Death Thrash from Melbourne … well this is familiar territory to me (with my own band Aeons Abyss), but it also the thing of Battlegrave, who will soon be releasing their EPIC new album, Cavernous Depths, on Bitter Loss Records on the 1st of July 2022. Here is my interview with frontman, Rohan Buntine …
Introduce yourself, and who is in your band?
Hi brother. My name is Rohan Buntine and I am the front man for the 2 piece Thrash/Death Metal project based in Melbourne named ‘Battlegrave’. The project consists of myself taking care of the lyrics and vocals & my partner Clint Patzel who is the riff machine and also takes care of Bass & Keys.
Batttlegrave as a band name sounds ‘Metal as Fuck’. How did you come up with this name and how does it influence the band?
Awesome you like the name brother. It actually came from us originally starting as a war themed project to do a single demo track ‘Mortar Fire’ in 2016 which ended up becoming the ‘To Hell With War’ EP we released in 2017 after some people liked that first track and it got as bit of momentum on some overseas based Thrash YouTube channels. We were using a really crunchy death metal influenced hm2 tone for that EP and for Thrash that was totally different to what people were used to out of the genre. So I guess that’s sort of where the name comes from… We wanted it to have a war reference in it, but be an unmistakable that it was clearly going to be metal project.
Your upcoming album “Cavernous Depths” will be released 1 July 2022 via Bitter Loss Records. What are 3 things we need to know about this release?
Ok so I think the main three things that anyone who knows us will tell anyone who doesn’t know us is you can expect:
- Full focus on straight up pissed off aggression. We go for the throat at all times!
- We have over the course of our 6 years of writing Battlegrave material morphed from more of a Crossover Thrash project to a Thrash/Death project, but now we are closer to straight up modern Death Metal. That said, it’s still largely unrelenting in it’s speed without sacrificing groove or anthemic choruses.
- The drums on the album (apart from 1 track) were written and recorded by 66Samus in the United States who has played for bands like ‘Decrepit Birth’, ‘Abigail Williams’ and recently toured with ‘Devin Townsend’. He is a total freak and the drum performance on the album is absolutely one of it’s highlights.
What can you tell us about Bitter Loss Records?
Our relationship with Rob & Bitter Loss is young of course as we’re now working with him for the first time and have previously self released our material. But in the short time we have been working together it has been a joy. Rob is a professional and an honest and open man to deal with. His label is the perfect partner for a small project like Battlegrave and we thank him regularly for taking the chance on us. The calibre of bands on his label in the shirt time he’s had it up and running is nothing short of outstanding and I urge all Australian metal fans to check his label out.
What is the band’s approach to songwriting?
We are fortunate enough to have a very good friend in Tim Shearman (ex drummer for ‘The Red Shore’, ‘Samsara’, ‘Her Nightmare’ and others) that has a small space in his place where we can record all Clint’s demo riffs and throw rough drum tracks over them. Tim and Clint work very closely in piecing together the riffs to get them to the point that they are the base for a song and then 1 by 1, Clint fires those pieces of music over to me after bass and keys are added and it’s then my job to figure out the vocal patterns I think best suit the songs and then write the lyrics.
Turning those rad pieces of music into songs is my job I guess is the way I look at it. During this process we also generally have a known drummer take those demo tracks and write drums for them as well. 66Samus on this occasion as previously mentioned and Kevin Talley of ‘Dying Fetus’, ‘Chimaira’ and many others who drummed on our first album ‘Relics of a Dead Earth’.
Once we have the drums back to the guitar demos they are totally finished and we can go to the studio for strings, keys and vocals and then mix it all together. That’s roughly our process as a 2 piece. It takes a long time… But it works very well for us.
Tell us about the recording, mixing and mastering for the new album
We recorded this album with Julian Renzo at Legion Studio Productions in Williamstown (Melbourne). Julian is very well known for his work in the game and for being in bands himself in years gone by and he was a joy to work with. He personally made me feel very at home and comfortable as someone who struggles a lot with my perceived capabilities and I am certain was able to push me in the right ways to get the best possible performance I had in me. I know Clint feels similar to me in this as there are some parts on that record I’m sure he’d rather forget with how long they took to track… but that’s what you want. Someone looking you in the eye and telling you again and again that you can do it better and eventually getting that take!
