American heavy metal, it’s God-damn electric, as a leader of American metal, Philip Anselmo once said in his band, Pantera. From the glorious days of California thrash metal (Metallica, Megadeth, Exodus, Testament…) to the influx of nu metal (Slipknot, Korn, Deftones, Limb Bizkit, Disturbed), metalcore (Unearth, Killswitch Engage, Avenge Sevenfold…), to deathcore (Job For a Cowboy, Whitechapel, Born of Osiris…), American metal has led the global scene for going on five decades. These bands are classic examples of American metal, but what about the future? If you want a glimpse of the future, look no further than Incite.
Led by the son of Max Cavalera (son-in-law, but Ritchie calls him Dad), Ritchie Cavalera, the group has made their mark on the world with their brand of groove thrash and metalcore. Really, putting tags on their sound does them no justice, as you will see on their Atomic Records debut Wake Up Dead incorporates the best elements of all of these above-mentioned styles. If American metal bands like Unearth, Pantera, Testament, Slayer, Hatebreed and Slipknot float your boat, take a ride up the coast of Incite-land.
Before a hometown show for drummer Lennon Lopez (Taylor, TX) and newcomer Mike DeLeon (San Marcos, TX, Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals, Flesh Hoarder, Ex-M.O.D., Ex-Disfigured), DeLeon, Cavalera and Christopher El joined me in a candid interview inside the patio portion of Austin’s most prolific music club, Come And Take It Live. After partaking in some herbage, the band were loose and Cavalera had a peaceful calmness surrounding his sun-glassed demeanor. He knew it would be a good night. DeLeon’s whole family enjoyed the entire concert, and his son, Atlas, even got to ham it up for all the cameras, jumping around like a madman on stage with his father. This interview was the start of a great night of metal! After a lengthy discussion about their European tour with Gorgoroth, which includes more sex, drugs and black metal than I can morally print (great stories, maybe some other time), I began the interview on the topic of their new album Wake Up Dead.
Darren Cowan: You have a new album that just dropped, Wake Up Dead. You played a release show. Please talk about that concert in Laredo.
Ritchie Cavalera: Shit was crazy! You know, we haven’t played since September of last year, so to have this weekend celebration in Texas, who have been so good to the band since we started, is incredible! Laredo came out. They rocked! Rudy running The Wonder Lounge really had hospitality. Great fuckin’ vibes! Cool people. Now we find ourselves in Austin, Texas. Tomorrow El Paso. We are ripping, man! I think these guys had a good time.
Christopher El: It was rippin’! It was a good time. Definitely a good time! Good way to kick it off and knock the rust off a little bit! Tonight should even be better!
Mike DeLeon: Last night in Laredo was just an all-around awesome groove, awesome vibe. Everyone seemed to be really into it, enjoying live music, again! Tonight, we are here in Austin. I can’t wait to lay it on them here in Austin, Texas, man!
You just released a video, what has been the response to these early releases?
Cavalera: Oh my God! This is what we’ve been working for. Every time, every album… every new release has been bigger, better than the last. We are a band who is never chasing anything we’ve done in the past. We are creating new, every time, and exciting… pushing the limits. With this record, yeah, it’s everywhere! People are posting their photos, buying it everywhere, receiving it in the mail. Press is loving it and spreading the word. It’s unbelievable man, at the same time we knew what we wanted and how hard we worked it would lead us to this place. It’s fulfilling to feel that. We know who we’ve been for so long, and for people to be catching on is really exciting, man! “War Soup” has gotten a quarter of a million views in just two weeks!
Wow, that’s a lot! I do press and I’ve never gotten anything like that!
Cavalera: Same for us, too, man. That attributes to having that music, but having someone like Atomic Fire putting it out there, bringing in to the right people.
Atomic Fire; is this a new label?
Cavalera: Yes, they teamed up with Minus Head who has been with us since day one. They’re old school beginners of Nuclear Blast. Markus Staiger basically started Nuclear Blast. He brought is talent over to Atomic Fire with bands like Meshuggah, Opeth, and Amorphis. It’s a huge thing going on right now with them. We are very fortunate to have found that. In music when you see big bands, it’s because everything lined up perfectly — the agents, the label — that’s what has happened here!
I think you need to stop being so humble because this a good record!
El: Well you know, we are not those dudes. We just keep it real. We know that we have a good record. We just hope appreciate it for what it is. It’s a straight-up American heavy metal record! It’s just like it should be. No bells and whistles. Nothing crazy, we aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel, we just want to play fuckin’ metal! I think this record shows that: It’s straight-up American metal.
I wasn’t sold on Incite at first. I thought you were just another metalcore band. Sure, there are elements of metalcore, but there is so much more to that. I hear Pantera, of course, Sepultura and Soulfly, but also Unearth.
