Dethlehem is an RPG themed melodic death metal band from Pittsburgh, PA. They most recently released their third album, Destroyers of the Realm, with their most recent music video. “Mystic Island.” which premiered on Vice, being touted as “equal parts GWAR and D&D.”
First off, do you all actually play D&D?
Hildor: Yes. Literally just finished up a campaign on Friday (2/27), starting 5th edition in about a week. Kind of excited, new adventure, new rules.
Overlord Brom (muffled): My life is a D&D campaign, so I live it every day. I’m a level 20 video technician.
H: We’re super dorky, so yeah.
OB: We do a lot of tabletop, a lot of video games too.
H: A lot of Magic: The Gathering.
Other than D&D, what else do you play?
H: We’ll play Tunnels and Trolls, which is sort of like the OG D&D competitor, I play that. So two RPG campaigns.
OB: We used to play Warhammer.
H: Yeah, I have a shelf with just armies that are hand painted. It doesn’t really get any nerdier than that.
OB: I just finished Dragon Age (Inquisition) on Playstation 4, and I’m pretty sad about it. I might actually start a new character on that; go through, spend another 80 hours of my life.
H: I play a lot of board games.
OB: Pretty much anything, we’re console gamers, PC gamers, and tabletop.
H: And we dress up like knights.
OB: Basically I was semi-joking, like my life is pretty much a D&D campaign in some regard.
So you actually live the image?
OB: Yeah, I’m wearing armor right now actually. I sleep and bathe in it.
You just put out your newest album Destroyers of the Realm, is that based on any specific campaign?
H: No, but it is sort of based off of, well my character is the character I’ve been using for like ever. My D&D character is Hildor, except he’s a wizard. I was supposed to switch to wizard in the story, but we cut.
OB: When Dethlehem started, Hildor over here, pretty much his real life avatar Doyle, he used Hildor as a character for all his campaigns and when we decided to do that band and do the concept of an RPG-based metal band, he brought his character into the band and now acts him out in real life for the most part, and we all followed suit in some way, shape, and form.
H: It’s like a way to live vicariously through myself.
OB: (To Hildor)Being yourself. It’s like you’re role-playing yourself,
H: It’s real meta.
OB: We’re the thinking man’s metal band.
That actually kind of answered my next question, I was going to ask if your personas were based off of your D&D characters. Is that how it goes for everyone?
H: I would say so.
OB: Except for Rick, Bovice is kind of…
H: We kind of invented Bovice.
OB: We invented Bovice because, he’s a really creative guy, but we needed a white knight, the very …
H: The paladin.
OB: The paladin, and he was like “whatever you guys think I should be,” and we were ‘well be this.’ And I think he went with that, he was cool with it. I chose this guy that wears a helmet because my drumming face is just really stupid and I figure if I can hide that the best I can, and a full face, eight pound metal helmet was the best option.
What classes make up your entire party?
H: We initially started with traditional D&D classes, but we kind of wanted to make our own thing. So I’m a thief, flesh out the party with that.
OB: I’m just this warrior, two-handed. I never really carry a shield on any of the photo shoots we do. It’s always big-ass swords.
H: Our singer is like half-magic, half-, he’s like a warrior mage.
OB: He definitely can cast spells, he’s kind of low level on that.
H: And out bassist is a ranger.
OB: Our bassist, we got him for the ranged attacks.
H: We needed a bow guy in there. Then we have our paladin, sword-shield, healer, semi-tank.
OB: Clearly we put a lot of thought into it.
H: It’s a pretty well rounded party.
OB: We’ve been through so many bass players, and they’ve all taken different classes, so we pretty much can’t lose anybody else or else we’ll need to revive someone.
H: We’ve got to re-spec, you know?
Before you play any of your solos, do you have to roll a D20 (dice)?
H: Of course.
OB: We stop the songs.
H: If we roll a 1, you only hit one note the whole time and bend it out.
OB: If you’re curious to how that happens, check out our Bovice’s Master Fingering Class video on YouTube. He teaches you how to play the solo to one of our songs (Oathbound).
H: But we only roll crits in this band, so.
OB: Usually critical misses.
H: All critical hits.
What is the hardest part about playing a show in full armor?
H: You don’t see anything, like I wear a hood, like an Assassin’s Creed style hood, and I can’t see anything. So most of the time you just got a bit of think of it, feel it, and it’s super-duper hot. When you see most metal bands, those guys take their shirts off, we put on like three shirts that are wool and long-sleeve, draping across out legs. It’s really hot.
OB: It’s a lot you have to think about. I have I have to drums to set up, and we also have to account for putting on our armor, and then I have to help. We each have our jobs. I can put my armor on by myself, but I have to help Bovice put on his armor.
H: We have teams.
OB: Our lead vocalist, Brutalitus the Bloodbeard, he can’t. He needs probably two or three squires.
H: I strap him in.
OB: Two or three squires, or one Hildor, to get him in his armor. It’s kind of like we’ve done it enough now that we don’t really think about it much, but when we first started it, it was like “oh shit, we’ve got to do…
H: We’ve got to dress each other.
