March 2009 - DEATH MASK
There are always bands in music history that fade into obscurity, because they never had the chance to release anything or there was no real support during their brief existence. Not each of those bands deserve attention after twenty years, but DEATH MASK should find a place in the heart of people, who like their metal doomy and extremely heavy. Founded in 1985 in Maryland DEATH MASK were different from bands like The Obsessed, Asylum/Unorthodox or Revelation. Of course, they were also strongly influenced by Black Sabbath, but they incorporated influences from Venom or Celtic Frost into their massive sound. For me each heavy band from the Maryland area is unique, but DEATH MASK was something special, because they sound so brute and merciless. It's a shame that they never had the chance to do a proper recording of their vicious sound, but a few years ago Old Metal Records released a compilation entitled 'Exhumation' that gives a fair impression into the world of DEATH MASK. I was very glad when bassist/vocalist Dave 'Hoss' Sherman (no, it's not the guy from Earthride!) send me a copy of that album and I was happier that he and former guitarist Tom Marchiano were interested in doing an interview with Cosmic Lava. So, here's the fertile result and it's up to you to discover one of the last secrets in Marylands interesting history of heavy music.
I was very excited, when you sent me a copy of 'Exhumation' last year, because my interest in all the heavy bands from Maryland/DC isn't lesser than it was 20 years ago. For most of the readers DEATH MASK is still an unknown band, so please give me an insight in the brief history of the band. When did you start the group and did you play a lot of shows?
Hoss: Tom And I formed the band in 1985 so we could play the same kind of music we loved listening to. Heavy metal brought certain emotions to the surface and we wanted to see if we could capture that same feeling in our own music. As to the number of gigs we had, there really weren't that many but I think we kicked as much ass as possible when we did gig.
I really love the name DEATH MASK because it's to the point and fits absolutely to your crushing sound. Who came up with that idea?
Hoss: I came up with the idea and it came from a Black Sabbath song. On the original pressing of Sabbath's 'Master Of Reality' the opening movement of 'Into the Void' was called Death Mask, I thought it would be a great name as well as a bow of respect to the originators of heavy metal and Tom agreed.
Did you play in other bands before you founded DEATH MASK, and from where did you draw your influences?
Hoss: No I actually picked up the bass just so I could jam with Tom because I loved the way he played (still do!!!!!). We listened to far too many bands to listed here but if I had to sum up our sound I'd have to say it was the bastard child of Black Sabbath/Trouble/Celtic Frost & Venom. Total POWER DOOM!!!!!
Tom: No no other bands, I jammed with other people here and there but nothing that could be considered a band.
In contrast to bands like The Obsessed or Asylum/Unorthodox the sound of DEATH MASK was mercilessly brutal and so heavy that my speaker always bleed after each time I listen to 'Exhumation'. How did the the people react to your massive sound at your gigs? Did you cause any riots and how much people came to your shows?
Hoss: The people seemed to react great, we always seemed to go over well, no riots though! Crowds at metal gigs back then never were real big but the people who went were die hard loyal metal-heads. I remember one time being asked for our autographs as we were leaving a Metallica/Ozzy show, some kids outside the venue recognized us from a gig we did a bout a week earlier!
Tom: It used to really suprise me when the crowd would start moshing to our faster tunes, you know the people are into it when that happens. What a great feeling!
It would be really interesting to know with whom you shared the stage in the mid-80's, and are there any shows, no matter if they were good or bad that you still remember after almost 25 years?
Hoss: Our 1st gig was supporting The English Dogs, We also did a show with Asylum & Revelation, But most of our shows were at local bars and we generally played for beer!
Tom: And exposure! My favorite gig would have been the east side club in D.C, I think the responce was great and it just seemed to be our night. Judging from the audience reaction I thought we were actually going to be sucessful.
Today a lot of people, who love doom-infected heavy rock know most of the bands from Maryland, but after I discovered DEATH MASK I can imagine that maybe there have been more bands like yours, who only existed for a short time, and never released anything. Can you give me any insider's tip of lost bands?
Hoss: About the only band from around that area you've probally never heard of was a band called REACTOR (one of MY all time favorites!!!!!). A couple of ex-Pentagram members that put together a band and kicked out some seriously heavy ass stuff in my opinion! Tim at Shadow Kingdom Records is putting out their stuff here in a few months, so you'll be able to here that soon as well.
You never released anything when you was around, what is really sad. What's the reason for it?
