Who is ALEX TERRIBLE? The complicated story of SLAUGHTER TO PREVAIL's lightning-rod frontman | Revolver

Who is ALEX TERRIBLE? The complicated story of SLAUGHTER TO PREVAIL's lightning-rod frontman

The deathcore firebrands have big plans — but is their vocalist ready for the spotlight?
slaughter to prevail winter 2023 cover cropped

This story was originally published in Revolver's new Winter Issue, which you can order at our shop.

Alex Terrible is a walking billboard for all things extreme.

The Slaughter to Prevail frontman is covered in tattoos, rarely wears a shirt and wrestles 600-pound bears in music videos. He got a scar carved into his face — just because it looks cool — and spends his free time firing high-powered guns, driving fast cars and battering heads in bare-knuckle MMA fights.

He's also one of the most inhumanly powerful deathcore screamers to ever pick up a mic.

His signature growl is so low and loud that he can scream into a festival crowd without a microphone and still be heard many rows back. His beastly physical qualities are magnified when he wears his custom-made "Kid of Darkness" mask: a flashy, golden face-covering with fiendish horns, obsidian eyes and monstrous chompers.

The public persona of Alex Terrible is impenetrable, fearsome. But behind the mask lies Aleksandr Shikolai, a much more nuanced, and complicated, human being.


Where Alex Terrible will eagerly wrangle a gator or rile up Christian conservatives — Slaughter to Prevail have been targeted by Russia's government for promoting Satanism and violence — Shikolai will balk in shyness at the prospect of meeting his musical heroes.

He and his band are as comfortable cruising the Russian countryside in tanks and firing bazookas as they are enjoying a day at the beach. He preaches a lifestyle of strength and discipline but spent years homebound by debilitating anxiety.

He claims his world philosophy is for everyone to "respect and love each other," but he's also a trollish instigator: posting outspoken — confusing at best, offensive at worst — rants on social media about hot-button issues.

So who the fuck is Alex Terrible; who is Aleksandr Shikolai — and by extension, who the fuck are Slaughter to Prevail?

Deathcore shit-starters playing up the tropes of the form? Jacked-up, gun-toting adrenaline junkies with some questionable worldviews? The next big stars of extreme metal? To get closer to the truth, our story, fittingly, leads us to the most extreme state in America: Florida.

The 30-year-old Shikolai and three of his bandmates moved from Russia to Orlando in the summer of 2022, but recently made the jump to Hollywood, Florida, a Russian-heavy community about 40 minutes outside of Miami. Shikolai is happy to be in the U.S. but is already sick of the hustle and bustle of metropolitan life.

"I want to move straight back to the forest. Just leave me alone," he jokes. It's a small comment that speaks to a much larger tension in the dual life of Aleksandr Shikolai, the humble introvert, and Alex Terrible, the boisterous deathcore provocateur.

Stepping away from the Terrible-Shikolai conundrum for a second, here's one clear fact: Slaughter to Prevail are crushing it. They're one of the leading bands in the new wave of deathcore, currently boasting more Spotify monthly listeners than their Lollapalooza-playing peers Lorna Shore and genre elders Whitechapel.

They're on the precipice of breaking into the next echelon of heavy music and have big aspirations for their new as-yet-untitled third studio album, the follow-up to 2021's Kostolom, which is slated to arrive in the first half of 2024.

And along with their swelling popularity, Shikolai himself has become something of an internet celebrity — boasting nearly one million Instagram followers (for context, that's three times as many as TOOL frontman Maynard James Keenan) and over a million subscribers on his YouTube channel.


Five years into the future, Shikolai sees Slaughter to Prevail being "at least Gojira-level" popular. However, he's not so sure that he wants the fame that comes with it.

"I am not a perfect man. I do make mistakes and cannot handle all situations," he tells Revolver during a lengthy Zoom call. "Sometimes I post stupid shit on my [Instagram] stories and after two days I'm like, 'Hmm, 100,000 people watch my stories. Maybe I said something wrong.'" He laughs nervously.

