When it comes to Houston metal, Venomous Maximus stands out as one of the heavier purveyors of the dark and cacophonous arts. Their releases have met with wild acclaim and their live shows are loud and brutal affairs. In keeping with their musical philosophy, the new album, Beg Upon the Light, reaches deep into the cauldron of classic metal and pulls out something uniquely of their own making. Unlike many metal bands, VM does not shy away from gentler folk and psychedelic elements - for every searing “Battle of the Cross” there is a quieter “Father Time.” It’s that balance that marks them as a metal band whose sound is as expansive and cinematic as it is heavy and brutal. Vocalist and guitarist Gregg Higgins was kind enough to chat with us about the new album.
The album opens with an organ. Why not just go right to the rock?
Higgins - Tradition. Most of my favorite heavy metal recordings began with organ intros. I am also a big fan of soundtrack music like Goblin. Any chance we get to play around with stuff like that, we are gonna take. Plus, it gives you a chance to prepare your ears and set the mood.
A lot of these songs are in the tradition of classic old school metal. I hear elements of Maiden, Sabbath, Priest, and the like. Why does that music still hold up?
Higgins - In the 70′s, those Brits really got it right - combining classical leads on top of blues hard rock. It’s the philosopher’s stone. Some things are just perfect and never need to change. That’s one of my complaints about the world today; no one’s satisfied. Everything has to be better and easier - heart and soul don’t work like that. We never wanted to do anything new. It’s all about resurging things from the past. Someone has to hold down the fort.
Even with all those elements, Venomous Maximus stands on its own. What makes this band so unique and not just a rehash?
Higgins - It’s all about knowing when you can break the rules. My older sister played a lot of Depeche Mode, Fleetwood Mac, and Madonna. When I sing, I have them all in mind. None of us are afraid of these things. If you embrace everything, you have absolute power.
You have a lot of quiet elements for a metal band.
Higgins - If you’re a guitar player and you don’t sit at home practicing and playing medieval riffs, you’re missing out and shouldn’t be playing heavy metal or hard rock. Being just heavy means you’re only producing one feeling. 60% of the time life is a battle and people need ways to express dark and unsettling feelings and music has been helping do this since day one but if all you can do is project anger and aggression, you’re just a macho one trick pony to me.
Where was the album recorded and what was it that took it to the next level?
Higgins - Craig Douglas and Mark Lopez recorded us at Origin Sound in Spring, TX. I’ve known Craig for over a decade and that dude jams metal for breakfast. I always knew when it was time for the full length album, it would be with him. Whoever is recording your record should be a fan of the type of music you play. This year I am turning 30 and it’s also 2012 so I feel an urgent panic to create everything that I have always wanted. This is the record I envisioned writing when I was a little boy and it’s taken this long to finally get the chance. That’s the thing with life; when you want something so bad for so long, it might take half of your life to get there.
How important is art is to your music?
Higgins - It’s everything. There’s a list from 1 - 10. Music is first, art is second, and you’re crazy if you think I am gonna finish this list. We always have a good laugh because most people don’t know there’s a list.
Will we ever see a VM pic with you guys doing anything involving the sun?
Higgins - This band is a creature of the night not a day tripper. The daytime is for the working class - nothing magical happens during lunch time.
There’s a supernatural element to VM. Care to elaborate?
Higgins - Some of us have these things in our lives since day one. The 1st thing you learn is not to talk about it, it’s pointless. So what better way to talk about it than through the band? Our songs are real things that have happened. I don’t read Bukowski and write about how he influenced me, I am Bukowsi. All of these songs have something to do with things that have happened to me. Once you transfer experiences into a piece of art it makes me feel better about understanding why it happened.
When will you know you have reached the apex of all heaviness?
Higgins - It’s like following a treasure map with no map or treasure. If I knew, there would be no point in doing this.
Venomous Maximus album release October 20th 2012 @ Fitzgerald’s
With Mothership, Hamamatsu Tom & The Drink Tickets, and Brimwylf
$10 All Ages 8pm
For more visit: www.venomousmaximus.com