By Carl C. Sundberg
Best known as the dual six-string shredders behind the brutality that is Daath, Levi/Werstler have taken some time off to pursue a little instrumental foray into psychedelic metal with their debut release on Magna Carta Records, “Avalanche of Worms”. Before you begin the judgements in your brain, realize this is no noodling nondescript shred-off of just two guitarists just trying to show off their chops. Featuring synth, bass and the drumming thunder of Sean Reinart of Cynic, “Avalanche of Worms” is a very intricate, dark and trippy audio adventure, full of unique compositions, outstanding musicianship, and of course, some nasty solos.
Levi took many more musical risks on this endevour than he has in the past with Daath, and Werstler was more inclined to stretch his wings a bit on the fretboard as well. The album came about after the two were asked to contribute to a compilation that was intended to be a tribute to Opeth. They were given basic tracks that they were simply supposed to solo over, but it flipped a switch inside Levi’s head. He realized he could write better parts than what was given him, and thus the writing process began.
And while this is more of a side project, Levi hasn’t ruled out making more albums under the Levi/Werstler moniker, nor has he ruled out touring with this project, although he points out that it would be very difficult to do with Daath and Cynic’s busy schedules and vast differences in locations, making rehearsal very difficult, if not impossible.
Q: So the name of the album is “Avalanche of Worms”, that’s not the band name?
A: Yeah, it’s like a solo record, only it’s a duo, we’re just going by our names because that way people will begin to associate us as…
Q: Kick ass musicians? (Laughs)
A: Yeah, well maybe they’ll start to recognize someone else other than Kevin Talley in Daath, you know?
Q: Totally. But you guys are kind of the powerhouse behind Daath anyway, I mean you write the music.
A: Everyone in Daath brings their own super power to the table, but we’re sick of hearing about Chimaira or Dying Fetus. We feel like we’ve put in enough time and enough work to where we should all be on a level playing field. So that was why we decided to just name it as ourselves, to bring attention to ourselves as individuals.
Q: When did the idea for this come from? How did it come about?
A: The label Magna Carta had a compilation CD called “Guitars That Ate My Brain” and it was basically supposed to be half up-and-coming guitar players and half established dudes, all playing in the style of somebody else, which is kind of weird to me. But we got asked to play on an Opeth-style track. They basically wanted us to play a couple solos. So they sent us this track with drums, rhythm tracks and all these melodies and honestly they were like [Opeth frontman] Mikael Akerfeldt toilet-wipe riffs. I mean…I would be embarrassed to show the dudes in Opeth that I did that. It was such a cheap imitation. So we requested that all the melodies be taken off the track. And we get to do our thing to it. They weren’t too cool about it, but they let us do it and I guess they really liked the results. We went to town on the track and they wanted to do a record.
Q: Was the song you submitted to them on the “Avalanche of Worms” album?
A: No. But it’s called, “The Unwavering Collapse”. You can find it online.
Q: Did they [Magna Carta] get you in touch with Sean Reinart of Cynic or was that you guys?
A: No, we pushed for that. The label had ideas more for some of the newer cats in the death metal scene and we wanted to have nothing to do with that, honestly. We think Sean’s the best and Emil [Werstler] and I’s favorite drummer of all times. So that was our first choice and Sean was into it.
Q: While this is more of a solo record for you guys, some of the best parts of the album are the drumming.
A: That’s why you get Sean Reinart. If it was up to me and this wasn’t really, it would have been called “Levi/Werstler/Reinart/Guenther/Scott,” but the label wanted it to be billed as Emil and I. Honestly it feels a little weird to me because everybody’s contribution is so major that I sometimes feel like our name takes away from the impact they had on the record. I don’t want it to come off that way. So be it I guess. Sean’s drums are amazing.
Q: Absolutely. Now, was this an album that was difficult to make or did you put it together pretty easily?
A: I’d say it was a lot of fun to make. But I wouldn’t call it easy. It was definitely hard work. I think it was easy working together. Emil and I’s repore was unbelievable, Sean was unbelievable. Working with everybody was unbelievable. But it was definitely hard-ass work. Some very serious man-hours went into it because we had to get it done really, really fast, because we had so many other things going on at the time, like a Daath tour cycle. (Laughs) So we had to really muscle it out. Powerhouse it. Drag on, knockdown fight til the very last minute. But it was fun the whole way through.