Hoss: There weren't as many labels around in those days, everyone was into "tape trading" which led to bands like Metallica, Slayer, & Anthrax as well as a slew of other bands getting signed, it just never happened for us. We were actually told one time by a label that we were "too heavy" for their taste's. It's funny that metal has taken a turn toward the extreme in recent years but when we were doing it nobody was really into the real "over the top" stuff!
What happened when DEATH MASK split-up in 1987? Have you ever thought about forming a new band or maybe to join another group or did you lose interest in playing music?
Hoss: We never really made a concious decision to break-up, we lost our rehearsal space and couldn't seem to find another and we just sort of drifted apart. They say "life is what happens when you've made other plans!"
Tom: Yeah, I agree with that we just got involved in living different lives. As far as forming other bands, I've jammed with other people over the years but nothing ever ended up as a band. Interestingly though one person I've played with several times is John Garner of Sir Lord Baltimore.
I'm certain that you know the German record label Hellhound Records which signed a lot of bands from your area in the early 90's. Did it sadden you that DEATH MASK wasn't no more at that time?
Hoss: Yeah I've thought a time or two that things might have been different if some of the independent labels had been around sooner but I don't think Hellhound would've wanted us because of our thrashier side. Its definitley a situation of "I wish I knew then what I know now". Hell anymore if a band can't get signed they just start their own label and put their stuff out on their own. You've got to admire that kind of dedication!
When did you had the idea to release 'Exhumation' and how did you get together with Old Metal Records?
Hoss: King Fowley was a fan of our music and was at most of our shows back in the day so when he and I stumbled across each other on the internet, he told me he had his own label and threw the idea of a cd at me I thought it would be a great way for the music to get and after all these years finally see the light of day.
It's a real shame that it's very difficult to get a copy of the compilation, because the distribution of Old Metal Records isn't the best. Fortunately Shadow Kingdom Records will re-release 'Exhumation' in a few months with expanded booklet and slightly remastered sound. How did it come about?
Hoss: Tim e-mailed me about it, he thought more people should hear the music and he had a wider distribution. It was always about the music with us, we just want people who like hard and heavy music to get a chance to hear it. What King and Old Metal did for us was great but I do believe that with Shadow Kingdom a lot more people will finally be able to get ahold of and jam to it. From what Tim told me the other day it should be out in a few weeks.
The interest in DEATH MASK is now bigger than ever, and I hope that it will grow more after the re-release of your CD. Don't you get a lot of inspiration from all that and have you ever thought about a reunion of the band? It would be awesome to listen to a proper studio album from DEATH MASK....
Hoss: I believe a proper reunion is out of the question in that we live so far apart now, but Tom and I were friends before we were band mates so we have stayed in contact and always will. Ed dropped out of the picture some years ago and neither of knows how or where to contact him.
Tom: We have been colaberating on new songs and hope to put out a new DEATH MASK album in the near future. It's going to take some time but in the long run I'm sure it'll be everybit as heavy and brutal as before, we wouldn't put the DEATH MASK name on it if it weren't.
What are you doing today? How do you earn your money and are you still in contact with some of the bands/musicians in Maryland/DC?
Hoss: I drive a tour bus for an up & coming entertainer, I have had some contact with some old school people here and there through the internet. Myspace is a wonderful comunication tool.
Tom: I'm a forklift operator, and have had little to no contact with bands from the past. I saw some people at the Doom Or Be Doomed fest two years ago, but that's about it.
Since the 80's we've undergone a lot of changes. Today there's the internet and everything seems to be more commercial than ever. What is your opinion about our current times and the music industry in general?
Hoss: Our current times are very dark, which is good inspiraton for metal tunes ;-). As to the music industry there is a lot of good music out there you just have to dig through a ton shit to get to the good bits!
Tom: Yeah! It's a sad world today, in and out of the music field, modern rock is pretty much crap underground music is all that keeps it alive.
Thanks a lot for your time! That's all I wanted to ask you for that moment. I wish you all the best for your future! Keep it heavy!
Hoss: Thanks so much for your interest and your compliments on our music. Watch for the re-issue and keep an eye on the Myspace page for news on the new album: www.myspace.com/deathmaskmetal or: deathmask87(at)yahoo.com
Tom: For anyone out there thats a DEATH MASK fan I'd just can't show my appreciation enough! Thanks so much for your support, hope to kick your ass with the new stuff!
Hoss: Here - Here & Hell Yeah!!!!!