Cavalera. Nice! For us, it was about getting back up and doing it. Like El said, we are a heavy metal band. We wanted to up-tune again, bring that feel back, and really show who we are as metal heads. Songs like “Mental Destruction,” with the classic, clean acoustic intro like so many great songs have had.
Cavalera: Yeah. You know, that stuff influenced us, so it’s good to get back on that track while including what we’ve done for so long—that groove, that rhythm, that feel, man! Strip-down the lyrics and made them stronger, more focused. We honed in on what we’ve wanted for these albums.
You talked about honing in on the lyrics, you really did trim them, and you point out phrases that will be in your head. You’re going to be banging your head while you hear it!
Cavalera: Yes, and that was a big thing with El. It’s saying you don’t need to fill the entire-fucking-page. You don’t have to do that kind of shit.
El: Sometimes he over thinks it, I think, I said, “you need to write how you talk.” If you have a conversation with Ritchie—he’s intelligent and has a lot of cool shit to say.
He likes to say “fuck!”
El: Everybody likes to say “fuck!” He needs to write like that. Now his whole technique has matured in the way he presents his lyrics. He’s done a lot of work on his vocal range and it shows on this record, for sure.
I hear Phil Anselmo, maybe Unearth, but I can’t put my finger on it.
El: It’s Ritchie Cavalera.
Cavalera: I love that because that gives us a fresh vibe, right now. I think everyone is looking for the next step and we are kind of presenting that. It’s like heavy straight through, you can understand the lyrics. It’s not just made on a breakdown and backing tracks. It’s just rock and metal, man! Mike laying down incredible solos — a killer guitar shredding performance with Lennon crushing the drums and El bringing the thunder! It’s just a complete metal show, vibe and record.
Working with your step dad…
Cavalera: I’ve known him since I was a baby. I call him, “dad.” I’ve never known anything else. To me, it’s just “dad,” you know?
What year were you born?
Cavalera: 1985. He came in to my life about 1988. I was very young and already into metal so much with bands like Sacred Reich and Atrophy. Being on the cover of “Violent By Nature” is a little bit — it’s cool man. He’s a great dude! Having him on “War Soup” is like the greatest thing ever! I’ve always been on his songs and him kind of directing the way we’re going, but this is like “nah, you’re going to sing it like this.” He brought this very cool, old school Chaos A.D. vibe, which I really loved.
Where you on tour with Sepultura when they did that?
I met you. I met your mother and you. People waited outside the bus after the show and these two dudes were heckling your mom. She went in and told Max. Max came out and said, “you got problem, man?” They were like, “no dude,” and they left.
Cavalera: They are bad ass. They are good people. They are legends in the game.
Mike DeLeon is playing with Incite on this tour. How did this happen?
Mike DeLeon: The drummer, Lennon, approached me early last year. They were going to do a Texas run with Ill Nino in July. I was honestly pretty busy with everything I had going on at the time, but I’ve always dug the guys; I’m good friends with the guys. As funny as it sounds, the very last show before the world got shut down, March 14 and 15, us (Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals) and Incite were in Mexico City. It was just meant to be, I guess. I got hit up about and just joined the band. Took it super seriously. I’ve been having…the vibes have been so much fun. These guys love to smoke weed. I love to smoke weed. They love metal. I love metal. They love ‘80s rock’n’roll and so do I. It couldn’t have come at a better time. Things have slowed down for me (after touring the world and going out with Slayer, Primus and Ministry). It’s been a blast! I am learning all of their stuff, even this brand-new album that they just put out. These are new songs to me.
Coming into the game, I’ve gotta say, people ask me what I think of the Incite songs, and I’ve got to say these guys are bringing the old school metal, man! It’s a good time! It’s riffs, lots of heavy riffs, lots of good groove, lots of good melody, we’re all doing vocals, shredding solos, bass, drums. Like the guys said, you couldn’t ask for anything more when you’re looking for metal! No genre, no sub-genre just straight up metal! To everyone who has been sleeping on the band, check it out! Throw on some old tunes. Throw on some new tunes. Put this in your ear. Smoke a bowl and take it in. It’s definitely worth a shot! Whenever the band comes to your town, the live show is where it’s at—lots of energy, lots of positivity and lots of guitars! It’s been a total blast hanging with these guys, and it’s just the beginning (laughs). I can not wait for what the future holds with the guys.
Cavalera: Yeah. Mike is actually going to be our guitar player going forward. Eli (Santana) came in at a time when we needed help. We needed someone to get us back on track. He is a big friend of Incite.
El: Great guitar player and singer.
Cavalera: He came in to help us fulfill touring, write this record and now he’s focused on fronting Ignite, which is a huge break for him or anybody, so we had Mike in July of last year as a pre-run test, and then everything fell into place. Sometimes the universe tells you what’s going to happen. It’s always fun because I love jamming with shredders!
(interview published April 18, 2022)
Watch Incite – “Mental Destruction” Video