Criminal.......Root Of All Evil?

Criminal White Hell Released 2009
Kings of South American Thrash Metal’s Finest Hour

Rock Music Commemorates the Rebirth of Thrash Metal in all corners of the Earth in which veterans bands like: Testament, Death Angel, Cynic, Helstar, Heathen, Whatchtower, Atheist, At War and many more are mostly re-uniting and or re-activated. In South America specifically Chile the Musical Phenomenon gets recognition with the comeback of Thrash veterans Pentagram their consequent tour through Europe, mostly recent with a stop over at Wacken Open Air, Germany’s yearly mammoth Musical Gathering and also the celebration continues with the release of White Hell 2009 from Thrash-Death Metal legends Criminal(Anton Reisenegger’s provides guitar and vocals for both ensembles).

Criminal is back and on top of their game, and this release shows it off completely. The first question that comes to mind obviously is why a name like: “White Hell”? To my own personal view is the dealing with a fucked up world in which not only now we get to see a “Black” governor in the US, but also what ever happened to the “White Man Supremacy? (Hey I’m not against Obama, it’s just that feels real Paradoxical).
The answer just like the record its complex, and this on a musical trend spectrum is basically good. The most logical explanation comes from the fact that this particular work its just “Good as Hell” then, but in between the Darkness paths contained on the CD there is too, enlightenment coming out of this new effort by South American “Hard Rockers” Criminal.

Criminal is the Brainchild of two Chileans, Anton Reisenegger and Rodrigo Contreras, both childhood friends of mine, which means it’s just not an everyday thing to be talking about some “Big time” Death Thrash Metal Band in which two of the former members are people that you know and from whom you have great memories from the past.

I was first introduced to Criminal at Anton’s house in Santiago (Chile) several years ago, my good old buddy and Musician (another Rodrigo) best known as Pera, called me one night so we end up having a few beers and cruising around the City while listening to some good old Thrash Metal and progressive Rock tunes in our car as we usually would. It was Anton’s attic bedroom our final destination that day.

There we met with two fine fellow Musicians newcomers onto Anton’s new Musical venture-project. I don’t remember if I knew this back then precisely but I remember that moment vividly, I had a chat with both Guitarist Rodrigo Contreras and Drummer Joaquin Vallejo. Right after Fallout’s demise, Anton’s previous band, he had brought this two virtuoso musicians together from a Progressive Metal Band (influenced by the likes of Watchtower and Anacrusis) together along Juan Francisco Cueto who had Play with him previously, Anton assembled this new breed of Thrash-speed metal outfit which a little later became Criminal (don’t remember the year).

The band has seen not to many changes but on the drum stool position which has seen three significant replacements through the years, being the most influential moment also, the fact that both Rodrigo and Anton moved to Europe’s England and Germany respectively a few years ago and saw themselves in a Geographical need to look out for new Musicians in order to fill in for Drummer and bass positions. Enter percussionist Zac “Human Machine” O’Neil, meanwhile Juan Francisco took the chance to record all bass guitar parts for 2005’s Sicario, done in the old continent and later on he has been replaced by Dan Biggin yet still (Cueto) plays regularly when Criminal visits their homeland Chile.

White Hell steps forward a few squares ahead as in a chess game, basically taking over from where Sicario ended, as I see it the album it’s all what you would expect from this guys, fresh, aggressive, technical and cool. Heavy as Hell, the musical ideas develop once again between Anton’s inventive lyrics about how corrupted and fucked up this society is, moving along in contrast or in connection with top notch Musicianship delivered by these amazing expertise performers.

Rodrigo Contreras hooking phrasing technical approach has the breathtaking task of entangling Anton’s manic riffing and dense ideas. Portrayed here are altogether contributions that are shaped in an innovative dynamically and well-structured constructed songs.

The record itself gives us back hints from old school Thrash Metal Music, obviously due to the early influences on Anton’s catalog of hearing bands like Slayer, Kreator and Dark Angel, to me all three early incarnations of what later became known as Extreme Metal. Such bands where fast and had extremely intricate song structures, which is the surprising and predominant factor in White Hell’s. The cuts; Crime and Punishment and Sons of Cain are extending the once used 3:00 to 4:00 minutes straight forward aggressive pieces onto longer ones, such extra space leaves Rod (Rodrigo) and his amazing fret work games to truly shine intelligently on the album.

The aforementioned cuts deal lyrically with the deepness of human behavior and it’s obscure destiny through life.

The majority of the rest of tracks take us to a journey in the vastness of a struggling Universe, the decadence of Government and their corrupted ways and infiltrated manipulated systems, the paradoxical established entities such as Religion and marketed commerce that mainly focuses on self-grow enrichment.

