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Second Grave | Interview

A few months ago, MI reviewed the new release by Second Grave. The ripples of appreciation spread quickly for this hot rocking doom metal.

Formed by members of Warhorse and Obsidian Halo, they’re no strangers to the genre, and have put their talents to real use in this fantastic new band.

Anthony McGee talks to guitarist and singer Krista Van Guilder.

Photos courtesy of Hillarie E. Jason, with thanks.


You’ve been involved with heavy metal and doom for a long time. Before we turn our attention to Second Grave, let’s take a look at the past.

In metal terms, thrash is the elixir of youth. It’s been the gateway drug for a multitude of head-bangers.

Clicking around the Metal Archives led to Dahlia’s Dead. Can you describe the music you guys played? Is there any chance we’ll get to hear the demo?

Ah, Dahlia’s Dead. That actually spawned from Black Dahlia which was an all-female 3-piece.

We recorded a rough 3-song demo before the bass player left. We then recruited the drummer’s brother to play bass and added a second guitarist.

We recorded a 4-song demo which we released on cassette in 1995. The tracks are actually available as a free download from my website for those who care to listen.

The music was in the metal vein, you can hear a few ripping solos, and the first instance of me doing a “heavier” growl can be heard on the last track “Fear of Mankind.”

In 2001 Warhorse achieved infamy with ‘As Heavens Turn to Ash’, but maybe people don’t realise that you were a central figure in their formative years.

Can you tell us a little about those days? Why did that early line up fall apart?

Yes, a lot of people are surprised to find out that WarHorse was a bit different in the early days.

The band actually started in 1996 in my parent’s basement. Jerry Orne and I had known each other for awhile and we were both in-between projects so we thought why not start something. We jammed with a couple of different drummers, but nothing solidified until Mike Hubbard joined us.

We originally had a second guitarist too – but he left after a few months. We released our first EP on cassette, then a bit later re-mixed and released it again on CD.

I think Jerry and Mike still have a bunch in their basements! There wasn’t a huge scene in those days, so we played locally on bills with a lot of bands who weren’t in the genre. Made for some interesting shows.

Things were great, but after awhile I had some different ideas for the direction of the band, which didn’t line up with what they were thinking. I was also in college and getting ready to start a career and wasn’t as into what we were doing.

So I left, and they continued on.

The first demo was a rough-hewn but enjoyable slice of true doom. ‘Upon This We Die’ and ‘The End of Innocence’ stand up well today. The Sabbath cover is cool, too. Do you ever listen back to it? Does it still move you?

On occasion I’ll listen to it if it pops up on my iPod while in shuffle. I’m still proud of what we did.

Moving onto Lucubro. I’ve only gotten to hear the album recently. The tone of ‘I.O.I’ is quite angry and perhaps despondent at times. Do those songs represent a dark time in your life?

Yeah, it was a little bit of me working through bad relationships or writing about things that were happening to close friends and family at that time.

I guess I was a bit more angry about life in general around that time. I had carried around the emotions for a long time, so it all ended up coming out on those songs.

We released an EP before the full-length – not as good in my opinion and the recording was really raw as it was recorded in our jam space. The band lasted 4 years though.

Obsidian Halo was another short-lived project. Current Second Grave guitarist Chris Drzal was involved. What can you tell us about that band?

Lucubro had it’s fair share of line-up changes throughout it’s life.

After our third drummer had admitted to us that he didn’t think he’d be able to put enough time into the project as his family life was changing, Heath Thayer (bass) and I decided to continue on without him. But after jamming with a couple of different drummers, Heath’s heart wasn’t in it anymore.

So we thought it best to just disband rather than keep going with me as the only original member. Obsidian Halo started immediately with one of the drummers who had tried out for Lucubro. Before Lucubro had it’s last show Obsidian Halo had already started writing.

The project came together quickly, but we started playing way too many shows too quickly – almost every weekend, and we were practicing 3 nights a week – all while keeping down a full-time job.

After awhile, you just get burnt out, and unfortuantely I just woke up one day and realized I wasn’t happy and I needed a break from music and that was it for Obsidian Halo.

Chris and I are actually married, and Obsidian Halo marked the first time that Chris and I had collaborated together. We realized with that project that we in-fact write well together, personal relationship aside.

Let’s leave the past now to the shadows. Could you please introduce your current bandmates to our readers?

