heritage that were extremely influential in your desire to compose heavy metal
music? Did you have access to a lot of records growing up or was most of
it underground tapes that had been passed around by metal fans?
AR: I don’t know, we were probably just angry, rebellious teenagers who wanted
to rage, but I think the fact that we were living under an extremely oppressive
regime was also a factor. We had good enough access to import records as there
was a specialized vinyl import shop, but the records were quite expensive, so
we could only afford to buy one every once in a while, and obviously the
records were passed around and copied unto cassette. We quickly got into tape
trading with our contacts abroad as well, and that really opened up our horizon
as we realized there was a huge scene out there.
RM: What did you guys set out to do with “The Malefice” and how
do feel about the overall sound of the album? What was the biggest
difference between the two studios that you worked at that would eventually
result in the disc’s completion?
AR: What we wanted to create was basically a continuation of our 80s demo
material, and, judging by the comments and reviews we have received so far, it
looks like we succeeded. I really like the sound on the album, because it is
raw, but clear at the same time. We didn’t want to sound bad on purpose just to
be old-school, we wanted the best possible production, but it had to be a
production that fit the songs and style. So no triggers, no samples, no amp
modelling software etc. Just the real deal. Real drums, real amps, etc. Both
the studios we worked at have a pretty standard set-up, we just used the one in
Chile to track the drums and a few overdubs, and everything else was one in the
RM: What was the reason for Eduardo’s inability to play on the record
when the band attempted to reunite in the studio a couple of years back?
Did you feel like that was a pretty big setback at that point or were you able
to handle it well given all that the band has been through?
AR: Eduardo had gastric bypass surgery, which resulted in him losing a lot of
weight over a short period of time. Unfortunately he failed to do
physiotherapy, so his muscles shrunk as well and that affected his ability to
play drums. But altogether I also felt his head was in a different place and he
wasn’t giving the band the priority it deserved. We still attempted to record
the drums with him, and the result wasn’t horrible, but just not good enough to
be on our first-ever studio album. It was a huge setback and I was very
depressed for weeks because all of the work I’d put in. I was actually
considering just giving up on the whole thing, but eventually I turned around
and made it happen.
RM: When you listen to a lot of the heavy metal music that’s out
nowadays, as a band that’s been around for over a quarter of a century what’s
the most frustrating trend that you hear in other artists’ music? What do
you think is the root cause of that, and how do you think that it made its way
into the genre of heavy metal?
AR: I think there’s a lot of bands that basically don’t have anything new or
relevant to say. They just form a band to go out and party or whatever, rehash
a few of their favorite bands’ riffs and write some clichéd lyrics and that’s
it. And then most of the drummers don’t really play very good so they use
programming to cheat in the studio. It’s all pretty sad really. Maybe the fact
that everyone has easy access to everything nowadays, and also that it has
become quite affordable to record, it makes it too easy.
RM: What made you decided to re-record some of the earlier demos and
include them as bonus material as a separate disc? When the band was on
hiatus, did you spend a lot of time wondering what those songs would have
sounded like if they were re-recorded or did you have a pretty good idea in
your head as to what the finished product would be?
AR: We never got to do an album in the 80s, so we always had to live with the
frustration of not knowing how these songs would sound with a proper studio
recording. At the same time, we didn’t want to base our debut album on songs
that were 25 years old, so we decided to record the old stuff as a bonus, but
to use only new songs for the actual album. When we re-recorded the demo songs
we tried to stay as close as possible to the original recordings in terms of
tuning, tempo and vibe and I think we did a pretty good job.
RM: You guys are currently putting together a book about the journey
that you’ve all been through as bandmates…What can metal fans expect to read
in that book and in what way (if any) has compiling that information had
an effect on your songwriting in the band going forward? In other
words, when you recall those events do you see things that you would
have done differently and then formulate a different approach based on
what you’ve learned in the past?
AR: Well, the book is actually a really interesting read, because the writer
interviewed around 20 people who were around the band back in the 80s and up to
now, so it paints a picture, not only of the band history itself, but of the
metal scene of the time and even of the sociopolitical environment we were
living in. Obviously when you read that black on white it is sometimes hard as
everyone seems to agree we had a bright future ahead, but we just couldn’t carry
on for several reasons. Some of the testimonies are actually quite critical
with the band and I’m the first to recognize our mistakes and shortcomings, but
we were really young and naive, maybe even stupid, so I don’t want to beat
myself up over it. I’m not one to dwell on the past anyway, I am happy we have
finally managed to do this band justice and I hope we have many years of great
RM: How has the whole experience of working with Juan Pablo
Donoso been so far? Do his production abilities and techniques
allow for the band to work in a much more efficient manner?
AR: Oh yeah, definitely. Juan Pablo is very serious about the stuff he does,
and obviously the fact that he was among the people who saw Pentagram back in
the day and listened to the demos gives him a perspective that not anyone would
have. He is also very professional in his approach to drumming, so overall I
have nothing but positive stuff to say about him.
RM: What’s up next for you and the rest of the guys in Pentagram
Chile in 2014? Anything big in the works that we should know
AR: Well, we’re just about to embark on a tour of Chile, the book is going to
be ready in the next few days as well, and next year we want to venture into
other South American countries like Peru for the first time. We have also
confirmed a couple of European festivals, so it’s looking pretty good.
Official Artist page at Metal Blade Records: http://www.metalblade.com/us/artists/pentagram-chile/
Pentagram Chile on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PentagramChile1985
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