In November 2021, Ültra Raptör, Canadian heavy/speed metal band, released their debut album “Tyrants” for Fighter Records. Guys were willing to share their impressions about the album and many other stories with us.
Hi! Welcome to Abaddon Magazine. How is it in Québec City these days?
Pretty good I guess, all things considered. Especially since November 15 when bars and concert venues could re-open “for real”.
I want to congratulate you on your debut album ″Tyrants″. Really enjoyed listening to it. How is the feedback by now?
We couldn’t be happier with the reception. It’s been very positive so far!
The band was formed by Criss Raptör, Steve Force, and Rick Wild. How long have you known each other and how did you come to an idea to play together and form the band?
We know each other for quite a very long time. The Quebec City metal scene have a good crowd in a quite small city, so we pretty much know all each other from the early gigs we went to see when we were teenagers in the early-mid 2000’s.
Phil T. Lung joined the band in 2017. Who was singing before him?
The first initial plan was that I (Criss Raptör) sing and play guitar, Kai style.. But we ended up trying working with our best friend Phil T. Lung. Having found that pretty cool and exactly what we wanted, we just kept that lineup!
The last one who joined the band was Dick Van Heuß, how did basically death metal bassist fit in the Raptör world?
Richard joined us just before the Udo gig actually. He’s a really good bassist, can play many different styles and gets along real well with the rest of the guys.
You guys have really interesting stage names, so can you reveal what hides behind those.
I’m Cristòbal Raptollini aka „Criss Raptör“ playing lead guitars; born and bred in Palermo, Sicilia; We have the one and only: Philip Thunder Lundqvist aka“ Phil T. Lung“ doing vocals, coming from Örebro, Sweden; Richard Grøßgrënn Van Heuss aka “Dick Van Heuss“ on the subsonic 6 strings; from Rotterdam, Holland; Antonio Broncosaurus aka “Tony Bronco“ on drums, from Cape Town, South Africa; And last but not least: Nikolaï Kalashnikov (Николай Калашников) aka Nick Rifle, having the rhythm guitars duties, born in Vorkuta in 1956.
Not so many “beginners” have the opportunity to support big bands, but you got the chance to perform with Udo Dirkschneider. I can’t even imagine how I would feel, so tell me the level of your excitement, scariness when you hit the stage before Udo.
It was a bit scary but it was exciting for sure and it turned out pretty well in the end. We shared the backstage space with Elm Street (the other band on the bill) and they were super cool guys. We didn’t go out of our way to speak to Udo, just by respect for his privacy and we didn’t want to look like groupies.
The band was formed in 2015; in 2018 you released the EP “Ültra Raptör”. That was a digital release if I am not wrong. ″Tyrant″ brought a record deal with Fighter Records. So, can you tell me the good and bad sides of being an independent band and on the other hand having a label behind?
Along with digital, we released 200 copies of the first EP on a Digipak CD by ourselves. When you’re independent, you have complete control over the money, but also over the merchandising/promo and everything that comes with it, so it’s a lot of work. Right now we’re just really happy to have Fighter Records with us to push our music in the right circles and to release our album on vinyl which is one of the ultimate goals really.
After releasing the EP, Steve and Rick quit all other bands they were playing with and decided to focus on Raptör. So can we say you put all your hopes and dreams in this band?
Actually, Steve and Rick have exited Ultra Raptor to focus on Outre-Tombe. The two guys who focused on Ultra Raptor are Criss and Phil.
There were already some line-up changes by now?
The big line-up change was pretty much Steve and Rick quitting, we’ve been the same five guys since 2019.
Compared to an album, the EP has pretty much raw production. How did the creative process, writing, recording and everything else change from EP to an album? How much have you progressed, improved, learned?
The EP was a bit more rushed studio-wise for sure. For the album we used the same studio and same guy, but we did everything better (pre-production, drum recording, etc.) and took our time to get things right.
Some of the song titles are pretty funny (“Cybörg-Rex”, “Cadillacs and Dinosaurs”). When it comes to lyrics, song titles, I really like them and think they are fun and creative. What inspires you to write, how do you pick the topic, what is your working ethic?
Most of the time, what is important is getting a good riff progression first and then you brainstorm on what the song should/could talk about. Some lyrics come easier than others. Sometimes I’m inspired to write fantasy/sci-fi stuff but sometimes I also need to write stuff that’s more based on reality, all while romanticize it a bit to make it sound metal.
Is there anything you sacrificed by now for the band, and what would you sacrifice to chase your dreams?
