Interview with drummer Josh Bennett
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: April 11, 2021
Canberra, Australia's Hellbringer knows everything when it comes to making violent, evil and dark thrash metal. Started under the banner Forgery (2007-2010) then changing to Hellbringer, the core of the band has been twin brothers Luke and Josh Bennett who share similar tastes in heavier music. Our beloved twin brothers seem to know what it takes to create merciless, savage and punishing thrash metal that nods deeply toward '80s thrash. The band's two studio albums, Dominion of Darkness (2012) and Awakened from the Abyss (2016), were well received in the underground and reached the curious ears of The Metal Crypt staff so we contacted the band and asked what they have been up to since their latest album.
Josh Bennett, who sits behind the drum kit, briefly explained what's going on with the band... Read on!
Hey Josh! How's life in Canberra? Are COVID-19 restrictions still making life complicated down there? I just read that the Australian border is still closed except for Australian citizens...
Josh: Hi Luxi! It's going pretty well here for me personally. Many people in Canberra are employed by the government, who were fortunate to be able to work from home during lock downs. Overall, Canberra wasn't affected as much as other cities like Melbourne where many people have lost jobs and businesses. A terrible situation. As for border closures, I think international travel is still a no go and other states seem to be having regular closures. Queensland for example, just had a 3-day closure. Crazy times indeed.
How has the virus personally affected you, if I may ask? Do you feel mentally exhausted, or do you have some energy left to cope with this virus situation for the future?
Josh: I am fortunate enough to have a job that wasn't affected by the restrictions and am a bit of a hermit, so nothing has changed too much for me! So yes, I can put it up with it. I did find people complaining about not being able to go out to gigs and clubs humorous when there are people who have had their lives destroyed by this whole thing.
AFTER CALM COMES THE STORM
I noticed there aren't many new updates on Hellbringer's official Facebook page. Why is that? Have you decided to take your time with new material you are possibly working on for your next full-length, hence the radio silence?
Josh: I would like to be able to say it is because we're busy writing the next album but that's unfortunately not really the case. There is not too much to update thus the radio silence. I don't see the point in posting inane crap like many bands do on there. I reckon you need some mystery.
You lost your permanent guitarist, James Lewis, who played both on the band's albums, Dominion of Darkness (2011) and Awakened from the Abyss (2016), in 2016. Why did he decide to step aside from your troops in the first place?
Josh: James moved overseas to the United States.
With the little updated information that I have available, is Yuri Ward (Psychrist, Tortured, ex-Armoured Angel, etc.) your permanent guitarist now or just filling in for your future live shows only?
Josh: Yuri was only going to fill in for one show. Unfortunately, it didn't work out and we had to cancel.
Talking about like-minded musicians who love a more extreme type of metal music, is the area where you live the kind of place where people like you and your brother Luke share similar tastes about the kind of stuff that your band plays?
Josh: Not at all, sadly. We haven't played a show here in a long time and never really had much of a following in Canberra. We lost interest in playing here. It's sort of like its own little "bubble" scene here. It makes it very difficult trying to find suitable members here also.
DARK, VIOLENT AND EVIL THRASH
Talking about your Awakened from the Abyss album, it had a really strong Hell Awaits vibe to it, spiced with a pinch of Possessed's Seven Churches, a combination that's hard to dislike by fans of those albums. As no band had even come close to the same evil atmospheres of those two classic Metal releases since they were released, did you feel an urgent need for recapturing the same vibe and feeling of those albums?
Josh: We wanted to capture something evil, dark and violent. I'm not sure it was an urgent need, but we wanted to make an album with those elements, done right. I suppose it comes down to what's in the blood and that type of music always has been. Very few thrash bands seem to get it right.
What other bands, besides early Slayer of course, have been a huge influence on you since day one? Have you had a chance to meet your childhood heroes in real life?
Josh: All the usual classics like Metallica, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, of course. Armoured Angel were a big influence being from Canberra and also one of the earliest extreme bands I heard. I've never met anyone from the big bands. I'm good friends with Joel from Armoured and also work with him. He's not a hero though and if I said that he'd have a good laugh!
