This year marks the tenth since the release of Psycroptic’s debut album Isle of Disenchantment put Hobart on the map among the metal fraternity. In the period that has followed, the Tasmanian four piece have also put themselves on the map, around Australia and throughout the world. For the best part of a year, however, Psycroptic has been unusually quiet as they work towards the completion of their fifth album. That silence will soon be shattered when they hit the road with Bastardfest this coming weekend.
“It’s all but finished,” says drummer extraordinaire Dave Haley of the forthcoming set. “We started tracking it in February, when I recorded the drums. We’ve been chipping away at it for the last few months. Joe our guitarist has got a home studio, so we’ve been doing it there. I’m pretty sure it’s all done. There’s just a couple of guitar parts that ProTools decided to delete, and once they’re done we’ll be in the mixing phase.”
With previous effort Ob(servant) now three years old, that’s great news for the band’s legion of followers. Haley describes it as a more groovy, straight-up death metal style release.
“Straight-up and catchy right from the word go. There’s still technicality in there of course, and lots of speed, but we’ve kind of progressed on from where Ob(servant) left off, I guess,” he says.
The album’s release date isn’t until next year, but anyone wanting to check out what the band is going to bring forth will be able to get something of a preview during the Bastardfest tour.
“We’ll be playing some of the new tracks live on the upcoming Bastardfest tour. Probably two, three or four new ones,” he promises. “Wait and see.”
With both Psycroptic and Blood Duster appearing at most of the shows, Haley will be pulling double duty throughout the tour (in Sydney he’ll be playing with Ruins as well), and given that he hasn’t had much rehearsal time with either band he admits to being somewhat nervous.
“I’m based in Melbourne and the rest of the [Psycroptic] guys are in Tassie so we don’t get to rehearse as a band too often. But I head down there next week to do a solid week of rehearsals before we get out there and start touring,” he says. “With Blood Duster, we’re rehearsing for the first time in a long time tomorrow night, because we got shows on the weekend. But we don’t jam all that often. [Then] I’ll be in Tassie rehearsing up for the first show of the Bastardfest tour, which is next Saturday in Brisbane. So it could be a litte shaky for the first one, but once we get into the swing of things it’ll all be good.”
They could be excused if it takes a gig or two to hit their stride, especially Psycroptic. Neither band has done an Australian tour in quite a while; except for a single show in April this year, the Tasmanians haven’t played in this country at all since they toured with Ruins early in 2010. The rest of the world hasn’t seen them since December either.
“The last major tour we did was in November/December. We did a six week tour of the US, and before that we did a headliner in Europe last September. I can’t remember the last time we were up [in Sydney], but it has been a long while, so it’s going to be good to see if we can brush the cobwebs away,” Haley says.
Drumming in two bands with such different styles (not to mention his third band, Ruins, who are different again) presents its challenges for the man reknown as one of Australia’s premier talents behind the kit. But as he explains, he takes the approach that Blood Duster is a band he’s in, and Psycroptic is the band he formed.
“Blood Duster’s got a specific sound that they’ve had forever. So I’ve got to be very true to that style of playing, because they’re a legendary cult act. I’ve been a fan forever, so I have to do the music justice and play how the parts are recorded. With the Psycroptic stuff, that’s my style and that’s how I like to play. [They’re] a little bit faster, a bit more technical, where Blood Duster’s more hard-hitting, loose and swinging. I definitely have to keep my wits about me,” he admits with a laugh, “and it does help with Blood Duster to have three or four beers before I play to get into the vibe!”
Since the release of their second album, 2003’s Scepter of the Ancients, the Hobart four piece has become one of Australia’s most travelled bands of any genre, metal or otherwise. Following a rigourous touring regime that’s seen them play throughout the northern hemisphere on a consistent basis, Psycroptic has even visited places some bands who’ve endured for 40 years haven’t yet set foot in. He laughs as he recalls the experience of playing in China to people who’d never even heard death metal before.
“All the shows were awesome. But the crowds were very diverse. Very mixed. I loved it personally, because we weren’t playing to the same, archetype metalhead crowd – which is a good thing! But sometimes it’s cool to play to people who’ve never even heard the music before. That was the first thing that became apparent when we were there. ‘Shit, this is a room full of very mixed people’. It was great. I can’t wait to go back, actually.”
They have also toured widely in Indonesia, where they featured in late 2009 with Arch Enemy and local heroes Burgerkill, among others. Haley describes the scene there as the best he’s seen.
“[Indonesia’s] by far the best death metal scene anywhere in the world,” he says emphatically. “When you can get 2 – 3000 people going to local shows – not international bands, local Indonesian bands – 2 – 3000 people, it’s something pretty special. Everyone is so friendly, and we’d say to them, ‘This is insane… 3000 people!’ and they’d ask, ‘Isn’t that how many people come to shows back home?’ They don’t know how lucky they’ve got it.”
Central and South America remains a frontier that the band has yet to cross, although Haley is hoping that once the next release surfaces, they’ll be able to mark those places off their list also.
“We’re waiting to hear back from a few offers. We will, of course, head back overseas but we haven’t got anything confirmed at the moment. We’re waiting. There’s a couple of different promoters from South East Asia and South America that we’re waiting on. Hopefully we’ll get some offers through soon,” the drummer says. “We haven’t played South America at all yet, so we’re wanting to go there. I was lucky enough to go to Mexico last month for a drum clinic over there, and I definitely wanna tour there with Psycroptic.”