"The UK thrash metal stuff I’m into is probably the more well-known stuff like Sacrilege, Onslaught, Sabbat, etc., which are the kind of bands where you forget there was a time when you didn’t listen to them," Tom Pimlott tells me. The bassist for new UK metal combo Mere Mortal is talking shop with me in celebration of their brand-new Tartarus mini-LP.
We continue nerding out on underground British metal from the '80s and late '70s: "Do you count Venom as thrash metal? Proto-black metal? I’m not sure, but Venom are sick. When it comes to British metal, I’m much more into the NWOBHM bands. Diamond Head, Tank, Aragorn, the first Def Leppard single, that stuff floats my boat."
Tom also wants to make it clear that Mere Mortal also look beyond their homeland for inspiration:
"To be honest, apart from maybe a bit of Sacrilege, UK thrash didn’t really influence our sound much. We dip more into the inkwell of bands like Death Angel, Whiplash, early Sepultura and maybe a bit of Japanese hardcore like Bastard."
Tom is a multi-instrumentalist, and in addition to Mere Mortal, he has also played in such hardcore bands as Violent Reaction, True Vision, and The Flex. I ask him if the Mere Mortal material has been challenging, at least compared to the hardcore stuff he's better known for. "The term ‘multi-instrumentalist’ is a bit overkill for my limited abilities. I’ve never been the bass player in a band before, other than on recordings, so it’s something a bit new for me. Plus, it’s a miracle that I managed to play the songs on drums and guitar competently enough to release the recording, and I didn’t want to take any chances embarrassing myself live, so I went with bass as it was the simplest thing to play on the record [laughs].
"I rounded up a few pros, Maegan [Brooks], Joe [Sam Williams], Adam [Rogers], and Foxy [Liam Fox], to play the rest in the real band! It’s actually simpler to play on bass than the hardcore stuff I’ve four-stringed on in the past, because there’s so much open E it gives my fret hand a break. My other hand might disagree though."
No Echo has the honor of premiering the music video for “Scarecrow,” a track from Tartarus, and Tom offers some insight on the song: "That’s the tune I like to call ‘Slayer Lite." There are a few budget Slayer-isms going on, until the break which was ripped off from that gradually speeding up part in ‘Evil Priest’ by Death Angel. I’m pretty sure Foxy is growling about being a scary bastard. Which he can be. The video is sick, czech it out."
As much of a metalhead as I am, I am so over the way most metal records sound these days. There’s a lifelessness to the mix where the drums sound clicky and guitars are over-processed. Now, Tartarus is the opposite of that, so I ask Tom about the recording and what the mindset was going into the session, and if they had certain records they used a sonic blueprint. "I wish you could see the room the record was tracked in. Imagine a bathroom-sized sweatbox with an entire backline and PA, lit only with desk lamps and you’re halfway there.
"Not that we hold a candle to them, but I feel a kinship with Venom because Welcome to Hell was just supposed to be a demo session that turned into their debut 12”, which is what’s happened to us. My partner was away for a day and I had all these thrashy riffs I’d been collecting for a few years, so I thought I’d head to the rehearsal room and get some of those ideas down. It was never supposed to be a record!"
Since I know there are some gearheads who read this site, I found out about some of the techniques Tom and gang used on the recording. "I can only record four tracks at any one time, so I had four mics on the drums. I tracked the drums along to what I could remember of the riffs in my head, then did a couple of guitar tracks through my '70s Marshall and a pedal or two. It sounded cool so I went home and added bass direct through the interface, did a quick mix and sent it to a few people to see what they thought. Somewhere between then and now we got a legit lineup, decided it was going to be a 12” record, added vocals and solos, and I mixed it to sound as organic as possible. Or maybe so people wouldn’t realise the bulk of it was one idiot in a shoebox...
"I also think a lot of metal records, and even 'Top 40’ hardcore records, sound stale as fuck these days. Just look at the early waves of thrash and death metal. It’s almost a rule of thumb that the ‘better’ the records sounded, the shittier the records got. More soul in metal."
Before our conversation comes to a close, I nudge Tom about Mere Mortal coming out to the States. "I hope we can do as much with the band as real life will allow. We all have full-time jobs or studies and other bands, but we want to push Mere Mortal and there’s already tours being talked about. I’m pretty sure we will make it over to the US, at least in 2019. We are writing the next record already too, so I suppose we are a real band. Onwards to Golgotha I suppose."