OB: …we’ve got to dress each other. You’ve got to allow for some extra time basically, and be prepared to sweat.
H: Sweating, and it’s just stiff. It’s hard to move, but we make it work.
Do you plan on getting really famous, shedding the armor, and going through a disco phase?
H: If that would bring in the dollars, sure.
OB: I’ll leave my armor on, and do the disco.
H: We’ll do a KISS phase.
If a dark wizard were to enslave all of you and force you to fight each other, who do you think would win, and how?
H: I don’t want to admit it, but probably Brutalitus would win because he’s got blood dripping from his mouth because he apparently bites people. I don’t really want to mess with that.
OB: He definitely fights really dirty, but then again, I think I’m immortal so…
H (To Brom): Yeah, you can’t really die, we haven’t tried yet.
OB: Now that you say that, that’s a cool concept for a future album I’m thinking, we all turn on each other.
H: Do it battle royale style.
OB: We all turn on each other, and then we actually don’t get together enough to write music, because we all hate each other so that album is just us all grunting into the microphone, fighting for 63 minutes I’m thinking. That would be good, people would buy that I’m thinking.
H: And that one ends in really weird moans for some reason.
(cue uncontrollable laughing)
OB: We all start to love each other again.
What do you guys have coming up next, shows, albums, your disco phase, any big bosses on the horizon?
OB: There’s always somebody that needs slaying.
H: There’s going to be potentially a new video we’re going to be working on soon.
OB: We have a lot of plans this year, and right now we’re working on something a little secretive.
H: We can say for this.
OB: We’re working on a video game EP, basically video game covers in our style of metal, and we’re going to call it…
H: Well don’t say that, it’s a great name.
OB: It’s a great concert for an EP, we’ll put it that way.
H: We’ve played a couple songs at video game conventions.
OB: Like MAGfest we played a Metroid medley that we did, Mega Man Dr. Wily Stage, so we’re going to include stuff like that into the EP. Like Hildor said, we’re going to be working on another music video, probably will less choreographed dancing. Less dancing, more battling, because you don’t want to do the same thing twice. Now we’ve established that we can choreograph dance and do that really well and be really sexy, we’re going to move on from that.
H: We’re looking at doing a small summer tour.
OB: Touring is definitely going to happen in the summer, and then after that we’re already writing some new music, some original music.
H: We might try to start that later this year, but there’s a lot.
OB: We never really have any down time in this band.
Do you have any upcoming shows?
H: We’re doing sort of our CD release, kind of, even though we already released it, we never really did a CD release show.
OB: So Destroyers of the Realm came out in January, January 6th, and because we had some other things going on, it’s the middle of winter, we decided not to do the CD release show around then. So we’re going to do this at Mr. Smalls in Pittsburgh on May 2nd, we’re going to play the entire album, and a couple little surprises I hope we can get thrown in. We’re expecting to play for about an hour. It’s gonna be rough, we very rarely play for a full hour in armor. It’s usually 35-40 minute sets, so hopefully nobody passes out.
You’re going to need to put on some stamina buffs and stock up on potions. You mentioned playing MAGfest, how was that?
H: That was awesome. We played Saturday night, and then later that night I’m watching a Japanese DJ who flew in, and literally did the music for Katamari Damacy, and I’m dancing to him after I played metal in armor. It was one of the craziest nights of my life.
OB: MAGfest is a very awesome experience, to even just go there in general, and then we got to play it. It’s awesome, you get to meet a lot of people, and it’s a very eclectic group of musicians.
H: Awesome nerd bands, you know?
OB: It was cool, we were received really well for being probably the heaviest band there I would say. Powerglove was pretty heavy too, but they don’t have the death metal-type screaming vocals.
H: For us being as heavy as we are, it went down really well.
As far as video games music goes, what game soundtracks have had the biggest impact on you guys?
H: For us, well me, it’s been the Castlevania series. It’s sort of what inspired our third CD, the storyline is kind of Castlevania-ish; try to get to this castle and take down the dark lord.
OB: We draw a lot of influences from video games in general, but it so happens that Castlevania.
H: It’s dark, just really dark.
OB: it was a little bit heavier of an influence on Destroyers of the Realm.
H: Lots of Metroid too, Super Metroid. Just any kind of video game that has dark music from that old era.
Without giving too much away as to the songs, can you at least hint as some of the games that will appear on the new EP?
H: Well I just mentioned two of them (Castlevania and Metroid).
OB: We’ll say the ones that we played live that are gonna be on there, if you haven’t seen us in the last couple of years. We’re definitely going to do the Mega Man “Dr. Wily Stage, then Castlevania “Vampire Killer.” Our Metroid Medley…
H: A couple of songs.
OB: That’s a couple of songs we throw together. I think those are, what else have we done? Those are the only ones that we play live. There are a few more that we don’t want to say because we’ve never played them live and we want to surprise. We’ve got to keep the surprises coming.
I can’t ask you to give everything away.
OB: That’s a good taste though.