What makes Shikolai such a magnetic figure is that part of his tough-guy persona is a theatrical act, and some of it is the real deal. For the first few years of his life, Shikolai lived in a small Russian village that he describes as "poor, dangerous and tough." By preschool age, he was already becoming a troublemaker.

He warmly remembers being three years old and sneaking off into the woods with some kids to smoke cigarettes and cause mischief. His hours-long disappearance set off a neighborhood search party led by his parents, and when he finally came traipsing home, his father wasn't happy. "He fucked me up really hard after that," Shikolai recalls, smiling nostalgically.

In his teens, Shikolai attended a military school that he calls "a fucking prison for children," and before he got the taste for metal and alternative subculture, he remembers looking at people with tattoos and piercings as "satanic."

Eventually, a classmate introduced him to deathcore trailblazers Suicide Silence and Bring Me the Horizon, and Shikolai was immediately hooked. Two weeks later he decided to try deathcore vocals himself, and BMTH frontman Oli Sykes became his style icon.

"I wanted to look like him," Shikolai says, chuckling at his teenage fascination with the Myspace scenester. I ask Shikolai if he's ever crossed paths with Sykes now that Slaughter to Prevail exist within BMTH's purview. He hasn't — and shakes his head no when I suggest shooting Sykes a message on Instagram.

"I'm a very introverted guy," he says meekly, "and I don't want to bother someone."

Throughout high school, Shikolai put some effort into starting a band but mostly spent his time hanging out and drinking. By 19, he had graduated to harder stuff, and was smoking mephedrone and other synthetic drugs "every fucking day" with a small group of friends, most of whom are now either dead or in jail.

One day, Shikolai's risky lifestyle caught up with him and he overdosed. He remembers lying on his back for five hours — his irregular heartbeat feeling like it was bursting out of his chest. He physically recovered but was mentally broken for the next six years. Debilitating spells of anxiety and depression over-took him daily, and he became an antisocial hermit who rarely left the house.

"I had bad, bad panic attacks every fucking day," he says. "I was afraid to die all the time."

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That version of Shikolai — sickly, scared and depressed — is hard to imagine while speaking with the grinning, confident, hyper-disciplined Alex Terrible on the other side of my Zoom screen. In some ways, donning his Kid of Darkness mask to become Alex Terrible is what brought him over to the light.

The one positive of those housebound years was that Shikolai put loads of time into becoming a deathcore vocalist. He started his own YouTube channel where he posted extreme-metal vocal covers and began to gain a respectable audience. Eventually, a British deathcore guitarist named Jack Simmons stumbled upon one of his videos.

"This guy's fucking brutal. I need to contact him, and I need to write music with him," Simmons remembers thinking.

It's a few days after my initial conversation with Shikolai, and Simmons is video calling with Revolver while standing outside a Porsche dealership in Florida. Shikolai is inside signing the papers for his new ride, the latest in a seemingly endless string of flashy cars that pop up on his Instagram profile.

I ask Simmons how often Shikolai gets a new car. "As much as the wind changes," he quips.

The 28-year-old currently lives in Poland with his wife but grew up in a small English village that he compares to the setting of Harry Potter. Before Slaughter to Prevail, he had already found mild success in a previous deathcore band, Acrania, but the guitarist-songwriter had grander visions. He heard his ticket to stardom in Shikolai's animalistic voice.

When Simmons first reached out in 2013, Shikolai spoke so little English that they could barely communicate. However, the two quickly recognized they shared the same professional drive to make a world-class band, and Slaughter to Prevail was born.

The pair immediately began writing their first EP by trading files over email, and to this day, they remain not only the songwriters, but also the definitive creative force behind Slaughter to Prevail.

"Sometimes we clash, but [for the] majority we're on the same page," Simmons says. His eyes dart up from the phone — and he flips his camera screen to show Shikolai smiling behind the wheel of his new purchase.

Simmons jumps in the passenger seat; Shikolai takes off at high-speed and the guitarist's head jolts back against the headrest. It's a suitable metaphor for Slaughter to Prevail's current career trajectory: Shikolai and Simmons in the front seats, enjoying their rapidly accelerating ride.