Absolutely! Second Grave is made up of myself on vocals and guitar, Chris Drzal on guitar, Chuck Ferreira on drums, and Dave Gein on bass.

Unfortuantely for us, Gein and his wife are moving to LA in May and we are actively searching for a replacement. We’re happy for them, but sad that Gein is leaving – but on good terms. Gein has become a great friend.

Chris and I share guitar solo duties so both guitars are equally important. I’ve always preferred playing with a second guitar player.

It sounds much fuller and there is more room to do cool things like trade-off parts or harmonize, and it’s someone to fall back on since I am also handing the vocal duties.

The name Second Grave is evocative.

The biography on your website quotes Confucius. “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” what does this quote mean for you?

For better or worse, Confucian thought is ingrained in the culture of my current home, Korea. Do the tenets of Confucianism influence you?

We had been struggling to come up with a name. We had generated a long list, but everyone was on a different page, and we could not get everyone to agree.

Chris and I were watching a movie one night, and that particular Confucious saying appeared in the opening credits. We both were intrigued and “two graves” turned into “Second Grave.”

We shared it with the rest of the guys who both agreed they dug it as well. I can only speak for myself, but I’ve always believed in just being a good person and respecting things around you, as hard as that may be sometimes – so I think Confucian’s sayings resonate a bit with me.

Divide and Conquer, from the self-titled MCD, quotes Sun Tzu. How well versed are you in ‘The Art of War’?

Ha – not as much as I could be. When we wrote that song the title just came to me and I decided to try to write lyrics around it as I am familiar with that strategy.

Lyrically, Do Mountains of Madness and Soul Extinction represent both sides of one coin?

Interesting question. Mountains of Madness was written actually right after the terrible mud slides in China a few years ago. Entire villages had been wiped out.

After seeing the story in the news, I was inspired to write that song – but from the viewpoint of a lone survivor.

Soul Extinction was written not about a particular event, but just me contemplating life and death. The story is about someone who knows death is approaching, but rather than try to fight it, they are accepting it, letting it take them.

So I guess in one sense yes they could be the antithesis of each other – alive, but having lost everything vs dying and making peace with yourself.

The new EP, ‘Antithesis’, was the subject of a glowing review on this website. Has it generally been well-received?

We have been getting some pretty favorable feedback. It’s interesting to see who likes what as the two tracks are very different in their style.

If someone isn’t a big fan of one side of the record, they are of the other. I think it speaks to the diversity of Second Grave. We don’t have a formula for writing – we just write, and if it moves us, if we dig playing it, then it’s ok if it’s a little different than other stuff.

In his review, Andrew complained about the fad of “female fronted metal”. I assume that you are too wise to care, but does that type of comment irk you at all?

Not that much. I am a musician, and I happen to be female. Metal is still a male-dominated genre. It is refreshing to see females – especially really good ones playing great music.

I find it funny that if more than one band has a female singer, all of a sudden it’s a novelty thing. There are millions of bands out there – most of them full of men – why is it so shocking to see a woman? Is there only one female-fronted band allowed?

Mourning Light is a bold and bloodied battle hymn with the flavour of classic US heavy metal. Musically, it is a departure for the band. How did this song come together and will there be more like it in the future?

Gein actually wrote the music to that one. When he brought it down, we all knew it was very different, but it was a lot of fun to play and we liked it.

He is definitely into the NWOBHM, so we weren’t surprised he wrote it. We aren’t afraid to try new things, so there is always the possibility of another fist pumper like Mourning Light.

The lyrics are the most typically METAL you’ve written for Second Grave to date. What inspired them?

When Gein brought down the tune for us, he asked me to write lyrics surrounding an epic battle – so I channelled my inner Bruce Dickinson and wrote the song.

Conversely, Drink the Water is a much more sombre affair. Is this cautionary tale based on personal experience?

The lyrics for Drink the Water was inspired by the Kurt Vonnegut novel “Sirens of Titan.” I had just finished the book, and I had just bought a new guitar.

Whenever I get a new piece of gear, I always end up writing something new right on the spot. So I wrote the song rather quickly and while writing the music, the melody and lyrics just started flowing too.

It was a good thing I had my phone to capture the moment as it all came together so fast I was afraid I would forget it!

When writing words, what comes first the rhyme or the reason, the sound or the meaning?

