Stephanie Cabral

Interview: DAATH – Eyal Levi “As technology became more accessible, and people have figured out how to work with these budgets, you’re seeing kind of like a golden period for metal.”

Eyal from the lauded progressive death metal band Daath sat down to chat with us having emerged from a thirteen-year hiatus with a devastating new album, ‘The Deceivers’.

‘The Deceivers’ has a heavily orchestrated sound. It’s a very big, huge-sounding record. We understand this is mainly due to a collaborator you have called Jesse Zaretti on orchestration, who’s worked for Marvel, of all people. How did that come about?

“Jesse and I have been friends for over a decade now. I produced his old band Binary Code back in 2013 and we’ve just kind of been really close ever since then and I’ve just watched him grow his career from just some dude in a band that was cool, but not really going where he was hoping that it would go, into someone that created this really incredible composition career. I mean I watched him go from Marvel doing stuff with Netflix Universal now he does stuff with Riot he’s worked for all kinds of bands and he’s actually a huge Daath fan and has been for a long time and when I was tinkering with the idea of restarting it, he was the one who was pushing me the hardest to do it. Even after I was well into it, I wanted to stop it again for a reason I won’t get into. He actually asked me if he could do an orchestration on one of the tracks that we were working on. He was like, before you quit, let me just try this and see how it goes. We’ll go from there. That was the song ‘No Rest No End’, which is the album opener. So, he sent me back orchestration on it and it was like, all right, doing this. That song ended up changing a lot from that initial version, his orchestration was very inspiring because we have orchestration on The Hinderers, like we’ve always had synth and other instrumentation, but what you’re hearing on this record is kind of what I’ve always wanted for the band. He’s also a really sick guitar player, so it just kind of made sense to ask him to join. It was just very organic. We’ve just been such close friends forever. He also has worked with my company URM. It’s just we’ve just been very involved for over a decade, so it made sense.”

Of course, you are backed up with the tight-as-hell rhythm section, with bassist David Marvuglio and Kerim ‘Krimh’ Lechner playing the drums. Krimh is from Septic Flesh and Decapitated. He is an incredible drummer, and he’s been making waves for quite a while. You say he’s one of your favourite drummers in metal, period?

“Yeah, I mean I would say that Krimh, I was just talking about this the other day with my brother. I think that Krimh is one of the best ever to do it. One of the best metal drummers walking the earth and one of the best metal drummers in history. I think he’s perfect for what we do because there are bands that are faster, there are bands that are more technical, and there are also bands that are slower. We kind of just do our own thing, but there’s a lot of variety in what we do. We cover a lot of ground and like it’s very compositionally oriented. And he’s a very creative drummer. So, he kind of packs this combination, which is very rare to find where it’s like you combine power, speed, groove, creativity, and feel, and then writing ability, it’s just not common. And he loves the darker side of things. So, we just get along as people and musically, it just made sense. Also, it’s really good that he’s got Septic Flesh, because one of the things that I wanted with this new lineup was that everybody have something going on that’s important outside the band, so that the band is free to do whatever we want. We’re not in a position where anyone can cause us to bend or hold anything over us because we’ve all got something else going on. It’s very pure this way.”

He first came under our radar when we saw his drum play through videos; he did Slipknot equally as well as Joey Jordison. Then he was doing the Emperor stuff. On this album, you’ve also got guest guitar solos scattered throughout, and the contributor list for this is absolutely incredible, Jeff Loomis, Mark Holcomb, Dean Lamb, who obviously we’ve all been seeing his videos a lot on YouTube and with Archspire, just an incredible band. So it goes on and on, Mick Gordon, how did this astonishing list come about?

“So, when we started writing the record, the lineup was not solidified yet. It was me, Sean, and Jesse. And we were like courting Krimh. He hadn’t joined yet, but we were still working on an initial batch of songs. You know, bands don’t go on hiatus because things are good, right? Just like no happy band breaks up. You know, no happy marriage ends in divorce. Like, if a band goes on hiatus, it’s because things weren’t good. I’ve had a lot of time to think about what are some of the things I don’t want to repeat. It took a while to find band members. And we just didn’t want to just jump in with anybody, so we decided that we’re going to make the record no matter what though, we’re proceeding, this is happening. We’re not waiting until the perfect moment. We’re just doing it and my network now is way bigger than it was back in the day. I know lots of people, we all know lots of people, we’ve all been around. We’ve got lots of friends and it was as easy as just asking. That’s it. Like, just a lot of these dudes are old school fans of the band, like Loomis, he almost joined the band at one point. Like, he’s been a supporter since the old days. We’re friends with all these people. So, it was really just a text.”

I mean, there are three guitarists within the band—you, Raphael Trullio, and Jesse, who we mentioned before—so it’s a real guitarists’ record, isn’t it?

