Before Pete Sandoval recorded Morbid Angel’s first album, 1989’s Altars Of Madness, he performed on two demos and a split album with his original band TERRORIZER. Today, the group’s 1989 full-length debut World Downfall is still considered a pinnacle for death metal and grindcore, featuring impossibly fast blastbeats and double-bass drumming along with a blitzkrieg attack by late guitarist Jesse Pintado (Napalm Death), and ex-vocalist Oscar Garcia (Nausea). The 1989 lineup was rounded out by Sandoval and then-fellow Morbid Angel bandmate David Vincent on bass.
Over the next twenty-three years, Sandoval took time between Morbid Angel albums to continue working with TERRORIZER, recording two more cataclysmic full-lengths, 2006’s Darker Days Ahead and 2012’s Hordes Of Zombies. And now, another six years down the burning highway, TERRORIZER is back with Caustic Attack, their heaviest and most eclectic album to date.
TERRORIZER started working on Caustic Attack in 2014, but before they could lay down a single bar of music, Sandoval had to make sure he was healthy enough to work on a new album – which was far from a sure thing. Rewind to 2009 when Sandoval’s suffered a severe back injury caused by decades of Olympic-class death metal drumming. After seeing different doctors and exploring his options, Sandoval opted for invasive surgery to repair the deteriorated discs between interlocking vertebrae in his spine.
By 2013, Sandoval was feeling pretty good, so he got together with multi-instrumentalist Lee Harrison, who played on Malevolent Creation’s 1989 demo a year before giving birth to metal veterans Monstrosity, which have released five full-length albums to date. In 2007, Harrison joined up with fabled Crimson Glory singer, Midnight, with whom he worked until the vocalist died in 2009. Harrison has also played guitar with Obituary on tour in South America in 2012. Now, he’s deadly serious about his role in TERRORIZER, but at first playing with Sandoval was more like a hobby.
“We started playing some songs just for fun,” Sandoval explains. “We did some of the World Downfall songs, and then we learned a few cover songs and we did our first show as a party. That’s how everything started.”
Feeling confident and comfortable again behind the kit, Sandoval invited Sam Molina, who played with Harrison in Monstrosity, to join them on bass, and the trio started working on songs for Caustic Attack. A violently explosive album for increasingly turbulent times, Caustic Attack is the sound of a world nearing apocalypse. The songs conjure images of warplanes on bombing runs, giant tanks obliterating small villages and the endless rattle of machine guns mowing down everyone in sight.
Sandoval has long been known as one of the fastest players in death metal — the pioneer of blastbeats — and he doesn’t hold back on Caustic Attack. At the same time, even the fastest songs are tighter and more precise than TERRORIZER have ever been thanks to veteran producer Jason Suecof, who’s painstaking method of recording showcases Sandoval and his team at peak capacity.
The proof is in the pummeling. There are flesh-shredding grindfests like “Turbulence,” “Caustic Attack,” and “Poison Gas Tsunami,” each of which swoops down, destroys, and depart in under-two-minutes. Then, there are the nearly five-minute-long tracks, including “Infiltration” — which slows to a thunderous breakdown before ramping back up to hyper-speed –and “Wasteland,” a global conflagration with undeniable guitar hooks and a lethal mid-song chug that reveals previously unexplored diversity and depth.
Now that Sandoval is devoting all his time and effort to TERRORIZER (he left Morbid Angel in 2013), he plans to tour extensively and then record another album. The six-year curse is officially broken. “It feels so great to be back playing every day,” Sandoval says. “I worked really hard on my recovery and all that work is really paying off now because when I play these songs I feel the same way I did in 1990 or 2000. I feel young again and I can play with no problem. And that’s hard to do because this new album has a lot of changes, double-bass, fast blastbeats. You name it.” I was recently able to speak with Pete via phone. We spoke about topics such as his new album and what he feels about the metal scene.
Can you tell us about your latest album?
The writting process for the latest album went really well! I was writting it for years and was happy when it finally became something. The album I saw is much fast pace than what we normally would do.
I’m guessing your injury factored into the gap
Yes. My back was in so much pain. They thought I would never play drums again.But God blessed me. He helped me recover. He wanted me to continue what I love.
Thoughts on the state of metal today?
I feel metal today isn’t very memorable. We still remember the greats like Obituary and Celtic Frost and always will but nowadays noone really stands out. Many bands nowadays are so satanic too. I just don’t get it.