Within The Grasp of Titans
Stillborn Records

Our relationship with Full Blown Chaos began with the 2004 release of Wake the Demons, the band’s first long player. The Coney Island four-piece was more metal and less hardcore on said outing but there was certainly enough raw aggression to make us take notice. This year’s new opus Within The Grasp Of Titans finds the band balancing metal, hardcore and grindcore into a more mature and progressive style. Still brutal, angry and razor sharp, they improve both in songwriting and lyrical content. Add to that some 300 live dates in the past year, sewing the seeds of a now fruitful harvest. 13 battle ready tracks leap off the new disc ready to engage. Like the visual imagery on the cover, FBC arm themselves with songs that raise the banner of conquest. “Burning Age,” “Rise & Fight” and “Vendetta” forge the steel of their molten furnace.

Drummer Jeff Facci joins brother Mike Facci (guitar), bassist Mike Lurk Ruehle and singer Ray Mazzolla to stage their frontline attack. The speed of Jeff’s feet and hands blaze through the record’s first three tracks, “Trial of Triumph” the machine gun-like “Chopping Block” and the more thrash-centered “Burning Age.” A blur of double-kick thump, churning rhythmic bass and shards of Mike’s guitar fester under Mazzolla’s gravel bite. “Solemn Promise” is the record’s hit. It’s grinding metal riff feeds the hook while the song sings of compassionate outreach to the hopelessly addicted. The galloping “Rise & Fight” blurs two decades of iron-clad guitar influence while the twin attack of “Suffer in Silence” and “Life of Sorrow” merge in a death match struggle of street hardcore.

“Hollowed” and “Kingdom Undone” have a distinct Slayer groove both in the chugging guitars and the hammering rhythm section. Solo’s are few and far between, yet the primitive squeal in “Vendetta” is what makes the track shiver. The pure onslaught of “Against the Grain” calls to thrashcore’s earliest moments while “The Voorhees Complex” a tribute to horror films shakes the paint off the walls as it rumbles past - shifting gears. Buried deep within track 13 is a re-working of “Blood Flow” off the band’s Prophet of Hostility disc. It’s one of their most request live tracks so they opted to give the fans a thrill. The Cutting Edge recently caught up with Ray Mazzolla on the eve before their current 5-week US tour and this is how it went.

The Cutting Edge: You guys tour like maniacs. With the release of Within the Grasp of Titans this week are you back out on the road ASAP?

Ray Mazzolla (in his gruff Brooklyn accent): We’re going to be out for five weeks - no days off. When we finish with that, we go to Puerto Rico for a few days. Then out for another seven weeks.

TCE: That’s an insane schedule. Is the label helping with tour support?

Ray: It’s a working label. Everybody’s really busy. We basically do as much as possible ourselves. We make enough money now that we can afford management, an agent, that sort of thing. If anybody seems to think that just because we played Ozzfest we’re rich – they got another thing coming.

TCE: Did you make any money off Ozzfest?

Ray: No! Actually we’re in the hole right now. We got into an accident the first week into Ozzfest where we wrecked our RV and trailer - I mean totaled it. That put us in a big hole. The insurance didn’t want to help us so I basically cleared every bank account I had, maxed out all my credit cards. The band’s in the hole about 30 grand, I’m in the hole about 27 (grand). There is no one to bail us out except for ourselves, so we’ll be touring a long time.

TCE: I thought you had a manager, lawyer, agent – someone to help out?

Ray: We do but they have a policy not to loan bands money. Which is actually a good idea. It forces us to fight for everything we get. However, the benefits of having a good agent are that we can play steady for five weeks straight.

TCE: That speaks volumes about the band, the fact that you can sell that many shows this far out. You replaced the original singer, Joe White in Full Blown Chaos. Weren’t you in a rival band?

Ray: I’ve been playing in bands for 15 years – since I was a teenager. More than half my life I’ve been in bands. When I joined Full Blown I had already been friends with them for a long time. There was a whole circle of bands that always played together – same clubs, same cities. The only bands that really made a move were Sworn Enemy then Full Blown Chaos. The old singer for Full Blown didn’t want to tour – my band didn’t want to do anything so we made a switch. We weren’t really rivals, just played a lot of the same places. After I joined Full Blown it took off from there. 

TCE: You mentioned how integrated you are with other bands on the scene. Within the Grasp of Titans actually includes a second disc with a track from a number of other bands/labelsmates, which is quite good. What is the idea behind that kind of marketing?

Ray: It’s actually the record company’s idea to help promote other bands on the label but we really dig it since we’re all friends. When we put out Wake the Demons we did the same thing. The first 10,000 came out with a DVD of our videos and our friend’s videos.

TCE: Do you hand-select the songs or videos that go on the compilations?

Ray: We put in our requests and the label takes it from there, but yeah, we try to keep it our choice. Being the type of band we are and where we came from – we wouldn’t be here without a lot of help from other bands. There should be more camaraderie among bands – especially these days with the labels the way they are.

TCE: This year’s Ozzfest seemed to go much smoother than last year. Is it because the lineup was full of bands that have already toured together?