“It’s a very guitar centric band. Fun fact, I always wanted it to be a three-guitar band. We just didn’t know anyone back in the day who could do it. And then also, it’s another mouth to feed. And the way that we were touring back in the old days, we couldn’t have another person there. It was just not doable. The music, even the older music, calls for three guitars. So, it’s always been a challenge to reduce it to two. There’s always something missing. And yeah, you can put it in a backing track, which we’ve done, or put the orchestra in a backing track but I’ve always wanted to have three guitars in the band. So, the way that it’s arranged is kind of the way that an orchestra is arranged, the way that it’s written is kind of like that. So just naturally with the way I write, there’s going to be like multiple guitar parts that work together. So, it just works, but that’s kind of just been an organic thing. I think kind of like the way Periphery has three guitars or Whitechapel has three guitars and I don’t think anyone thinks about it, it’s just organic to have a sound.”

Obviously, the first band that came under my radar, which had three guitars, was Iron Maiden, and since then, I’d like to say Periphery. I’ve seen Kvelertak and Whitechapel. As you say, that three-guitar thing, if it’s done right, can be such a powerful sound live. 

“Well, because like say you have like a harmony lead, right? So, if you only have two guitars you have to make a decision, either someone’s not going to play the rhythm and then you’re going to lose some of the power, or the harmony lead is not going to happen and it’s not going to sound as cool. So, what do you do? I’ve seen some bands pull it off, like Opeth for instance have been able to pull it off to where they decide, how they’re going to do it because they don’t have three guitars live. But I’ve seen them change their arrangements at different shows and it sounds, some arrangements are better than others, obviously. I’ve always struggled with that idea of, you can always make the best choice given your options, but sometimes the best choice is still not as good as it you want it to be. The only way to really do it is with three it’s just how many guitars it takes.”

Do you think we’re getting into the days now when music has been so disposable that the grand spectacle album is needed to bring those people back into a sort of album-listening format? Do you think the grand spectacle album is an important thing to be doing right now?

“Well, I think you’ve got kind of a convergence of factors happening. One of them, and this is in my opinion a big one, is that it’s now been over a decade that people have been able to record at home. Like my company URM, we’re turning 10 next year officially, but I started doing stuff under Unstoppable Recording Machine in 2014. The way that this relates is that we teach people how to mix and produce metal, taught by the best people in the game with the best bands. We’ve been doing that now, like I said, for 10 years and that technology has been available to record outside of the studio for 15 years. So you have just a generation that grew up on stuff like what my company has provided with YouTube, with the ability to record themselves, and no longer being bound by the super, super expensive studio system has led to people being able to really pursue their creativity. With the availability of information, again, like what we’ve provided, people have been able to get a lot better and take matters into their own hands. So, like, for instance, Ihsahn, is a good example, he taught himself how to orchestrate.

That would not have happened back in the day. So things like that. I know lots of bands where there is not just one member, but several members have learned something else or many other things besides just their instrument. I think people are just playing the game at a higher level than they used to be and so I think that’s the main reason that you’re starting to get these crazy albums. There was this lull, I think, where when downloading first became a thing and things got really depressing, but people still couldn’t record themselves or lower the cost to where you still had this super high cost of recording and no way out of it. However, labels were lowering budgets because of downloading. You know, so then that kind of puts a weird vibe on the whole thing and I think hurt records. But I think as we’ve moved away from that, as streaming became a thing, as technology became more accessible, and people have figured out how to work with these budgets, you’re seeing kind of like a golden period for metal.”

Sticking with Unstoppable Recording Machine, it’s become a hugely successful business. You haven’t just been away from Daath twiddling your thumbs. You’ve been working on this fantastic company. You have Unstoppable Recording Machine and its sister school, Riffard, a metal guitar tuition. Do you have any stories that might inspire our readers who are learning music production or guitar? Some success stories from your schools that stick out in your head?

“Buster Odeholm from Humanity’s Last Breath. I mean, he was one of our OG students. So, that to me is, we’re starting to see that a lot more, where it’s not only dudes like Buster who are well-known, but you’re seeing people throughout the entire recording industry who are working underneath huge producers or who are just… URM people are just there. I’ve watched people go from complete novices, literally knowing nothing, to moving to LA and becoming hugely successful. For instance, a dude named Kevin McCombs was an original URM student from Jacksonville, Florida. He’s an extreme metal dude. He had an extreme metal studio there and was doing all right for himself. We kind of connected him with this producer named Colin Britton who does lots of major label stuff, Papa Roach, like just way bigger stuff. Colin happened to be in Florida working with A Day To Remember. We’re tight with Andrew Wade and we’ve worked with A Day To Remember on Nail the Mix. Like we connected the two and Kevin passed the test. He kept getting invited back on like this huge record to intern on. But he didn’t mess it up. He kept getting invited back. And then eventually Colin asked him to move to LA and just work for him. And now they go between Nashville and LA together. It’s been like five years now. I could talk for a long time about these stories. There’s several of them, so I have personally seen it happen lots of times, so I know that it’s possible. I also know that it’s never too late. I’ve seen people who are like 35 and didn’t know anything get started and then end up making it happen. So, you know it’s only way to actually fail is to quit I think.”

