Interview: MASACRE

by Jorge Patacas

Legendary Colombian band Masacre recently toured Europe celebrating their 35th anniversary, putting on a great show at Inferno Festival in Oslo, Norway. Vocalist Alex Okendo was also invited to talk about his career on a panel that also included Kjetil Manheim, Mayhem’s first drummer, as part of the Inferno Music Conference, an event that gathers press, promoters, record labels and other key players of the music industry. Right after the conference, we had the opportunity to talk in depth with Alex about the early days, tape trading with Mayhem, the musical and lyrical influences of Masacre, the late drummer Bull Metal, the reissue of the debut album “Reqviem” and much more!


RISE!: – Just a few days ago you were playing in Spain, how were those shows?

Alex Okendo: They were much better than we could have imagined because when we went to Madrid, it was already sold out two days before the concert. Then we went to Zaragoza and Barcelona. Due to the response, we got proposals to play in Valencia and then Barcelona and Madrid again. When we finish our tour in the rest of Europe, we are going back to Spain to do a couple of more shows and then we go back home.

R!: – This is the first time you’re going to play in Norway, what are your expectations considering that it’s a different crowd who doesn’t speak the same language and maybe they don’t understand the lyrics so much?

AO: I think it’s more than just the lyrics, it’s also going to be a show. It’s about the way we express ourselves, play and scream our lyrics. Metal is a type of music that has several ways to be expressed on stage. I think that Masacre has a particular and very South American way of sounding. It’s still very raw, strong and violent, and it has a very special way of captivating the audience, so I think what they’re going to see is going to be very different from what they’re used to seeing.

R!: – You’ve just been at a conference where you met Manheim, who was Mayhem drummer at the time you were sending letters to each other. How did your presence at this conference come about?

AO: They are very impressed by the band’s career. How can a band like us, after so many years, coming from a country with many difficulties, survive for so long and continue to be strong in metal? I think these last few years have been even better than the first ones, and I think all of this is interesting enough for the band to present themselves and show the career that it has had, the contacts that were made here in the beginning. Long before bands like Satyricon, Taake and others existed, Masacre was already playing and there was an influence from us and from them for the sound of black metal here in Norway. So it’s about finding the roots, those early days… not only to show it live, but also to have that talk about how two scenes from very distant places at a time when internet didn’t exist, had been able to have communication and a connection that would later make that contribution, so that the sound of both had an essence, a particular sound. I think black metal is part of our primitive sound and it’s also part of the sound and the realities of countries like Norway or Sweden, which experienced religion in a different way. But we too, in the midst of that violence, experienced religion in a way in which the country tried to hide or solve a problem that was not going to be solved by miracles. By praying a lot and seeing that nothing changes, people end up giving up religion as has happened here, that people don’t believe that much because they see that they are lies really.

R!: – In the early days it was common to put out fanzines or magazines to spread this music that we are so passionate about, and you and Bull Metal (Mauricio Montoya, former drummer) had a magazine called Necrometal in the 80s, right? Is there still a copy of it?

AO: Yes, I have the three issues of Necrometal that we put out. The first and the second were out in 1989 and the following year we did the third one, and that was it, but they do exist. I was even thinking to release them as a book so that something is documented. Something very particular was happening in Colombia at that time, as it happened a lot in South America in general, we didn’t speak English, so we used terms that people didn’t know. We introduced the term “magazine” in the country, people did not know what that was. When we said we were going to make a “demo tape” or a “rehearsal”, people didn’t know what it was. We introduced all these terms through a magazine and by handing out flyers.

R!: – Sure, it was still all very primitive.

AO: Yeah, we were so primitive there that we innovated our own terms and when people used other terms, they sometimes criticized us and said “oh, you’ve Americanized” or “you are bourgeois now”. Latin America lives that kind of reality and people feel a little withdrawn, but then all those terms were expanded, everything became well-known and now everyone says “I have a magazine” and all the other terms. What at first was a criticism towards us, later became common terminology.

R!: – This year marks the 35th anniversary of Masacre. In addition to this European tour, your first album “Reqviem” from 1991 is going to be reissued. Why did you decide to re-record this album now instead of recording something new?

AO: We decided to re-record the album because we hadn’t been very comfortable with the sound at that time and our label, Osmose, hadn’t been very comfortable either. Osmose told us that we could take advantage of the fact that the album was celebrating its 30th anniversary to make a new version where we can all be happy. When we made the contract with Osmose it was because they had promoted “Ola de Violencia” a lot and the sound of that EP is really chaotic, raw and brutal, while “Reqviem” was a little cleaner, although it feels very dark. But the label had not been very satisfied, so to speak. At that time we were happy because we had released the album in Europe and that meant a lot for us. Hervé Herbaut, who is the owner of Osmose, said that he wanted “Reqviem” to sound like “Ola de Violencia”, so he wrote to us in 2017 and made us the proposal, we signed the contract, we made the recording and he told us that he wanted Masacre to record this album with the sound and experience that the band has now because he felt there was a debt to that album. So now there’s a double album that includes the original 1991 recording and the re-recording that we did now. The composition of each song is the same, only the tuning and the sound is our current one. There is also a 7″ with two bonus songs which are “Blasfemias” and “Cáncer”.

