Having released their last record Destroy in 2013, Dallas-Fort Worth’s thrash metal giants Warbeast return with their latest LP Enter the Arena (available everywhere on August 4th). This release is bittersweet. Unfortunately for all of us, vocalist Bruce Corbitt was diagnosed with esophageal cancer a little over a month ago, essentially ending his career as a singer and Warbeast as a band. We at the void report aren’t the only ones holding out hope that he kicks cancer’s ass. In fact, we can’t think of anything more metal than fighting (hopefully, beating) this disease that has, no doubt, affected many of us or our loved ones. What’s more, this new album is Warbeast at their finest. The 10 songs on this release are powerful, angry, and make many of their peers sound mundane. That’s a ballsy statement in light of the resurgence of speed/thrash metal in recent years, but we stand by it. No doubt, there’s been several “classic” thrash bands who have recently released excellent albums, like Slayer, Death Angel, and Anthrax. Even some new bands are putting their own stamp on the metal sub-genre, like Dallas’ own Power Trip. Nevertheless, Warbeast are driven by their own passion and inspiration, not the recent upswing of interest in the genre that melds hardcore punk and heavy metal.
We were delighted that Bruce and guitarist Scott Shelby sat down with us to do a track-by-track preview of the album. For each song they give us the background story, as well as countless insights into the albums creation. If you’re in the greater Dallas-Fort Worth area on July 14th, get your ass down to the Rail Club for the album release show. Unfortunately, Bruce won’t be performing, but the band has managed to recruit Phil Anselmo (he sang in some other DFW metal band), Wayne Abney of Hammer Witch, and the Hitchhiker himself, Ed Neal to fill his shoes. This is an event that can’t be missed. What’s more, the band will be premiering their video for “Hitchhiker” and all proceeds will go to Bruce’s medical expenses.
You can pre-order Enter the Arena on CD and Vinyl bundles that include a t-shirt and logo pin. If you want to go the extra mile and support a metal singer with a 30+ year career that started with the incomparable Rigor Mortis, make a contribution to Bruce’s medical expense fund. Mr. Corbitt has been a steadfast supporter of so many bands throughout the years, and continually grateful to his fans, it only seems fair that we encourage you to support him and his family through this difficult time.
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1. “Centuries of Poisoned Soil”
Scott Shelby: This is the last song I wrote for the album. Which was written like days before the demo. These guys hadn’t even…the drummer didn’t even really know the song and I fought with him tooth and nail over it. But, this is a song…I just had an inspiration…we already had like nine tracks and I said “I need one more.” I spewed it out of nowhere, totally went with the feeling. I wanted something heavy. I just wanted something crazy…different. I wanted to go Brazilian, like Soulfly or Sepultura. Super-intense, heavy, Brazilian breakdown thrash. And the band didn’t even know this. We went and recorded and they barely knew it. I pretty much played…I think I played all the guitar and the bass on it…I think I did. So, that was just totally thrown in at the last minute. It wound up being a tremendous song and the lead track.
Bruce Corbitt: When we were down there doing the vocals we felt we needed to start off with this one. Make a big impression right off the bat. We’ve been doing it live ever since and it’s always getting feedback from somebody. When it came to the lyrics on this one, it was such a late arriving song, and I’m still trying to finish the lyrics to other songs, but that’s when I had the idea…because me and Philip had teamed up before on the song “It” from the War with the Gargantuan’s split and I said “Let’s sit down and write some lyrics together,” and that’s how we came up with that. So, I wanted to do it again, of course, and I knew I would probably need some help because I was running out of time. So, he agreed and when we went to do the vocals, in the middle of it, we had recorded about half of them, and we decided to sit down for a few hours one day and Phil had the idea to watch this short film about the Wendigo and we had our theme to write about. Here he is on one couch and me on the other and we had our notepads and laptops and watched the thing and listened to the music and started writing down shit. It was a fun day! I wish I could do it with Phil more often.
