Friday, August 3, 2012

Day of Reckoning: An interview with John Litchko of Symphony of Grief

What year did Cerberus form and what were the circumstances that led to this?

The year was 1992. My previous band "Necrotion" was pretty much over at that point. I got a call from Andy Markert (Vocals/Bass) He wanted me to help out with a project he was staring with rhythm guitarist Jay Horton. He had just got a drum machine and was playing around with it and he had some riffs and shit. So he showed me some shit, then I showed him some shit and Jay had some shit. And now we have this big pile of crap. (Ha Ha!) 

What were your influences at the time?

We were and still are by the way into: Autopsy, Death, Celtic Frost, Immolation, Godflesh, Incantation, Black Sabbath, Morbid Angel, Slayer, Venom, Voivod, Carcass, Paineater, Unleashed, Grave, Carbonized and to many more to mention really.

What led to the band changing the name to Symphony of Grief?

Well we never really thought that "Cerberus" was quite right for the band, so when Andy was writing the lyrix for "Ritual Disembowelment" there was a line that stated "Symphony of Grief". So we all decided to call the band that. Because we thought with the slower paced doom leaden shit that we play it would be a better fit. 
What was the scene down in the Jersey/Philly area like in those days?

Looking Back it really was fuckin great! There was allot of killer bands and Ideas going on. The death metal scene was pretty young at the time. It was very exciting.

I understand that you've also been involved in Necrotion as well as Goreaphobia. Could you tell me about the time you've spent with these two bands?

I think it was some time in late 1989. Joe Young (Guitar) knocked on my door and said he wanted to put a band together and he had a drummer (Frank Gamble). So I said great. I got a bass player (Andy Markert). So we started the band that eventually became Necrotion. A few months later in 1990 Goreaphobia needed a second guitar player. So I was asked to try out. I already knew some of there shit going in. So I got the job. But it didn't last very long maybe two months tops, things were just not working out. The chemistry was not there. So I was out. Then I wasted no time getting back together with Joe, Frank, and Andy. That was the first incarnation of Necrotion. Then some problems arose between Joe and Andy. So Andy was gone. Then about 3 months later Joe was gone. And that left me and Frank. We got my cousin Dave (Niedrist) to play bass. This line-up went on to record the "Fallen Salvation" demo and lasted about a year, played a bunch of gigs. Then Frank was gone. What the FUCK! That leaves me and Dave. Enter Kris Kwiatkowski (Drums) and Jason Hildebrand (Guitar). This line-up then records "Prelude to Apocalypse" 7 inch. Played one fuckin gig and then.... Done. FF>> to 1999/2000 I was back in Goreaphobia. This time for a whooping 1 1/2 years. FF>> again to 2007 Necrotion members Joe Young, Frank Gamble, along with Mike Trush (Bass), myself and a little later Andy Markert recorded a few more trax. Some of which are featured on the "Apocalyptic Vengeance" CD 2010. Available from and RedRum666.

What's the status with the mighty Perverseraph?

Still dead but we're expecting a visit from either Dr Frankenstein, Jesus Christ or Herbert West. So it may be alive again someday.

How was the relationship between SOG and Wild Rags?

It was pretty good from what I remember. I heard that some bands had problems with that label, but we never did.

 Aside from Wild Rags, did you guys catch the interest of any labels during the 90's?

Yeah there were a few others interested. But sometimes we would not get a concrete offer. So we wouldn't go for those. With Wild Rags it was pretty cut and dry. So that's why we went with them. 

Being a Conan the Barbarian FANATIC from WAY back, the song title 'Thoth Amon/Your Fallen Domain' obviously caught my eye! Which one among you was the band's lyrical mastermind?

Interesting that you found the Conan connection. Here's the thing; Andy wrote most of the lyrix up to that point. When it came time to prepare ideas for the upcoming "Our Blessed Conqueror" CD. Andy suggested we make it a concept album based on the power mad tyrant "Toth Amon". The funny thing is. I ended up writing most of the lyrix for that song, and I didn't realize until years later that "Thoth Amon" was actually related to the Conan saga. I thought it was something Andy made up from the egyptian god Thoth and the lesser Amon. I guess it all turned out for the best in the end. Crom made us do it.

A lot of words have been shed in regards to many of the worlds "regional" metal scenes such as Norway, Sweden, Florida, Brazil, etc. I always found it rather peculiar that the rather rotten sound of the tri-state area has been largely neglected. Sure, there's been no shortage of press for Incantation, Immolation and a few others, but many bands, especially from the Jersey/Philly area, have gone by fairly unnoticed. What are your thoughts on this?

Yeah we get overlooked, what with all the ghettos and the toxic wast and shit. But thats okay. We've got, as you mentioned. Incantation, Immolation and don't forget Mortician, Profanatica, Revenant, Goreaphobia, Necrotion, Crucifier, Ceremonium, Symphony of Grief, Cemetery Earth, Deteriorate, Solemn, Disciples Of Mockery, PerverserapH, NamtarU, Blood Storm, Abazagorath, Engorge, Krieg, Funebrarum, Rellik, Disma. Need I say more. 

What do you think of the current state of death metal? Are there any new bands that have caught your ear lately?

I really don't get to hear allot newer death metal. Most of the newer shit I hear is from older bands. Like Incantation, Autopsy, Immolation... There is one. Nekromantheon form Sweden is fuckin killer! Not really death metal more like massively aggressive speed thrash metal. Any one into brutal rip your face off metal should check out Nekromantheon... 

Around 1995/96, SOG seemingly vanished into thin air. What happened during this time and what brought about the band's recent resurrection?

Back then it just started to kinda fade away and die a slow death. It was like we started to grow apart musically. Andy started to get into more electronic music. Jay went off to rase a family. And I wanted to play faster shit. That's what led me to form PerverserpH.
For a long time we kicked around the idea of doing the SOG again. around like 2009 we stared getting things together. Andy no longer had his bass rig, so we had to try to find that same rig and set up that he had in the old days. It wasn't easy but we found it. Then we called up Jay to see if he wanted to do it. And he did so then it was just a matter of writing rehearsing and recording the songs. 

How are things going with Infernal Creations?

Good, but slow. At the moment we're just about out of the Symphony of Grief 2011 EPs but we still have plenty of Necrotion CDs, some NamtarU CDs (very limited). And we have plenty of Symphony of Grief and Necrotion T-Shirts. Also some time in the near future we will release a deluxe re-edition of Symphony of Grief's "Our Blessed Conqueror". Which will include remixes of the original demos and other goodies... Please visit us at

Alright John, many thanks for taking the time to do this. Any last words for the dying and the damned?

No problem bro thanx for the support. As for dying? Hang in there man... As for the damned? I'll meet you there later... 
John Litchko

Check out Symphony of Grief here and Infernal Creations here

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