While Croatia hasn’t gifted very many name acts to the wider international metal scene, there is a rich history of heavy music of all stripes hailing from the small, Adriatic nation. Case in point are speed metal grandpappies, Evil Blood who, inclusive of a number of name changes, have a history reaching back to 1982. A combination of location, restrictive political systems throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s and the Croatian War of Independence in the early ‘90s (and subsequent post-war rebuild), has seen Croatian metal exist in isolation.
Hoping to break out beyond the nation’s borders is Speedclaw, a young quartet hailing from the port city of Rijeka with visions of the rest of world in their eyes and a collection of New Wave of British Heavy Metal-inspired songs in their hearts. And, while the band’s new mini-LP, Beast in the Mist (released April 20th) may lean more towards the side of classic ‘80s speed metal than they let on, their determination is steely and laser-sighted. Coming only a year after their debut recording, which came a mere year after initially forming, Speedclaw has hardly stopped working on their craft and getting their name out there. This includes a deal with Shadow Kingdom Records, filming a video for the new record’s title track and DIY tours. Part of that work involves the necessary evil of doing press, so we caught up with guitarist Luka Jurisic who spilt the beans on mini-albums, Croatian claws and “the way metal was meant to be.”
Can you give a brief history of the band? You obviously aren’t old enough to have experienced the early/mid-‘80s scene and sound that informs Speedclaw in the flesh. When and how did you discover ‘old-school’ metal and the desire to play it?
Luka Jurisic: We got together in 2015, but the serious work started a year later after a lineup change. Shortly after the lineup change we released our first EP, Iron Speed while our second EP or a mini-album, as you will, was released on April 20. I think it’s safe to say that bands like Metallica or Exodus led us to discover the NWOBHM. We were already huge fans of Priest and Maiden, Motorhead, Venom, etc. but discovering the NWOBHM was really a game changer. To us that wasn’t old-school metal, it was simply metal, the way metal was meant to be.
Does the name Speedclaw have any particular significance?
Jurisic: When we first started playing, for a short period of time we were called ‘Kandža’ which is Croatian for “the claw.” But shortly after, we changed the name to Speedclaw because we wanted to open ourselves to international listeners.
Watch this video, but beware of the “Beast in the Mist”.
When putting Speedclaw together, did you have a particular sound goal or direction in mind in terms of the type of metal you wanted to play or did the sound just happen naturally? What sorts of bands did you play in previously?
Jurisic: We wanted to sound like an NWOBHM band. That was our sound goal. Shortly after releasing Iron Speed I think we realized that the sound has to come naturally and that’s the direction we’re heading in now. Music should come from the heart. Before Speedclaw we all played in various local garage bands, constantly switching from one band to another. Speedclaw is the first band that any of us have taken seriously.
How long did it take to write Beast in the Mist and what would you say you learned most from the process of doing Iron Speed that helped in the creation of the new mini-album?
Jurisic: Although being released in April this year, Beast in the Mist was written, recorded and produced a year after releasing Iron Speed, which was a year ago. So I guess it didn’t take long for us to have that done. As for the Iron Speed, well, we just wanted to have something recorded as fast as possible. Iron Speed really showed us what we needed to work on regarding our playing skills as well as writing. Nonetheless, recording it was the right thing to do at the time and it really prepared us for further work.
Was there anything that was done differently in terms of the way the new record was written or recorded that what you had done in the past?
Jurisic: Definitely. The album was recorded in two studios, since the tracks “Rising of the Claw” and “Aggression Strike” were meant to be singles, but things turned out in such way that we got a chance to record a few more tracks and make it an EP or a mini-album. So, that’s what we did. All of the producing on the new album was done by Olof Wikstrand [ Enforcer]. We felt that if anyone knew what we were about it was gonna be him. And he did an awesome job. That was a huge step-up in comparison to Iron Speed.
Was there a reason you wrote and recorded a mini-album instead of doing a longer full-length?
Jurisic: We had two singles and only because certain things turned out the way they did, we got the chance to record more material and make it into a mini-album. One thing is sure, however, and that’s that we weren’t ready for a full-length at the time of recording Beast in the Mist.
Is there a particular story behind the mini-album’s title and what can you tell us about the creation of the cover?
Jurisic: As soon as we wrote “Beast in the Mist” we knew we had our title song. It had all these elements that describe what we’re all about. It’s not directly connected to other songs on the album, but it makes a good representation of the band’s current mindset. The artwork is a representation of the title song and, as a song itself, it’s meant to be a bit mystical, let the listener find the true meaning.
How and when did Shadow Kingdom Records come into the picture?
Jurisic: Shadow Kingdom contacted us saying they want to re-release Iron Speed on cassette just when we were finishing up the recording of Beast in the Mist. We said we had a new EP coming up, they liked it and decided to release it. And that’s huge for us. Working with Shadow Kingdom was a huge kick forward and we hope to continue working with them in the future.
We know you’re now more than curious, so stream the entire Beast In The Mist release here.
Tell us about filming the video for the title track.
Jurisic: Old cars and young girls what else do you need?
What do you have to say about the health of the Croatian metal scene and where Speedclaw fits into it?
Jurisic: Ugh, that’s a tough one. The Croatian metal scene is volatile. It has its moments. The fans are very dedicated and, in my opinion, that’s all that matters. There’s not a lot of bands playing the same style of metal as we do so I would say we kind of stand out on the Croatian metal scene, but on the other side, there’s not a lot of metal fans that are into that kind of metal so there’s not much room for us to grow here.
Once the album is fully out what are your aspirations and goals?
Jurisic: We just finished a short European tour with Chronosphere from Greece which was our second tour. We love touring and we are definitely going to do more touring in the future. We don’t want to limit our audience to Croatia, or even Europe, so who knows where we might play in the future. All in all, we want to play as many festivals and do as much touring as we can in the future. We are working on some new material at the moment, but gigs are going to be a priority for a while after the mini-album is out.