Losing battles, winning wars
Chico’s Armed for Apocalypse finds victory in Defeat
Chico, CA 95928
Paradise Lost235 Nord Ave.
Chico, CA 95926
At first glance, Defeat would seem like the least-fitting title for Chico sludge-metal outfit Armed for Apocalypse’s international debut. After all, the band members all have spent years paying their dues in the local metal scene—vocalist and guitarist Kirk Williams and bassist Cor Vaspra with Brain in a Cage and Blood of Cain; drummer Nick Harris with Red With Envy; and guitarist Cayle Hunter in Oddman and the Abominable Iron Sloth. So it should come as no surprise that they now find themselves releasing their first full-length (Sept. 15) on both Ironclad Recordings, an arm of legendary label Metal Blade, and European label SOAR.
But as Hunter explains, defeat isn’t just a persistent theme in frontman Williams’ lyrics, but a through line in the band’s history as well.
“Everything that we’ve had, even getting this band together, comes from losses,” Hunter says. Early on, these losses were in the form of members, with three-fifths of the original band exiting just as the group was starting to garner interest. “We had our best friends leave the band, to where it was basically just down to me and Nick, and we were still just coming to practice, having no idea what we were going to do. And Ironclad [Recordings] was ready to go on it then, on an old batch of songs, but we just didn’t even have a band to put together to make it happen.”
However, with the subsequent additions of Williams and Vaspra in late 2007, the band refocused and began writing the heavier, more elaborate material found on Defeat, re-igniting some of the initial industry interest, but again to no avail. “We had some management possibilities, some label possibilities, but everything fell through,” says Hunter.
Undaunted, the band entered the studio on its own dime, recording with former guitarist Matt Pedri at Sacramento’s Pus Cavern Studios. The band sent the first batch of tracks to Ironclad (a subsidiary of Metal Blade), and the label liked what it heard, so much so that it sent A4A back into the studio with Pedri, this time at Chico’s Heirloom Studios, for more. Soon after, European label SOAR (Siege of Amida Records) came calling as well.
“I still have some friends over there, and they’re always interested in what’s going on,” recalls Hunter, whose former bands Ghostride and Will Haven toured extensively in Europe. “I sent them some raw demos, unmixed and unmastered, and Siege of Amida was on it immediately. As soon as they heard it, they said, ‘Let’s see if we can get it licensed over here.’ They were able to work something out with Metal Blade, which is actually beneficial to all of us, because they just have to worry about their back yard. They know Europe and how to break a band over there, and Metal Blade does the same over here, so it works out best for all three of us.”
Remarkable as it is that the band’s first release will be available not only nationally, but internationally as well, A4A is not immune to the setbacks of a working band: there are still van breakdowns, equipment failures and out-of-town shows that inevitably pay only a fraction of what it cost to get there. But they greet such hardship as progress.
“It’s been hard, but at the same time, we’re in a position that most bands would kill to be in,” says Hunter. And though he and his band mates are well aware that the worst is quite possibly yet to come, they greet their future with dark optimism. “The second record is gonna be called Even More Defeat.”