Q: Well this album definitely shows you and Emil off, more so than ever before, do you think you guys have grown that much as guitar players since the first Daath record or have you been holding back?
A: Neither. It’s something in between that. We’re always striving to get better. It’s a suicidal thought as a musician to stop thinking about wanting to get better. We’re always trying to further ourselves. I also have felt in the past that there are forces outside of us that were preventing the all-out insanity that we’re capable of producing. I feel like we’ve been capable of producing the insanity this whole time, but at the same time, man, songs like [Daath’s] “Subterfuge” or “Ovum” don’t need shredding. I mean “Subterfuge” has Emil’s epic solo in it but a lot of Daath stuff is meant to be songs. It’s not about epic instrumental shred. It is what it is. In that way, I like how both projects are different in that way sonically. Daath is definitely a choice to play that way. I wouldn’t call it holding back because I would challenge any guitar player to downpick “Sharpen the Blades” all the way through like we do, you know what I’m saying? A lot of stuff we do in Daath is very deceptive, it sounds a lot more simple than it really is. But that’s what’s cool about Daath, is that you don’t notice it going by you because it’s all kind of worked into a song. I like bands that do that. A lot of the times you can’t tell that Opeth parts are fucking blazing because its so well put. It just makes a lot of sense. It doesn’t appear as outright shred even though it really is.
Q: Do you guys think you’ll do any touring with this new project?
A: That I don’t know. I really do hope so but it’s one of those situations where the planets and the stars would all need to align because of everybody’s schedules being so crazy. Between Cynic and Daath and Daath being set up here in Atlanta…it would have to be a magical occurrence or a pretty fantastic opportunity.
Q: Or you could take Daath, Cynic, Worms, all of em, together.
A: We’ve actually talked about that. That might happen. We’ll see. I mean…that would be pretty epic. That would also be a pretty epic workload. I’m sure we could pull it off. We have talked about that. That would be crazy.
Q: Yeah the fans would be pretty blown away, but you’d be pretty tired at the end of each night. (Laughs)
A: Well, you know, once you get going, that’s not the part that I think would be the crazy workload. I think the prep would be the crazy workload. You know, Cynic are out in L.A. and we’re in Atlanta, so how would we coordinate rehearsals for all three of the bands? The prep would be the crazy part. That’s the part I think would be a little daunting. But if the opportunity came up and we could pull it off as far as scheduling goes we would do it.
Q: That would be killer. Now tell me about the cover art for Avalanche. It’s got a psychedelic element that kind of represents the music.
A: That’s why we always work with Jordan Villela, the guy that does all the Daath stuff. We just feel like his visuals are the prefect representation of our music. He’s proven it again. We told him we wanted something that was grotesque, psychedelic, trippy, dark but not traditional metal. Don’t take that and make it a black metal cover. Take it somewhere else because that’s what this music is. It’s not a typical metal album. We also sent him music as we were creating it so he’d get the mood and the feel. So he was pretty much a part of it from the get-go.
Q: What’s the status on Daath right now, you’re working on your fourth record, yeah?
A: Yes. It’s about half-way written and we’re recording June 1st. Should be out in October.
Q: What’s going into this album that’s different than previous Daath albums?
A: The previous Daath album was a much more traditional metal record, or our take on the traditional metal record. We wanted to make a guitar-driven, bare-bones style brutal metal album. And I think that’s what “The Concealers” ended up being. That’s not what we’re feeling right now. We’re feeling something that’s a little bit darker in it’s ambience and it’s more layered. It’s definitely more multi-faceted.
Q: Will it incorporate some of the more shreddy aspects of “Avalanche of Worms”?
A: There’s definitely going to be shred on there. But I don’t think you’re going to see epic instrumentals that bleed into each other for 40 minutes straight. There will be killer solos and killer parts. But we’re trying not to let it be “Avalanche of Worms” Daath-style. We’re trying to make this be the fourth Daath record.
Originally published on 101d.com