Sunday, June 20, 2010


1995's 'Upon The Throne Of Eternity' on the German Silencelike Death label. (Photo - Alan Moses)

Pete Slate is a name that should not be unknown, having taken part in some killer acts from the glorious era of extreme music. Acheron and Incubus being the two most recognized bands from the time period. ANYBODY who has heard the resilient and time tested stand alone album 'Rites Of The Black Mass' by Acheron can hear Slate's DNA stamp all over the guitar work on this amazing debut album.

Ultra-classic Acheron featuring Pete Slate. Photo - courtesy Vincent Crowley.

Incubus featuring Pete Slate & Mark LaVenia, prior to Pete leaving. Taken in the Howard brother's family home in Tampa 1990. Far right is Invincible Force 'zine editor Bryan Daniel who was intrumental to the photographer's life in the USA. This photo, like so many others GT uses, are unseen until now.(Photo - Alan Moses).

Official band bio insert which comes with the very rare 1995 EP. (Photo - Alan Moses)

So what the fuck happened? When Pete left Acheron, he teamed up with drummer Stephen Spillers to form what our friend Jason Kiss (Advent Abortus/Emperial Massacre) termed 'a true hidden Florida gem' in the now long running band EQUINOX. The original core was augmented by the notorious Mark LaVenia on bass and "Darkness" on vocals and we cannot agree with Jason's comment enough - Pete Slate has stood at the helm of what is truly a band that missed the spotlight.

Equinox featured in Peru's TESTAMENT 'ZINE #10. (Photo - Alan Moses)

Amazing when the 2nd wave of signings took up many straight out mediocre bands that were happy, and in one bizarre case,  to leave their posts as Young Republicans and to clone the pioneers of their choice.

What kind of bullshit is this? Factory farmed extreme music spelled the death knell. Out with the original and in with mediocrity - the rallying cry of the new era!

As the commercialism of black metal became,and has remained a solid fact then, this may have forced Equinox further into the shadows, as many folks simply had had enough of the imagery and sound of the black metal style, leaving it to the trend followers - and just never gave Slate's new outfit a chance due to the imagery of the early period.

An early Equinox shot from Spring 1995, Matt in foreground, Pete in background. (Photo - courtesy Pete Slate)

NOT so musically. "Black Fucking Death" is an apt description! So it's a shame this hidden gem laid neglected by many, despite the involvement of key-name figures such as Pete Slate, Mark LaVenia and Tony Blakk.

One of the earliest line up shots to feature Mark Lavenia - here in 1993. Not often seen since other selections from this shoot were used much more frequently. (Photo - courtesy Pete Slate)

STEPHEN SPILLERS (original drummer): "Mark was kind of like the elder, more experienced brother in those days. I always looked up to him because of his integrity both musically and personally. He was a phenomenal bassist and on the early recordings we were a four piece but Matt was only singing and we only had Pete's guitar so it had the sound and feel of a three piece. Mark's bass work carried the music. He made the single guitar sound work."

Some of the classic material you should be trying to locate right now. (Photo - Alan Moses)





MARK LAVENIA: "Interestingly, all of our early recordings, including tracks from these demos, have just been compiled and released through Grim Nocturnal Records (, titled, As the Moon Swallows the Sun. It also has some really rough sounding live tracks. In addition to The Oath, it has several other covers that were originally on different tribute albums: Sabbath’s Hole in the Sky, Slayer’s Haunting the Chapel, and Mercyful Fate’s Gypsy. These were all recorded after I left the band. The exception being Hole in the Sky, where Pete asked me to make a cameo appearance and play the acoustic guitar coda, Don’t Start (Too Late). It’s fun too, after 15 years to have some of this stuff released, and the assembly of all of these tracks was really well done."



As rare as the band itself!! (Photo - Alan Moses)

Is it possible to salute the old world extremity, from a metal oriented approach, without losing integrity or personality? Fuck yeah, grab this band's recordings and the fact that it has been done without coming off as a total rip off will smack you right in the face. There's TOO MANY classic songs, but some are 'The Enchantress', 'Wretched and Nameless' and 'De Sacrificio Summo' -which come immediately to mind.

1994's classic 3-trk self titled promo Demo.