H: It’ll be a really cool CD, I love those songs and it’s just really fun to make.
OB: A lot of people have been asking us to record these songs for a while, so I think it’s gonna go over pretty well with the core fans at least.
OB: Yeah, D&D core (Laughs)
Now is that something you guys coined, or did you get that from somewhere?
H: Yeah, we coined it I guess.
OB: Yeah, I don’t think we stole that one.
H: We’re the only RPG metal band that I know.
OB: We were saying D&D metal earlier, but we figured to slowly switch it over to RPG metal because we don’t want to leave video games out. So pretty much any type of role-playing game are really good influences on us. We say RPG metal and I don’t think anybody else says that. With all the PR we got for the last, Destroyers of the Realm, release a lot of people were saying “so if you’re like me and never heard of RPG metal and want to know what that sounds like, it pretty much sounds like melodic death metal, but with some video game references.” But that’s just an oversimplification of it, I would say it’s pretty good though for a quick explanation.
H: We have a very serious story.
OB: Yeah, we take everything really seriously, so that’s definitely something that puts us above other bands.
You can definitely tell in your dialogue writing, especially for your character Brom.
H: The sad part is we spent too much time writing that.
OB: The original versions of those interludes were like six minutes long (laughs). They’re funny the first time around, but then it’s like “okay, alright, this is too much,” so we cut them down. I think the longest one is still under two minutes, which might be considered too long for some people, but we’re Dethlehem and we’re gonna do what we want.
So you didn’t just sit down at a campaign with recorder on the table and play through it?
OB: We did exactly that, but 100 times for each one. Basically we get better at the interactions, so we know which dialogue options to choose that led us to the goals.
Boost your charisma skills.
OB: Make a love connection with one of the NPCs,
H: High rolls is really what it takes.
At what point in your career do you think you will be over-leveled and domination the world?
OB: Never, because we keep on unlocking expansion packs.
H: With just God-like bosses. On the next CD we’ll probably have to fight a god because we’re close to that in our level, we’re like level 29s.
OB: We fight a god in the next CD, and in the one following that we fight his dad, and after that his grandfather, that his dad resurrected.
H: And then we just fight a universe.
OB: That’s just the logical next step.
This is really starting to sound like a Dragonball Z story arc.
OB: Well Bovice goes level 10 Super Saiyan now (laughs). I really hope people understand that reference.
H: There actually is a Kamehamaha in the fuckin CD pretty much.
OB: Yeah, the third interlude. I don’t know if anybody catches it, but there is definitely a Super Saiyan reference. When he goes insanity level 10, just listen for that part.
H: It’s really an awkward moan, but
OB: He’s leveling up his fighting.
H: His hair got bigger.
As for filming your last music video (Mystic Island), do you have any funny stories to go with that?
H: That was in our friend’s basement, and we literally ruined it. There was just blood everywhere, I mean the carpet’s ruined, the walls are semi-ruined.
OB: So the story with that is that she is obviously going to re-do her basement, this summer she planned to. We made a deal that if we ruined it, and we cleaned up afterwards, you know, we do half the work for her ripping up all the old carpet and everything. We went and I dressed it up as best I could to make it look kind of like a bedroom, and worked with what we got. The budget for that video was about $200. $150 of it went to about 5 gallons of fake blood, and $50 of it was for food and stuff. So for the first half of the day, it was a 13 hour shoot, 12-13 hour shoot, and the first half of it everyone was pretty clean, maybe a little bit of blood here and there by six hours everyone started getting covered in blood. And this stuff was made, it was custom made blood by one of the girls in the end, the very last one to die, she was the special effects artist and made the blood for us. She won’t tell me the ingredients of it, but it was really, really sticky. So you put it on, and you dress everyone’s arms and shirts, and after 5-10 minutes it would dry, but would still look wet. It was like glue. It was breaking their skin, all on the inside of the elbow, and everywhere that they moved, and I think that one of them was bleeding at one point. So it was pretty uncomfortable for them, and I’ve got to give them props for sitting in that stuff for about six hours.
So your music videos really are as gory and violent as your campaigns?
OB: We actually don’t release a video until somebody bleeds for it.
H: Those are all coup de grâce hits (Chuckles). That’s a super nerdy reference.
OB (To Hildor): I think you lost me on that one.
H: D&D. When somebody is about to die, you can crit ‘em.
OB: Nerd over here.
Do you guys have any other information or news that I did not mention that you would like to get out there to your fans and to the world?
H: Just that we’re excited for the new album to drop here.
OB: Well we’re excited that the last new album dropped, it’s finally out. It took us way too long to get it out. We’re pumped about it, we’re pumped to do the video game cover album and I’m also excited for a summer tour. It’s always fun to get out and play new cities. I always like doing the music videos too. They’re a lot of work, but I think we have a pretty good concept for the next one. I don’t want to give anything away just in case it falls through, but that’ll be an interesting one. This year, wait for another music video.
*All speech from Overlord Brom was completely muffled by his helmet and inaudible. It needed translated post-interview by a local sect of scholarly monks.