Timeless, lethal, cloaked in mystery, and possessing very sharp hooks.
No, that’s not a crossword puzzle clue for the underrated slasher, Candyman. It’s the debut album from Terror Universal, Make Them Bleed, out Jan. 19 via Minus Head Records.
The masked collective are cut—and sliced and diced—from a different cloth than similar acts, and they refuse to allow their costumes to act as a spooky crutch. Make Them Bleed truly is a bloody good time, and the music is an addictive mix of thrash, groove, and industrial rock that’s as unique as it is memorable. It feels like the kind of timeless record that could fit anywhere within the last 15 years and not feel out of place. Sure, it’s fast and furious, but these are gleefully fun songs that are a joy to sing along to. Just maybe don’t sing these slasher anthems to your grandma—unless she’s into that sort of thing.
To build Terror Universal, drummer Massacre—a.k.a. former Ill Niño member Dave Chavarri, the only member with a known human vessel—assembled current and former members of Machine Head, Soulfly, and Upon A Burning Body. This is one lethal foursome, and their songs will be stuck in your head. Massacre explains, “It all came together very smoothly and without that much effort. I wanted the band to be heavy, but I wanted it to be groove-oriented, and there’s a lot of my favorite bands in my whole life in here: Pantera, Sepultura, Rob Zombie, White Zombie, early Ministry. You can hear it in the record. We wanted to do a band that was more industrial, yet heavy, but with hooks—like Rob Zombie.”
So, how did Chavarri transmogrify into Massacre? Childhood fears, naturally. “I had seen a horror movie back in the late ‘80s—I can’t even recall the movie—but it was a guy whose face was completely burned off,” he says. “It was basically all skin and bones. When I saw it for the first time, I was really fucking grossed out by it, and it’s stuck with me ever since. I realize now it was just a great makeup job,” he laughs. “So, when I sat down with the artist to do the mask, I explained that I wanted my mask to be flesh laying on bone, whether from a burn or something [else]. It took a couple incarnations, but we got it nailed down, and it was really fun.”
“It’s been really fun,” Massacre shares. “It’s been different, in the sense that you’re able to create this persona that you kind of become. It’s freeing too. It lets you be whoever you want to be behind that mask. I fucking love it.” He does concede one unfortunate downside. “I mean, it’s hot as fuck, I’ll tell you that!” he exclaims. “We did a bunch of festivals last year in Europe, and we were always playing in the hottest part of the day, so you can add another 20 degrees to your body, for sure.”
When asked where Terror Universal get their ideas, the Candyman comparison begins to feel more apt. “A lot of our inspiration for the lyrics came from slasher movies,” Massacre says. “My vocalist Plague is very knowledgeable and well-read on horror movies and serial killers. It’s fucking crazy. He’s like an encyclopedia. He’s a gruesome bastard,” he laughs.
“I really do love the first three ‘Friday the 13th’ movies,” he continues. “The first ‘Halloween’ too. The problem with a lot of the slasher movies in the ‘80s—like those and ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’—is that I think they were all really scary in the beginning, and as they progressed, they started becoming comical. I don’t think horror is meant to be funny, you know what I mean? If you want to combine horror and comedy, then watch ‘Evil Dead’ or [‘Evil Dead] II.’ Those were funny and so out there.”
Despite their lyrical darkness and how seriously Terror Universal have taken their creative process, Massacre does reveal one unexpected secret to the band’s success: it’s fucking fun. Their passion is infectious and results in the members’ joy shining through the music.
“We’re just a bunch of gruesome bastards, man,” he laughs. “We definitely are having fun with it, and I’m very happy with how it all came out.”