26 Years in the Making: the Exhumation of Cadaverous Quartet
Following is a story about my six-year journey as a drummer in a death metal band you’ve probably never heard of whose collection of recordings is being republished by a record company you also probably haven’t heard of—26 years after we called it quits.
Three Dudes in a Tiny Carpeted Garage
Back in 1989, three metalheads were walking the halls of a small desert high school in Tucson, Arizona. Two of them, guitarists Bobby Stein and Zander Bernal, spent their time writing creative thrash songs in their heavily-carpeted jam room down the street from the school, waiting for the right drummer and bassist to complete their sound. About a mile away, I was mastering my craft in a small bedroom, waiting to find a band of musicians who shared a joy for rattling neighborhoods with the sound of metal.
It wasn’t long before our mutual friend Eli introduced us. I set-up my kit on the small riser in Bob and Zander’s practice space and we began to jam. They had tunes that blew me away. I couldn’t believe how cool they sounded. And they loved my style. They had been waiting for someone to drive home their music with double-bass and a cracking snare. The chemistry was undeniable and Shropshire Slasher was born.
We quickly built a full song list, but we knew that we needed a bass player to truly break things wide open. Our friend Lloyd joined us for a short stint and we changed our name to Cadaverous Quartet. Shortly thereafter he left us for another band that better suited his taste. The false start hurt but we were committed so we returned to our search for a four-string wizard.
In the interim, we really wanted to lay down our music. Without a bass player it was perhaps overly ambitious, but we gathered what little money we had and headed into the studio to record our first demo, “Corpses, Breathing, Singing, and Dancing.” We borrowed a bass rig from our friend Darby, and elected Zander to overdub the bass. It wasn’t perfect, and we weren’t a “quartet,” but it was a step in the right direction as we were about to have our first recording. (We also had lots of fun laughing at Zander trying to play an unfamiliar instrument, even though he pulled it off like a champ.)
That demo opened the flood gates for us and we were invited to play clubs and parties all over Tucson. We began to refine our sound, pulling from influences beyond our thrash roots, dipping into death metal and grindcore. We also finally found a bass player by the name of Greg Sasek. He was as angry and loud as we were, so he was a great fit. He joined us and the quartet was at last complete.
People began to take notice of our new sound and fill the floors at our shows. Having some momentum we decided to enter Tucson’s Battle of the Bands, and we won. We walked away with a lot of sweat, a lot of glory, and a nice stack of $100 bills. Enough for us to head back into the studio to record an EP with our new songs that we called “Food for Worms.”
At this juncture we reached a point where we wanted to push our sound beyond the borders of Arizona, so we traveled to death metal capital of the world, Tampa Bay, to keep the momentum going. We made new friends in bands like Obituary, Death, Cynic, and Cannibal Corpse. And we even met the legendary producer Scott Burns (who recorded half of the records in my collection).
As surreal as it was, it was humbling to become a little fish in a big pond. After a couple of months were invited back to Tucson to play its biggest ever metal music event, “Moshtoberfest,” where we hit the stage to play for nearly 8,000 screaming maniacs. The stage was huge, the arena was large, and it was like nothing we had previously experienced. It was wild. We remembered what it felt like to be home, so we decided to stay.
But afterwards, Zander revealed that he wanted to go back to Florida to be with his family. We understood and supported him. We also lamented at the thought that this would be the end of our story. But lurking in the shadows was guitarist Jim Gibson, who was itching to play some good metal.
We knew Jim from a band called Treachery who practiced in a place called “the sheds,” where my previous band practiced. He also played for Tucson legends, Atrophy, who every Tucson metal head knew about. So he was definitely a contender on paper, but we didn’t know if he’d like our style, which was far more extreme than his previous bands.
We invited him over and jammed with him for a couple of hours. It was magic. He loved our music, we loved his style, and we were back en route to take over the world.
We worked on old songs, wrote some new ones, and decided to try our luck a second time with Battle of the Bands…and won. Again.
With our second cash prize from winning the Battle, we headed back into the studio with our new lineup; this time to record “Know Your Coroner.” It felt good. We felt like we finally found our sound. So with a great song list on deck and a new recording in our pocket, it was time to once again explore ways to break the borders of Arizona.
I had discovered an international underground network for the metal scene, run entirely on the postal system. Bands, zines, radio stations, indie labels, and record stores would create little flyers for distribution. You would receive letters with flyers in them, which you would collect and then redistribute when you sent out your letters. Everyone distributed for everyone else. It was a giant “fuck you” to the record industry and a giant “fuck yeah” for everyone who wanted to promote their own work.
We sold lots of music and merch this way, and made many new friends around the world. We were on radio shows, were profiled in zines, and traded tapes with lots of amazing bands. It put us on the map well beyond our hometown.
While gaining international attention we were writing new material. Jim introduced another layer into our style and we were getting into a lot of death metal, so we decided to work towards another record.
A mutual friend introduced us to a desert rat named Rich Hopkins. He was a Tucson legend of sort in a band called Sand Rubies and ran a mid-sized label by the name of San Jacinto. They recorded desert-rock bands—some folky and some rustic—but they didn’t release anything hard. They certainly didn’t fuck with metal bands.
I don’t remember how we managed to talk our way into a record deal with his label, but we did. He believed in us even though we weren’t like anything he was used to. So he gave us a budget, booked us studio time, and we spent a few days recording “The Extinction Agenda.”
While we were all drunk, Rich agreed to pay for us to record a mystery cover track because we told him he could play the guitar solo on it
Coming out of the studio we felt like we were on top of the world. We had refined our sound, recorded our first full-length CD, and were getting international attention. But then, as quickly as it began, in 1995 it came to an end (a story for another time).
The breakup was tough, but it had to be. We had three records, an EP, and a lot of great memories under our belts. It was a wild ride and it was one of the greatest chapters of our lives.
The Unexpected Rebirth
Fast forward 26 years to when some metalhead named Jacobo down in Mexico who has a copy of our record comes knocking on our door. He says he’s a huge fan of our band and has listened to our record so many times he wore it out. He asks if he can buy a fresh copy. Better yet, he asks, would we let his record label, Personal Records, reissue our records as a complete collection.
He says that our CD is selling for exorbitant prices ($180+) and that we still have a big underground following. So while we spent the last two-and-a-half decades going about our post-band lives, a following of Cadaver-heads were keeping our music alive.
I wasn’t prepared this bizarre news, but it brought a huge smile to my face. I mean, Cadaverous Quartet was our passion project. And it died prematurely. At least we thought. Jacobo disagreed, so here we are. Again.
We want to thank Jacobo for taking an interest in the blood, sweat, and tears that was six awesome years of metal. These tracks are old, but we hope they still shred.
“The Complete Agenda” is available for pre-order digitally on Bandcamp and on CD at Personal Records.