The Norwegian thrash metal battalion known as Deathhammer has been spilling beer and blood since 2005. With release titles like Savage Poser Assault, Wrath of the Antichrist, Forever Ripping Fast and Evil Power, it shouldn’t be a shock that old school German ragers like Kreator, Destruction and Sodom feature heavily on the gramophone when heads are being banged and livers are being annihilated. And the band has received the stamp of approval from heavyweight fellow countrymen Darkthrone, having their logo immortalized as part of the cover of the legendary band’s 2007 album, F.O.A.D.
What’s most surprising, however, is that this unholy racket is created by a duo. Daniel “Sergeant Salsten” Salsten takes care of bass, guitars and vocals while his counterpart, Cato “Sadomancer” Stormoen handles some guitar and vocals, but primarily focuses on the spot behind the drums. Their latest and third album, Chained To Hell comes after a lengthy layoff/delay that saw the pair divided by geography for a time, waiting on mixes, mastering and artwork as well as sporadic touring, including a Central American run that was memorable for the amount of hell that as raised in such a brief window of time. We caught up with the duo via email and got their thoughts on how bad Norwegian metal crowds are, where they draw metal’s intellectual line, and what crimes against metal are unforgivable.
So, it’s been about three years since Evil Power. What nefarious activities did you get up to during that time and how much of that time has been dedicated to Chained to Hell?
Cato “Sadomancer” Stormoen: Basking in glory (laughs). No, even though Daniel moved to the other side of the earth right after he completed his parts on Chained to Hell, we have been pretty active with gigs and touring and shit. The album took a while to finalize because first I had to finish it, then getting it mixed with Apollyon when he had the time and then we had to wait for the cover art which I think took a fucking year. We seem to get by with a little help from our friends, but since they don’t get much for it, we rarely nag them either. Apart from that, we have made a bunch of new songs which is the most important.
Deathhammer is on the “Threshold of Doom” with this new track.
I understand that Chained to Hell was actually recorded in 2015. Is that true? Why the lengthy delay?
Daniel “Sergeant Salsten” Salsten: Yeah, we recorded it in January that year, right before I left to live in Australia for a couple of years. Then we took some time to get it mixed and mastered like we always do. We also invested time in other bands, being on different continents and all. Then, we couldn’t figure out who we wanted to do the cover. When we got our old buddy Gimpen to do the cover, but he was quite busy and took some time. We waited until that was done, started with the layout, and then we waited for the pressing, etc… Shit like this tends to take time, but yeah, it did take a crazy long time.
The guitar work on the new record seems to be sharper and more precise. Is that a fair estimation? Was that a goal going into the creation of the album or a natural consequence of playing more and gaining more experience?
Sadomancer: That sounds right. On this album, I took care of the guitars on all tracks except the two first ones, so maybe that’s it? I know I have played a lot more guitar than Daniel over the years because he handles the bass and vocals live, so I guess I’m tighter in that department. It was certainly not a goal because I never play guitar to be better at it, I just play because maybe I’ll make a good riff.
Was there anything about Evil Power that you wanted to avoid, improve upon and/or do differently with Chained to Hell?
Sergeant Salsten: Yeah, we wanted the guitars to be tuned the same way all the way through, I think. Not keeping that in mind has caused heaps of fiddling around before.
The Chained To Hell album dropped on October 5th, 2018, via Hell’s Headbangers.
Apparently, you came away from your short run through California, Mexico, and Central America a few months ago with a few gnarly tour stories. What can you tell us about your adventures down south?
Sergeant Salsten: It was pretty intense. Some dude got stabbed at the show in L.A. right before we were gonna go on. We quickly managed to improvise a show down the street, but it was a bummer because then the younger crowd couldn’t get in. There were heaps of disappointed teenagers, but we there was nothing we could do. Then, when we went southwards it was full-on raging and barely any sleep, of course.
We managed to sneak into El Salvador even though they probably knew we were a band, but since half the band was ill, shitting and vomiting, they let us pass. They held us up on the way out because some snitch sent them pictures of our concert. We had to bribe them and missed our flight. There were endless Spinal Tap moments, but we got through it pretty well. Getting used to the chaos by now.
