Prepare for the “Retaliatory Strike!”
AT WAR are an under-rated power metal band hailing from Virginia, U.S.A. Some people say they sound like Motorhead and or Tank but I am not so sure about that. Possibly since they are a “hard-as-nails” three-piece band. Either way, AT WAR have just finished their second release entitled “Retaliatory Strike” and Curt King picks the mind of Paul Arnold (Vocals/Bass) in this rare interview as they are about to embark on their second strike!
You have just released your second LP entitled “Retaliatory Strike”, can you tell us more about it?
Paul Arnold: It’s a killer, that’s pretty much all I can say about it! It’s the best thing we have done to date. Anyone familiar with our first album (“Ordered to Kill” 1986) will definitely notice the difference, in everything from songwriting to musical ability, to the new production. The production is one of the biggest pluses. We got Alex Perialis and recorded it at Pyramid Studios. We had a lot of time to write the songs for this album and they are written a lot better. The lyrics are better and Alex added many pluses to the whole thing —it’s REALLY good.
I hear that you are one of the first bands to get a “real” budget from your record label—New Renaissance, is that true?
Yeah, that’s true. When we first started, we were one of the first bands to stick by New Renaissance. A lot of bands seem to think that when they get a record deal that they are rock stars or something and thinks the label owes things. We never had that attitude. We were a young band, they were a young label and we agreed to stick by them through thick and thin. Things have gone totally up for New Renaissance and because of that, (since we had faith in them), they had faith in us. They have really helped us get the best possible quality we could out of this new album. They want us to be as professional as we can and to play with the “big-boys” you gotta’ pay! It’s worked out really good.
In your home town of Virginia Beach (VA), you don’t hear of too many bands, let alone HEAVY bands, tell us about the Virginia music scene and if you have ever considered moving away to a place with a larger music scene?
When we first started then were no heavy bands—we were the first one! Since then, the whole scene has really exploded and gotten’ really big. Plus with us being around and everybody knows who we are, we’ve proved to the bands that you can do it. There is one really hot band called OVER THE TOP that are friends of mine. Their real young guys and they have a big future ahead of them. A lot of people ask us if we’ve ever wanted to move. Everybody’s going, move to New York or why don’t you move to L.A.? The way I look at it is, the big cities don’t have that much to offer for us. For one, their already packed with people trying to make it as it is. We would be just another band trying to make it from that area. I feel it doesn’t really matter where you are from as long as you can get to the people that want to hear you and deliver when you get there (no matter where your from or who you are). If people are gonna rate you as to what city your from then a lot of the biggest bands in the world never would’ve made it! It doesn’t really matter—as long as you are into it.
“I feel a three piece Metal band is the heaviest form of a band that you can get”—Paul Arnold
Being a three-piece band, do you think that limits you in any way—especially in a live situation?
Well, I haven’t felt any limitations yet. There are certain things, like when a guitar string gets broken, but there’s not much you can do. You either keep playing while he’s switching guitars or if that’s not the case, you’ll have to stop the song. It’s just one of those things you have to deal with being a three-piece.
We’ve all talked about it many times but we’ve all decided to stay a trio, plus there’s no other bands that do it any more hardly! I feel a three-piece Metal band is the heaviest form of a band you can get!
On your albums it shows the band sporting guns and camouflage clothes, is that a part of your image and will you ever incorporate any of that into your live shows?
Well, it never intended to be an image but I guess it always is. We’re all into war movies and that type of thing. Plus, I am a licensed fire arm dealer and I collect guns and weapons. I’m always intrigued by the military and things like that. You might possibly see some of it onstage. We’re trying to work it out. There are a lot of legalities involved in that. I’ve got all the weapons and stuff on-hand to use, but it causes problems. I doubt if we’ll be able to take it with us on tour but at local shows and surrounding states (that don’t have the tight laws like a lot of states do) we will probably use them. You will will probably always see that from us somewhere along the lines, whether it’s blasting machine guns onstage or just wearing camouflage pants.