It must fill you with so much pride to see these success stories—these students and these flames that you’ve nurtured going out into the world and making it themselves. It must be tremendously rewarding for you.

“It is, it really is. And, I mean, the reason we started it was because of what I was talking about earlier, that weird time period in the music industry and the metal industry, like in the years following downloading, where things were getting really dark. I don’t know, we all do what we can to contribute, but it just seemed to me like somebody needed to step up and help right that ship because producers were also starting to get very irate and burned out of dealing with bands who had no budgets, but then would want to record themselves and would record DI guitars and do horrific jobs. It was just miserable all around. So, it just seemed to me like someone needs to step forward and do it.”

‘The Deceivers’ is the album title; it’s a continuation of a theme that began with 2007’s Hinderers and continued with The Concealers. Is there an overarching story behind these records? Is there a narrative that’s going along with these titles? 

“It’s not like when you think of a concept album where someone sits down and writes a story or something. Nothing like that. It’s just we look at where we’re at and try to sum it up basically, so coming back to the band we had a lot of baggage to unload about lots of different things. Lots of different things involving people that we felt betrayed by or tried to get in our way or held us back or whatnot. Or, you know, sometimes that anger is self-directed, it’s like we got it in our own way and on a personal level, I don’t just mean on a band level, but it was like something that we had on our minds a lot, was like those types of topics. And so, it just, it organically made sense. Because I think that concept album or not, having some sort of a through line is important.”

Coming back to a band after you’ve had that hiatus, you’ve got to be friends first and foremost before you go back into it, and you’ve got to be making music for yourself first that makes you happy, you know? Instead of just thinking, oh, what sells right now? As Rick Rubin once said, what sells right now will be you if you make music for yourself.

“I agree with that, because you can never predict. It’s just, it’s like a fool’s errand to try and predict what the public is going to resonate with. Like, you have no control over that, and no one can predict it. There’s some producers or artists who just, I think it’s more just luck of the draw that they happen to be in tune with the masses over a long period of time, not just like once. It’s amazing enough to do it once, but even doing it once, is more than most people or artists will ever do. Those who do it repeatedly over a long period of time, that’s not normal. I do think that it’s not, of course they work really hard, but the luck of the draw is that their hard work and their inspiration happened to be in line with what resonated with the masses at that point in time. You have no control over that whatsoever, so you better be doing it for the right reasons. The making it big thing is not up to you!”

Yes, absolutely.

“That’s if the world decides. Like there’s no campaign or amount of money that can buy success in music. Contrary to popular belief, you can buy ad campaigns, you can buy spots on shows, but you cannot buy people’s opinions. You can’t buy the tastes of the audience. Like they’re either going to like it or they’re not. I mean, you can do what you can to present what you’ve got to more people, but at the end of the day, we’ve all seen plenty of artists who had a huge push that fell flat on their faces. A massive budget that just failed because the audience didn’t want it. You can’t control that.”

We heard that lockdown prompted you to pick up the guitar and start writing again. Is that correct? 

“Not exactly, it was in that time period. So basically, I got really into fitness in like 2019 after being super unhealthy and lifting weights a lot and running a lot and I injured myself in 2021. So still kind of pandemic times and was just laid out. I couldn’t move. Like it fucked up my back, my lower back really badly. And so, I was just on the couch and anyone who works out a lot knows that when you stop doing that, like the demons come back and for me, that was a big way to fight off lots of demons. So, it was a mental health thing and a physical health thing. Really, important to me. So, like I was noticing all like demons are coming back, depressions are coming back. I want to kill myself again, this is not good. I need to do something with all this extra nervous energy. Why don’t I pick up the guitar? Absolutely. And here we are and because I’m a psychopath and can’t do anything casually or for fun. This is where it ended up so far.”

Well, we were talking about making music again for the right reasons. That sounds like a hell of a reason to be doing it, massively for your own personal health, for your own personal enjoyment and progression. So once this album hits the public, and I can’t wait for it to do so because it sounds giant, are there touring plans, festival plans, or that kind of thing? 

“Not set in stone, but we’re planning on it. We have worldwide booking and we’re working on offers right now.”

Is there anyone you want to shout out before we sign off here? Are there any bands you’ve checked out recently that people should know about?

“Zenith Passage. I think Zenith Passage is one of the best technical death metal bands I’ve heard in a long time. I heard Archspire and then I kind of like there’s a lot of sick bands but the first one since Archspire that I was like okay, here we go, has been Zenith Passage.

The thing about tech, is I feel like the best bands in tech were always really good writers. So, I think tech gets a bad rap because there’s a lot of bands that aren’t good writers who do it and are just doing it for the wrong reasons, which is just showing off. But these great bands like Necrophagist or Archspire or Zenith Passage, they write really great music. It just happens to be insane, but the technicality doesn’t take away from how good it is!”

Interview By George Miller –

Photo Credits: Stephanie Cabral