2. “Punishment for Gluttony”
Scott Shelby: Holy crap! This is one of the songs I wrote before a songwriting block I had. This is one of the songs I wrote a couple of years before and I said I’m going to write a fucking punishing thrash song. I’m not saying that just because that’s the name of it. I just mean a freaking powerhouse thrash song that has all the best of American and German riffs that I love put together. So, I sat down and wrote the whole song and it’s pretty much verbatim as it was written a couple of years ago.
Bruce Corbitt: That’s true, this is a song we’ve been playing live for a while. But, as far as the lyrics, that came from Scott…a story he had.
Scott Shelby: I explained to Bruce the feelings I had about it and as usual he’ll take that and he creates his own thing with it. A pulverizing song. I’m very proud of that one. If you like thrash, this one’s for you.
Bruce Corbitt: But, the story about the guy and his dad and he said “I’ll take the world, motherfucker.”
Scott Shelby: Oh, yeah. It’s drug oriented. When I was in my drug years, I was with this guy who was a crazy dude. And we were in front of his dad who was in his business suit and he says “What on earth do you take that makes you this way?” and he stands up and says “I take the world, motherfucker!” It was classic. So, I told Bruce about this and he took that and made the rest of the story.
Bruce Corbitt: And that’s the first two lines of the song. “What on earth do you take that makes you act that way, I will take the world!” And I just thought of a guy, like Tony Montana, who’s so fucking out of it on drugs and the whole theme just fell into place from there. There’s some Tony Montana lines in this thing, man. Directly from Scarface.
Scott Shelby: I’m proud of the breakdowns in this song. There’s a Black Sabbath type thing in there, like Black Sabbath on high RPM’s.
3. “Orchestration of Violence”
Scott Shelby: That’s another one that I wrote at the same time as “Punishment,” the previous couple of years before. I sat down with a drum machine and freaking wrote the whole song and presented it to the band and it’s pretty much verbatim. Well, I guess that’s one of the songs that Phil re-wrote…some of it.
Bruce Corbitt: He wanted to cut out some of the hip-shaking (Laughs).
Scott Shelby: (Laughs) Yeah, he cut out some of the hip-shaking. He didn’t like some of my groove parts. That’s a perfect example of working with Philip. He took some of the music and he threw in his two-cents and it made it a better song. It made it more core. It made it more attacking. And we did it like that (snaps fingers), in a couple of hours. He re-worked what I brought to the table and about two hours later we’re laying the tracks down. That’s a big song he stepped in on as far as the music part. I think Bruce had been working on the lyrics for a while.
Bruce Corbitt: You’ve got to come up with another subject and sometimes it’s stuff you learn about and research and this was a subject I’ve always been fascinated with… World War II and D-Day and all that shit. I watch every movie and every documentary. So, it was something in the back of my mind that I had always wanted to do a song about D-Day, so I watched a bunch of war documentaries that weekend.
Scott Shelby: It’s such a hook. Bruce did such a great job on the lyrics. It’s got hooks. That’s another great thrash song.
Bruce Corbitt: The chorus, whenever it starts…there’s two songs on this album where it happened…it almost spoke to me. The music was saying it to me. I could hear the words and when I was saying it with the music, it just spoke to me. I could hear it in my head. It wrote itself.
4. “Maze of the Minotaur”
Scott Shelby: This is a brand new one that I wrote. I always sit down with a theme or a bands influence. This one…I’m not going to name the band. But, whenever I try to emulate them it comes out sounding like Iron Maiden. This is kind of our Iron Maiden type song. But, I just sat down and wrote this song and it’s a little different theme than we normally do. Some parts are a little more technical than we normally do. Of course, there’s breakdowns in it. And then we go into a slow part, that we rarely do with Warbeast. So, I took a little different approach and it turned out totally different than what we normally do. But, it turned out to be one of the more notable songs on the record. I’m very proud of it and I’m very proud of my lead on it. It tried to emulate some Iommi from the Born Again era. I just love these crazy leads he did. As far as musically, that’s how it turned out. So, we handed it to Bruce and he put this amazing story on it.
