Fatalist: Rechanneling Swedish Death Metal In Ventura County


By Sean Palmerston

(This story was originally written summer 2008 for METAL MANIACS, then shelved to run closer to the release date of their Ibex Moon Records debut. Since MM has since folded, I still wanted to get the word out on this awesome band, whose demo is one of my favourites of the past few years.)

While the classic Swedish death metal scene of the late eighties and early nineties has influenced today’s scene immeasurably, there are legions of new metal fans today that have yet to discover classic bands like Nihilist, Carnage, Unleashed and Grave. The retro thrash movement is of course all the rage as of late, but not a lot of new bands have yet to pay homage to those classics captured in the formative days of Stockholm’s Sunlight Studios. Ventura County, California based quartet Fatalist is one band that would like to try and help reintroduce that classic Swedish sound to the burgeoning metal masses.

While its members played in bands such as Uphill Battle, Exhumed and Stump prior to forming in 2006, the original intentions that formed the framework for what has become Fatalist was conceived originally as an all-Swedish death metal cover band that never really ended up happening as planned.

“The band really started with (guitarist)Wes Caley and I,” explains guitarist Neil Burkdoll of Fatalist’s origins. “Wes never left Exhumed, the band really just kind of stopped. But, at that time, Wes and drummer Rhett Davies (ex-Morgion, Gravehill) had talked about doing a Swedish tribute death metal band called Stockholm Syndrome along with Leon del Muerte (ex-Exhumed, ex-Intronaut, ex-Phobia). That never really went anywhere, they never even got together for a practice since Wes lives in Ventura County and they live in LA. The distance was too great.”

“I am from Chicago originally and because of my wife’s job we were going to be moving to Ventura County. I had met Wes online: I had done a bunch of bands and one of them (Point Of Our Resistance) had a Swedish guitar tone and Wes had heard it. It was just coincidence that I was moving to Ventura but Wes was like ‘we have to hook up,’ so within a month of me moving out we got together and Rhett came out to about five practices, but really those other guys never really came.”

With Davies opting out due to the near two-hour commute that practices would require, the band finally solidified with area drummer Tyler Castro and bassist Art Haynes and got down to business.


“I thought of the name Fatalist for obvious reasons,” says Burkdoll when asked how the moniker was decided on. “It sounded kind of like Nihilist – and I couldn’t find any other bands at the time using it (summer of 2006) so I figured we’d use it with that same logo font as Entombed, Nihilist, Carnage. It is kind of promotion for us because people see it online and it almost tells you exactly what you are going to get from us. Obviously it’s not original and we don’t pretend to say it is original, but at the same time that stuff is so long ago that some people have forgotten about it unfortunately.”

The band went ahead making music in homage of those classic Swedish albums in part because that is what they grew up with, but also because they are just not interested in trying to fit into any trends that may be happening today.

“I got into death metal as it started,” says Burkdoll. “I’ve always listened to all kinds of metal and there’s a certain feeling about that kinda stuff that reminds you of being younger. You’ve lived it and now things are different. It’s now all about who is the fastest and the most technical and honestly we don’t care about that at all. It’s not interesting to us in any way, shape or form. To us, we are more interested in writing good songs and songs where one doesn’t sound just like the other.”

“I had never really done anything like the Swedish thing before. I had always wanted to. My previous band Stump was a total early Carcass clone, I had done that. My next thing was to try and do an early Swedish death metal thing and I just happened to hook up with Wes and he was kind of thinking the same thing. We discovered how to get that guitar tone and once you find out how to get that guitar tone, the cool thing is that anything you play with it for the most part sounds really bad ass. You can play anything with it and it sounds like the heaviest thing you have ever heard.”

“The thing is, I don’t think we sound all that Swedish. We still sound like an American band. Obviously we’re using the guitar tone and we have a couple of riffs that sound similar but I still think we put together songs in an American way. We’re trying to get away from the American thing as much as we can, but the fact of the matter is we are American, we’re not Swedish and try as we might we can’t get things to sound exactly like them. The important thing wasn’t to sound like one of those bands as much as it was to sound like we came out with that group of bands.”

The band’s debut album The Depths of Inhumanity will be released sometime later this year through John McEntee’s Ibex Moon Records. Containing remixed versions of all seven songs originally released as their 2007 Loss demo CDR, the album is fleshed out by four newer songs that have since been recorded but retain the same feeling as Loss.

“Really, Loss was supposed to be a demo to help get shows, sent out to labels, that kind of thing. What ended up happening was, we had planned to go and re-record all the stuff but John from Ibex Moon basically said ‘why are you going to record it again when it already sounds fine?’ Honestly, as much as I’d like to re-record it and have it all sound cohesive, at the same time it is such a pain in the ass to have to re-record. So four songs is better than eleven.”



Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.