Lesser known band spotlight: BerserkerfoX

BerserkerfoX were the second winners of our lesser-known bands spotlight. A young band – their first show was just two years ago – they're focused, determined to get their product right, and to generate the right amount of hype to carry them into the future.

 

 

The voting period for these guys was an intense battle. Ending with a total of something like 230 votes, it wasn't clear who was going to win the public vote until very close to the closing date. Given that the battle was so very strong, I couldn't resist asking BeserkerfoX band member Ashish Kumar what the band's tactics were. Spam was highly favoured.

 

'Well, we've got a Facebook group so we spammed everyone on the Facebook group and told them, “look, you don't have to put any money in for this, just click. And tell your friends to click. And apparently a few of them got carried away and told all their friends to click, so we just saw the votes just go up.'

 

Pretty much that was the entire tactic: spamming friend with reminders and getting them to vote. Of course, it's not entirely the point with the lesser-known bands poll – we here at Metal as Fuck hope that the people who vote do so because they like the bands, and not because they're mates with them – but it's the sort of thing you have to expect. No doubt the other bands were doing the same thing.

 

At one point the three Australian bands – Internal Nightmare, BerserkerfoX and Tzun Tzu – were tied out in front. It really was a close battle. Ashish admitted that for a while he checked the poll every twenty minutes to see where they were sitting. 

 

BerserkerfoX hail from Melbourne, and the way Ashish described their sound is somewhere between In Flames, Arch Enemy and Arsis. 

 

'I think we've got that sort of menacing, growling naughtiness that you find with Arsis, but you got the harmonies and the catchiness that you find from In Flames, and you got the full-on growls and death vocals from Arch Enemy,' Ashish explained.

 

As Ashish went on to explain, these guys are pretty much death metal fans making music for other death metal fans. Interestingly, the way that he described their music tallies pretty nearly exactly with how our reviewer described their last demo, King Kong on Crack.

 

'The reason we put out King Kong on Crack is... the three songs on that demo,' he re-started, 'are... it's a very basic showcase of what to expect when the album comes out. Because the album would have songs similar to that but it starts bridging into territory like jazz and the bass has more of a showcase, the drums get a whole lot more brutal.'

 

The interesting thing about what BerserkerfoX are doing for with King Kong on Crack is that they are using the demo as a type of 'market research': taking the comments from people and media and then refining what it is they produce for their first release. In fact, taking on what people say about the demo was the whole reason for its release.

 

'We had a good six to seven months before finishing up the rest of the album. And the album is produced and engineered by us. We're getting it professionally mastered,' he clarified. 'But based on what everybody else has been saying, what the reviewers have been saying, people who have heard it have been saying, we're taking all that on board.'

 

What this means is that if somebody says that there should be more bass, or more kicks, or that the vocals need to be stronger, then the band takes that comment and works at what they already have to see if they can improve it. 

 

The interesting thing about this, is that a lot of bands don't tend to work this way. Where BerserkerfoX differ is that they are making music for themselves, but at the same time they want to make sure that the full-length hits the ground running. In doing so, they want the release to resonate with its audience. Of course, you could argue that this method is almost like writing for what people want, and it's a fine line to be able to do that and remain unique. But at the same time, it's almost like getting the public to take on the role of pseudo-producer. 

 

'There's no point putting out an album that nobody's going to listen to,' Ashish stressed. 'We want to create a hype before the album came out, and thought well, let's create an album that people will latch onto, that people will hopefully have the sense that they've contributed to the production of the album.'

 

The reason for BerserkerfoX's intense desire to improve everything as much as possible before they finalise the album comes from the fact that you only ever get one chance to release a debut full-length.

 

Being a curious sort of person, I'd wondered before talking to Ashish whether or not there was any sort of story behind the title of their EP. I thought there might have been an in-joke or something. But as usual when you get curious about things and ask a question like that, you find out that you've been barking up the wrong dog.

 

The way that BerserkerfoX title their albums has far more to do with the imagery and the artwork; and, of course, the desire to get people thinking and talking about it.

 

'If you look at the t-shirt artwork that we have out now, we have this weird fox-like creature with chainsaws for arms … and we have that full-colour artwork in the album as well. But the bridge between the t-shirt artwork and the album artwork, we put in the King Kong on Crackartwork, which was basically just a berserking mythological creature going rampant. So we thought, King Kong on Crack.'

 

The response that the band has gained from King Kong on Crack has jelled almost exactly with what the guys had planned for the forthcoming release. People wanted something a bit more full-on: more blast-beats, faster, a bit more variation in the sound and in the vocal styles. 