With Incubus and Black Light the work stands back again onto more approachable short songs with that hooking characteristic vibe; harsh singing, medieval soloing, modal scaling, the hasty isochronal Riffing and the pounding drumming that comes from Zack’s impressive skills and precise velocity.

The Deluge and Strange Ways like the longer cuts are setting the different trend that there is to “White Hell”, in which there is yet time to slow things down a bit in order to get a dissimilar mood and darker ambiance in which the writings take center stage along a few hints of keyboard work without the overuse of it.

The album picks back up in speed on the next three tracks Mobrule (my favorite), Infidel and Invasion on them the Band depict how blind can society get into reaching certain levels of stupidity by worshiping false Gods, be permissive to a reach of Power Control and the sadness of Land conflict and Holy War, the breathtaking musicianship filled with syncopated fierceness and change in metrical measurement stands as on of the finest moments in Criminal’s career.

Criminal set themselves apart inside the Death Metal movement in which usually the main topics are based on Blood and Satanic themes. Still in an anti established yet straightforward trend with mature songwriting the guys have kept developing a style that sometimes stands still often due to the abuse of or lack of ideas.

They are one balanced strong voice in your face and a good dose of energy which can be still very “heavy” and scary due to them portraying the truthfulness of a real messed up world, they can easily be the politicians and corrupted people’s worst nightmare, need to say more? Buy the album, don’t download it because by doing that you’ll be against their rules and you know what happens if you do that to a “Criminal” right?

“Next comes an interview with Rodrigo Contreras and his impressions and experiences through “Criminal’s” White Hell recordings, past and present of the Band’s Work, also a few thoughts about The Metal movement and his future own plans ”

Interview by Rodrigo Trupp (July 2009)

-MEP: Why White Hell?
Rodrigo Contreras (Rod): We had several names for the CD, few went straight to become song titles, yet “White Hell” was the decision because it embraced a wider concept which covered what the ‘album Was (Musically and Lyrically). Also subjectively, it may be taken from different points of view making it very attractive as: the world of Cocaine (the Drug), An Hospital (A very bad place to be when being sick). A totalitarian and imposed white race, a Bedlam’s room, at last you can give it your own interpretation and according to me that’s very attractive, “White its a cold color, emptiness and nothingness also, something reflected on the cover too.

-Special moments and solos in particular?
Rod: I like a lot Incubus and Crime and Punishment because of the Speed melodies I Make, also Strange ways and Bastardom. Generally speaking I’m under pressure due to lack of time but on this one I had plenty. What’s important on the record is that there’s a lot of space and freedom technically and technologically to do overdubs (if necessary) while soloing.

I like a few more than others due to their improvised Nature mainly, but there’s a standard attachment flow to each song’s mood.
I’m working on compositions for a solo record, which would reflect what I could give as a guitar player and main arranger with a more varied stylistic spectrum.

-Favorite Tune?
Rod: The record in General, but favorites….Mmm?, could be the opening 21’st Century, Incubus, Black Light, Strange Ways, most Majority in the end!

-Main Differences between White Hell and Sicario?
Rod: Definitely Sicario its a more easy to digest record or “In Your Face” work with a more crude sound and less guitarist work than W.H. We had a little more time onto our last Record, reflected on a more detailed work…more complex than the previous one, yet I believe both have their different characteristics and Criminal’s personality, different engineer, different Country (Sicario was done in Germany, W.H. in the UK) it gives them a different Timbre.

-Differences between the last Record and Previous Work?
Rod: WH is our last record and in my opinion its one of the best albums we have until today. I believe our career has been a constant fight not only to get the best sound but to be as fresh and closer with the new trends of present times as we can, I mean, if a band sounds like Metallica’s …and Justice For All, will have to hear what’s sounding out there right now, which to me is much better than just following a style, you need an optimum sound in order to transmit certain messages, specifically your own.
Our first “Demo” we did in a very short amount of time and in Analog format. Victimized is a real good record but lacks a Professional Sound (we would love to re- master it in the near future). Dead Soul and Cancer are a bit Death/Thrash with their own hymns, and hints of that era of Sepultura, Slayer and a little bit of Fear Factory but with Criminal’s own apocalyptic ambient and Darker approach.

Now Sicario was the idea of having more simple cuts but effective completely in your face, no ambient, no effects, only aggression and rough sound. White Helll on the other hand its more profound and with a lot of more details, more Guitar, longer tracks, a lot of soloing, more open sound less compressed. At last our main goal its not just to be classified in one single style or genre or to sound like everybody else, we want to make Music that fulfills us that brings up for good quality and with good production.

