Interview with vocalist and bassist Alex Kafer
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: September 2, 2020
The Troops of Doom sounds all too familiar a name, right? It does if you know your history of Brazilian Metal giants Sepultura. The song "Troops of Doom" was recorded for the Morbid Visions album back in 1986, the first full-length studio album of the soon-to-be Thrash Metal kings. A hungry, wild and motivated guy named Jairo "Tormentor" Guedz was a part of the band's early lineup with the Cavalera brothers, Max and Igor. Since leaving Sepultura, Jairo has been involved with quite a few bands and projects over the years (The Mist, Eminence, The Southern Blacklist, etc.), always playing music in one form or another.
The Troops of Doom is a new band featuring Jairo on guitar with Alex Kafer on vocals and bass, Marcelo Vasco on guitar and Alexandre Oliveira on drums. As the band name hints, these old-school musicians play old-school Thrash Metal, the way it sounded on Sepultura's Bestial Devastation and Morbid Visions releases. Fast, raw, intense, to-the-point and loaded with tons of attitude thrash that brings the listener back to the those innocent and fresh times when the Brazilian underground scene started flexing its Thrash Metal muscles in the mid of the eighties.
We approached the band's vocalist and bassist Alex Kafer to find out how the band started, their present and future plans, and more...
How's life been since the virus outbreak happened? Hopefully, you have been able to stay healthy and your life is otherwise on tracks these days despite all the limitations that this virus has, unfortunately, caused around the globe...
Alex: My life has changed completely since the pandemic began. I am a music teacher at a school here in Rio de Janeiro and started teaching all my classes online. I am very healthy, as well as my whole family!
THE TROOPS OF DOOM ARE MOVING
Could you kindly enlighten us about this new band called The Troops of Doom and what led to the formation of the band?
Alex: I've been friends with Jairo "Tormentor" Guedz for at least 35 years. I have another Black/Death Metal project called Enterro and in November 2019 we were the opening act for The Mist, Jairo's other band. I took the opportunity to invite him to the stage to play Sepultura's classic "Bestial Devastation". The repercussions were incredible. Based on the positive comments we received, Jairo and I had the idea to set up The Troops of Doom and bring back those good, old times!
You all have quite a lot band experience and, for many old Sepultura fans, it's Jairo "Tormentor" Guedz's name that pops up as he's the former Sepultura member. I suppose the main thing for you was to go back to the Jairo-era Sepultura and continue making music from there, inspired by the first two Sepultura releases Bestial Devastation and Morbid Visions, correct?
Alex: Exactly! Everyone in the band has many years of experience in various bands. However, we all know that Jairo is the main figure in The Troops of Doom. We are free from any kind of ego wars or things like that. Everyone in the band knows their importance and role within The Troops of Doom. As I said before, we want to bring back the sound that Sepultura had in the '80s and one of the progenitors of this style here in Brazil was Jairo. Therefore, it is normal for him to be the main figure of this project.
Do you think that you all benefit from your experience in other bands?
Alex: Sure. All the bands we participated in ended up directly influencing the type of sound we make today with The Troops of Doom. After all, all the projects we got involved in had some connection with extreme Metal.
THE RISE OF HERESY
Was it easy and natural for you to get the right vibe and feel of old-school Thrash/Death Metal captured on your EP?
Alex: Everyone in the band is a great enthusiast of the old-school phase of Sepultura. We carry this in our blood. So, when composing the songs on the EP, everything came out as easily and naturally as possible. I usually joke that Jairo makes Death Metal sleeping! Although each of us is in a different city in Brazil, and due to the pandemic, the possibility of getting together was zero, it made it even easier that all of us have home studios. We were able to compose and record this EP without the need for face-to-face meetings.
The EP has a couple of old Sepultura covers, "Bestial Devastation" and "Troops of Doom", played in your own furious style, of course! Was recording them a marketing strategy from the label guys, kind of like signaling and underlining the fact the band features the original Sepultura member who was there when those two songs were first launched for the (underground) world in the mid of the '80s?
Alex: The partnership with Blood Blast Distribution is strong! We talk about everything. From music, arts, promotion planning, etc. However, the re-recordings of "Bestial Devastation" and "The Troops of Doom", came from Jairo, an idea which was very well accepted both by the rest of the band and by Blood Blast! These songs are true classics and we are happy and honored to be able to revisit them today. Not to mention that they fit perfectly into the songs we composed for the rest of the EP as well.
How long did it take from you guys to get these songs together for the EP? Were all of you on the same page right off the bat?
Alex: The band was created in late March. Since the beginning, the band was complete, and everyone participated in the entire composition process. The EP was ready a few weeks ago, so the whole process took four months. Jairo and I created The Troops of Doom and we want people to take a trip back in time listening to our music and for the younger fans, who didn't experience the style at that time, have that experience today.
THE PAST SINS
I first heard about The Troops of Doom from an old buddy of yours, Luiz Barroso who you have some history with in a Death Metal band called Genetic Deformation. This band released one demo and one EP before splitting up around 1994, I guess. How much soul-searching did you do when you played a more extreme style of Death Metal in those days? Have you always loved extreme music in general or has Brazilian traditional samba music been close to your own personal being?
Alex: Exactly! In the early '90s, I played in Genetic Deformation with Luiz Barroso. Even after the end of the band, we remained in contact and he is a big brother of mine to this day. Luiz and I always had very similar musical tastes and we had a great time together in the studio and on stage. Since I started in music, at the age of 13, I have always been involved in bands and projects aimed at the most extreme styles of metal. That made composing and playing in The Troops of Doom very natural. Regarding Samba and Brazilian popular music, even though I have a lot of respect, they were never part of my musical formation.