How would you say your new stuff compares to that album? How many songs have you completed for your next release and are you aiming to get your next album recorded by the end of 2021?
Josh: Unfortunately, we don't have a new album written yet so I can't answer this one. However, when we eventually do, you can expect another slab of dark, evil, violent thrash.
What about your songwriting responsibilities within the band? How much has that changed in the past five years?
Josh: Not much has changed and won't. Luke writes the most and I (and previously James) come up with some riffs and formations.
BROTHERS IN SYNC
As you and Luke are twins, do you think this gives you a special understanding of what this band should be all about both music- as well as lyric-wise? Do your brains work in a somewhat synchronized way, making the songwriting process feel easy for you?
Josh: It definitely works well, and we do have the same understanding. We both grew up listening to the same music and bands and that came across in Hellbringer. We both have the same ideas about riffs, songwriting, the sound and production of an album and it works very well. We're both very particular about these things and we don't have to battle each other, which is great. Same with the lyrics. We both agree as to what goes best with the music.
As you set the bar so high on Awakened from the Abyss, do you see it pretty challenging to top it with your next release?
Josh: Thanks for the kind words! I hadn't really thought about that, but no I don't think so. We'll continue to write music that is dark, evil and fast as that's what Hellbringer is!
Would you say that you were overwhelmed by all the reactions that the Awakened from the Abyss caused among people with a more extreme taste in Metal music?
Josh: It was great to hear the positive reactions to it! We were all very pleased with how the album turned out and it's always great when other people dig it.
What's been the best compliment that you heard about Hellbringer so far? I am sure it flatters you every time you get a pat on your shoulders for all of your hard work, right?
Josh: I can't think of any specific compliments but it's always good to hear when people say it captures the vibe of the classic era of thrash.
Awakened from the Abyss was released by Germany's High Roller Records. Will you work with them for your next release or are you keeping the door open for some other label cooperation?
Josh: High Roller has always been good to us and easy to deal with, so I can see us working with them again when it is time. We, of course, always keep the door open, though.
Your home country, Australia, has always been productive when it comes to quality underground metal music. Bands like Slaughter Lord, Mortal Sin, Hobbs Angel of Death, Armoured Angel, Sithlord, Deströyer 666 and so many others, have laid the groundwork for all the visibility of the Australian thrash/death metal scene over the years and those bands are just the tip of the iceberg. How do you see the state of your country's underground metal scene and what about the local underground metal scene in Canberra?
Josh: It's quite a small scene here and there are only a few cities that are really worth playing. It's always been a tough one for us because it is a very black/death extreme scene here with thrash being a more "niche" thing. We've played some shows where people are totally confused as to what we're playing. On the other hand, we have played some great gigs here too. Most of our support has always come from Europe, which is not surprising. There isn't any sort of scene for us in Canberra and never really has been. I don't really attend any shows here unless some mates of mine who play in good bands are playing. Good thrash metal is very hard to come by in Australia.
Looking at the future, do you believe that you might play some shows with the band by the end of the summer of 2021 in your home country or would you rather put all your focus on the next Hellbringer album?
Josh: I don't think we will be playing any shows in Australia anytime soon because of guitarist issues. COVID-19, too, obviously as we aren't interested in playing seated shows. Europe could be possible with a live fill-in if things ever return to normal. We just need the right, permanent guitarist. The album will come in due time.
How much do you miss playing live? I bet since you did the successful "Darkness Over Europe" and "Darkness Over Asia" tours in 2018 you still have that fire to get back on stage ASAP, correct?
Josh: I do miss playing live. Especially in Europe where it's wild! It's one of the best, if not greatest aspect of being in a band, obviously, and thrash is meant to be played live. We absolutely do have the fire for live gigs. Things just need to go back to normal, though. If ever!
I think that was all for this chat, so I want to thank you, Josh, for taking the time and sharing some of your thoughts and opinions with me. At the same time, I wish you all the best with your future endeavors with the band. If you have anything else in your mind that you'd like to share with the readers of The Metal Crypt, then be my guest... ;o)
Josh: Thanks for your time and the interview mate. All the best to you also.
Thanks to the maniacs who have supported us over the years.
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