Damon Maddison

Hydra Vein

HYDRA VEIN hailing from Brighton, UK are back! The Thrash Metal outfit had their time during the late 80s and reformed in 2019.  With original guitarist Danny Ranger and bassist Damon Maddison being part of the current line-up, the new album "Unlamented" is pure Thrash Metal in the best tradition of the 80s with crushing riffs, bass lines, and scintillating lead guitar solos. All good reasons for Metal Temple writer Thomas Kumke to speak to Damon Maddison and reflect on the new album.
March 31, 2023
HYDRA VEIN's Damon Maddison: "We were really only hoping to do ourselves justice and ensure the album was worthwhile. It was a case of seeing if we had anything left in the tank and to have some fun with it along the way. That's what we have done. interview
Hi Damon, it is a real pleasure to have you here and I am grateful to perform an interview with you today for the Metal Temple magazine.

Happy to do it and sincere apologies for the delay.

It is great to have you back after a break of almost 30 years. What was the reason for the re-unification of HYDRA VEIN?

It was simply a case of the stars aligning. We were offered a slot on Brofest and collectively decided it would be both fun to do and (our thinking at that time) a nice way to bring the curtain down on Hydra Vein. All of the old band members were up for it, one last show whilst we still could, so why not?

You did the re-unification show in Newcastle with five of the original members. In 2020, three of them decided to leave. What did you drive to continue and even work on new music?

We'd started putting together new songs - really just to see if we could - shortly after Brofest, when everyone was basking in the afterglow of having got back together again after so long. Then the COVID pandemic hit and as time dragged on, I think it sunk in a little with a couple of the guys exactly how much hard work and travel would be involved in making it work, long-distance. Enthusiasm waned and a couple of the band dropped out. From my perspective, though, the wheels were already in motion so I was keen to see if it could be made to work, somehow

Did you ever think of giving up with your plans?

The thing with plans is you can never be sure they'll be realised entirely but the idea was to write some songs and see if they were going to be strong enough to release and take everything else from there. As such, there wasn't really a period where I considered knocking the idea on the head completely.

HYDRA VEIN is one of the classic UK Thrash Metal bands alongside SABBAT and ONSLAUGHT. However, Thrash Metal in UK has never been very big and was always in the shadow of NWOBHM and even of UK Death Metal. In retrospect, how challenging was that for your career?

About as challenging as it gets! Yes, it's true there was a limited, albeit committed and enthusiastic, fanbase for thrash bands in the UK and that was always unlikely to provide a springboard to world domination. But that's also not really why anyone does it - bands do what bands do because they love doing it and generating a following, if it happens, is something of a bonus. Sure, it would have been nice to have achieved more but things pan out as they will and you take it as it comes.

The "old" HYDRA VEIN was a Thrash Metal band from the UK. The "new" HYDRA VEIN is still a Thrash Metal band, but with notable influence from The Netherlands, both, in terms of the new line-up and production. How did that come?

I left the UK for the Netherlands shortly after the band initially split up and have been based here pretty-much ever since. When it became apparent we were not going to have all of the original band members back on board, it simply made sense to have a band core similarly based here to work on the body of the new songs, so that's what we ran with. We're not particularly local to each other but are within a feasible driving distance so are able to work on things together as a band, which definitely makes things easier to bring together.

A feature of HYDRA VEIN is the use of three guitars as most Metal bands use one or two guitars. What is the purpose and what opportunities does this offer in terms of the sound?

Initially, this was a consequence of Brofest. We wanted to involve all of the ex-Hydras in that show and so went with three guitars just because of that. However, it was apparent when rehearsing the set that three guitars does give you a broader sound palette to work from and increases your options when playing live. Particularly during the middle sections of songs, you can have two variants of the riffs being played under a lead solo, for instance, and that simply makes things sound a little more interesting. That said, it wasn't necessarily the intention to continue with three guitars when we re-geared the line-up but Dan was still on board and after the initial rehearsals, I wanted both Henry and Jonas to be involved, so we just rolled with it.

The new album "Unlamented" has been released in October last year. How was the response so far?

It's gone about as well as we could have hoped. The reception for the album has been generally very positive, though one or two of our older fans struggle to adapt to the change of singer and there will certainly be those who question why we've even bothered at all … but that's all okay and to some degree, to be expected. We're coming back from a long time away and everybody's a different person now to who they were in the late 80s, so we might not be pushing the same buttons for people we previously did. I'm generally fine with that and, in general, it seems the broader public is, too.

What were your expectations on the new album after 30 years of absence?

We were really only hoping to do ourselves justice and ensure the album was worthwhile and I think we managed that...though opinions can differ! Seriously, it was a case of seeing if we had anything left in the tank and to have some fun with it along the way. That's what we've done, so expectations met.

My favorite songs on the album are "Does The End Justify The Means", "Blood Eagle Dawn" and "Twilight". What are yours?

We were really only hoping to do ourselves justice and ensure the album was worthwhile and I think we managed that ... though opinions can differ! Seriously, it was a case of seeing if we had anything left in the tank and to have some fun with it along the way. That's what we've done, so expectations met.

How would you characterize the sound of the album?

Crunchy and punchy. I think it's still very recognizably a Hydra Vein record but much closer to how we sound in the flesh to the previous records. We made some decisions during the sessions to keep it largely live and "real", so the basic tracks went down pretty-much as you hear them. That's always going to involve hitting the right balance between precision and feel and I hope we've landed somewhere close to the sweet spot. What we certainly didn't want to do was to get carried away with over-engineering things, so there's a certain looseness left in the takes we kinda like but which doesn't necessarily chime with how a lot of metal is put down, today. Play it loud, though, and I'd say it works!

How did the songwriting work for the album?

I put most of the songs together (including resurrecting "Does The End ..") on my virtual studio at home, whilst Jonas came up with the instrumental that opens the album. We had an initial twelve tracks from which we eventually settled on the nine that made it to the album, taking the rough demo versions into the rehearsal studio to tweak the arrangements where they needed tweaking and decide what was going to make the cut. Dan added additional guitar parts remotely, via file transfers and we worked the songs up that way.

You released a lyric video of "Age Of Plague". These days, a lot of Metal bands support their albums with three or even more videos. Are there still any video shoots planned?

There may well be. We are discussing it, as it's proven difficult to get ourselves involved in much live work this year (2024 looks far more promising in that respect) and it would be good to be able to release something fresh in the meantime. It would be a shoot, very probably largely a performance video and we'd hope to have it out late summer...but we'll have to see how we go.

You released "Unlamented" via UK label Back on Black, which are specialists in re-releasing Metal albums on vinyl. What was the intention working with them?

Back In Black evolved out of Metalother, with whom we released the "Rather Death ..." album way back in the mists of time, so we'd basically known them for almost 35 years. They had been in touch with us as they were looking to take over the re-releases of the first two albums. We ended up chatting and when we mentioned we had new material ready to go, they were enthusiastic about releasing it and we took things from there. A case of the stars aligning again. Sometimes, things just fall into place and you get lucky.

Are there any touring plans for this year?

We had hoped to be playing shows this spring/summer but the live scene is still seeing the tail-end of the pandemic shake out, with a ton of acts keen to resume their lives, and there's been a fair saturation of the market, which makes things a little difficult. From the feedback we've had from promoters and venues, the situation is looking a lot more promising for 2024 and we hope to be able to make several appearances throughout that year. I doubt those will take the form of a long tour - our logistics make that complicated - but we are very hopeful we'll be able to get a clutch of shows together, somewhere.

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