Tony Blakk, right from the above demo era, Summer 1994. (Photo - Mark Lavenia)

MARK LAVENIA :" I think we made some cool tunes. I think our daring to be slow—considering what many other bands were doing at the time—made for a fresh sound. Furthermore, I think we were able to capture a mood that was dark and eerie, without resorting to the low-hanging fruit of hateful, sick, and perverse themes. I know, many people probably think, ‘you say “sick and perverse” like it is a bad thing”’; LOL. Truth is, we love many bands that dwell in that realm; however, it just wasn’t the identity we wanted to convey. And for my part, it wasn’t a mentality that I wanted to purvey. I’m not sure if that helped us or hurt us. Nevertheless, I think our authenticity in that regard contributed to a recognizable identity.

In addition, what they’ve gone on to do since I left has sent the intensity of their song writing through the stratosphere. Although I really loved Steve’s drumming, the addition of Gabe to the line up had a transformative effect on the band: his technique gave them a sound that was ready for the world’s stage. Just to be clear, I personally like listening to Steve’s drumming just as well, and found it to be perfectly well suited for the sound we were going for in the early years of the band. However, Gabe’s highly technical playing and phenomenal chops gave them a sound that was less “underground,” if you will; and thus, was appealing to a broader circle of fans.

All that said, I think the secret ingredient to their success has been Pete’s unrelenting perseverance and commitment to the music. I am totally impressed with his ability to hang in there and keep plugging away month after month, year after year. Furthermore, his creative wellspring has not even remotely been depleted. Pete is the real deal."

Much of the band's music should be preferably listened to with headphones on, might we add, for there is yet another hidden layer waiting the more adventurous, who are NOT content with making this sort of music background in nature.

Matt June 19 2006 (Photo - Mark Lavenia)

Being family men and regular job workers, you'd think Pete would have laid his weapons down - not the case, far from it. The man has soldiered on creating some of the most vital and interesting song structures to come from the style worldwide, let alone nationwide or even Florida wide. And you bet the indelible forensic proof comes with Pete's immediate signature guitar work.

Hard Rock Live @ Universal, Citywalk - Orlando, Fl 2006 (Photo - courtesy Pete Slate)

At the end of April 2010 we got up again with Pete, and had a little chat to get his opinion on a couple things:

GT: As Equinox is an active band with material out and history behind it, what is the current status of the band musically and line up wise?

PETE: We are still together. I'm writing some new songs. Since we are looking for a permanent label to help distribute our music, we want to get either a demo cd out or a 7"ep. I'm a huge fan of vinyl and it's very popular again. So maybe that will happen. It's myself on guitar, Tony Blakk on Vocals/Bass, and Gabe Lewandowski on drums.

GT: Is it possible to judge the fan base's responses to the older material compared to the newer material?

PETE: That's a hard question. We still have long time fans but we get a lot of new hits everyday on Myspace of new fans that are just now getting into the band. All our albums have gotten a great response and most of the fans want the whole collection since the cd's are getting harder to come by.

GT: Has the band found more of a following in certain countries?

PETE: Well Europe in general has always been good to us. Germany, Austria, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, Czech Republic and course Mexico and parts of Central America.

Complimentary Equinox Poster (!) which accompanies Testament 'zine #10 from Peru. (Photo - Alan Moses)

GT: What's your reaction to the statement that Equinox is one of the hidden gems in the Tampa scene's crown?

PETE: That pretty much sums it up. We were always the band that got overlooked. It was because we formed back in late '92. Shit, by that time the scene here in Fl was just over saturated with Death Metal bands and everyone was getting tired of the FL scene. Even though we didn't sound anything like that, we got lumped into the whole FL thing. Had we been formed a few years earlier things would of been a lot different. I believe that whole heartedly.

A 1993 promo photo that remained unused until the release of 'As The Moon swallows The Sun'. (Photo - courtesy Pete Slate)

GT: Did you ever think this far down the road you'd still be writing and having your tunes published?

PETE: Well yes, in a way. I always believed in our music and I knew if we found the right label to help us get our music around the world we'd be very popular. Now we just need to find a well respected record label.

GT: How was LaVenia's wedding?