 

'The debut will feature nine songs, three of which are on King Kong on Crack,' Ashish explained. 'The other six have progressed a lot more [since then]. There's a lot more progressive tracks, there are songs that reach 200 bpm at least, and the vocal style changes a fair bit. There's a lot more range, a lot more clean passages. Hopefully each song will stand out on its own.'

 

Like many bands now, BerserkerfoX have chosen to record at home; not just because of the financial impact – all of these guys are students and don't have the cash to spare to get into a studio – but also because it's easier. As Ashish told me, one of their members, Rory, bought a house which the band subsequently took over and modified.

 

'Over summer we moved all our gear in there. All the amps are in one room, and we drilled a hole through to the other room, to pull guitar leads through and mic leads through. So we're sitting in the other room, which is technically the control room. It's very old school,' he explained.

 

The drum tracks were recorded in Rory's shed, and the vocals were done in Ashish's tiny little studio apartment.

 

It has been very much a multi-part process. They'd record, take it back, mix it down and see what they wanted to change. Doing this process at home has meant that they have the luxury of lots of time in which to play around with the product and get it sounding the way they really want it to sound.

 

'A lot of people have told us we should have recorded this live because we're more of a live band, and there's an energy that we just can't capture in the studio. For us to do that would take forever,' Ashish emphasised. 'You'd have to nail the guitar tone right off the bat, you'd have to nail the drum tone right off the bat. But it's an option for us down the line, hopefully.'

 

If BersekerfoX were ever to choose to work with a producer – something that Ashish admits that he would love to do someday – they would rather work with somebody from their local scene, than with anybody else.

 

'They're as underground as we are, they've gone through the works, they have a lot more recording experience than we have. I'd rather work with somebody who I know,' he explained. 'Then that way he gets to move up in the business, and we get to capitalise on his raw knowledge.'

 

Helping the scene out in this grassroots sort of way is something that Ashish would be keen to do. 

 

'There's no point pumping money into people or organisations that already have the funding,' is the way he put it. 'And that's where bands turn to the most. And I think that, with this album, and hopefully with every album we put out from here on in, there will be character to it. The minute you go to a structured organisation, they tend to imprint their structure and their character on the album, which makes all production that comes out from that society sounding the same.'

 

On the BerserkerfoX site, Ashish had stated that the band is trying to do something different to what is coming out of the Melbourne metal scene generally. I asked him what he meant.

 

'Well two of us, me and Annan, the guitarist, we're from Malaysia. And we draw influences from a lot of music that we have been listening to outside of the Australian borders. So, I think we're capable of bringing in slightly different influences into the music. And we tend to listen to albums and, not so much pick what's good about it, but more or less pick what's missing and what's bad.'

 

Over the years these guys have stockpiled a list of what they'd like to see more in music, and that's now what is influencing the writing process for the band.

 

When I spoke with Ashish, BerserkerfoX had just completed a short tour of their home state in their immediate regional area: Ballarat, Geelong, Moe, and, back in the city, in Frankston, to promote King Kong on Crack. Once the album's finalised, they're hoping to hit nearly all the major cities: Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide and Hobart, in addition to more regional areas. 

 

'One thing we noticed is that the kids in the suburbs and the places further out where people don't play gigs as often, those kids come out in hordes. And they really support the scene. It's so much more pleasing when you see people come out like that.'

 

For those unfamiliar with Australian geography, Moe (pronounced 'moe-ee') is a tiny little place east of Melbourne; it is far more well known for bogans and moccasins than it is for anything as underground as metal. Given this reputation, I had to ask what the show was like.

 

'There was nothing. The guy said “oh you're playing here”, and all we could see was open stretches of field,' Ashish recalled. 'We took this turn-off and there was a stage in the middle of a field. And there was, like, twenty drunk bogans. It was awesome,' he enthused. 'It was probably the best gig we've played in a long time. People were drunk, and violent, but at least we saw some movement.'

 

The thing about regional shows, which lots of bands comment on, is that the audiences are a lot more sensitive to the music that you bring out to them. Ashish commented that one of the other things is that they hang around and talk to you after the show – and in a rather interrogative manner. They're interested in hearing where the music came from, where the influences lie, and how it all comes together.

 

'They're a lot more interested in trying to forge a connection, because they're genuinely interested in the music,' he said, 'and they're just trying hard to get exposed to it. They go to as many gigs as they can, because they're in the middle of nowhere and bands just don't go out that far.'

 

If you're keen to hear King Kong on Crack, hit the guys up on their website.