Interview with bassist Serg MP
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: August 27, 2021
Bestial Invasion, formed in 2014, is a Ukrainian thrash metal band that has released three studio albums so far and are currently working on their fourth. Since day one they have opted for a technical and progressive thrash metal sound, which isn't far removed from the sounds of Atheist, Anacrusis, Watchtower and the like, pushing boundaries and challenging basic norms of making metal music.
We here at the headquarters of The Metal Crypt were impressed by their previous albums so we decided to contact the band's bassist Serg MP, who was open to discussing their forthcoming album plus many other topics.
Hey Serg! How are things in your part of the world with the virus, restrictions, etc.?
Serg: Aloha from the independent Ukraine! We still have a quarantine. People are forced to be vaccinated under threat of being fired from their jobs. But surprisingly, concerts and festivals are held without any restrictions, which is very encouraging. I sincerely hope that next year the whole pandemic will be over, and we will be able to go back to our old lives and live without any restrictions.
THE START OF BESTIAL INVASION
You founded Bestial Invasion in 2014. Was it clear right from one day that you would play technical and progressive thrash metal or did your style develop in that direction as you became better with your instruments?
Serg: I created the band after I left my last band Violent Omen, which also played technical thrash and had some small success. I moved to another city and put together a new lineup in a week. Initially I wanted to play old school thrash in the vein of Dark Angel, Morbid Saint, Détente, Holy Moses and, by the way, we originally had a woman on vocals. But then the lineup started to change, and we began to move into technical thrash. It just happened by itself. I think it was a natural evolution with the arrival of stronger musicians in the band.
Trying to find the right lineup is always a challenge. You have had some guys in the band come and go. Do you think the current lineup has the right chemistry to stay intact for the next 5-10 years?
Serg: I think that for many bands this is the biggest problem, because without a strong lineup the band won't go far. Several people have passed through our band, who were useful and relevant to the collective in their time, but we ended up saying goodbye to them because of their personal qualities or their unwillingness to develop and evolve with the band. At the moment the band has the strongest and most stable lineup, which has already recorded two albums. Each member does their own unique job and without each one I can't imagine our band continuing to exist. We are so organically combined that the band doesn't need anyone else. For me, the current lineup is a "Dream Team." I can't think 5-10 years ahead, but I hope we will continue to work together and release more than three albums.
Going back in time, what was the making of your debut album, Act of Retribution, back in 2015 like? Do you think you achieved the kind of record you can still be proud of today?
Serg: Work on the Act of Retribution album was very difficult, such that we might not have finished the album because of a number of personal problems. I remember that time as a nightmare because it was the most difficult and dark period of my life and it affected the recording of the album, but we still managed to finish it.
We had a lot of help from our new vocalist Vakhtango, who spontaneously joined the band and recorded the vocals for the album. The album came out pretty well. I'm proud of it. We wanted to make it in an old-school style, and we did it with the right sound! Maybe today this album sounds pale in comparison to today's band, but it was our first serious work and the first stepping-stone to where we are today.
Was Act of Retribution a concept album, in which each song is linked in some way?
Serg: Our first album was not conceptual. There were songs based on different abstract themes, and that's probably the main problem with it. Later on, we corrected this problem when I personally took care of the lyrics and the themes on future albums.
You had some famous guest musicians on your debut, from Kenn Nardi (Anacrusis) to Alan Tecchio (Watchtower/Hades) to John Gallagher (Raven), etc. Was it easy to persuade them to participate on the record?
Serg: I am a wild fan of all these bands and these people influenced me as a musician, so I decided to involve them in the album. Everyone agreed to participate for free and it turned out to be very original and cool! The musicians themselves also got a high from this participation! It was a huge honor for us!
As for the influences, many people have already compared B.I. to Atheist, Cynic, Watchtower, Mekong Delta, Anacrusis, Coroner, etc., all bands that have a complex and technical edge to their sound. What bands would you say are the main cornerstones for the sound of B.I.?
Serg: Honestly, it's a bit of a complicated question, because we've been compared to so many bands before. Some people say we play progressive power, and some people say we play technical death, and it amuses us a lot that we don't look like anybody in particular. We try not to follow anyone and go our own way, but you can still hear indirect influences of all those bands in our music that you listed.
It took only two years until you released your follow-up album, Contra Omnes, in September 2017. It's an even tighter and more advanced sounding album, in which you really pushed the envelope for technical thrash metal, like you played at the edge of your limits, I would say. How pleased are you with your sophomore album?
Serg: This album is very personal to me in terms of music and concept. It was the album that defined the future of the band, and it took us to the next level. I changed my approach to songwriting and gave up any style frameworks and that's why the album came out so chaotic and unpredictable. I was worried that our audience wouldn't be able to accept this album, but I was wrong! This album was highly appreciated by a lot of people! The only thing I don't really like on this album is the sound, which unfortunately didn't turn out the way we planned, but the material to this day still surprises me with its craziness.
You wrote all the music and lyrics on this album. I am curious to know how hard it is to tackle all these responsibilities and how much your fellow band mates support the band's songwriting process in general.
Serg: Yes, for the Contra Omnes album I practically wrote all the music and lyrics, because at that time there was no one else to do it. Guitarist Maestro, with whom we were planning to make the album, had left the band. But other band members helped me, namely new guitarists Denis Shvarts and Alexander Klaptsov and vocalist Vakhtango. By the next albums we started to compose all together, because there was a stable line-up. There are very ambitious and creative musicians in our band, so we never have problems with new material.
