CLEAVER – The three D’s and zombies
Eternal Terrors Andrea Chirulescu in conversation with drummer Espen Hektoen from Cleaver.
A band formed in 2009 with a first release in 2013. Please tell us how come Cleaver formed and what happened in the many years until the release of WHEN THERE`S NO MORE ROOM IN HELL…?
I joined Chton in 2008, and me and Øyvind would often meet up prior to, and outside of our regular rehearsals to jam and write new material. We both hit it off pretty fast and with both of us in creative mode; we have often written new material at a rapid pace. After a while, we had a lot of riffs and song structures that just didn’t fit into Chton. This meant that we just had to scratch that itch, and we formed Cleaver together with Andreas to write and play more thrashing and old school.
We have taken our time with each release, recording and studio-wise, which is basically because of other projects, both musical and personal. This did not however stop us from playing live, so alongside jamming and writing material, we also went on a short gigging spree. Also, Cleaver was first intended to be a side-project, and was initially treated as such. Now the band has grown into a beast of its own though, and we`re eager to see what kinda rampage is next.
What called for a thrash sound, in a country where this style might not be the most famous?
Maybe the lack of it? Also, I and Øyvind found out early on Chton rehearsals that we shared a love for old school metal, with bands like Celtic Frost, Slayer, Venom and so on. Originally, Cleaver was supposed to be slower and more doomish, but our jams often led into the thrashing realm, so there was no point in suppressing this. Besides, denim, bullet belts and leather fits us well.
After 2013, there was one yearly release – ‘THE SICKEST TALES’ (EP) in 2014 and ‘NO CURE FOR CLEAVER’ coming in the fall of 2015. What are the stories behind these releases? Was it a lot of material after the initial release that led to the two albums, or, every time you sat down and jammed you came up with new ideas?
As mentioned earlier, I and Øyvind wrote a lot of material before it all manifested as Cleaver and with regular rehearsals the creativity just continued and by the summer of 2009 we had 12 songs ready. With Cleaver we`ve never seen the need to polish anything, as we want the music to sound as raw and genuine like the aggression and darkness we put into it.
12 tracks were then recorded at Necrostable Studio, and 9 were chosen to be featured on our debut album. The three remaining songs didn`t quite fit in with the rest of material, even though we were satisfied with them. Of course, one is never truly satisfied really, and things can always get better, but you have to draw the line somewhere. And like mentioned, honesty and integrity are vital parts of what Cleaver is about. Like the old timers who recorded albums very quickly before they went out on the road again, so their albums were almost like snapshots of what the band was currently about. Cleaver anno 2009 is by far the same as Cleaver anno 2015. But I digress…
Those three remaining songs makes up «The Sickest Tales» EP, and we`re happy we could put them to good use.
The songs on the upcoming album, «No Cure for Cleaver», were written mostly during 2010 and 2011, if I recall it right. Øyvind usually brings some ideas to the table, then we hammer those into structures, before new riffs and rhythms churns out as we jam. This time Andreas also contributed song writing-wise, which adds a new and fresh element to the bloody mix.
You are currently searching for a label, right? Meaning the album was self released. How hard is this process today? There’s so many programs and devices available for home use and recording…Did you do everything by yourselves or?
«When There`s No More Room In Hell…» was released by Dead Center Productions, and «The Sickest Tales» was released by Necrostable Records, which is operated by me, Andreas and Ola, our original singer. But both deals only included one album, and we are now free to do what we want. Our ideal is of course a dedicated metal label with a solid following in the underground, which can also help us get more exposure outside Norway’s borders.
Our debut album was recorded at Ola’s studio in Surnadal, Necrostable Studio. That building is now sadly gone. The drum recording for our sophomore album was done at our previous rehearsal space, while Andreas and Øyvind have done all the guitar recordings, including Øyvind doing bass, themselves.
So yeah, we have basically done everything ourselves each time, including booking and promotion. Cleaver have always been inspired by the punkish D.I.Y.-style and we will probably continue with this as much as we can.
What are you singing about? Why did you choose such subjects?
Like the rest of the soundscape, nothing really new. The three D`s: Darkness, death and destruction. Oh, and zombies. We`re all horror movie buffs, so we enjoy writing about stuff that fascinates us, and fits within an extreme metal context. I have always been fascinated by concept albums (King Diamond!), and I feel that strong and coherent lyrics album wise adds to the musical value of each song. And it contributes to the image of the band, encapsulating what we`re all about right here and now.
