Chained in the Valley of Hades: Exclusive Interview with The Troops of Doom

Founding Sepultura guitarist, Jairo Guedz, returned in 2020 with his new band The Troops of Doom. The group have one aim – to play the primitive and nasty death metal Guedz helped to pioneer with the Brazilian legends in the mid-1980s.

As a debut record, The Rise of Heresy EP, is a statement of intent with its four new death-thrash compositions and two Sepultura covers. But 2020 has already seen his old bandmates release an excellent record with Quadra and Max Cavalera co-write the acclaimed new album from Killer Be Killed. Sepultura’s fractured fanbase remains divided between the Max and the post-Max era, yet The Troops of Doom might be the band that bring all sides together once more. Each of Jairo’s former comrades endorses his new project. If nothing else, it reminds us once more that Sepultura’s contribution to the origins of black and death metal is a vital one.

Scream Blast Repeat spoke to Jario Guedz about his plans for The Troops of Doom and his assessment of the legacy he and Sepultura left in those early years before Roadrunner Records signed them and launched them on the road to global stardom as metal’s most innovative act of the 1990s.

You’ve been quiet on the music front since leaving Eminence in 2006, although you play bass in a Metallica tribute band and guitar for the death-groove quartet, The Southern Blacklist. Why in 2020 did you decide to form a band with the express purpose of revisiting the nasty proto-death metal of early Sepultura?

At the end of 2019, Alex, who is the lead singer and bassist of The Troops of Doom, invited me to jam at a concert by another band of his, called ENTERRO. On this jam, we played the classic ‘Bestial Devastation’ from Sepultura, and the audience’s response was great! Then I decided that it was time to bring back this Sepultura era sound somehow, which is so special for me!

You’re still friends with the Cavalera brothers and joined them on stage in 2012 for a rendition of ‘Troops of Doom’. You also appeared as a guest with Sepultura at a live show in 2005. How did they react to your decision to form a band that aims to recreate the primitive death metal sound of early Sepultura?

My quit from Sepultura in 1987 was absolutely friendly! During all these years we keep our friendship extremely well, with both parts. The proof of this is that several times I participated in shows, making jams with them. Sometimes with Cavalera Brothers, other times with Sepultura. And I’m glad to walk among them without any bad feelings, you know. With the birth of The Troops of Doom, I made a point of, first of all, having the endorsement of both Max and Igor, as well as Andreas and Paulo. To my delight and satisfaction, they all received the news very well and praised the work, since our relationship has always been great and full of respect.

The fury and raw production on The Rise of Heresy is impressive. How did you get that savage 1980s extreme metal sound without using analogue recording equipment?

80s metal has always been my school. This musical style is in my DNA. When I started with The Troops of Doom, I had already set out as a goal, that our sound would be a rescue from that golden time. Not just in the compositions, but also through the sound production, artwork and everything else. I attempted to keep all the spirit for this EP. I recognize that we currently have a lot of technology, however, I wanted the music to sound primitive as in Sepultura’s first albums. I feel we have accomplished our goal!

You cover ‘Bestial Devastation’ and ‘Troops of Doom’ on your debut EP. You resisted the temptation to use Pro Tools to enhance the potency of the double-bass drums. Did any members of the band want to update these songs with more technical drumming to make it sound like a 2020 interpretation of metal from 1985/86?

We never meant to modernize the original version of the song in any way. We just tried to make the songs sound like it’s being played nowadays, everyone being more musically mature, let’s say…

Your vocalist, Alex Kafer, utilises the famous Tom G. Warrior death grunt throughout the record. What is your favourite Celtic Frost album and why?

Celtic Frost, as well as Hellhammer, have always been among my favourite bands, and it’s natural to capture influences in the work of The Troops of Doom. Regarding my favourite album, of course, To Mega Therion. It’s an album full of classics, with a raw sound, which brought a lot of originality between the metal bands of the 80s.

