Defeated Sanity’s Chapters of Repugnance (2010), once advertised via CD sticker as “the most brutal album of all time,” owes its heaviness in part to the insane vocals of California Death Metal vocalist AJ Magana. In this excerpt we asked the band how they got hooked up with AJ to record the album and perform a select few shows.
Josef: Someone asked, “How did you guys convince AJ to do the Chapters of Repugnance album?”
Lille: So the story is, between Christian, my dad and I, we watched Disgorge in Ohio with AJ at one point. And whoever knows that video knows what AJ brings to the table. I just remember the phrase back then was, “The best death metal frontman of all time.” So between the three of us, I don’t know, it was just a thing, and we were like, “that guy is just – that’s just crazy.” it’s just like, “That’s kind of what we need.” And then, funny enough Josh says he religiously watched that video as well.
Josh: Oh yeah, it’s a classic video.
Lille: So the link was, of course, as so many [other] times, Derek Boyer. I got a hold of him via email, like: “Hey, do you know what AJ is doing at the moment because we’re looking for a vocalist.” And Derek actually says – Derek and AJ, they seem to me like they’re like a clique of two or something. They have this mindset – two peas in a pod – they have this mindset about music; musical perfection is just really important to them. I just felt like I’m the same, just on a different part of the planet. Derek just said, “Hey, he would love your drumming, I’ll put you too in contact.” And then I sent him the promo 2007.
I remember he was like, “Yeah this stuff’s good but I’ll make it better.” I was like, “Yeah, I believe that.” But I guess basically he was into it – I think he liked just like the intricacy…
That Deprecated EP, I saw like they were greeting their influences, and it was like Cynic, Immolation, Suffocation, Gorguts. It looks like we have the same roots, so I guess [that’s why we] just got along right away. And me also being a huge Deprecated fan too. I guess it was kind of reciprocal.
Then he came over [to Germany] and we had like a week to get down the vocal patterns. Most of the lyrics I had already written; he added a few words here and there. Most of the vocal patterns were already done, And that was just basically AJ and I in a room, working on that stuff. It was pretty amazing, he came out of the airport, I picked him up, and I’m like, “Okay, this guy wants to rest now, probably.” And he was like, “So where can I get a red bull? Let’s start working right now.” And we’re like, “Yes!” That’s my kind of guy.
So I remember, back then when we had the room right above the rehearsal room, we had the demos on cassette tape, from the Tascam. And we’re going over them, and he was basically shaping, perfecting his vocal lines. I remember, of course, we had a few places to fill for vocal lines, so he filled them in. He basically came over a week before we went into the studio. So he didn’t just come over to practice but it was like, “Okay, we have one week’s time.” And then we got studio time booked, so we really made that happen and then came out of the studio and went straight on stage and played everything live. Yeah that was crazy…
Josef: The album you made with him, Chapters, I remember seeing it in stores and it had the promo sticker on it, like: “the most brutal album of all time” which is true! And the style is a little different than Psalms, just the way that album starts and like just throws you into like the jazz and then the blasts like almost right away. But Chapters has that really long build up and it’s much more of a dramatic kind of statement with like a long intro. I just listened to you and Jacob talk about jamming drums and bass while writing the album. How did you guys engineer that album and get that guitar tone?
Jacob: So when AJ arrived we were just done with tracking drums, guitar, and bass. We did it all in an old studio that I used to rent out in Berlin. I was engineering it, and Wolfgang wasn’t around anymore for that. So for the first time it was all Christian. I think he still used that – it was a little tri-metal pedal. On Psalms he had the Zoom multi effect, like a three button push or whatever, then for that one it was just a little solid state – just a little gain, a distortion pedal, that was really hard to find too. And it had some like dings and dongs and wasn’t like sometimes the the knobs would be like scratching – once you had it all set you couldn’t touch it. But it delivered that sound, that just ultra scooped, brutal death metal, like endless sustain kind of sound. And that’s what we recorded with – that through a JCM2000 amp. That’s how we recorded the guitar. And then when AJ came we were just done with that and we just had a few days to to get his vocals tracked.
We did one show with him: we went straight to Mountains of Death Open Air in Switzerland, which is an epic festival. Used to be – not around anymore unfortunately. And that was not just the first show with him, but the first show playing all of Chapters, basically in one go. It was a pretty epic experience for us, just to play with this new dude, all new songs, and just trying to have the faith that we can do it without really having done it before.