I am into some of your songwriting standpoints, will you tell us about a few new songs are what they are dealing with?
Yeah, the first song on the album is “Conscientious Objector” and it’s a personal view of mine. It’s about someone during a war-time situation that needs accompaniment because they are getting attacked. Someone who has their personal beliefs that say I don’t believe in killing anyone and I’m not going to kill anyone under any circumstances. On the same hand, people are out killing their mothers and brothers and raping their towns and stuff and they won’t pick up a weapon and kill this intruder because their killing their friends by their own “moral standards”. I think that’s a STUPID standpoint, but that’s my personal opinion.
“Creed of the Sniper” is about the Marine and Army’s creed, which is, “one shot, one kill”. It’s more or less and instrumental because the only vocal thing it says is: “one shot, one kill…one way”.
Then we move into a song called “Church and State” which deals with the problems lately with the evangelists and preachers wanting to be president. I feel there is a need for the separation of the church and state or this country is gonna’ continue to go the way it has been. Their gonna’ HAVE to separate government from religion!
Another one is called “Covert Sins”, which is mainly about the CIA and about the covert activities that the government and foreign governments use to manipulate other governments and force people to do what they want. It’s also one of my favorites of the new one’s. It’s got a real, hard-grinding beat
Then there is a song called “The Example” (listen below), which lyrically is one of my favorites. Foreign countries are always bitching about the United States saying “you did this, and you did that”. The oldest part of countries on the planet are the Middle Eastern countries. They have been around for thousands of years, yet, their still fighting all the time! They can never get their shit together. Their killing people of their own blood all the time! And look at the United States, we’ve been around for 200 years and we probably have the most proficient form of government and the “free-ist” society on the planet! A lot of people would like to argue that with me but if you get right down to it, it’s the truth.
Listen to “The Example”
There is nowhere else on the planet that I would rather live. The whole song (“The Example”) is about the U.S. and how we are the example to the rest of the world. If they can’t get their shit-together then maybe they should take an example from us. If they cannot take an example from us, then maybe we should step in there and kick their ass and force them to be like us! Just to get their shit-together and stop them from fighting and killing each other.
“Crusher Life” is pretty much like “Rape Chase” (off our first album), but part II. It’s about the same guy in “Rape Chase” and he’s back again—not only to destroy but also to torture people. He’s sick and tired of being teased by the same girl and this time he’s not only out to rape her, but also to mentally disturb her for serious reasons.
The next song is a little, short, hardcore song we wrote called “Thinkin” (listen below). It’s a song about these guys when you go to a bar—you always see some guy there who thinks he’s “the Don Juan” or “Savoir Faire”; he’s out to pick up the girls and the chic’s think he’s a total ass! He’s always making a fool out of himself all the time. It’s really a tongue-n-cheek type fun thing but it’s also about those guys that don’t have a hope-in-hell at picking chic’s up.
There are a few more songs on the album plus a little surprise type thing. I don’t want to tell you about it, I want you to hear it first. It’s just a little subtle thing that we threw on there that’s sorta’ to throw everybody off. It’s NOT the type of thing that you would normally hear on a Thrash or Metal album. As soon as you hear it—your gonna’ freak and that’s exactly what it was meant for!
Listen to the surprise track
Do you feel the massive underground network has been an important factor with your success thus far and what do you think about bands that have a negative outlook towards the “underground” and ignore it?
Their fu**ing up! They don’t know what they are missing. A lot of bands think we’re gonna’ make this demo tape and sell it and make lots of money and that’s bullshit. You don’t make a demo to make money, you make a demo to get your name out and what better a way is there to let the tape-traders do it for you?! A lot of people bitch and complain about tape-traders, but for a band just starting out, their the best thing that can happen to them. Their the one’s who get the word out whether people like it or not. At least then they have heard of you and that means a lot. As long as the name is in people’s heads they know of you, and it’s a subconscious thing that happens that helps bands’ get known. If you’ve never heard of a band, chances are that your not gonna’ take a chance on them. So I think the “underground” is a definite plus—at least in our case!