PETE: Great man. Mark has been a long time friend since I was about 19. We've been in countless bands together so to be at his wedding was an honor. He's like a brother to me. The wedding was awesome and his father played jazz guitar at the reception. We even had pictures with the Glorious Times book. THAT BOOK NEVER LEAVES MY SIDE!!!!!

Now we are talking. History WITH History! Mark & Pete were kind enough to have a photo taken with GT at Mark's wedding! We wish you and your wife all the best Mark, thank you both for such a cool gesture!
(Photo - courtesy Pete Slate)

MARK LAVENIA: "It wasn’t until Pete Slate and I became friends that I became acquainted with the darker hues of metal. He introduced me to Slayer, Possessed, Celtic Frost, etc. I immediately loved the intensity and chunky grooves. Like Ride the Lightning before it, my first hearing of Reign in Blood was a game changer and, for me, completely recalibrated what it meant for a tune to be bad ass. Certainly we’d catch shows with Morbid Angel or Amon (now Deicide). However, bands like Kreator, Coroner, even Testament and Anthrax were fair game. Athiest or Obituary was just as likely to be in the tape deck as Destruction or Voivod. Pete was always more of an aficionado on the underground scene than I was. He would always have me check out this or that demo he just traded for; I can’t say that many the real obscure ones ever really stuck with me, though it was cool to hear the new sounds that were emerging."

"We were witness to the birth pangs and formative throes of Tampa’s death metal scene. And that was cool. As I think many people can relate, it is cool as a kid to know about obscure bands that are not on many people’s radar; it’s as if you have special knowledge. Add to that that the given band is more brutal or macabre than they thought musically possible, and it is as if to say, I live in a world unbeknownced to you, and it is not for the faint of heart. In the sage words of Beavis, “The only thing better than getting chicks, is scaring them.” However, that is all pretty much kid stuff, and I resolved to not get stuck in that. Thus, I enjoyed hearing new bands, but had no particular disdain for a band just because they were or became well known (providing they held to the integrity of the music)."

Gabe during 'The Immortal Kind' recording sessions, NEVER SEEN BEFORE! (Photo - courtesy Pete Slate)

"If you couldn’t tell already, Pete was and is one of my very best buds. So, he and I never lost contact. We currently talk infrequently, but the space doesn’t make us at all estranged. Anyway…after Incubus, Pete had met a drummer, Steve Spillers; they were talking about putting together a project that was in the black/death metal vein. Pete invited me in and I was totally into the idea. Although we all loved the vicious riffing and blazing beats of many of the bands of the time, we were all in agreement that something really old-school was what we were wanted to pour our energy into. Pete and Steve were much more familiar with the European black metal bands that they wanted to fashion the sound after, than I was. For me, my influence hailed from more fundamental roots—what I consider to be the pro-genesis to the entire scene: the title track off of Black Sabbath’s debut album. Moreover, we were all after the same construct, though were coming at it from slightly varied angles."

"The first band Pete and I were together in was called Blacke Rose (à la early Mercyful Fate). After a couple years, it was clear that Pete and I wanted to take the band in a direction that the other guys weren’t up for (and, we knew that the name had to go). The drummer stayed with us, but his heart was never really into it. Pete ran into Kam, told him about what we were trying to do; we all met, hit it off, and started writing new materials and rehearsing right away."
Mark LaVenia on Abhorrent Existence


GT: Druid Lord is the new side project (if you want to call it that) which is focusing on more the doomy side of things - can you give a little reasoning and info behind the band and what you want to achieve with it?

PETE: I've always loved old school Death Metal and Doom Metal. I've had songs and part of songs for years that I really couldn't use for Equinox. So I formed this band keeping the music style to bands like Autopsy, Dream Death, Hellhammer, but having some strange melodies like let's say Candlemass/St.Vitus. Lyrically we are dealing with ideas from old cult horror movies and the occult. I'm having a blast with this and it will fucking crush. Look for the demo soon.

STEVE: "I can't tell you how good it is to be playing music with Pete and Tony again. Nothing's changed and we all work together just the same as we did in Equinox. I've played in other bands just as they have and we will all tell you that what we have is unique. That kind of atmosphere makes it real easy to write good music and I think anybody who was a fan of Equinox will love Druid Lord."