-How was Dan (Bass Player) Brought into the Band?
Rod: Danny we met because our ex Bass Player, ex Cradle of Filth Robin Gaves, Dan helped as a roadie in a Tour over Germany, we all got along good, He loved our work and I believe he liked us too, he is a great person. When Juan Fco. Cueto (Kato) went back to Chile we found ourselves interviewing a few people and after a little bit we decided to give him the opportunity also because he was a friend already.
He saw the Material we where writing and also helped with the takes and wrote a couple of songs. He is a great friend he helped me with the recordings on my solo record. He is a quiet person compared to us but he joined in pretty good.

-What do you think about the resurgence of the Thrash Metal Movement in general and specially in Chile with the come back of bands like Chronos, Pentagram, Massacre and Necrosis?
Rod : I believe its good I mean anything that’s got to do with the genre or the scene is good, I think that new Bands should take advantage of the moment to come out and create a new movement as good as the one that already existed so it prevails in the future.

Thrash movement is at a world level rebirth, don’t know if it’s just mere nostalgia or if its just a stage in the wheel of Music, next it might be Death Metal and later on Hardcore Punk, nobody knows. For us criminal, there isn’t any changes, we just continue doing our Own.

-Which Bands from the old Death, Thrash, Brain Techno Metal school had influenced you in the past?
Rod: In my beginnings I loved Metallica, Slayer, Carcass, Morbid Angel, Fear Factory, Meshuggah. What i liked the most about this bands was their constant evolution and how other outfits came out of the styles they were coming up with, different tendencies, some more brutal, some more experimental, it was a time of creation. Also back then it was spoken a bout a new breed of young cross over the barrier people who were crushing against everything, that motivated me to follow those ideals. Since I was a kid it helped that I also listen to everything and learned Improvisation, Harmony and other stuff, also I had listen to Vinnie Moore, Greg D’ Angelo, Paul Gilbert(Racer X), Joe Satriani(Satch). I have never putted barriers in front of me to be a composer on a certain particular style, I have the necessary tools to do it and develop from there.

-Next Personal Project?
Rod: I would love to finish my new solo album before the end of 2009 and to be able to perform not only to Criminal Fans but also to other people, Metal and other taste of Music fans. This work it’s different I wouldn’t say its Metal, it sounds like it on my soloing, but its more Perfect and extended, it will have also some acoustics.
With Criminal we have plans to record another album maybe in 2010, or for the end of the year hopefully we will have enough material to go into the studio and have it released on 2011, I had been questioned about a Band parallel to Criminal, it’s something I’d like to do after recording my solo project.

Musica en Progreso: Thanks a lot Rodrigo for your time and Good Luck with everything.

Rodrigo’s Personal File.

Instrument and Brand of Preference:
Ibanez, Gibson, Mesa Boogie, Boss. I really like to get an Esp or get some vintage gear.
Favorite Musician: (s) Bach, Pink Floyd, A Holdsworth
Five best albums of all time (metal/Rock): Too many
Five best albums of all time (other styles): Far too many, this is a Planet of musicians!
Favorite Movie: Fantasy
Favorite Actor/Actress:
Favorite Food (dish): Chicken, Corma(Indian), Mongolian Meat with rice and spring rolls(Chinese). Chilean Chicken Soup, Sea food.
Favorite Drink: J D and Coke, Citron Vodka, Chilean Red Pinot or Cab.
Technical Data: (Equipment, Pedals “processor”, Pick brand/ Number. Strings Gauge):
At the moment I own 15 guitars: 2 custom Ibanez, 2 JS Joe Satriani model, 1 Gibson Goth, 2 Stratocasters, 3 IBZ RGS prestige, an english Maverick, a Paul Gilbert Ibanez etc
Mesa Boogie Dual rectifier, Marshall cab, Marshall Jcm 800 50 W,
Boss Pedals, ns2, harmonist, a GT8, tuner, delat dd3.
Morley Wha Wha pedal
Zoom 606 and 707(they are somewhere in the house..haha)
Dunlop picks
Fast fret
DR Strings only
Audiotechnica wireless system

Tuning Key for most of White Hell: C

Favorite Martial Art or Sport: I do sport in the morning with a trainer to keep fit, running, I did tae kwon do and karate, and if I had the time I would take one of them again. I like yoga as well.

Text:Rodrigo T.
Photos: "Taken from Facebook"
Criminal Chile 09-Carmen Ortiz
Criminal Chile 09 Dan Biggin
Wacken Germany 09-Samantha Carrington
Wacken Germany 09-Matt Davis


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