‘Horror metal’ usually implies either ruffly period-piece goth or Jason-worshipping gore overload, but Vanik have found a way to distill that label into something totally pure. The Cleveland-based band communicate the chill of autumn and the shadows of the haunted house through ripping thrash metal with a mischievous spring in its step. The result is music that evokes horror-movie metalheads out of films like Night of the Demons and Return of the Living Dead — those leather-strapped, devil-obsessed death rockers who are monsters in their own right.
On the band’s latest album III, Vanik seem to have distilled their sound to a perfect pitch. Every track on the record whose tight chugs, shrieking solos, and grunted vocals are evocative of Venom and Rigor Mortis, but whose atmosphere is pure Mercyful Fate and Alice Cooper. The songs are a mixture of referencing the classic fiends of old (“Carmilla,” “We Approach”) and using the cobwebby world of horror to understand one’s own life (“The Creature,” “Raging High”). It’s fast, loose, fun, and draped in old-school spookiness — the way metal was when it first smashed through rock and roll’s front door with axe in hand.
Before listening to our exclusive stream of III, we spoke to Vanik himself about the band, horror, and his plans for this year’s blood harvest…
How did Vanik come about? What is the band’s background?
Me wanting to make a record that was exactly how I like it. Musically, high octane rock’n’roll with metal influence. Artistically and thematically, 100% horror based. Motörhead mixed with Friday the 13th movies.
Going into Vanik III, what did you want to bring to the table? Has the band grown or changed, and if so, how?
Much has changed with this record. This record is a turning point in some kind of way, or maybe even a rebirth. It started as a studio project. Being that my schedule has been so busy with Midnight and my production company, it was almost a record-only type of band. Now, in 2020, I am able to focus everything on Vanik and build it up. I want to bring this show to a stage, as I feel it is ready to be unleashed to the world. I now have a tight as fuck band that is locally-based, so we are able to rehearse and perfect the live sound (which we were never able to do).
Is there a track on the new album that you’re most excited for fans to hear?
To be more precise with this answer, I’m more excited for fans to listen to this from start to finish (the way I like records to be interpreted). Every song does stand alone, but I feel the full impact is when it’s being played in context. I think every song contributes something, and there really aren’t any filler tunes. It’s hard for me to pick one. I’ll let the fans decide
Tell me about the band’s vampire mascot.
It started off as a mask from Death Studios called “Mr.Barlow.” I got a tattoo of it from James Bullock (AKA Human Furnace, vocalist of Ringworm). After that, I had it made into logo-style art. It was drawn by Larry Weber. Always loved the look of the mask, so I made it into a logo.
Not everyone brings heavy metal and Halloween together. What does the one mean to the other, in your mind?
Exactly! This is the reason why I wanted to start this project. I felt there weren’t many heavy metal bands out there that capture the feel of Halloween the way I see it (except Halloween from Detroit). Most Halloween themed bands seem to go the goth route, ’50s rockabilly, surf guitar, or nowadays grind core style.
A lot of bands go gore-horror or satanic-horror in their music — what is it about that old-school spook horror that you love so much?
I personally don’t give a shit about extreme gore or being brutal. I’m sure other people see Halloween that way. I don’t. I like my Halloween to capture a cinematic feel with suspenseful elements in the fashion of a John Carpenter movie. I also like campy shit and nudity. Dark humor. Those type of movies are perfect to me. I guess that’s because that’s what I know. I’ll never grow up, nor do I want to.
Finally, what are you being for Halloween? How should Vanik fans celebrate, given the weird restrictions of this year’s Halloween?
Haven’t thought about what I will be for Halloween yet. I know I’ll be a pain in the ass to my neighborhood, being that I will blast loud music while having a Halloween display and hand out candy. One thing is for sure, I want my fans to think for themselves. Given the restrictions, I’m no expert, but some people give a shit about Halloween and some don’t, so if they give a shit about it there will be plenty of content to fulfill their day within the Vanik catalog. I’m here to supply Halloween and metal fans music that marries the two together. It gets me excited for the season. Buying Halloween spooky sounds soundtracks got me excited for the season, that’s my goal with this stuff.
Stream Vanik’s III below:
Vanik’s III comes out Friday, October 2, and is available for preorder.
Words by Chris Krovatin