GT: Given, at present, the line up for DL that's currently proposed consists of 3/4 Equinox, will you be attempting to totally divorce this project's feel and sound from the main band?

PETE: We'll that's the hard part. If you look back to the 2nd Equinox demo we were doing almost doom style music. There will be Equinox influence's but the overall songs will just be more darker and heavier. I'm tuning my guitar much lower that Equinox and the drum parts will be more structured with very interesting parts. Some fans of Equinox who have heard the Druid stuff have totally been into what we are doing. The three of us get along so well it's like the old days.

STEVE: "This has been one of my goals for a long time now and to have it come to fruition is great. I think it happened at the right time. When he decided to venture into a different area I was all for it. I personally think this is what he needed to spark that creativity again. Pete and I virtually started Equinox and the two main keys to that were a similarity in musical interests and the fact that we work perfectly together. When he writes the music and brings it to the table for some reason I have the knack of writing drum tracks that are usually exactly what he had in mind when he wrote the music. On top of that-and this is no small factor-our timing is identical. For instance, when a break comes up in a song neither of us have to count to know when to come back in. We've always just clicked. Even Tony was shocked at that-during the first recording of the first DL track he sat back in amazement that after ten years Pete and I are still spot on with our timing."

GT: Is it more of an outlet to get material not suitable to Equinox out, or just an expression of yet another side to the creative will?

PETE: Expression of another creative side. Writing slower heavier music gives me so much more ideas. But we are not all that slow. We will have some mid paced and a few faster parts to enhance the music.

STEVE: "In my opinion Pete is one of the best guitarists ever to play metal and I've always felt fortunate to have been able to play music with him. I've never been a very technical drummer but Pete's always liked my playing and because of that I've had the opportunity to make some kick-ass metal with one of the most creative guitarists I've ever met. The fact that he's been able to write most or all of four full length albums and countless demos with Equinox and then write excellent material for Druid Lord amazes me. When he first started talking about Druid Lord, though, I had no doubts the music would be fresh, heavy and creative. As a matter of fact, I knew when I left Equinox that at some point I wanted to be involved with any band Pete wanted to do and I knew that no matter how much time passed in between that whatever Pete wrote it would be great."

GT: Can we get a bit of a description of some of the weapons in your arsenal.

PETE: I've got a 100W Marshall head, a 50W Marshall Head, a killer old school distortion pedal, BC rich Iron Bird and Warlock both from the early 80's and a 1983 Gibson Explorer. Ton of pedals.

Part of the Equinox arsenal seen here in yet another mega-rare pic during recording of 'The Immortal Kind'. (Photo - courtesy Pete Slate)

GT: It seems to us as Editors of GT that many of the underlying concepts and
love of our mutual past are the same. Can you explain more of what the book
and taking part in it meant to you as a fan and also a musician of the era?

PETE: The book to me is one of a kind. It really captures the essence of what it
was like to be in a Death Metal band of that time. I was actually at a lot
of the FL gigs that were pictured in the book. It brought back so many
memories of hanging out in Tampa FL with our car packed with friends,
Drinking brews, trying to scam on Metal chics, and listening to bands before
they made it big time. I feel lucky and honored to be part of the book.
Since I was involved in the scene it meant that much more to me.

GT: What is it that the new age bands and scene lack the most, when compared to
our old glory days?

PETE: Everything. The attitude that you'd do whatever it takes to make it. The
money didn't matter. We all rehearsed our music all the time. We lived and
breathed metal. Of course the music was just more raw and aggressive. I
don't know even how to really answer that. It was just a different time back

Pete and his two youngest lads in the patch, Halloween 2009. Photo - courtesy Pete Slate.

The first two albums are out of print and difficult to obtain. Pete suggests Ebay as about the best way to find them, and also cited "Hells Headbangers" as a distro that still currently has some Equinox material in stock.

To contact Equinox directly, for any reason, Pete suggests the official Equinox myspace page:

Thanks to Pete, Mark, Vincent and Steve - class acts.

**Steve's comments were gathered after publishing

Monday, June 14, 2010


Original Sticker, mailed by Shaun Ross in 1987.