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Simmons and Shikolai do things differently than other bands. They write all of Slaughter to Prevail's music, and enlist other musicians — currently guitarist Dmitry Mamedov, bassist Mikhail Petrov and drummer Evgeny Novikov — as session and live players.

Musicians from Puerto Rico, Britain and America have been a part of the team, but right now everyone except Simmons is Russian, and they all live in Florida with Shikolai.

Currently, the lone Englishman is more of a behind-the-scenes figure who stays off the road and focuses on songwriting and business duties from his home in Poland. On that end, the band's way of doing things is even more esoteric. Typically, Revolver would have received a private preview of the new album before we conducted this interview — but not even the band's label, Sumerian Records, have heard what they're working on.

Instead of following the customary practice of sending unmastered demos to their label throughout the album-making process, the band are waiting until their record is 100 percent complete before anyone gets to hear anything.

When asked about his ambitions for Slaughter to Prevail's new album, Shikolai doesn't hesitate: "I want to be a huge band," he says assuredly.

To get there, Shikolai and Simmons aim to evolve their sound and trade some extremity for powerful, simplified riffs and savory grooves. (Rammstein and Pantera are both inspirational touchstones.) That said, Slaughter to Prevail's evolution will be incremental.

The first single from their forthcoming album, "Viking," is a true-blue deathcore banger. But Shikolai says that other tracks on the record — tentatively titled Hate Is in the Air — will dabble with clean vocals and less overtly deathcore song structures. Their main goal is to make a record that feels timeless.

"There's music that when you hear it, it doesn't get old," Simmons says. "Bands like Pantera and Slipknot — no matter what year it is, you put them on, and you feel this energy they put into their records. I just don't find that in many deathcore bands."

Slaughter to Prevail want to be a group with more mass appeal, and there's no doubt that Alex Terrible has the star power and charisma to get them there — if his own messy, contradictory human flaws don't get in the way.

"I'm a real-life person," he says. "I have emotions. I have my own character [Alex Terrible], and people love that. And people start to follow me just because of my character. But at the same time, I have minuses. It's very easy for people to catch you with the minuses and start to judge you."

Slaughter to Prevail's first two albums, 2017's Misery Sermon and 2021's Kostolom, were bludgeoning discharges that traversed the usual deathcore lyrical themes of death and suffering. But in 2022, Russia's war with Ukraine sparked a political awakening for Shikolai, who admits that he previously didn't pay attention to politics.

He abhorred the violence his country was committing against Ukraine and channeled his feelings into a song called "1984," in which he pleaded, "Please stop the violence/Please stop the bloodshed on Earth."

In a conversation with Revolver that same year, Shikolai explained that if the Russian government caught onto his anti-state rhetoric then he could've faced jail time if he remained in his home country. In that sense, "1984" was a protest song with real stakes to it, but it didn't win Slaughter to Prevail many supporters.

"A lot of people started to judge me from the Ukrainian side, from the Russian side. 'You don't know shit, you're not a political guy.' And it's true, I don't know shit," Shikolai says matter-of-factly.

It wasn't the first or last time that Shikolai would find himself in hot water after wading into a political issue. Nor was it his first foray into admitting his own ignorance on a subject he's decided to weigh in on.

While "1984" was an anti-war song written in good faith ("War is always disgusting," he still emphasizes today), Shikolai didn't always style himself as such a pacifist. After quitting drugs in the wake of his overdose, he found a new group of friends who were dedicated to sports, reading and other strengthening pursuits — but who were also extremely right-wing.

"I used to hang out with anti-fascist guys, and they didn't give a shit about anything in their lives but partying," he says. But this new group encouraged Shikolai, who was vulnerable, existentially lost and searching for positive influence, to take control of his life through athletics and mental stimulation.

"I was not a Nazi and didn't share their political views," he clarifies. He laughs in embarrassment at how "absurd" it was to jump from anti-fascist to fascist friend groups. "I just liked that they were into sports, were smarter [than my previous friends], and clearly saw their goals in life."