As of now, we didn’t really sacrifice anything for the band, neither our jobs, free time and other activities. But we can tell that if and opportunity come to play in Europe per say, we’ll certainly evaluate to take all our vacation and make big room for that!
Your EP was digitally released and an album in CD, 12”LP, Cassette and Digital formats. What is your favorite format? Do you collect physical releases or rely on digital ones?
Four of us in the band have a record collection, so yeah we love vinyl and physical media in general. Digital is the norm nowadays and it has its convenience, but as a music fan and collector, I often feel like I haven’t heard an album “for real” until I heard it on record or CD. As long as there will be real die-hard music fans, the physical format will carry on in some form or another.
Tell me something more about the metal scene in Canada. Kataklysm, Gorguts, Cryptopsy and Voivod are also from Québec if I am not wrong. How are the fans, are there any cult metal clubs?
Indeed these bands all come from the province of Québec and we’re from Québec City which is part of the province. Québec has a lot of death, black and more modern “core” bands, but newer bands playing old school speed metal like us, not so much. There’s Starlight Ritual from Montreal which are pretty good, some others I could name would be Metalian, Warning Sign, Cauchemard… My favorite metal album out of our province of Québec would be Sword – “Metalized” (1986).
How the situation there is, is there any possibility to play in clubs and do you plan any official album release show?
Since November 15th, we’re able to play gigs with a normal crowd, but masks and vaccinal passports are necessary. Not perfect but better than before. As soon as we get our LPs from Fighter, we’ll set up some gigs.
Tell me something more about the album cover. How did you put a giant T-Rex over pyramide?
That concept comes from the lyrics to the song “An Offering to the Tyrant”. I wrote the story thinking about the movie Apocalypto and all the ancient Mayan civilizations. I thought “what if a tribe is making a sacrifice, but instead of gods in the sky, it’s a T-Rex god?” and made a small story with it.
There is a lot going on on that cover. Introduce us to an artist who stands behind it and reveal the whole idea behind it, is there any deeper meaning?
The main piece is definitely the T-Rex on top of the Mayan pyramid which refers to “An Offering to the Tyrant”, his robotic eye makes a reference to the song “Cyborg-Rex”, the spaceship going away is a reference to “SpaceFighter”. These are the main themes and the rest is eye-candy.
Does the same author stand behind the EP cover, the style is pretty much similar?
Yes, they were both hand-made oil paintings by Marie-Pier Lapointe, an artist also from Québec City. Both paintings take elements of Frank Frazetta’s art reinterpreted in our universe.
Can you extract the song you think is the album holder, the one that represents the band in the best light, one that is your trade mark?
The three singles released before the album were “Missile”, “Gale Runner” and “Caustic Shower”, and I still think these 3 shows what we’re all about. Some melodic speed, some mid-tempo catchy riffage, and some thrashier speed.
My favorites so far are ″Missile (Metal Warrior)″, ″Gale Runner″, ″Winds of Vengeance″ and ″Spacefighter″. Do you have any plans to work on videos in the near future?
For now we don’t really have a plan for a video. They need to be really well done to be convincing/not cheesy and we feel like they don’t matter as much as back in the MTV days.
“Gale Runner” is about speed, freedom… So I have to ask you why you would rather pick a motorcycle over a car?
Well it can be car or even a bicycle if you want to, as long as you go fast and feel free! It’s indeed the sample of a Harley-Davidson in there though. Criss would definitely choose a motorcycle as his transport of choice, but Phil would rather go with a Mopar muscle car, something like a ’69 Charger.
I have spent my childhood with granddad on his motorcycle and this song just recalls my memories. But what I want to ask you now is: what makes a good motorcycle rider and what makes a good musician? Time to drain your brain! 😉
Haha! Good question! Riding motorcycle, even though could be very relaxing and liberating at some points, require constant (constant..) focus! To take a curve in a narrow road in the Quebec mountains at 75mph and landing your “1634234” notes solo in Take Me Back is pretty much the same thing!!
So, as I might mention, band members have a different musical background, Raptör is basically a heavy, speed metal band, is it difficult for black, death guys to fit in, not just as musicians, but generally speaking in creative process?
Not at all! That brings creativity, more elements and we professionally challenge ourselves constantly to retrieve the best out of our ideas. Since we are all very close friend from the beginning and that apart of the extreme metal scene background my teammates have, we all listen so much traditional heavy metal!
It is obvious you are interested in comic books, tell me your favorites.
The Killing Joke from DC comics was pretty good, I’m a big Wolverine fan, loved Weapon X. I also like some Judge Dredd. Frank Miller’s Robocop VS. Terminator. As a kid I’ve read almost all “Bob Morane” and “XIII”.