VENICE CA - the birth place of Excel, a band who carried much weight back in those times, along with Cryptic Slaughter, Wehrmacht and Righteous Pigs. All of them whose music created massive reputation for bands consisting of kids, kids who were unarguably blowing away bands made up of older guys with bigger reputations and far inferior musical output.

It was in 1985 that a very young Shaun Ross would start Excel, together with some of his friends from the Los Angeles graffiti crew KSN (Kings Stop at Nothing).

CS/Excel gig flyer. Can you even imagine how cool?

Dan Clements (Excel vox) & Scott Peterson (Cryptic Slaughter drummer) - kicking ass at such a young age. This is one of the classic images of the era.

At that time in anyone's lives, hardly any of us could have ventured into California for a gig, of which almost all the live video and audio originated from, with the exception of titles which where starting to appear from Western Europe the year before, following their first European visit in 1988.

Excel's first European Tour 1988 - Shaun seen here in Holland. (photo: Gerhard Derksen)

As the band appeared in their 88 interview which was published in 89's Buttface #2 (Australia)

We'd hoped to include Excel in our book, Glorious Times, but for whatever reason we got no response from any band member or from their official myspace, so the section was unfortunately dropped. A great shame since the band was a big influence to the extreme scene hardcore 'activists' (ie: traders) and the to editors personally. However, as was the case with a number of what we consider crucial bands that should have been represented by right, they sadly stand absent within GT's rare pages.

Dan and Adam, seen below, at the same 1988 gig, Sneek, Holland. (photo: Gerhard Derksen, from the kick ass Dutch band DISGRACE)

Buttface #2 1989 featured Excel (yeah, alongside an Amber Lynn show review hehe)

 From the early era of being taggers in Venice, something reserved to that area, and NOT something emulated by people in locations so far removed that it's asinine to even see these days - Chaotic Noise was the training ground for what would evolve into one of the bands that bridged many scenes in the trading days - their insignia was seen everywhere in t-shirts and zines before the band had any record released, and once that debut emerged, one of the best records of the era was constructed.

Split Image (front). (photo: Alan Moses)

2 killer bands out of 3 ain't bad - The Immortal Fender's Hosts a golly whopper event

One of the life lines in 1987, the merch list enclosed in the record.

Back cover of original Split Image vinyl release. (photo: Alan Moses)

Ruthie's Inn - another legendary venue, hosting the WTV compilation album line up, and yet again, the best band on the comp is Excel. Don't believe that? Listen to the record!

VASTLY overshadowing their city-mates Suicidal Tendencies, who for some bizarre reason gained more attention and notoriety (which may have been due to the corporate sponsorship of Mr. Rosenthal in the media-pet aptly named Anthrax). To this day, the Excel recordings remain as pertinent and individualistic as they were when they were first released.

All the drive you need was concentrated right here on this night! (Photo: Alan Moses)

Couldn't find a flyer for the Tampa 90 gig, but this does come from the same year. At least for the Tampa event, Excel were the main band, and if they even played with anyone else, Excel wiped that from memory.

To our amazement Excel suddenly dropped into Tampa at what seemed to be the spur of the moment. Most of us who were present at this legendary, yet very small get together, had figured that the only way we'd ever get to share in the glory of what is Excel live, would be via tape and video trading (talk about vicarious living) - since the band were ghosts on the East coast, and certainly an appearance in Australia was more than a gigantic pipe dream. 1990 was the year that spared NO pain, and FINALLY a majorly cool band we never ever anticipated seeing materialised.

A number of these images were donated to the official Excel myspace page in 2008. Slide by their page and check them out, plus learn more about the slew of official DVD projects the band has released post-humous.

An unassuming Star Club was the venue for what would turn out to be one of the most memorable shows of a life time, and more than satisfy every fan of the band that managed to hear about this pretty much impromptu gig in support of the 2nd album.

TJOY - Front (photo: Alan Moses)

TJOY - Back (photo: Alan Moses)

The Joke's On You! was backed with the oddly chosen single 'Message In A Bottle' - a cover of Stink's pop-hit when he was in The Police. The Venice boys turned the song into their own, putting to shame the original version by it's mega-billionaire corporate writers. The track was well received live too, and fit well within the set list.