It’s different for every song. Sometimes a lyric or a title might inspire the whole piece. Sometimes I hear the melody first and then write the lyrics around the melody. I just try to get into the zone and let stuff happen – and always write it down or record it to my phone so it isn’t lost to the universe.

The record was mastered by John Brenner of Revelation. Are you a fan? What was it like to work him?

We actually had no contact with John Brenner. Danny from Pariah Child had wanted to use him for the record and we were very pleased with what John did.

For over a decade, Danny Angus has been a quietly influential figure on the metal culture of this island. How did you hook up with Pariah Child for this release?

Danny and I have known each other since my Lucubro days. He had mentioned working with us before we broke up. I had dropped out of the scene for some time, but we reconnected again after Second Grave had released our first EP.

When he approached me about putting something out with SG, I was completely on board right away. He was initially going to release a 12” split, but it didn’t end up working out with the other band, so he offered to release our two tracks as a 10” instead.

Have you any plans to visit Ireland in order to cement this relationship?

We would LOVE to get out of the US and see Ireland! Hopefully the future involves some sort of travel for us…

Speaking of gigs, have you had the opportunity to present your new material to the public? How has it gone over? To date, you’ve recorded a total of 6 songs and two short instrumentals. Do you round out your set with any covers?

Most sets here are about 40-45 minutes, so between the 2 releases we have more than enough material as all of our songs are rather long. We have talked about doing some covers, but it hasn’t worked out – we just keep writing more and more stuff!

We have 2 new songs that are complete and a third that we’ve started working on. We played one of the new songs live and got a pretty good response from the crowd, so we know we’re still on the right track.

Are you a doom metal aficionado? If you had the means to put together a five band bill of currently active doom bands, who would play alongside Second Grave? Would you headline or open?

We are all fans of the genre and of music in general. That’s HARD to whittle it down to just 5!! And my list is gonna include a lot of women and is more than just straight doom – Windhand, SubRosa, Bloody Hammers, and Ghost.

I’d rather open so I can enjoy a drink and the rest of the show! Topping the list of the other guys – Chris notes Faces of Bayon, Castle, Bedroom Rehab Corporation, Black Pyramid and WarHorse.

Gein agrees about opening and his wishlist: Pentagram, Sleep, Electric Wizard, and Elder. Chuck loves so many bands it’s hard to pin down.

BUT, that being said, he’d love to see SG open for the likes of Blood Ceremony, Black Pyramid, Elder, Windhand and another vote for Ghost! He quickly backed that up by saying Black Sabbath (with Bill Ward) and if possible (breaking all the rules of just 5) adding Sleep to that lineup.

To quote my significant other, you have a powerful and expressive voice. How do you keep it in shape?

I try to drink enough water and warm up vocally before performing. Learning your limits is key – I try not to push too hard, there is nothing worse than blowing out your voice before you’ve finished the set.

I don’t drink alcohol before singing either – way too dehydrating. And if we’re playing later in the night, I try not to talk too much before – sometimes hard when people want to talk to you while loud bands are playing on stage. I resort to a lot of smiling and nodding!

We’ve already discussed ancient Chinese wisdom. An American philosopher, Mark Shelton, once said “Heavy Metal in my ears is all I ever want to hear.” Does this ring true for you? What records have you been wearing out lately?

Smart man! Yes, I love metal. Always have. I’m a fan of other genre’s too, but always come back to metal. Locally, I’m really digging the new Summoner record – Atlantian.

They are a great band live too. When Black Sabbath’s 13 came out last year it was in heavy rotation for awhile. And either of the first 2 Ghost albums are phenominal and if one of the songs comes up on shuffle on my iPhone I have to then put the album on.

Interview by Anthony McGee ::: 25/05/14

  1. Cool interview. Hopefully they’ll manage to get over here for a gig or two at some stage.

  2. […] Read more >> […]

  3. Doomquake Says:

    Good read! We want a full-length album and that European tour…

  4. I was saddened to hear that the bloke who wrote the music for Mourning Light is leaving the band. That’s a killer track.

  5. No shit. Gein is awesome! I’m filling in on bass for a couple shows while Second Grave auditions and Mourning Light, especially, is a hell of a lot of fun to play!

  6. wizardinblack Says:

    Hopefully this will signify a vast improvement on the bass tone in comparison to the weak mouth full of bee’s tone in the tracks above, it’s shockingly awful, and add’s nothing to the music – in fact it takes greatly from it.

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