Ray: Oh yeah, all the second stage bands were already friends. We had all toured with each other and were close to begin with – like extended family. It was like one huge party. Even the Ozzfest production people told us this was the tightest Ozzfesst lineup they ever had. Even after our set was done, we would set up a huge screen and watch movies and hang out.

TCE: What’s your take on the rising expense of Ozzfest? Ten years ago tickets were right around $30.00, now is more like $100.00.

Ray: Yeah, that’s crazy. The dates that Ozzy played on were way expensive. It’s too much for 14-year old kids to come up with. It’s over now so I can tell you we would sneak kids in. One night we got like 75 in. Here were kids that didn’t even have enough money to buy a t-shirt, just coming out for the music. I was fined a couple of times for giving kids water because it took away from vendor sales. I got pulled out by security because I gave kids water when it was 107-degrees.

TCE: Crazy! Let’s get back to the new disc. From the cover through the booklet and on to the CD there is a united effort to push a certain sound.

Ray: We are involved 100% on every record we do. The artwork came down to me and the artist working together on a concept. I would show the rest of the band what we came up with and ask what they thought about it. We started with a basic theme. Everything we do has a basic theme – an idea behind it. We wanted something that would capture the title of the album. We wanted an image that represented the conquering battle – something that symbolized this being our best work to date, musically and lyrically.

TCE: There’s a certain change in the sound of Within The Grasp Of Titans that wasn’t there with of Wake the Demons - less metal-on-metal and more hardcore elements.

Ray: We blended our influences a little more with this record. We went with Eric Rachel as producer. We wanted a more dirty sound – something a little grittier than Zeus normally does. Instead of going towards metal with hardcore influences we decided to split it right down the middle. Some songs are very thrashed based. We’re big Exodus/Forbidden fans with our roots in hardcore, metal, thrash, and grind. There is a lot of music we listen to, so we wanted to incorporate as much as possible into the new songs. That’s why it doesn’t have this metal overtone because we incorporated more into it.

TCE: There is also your vocal styling, which has change considerably from Within the Grasp of Titans.

Ray: I tried to keep the clarity in it as much as possible. From touring so much I developed a certain sound I like. I think I’ve finally found my niche on how I like my vocals. A lot of the lyrics on this record are very personal. They have a lot of life situations and things we were going through in the past year. When I was singing these songs like “Solemn Promise,” “Hollowed” and “Suffer in Silence” it was like pulling them out of me. They are hard to do live because they have a lot of personal meaning behind them. They pull from a different energy.

 TCE: Do the fans hassle you over direction shifts, vocally or musically?

Ray: Not so much the fans, but after our first full-length was released there were a lot of people in the industry that were saying we weren’t going to last. They knew how chaotic things can be in this business and thought we’d fold under pressure. They didn’t anticipate that we would foresee all of this and plan for it.

TCE: The hard work paid off.

Ray: We did 318 shows last year. We did 312 the year before. We’re trying to get out there and just do it. We’ve played the same cities seven/eight times in a year. People were coming just the hang out. Now we have friends everywhere – so every show is like coming home. The venues might change a little bit but all the kids will be there. We are also the kind of band that puts ourselves out there.

TCE: All that touring must give you plenty of fodder for songwriting.

Ray: We never stop writing. When we went into the studio we had over 30 songs for this disc. We took the strongest of the songs and put them on the record. Sometimes I have lyrics for them already in place - sometimes we write the lyrics and songs together. We even wrote a couple - or finished a couple in the studio. “Trials of Triumph” was written musically a week before, then I wrote the lyrics that morning in the hotel before I went off to the studio to record them. It all came together because there was something that triggered it. I had an argument the night before and it all came out.

TCE: Is it important to have an experience or visual when you write?

Ray: We want our songs to capture a scene – an image that’s generated in your mind. “Vendetta” was written about a guy I knew that’s been a friend for years who suddenly turned his back on me, basically cut my throat. It was that devastation that made me write that song.

TCE: There’s a lot of emotion in “Solemn Promise” – it has the earmark of a breakout track for the album.

Ray: That was a song I wrote for my mom. She’s been fighting cancer for the past ten years. She’s not in good shape at all but she has a lot of strength. That song is about her strength – the fact that she keeps fighting. I tell kids to read the lyrics – then read them again. “Wake The Demons” was about unlocking your inner demons – waking your inner potential. Everything is a personification of an experience. I want the people that hear our music to get that. Dig deeper than what’s on the surface.

TCE: The intensity of this record is breathtaking. Very frantic and sonically dense.

Ray: When we go into the studio its no nonsense. We book two weeks. We got this record done in 12 days. Mixed - everything.  We make a big effort to only play in the studio what we can replicate live.

TCE: So what can we expect from your live set?

Ray: The live set will be six to seven new tracks. We usually do 12-15 songs per set. Depending on the crowd’s response we play more or less of the older material.

TCE: Do you ever play cover songs?

: We’re actually looking into doing a covers record. We’re dying to do some Kiss songs. Mike and Jeff’s dad use to play with Kiss back in Wicked Lester. We could play our version of Kiss, Police, Queen, Sabbath – that kind of thing.

Website: Full Blown Chaos, Stillborn Records