“Servants of the Outer Dark” is the debut record by Vancouver’s death metal monsters Thirteen Goats. They invite you to join them on a sonic trip down the most twisted sections of extreme metal’s memory lane on a journey to wicked new horizons. According to the band, the album is a love letter to old-school Florida death metal and classic 80s thrash, with nods to everything from modern melodeath and tech death to groove metal and grindcore peppered in along the way. It’s also an attempt to take the best ideas from those genres and combine them in ways people haven’t heard before. Here’s our interview with the band’s frontman, Graham K. Miles.
Rob and I met via Craigslist. My marriage was ending at the time, and it was a pretty low point for me. I was looking for a way to channel the difficult emotions I was feeling into art, and since I’d always wanted to be in a metal band, I decided I was finally going to make it happen.
I found Rob’s ad, which said he was looking for people who wanted to play “hard, fast, challenging music”. It sounded exactly right, so I reached out and he invited me over to his place. Within 30 minutes of the meeting, we’d written most of “Unholy Mass”, which is the second single from our debut album. At that point, I think we knew we needed to make a band together.
Behind the name:
There’s a high-concept answer and a low-concept answer here. I’ll tell you both.
The high-concept answer is that the band name is a reference to our mascot. He’s an immortal dark messiah named Shepherd who travels through time and space in a black cloak and a goat skull mask, appearing wherever evil deeds take place. And because he’s basically the Antichrist, he needs disciples, so he has these 12 demon goats who follow him around—together, they’re Thirteen Goats.
The low-concept answer is that Rob and I got hammered at a bar and wrote down a bunch of numbers and animals we thought sounded evil. I think “Seven Snakes” and “666 Wolves” were both on the table at some point, but ultimately, goats won out.
We take inspiration from anything and everything—we’re not a band that sticks religiously to one subgenre or lyrical theme. Sometimes when we tell people about the mascot, they assume all our songs are going to be explicitly about demon goats or something—but Shepherd is more like an Eddie or Vic Rattlehead kind of figure, in that he can show up in pretty much any context. So we have songs about politics and religion, songs about personal trauma, songs inspired by horror stories, and a few songs that are just about gory, goofy death metal things like making people’s heads explode. Some people might find that confusing, but remember: Maiden and Megadeth never stuck to just one topic either.
As for the bands we were most inspired by, they’re mostly from the classic Florida death metal scene or the UK grindcore scene. Death, Cannibal Corpse, and Carcass are probably the three biggest ones. But there are also some more contemporary bands whose sound we absolutely love, like Decapitated and Misery Index.
I think we inspire each other. We all have a lot of respect for each other, which allows us to put some friendly competition in the songwriting process without bruising our egos. It’s less like we’re trying to one-up each other and more like we’re always just trying really hard to blow each other’s minds with cool new ideas.
We kind of follow what I call the Project Mayhem rule: you determine your own level of involvement. Anyone can write songs, and we always take the time to workshop new ideas as a group when someone brings them to the table. But the two primary songwriters in the band at this point are me and Rob. I do most of the lyrics and a good chunk of the music, whereas he’s more focused on music and writes lyrics a bit more intermittently.
We. Really. REALLY. Like. Goats. Just kidding. Heavy. Hooky. Over-the-top. Wild. Theatrical.Describe your music in five words!
We’ve got a bunch of good ones, but here are a few of my favorites:
We’re a Canadian band, but all the current band members are Eastern European: I’m Ukrainian, Rob’s half-Armenian, Cody (bass) has Russian roots, and Leo (drums) is actually from St. Petersburg. Sometimes I joke that we’re like the Canadian version of System of a Down, only a bit less political because we only have a few songs that directly relate to our shared heritage. But it does come up in songs like Prisoner’s Anthem (which draws parallels between the Soviet gulags, Nazi death camps, and the US prison system) or Return to Ruin (the music video for which touches on the current situation in Ukraine). There’s a lot of darkness in the history of those places, and it seems like much-too-fertile territory for a death metal band to ignore. But more importantly, I think we all felt a responsibility to show solidarity with the millions of everyday people whose lives have been ruined by Putin’s actions.
I got in a motorcycle accident while we were recording the album. I tore two ligaments in my right knee, broke the index finger on my left hand, and sprained both wrists. This happened just a week or two before I had to go in and record my solos, so if you listen to the record you’ll hear a lot of lead guitar work where I’m actually playing through a fair amount of pain. But it had to get done.
We literally abducted Cody off the street. We saw him carrying a bass guitar around and we had just lost our original bass player, so we walked right up to him and told him he was in the band. No choice. Thankfully, he was pretty chill about it. And even more thankfully, it turns out he can actually play!