May the metal gods bless Fleshcrawl. Labels come and labels go, trends fly and wither away and yet Fleshcrawl remains steadfastly devoted to its art. It all started in February of 1987. Several friends influenced by Death, Slaughter and Slayer got together in Southern Germany to jam.
Monikers had to be changed more than once for obvious reasons - bassist Amann finally found the Fleshcrawl monicker in a Melvins song - and a demo called Festering Flesh appeared in early 1991.
In August of the same year the band recorded a 7" for the very young Morbid Records (MR002) featuring the songs Lost In A Grave and Evoke The Excess. Guitarist Alfred Handke's departure was followed by the band's signing to the German/Swedish label Black Mark in May of 1992. The band began a long tradition of recording in Sweden and entered Stockholm's Montezuma Studio and recorded Descend Into Absurd which is released late 1992. The album was a deadly and doomy affair which sported a cover by Uwe Jarling recalling Dismember's debut. Handke's replacement Schmitt left the band in November, 1993 and was replaced by another Hanus. Again in Sweden, this time at Dan Swano's Unisound Studio, Fleshcrawl recorded a much more Carcass-influenced affair called Impurity. Impurity legitimized Fleshcrawl's arrival as a serious death metal contender. With Black Mark not being disposed to sending bands on the road (so far only Invocator had toured from their roster), Fleshcrawl is fortunate to open the Bash Easter Festival in 1995 for, among others, Deicide and Cathedral across Europe. At the end of 1995, the band entered another Swedish studio and recorded Bloodsoul. Recorded at the Abyss Studio, Bloodsoul established the band as a Swedeath band with Mike Hanus especially veering the band in this direction through his song writing.
In the meanwhile a lack of interest in metal had propelled Amann and Pretzer out of the band (Mike plays bass on the third album) and Herzog had managed to find work producing and live engineering for other bands. Annoy bassist Dietmar Schweikart comes and goes in 1996. Bloodsoul is the band's last work for Black Mark whose inability to work for its band is increasingly causing sniping between the roster and the label.
Fleshcrawl initially signs with Invasion Records of Berlin, but when that label suddenly disappears, Fleshcrawl sends Metal Blade Europe's Michael Trengert a tape leasing to a new contract. Albums follow and the band tours with the likes of Kataklysm and Bolt Thrower. In January of 2002 Fleshcrawl opens a European tour for Benediction and Bolt Thrower (with Disbelief in tow) and has yet to hit North America - a band goal. Soulskinner was recorded at Sweden's Studio Underground.
Guitarist and band founder Stefan Hanus left the fold in the summer of 2002 and was replaced by Oliver Gbravac. Gbravac's debut appearance with the band was that summer's Wacken Open Air Festival. The guy travelled to Sweden once again in order to record a new album in December of 2003 at Studio Underground. Made Of Flesh appeared in early 2004.
The band was auditioning bassists to replace departed man Tobz in the summer of 2005. The German death metal band recruited bassist Nico Scheffler in March of 2007 and announced it would soon enter the studio in order to record an album. The band’s Structures Of Death album was out in the autumn through Metal Blade. This album (possibly in America onlt) was only available as mp3! The band had three shows lined up in Mexico for summer of 2010.
