Formed two decades after the halcyon days of crossover thrash, Dr. Living Dead! are the next-generation answer to lame circle pits and even lamer riffs. Formed in 2007 and constructed out of an appetite for killer riffs at ridiculous paces, their Thrash after Death (2007) and Thrashing the Law (2008) demos caught the eyes and ears of Germany’s High Roller Records, who in turn advanced the Swedes cash for bandanas, Dogtown reissue decks, and, of course, two highly acclaimed full-lengths in Dr. Living Dead! (2011) and Radioactive Intervention (2012).
“Inspiration comes from many different places,” bassist/songwriter Dr. Rad says. “But a lot of times it comes back to that feeling you get from blasting some Slayer or Suicidal [Tendencies]. Stuff like that. Jams that just get you pumped up to the max! Things that just make you wanna write the sickest riffs ever. The attitude in those old recordings is just off the hook. Period. That will always inspire us.”
That inspiration is easy to find for Dr. Rad and team. They have the classic L.A bands like Slayer & Excel to call home, but they are equally interested, musically and spiritually, in bands like Megadeth, Vio-Lence and even classic Swedish death metal like Dismember. Since signing over to Century Media in 2014, Dr. Living Dead! have lipslided—from Stockholm to Venice Beach—into two full-lengths, Crush the Sublime Gods (2015) and new slam-dance classic Cosmic Conqueror.
“What we set out to do on this one was to make it sound as organic and dynamic as possible,” offers Dr. Rad. “One of the biggest issues we had with Crush was that it sounded too slick, especially the drums. It also lacked dynamics. So, with Cosmic Conqueror we were extremely careful with compression and shit like that. The approach was to really make it sound like you’re next to a real drum kit when you listen to it. Just like a classic Slayer record or something that has clarity and punch. But it’s still super real. I think we managed to get pretty close.”
As another change from its predecessor, the band’s 2017 opus does not feature cover artwork by former band member Dr. Ape aka Andreas Sandberg but from the talented Sebastien Ecosse (www.sebastienecosse.com)! Dr. Rad explains how it relates to the band’s concept and lyrical vision: “The cover of Cosmic Conqueror shows - our mascot - the Doc taking shape as artificial intelligence infiltrating our information streams to mess with our enemies. That’s what the song ‘Infiltrator-Exterminator’ is about.”
Co-recorded by the band and Martin Jacobson over the course of 10 days at Dr. Slam’s basement studio and Rovljud Studios in Örebro, Cosmic Conqueror has the energy, the bite, and the sharpness of many thrash classics, as shaped by then-ruling kings Randy Burns, Alex Perialas, and Max Norman. But rather than party till the cash register was empty, the members of Dr. Living Dead! went in prepared. Dr. Rad says the studio was wired at all times for inspiration. If Dr. Toxic (guitarist / vocals) suddenly felt like he was Rocky George, the studio was ready for him. If Dr. Mania (vocals) had a surge of Mike Muir or John Joseph, Rovljud Studios had a microphone ready. And if Dr. Slam (drums) had the itch to knock out a few Dave Lombardoisms, he had his own studio to wreck. Simply put, Dr. Living Dead! didn’t waste time nailing down Cosmic Conqueror.
“This is the best production we’ve ever had,” Dr. Rad beams. “And I think most people will agree when they hear it! If you prefer the songs from the earlier albums that’s totally fine, but those albums can’t stand up to what we’ve done sonically this time! Regarding the songs it’s pretty much a continuation of what we were doing on Crush, I guess. We try to mix it up, so it’s not too much of the same, but we also don’t want to lose the momentum. I think the title track came out pretty fuckin intense! As is the opener ‘Coffin Crusher’ and ‘Disease to Exist’, which is just constant riffs. I think anyone who liked jams on that one will dig this new one, too.”
Amen, Dr. Rad! As for where Cosmic Conqueror will posit Dr. Living Dead! in the grand scheme of crossover thrash (or thrash as a genre), there isn’t much concern. It’s an amazing album regardless. From opener “Coffin Crusher” to closer “Cyber Crime”, Cosmic Conqueror runs continuously and consistently hot. But the scene in the late ‘80s is water under the proverbial bridge. And the Swedes aren’t looking for scene points in the revivalism of modern-day thrash. In fact, as with debut Dr. Living Dead! so too with Cosmic Conqueror. The Swedes are all about jamming together and having a good time, whether it’s to fill a creative void with thrashing mad riffs or to whip up a frenzied circle pit.
“We take pride in being a little outside of what people expect,” says Dr. Rad. “I’m sure a lot of people probably get turned off for a number of reasons and that’s fine. Maybe they think it’s not cool if you wear shorts on stage. And others might think we are way too metal to fit into their view of whatever hardcore is supposed to be, but I could not care less about any of that. People will have their opinions and that’s fine. Either way, you’re gonna get Cosmic Conquered.”