What is Serpentine Dominion all about?
Talking to Adam D about the new (and very metal) supergroup Serpentine Dominion
It’s a widely acknowledged fact that the majority of so-called metal supergroups are total bollocks. Thankfully, Serpentine Dominion have arrived to buck the trend. A collaboration between Killswitch Engage guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz, Cannibal Corpse frontman George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher and drummer Shannon Lucas of The Black Dahlia Murder, the band’s self-titled debut album is an invigorating explosion of brutal, epic and melodic death metal with countless huge hooks and lyrics penned by Killswitch frontman Jesse Leach. Let’s be sensible here: what’s not to like?
We spoke with Adam D about his new venture and what it was like to work with a death metal legend…
How did the friendship with Corpsegrinder start? Presumably you’re a big Cannibal Corpse fan…
“Yeah, of course. It was really easy. Those Cannibal guys are all really down to earth and mellow, they’re rad dudes. We were doing a tour together with them, seeing them every day and we’d drink beer and hang out, and that’s exactly what I’m into ha ha! So once they figure out that I’m a fan of theirs too, there’s all that mutual respect and shit, and then once we really got talking, I cornered George, because we had a rapport by then. I said ‘Yeah, we should make a record together! What would you do if I wrote a record and wanted you to sing on it? Would you do it?’ and that was basically it, man.”
Were you expecting him to have reservations about the idea?
“Yeah, honestly I was ha ha! I was expecting him to beat around the bush, saying ‘Oh yeah, that could be cool, but I’m not sure I have the time…’ you know? But no, he seemed ready. He said ‘Let’s fucking do it!’ and that was it.”
Was this music that you were already writing at that point? Was it something you felt you had to get out of your system?
“I hadn’t written any of it. I’ve always listened to death metal. Death metal is fucking fun, dude. So it’s something I’ve always loved. I love aggressive music and I grew up on hardcore, punk and metal. I’ve always been an underground music fan. With these songs, I just have such respect for George’s voice and such respect for Shannon’s drumming, so just the thought of being able to write music with two dudes of that calibre, it was just a really, really cool thing for me.”
The record definitely has elements of all three of your main bands…
“Yeah. At the end of the day, I do enjoy melody. I guess I’m more of a classic metal traditionalist, and I like metal riffs with real diatonic melodies to them. So there are those elements in there and it’s not just straight up grind.”
George has done other projects outside Cannibal Corpse in the past, but this is something entirely different from anything he’s done before…
“Yeah, George is the same as me. He listens to a lot of traditional metal. It’s really cool for him to be in a band with all this melody, in the guitar work and some of my backing vocals. It’s different for him and it’s a nice creative outlet for someone who’s always pigeonholed as just this brutal singer in this classic, grinding death metal band for years and years. I guess maybe the chance for him to break out and do something a bit different was exciting for him as well.”
How did it feel to record George’s vocals in the studio?
“Oh, man. It’s so cool! Recording George’s vocals is a lot of fun, because it’s so easy. He’s just a monster. You tell him exactly what he needs to do and he just does it. He’s very good to record. It’s a piece of cake. He’s the best out there, because the timbre of his actual voice is so brutal but at the same time he has that gift, he can belt it out and you can hear everything he’s saying.”
Plus, he can windmill headbang for two hours straight!
“Ha ha! Yes, he can! That’s why his neck is so large. Somebody on the internet said the funniest thing about him ever, they said ‘Look at that guy! He looks like a thumb with a face!’ Ha ha ha! When I saw that I think I laughed for a day straight. His neck is gigantic. That’s where he gets those skills, man.”
What about Shannon Lucas? Presumably your paths have crossed many times over the years…
“Oh yeah, Shannon and I have known each other for quite some time. He was playing for All That Remains on a record called The Fall Of Ideals, which I recorded. I just remember recording him on those sessions and thinking that he was so fast, so clean and so accurate… man, that kid was insane! Then he joined The Black Dahlia Murder I thought ‘Holy shit, he’s a monster!’ He can really shred on the drums, you know? Because of our history, and because Black Dahlia were on that same tour, it was a no-brainer. He’s perfect for this.”
What do you get from Serpentine Dominion that you don’t get from Killswitch?
“Honestly, I do get something out of it. It was a cool rush for me, to write songs with that kind of aggression. I think we’d put off a lot of listeners if Killswitch were to do something like that. Working with these two guys, it makes it so damn exciting. I listen to those dudes all the time and I respect them, so this has been a huge adrenaline rush for me.”
Jesse Leach wrote the lyrics for the album. How did that happen?
“That was some work. George originally wanted to write the lyrics. He and I came up with the theme for the whole record, and he wanted to do his best and throw some lyrics down. He hasn’t written anything for Cannibal or any of his bands, I believe, so he hasn’t had much experience of doing it. When we were making the record, George would try and try but he couldn’t come up with anything that would stick and that he really liked, so after a while I suggested we got an outside writer. Obviously I get on with Jesse really well, we’re good friends, and we always have a really good creative connection, so I suggested him for ghost writing. George loved the idea. Whenever Jesse writes lyrics, they’re almost like freeform poetry, so he gave me a couple of long sheets of lyrical content and I took it all and grabbed the bits that really stuck out and that had real meaning, and I constructed them into songs for George to sing.”
How would you encapsulate the themes on this album?
“The theme is really basic. The entire record is just about corruption and all the political agendas and the corruption within politics, within big business and within the rich. It’s all the bad, bad people out there doing bad, bad things. That’s the main gist of it. We wanted this record to be different from Cannibal, especially George. He didn’t want to do the gore thing again, because that’s what Cannibal does. So we agreed to do something different and something that made sense for what this record should be.”
And you must have plenty of source material given how the world seems to be going to shit…
“Oh yeah, we chose the ideal year to release this record. We’ve got a crook and a shithead to choose from right now. Which one do you want? I’ve said this before, I’m embarrassed by a lot of the people that are actually voting for Donald Trump as the Republican nominee. How could you ever think that a reality TV star could be a great leader for the nation? It doesn’t make any sense to me.”
So what are your future plans for Serpentine Dominion?
“The main issue when we made the record was getting everybody together and having time to do it. So right now, my main plan is just releasing the record and seeing if people like it. If it’s received well, that might change things. I’m not opposed to doing shows. If there’s a fanbase and a demand for it, then maybe it’s time to assemble a band and start rehearsing. It would be a lot of fun to do, but we need to make sure that people like the damn thing first!”
Serpentine Dominion's debut album is out October 28, via Metal Blade.