FLESHCRAWL - AS BLOOD RAINS FROM THE SKY...WE WALK THE PATH OF ENDLESS FIRE - METAL BLADE
Like a fresh breeze in the Nevada desert, German death metal merchants Fleshcrawl have dumped the shackles of Blackmark and signed to Metal Blade (unfortunately Europe only) and belted out yet another tasty Swedeath slab of aggression. There simply is no justice in this world, when these guys can't even get a Canadian release (on the other hand given the incompetence of the jokers here it might not be a bad thing), and have to resort to mailing promos themselves after all these years, but never mind all that...if death metal is your cup of blood, then your CD has arrived. Armed with a new line up, the band has once again traveled to Sweden to record yet another heavily distorted record with titles like Embraced by Evil, Under the Banner of Death and Feed the Demon's Heart with a sound that especially on the latter song is inspired by early Entombed et al. The intro is simply a bore-inducer, I could have done without even more meaningless covers and the cover art work proves again why LPs are superior to the minuscule nature of CDs, but here is the bottom line: Fleshcrawl have delivered in the death metal music, vocals, lyrics and art work departments and there really isn't much more of a recommendation than that. - Ali "The Metallian"
FLESHCRAWL - MADE OF FLESH - METAL BLADE
Germany's longest-running dispensers of Swedeath are back with a new album called Made Of Flesh featuring songs like Flesh Bloody Flesh, Made Of Flesh and Carnal Devourment which features the line 'Before You Touch My Bloody Guts/Your Flesh Will Be Mine.' Motifs aside, In a world of constant disappointments it is always delightful to hear a new Fleshcrawl album. The band has maintained its poise over the years and sustained its speed, heaviness and loads and loads of Swedish distortion in the best traditions of Entombed and Dismember.
There was some concern at Metallian Towers that the departure of founding member and guitarist Stefan Hanus would put a dent in the band's delivery, but it is now possible to say that the new album is no variation from theme. Having said that, the quintet really should record a few more guitar leads next time around. The music demands it. Another notable is the absence of (yet another) cover song on Made Of Flesh. Whereas the band's previous albums consistently featured a cover version or two, the new release is ten songs of pure molten death metal. Play tip: When life Surrenders. - Ali "The Metallian"
Amidst a contemporary landscape where the sands of time muse the ebb of power, integrity and purity; at a moment in this decade when ‘metal’ is as harsh and abrasive as reality is an illusion, the wave corrects itself through the rare element, which exudes resiliency. A torch bearer – yet a victim too. An exception, yet all the more valuable for it. This Ausnahme is a German band. They have released three albums and are signed to Black Mark Production of Berlin. Their name is Fleshcrawl. – 1996.
“Fleshcrawl formed in ’87 (under a different name) writing songs and searching for the right style.” It is drummer/vocalist Bastian Herzog on the phone. He, along with brothers Michael and Stefan Hanus on guitars and vocalist Alex Pretzer, comprises the German blitzkrieg unit, which by ’96 has become the German synonym for authentic death metal. But more from Bastian, “we got a deal in ’92 with Black Mark Production following which we recorded Descend Into The Absurd. There was no tour for that. In ’94 we did Impurity and now (we’ve recorded) Bloodsoul, our third album. Six months ago we had to ask our bassist Markus Amann to leave because he didn’t want to play in front of these people. So it was time to separate. But we are still friends. We already have a new bass player, Dietmar Schweikart. We are teaching him the songs now – he’s a member of the German band Annoy. We were looking for a new bassist and he likes the uncompromising, in-your-face death metal style. For a couple of shows now we are appearing on stage without a bassist. We also parted ways with our manager. This guy was an arsehole. He firstly ripped us off with money. Then he didn’t promote any shows or do anything else. So we took back our money and kicked him out. I push the band now. I push really hard. At the moment it’s going as I want it to.”
Herzog’s words drip with determination, resolve and a focus on band goals. Still, should my memory serve me right, is it not true that the band was offered other contracts and had even released a seven-inch prior to Descend… earlier in its career? Bastian recalls, “I forgot to mention that the band had a seven-inch on Morbid Records and also an offer from (the now-defunct) West Virginia label (run by Sabina Clausen of Holy Moses infamy).”
Another reason I bring up the topic of Fleshcrawl’s activities in the past is that I’ve noted the name mentioned in many albums’ liner notes. Is it safe to presume that Fleshcrawl has maintained a close underground connection? “The real underground scene does not exist anymore,” sighs Bastian, thereby indirectly affirming Fleshcrawl’s knowledge of the scene. “It has changed. Many people don’t write anymore or have moved away from the idea altogether. There is no real underground scene. Of course, we are still in contact with friendly bands, write and meet at shows. But, I still believe that, even though we release CDs we are an underground band. There are people who say that bands, which release albums, are not underground (this writer being one of them!). That’s bullshit. They don’t know what it’s about. Of course, we want to sell albums. Of course. But I still feel it. It’s underground music that we do. I want it to be like this and stay (like this). For me, there is no point in changing to commercial coasts. That would be betraying our own mind and principles. So the only way for us is to continue like this, build it up and make it better with every album, every live show, whatever. The German scene still supports death metal. We just have to get through to them through promotion, media and touring.”