No grand message though, maybe except for that we`re here to kick modern extreme metal in the teeth. The rise of the bullet belt zombies?
How would you present your sound to someone who hasn’t yet heard you?
Old school extreme metal, and probably interesting if the 80`s (and bleeding into the early 90`s) are your favorite decade of metal, with bands like Bathory, Sodom and Mercyful Fate.
What is the background of the current band members?
Well, musically, me and Øyvind are still involved with Chton , and I also bang drums in Soulflayer. Kjetil screams and hammers in both Enthral and Sjodogg, and Jon Einar also play bass with Vecordious and Posthum. Andreas plays in a bluegrass band with our previous vocalist Ola.
What do people who heard you so far have to say about Cleaver?
That we`re a bunch of dirty death-thrashers, at least according to Torstein of Manes/Drontheim. We seldom pay much attention to other people’s opinions, but out of those that we`ve heard, the ones that we manage to capture the genuine sound of old school extreme metal in our own way stands out. A compliment that we really appreciate.
What is the name Cleaver based on?
As I recall, Torstein of Chton/Manes had this name laying around for years, and we were all pretty surprised that we couldn`t find any other bands with this name. So, basically he suggested that we use it for this new band of ours. To us «Cleaver» sounds really «thrashy», so what better name for a thrash metal band? And names like Destruction, Slayer, Venom were all taken. Besides, our music cuts through any bullshit, modern, melodic or otherwise, and chops of any excess like a cleaver.
Who creates your artwork and what is it inspired on?
The artwork for «When There`s No More Room In Hell…» was created by Anders Røkkum, a very skillful artist and an old friend of mine. We basically gave him some ideas to work with, and the result he came up with was astounding. It is clearly zombie themed, which was what we wanted, since many of the lyrics also portray the undead and their lusts and pleasures.
For «The Sickest Tales» we searched different archives to find a fitting image. Luckily we stumbled upon the picture by Kisaw Jasman, he granted us the rights and Torstein of Manes/Drontheim helped us sew it together with our logo and title. To me it reminds me of something out of a 80`s horror movie, with hordes of zombies waiting to rise up from the grave. Since these songs were recorded at the same as our debut album, it hit the nail on the head.
Cleaver seems to be a kind of family business at the moment. How is it to play in the same band with other family members? Do you jam together often? Did you guys grow up listening to the same music?
Haha, yeah, I guess that question now comes with the territory. The addition of Jon Einar and Kjetil is very recent, so I can`t say I`ve had the chance to get a feeling of this yet, but it is a fun fact of course! Must be something foul in our genepool.
Since Kjetil lives in Oslo, we seldom have full band rehearsals, but the other four of us do meet up and rehearse on a regular basis. I don`t know much about what kinda music Jon Einar grew up to, but with Kjetil being my older brother I was introduced to metal really early. Bands like Iron Maiden, Kiss, W.A.S.P, Judas Priest, Mötley Crüe, ad nauseam, caught my fancy very quickly, and this led on to bands like Carcass, Bathory, Cathedral, My Dying Bride, Immortal and so on. You can say I have had full quality control all the way, haha.
Going back to the album that is to be released in the fall of 2015. What song would be the hit in your opinion and why?
Good question. I think the song «Infected Territory» will be a great live song, with the possibility for some inebriated headbanging at the front row, I hope. Not all titles have been arranged yet, so it’s kinda hard to describe, but there`s also a song with a kinda 90`s and «Moonfogish» vibe to it, which I think will go straight home to death-thrashers who also like their metal black.
Will you release CD and vinyl? Will it be available on streaming services?
Hopefully yes, on all accounts. «When There`s No More Room In Hell…» was released on CD only, as well as streaming, and «The Sickest Tales» is so far only available digitally. We prefer physical releases ourselves, with a given love for the vinyl format, because of the sound, but also the aesthetics and the possibilities when it comes to booklet, artwork and so on. And with this kind of music, most fans have a given love for vinyl. This time we really want to release our album on vinyl as well, it’s about time! So, labels with a mutual vinyl love, GET IN TOUCH!