R!: – Being 35 years doing this, I’m sure you have endless memories and stories, but is there a show or an anecdote with a fan or something that when you think back you say “I can’t believe this really happened”?

AO: There are so many anecdotes, you can’t imagine how many… for example, we were playing at the Carlos Vieco theater once and there was a guy in the audience that was headbanging and screaming the songs and suddenly his denture fell out on the stage (laughs). Many things happened. I had to sing on one of those plastic bags once because it had rained and we were playing outdoors with people at ground level, and when I picked up the microphone, I was getting a current, so I had to sing on top of some plastic to isolate the current. Those are things that can happen in South America.

R!: – Masacre started very early when death metal was just starting to develop, how did you discover the genre? I guess in those days it had to be through bands like Death or Possessed…

AO: We were in touch with other bands through letters, among them Asphyx, Gorefest, Grave, Moonspell… and when we got a reply they used to tell us that we played very good death metal. We didn’t know that what we were doing was called death metal because for us it was still ultra metal. When we started to be in touch with tape traders and people like that through letters, we began to identify ourselves and we knew that it was death metal. We started to distinguish certain sounds, elements, riffs and things that were characteristic of the genre.

R!: – And how did you develop your guttural vocals at that time when you didn’t have that much reference?

AO: I always say that my biggest influence was Parabellum when it comes to vocals. I have two registers that I discovered in their sound. The brutal sound of Parabellum inspired me a lot to create a very low sound with my voice and over time I structured it in a way that best suits my abilities. That has allowed me to have a very personal register. Making very abrupt changes from a very screaming and screeching voice to a very reverberant voice with a lower pitch. That helps me identify parts of the lyrics where I feel there is more despair, more crying and more anguish, so I use the loudest voice there, and the other is like a very solid base.

R!: – Masacre has some lyrics in Spanish and others in English. What is the criteria you use to decide whether the lyrics will be in one language or another? It depends on the music or you decide that before the music is written?

AO: On the “Total Death” album we focused a lot on English to seek to become part of the scene again, because we had been silent abroad. That’s why we thought that if we came out with an album in English we could come back in a stronger way, being more present. We managed to make the album with a very good producer like Erik Rutan and we managed to license it in Spain, the Czech Republic, Argentina… it came out in several countries and that helped us a lot. But then we thought that we had to go back to the roots and that’s why for “Brutal Aggre666ion” we decided to do half the album in English and the other half in Spanish. The lyrics that are in Spanish have a Colombian social and political context, they are about our experiences and that’s why the metalheads from our country feel more identified with them, while those that are in English talk about the war in general. For example, on that album there are songs like “La Guerra” and “Donde Habita el Mal”, for which we made a video clip, which are in Spanish and are about our country, while others like “Reality Death” or “Bullets” that are about death, those can be understood globally, so we made them in English so that they could reach everyone. But now we have made the decision that the new album will be all in Spanish because that is how we made ourselves known, one of the things that makes us different is also that we sing in Spanish. Masacre also gave other Latin bands the opportunity to see that we can also reach Europe or other parts of the world by singing in our own language.

R!: – And since we’re talking about lyrics, a song that it’s a must on your setlist is “Imperio del Terror”, a true classic. Do you remember the moment this song was written?

AO: I remember, of course, even the rehearsals when we were writing it. It was with that song that we began to have difficulties with the guitarist who was at the beginning, Antonio Guerrero, because he was no longer so involved in what the band was doing. We used to have a slightly simpler musical structure, with denser, lower and not so elaborate chords. “Imperio del Terror” is a song that has more harmonies, etc., so from there we began to write in a different way. Obviously the lyrics also had to show progress as well as the music at the time. People feel identified with those lyrics a lot, I think it is one of the favorites of the set.

R!: – You are also a tattoo artist and you always liked designs in general. So you created the band logo as well, was it the first thing that came out or did you have several prototypes?

AO: The style of the logo came about when I made the letter M. From that letter M I drew an alphabet. I made a complete alphabet of letters in that style and that’s where the logo came from. In the first demo the blood doesn’t appear on the logo, but for the second demo I started dripping blood on it to make it darker, to give a sense of death.

R!: – What is your favorite logo of any band?

AO: The Mayhem logo looks very cool to me. You see it and you see the concept of death and darkness. It is also clear, you can read the letters. That’s very important for me. A logo must convey a concept and be legible. I love the Venom logo… the Possessed logo is one of the best logos because you see it and it’s dark, it’s legible, the inverted cross looks good on it. You listen to Possessed and you put the logo in front of you and you feel that it is saying something to you, that’s very important.