Not to mention through releasing heavy albums laden with chunky masses of unbridled death! But let us focus on Bloodsoul now, the particular reason for this interview. “Bloodsoul, again like our last two albums, is represented and strongly interconnected with the cover. What you see on the cover is the altar of sacrifice from Mexican tribes. They sacrificed people upon it, and seeing that we had this song called Bloodsoul we tried this artwork on the computer. Blood itself has always been a part of the history of mankind. From the old times to today blood is flowing everywhere. The sacrifice of bloody is deeply rooted – like the soul – whether it’s a primitive tribe or slaughtering animals.” Bastian elaborates, “The music is brutal and uncompromising death metal. That’s the way music is and that’s the way the lyrics fit the music. That uncompromising style is important to the band.”
Also a concept that this writer, not to mention fans of the band’s patented vicious style, very much cherish. Yet, and I ask this to remain objective, what about the validity of the criticism pertaining to similarities to the famed Swedish death metal sound? Bastian tackles the question without evasion. “That’s the way we wanted it to sound. We recorded in Sweden (the Abyss Studio with Hypocrisy frontman Peter Tägtgren producing) – especially for the guitars. We definitely achieved it too with this album. We were searching for it for so long and now we have it. We didn’t get it too well on Impurity. It also has to do with the way Mike is composing. He is writing in the Swedish style. So there must be the Swedish guitar sound with it, otherwise, it won’t be correct. You cannot write Swedish riffs or melodies with a Morrisound guitar sound or whatever. All of us in the band are happy with the results; the sound and the production are great. The artwork is good. The songs kill. That’s the main thing. As for your earlier statement (prior to the interview) regarding our lack of solos – that’s a good question. There are three solos on the album. The guitarists never emphasized them too much. They weren’t in the mindset. I told them we need more solos. Also, to be honest and clear, they are not the most proficient soloists. Your fingers have to be raised over the fret board and they don’t play like that. But we don’t mind. The music is so aggressive, it’s better to have a couple of solos as a surprise and not have solos everywhere. That would be alike a daily routine. Sometimes less is more. The lyrics are all printed and I would say that except for In The Dead Of Night where I deliberately wanted to write a horror/gore story, the lyrics are open-ended. There is a real story behind that song, it’s about a serial killer. “I was born a modern Jack for everyone” refers to Jack The Ripper of modern times. He hacks his victims, packs the pieces and sends them out in parts.”
Tales to make your flesh crawl and ones that certainly suit the concept of the German death metallers. Yet, amidst the chaos ensuing from the onslaught of the band’s music, Bastian Herzog has found time to devote to his other work and hobby, namely sound engineering. “I haven’t done any big death metal bands,” explains Herzog. “I’ve done the two demos of a German hardcore band called Sick Of Society. I’ve also done a couple of death metal bands from my area (Bavaria – South eastern Germany). I want to find a real position at a studio, but it’s difficult because the market is saturated and you have to be very good. You have to be brilliant. So you have to start at the bottom and work your way up. I also work from time to time at a PA company.”
Our time is up, so in conclusion I wonder what is next for the band. What does the near future hold for Fleshcrawl? “Black Mark Production has changed.” Answers Herzog, in the manner of a musician who knows the value of support from his record company. “Nowadays, it seems that we agree that this is the third album and we have to push it. We have to do a real tour for this album. I am happy that they understand.”
If the powers at the record company have come to understand, the fans always have. The band is Fleshcrawl. The album is Bloodsoul. The style is death metal. The references, therefore, are impeccable. Immerse yourself.
This interview initially appeared in Pit Magazine No. 17.