"We're all guests in the house of the great death-metal bands that came before us," says Genocide Pact guitarist and vocalist Tim Mullaney. "When you think about Terrorizer, Morbid Angel, Death, Obituary — there wasn't a precedent for that stuff when it came out, which is why it still sounds like it's coming completely from the heart."
Mullaney and drummer Connor Donegan first bonded about their mutual love of old-school death metal in 2012, at a club in Raleigh, North Carolina. At the time, Mullaney and Genocide bassist Mike Nolan were touring in the Washington D.C. grindcore band Disciples of Christ. After their set, they started talking with Donegan, whose band Lung Matter was also on the bill. Since the three musicians got along so well and Donegan was looking for a change in his life he decided to move to Washington. He and Mullaney reconnected at a show at Saint Stephen's Church.
"We were both wearing Morbid Angel shirts," recalls Mullaney. "We decided right there, 'Let's make a band to play music inspired by all the shit we grew up on.'"
"It's just kind of a funny that I got together with the Disciples of Christ guys in a church and we decided to form a death-metal band," Donegan says. "We started jamming a week later. We wrote one or two songs at practice and just kept going."
Shortly after, Genocide Pact recorded their first demo, which led to their first record deal and the 2015 release of the mostly mid-tempo Forged Through Domination, the precursor to this year's more developed, better produced Order of Torment (Relapse Records). Contrasting hammering double-bass drums and chugging, downtuned guitars with frantic death riffs, jackhammer beats and feral vocals, the album is a scorching, old-school furnace-blast of misanthropic fury.
Revolver recently talked with Mullaney, 24, and Donegan, 23, about how they discovered Florida death metal, their controversial name and the family trauma that strengthened the impact of Order of Torment.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST GET INTO EXTREME METAL?
TIM MULLANEY I got acquainted with that style of music when I was 12 or 13 and I started getting into Slayer. That led me on a path to look for stuff that was even more extreme. I went by album art and band names and picked up stuff that looked heavy and brutal. By around 2004 I graduated towards Obituary, Morbid Angel and Deicide.
CONNOR DONEGAN I got really into punk rock when I was nine or 10 years old. The first stuff I heard was Green Day and that led me to the Ramones, because they would wear Ramones shirts. I did quick internet searches and that led me to Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat and Bad Brains. And from listening to some of the bigger bands, I started getting into some of the Eighties hardcore bands. That was the most extreme music I had heard at the time. I've also always had this craving for faster and crazier and hardcore led me to Metallica and Slayer and eventually to Death and Darkthrone.
WHAT WAS THE FIRST FLORIDA BAND TO BLOW YOU AWAY?
DONEGAN The Death Leprosy album was the first death-metal record I ever heard. I bought it at a CD store by my house. I had heard of Death, but I never heard the music. I chose Leprosy because it had the coolest cover art. And to this day, it's my favorite death-metal record.
GENOCIDE PACT IS A LOADED TITLE. WHY CHOOSE SUCH A CONTROVERSIAL NAME?
MULLANEY I was finishing college when we started the band. I was a sociology major and I was working on a thesis related to human rights, so I was reading about a lot of disturbing human-rights violations that had taken place in the world. I knew I wanted to be in a death-metal band, but I didn't want it to be about gore, Satanic stuff or fantasy things because that's not really what I pay attention to. So I started writing lyrics about things I learned about that I thought were more fucked up in the world, like contemporary slavery.
HOW DOES THAT RELATE TO YOUR BAND NAME?
MULLANEY I think of the Genocide Pact as corrupt government, multinational corporations and very powerful people that have created a global system that makes 99.9 percent of people on earth work for their luxury. The United States is a first-world country and even then, most people here don't really have it that easy. So if you think about the seven billion people on earth, there are a handful that get to live a comfortable life and they rely on the other seven billion people to have that. The themes in our music approach society as a totalitarian system and I thought the Genocide Pact was a frame that encapsulated all of that.
HAS ANYONE CRITICIZED YOU FOR USING THE WORD GENOCIDE, WHICH IMMEDIATELY MAKES A LOT OF PEOPLE THINK OF THE HOLOCAUST?
DONEGAN Nobody's said anything to us, but I was afraid to tell my mom for a while. I'm Jewish and I didn't think that would go over very well. But she didn't care. She actually kind of liked it. If anyone wants to say shit about the name they can, but Tim's lyrics are politically motivated, and it's not like we're a bunch of boneheads using a name for shock value. It has relevance to our lyrics and what's in our music.
MULLANEY If anyone has a negative reaction to it, they haven't thought very much about it. But that's kind of why we went with it to begin with. People get outraged over surface level things but don't dig deep into the details of global events. People will protest a corporation because they made some faux pas and were in the news, but they won't boycott Nestle because they're using chocolate from Sierra Leone, which they used slave labor to get. If you're offended by the name Genocide Pact as opposed to the fact that there is genocide going on in the world, you probably don't try to expose yourself to too much information that would disturb you, and I think that's important to do.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST GIG LIKE? WAS IT MAGICAL OR A MESS?
DONEGAN It was totally a mess. It was hilarious. It was at a place called Casa Fiesta in D.C. There were three or four bands, and for whatever reason, we were asked to play last. The place had a tendency to shut down sometimes, and if you went over curfew they'd make you stop. We ended up only getting to play one song, and our bass player broke a string during that one song. It was the most anticlimactic experience I've ever had in my life. We'd been practicing for months. We thought, "Alright, we've finally got a gig! Let's show these motherfuckers what we've got."
WHY DID IT TAKE THREE YEARS BETWEEN THE RELEASES OF FORGED THROUGH DOMINATION AND ORDER OF TORMENT?
MULLANEY We wanted to do a lot to promote our first record, but after it came out I got struck with a lot of personal tragedy. My brother and my dad passed away within six months. It was totally unexpected and it took me a long time to bounce back.
WAS IT THERAPEUTIC FOR YOU TO START WORKING WITH THE BAND AGAIN?
MULLANEY It was hard to do anything at first, but we wrote a couple songs and then once we had four songs or so, there was a point where I started getting really motivated for the first time in a long time. From that point on, working on the album became the distraction from all my personal shit, and it was the first time I let myself enjoy anything in a while. But I was still pretty fucking pissed off when I was writing them.
DID BEING IN THAT POSITION MAKE FOR A MORE INTENSE ALBUM?
MULLANEY I channeled a lot of anger into the songs, for sure. But writing the album was fun as well. I was like, "This is what I like to do. This is my fucking passion." And also, I was like, "Fuck, I've got no time to waste." Sometimes, heavy shit like that makes you appreciate your own life more. I put 100 percent into writing this fucking record and I think it shows.
YOUR MUSIC IS PRETTY EXTREME. IS YOUR LIFESTYLE EXTREME AS WELL?
DONEGAN I eat live bats every morning when I wake up and then I go to my job as a hit man. [Laughs] Genocide Pact is actually banned from Marriott Hotels, Super 8, Cracker Barrel and the 7-11 down the street. But we are working on a Popeyes' endorsement, which we can't say too much about. [Laughs]
MULLANEY I do some pretty brutal binge-watching of The Office.
DONEGAN I do a lot of disgusting Tony Hawk 2 playing.
MULLANEY And I like to read romance novels — but I approach them from the angle of the most angular brutality spawned from testicles of Satan, himself. [Both Laugh]
DONEGAN Not to disappoint, but we're pretty normal guys. I like to listen to music and play music. That's what I like to do. That's literally it.