Interview with Gaz Jennings | By Hutch
Death Penalty is greater than the sum of its parts. And that equals a doom metal erection. Slated to be amazing from its steeped composition- the guitarist/song writer of legendary Cathedral, Gaz Jennings, and the impressive, under-recorded vocalist of Serpentcult equal a revered pedigree. Put them on Rise Above (the label of Lee Dorrain, ex-Cathedral vocalist) and this album delivers. Gaz births a new style, not simply resting on his Cathedral laurels. Jennings could have easily rehashed the Cathedral vibe, but here we have streams of influences that span the spectrum of metal.
“I think most people that liked Cathedral will be into Death Penalty. Musically, much is different. But my guitar style and playing is still a key element. It’s a lot less doomy and not as slow, but the riffs have my stamp on them.”
The intent of Death Penalty is felt in what the music is, as much as it is what it isn’t. The fast tempo and galloping riffs stand out. “There are some NWOBHM influences in the music we play like Tank, Jaguar, Tygers of Pan Tang. But yeah the music we play is old school melodic metal with some doom in there.”
Rise Above Records seemed a natural fit. “It’s an honor to be on a label such as Rise Above. I’ve known and worked with Lee for over 25 years, so who better to trust when it comes to working with. Also he knows what to expect from me musically and on a personal level.”
But with that Cathedral connection, would any influence or expectations be put on the table? “There was no pressure at all,” Jennings explains. “I’m just gonna write what riffs I feel are good enough and take it from there as I did on the album. If a riff sounds like Kiss then the next riff after that sounds like Bathory then that’s how it’s gonna be. It will all make sense in the grand scheme of things.”
Continuing the dynamic of Cathedral’s past, Jennings recruited Jamie Gomez Arellano, who produced the last Cathedral album, which took five weeks. “We started recording early march and finished around the end of April. But bear in mind the rest of the guys live in Belgium. If you actually put it into context the album only took two weeks.”
Jennings had vocalist Michelle Nocon in mind from the beginning. Death Penalty even has Fredrik Cosemans of Serpentcult, a band that Gaz greatly admired and, of course, had their stunning doom album on (wait for it…) Rise Above.
“I wrote the music at home over a period of a couple of years. I recorded the songs on to my computer with a drum machine. Then, I sent the songs over to Michelle, to see if she liked them. Luckily for me she was into what I was doing. I let her do whatever vocal melodies over the top of the music. And it turned out pretty damn good.
“The lyrics are very personal to Michelle. They are very abstract and intense and do not come from a (specific) event. The lyrics evolve from her thoughts and feelings that have grown heavy on her back. They are often about inner struggle, love, hate, jealousy, darkness and light.”
The cover of the eponymous release, a foreboding, empty gallows looming in frame, continues the dark emotions of all members concerned. Currently, though, Jennings does not feel the need to relay any specific message, dark or light. “I have to say that any form or aspect of religion, whether it be Christianity or Satanism, plays no part in my life. I don’t believe in any form of religion or any god. The only person I have to answer to in life is myself. Many years ago, I took the lyrics from ‘Under the Sun’ by Black Sabbath. The one line I took out of that was ‘I just believe in myself because no one else is true’. Yes, I know that I have and will make mistakes in life, but I don’t beg for forgiveness from anybody or any god.”
These motivations and ripping songs combine to unleash one of the best metal albums of this year. Here’s hoping that formula continues. “I have already written 8 songs for the next album. It’s hard to say at this moment where the material will go or what it will sound like. I don’t think we will stray too far from what we are doing now.”
Purchase Death Penalty here: http://www.riseaboverecords.com/store/death-penalty/