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Shikolai regained a sense of stability while hanging with them — and he also made some stupid decisions, including showing his camaraderie with the other guys by getting a tattoo on his elbow of the Black Sun symbol, an icon that first appeared in Nazi Germany and has since been used as an emblem by right-wing nationalist groups.

He would come to regret the decision, and years ago, he disowned that part of his life by getting the tattoo covered. Even so, photos and videos of Shikolai with the tattoo still exist online, and many of his critics will bring it up to reasonably cast judgment about Shikolai's political beliefs, which can admittedly be difficult to decipher.

During our conversation, Shikolai mentions the Black Sun tattoo before I even ask about it, and just as he's beginning to clarify his remorse for that period in his life, his manager interjects. He warns him to stop bringing up this volatile issue because it's caused Slaughter to Prevail problems in certain European touring markets where promoters think the band have fascist tendencies. Shikolai pushes back.

"No, no, no," he says firmly. "I believe people have to know about this because I never [want to] hide it. I don't want to lie to myself, first of all, and I don't want to lie to [the public]. When I was young, I made a lot of mistakes. I did a lot of stupid shit. Right now, maybe I still make mistakes. But because I'm 30 years old, I have to be a fucking adult and take responsibility."

In August 2023, Shikolai caused controversy once again when he waded into LGBTQ discourse on Instagram by repeating an unproven right-wing talking point that children are being "brainwashed" into changing their gender.

Understandably, he was met with a great deal of blowback from trans metalheads and allies alike, and after posting numerous rebuttal videos on Instagram, some more confrontational than conciliatory, he's since wiped all traces of the dialogue from his feed.

By the time we speak a few weeks later, and give him the opportunity to clarify his position, he's decided he no longer wants to weigh in on politics — both on social media and in his music (so no more songs like "1984").

"I just want to be a normal, regular guy," he says. "I'm not the political guy who wants people to follow him for his political views. I am a musician. I want to give music to this world. That's it."

Shikolai is acutely aware that the more attention he draws to himself online, the more money he makes from his music and masks. He sells copies of his band's visages for upwards of $180 a pop and says that the steady business is what affords him his sportscar and AK-47 lifestyle.

Beyond his own hobbies, he wants to be able to provide for his wife (who's attending university back in Russia) and his future children, but along with his pragmatic approach to marketing the Alex Terrible character, he also seems exhausted by the side effects of being a provocative public figure.


"To be honest, I don't like attention in real life," he reveals. He mentions how he sometimes feels guilty that he can't keep up appearances during meet-and-greets at concerts, or when fans come up to him on the street for a picture. The social demands of being an internet celebrity and popular musician weigh on him.

"I have an introverted character," Shikolai says. "I spend a lot of energy just to create this fucking image, this music and all this shit."

For him, the mask he wears isn't just for looks. It's a functional shield that separates his two selves, and he feels more vulnerable when he removes it.

"This mask protects me, the real Aleksandr Shikolai," he says. "I appreciate my fans, but we still need this border."

He continues, "I'm very grateful that people love this mask and buy [it]. Because of them, I can do what I love."

It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Being Alex Terrible enables him to keep being Alex Terrible. But at a certain point, what's left of Aleksandr Shikolai?

I ask him about the differences between Alex Terrible and his "real self." The version his wife sees when they speak privately. The version he doesn't show on Instagram when he's answering fan questions about his music and personal life. The man behind the trollish jokes, the MMA combat videos, the bear wrestling and the outrageous stage performances.

Who is the Aleksandr Shikolai who wears the mask of Alex Terrible?

As far as the Slaughter to Prevail vocalist is concerned, it's the wrong question. "This mask is a part of me," he says. "It's [projecting an] image, but it's not fake. It's inside of me."

"I'm a very open person," Shikolai adds knowingly, aware that his openness can be both a blessing and a curse. "This is me on the internet. This is me with my wife. This is me with you."

Animal handler: Trapper Jim Greene
Assistant: Tyler "Baby Z" Trant
Wardrobe: Viper
Locations: Wil Beaucher
PA: Jessica Heit