The album was then handed over to Ermin Hamidovic at Systematic Productions for mastering at Julian’s recommendation and he truly added the final cherry to what we wanted.
Our style requires a big sound, but not an overly modern sound. We still wanted it a little scratchy and some mistakes still left in to keep it sounding human. These two guys really helped make that vision come to life.
What is your favourite track and why?
My personal favourite track on the album would probably be the last track ‘Retribution of the Witch’. It’s a slower and more epic track to round out the record until about the ¾ mark with the standard furiousness of Battlegrave then taking over to finish the record out. It’s part 3 of a series of songs (the first 2 tracks are on album 1) and ends the story well. The last 1.5 minutes is personally the hardest thing I’ve ever done vocally as well, so I look back on that and Julian’s face when I was tracking it in studio as a pretty fond memory.
The album artwork is immense; tell us about it, and is there a story behind the work?
The album artwork is actually a 1m by 1m hand painted canvas painting using acrylic paints by Shaun Farrugia, the front man of one of Melbourne’s greatest ever bands – ‘In Malice’s Wake’. I originally approached Shaun to do the artwork in about May or June of 2021 and he finished it in about September. He worked on it day and night at home and sometimes when his kids were on recess (he is an art teacher) at school in the school’s art storage room.
The pitch I gave him was about the title track of the album ‘Cavernous Depths’ (which we have a video live for) and what the lyrics of the song discussed. We would throw ideas back and forth at each other regularly and the painting actually changed multiple times before it was completed. It is one of the greatest things I have ever seen and as it was a commission job, it now proudly hangs in my home bar.
Like my own band, Aeons Abyss, we are fellow Melbournians. From your perspective what is the metal scene like in Melbourne, and Australia?
The metal scene here up until the last 2 years (which I won’t discuss) has been staggeringly good. If only all the people that were into metal actually supported their scene right?! People don’t seem to really know what is right under their noses in Australia in terms of talent and continually go back to the AAA bands like Metallica and Slayer yada yada.
You could until 2 years ago, go out on any Friday night in Melbourne and watch death Metal bands, thrash Metal bands, Hardcore bands, Doom bands, Punk bands, Ska bands and so on… Our scene was/is staggeringly healthy.
That’s where to this day I still spend most of my weekends. In fact, just this weekend gone I had nothing on a Friday and got in my car and drove to Ballarat and stayed in a hotel to watch ‘Desecrator’ and ‘Harlott’ and had a ripper time banging my head against a regional stage.
The scene is great and will recover and I believe Melbourne leads the way nationally on this front. Long live the scene.
Tell us an unusual fact, or one funny story about your band
I guess the most unusual fact about us is that there are only two of us, we are best mates and we started the project in our mid 30’s purely out of a love of old school Death and the more aggressive Thrash Metal bands like Demolition Hammer, Morbid Saint, Sodom, early Sepultura, Vader, Morgoth, Cancer, Death and so on.
What have you got coming up in the next 6 -12 months, and do you guys have any ambition to do some live shows?
The next 12 months for us will largely just see us pushing the new album as much as we can and trying to get it into as many ears as we can. We believe in it and really hope it makes a small mark for some people.
In terms of live shows, not really no. We started this thing as a 2 piece which works very well for us as great mates to have a creative outlet together. That’s highly likely how it will stay. That’s why I refer to us a project and not a band. We just aren’t.
We have multiple other things going on in our lives such as kids, study, work we enjoy amongst other things. So for us at the stage we are at in life currently, the idea of all it takes to form a band and get gig ready just isn’t on our radar. Battlegrave will remain a creative space for us together and anyone that digs the sound that comes from it… We’re stoked to have you on board!
From a metalhead’s perspective, what one bit of advice can you give someone visiting Melbourne for the 1st time?
First time visiting Melbourne ay… Definitely knock a South Melbourne Dim Sim on the head and definitely don’t swim across the Yarra.
Cheers for having me mate.