Do the band members have specific roles when it all comes to your songwriting or would you say all of you try to contribute to this process with whatever ideas you may have as long as they fit the band's original concept?
Alex: Everyone in the band has a specific function. Marcelo Vasco and Jairo take care of the guitar riffs, Alexandre Oliveira builds all the drum lines and being the vocalist, I take care of the lyrics and the bass and voice lines. However, before we make the final decision, everyone has to be completely satisfied in the musical part, as well as in the graphic design part, which Marcelo Vasco is in charge of.
OF BLOOD BLAST AND THE PAST BRAZILIAN UNDERGROUND SCENE
You signed a deal with Nuclear Blast's digital subsidiary label, Blood Blast, to get your 6-song EP, The Rise of Heresy, out on October 9th. What kind of personal expectations do you have about this release? Will there be a physical release later on, especially for the old-school consumers of metal music (like me)?
Alex: Blood Blast is doing an incredible job and with it and we will be able to reach an immense number of listeners worldwide! We are very confident that we did our best and hope that people enjoy this work. We are taking it one step at a time, of course, and we want to have a physical release of this EP and we will do everything to make it happen, because old-school fans (like you and us), know the importance of this type of material.
Can you explain in your own words why you find '80s Thrash/(Death) Metal so fascinating? What makes it so tempting and enjoyable for yourself personally?
Alex: I'm 50 years old. So, I lived all those wonderful years of the Brazilian underground of the '80s. '80s Sepultura was an overwhelming novelty! Not only Sepultura but also Dorsal Atlântica, Mutilator, Holocausto, Explicit Hate, and many others have made this style of Metal created in Brazil known and respected throughout the world. I am honored to be able to be with Jairo today at The Troops of Doom and relive such a wonderful part of the story.
This style became so special for me because, in the '80s, everything was very difficult for a band born in a country in the Third World. For things to work, everything had to be done with a lot of love and a lot of truth. We were against everyone and the music that came out of that time was full of truth, originality, love, and hate.
How do you see today's Thrash/Death Metal scene? Do you feel it's oversaturated with too many shitty/average sounding bands with no identity or personality compared to the "good old days"?
Alex: Since the '80s I have followed the scene. Today, with the Internet and access to any type of information, everything is much easier. Like any style of music, there are good and bad bands. It is not for me to judge. I just hope that whoever is involved in the scene today, knows that to stay in the game, you have to have love for what you are doing. The truth always prevails, and the public identifies who's who. To top it off, my musical taste is still completely focused on the Thrash/Death Metal scene of the '80s. That's where my heart and my music are.
How did you choose Øystein G. Brun (Borknagar) and his Crosound Studio to master the EP? Was he a suggestion of a friend or did it some of the guys from Nuclear Blast suggest him to you?
Alex: Øystein G. Brun has been friends with Marcelo Vasco for several years. He is a great producer and owns a wonderful studio. Everyone in the band is a fan of his work. With that, it was more than natural to have made this choice.
EUROPE IS CALLING
I read on the band's official Facebook page that you are planning a tour in Europe in November 2021. Is your plan to cover mainly central Europe or do you also have plans for Eastern and Northern European countries as well, as long as the logistics and all that just can be worked out in a financially smart way?
Alex: We recently signed a contract with the Spanish booking agency Hueso Producciones. Our plan is for a full European tour in November 2021. The agenda is already open and our intention is to cover as many countries as possible!
Undoubtedly you would like to bring The Troops of Doom to as many cities as possible, not excluding any countries unless it threatens your health in one way or the other, right?
Alex: Yes, we want to reach as many countries as possible. Not only in Europe but also, worldwide. I want to believe that in November 2021 we will have made positive progress in the area of health so that we can feel safe, along with our audience.
I suppose you have plans to get your first full-length studio album recorded in 2020-21...?
Alex: Yes, this plan is clear, and we should start working on this idea in early 2021. We hope to have a debut full-length album in the middle of 2021.
OF METAL BROTHERHOOD
What are your honest thoughts on today's Sepultura and Cavalera Conspiracy?
Alex: Like Jairo, both Max and Igor, as well as Paulo and Andreas, have been my friends since the '80s. I follow and have contact with all of them to this day. I even showed them all the songs and the whole concept of The Troops of Doom. They all loved the idea and the music itself, which made me very happy and calm. Regarding Sepultura and Cavalera Conspiracy, I follow the work of both parties. I appreciate the work of both because everyone is making the metal move forward, always with a lot of talent.
I have one last question for you and then we are done, at least for the time being. What do you hope to achieve with this band in the future, and do you also believe that metalheads around the world will also understand and appreciate what this band is all about?
Alex: The Troops of Doom is doing its best and we hope to take our music to various places and as many people as possible. As I said before, we want old-school fans to get into a time machine with us. And we want the younger fans have this very special experience in the 21st century.
I would like to sincerely thank you, Alex, for your time with my questions and wish you all the best with your future endeavors with this band and in your life overall. If you have anything else to add, be my guest... ;o)
Alex: Luxi, thank you so much for presenting The Troops of Doom to your audience at THE METAL CRYPT! My total respect for your work and the metalheads in Finland! I hope we can play there very shortly! Thanks for the support! Follow the band on official channels at thetroopsofdoom.
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