Bruce Corbitt: It was just another thing on my list of stories I wanted to do, it’s always been there. I’m into Greek mythology and I just needed a song. I needed the right music and it sets the total atmosphere. It’s a very complicated story, but I fit it in there. And this was another song where the music was speaking the chorus to me. That’s when it feels magical, like this is going to be an awesome song. A good little hook going there. And he mentioned Maiden…and I don’t sound nothing like Bruce Dickinson as far as tone or voice, but the delivery of the way I sing this, I was thinking Dickinson on a couple of parts. The way he delivers songs, like “Fear of the Dark.” So, my delivery and the verses, I was thinking Dickinson style. It gave me more freedom not stick with our usual pattern. It’s fucking cool, people love the song when we play it live. I’ve got time to make a sandwich on stage in some parts (Laughs).
Scott Shelby: It’s really interesting how it’s built. I was listening to some stuff at the gym. It’s a little southern metal. I wrote it without any real intentions of it having a southern feel, but it does. I had one of these inspirations and went home and threw down the song all at once, maybe two sessions. It’s got a southern, total Texas feel. DFW metal, our metal, this is the apex of it here. Not New Orleans, not Houston. Right here, Dallas/Arlington. That’s what it turned out to be. I wanted a little technical stuff in there, a little groove, and hooks, hooks, and hooks. I even based my lead a little on Mike Scaccia style. Because, it was so Texas feeling that I went even more Texas with it. As usual, I handed the song over to Bruce and he turned this thing into a masterpiece of Texas metal and Texas horror.
Bruce Corbitt: I got to be who I am. So naturally, even though it’s a different band, everybody knows what I’m into with the horror stuff and Rigor Mortis and I’ve got to bring some of that stuff into Warbeast and this was the song. I just thought the name “Hitchhiker” sounded like a good song and great subject to write about. That’s my favorite character from Texas Chainsaw Massacre. And this is one that I took to Harden Harrison, my brother from Rigor Mortis, and I said “Guess what, dude? I want to write that song about the hitchhiker.” I’ve got to give a lot of credit to Harden. Me and Harden have always worked great together, since our Rigor Mortis days. Within a couple of hours we traded ideas back and forth and it came out great.
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6. “Chemicals Consuming”
Scott Shelby: This is another song I wrote near the end of the recording sessions. This was fresh out of the bag. I sat down and I was feeling something and I sat down and wrote the whole thing. I wanted to do something a little different. It’s thrash and it’s got hooks. It’s got some influences from like three bands that I love. This is another one I fought with Joey (Gonzalez, drums) on, but I felt strong about this thing and just went with it. I didn’t think a lot about it, I just said “let’s do it.” But, surprisingly, it turned out really good and a lot of people involved in the production of this album say it’s their favorite track. It’s surprising to me, but it came out really good. We’ll be playing it live for the first time on July 14th. Every time I’m listening to this thing and it kicks into the chorus I just want to kick the door open. And I wanted that feel and the breakdowns and everything. It’s a very unique song for Warbeast.
This is one of the songs I said I was going to write lyrics to, but of course I’m not much of lyricist. But, I’ve got a lot of stupid ideas. And the idea for this was my lifestyle that I had been living. I’m drug free, but I consumed a lot of alcohol and went threw a lot of women. I didn’t have the best way to present it to Bruce and Philip, but I was very adamant that that was my subject on it.
Bruce Corbitt: He had come to me and said he had a couple of ideas for songs and I left the door open for him. So, I knew it was going to be based on some subjects and ideas he was going through in his life. I’m really happy with it and how it turned out and my vocals and delivery on it. He and Rick (Perry, former Gammacide guitarist) worked on this one and they brought it to me and Philip and I started working on it. I was having a little trouble with it, so Philip worked on it and about two hours later he had it all worked out.
