Sacrifice the Weak
From a world controlled by corporations protecting their interests, international governmental struggles for supremacy, religious leaders bent on spiritual conquest all the way down to mankind's personal lusts and desires, Judgement's 'Sacrifice the Weak' is a scathing indictment of the human condition. Building upon the success of their sophomore effort 'The Bitter End', as well as a new injection of energy with the addition of drummer Steven Harrell, Judgement headed into the writing of their new album without the initial idea of a concept album. 'When we first started writing new material after releasing our last album, the first few songs were somewhat disparate,' says Nate Wright (guitarist). 'But as the writing process went along and Steve (Coen, vocals) brought in the lyrics, the overpowering theme was this idea of abuse of position to gain or exert power over another person, on different sizes and scales.' As this idea was discussed among the band, it became part of Coen's vision to tie the songs together and expand even more on the idea that seemed to present itself. Coen says, 'One of the last songs I wrote lyrics for was 'Sacrifice the Weak', which kind of tied the whole thing together with the idea of a corporate controlled world. It brought the more personal aspects of some of the songs to a higher level with a broader outlook on the world and the direction it seems to be heading.' Coen is not far off the mark, as the songs 'Victim' and 'Predatory' revolve around the idea of one person taking another life because of a lustful desire to have that power over another while 'Face Down' is written from the viewpoint of the oppressed finally overcoming the oppressor. As the scope widens, Coen's lyrics bring to life these same ideals on larger scales, be it spiritual power struggles in 'Revelation' to Hitler's rise to power and accompanying atrocities against humanity in 'Black Wings.' And finally, interpersonal power struggles are dealt with on 'Silent the Insane'. Not content to let the music do the talking, the band commissioned cover art from Indianapolis based artist Kelsey Bigelow to bring their visions from the music into reality. 'We found Kelsey through looking for artists on the web, and it happened by coincidence she was from Indianapolis. We sent emails to her describing what we were looking for, and she would do some rough sketches and outlines to help visualize the concept. In the end, she absoutely nailed the idea we presented to her and we couldn't be happier,' Wright says. Serving as a platform for Coen's vitriolic lyrics is a stable and hefty slab of metallic instrumentation. Blastbeats, furious double bass footwork, fast paced but gargantuan riffs and a thick low end bring the lyrics and imagery to life, and it is in no small part thanks to incoming drummer Steven Harrell. A San Antonio native, Harrell was a recent transplant to Indiana when he came across the band's ad for a new drummer. 'When our previous drummer left (Greg Sasser) we were really nervous about how long it would take to find a drummer that matched what Greg brought to the table,' says Wright. 'Steve and I had already written a couple new songs ('Revelation' and 'Victim') and we were looking to prepare for our next album. Thankfully we were only a few auditions in when Steven contacted us about trying out. Within I think 3 days of having the rehearsal CD of tunes, Steven wanted to set up an audition. I was hesitant at first because I didn't think he'd had enough time with the songs, but he came in and knocked them out with perfection.' It didn't take long for the rest of the band to realize they had found their new drummer. Not only did Harrell fill the role of drummer, but he has also proven to be a huge contributor in the writing process. Says Harrell, 'I wanted to be in a band that wrote good songs, but I also wanted to be in a band where I had a say in the music, and I wanted the band to give the music I write a chance. Usually it's the guitar and bass player or vocalist doing the writing and the drummer takes a back seat.' Harrell's first song presented to the band, 'Black Wings', was the turning point for the group. 'We realized that not only had we gained a drummer, but we had also found a guy who wanted to contribute to the writing process,' says Coen.' 'In many ways, I feel that this is Steven's album, as most of the songs came as a result of his riffs, and the energy and drive he has injected into the band has given us a new life, and a different sound. We are playing faster and heavier music, which is right in line with what we want to do as we progress. I dig the riffs Steven writes, even if I can't always play them (laughs). At times, we worked together on the song structure or riff structures to bring them into familiar ground within the band's 'sound', which was great,' Wright says. 'Hopefully people will hear the difference in our sound and like it, the songs are heavier and faster, and the theme of the CD is something we've never done before, so it's all new to us,' states Coen. 'This is probably my favorite release from the band,' says Wright. 'The whole album was a 'band album' in a lot of ways because we had more contributions and input as the songs were written outside of practice than we ever had before. Instead of going to practice and hoping a riff would come along, we were able to utilize our time outside the band to write and work on new material and send it back and forth among each other through email. Since we all live so far apart, this sped up the process of introducing a new song into the band and having everyone get it down so Steve could write the lyrics. We could all come to practice to actually practice as a band rather than write since we had rehearsed the stuff at home. While it isn't a new idea, it was new for us and I think it worked.' Fast tempos and frenetic paces are not the only soundscapes on a Judgement album. The band has become known, sometimes infamously, in their local scene as 'the metal band with the quiet songs.' Since the release of the 2006 debut EP, Judgement has included interludes interspersed within each release. 'All of us like the quiet and moody pieces as much as we like metal,' says Wright. 'We don't necessarily want to be a band that plays that stuff live, but for a CD sometimes it's a nice way to provide contrast and make the heavy songs heavier without detracting from the heavy songs on their own...It's like walking out into the sunshine before heading back into the dark dungeon (laughs). In the context of listening to an album all the way through, I think it helps guide the listening experience.' Previously these interludes would be personal pieces the band would bring in, like 'Adrift' (2006 EP) from former bass player Jeff Mason, or 'Existence Denied' and 'Soulos Eternale' from Wright. 'I can't speak for how or why Jeff's interlude was written, but for me it was cathartic and comforting to write the pieces on past albums.' And for the 'new guy' Harrell, the musical interludes were just another way for Harrell to solidify his presence in the band. A prolific composer of a variety of music styles, Harrell's contributions can be heard on 'Sacrifice the Weak' as both 'Prelude' and 'the Broken' are his creations. With the release of 'Sacrifice the Weak', Judgement hopes to bring their newfound energy and drive to a larger crowd than ever before. Says Coen, 'We want to be able to play more places, more stages and rock more faces than we ever have in the past. This is a defining moment for the band, and we are ready.' Wright agrees, 'Playing these new songs on stage is killer. The riffs and speed are energizing, and the songs are just so much heavier than what we've done before. I feel like the crowd sees and feels the fun we have playing these songs, and hopefully will pick up on that for years to come.'