Hardcore bands seem to be getting more and more popular. Are you influenced by that in any way?
Well, originally we weren’t, but even now—I don’t think the music is influenced by hardcore. We all like it and we’re into it, but not as a trendy-type thing. I’m real good friends with the guys in C.O.C. (Corrosion of Conformity) and D.R.I. (Dirty Rotten Imbeciles) and they are two of my favorite bands. It really grew from meeting them because I hadn’t really heard their music before I met them and talked to them. I started listening to it and it really had a lot to do with me knowing the guys and knowing who they are before I listened to the music. If I had listened to the music before I met them, I don’t know how I would’ve reacted to it. There’s a lot of hardcore that I like and then there’s a lot I don’t like.
Thank you for the interview and it was great speaking with you Paul. So where does AT WAR go from here?
We’re gonna’ be touring heavily and in the future I see getting to places we haven’t been before, like: California, Canada, Europe and South America. By-the-way, we have been working on playing in South America in Brazil. The same people that brought VENOM down there are currently working to bring us down there. Our record company there is Rock Brigade and they have been real cooperative and things are falling into place. I don’t want to say definite, but it looks like we will the first independent Metal band to ever go to South America, so we have something way on top of all the other ones. We’re really popular down there and they’re talking about us playing at Coliseums in front of 10-20,000 people. We are definitely looking forward to that!
Lastly, to anyone reading this, I want to say thanks for all the support you’ve given us and to ask you to keep supporting the Underground Metal Scene. If it wasn’t for you then none of this would be happening now. You have to keep supporting it at all costs! If you enjoy what you listen to, the only people that are gonna’ make sure that it continues is YOU—so keep it up!
Updated links & News:
Buy “Retaliatory Strike” on Amazon & support AT WAR
*At press time (2009) these Virginia underground Thrash Metal legends have released a new album entitled “Infidel” (which is their first in over 20 years). It appears that AT WAR are back and harder than ever. What’s it sound like? Well, I will let you be the final judge, but they have not changed a bit but the sound is better. They continue to make raw, stripped—down in-your-face metal.
They have once again recorded @ Pyramid Sound, this time teaming up with New York’s Heavy Artillery Records for the release of “Infidel” (their third studio album). Go pick this up immediately folks…
*This is a very rare [unpublished] interview originally conducted in 1988. Please note: in order to transport you directly back to 1988 we will continue to keep the language in the posts “present tense” even though this is 2009.
*I will be featuring more heavy, underground bands in future posts, so please make sure to stay up-to-date. You can do that by:
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Great article and an awesome shot of a moment in time where thrash was in it’s infancy. Always been a huge fan of At War and even more so with their latest release “Infidel” easily my favorite album of 2009. Keep up the great work.
Thanks Steve! -glad you liked the article. I liked the classic AT WAR photos myself.
Yes, 1987 and 1988 was a purely “magical” time for metal/thrash. There were so many great albums and bands out there.
I miss those days as the new kids cannot match any of these classic releases. Yes they are much FASTER and maybe (the production) is better, but it’s just not the same and most of it comes off as a bad copy-cat if-you-will of the Thrash “Pioneers”…
Stay tuned, I still have LOTS of great interviews and goodies to post.
Anybody else you would like to see grace these pages?
Take care and thanks again for reading DEMOLISH. Please help spread the word.
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I agree. AT WAR jams!
Good to see this old metal history and glad that they are still alive in 2010.
At War! I posted this on Paul Arnold’s Facebook page.
I really appreciate it. I have managed to steer clear of the whole FACEBOOK and MYSPACE social networking sites thus far.
Maybe Paul will get a kick out of it! Esp. those old photos, but then again, I watched some somewhat current You Tube vid’s lately and he looked pretty much the same.
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