Have you learned anything from playing live that you applied to the writing or recording of the new album or future recordings? How would you say Deathhammer is different live from on record?
Sadomancer: I haven’t learned a single thing from playing live. I’m actually a bit sick of it because I’d rather make songs and rehearse for an album; that’s what gives me the most about playing in a band. If the mood is right it can be great to tour, like the Central American tour we just did, but that’s mostly because of good company, hard partying, madness and seeing some cool stuff.
When our next album is out we will do a tour like those authors who just travel around the world in hotel rooms and talk about their books and do a bunch of drugs. I haven’t seen us live to say, so I wouldn’t know (laughs). On record, we hopefully succeed in bringing out the beast and manifest feelings of violence and evil.
Check out this classic Deathhammer track, “Toxic Radiation.”
Having been to various parts of the world, what have you noticed about the societies, cultures and metal scenes in different countries? What are some of the differences and similarities you’ve seen in comparison to life and the music scene in Norway?
Sergeant Salsten: The crowd in Norway is probably the worst in the world. We usually manage to incite some thrashing, but I mean in general. If we play somewhere far away, people tend to be more excited, but it’s often because there’s less shit going on there. But it depends. Everywhere is different! People on the street in the U.S. ask you where you’re going. Shit like that.
Is there a particular story or significance behind the selection of Chained to Hell as the album title?
Sadomancer: It just came to me very strongly one day that that’s what we are. Chained to the gates of hell forever.
The song titles are pretty much in line with the ‘80s aesthetic (“Black Speed Inferno,” “Tormentor,” “Rabid Manic Force” and so on), but is there a deeper meaning or thematic application of the songs to topics and subject matter that are deeper than the titles suggest? Or is it all about variations on metal, raging, hellish evil and the like?
Sergeant Salsten: The topics come naturally as they reflect the music. I’m not sure what you’re suggesting with deeper meaning but metal is not intellectualism. Our way of metal is violence and evil, nothing less. The lyrics are as direct as the riffs, no beating around the bush.
Sadomancer: We don’t think about certain aesthetic rules which need to be obeyed when we write lyrics, that’s just what comes to our minds. I like to generate and evoke feelings of evil, rage, hate, and violence and I also like to conjure up images of death, raging flames, hell, and destruction. I would never write about politics because I couldn’t care less about politics, nor would I write about social stuff because I don’t care for society.
Would you ever do any of the following: 1. wear a t-shirt with sleeves; 2. record an album using a click track; 3. throw out an original copy of In the Sign of Evil even if it’s stained with and smells like cat piss; or 4. give up drinking for non-medical reasons?
Sergeant Salsten: I don’t mind sleeves. All the rest are unthinkable!
Stream the “Rabid Maniac Force” now, before it comes for you.
With all the demands, scheduling, travelling, etc…, is doing Deathhammer more difficult now than it was when you first started? Or have you grown with the experience making it easier because you know what you’re doing and what to expect?
Sergeant Salsten: We live in the same city now but are still somewhat slower than before. I suppose we’re more experienced, but we never know what to expect. We’ll never be organized, but we always manage.
If you could give any advice to the Sergeant Salsten and Sadomancer of thirteen years ago, what would it be?
Sergeant Salsten: Bury that dumb track “Last Remaining Soul.”
Sadomancer: Have fun now, it will only get worse!
There’s been an influx of dirty and loose sounding thrash bands taking cues from the likes of early Sodom, Destruction, Kreator, Sabbat and more. The sound is obvious in its roots and identifiable. What do you feel Deathhammer offers that’s different and makes you stand out from the crowd?
Sergeant Salsten: You tell me! If it’s done with true passion and energy it doesn’t matter anyway. Thrash ‘til death!
Not that it ultimately matters, but do you feel that you and bands like yours can ever be accepted or embraced by fans of more technical or mainstream thrash? Or do you find your crossover fanbase coming more from the black metal and punk side of the spectrum?
Sergeant Salsten: I suppose the latter is more prominent. Hard rockers with different preferences come to our shows, but we’re still a raw band and the supporters generally likewise.
Is there a plan for Deathhammer once Chained to Hell is fully released and out and about?
Sadomancer: Collective suicide, Thelma and Louise style.