MM: A lot of people may not realize this, but Mike Benetatos has had the longest tenure in Attacker as a guitar duo alongside Marinelli, having been a part of the band since the reunion in 2001 and now recorded on three of the band’s five albums. Did you find their chemistry working together evident right away? It certainly shows up in a lot of the twin guitar harmonies throughout the new album.
BL: Pat and Mikey are like peanut butter and jelly…I compare them to Tipton and Downing from Priest and Dave Murray and Adrian Smith from Iron Maiden a lot in the sense that they both have a unique individual style. Mike is more of a shredder and classical type player. He rips, and he’s fast and technical. Pat has more of a bluesy and melodic style. He’s great at being melodic and adding atmosphere to the songs. Both play their parts to the hilt. And both of these guys can write killer riffage. I’ve always loved twin guitar harmonies. I’m a huge Thin Lizzy fan as well as Maiden and Priest, so I love what they do. Thin Lizzy were doing the twin lead harmonies before Maiden—I don’t think enough people acknowledge that fact. Steve Harris must be a big Thin Lizzy fan. So yes, Mike and Pat are integral to the sound of Attacker. I can’t wait to get started on the next album!
MM: One aspect of songwriting that has always interested me is how a song develops musically and conceptually; for example, is the music written first? Is a concept constructed first and music fit around it? Being the band’s primary lyricist for the new album, were you working around already pre-established musical frameworks for the most part when your wrote your lyrics?
BL: It’s funny, because with me it can go either way. I can already have a topic or song outline written or an idea in my head. Then when I hear new music that the guys have, I’ll start coming up with melodies. At that point I’ll sit down with my concept and begin writing the lyrics and fitting them into the melody. At other times I may have a melody idea in my head before the music is written, like the part I talked about from “The Hammer”…after I knew what I wanted to do vocally, I sat with my guitar and worked the chord patterns out.
MM: A few songs in particular, I find, work quite well as a unity between music and lyric, like “Giants of Canaan” and especially “Glen of the Ghost”. The latter obviously stands apart from the rest of the album musically, which has me wondering if the conceptual idea came before the music in this case.
BL: Actually with “Glen of the Ghost”, Mikey B. had the guitar parts already written. When I heard it, it was a totally Celtic vibe happening, so it just made a whole lot of sense to me to go in that direction lyrically. I was very excited when I heard that song because I knew I could get very melodic with it. Melody is very important to me, as are hooks and strong choruses. I think that shows on this album.
MM: As an extension of the previous questions, how much, if any, of the album can claim its origins to before your tenure in the band—excepting “Steel Vengeance”, of course? Are all of the other songs ‘from scratch’, so to speak?
BL: The only other songs that were kind of floating around riff-wise were the songs that would eventually become “Sands of Time’ and “The Hammer”. I believe Lou Ciarlo had a hand in writing those riffs. But I approached them just like I would any new song—listen to it and get inspired. Sometimes I get melody ideas immediately, other times it may take a few listens. But 85% of the time it comes right away. I’m blessed with that I suppose. The other seven songs (apart from “Steel Vengeance”) were all written when I came aboard. We literally rehearsed 12 old Attacker songs, and wrote and recorded an entire new album, in less than a year. And none of it is ‘filler’. I’m pretty proud of that. I think we all are.
MM: You have drawn from a few different sources of inspiration when putting together the lyrics for the new album, from history and pseudo-historical tales to stories of revenge and mortal fear. There is even a ‘triumph of metal’ type song with “Sands of Time” and its self-referential qualities (“Attacking on at Helm’s Deep”).
It would be natural assume that you drew on your own personal interests when penning these lyrics, so would you care to talk about how you came to arrive at these topics in particular that you ended up writing about.
BL: You’re absolutely right. Aside from “Curse the Light” and “Black Winds Calling”, which were Jon’s ideas, the remaining 8 songs were all of personal interest to me. I’ve been intrigued with the whole ‘war In Heaven’ and fallen angels theme since the Seven Witches debut. The Nephilim were a cross-breed between human and angels. Could an extraterrestrial race have interbred with us? Could the effects have been monstrous? According to the Bible, yes: this happened.
I also draw inspiration from horror films and literature, as well as historical figures and battles. Take “The Hammer” for instance. Not many people know who Charles “The Hammer” Martel was. Martel was a Frankish military leader who was a genius when it came to war tactics. He subjugated Bavaria and drove the pagan Saxons out of France. But my song is based upon his greatest victory—the Battle of Tours, in which he earned his nickname “The Hammer” for the way he hammered his Muslim enemies. Martel’s army was outnumbered by literally thousands of Muslim troops. Yet through his genius and merciless onslaught he beat them back, uniting Europe in Christendom. Had Martel not emerged victorious in the Battle of Tours, Europe would most likely be all Muslim right now. I’m fortunate to have the knack for writing lyrics and melodies. And I have a ton of new ideas for the next Attacker album!
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