The story goes that the band members of Sepultura could not afford their own instruments for the recording of Bestial Devastation in 1985 and had to borrow them on entering the studio. Can you tell us more about this period?

At that time, we were very young, all under 18 years old. In Brazil, in this period it was practically impossible to have any kind of a good and imported musical instrument. On the other hand, we did not lack the will to make it happen. There was a brotherhood between the bands in Belo Horizonte, and there were some bands sharing the same instruments and gear. Nothing could stop our dream of showing our music to the world.

The band started writing for Schizophrenia in 1986/87, yet you left the band. We see that Bill Steer left Napalm Death a year later because he saw no longevity in the type of music they were playing. To what extent did you feel the same when you quit Sepultura?

Since I was in the band, I knew that Sepultura had something special and that each year it would grow more and more. My decision to leave Sepultura was a private and familiar one. It had nothing to do with musical direction, nor any discord between the members. Till this day I feel really honoured to have been able to write part of the band’s history.

You later joined Brazilian thrash metal act, The Mist, and made your debut on their 1991 album, The Hangman Tree. Your Wikipedia page says Music For Nations offered the band a contract but you turned it down. Why did The Mist decline this offer of a worldwide record deal?

At the time we were invited by Music For Nations, we already had a deal with Cogumelo Records, our record company since the beginning, which prevented us from going forward with any kind of negotiation.

Sepultura in 1986. Left to right: Max Cavalera, Paulo Jr, Jairo Guedz, Igor Cavalera.

There’s no doubt those first two Sepultura records had an enduring influence on death metal, Norwegian black metal and the blackened death metal we hear today. We know you had limited musical equipment and no recording studio in Belo Horizonte that understood this type of music at the time. Do you think this had more of an influence on the savage sound of the band or was it a conscious decision to embrace a raw Hellhammer direction to make the music as malevolent as possible?

Both! We had precarious instruments and studios that, despite having good resources, did not understand the sound proposal. At that time, we also didn’t work with producers. Although I feel these obstacles were rewarding because they ended up creating a unique sound, giving us such a strong identity that it crossed borders to the point of influencing various styles of extreme music in many parts of the world. Norwegian Black Metal is a great example of this!

Why were the first two Sepultura records more influenced by European metal rather than the American thrash bands breaking through at the time?

Both albums were extremely influenced by bands we were listening to at the time. Our favourite bands were: Hellhammer, Celtic Frost, Kreator, Sodom, Venom etc. Such bands at this time played a more extreme and obscure sound. I am a big fan of thrash metal too, however, the European sound was what influenced us directly at that time!

Along with Sarcófago, the early Sepultura records made quite an impact in the 1980s tape trading scene and influenced Napalm Death and other bands like Xecutioner (the predecessor to Obituary). But do you think Sepultura would still be remembered as a death metal pioneer if they hadn’t become one of the biggest and most influential metal acts of the 1990s?

Certainly, yes. From Schizophrenia, Sepultura basically became a thrash metal band. And those bands that you mentioned have a more extreme sound and more death metal. With that, I believe that the sound of the first two albums was a big influence for these bands since they have a typically death metal sound.

A sceptic might ask if you formed Troops of Doom to cash in on the famous Sepultura name at a time when many people’s livelihoods are under threat from Covid-19 and money is scarce. What do you say to these types of accusations?

I have never got any such accusation, and I believe I will never experience it. I’m playing a style of music for which I was one of the pioneers. It is part of my entire life story and it’s alive in me to this day. I found in The Troops of Doom the way to externalize songs that were kept inside me during all this time.

Last question: When can we expect a full-length album from Troops of Doom?

Sure thing! We’re working on it. We already have a bunch of riffs for what will be our full album. Recordings are scheduled to begin in March 2021 and we expect it to be released in June 2021.

*** The Troops of Doom released their debut EP, The Rise of Heresy, via Blood Blast Distribution on 09 October 2020. You can read the original SBR review here. ***