In these last years many new heavy metal bands have tried to bring back the sound of the classic records of the eighties. Most of them are just boring clones of Iron Maiden or Judas Priest, but fortunately others have something more to say. Night Viper demonstrated that is possible to play that same kind of music with passion and personality: their latest album, Exterminator, is one of the best releases of 2017. Some months ago I sent some questions to Tom Sutton, their guitar player and riffmaster. He started his career in Japan with the mighty Church of Misery and now he has also a doom project, The Order of Israfel. Night Viper have recently toured Europe with Indian Nightmare and are coming back on the road in September with Spiders.
(Italian version here)
How have been the recordings of Exterminator? The sound is really powerful and the songs are great!
It was a great experience from beginning to end. We recorded the album in Madrid with Ola Ersfjord, and we are super happy with the results. We got just the right mix of dirtiness and precision we were looking for. And Madrid is just a really fun place to be. We loved working with Ola, and we love the album. Still now, months later, I listen to it and can’t stop headbanging, so I think we got it right. And thanks for the feedback on the songs. We hope they are the kind of songs that really stick in your head.
The arpeggio of “Never Win” reminds me of the atmosphere of the Sergio Leone’s western movies. Are you a fan of Ennio Morricone?
Yeah, absolutely! I mean, my first exposure to his work was, like a lot of metalheads, Metallica using ‘The Ecstasy Of Gold’ as their intro, but I’ve seen a few films that he has scored now, and have some compilations of his that I like. And he did amazing work on ‘The Hateful Eight’ recently. Very heavy!
“Going Down” is an anti-Trump song. What do you think of his first year as president?
It’s hard to believe that this is the real world and not some dystopian 80’s movie. Haha! It’s become so hard to keep track of the embarrassing stuff he’s done and said, but now with him childishly threatening North Korea, it’s actually really scary. I’m glad I’m in Sweden, to be honest.
Amazing artwork of their last release by Karmazid
After having lived in Japan for 6 years, you moved back to Australia. Why have you decided to move again and to live in Sweden?
Actually, I was in Japan for 10 years. Well, it’s a long story. I grew up listening to Entombed and Dismember, so I guess it’s always been a bit of a dream to go to Sweden. Towards the end of my time in Japan, I had this really strong intuition that I had to move to Europe if I was to do the bands I wanted to do. It was a long process, but it ended up being Sweden. And I’m really happy it did. I love the people here, and the bands are amazing. If I lived in Australia, life would be very different.
It’s easiest for a musician to live and work in Sweden? It’s true that living here gives you more opportunity in music than in other countries?
I just think that the standard here is really high. It’s not enough to be just OK. You have to be a bit special here to get shows and get anywhere as a band. We get some help from the state to pay for our rehearsal room, but that’s the only real difference compared to other countries as far as opportunities go. I just think that people here live heavy metal as a lifestyle. It’s not just something they are into. It’s an entire identity. And the weather sucks, so a lot of people spend time at home getting good at their instruments!
I saw you playing with Church of Misery during the 2010 tour with Death Row. What are your best memories related to that band?
Oh, man. So many. I owe my whole musical life since 2006 to being in Church Of Misery. The contacts I made in that band are the reason I could get to Sweden and start bands here. One highlight was a show we did at a squat in Milan. It was totally packed, with people all around us. Super intense and dark. I still have the photos from that show. I remember we were so happy with that gig, and then they took us upstairs to where we would be sleeping, and there was 5 centimetres of water over the whole floor. Haha! But I have so many great memories. Roadburn was always special. I did the band’s first ever US tour in 2012, and it was mental. You can find the Maryland Deathfest show on Youtube. That was a good one.
You’ve also played a show as bass player with Firebird in Japan. What do you remember of that show?
Man, that was one of the best days of my life, actually. After that, I remember thinking, ‘I have now officially NOT wasted my life.’ Hehe! I grew up listening to Napalm Death and Carcass, so I was a big fan of Bill Steer’s. It was crazy to meet and play shows with him when Firebird supported Church Of Misery in the UK. In 2009 I got an email from him saying that Firebird were playing Loudpark, Japan’s biggest metal festival, in 2 1/2 weeks and that their bass player had just suddenly had to leave the band. He also asked if I might be up for filling in for them on bass at that show. I’m pretty confident in my playing these days, but it wasn’t always that way. At that time, it felt like a huge vote of confidence from someone I’d been listening to since I was a kid. But it was also terrifying. 2 1/2 weeks to learn 12 songs and play them in front of 10,000 people. And I wasn’t even a bass player. It was a scary idea, but I had to say yes. So, I played for hours every day to get ready. Checked with Bill on Skype when I wasn’t sure of parts. Played more. They were set to arrive on day before the show. They got off the plane and went straight to a rehearsal room I had booked, which was tough of them, and we did the set. And it worked! It actually all sounded good. We did the set one more time, and that was it. The next day was the festival. We were playing the same day and stage as Judas Priest, fer chrissakes. I remember walking past Dave Mustaine on the stairs backstage. We were all nervous, but I actually felt alright. And the gig was good! On a stage like that, if you just look at your instrument, you can’t even see the 10,000 people out there. I felt pretty calm. After the show, I met Mitch from Napalm Death and Kerry King (there’s a story), and it was just nuts. One of the best experiences I ever had!
You are known to be a musician related to heavy metal and doom, but you’ve started to listen to heavy music during the Golden age of Death metal, what are you’re favorite bands and records of those years?
I would say that Entombed’s ‘Clandestine’ is my favourite album ever, actually. I still listen to that era of death metal all the time. It never gets old. Here are some favourites:
Death – Leprosy
Sepultura – Beneath The Remains
Dismember – Like An Everflowing Stream
Morgoth – Cursed
Carcass – Necroticism – Descanting The Insalubrious
Morbid Angel – Altars Of Madness and Blessed Are The Sick
Atheist – Unquestionable Presence
Autopsy – Mental Funeral
Napalm Death – Harmony Corruption
Pestilence – Testimony Of The Ancients
What about The Order of Israfel? Are you making new music?
Not right now. Out guitar player, Staffan, went to Canada for a year because he felt the need to experience living overseas. It’s actually been nice to just concentrate on one band for a change. When I was was in Horisont as well, it was kinda stressful just waiting for the schedules to clash. If I get some inspiration to write Order Of Israfel songs, I’ll start writing for that band again, but right now, I’m just putting all my energy into Night Viper.
What new bands do you like? Do you listen to some Italian bands?
I love Indian Nightmare, Antichrist, Tyranex, Myrkur, Demon Head. Right now, I’m listening to the new album by Slaegt. Great stuff! And as for Italian bands, I don’t know so much. I know Bulldozer, of course, and we played with Doomraiser when I was in Church Of Misery, and I really liked those guys. And Doomsword. They are from Italy, right? And Indian Nightmare have two Italian guys, Lalo and Cedro, and they are the best guys ever!
Poster of their next tour