R!: – Before Masacre, you were part of Ekhymosis for a short time and you left because your voice was too guttural for their style, which was more thrash-oriented. Esteban Mora, Andrés García and Juanes were also part of that band. Years later, Ekhymosis as a band changed their style and then Juanes launched his solo pop career that everyone knows now. Did you keep in touch with Juanes and the other members after you left? What was your reaction when you saw the radical musical change of Ekhymosis and then the solo career of Juanes?

AO: When I came out of the band, they had the opportunity to sound more like Metallica from “And Justice for All” or Destruction from “Release from Agony”, not so primitive. For me it was also a relief because the fact that Masacre is here today is also because they kicked me out of that band. So my departure was convenient both for me and for them and as time goes by each one realizes what their dreams, desires and goals are. Each one was trying to find their path. My first concert and also Juanes’ first concert was the one we did in Envigado in 1988 as a metal band. That was the event that launched our careers. Andrés now continues with Ekhymosis, Juanes already has his style in other music genre, although the times I have had the opportunity to talk to him, he has told me that he still listens to metal and feels a little bit nostalgic, but obviously he has his career now. And then I dedicated my whole life to this and for me it has been the best option, I do not envy any of them…

R!: – Well, I don’t think anyone can imagine you playing the kind of music Juanes plays now (laughs)

AO: No, no one can imagine it, nor do I see myself doing something like that (laughs)

R!: – As you know, I come from Uruguay and we also have our problems there as in the rest of Latin America, but I remember when I was younger that the news coming from Colombia and especially Medellín were really extreme stories that you reflect in your lyrics. Have you learned any life lessons having experienced all of that when growing up?

AO: Many, many… sometimes life lessons are so sad… how can I say it? I experienced very difficult things in my childhood and youth due to social problems. It wasn’t fair to have grown up in a country where we were denied so many opportunities, when we were acting in a good and positive way. Let’s say that in ’91 when we got Osmose’s contract and recorded the first album, the world was opening up to us when we were young. We immediately began to get proposals to go on tour around the world, and we would go to the embassy to get visas, and they would tell us that they couldn’t give us visas because we were Colombians. The conflict in the country didn’t allow us to fullfil our dreams. We were not part of the war, we were giving our cultural contribution and saving the youth from all that. Many people ask me why we come out and introduce the band to the world now after so many years when we could have achieved many things having done it before, but the social and political situation of the country did not allow us to achieve our dreams very early. Then when Pablo Escobar was caught and a couple of presidents signed a peace agreement, they believed that everything was over, that the country is doing better now, that it is the happiest and most beautiful country as they say over there, but that’s a lot of BS they try to sell. However, now it is easier for us to go to other countries, for them to give us visas and opportunities.

R!: – On the other hand, and putting aside that negative side of the Colombian reality for a moment, what do you love about your country? I’ve never been there, but I can mention the warmth of the Colombians I’ve met… and the arepas (typical Colombian food)! (laughs)

AO: (Editor’s note: Alex laughs and then answers seriously) You know what? I think it’s incredible how people that suffer so much, that have struggled so much… people that grew up, live and will live in war, still believe that there is a way out. I see that people get up with the hope of staying strong, that there may be a change. I don’t know if the war itself made us calm and with the hope of achieving a change one day and so having a better country. It is the struggle of the people to find happiness. That dream is something I admire from my country. I think that in many countries when they enter into war conflicts for more than fifty years, the defeat is so horrible that they leave. If one looks at Venezuela, for example, they have been living with what they are living now for 25 years and I think the country is almost empty. However, my country has been in a conflict for sixty years and people still move there. I think Colombia is the country with the most conflicts in the world because if you look at other countries, some have conflicts with drug trafficking, others have guerrillas, others have violence and others have corrupt governments. Colombia has all of that at the same time and still continues to grow as a country.

R!: – Going back to the Norwegian scene, the lyrics to Mayhem’s “Life Eternal” were originally intended as a gift from Dead (former Mayhem vocalist who committed suicide by shooting himself with a shotgun) to Bull Metal. After Dead’s death, Mayhem used the lyrics for “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” and a couple of years later, Bull Metal used the lyrics for his band Typhon as a tribute to Dead and Euronymous. Were the lyrics actually sent to Bull Metal or Dead just wanted to send the lyrics but didn’t do it at the time?

AO: There was the intention and I can tell you more, they (Mayhem) were going to record “Sepulcros en Ruinas” which is our song, they were rehearsing it to play it on their album. We were also going to play one Mayhem song for one of our albums and I think that’s where “Life Eternal” came in the picture, because that was something that had been discussed for the future.