7. “Enter the Arena”
Scott Shelby: This is something I wrote with the other guys. We sat down and I had some riffs and they had some riffs and we kind of sat there and threw it together. It was thought of as an intro track at first, but we started building on it. Actually, this was the first song that got the band back in gear for writing this album. If I can make the kids happy, like Joey and Lyric (Ferchaud, bass) and Drew (Shoup, guitar), because if you can grab their interest and put a smile on their face, it’s like “yeah, we’re getting somewhere.” They seemed to like it and I went with it. It’s short and attacking. This is like something if you mixed Voivod with Reign in Blood. It’s ferocious and it’s entertaining. There’s a lot of parts in it, in a short matter of time. It’s pure aggression.
Bruce Corbitt: Like with “Chemicals,” he kind of took this one, too. The lyrics came from him. I’m glad it didn’t come first. I’ve already got two albums with instrumentals starting the album, so I didn’t want it to be “You’ve got to wait seven minutes before you get to hear me sing.” But, it’s a great little song to mix up right there.
Scott Shelby: And the subject matter goes back to Dimebag and Mike Scaccia. You might not know it, but we know it. The lyrics are about our fallen stars. It all goes to those two guys who’ve been a big part of our lives.
8. “The Scalping”
Scott Shelby: This is the oldest song…all the previous records I had material from different bands that we refurbished. But, this album is all total Warbeast. But, this one goes back to the Krush the Enemy days. I started writing this one with the original lineup. We pretty much wrote the song, almost just like it is. But, it got put on the back burner, but I always believed in it. So, this was the perfect opportunity to bring it back to life. We never had lyrics for it and I didn’t have any subject matter for it. It got put on the back burner waiting for its moment.
Bruce Corbitt: I was watching the Revenant one night and there’s a scalping in that movie and it hit me how sick that really is. It got me thinking about how hardcore that really is…to just cut someones scalp off (Laughs). It became their trophies and shit. Patrick Hart was in town, my friend who does 3D horror art, and we were talking about it. I remember that first night and I said I want to write a song about this and he and I came up with some stuff that actually ended up in the song. Some of the best lines came from that night.
9. “Conjuration with the Devil”
Scott Shelby: That is one of the songs that Lyric and I, and Drew had a little input, but we all three sat down and wrote that one together. Lyric had the majority of the riffs, he had about half of the riffs going, he brought some things to the table. But, that song is like the young kids and the older guy working together. That’s where the music came from. It came out very heavy. A little different approach because there’s some different influences from the young kids.
Bruce Corbitt: It’s about the first dude who made a deal with the devil, Saint Theophilus of Adana. When you know what it’s about it’s not as Satanic as it sounds. That was the same time period when I was getting into the lyrics and I went over to Harden’s that night and we teamed up on this one as well. And it was Philip’s idea with the subject. It’s an ancient story, it’s out there.
10. “Ancient Hate”
Scott Shelby: This was another one written with the young guys in the band. Lyric had the majority of the riffs on this song. I sat down with him and we kind of honed in on them and tweaked it out. I added some riffs in there to fill it out. Joey really likes this one so there’s lots of blast beats. Lots of changes on this song, very technical. Rick Perry wrote the lyrics to this song. He really had a feeling about this song. He really dug deep on the lyrics on it. It’s a complex thrash song. It’s got a little bit of new style of Warbeast with the kids coming in, a newer influence.
Bruce Corbitt: I didn’t have too much to do with this one. Phil helped me with this one, because I learned this song, as far as how they wanted it to go, as I’m in the studio about to record it. In the old days I would go in more prepared and knowing the songs better. But, these last three albums I’m learning a few songs on the spot, but it’s opened up more doors for me. I’m more confident as a studio singer. And some of the best stuff comes out when you’re on the spot and just have to do it. It’s a little more spontaneous.
Photos by Eric Younkin Jr. Warbeast album art by “Carcass” John Fossum.