Sealed copy of the MIAB EP - Front. (photo: Alan Moses)

Back view of the MIAB EP. (photo: Alan Moses)

The tightest niche of hardcore fans filed into the Star Club for what felt like a private show, dedicated to the most loyal of the loyal - there were no drunken fools parading about the place yelling 'Slayer' at every opportunity, everybody pretty much knew everybody else, and the atmosphere was about as close to a 'network of friends' as could be. There were no drugs, no riots, no fights, no pompous attitudes, and not a single 'throwing of the horns' to be had this glorious night. Just rabid and grateful hardcore Excel enthusiasts beckoned together for what was one of the greatest treats to partake in of the entire Tampa scene in those days. And too right, they did play the awesome 'Blaze Some Hate' which also appeared only on the original CD version of TJOY, which was then released as the 2nd EP from the 2nd LP.

The BSH EP (Front). (photo: Alan Moses)

One of the cool things to experience while these dudes blazed their own hate, was to witness the shenanigans of both band and crowd through the wall of mirrors. Pals Oscar Beauchamp (Misfits t-shirt) and Mark Odechuck from PAINEATER (giving thumbs up) captured and immortalized above at the Star Club in Ybor City 1990. (photo: Alan Moses)

Back side of the BSH EP. (photo: Alan Moses)

A massive sing along ensued, which would have made for an exceptional bootleg recording because every single person was so into the band that not a lyric was left to Dan to sing on his own. The dynamic of the band was one of the best (if not the best) of any, from any video, and so organic: no massive stage and legions of heavy metal 'stage divers' to obscure anyone's ability to get into the band. Shaun's bass, a major attractant to Excel's persona just ripped through us, carrying us into a groove that is the living thing which binds the band and the fans together - what a ride. (no, the tape recorder was not brought along as to not infringe on the thrashing to be had that night - something totally regretted 20 years after the fact)

That would be Oscar Beauchamp again, screaming into Dan's mic, 20 years later serving testament to the awesome good times to be had this night. (photo: Alan Moses)

The Star Club show had a unique ambiance due to the one wall being covered by mirrors, doubling the visual effect of this mightily small but immensely powerful performance, in which the band and their ever loving fans melted into one single creature. One of the strongest sets do date - they chose to not ignore the old material that bore them their initial fan base, so a great selection of old songs were played - if memory serves correct, the above shot was taken during 'Social Security'.


CM DISTRO carries both the debut LP 'Split Image' and follow up album 'The Joke's On You' in reissued CD formats, each with extra materials for those who were not trading or too young or (god help them) unaware of this amazing outfit. Both projects were released by ROTTEN RECORDS.

Kick ass re-issues await, worth it for the booklets alone.


Here we are, yet again, heralding such a kick ass band with a free DIY CDR download package, in flac and mp3 versions - so YOU can construct your own killer live Excel title. Everything you need is included, the music files, and the artwork to celebrate the Excel enigma - captured here at what we think is perhaps their most hungry (from the collections we have of the early era).


This audio flashback is from the totally infamous Fenders International Ballroom, in Long Beach, California, October 16th 1987. A club that was as well known on it's own merit, (you'll learn more on the DIY CDR inserts) let alone the sheer magnitude of bands that played there - from (ecccchhhh) G'N'R to Excel. The live audio here demonstrates the gentleman's attitude, their precision, friendliness and lack of cock rock ego - getting down to the real business.  Additional points of interest about the gig is that Excel were supported by a fledgling Sacred Reich, and even attended by none other than Erik Estrada, who played Officer Francis Llewellyn 'Ponch' Poncherello on the TV show C.H.i.P.S from 1977 thru 1983. An amazing set that delivers the intensity of Excel and the legendary venue they played many times.


We'd also like to thank Sam Biles (Hideous Mangleus/Goblin/Execution Style) for the help he provided with this blog. Cheers Sam!


Rather than pilfer the text, we offer you a link to an excellent and most informative set of 2 interviews which are posted on STATIC-VOID. The first is from 1990 with Adam & Shaun, and the second is a relatively current and most candid interview with drummer Greg Saenz. In particular we suggest visiting the site and checking the interviews out, since they reveal some interesting facts about the band most people wouldn't know, plus Greg's comments sit so well with the concept of Glorious Times AND they read as if they are the Excel section in GT that never happened - have a read and discover why that's the case!