THE UNOFFICIAL GODFATHER
Again, you had some guests on the band's second album, namely Shawn McCoy (Confessor), Rand Burkey (Atheist), and last but not least John Gallagher (Raven). This seems to be a cool tradition for you, to have some guests on each of your albums, right?
Serg: We have a tradition of inviting our favorite musicians to play on our albums all the time! These musicians are all good acquaintances and colleagues of mine. John Gallagher is my unofficial godfather! This man means a lot to me, so we have him on almost every album.
What was the feedback you received for your first two albums like and did they open doors for gigging, among other things?
Serg: The first album was well received in our neighboring countries, but in the West it somehow didn't get the attention it deserved. The second album was well received all over the world! After its release we received a lot of good feedback and interview offers. We also received offers to participate in tours and festivals, but unfortunately by that time the band was only a studio band because I moved to Hungary.
As you are undoubtedly a very talented and gifted musician, how do you keep things inspiring and exciting for yourself as far as composing new music for the band is concerned?
Serg: I wouldn't say I'm talented, I'm probably more of a hard worker and motivated and maybe a little creative. Personally, it's my life that inspires me the most, with periods ranging from gloomy to happy. My great passion for history also plays a big role. I think you can tell that from the band's songs. Sometimes I'm inspired by books (The Angel of the West Window, "Memories. The Architect of the Universe") and movies (Inception). The new album is all based on the book Divine Comedy.
OF BASS VIRTUOSO(S)
To me, it's amazing how you handle your bass with this extraordinary ability to play many different and complex scales that truly add more color to the band's soundscape, making it powerful and richer in many ways. Was it obvious from the start that bass would be your instrument?
Serg: Thanks for the compliment. I always try to get creative with my parts. I originally wanted to be a vocalist, but since I can't sing, I immediately found myself an alternative in the form of a bass guitar! There are so many guitarists around and it's a lot of competition. And being a drummer is very inconvenient and expensive living in an apartment. :D
Who are the bassists you have always looked up to?
Serg: I was most influenced by John Gallagher from Raven, and I think you can hear it in our music. Thanks to this man I discovered a lot of new techniques, and he was an example to me of how to do a show properly on stage. He's a very important person to me in many ways, a mentor, as they say! I was also very influenced by Steve Harris (Iron Maiden), Roger Patterson (Atheist), Tony Choy (Atheist), Fedor Vasiliev (Kruiz) Doug Kaiser (Watchtower), Stu Hamm, Steve DiGiorgio (Sadus, ex-Death), Marek Felis (Poltergeist), Peter Steele (Carnivore/TON). The examples of these musicians helped me to develop my unique style of performance, which became recognizable in the thrash metal style.
This question may be a tough one, but what's the best song you have written for the band from your point of view and why?
Serg: Oh, it's a very complicated question, but it's probably "Camera Obscura (Caravaggio Specular Vision)", because it probably has the best bass solo I've ever composed! Also, this track is about one of my favorite artists, Caravaggio.
DIVINE COMEDY: INFERNO
What can you tell us about your new album, Divine Comedy: Inferno, besides the familiar guest musicians on it (Andre Grider from Poltergeist, John Gallagher from Raven, and so on)? Will it follow the same technical and complex musical path that you've been developing and refining starting with your debut album and would you say there will be any "surprise factors" that may drop some jaws to the floor?
Serg: The new album is conceptual, based on the book Divine Comedy. The new album Bestial Invasion and no guests? No, it doesn't happen! This time we worked with our favorite musicians again! It will be the same old technical thrash in the tradition of the band but with a bit of a different sound and different influences. There will be many surprises on this album for our fans! I will keep all the intrigues till the album release.
What's your gut feeling about the material on the band's fourth album? Do you think you have exceeded your expectations?
Serg: On this album we worked much harder on the material and it was the most collaborative work of the band. We argued a lot with each other about different things on the album and that led to a better result. The material came out very diverse. It was a question of making an atmospheric album that would underline the concept without losing all of our thrash attitude. I think we did it well! Also, this album has a better sound than all the previous ones.
Do you have any plans to shoot a video or two before the album is out there for the fans to be digested? What are your thoughts about audiovisual promotion in today's digital world?
Serg: We would really like to make a couple of killer videos but unfortunately, we don't have the resources. To make a quality music video we need a couple thousand euros, and we have no such budget. I also think that it would be better to spend this money on the new album than on one video. And it is a bad idea to make a music video by ourselves, because we will not be able to achieve the necessary quality.
What about the future? Are you keen on getting some gigs booked even if the times really aren't too optimal for intense gigging yet, and what are your overall plans regarding the latter half of the year and into 2022?
Serg: I can't answer about the future of the band. In October, a new album will be released and then we will see where we will go from here. I will tell you a secret, that since the release of the first album I tell everyone that this is the last release of the group. The biggest problem is finding money to record the next album and finding a big label to release it. I'm tired of paying a lot of money out of my own pocket over the years and being angry that we can't get a good record deal with a big label. It's all exhausting and doesn't add to my enthusiasm. Time will tell...
I guess that's what I had in mind for this chat. I want to thank you, Serg, for your time and wish you and your band all the best with your comings and goings. Any closing thoughts/comments perhaps?
Serg: Thank you so much for the interesting questions, it's great that you showed interest in our group! Thank you to everyone who listens and supports our band! I think our new album will really surprise you! See you soon!
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