Interview with guitarist and vocalist Alex Sciortino
Interview conducted by Mjölnir
Date online: December 13, 2023
It's not often you have a band appear from the blue and lay down a steel gauntlet of true metal ownage, but that's what Helms Deep did with their debut album, and people on the Crypt and beyond have taken notice. I was able to contact mastermind Alex Sciortino to talk about the band's past, present, and future.
Tell me a little about how you got into metal and how the band first formed.
Alex: I got into metal around 14 or 15 or so. Before that, I was mostly into hard rock, prog and fusion. Led Zeppelin started it, then got into stuff like Jeff Beck, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple. The first metal album I heard was Slayer's Hell Awaits, then Venom's Welcome to Hell shortly after, and I was obsessed from there on.
This project started to form in my mid-late 20s. I just started coming up with riffs, eventually experimenting with vocals since I couldn't find anyone else with the nerve to do it. I ended up meeting the Gallaghers after a Raven show in Colorado and it was on from there.
Were there any other musical exploits for you before Helms Deep?
Alex: I was in a few bands growing up, but nothing noteworthy. I had an experimental fusion band I toured with for a bit when I was 19, but we ended up going our separate ways.
How did you come to meet your current bandmates and convince them to join Helms Deep?
Alex: As I said before, I met the Gallaghers after a Raven show and asked them about Mike because I loved the way he played and I was looking for a drummer to hire to record these 11 songs I had written. I had another bass player I was trying to recruit at the time, but Mike said we should get John to play and that he liked the songs a lot. That was a no-brainer for me.
What would you say your biggest musical influences are for this band?
Alex: This band is really a culmination of all my influences. Obviously, the writing style is more geared toward Priest, Omen, even Mercyful Fate, but since I have so many other non-metal influences on guitar like Steve Morse and Jeff Beck, which adds a whole new element and gave me the inspiration to create something unique.
Despite the band's name originating from Lord of the Rings, I didn't notice any of the songs being based on Tolkien's work. Though I have a few ideas about it, where did the inspiration for the name come from?
Alex: I've always been a big Tolkien fan and never heard of any noteworthy bands with the name Helms Deep. There also aren't many great names left, haha, but I always thought it was a cool one. Yeah, these songs aren't about Lord of the Rings, the name is an ode to Tolkien's greatness, and under it I create a fantasy story of my own.
Treacherous Ways has caused a bit of a stir in the underground since it was released. Did you think it would take it off like it has?
Alex: Well, I sort of thought people would either love it or hate it, haha. I just play to my own ear and try to make music I enjoy listening to. I'm glad when other people can enjoy it too, though.
I understand that Treacherous Ways was mastered by none other than Lasse Lammert. How did you go about recruiting him for the job?
Alex: Mike insisted on Lasse, and I'm really glad he did. He nailed the sound I was looking for.
The album cover kicks some serious ass, as is to be expected from a Michael Whelan painting. What was the basic idea behind the piece, and how well do you feel it communicates what the debut is all about?
Alex: Yeah, I've been a fan of Michael's work for years. I think it communicates well, it encapsulates all or most of the insane imagery I include in the lyrics (sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and history). That piece just really stuck out to me and I thought, "If I saw that as a record in a store, I'd buy it."
There's been a big wave of bands in the underground looking to capture the magic of the U.S. power metal scene of the '80s for some time now. Where do you feel you stand in it, if anywhere?
Alex: I don't think much about what other bands are doing. I just do what I like, and if other people like it, that's great! Either way, music is just something I have to do, or my brain will explode.
Are there any plans for live shows at the moment?
Alex: No plans for anything live yet, we're too busy working on the 2nd album. I can promise Helms Deep will eventually play live, though.
What lies in store for Helms Deep in the future?
Alex: We've got a second album in the works, but I have no plans of stopping after that. I'll keep writing until I can't anymore.
Thanks for your time. Is there anything you'd like to say to our readers before you go?
Alex: You can buy our album at https://namelessgraverecords.com or through our Bandcamp, and please subscribe to our YouTube channel, which helps us more than you know. Thank you all for the support, we are truly grateful.
|Other information about Helms Deep on this site
|Review: Treacherous Ways
|Review: Treacherous Ways
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