Interview: Kerry King Talks ‘From Hell I Rise’

When Slayer broke up—I mean, went on hiatus—in 2019, original guitarist Kerry King still had plenty of thrashing left in the tank. There was no better time than at that moment for him to pursue his solo project years in the making. Half a decade later, From Hell I Rise, his debut full-length out May 17 via Reigning Phoenix Music, triumphantly arrives.

To help bring his scorching vision to fruition, the highly touted shredder recruited Slayer drummer Paul Bostaph, Hellyeah bassist Kyle Sanders, guitarist Phil Demmel, and Death Angel vocalist Mark Osegueda. The workload set before this impressive roster following Slayer’s break was robust, as King divulges, “I made up the next batch of songs, and there were so many, so I had to weed through them. When we started out, we were rehearsing too many, and I said, ‘let’s focus on ones that are already finished and ones that I want to finish.”

From Hell I Rise is a composition that exhibits King’s rage, stirring opinions, and aptitude for wielding his lethal ax. As the project’s lyricist, also, King cites political commentary as one avenue for inspiration. “The American political system has been nuts since 2016. Things happened that I would never imagine happening, like the Supreme Court taking women’s rights away. My wife has fewer rights than her grandmother did, and I think that’s incredibly fucked up.”

Organized religion is also a trigger for the outspoken guitarist. “I think if a lot of people take the brainwashing and the inherent teachings from infancy out of it, just think things out for themselves, all facts point to there is no God, even though every culture has their own variety of God,” he declares. King elaborates on his disdainful observation of theology, stating, “To me it’s always been a crutch for people. I don’t have this imaginary person who’s my crutch. My crutch is my friends, my family. I don’t need to make things up to feel better.”

Although King writes such provocative lyrics, he leaves their projection in the strong hands of Osegueda. “I always knew he was the best choice,” he says. “I said (to Osegueda) I don’t want Mark from Death Angel, and I got nothing bad to say about Death Angel, but if you’re gonna take on this project you gotta become something else.” The legendary Bay Area thrash vocalist took this objective to heart, evidently, because his performance on the record is more aggressive and beastly than any work he’s done with Death Angel.

“That’s what we really worked hard on: his performance, his enunciation, just everything, trying to create a ‘new’ Mark, and I think we got there,” King adds. They got there, alright, even navigating King’s cautious optimism, as he continues, “When we were doing the album, and we started getting vocals we were looking to keep, I would pop my head in the control room and ask him, ‘You can recreate this, right? This isn’t just going for the fuckin’ gold here and then you can’t reproduce this?’ And he was, like, ‘no, I can do it.” Because Osegueda was sounding significantly more vicious than ever, the project’s visionary wanted to make absolutely sure this wasn’t too good to be true, admitting, “I asked him, like, three times.”

Producer Josh Wilbur is also a major contributing factor toward making King’s hellacious hymns burn deeper. “He was like the 6th member; he knew the music like we knew the music,” boasts King. Wilbur, with many of his inputs clicking with the polished guitarist, also maintained an encouraging vibe. “When we’d be nailing something, Josh and the guys would be moshing in the corner. It was a fun fuckin’ environment. He was that into it, and it rubbed off on everybody.” Ultimately, though, there wasn’t any horsing around when it came to working efficiently. “We did all the recording in just 14 days, which is unheard of,” King says proudly.

The next step is taking the Kerry King experience on the road. For all its vitriolic and angry presentation, it’s positivity that is leading the way, as King gushes, “I think metal is in a good place. I haven’t been on tour for four-and-a-half years, so I haven’t really seen any of the newer bands, but that’s all about to change, and I’m looking forward to it.” From hiatus he has risen, and From Hell I Rise will put Kerry King back in the metal inferno.

From Hell I Rise is out Friday and you can pre-order it from Reigning Phoenix Music. Follow Kerry King on Instagram and TikTok for future updates.

Photo courtesy of Jim Louvau

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