R!: – Is it true that you received a letter from Euronymous with a fragment of Dead’s skull?

AO: Yes, that’s true, and also some pellets from the shotgun with which he shot himself. In addition to the picture of his corpse that was sent to Bull Metal. They told him to show it to the rest of the guys, but not to publish it, and he ended up publishing it. That upset Necrobutcher and the rest a lot.

R!: – What was your reaction when you saw all that?

AO: What impressed us the most was the picture. It impressed us a lot, because one tries to avoid that kind of morbid thing and to know that it was so real… We used to write to him and suddenly we saw him there dead, we couldn’t believe it. It was something so morbid that we didn’t even want to analyze it very well. It seemed impossible to us that at that period of the band, they would make that kind of decision.

R!: – Changing the subject… do you collect records, fanzines, videos and that kind of things?

AO: Yes, I have a collection.

R!: – What would be, for example, a precious object in your collection?

AO: There are many things. Let’s say the Slayer magazines that have cult status worldwide these days. I have the one that features Masacre which came out in ’89 or ’90. I have the Mayhem demo that Dead sent to me… the letters we sent to each other with Impaled Nazarene when at that time they asked us what Osmose was like and today they are the most important band on the label. I also have the first Black Sabbath album, the original edition from 1970. I think they made 100,000 at that time in England and I have one of those. I keep these things as treasures.

R!: – They are treasures!

AO: Yes, there are many things. When we first played with Slayer was when they were with the original line-up before Hanneman died, I mean, when Lombardo was back. So I was able to get all of them to sign my albums. I also have Bathory’s “Under the Sign of the Black Mark” signed by Quorthon. Lots of things like that.

R!: – Uruguay is the only country in South America where Masacre has not played, I don’t know why it hasn’t happened so far. Do you know any band from the scene there?

AO: I know Angkor Vat, Alvacast… and there was another band from that time that was very good.

R!: – Hmm… Inner Sanctum maybe?

AO: Yes, that one! Now I see that there are some thrash bands because I’m in touch with bands from there. Is there another one called Cabeza de Toro?

R!: – No, it’s called Rey Toro.

AO: Of course, Rey Toro.

R!: – Then I can send you material from other bands too. But now let’s talk a little bit about Masacre fans. Since the band is already 35 years old, have you seen a generational change in the band’s audience or do you see more or less the same faces?

AO: You know what happened? We have reached three generations, and there were many people who left, but they left the seed sown for new people. So it seems that the concept of Masacre spread so much that many people come to see what we do, to see what others talked about us. Many people come with that expectation of seeing the band live and luckily they leave with a good impression because we play what we live with a lot of passion and feeling metal. For us it is not a job or a pose, it is our feeling.

R!: – Well, today there are many more possibilities for younger bands due to technology, but at the same time it happens that many of them end up being an exact copy of another and you certainly cannot see that feeling or that passion that you usually see when listening to a band. I mean, there are a lot of bands that sound kind of artificial, if you know what I mean.

AO: Yes, they sound synthetic. We often compare this with food. It is not the same to eat a hamburger on the street or at McDonald’s. One tastes more real and the other tastes like shit (laughs)
This is the case in music and other things too.

R!: – Yes, I think something that fans in general appreciate about bands like Masacre and others is the honesty and passion besides the music itself. But what else do you think is the reason why Masacre is still strong in 2023?

AO: I think in a way it’s being a little more radical. We have grown up in the old school and the difficult times made us value what we have today a little more. Nowadays you download two or three songs that you like and create a playlist. For us it is always about looking at who produces the album, where they record, what instruments they record with, where they tour, who they tour with, what they think, what their lyrics are about, what the logo is like, how they make the album covers… because sometimes I’m also skeptical of the covers and logos. It is important that the logo has to do with the type of music.
Sometimes I just start listening and being influenced by the old school stuff. In the modern stuff sometimes I notice a certain lack of interest or laziness, there is not so much of the energy or the spirit we had in the 80s and 90s with that passion we had for what was so difficult to achieve in music.

R!: – Thank you very much for the interview!

AO: Thank you and Rise! for giving me this opportunity to be in touch with the Latin American scene in general, which is a scene that we love so much and that we are grateful for, because if we are here in Norway today it is thanks to the support of the people, the support of media outlets like yours, it’s thanks to that opportunity that the audience has given us to sound better and better. Because of that, we are here in Norway today to represent Latin American metal.



Ola de Violencia EP – 1991
Reqviem – 1991
Barbarie y Sangre en Memoria de Cristo EP – 1993
Sacro – 1996
Muerte Verdadera Muerte – 2001
Total Death – 2004
Brutal Aggre666ion – 2014


“Imperio del Terror (Live)”:

“Death Metal Forever (Live)” (2009):

“Donde Habita el Mal” (2014):

“Reality Death” (2014):

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