Criminal  - 03/04/2009

In over a decade and a half of existence, CRIMINAL have released consistently great albums with amazing musicianship, meaningful lyrics and a genuine, raw aggression, always steering clear of metal's embarrassing clichés, posing and pretentiousness. Three years after the release of the critically-acclaimed ‘Sicario’ (2005), the band returns with their new studio album ‘White Hell’, which is sure to make jaws drop and necks snap everywhere. Drawing their inspiration from classic 80s thrash to melodic death metal to the more groove oriented sounds of the 90s, CRIMINAL manage to blend these influences seamlessly into their own style of metal.

Formed in the early 90s in Santiago de Chile by ex-Pentagram mastermind Anton Reisenegger and guitar virtuoso Rodrigo Contreras, CRIMINAL were combining elements of thrash, hardcore and death metal long before the term “metalcore” was even thought of. The band enjoyed a meteoric rise to the forefront of the thriving South American metal scene, including five-digit album sales, shows with the likes of Kreator, Sepultura and Slayer. With their albums being released in South and North America, Europe and Japan, the future looked bright for CRIMINAL, but the band was faced with severe personal and business problems around the turn of the decade. Reisenegger and Contreras then decided to relocate to the UK, regrouping in a half-Chilean, half-British line-up. CRIMINAL's latest studio offering, ‘Sicario’, was hailed by the press as one of the finest thrash metal releases of 2005. At the same time, the band's status in their home country remains unbroken. Freshly signed to Germany's Massacre Records, CRIMINAL released their latest album ‘White Hell’ on February 27th, 2009. The album will be released in a limited edition featuring a bonus DVD.



So it seems there is much to talk about and Anton Reisenegger  (Vocals, Guitar) was available to answer some questions. Here you can read what he had to say to the readers of


Congratulations on your new album ‘White Hell’ which was recently released! Of course we’d like to ask you a couple of questions about it.


OK, go on then...


First of all, I’m not familiar with your band, so could you start this interview off with a short introduction of the members and the origin of the name of the band for our readers?


Criminal is Zac on drums, Dan on bass, Rod on guitar and me, Anton, on guitar and vocals. The band was formed in Chile by Rod and myself, but in 2001 we both moved to the UK and carried on with British members. I can't really remember the origin of the name, but I'm sure we wanted something aggressive, a little like Slayer maybe, and I suppose it was also important to us that it was a word that our fans in South America would be able to understand and pronounce.


It’s been a couple of years since ‘Sicario’ came out, so it seems you took your time for the new record. How did you launch into writing material for ‘White Hell’ and how much time did you spend on the songs?


Well, we actually didn't spend that much time writing and recording the album, but the process seemed to drag on forever mainly because we were often distracted by other stuff going on in our personal lives. And I think also some people in the band were a bit frustrated by the lack of results after our last album came out. The reviews were great, but not much happened.


What were the goals you had in mind when you started to record ‘White Hell’, any elements you definitely wanted to have on the album?


We basically wanted to make a Criminal album, meaning that all the trademarks should be in there, but I think there was also a semi-conscious decision to work more on harmonies and arrangements, to add some extra colour to the songs.


Did ideas come easily so that you just had to write them down or was it more of a careful composing thing?


Riff ideas always come easily, and it's just a matter of recording them. There were a lot of ideas, even too many, so we had to leave some tracks off the album. As I said, the arrangements were much more important on this album.


What is the utmost important ingredient for a song according to you?


Good riffs. That's pretty much it.



How can we imagine you work on new songs, what's the typical writing process like for Criminal? For example, is it a group process or did some people write more than others?


It's usually Rod or myself coming up with the riffs and putting together a basic song skeleton, and then we go into rehearsal and work on the drum patterns and arrangements. The last thing is always the vocals. I mostly just go into the studio with some lyrics and a basic idea of what the vocal line is going to be like, but I don't sing the new songs in rehearsal.


What would you say are the main themes in your lyrics, where do you get your inspiration from?


I get the inspiration from just looking around, or watching the news. There's a lot of aspects I don't really like about the human race, haha. Plenty of inspiration there.


What comes first, lyrics or melodies? Is it like you sit down and write a new song because you need more material now or do you wait until you get an idea?


I usually have the basic vocal line in mind when I write my lyrics. I'm always writing riffs on my guitar, but I usually have to really hurry up with the lyrics right before we go into the studio.


Could you please describe the implications of the title ‘White Hell’? What does it stand for and is there a special meaning behind it?


There is no special meaning behind it. It was the title of a very old song of ours, and we liked the way it sounded, and the fact that it is open for interpretation. To some people it might have something to do with drugs, to others with racism, etc. You can imagine your own personal white hell...


How important is it to you that people pay attention to the lyrics apart from listening to the music?


I don't really care that much. I mean, I find it flattering when people do read my lyrics and comment on them and stuff, but if someone just wants to listen to the music and doesn't give a fuck about the lyrics, that's fine by me too.


Did you guys spend a fair amount of time working on the record before heading over to record the album? How much time did you spend in the studio for ‘White Hell’?


I think we spend far less time working on the material than anyone would imagine. As I said, we come into the rehearsal room with almost finished songs, so it's pretty much just a matter of putting some drums and bass to them and that's it. It obviously helps that everyone in the band are really talented musicians, otherwise it would probably take very long to get to where we want to be. The recording itself took something like three or four weeks.


What do you think are the main differences between your previous album ‘Sicario’ and ‘White Hell’?


I think ‘Sicario’ was more straight ahead, whereas ‘White Hell’ is a little bit more complex. The songs are a bit longer and there is more going on. But you can still easily tell it's the same band on both albums.


Have you received any feedback on the album yet?


Yeah, and everyone really really seems to like the album. Many people even say it is our best yet, so that's cool. Bands usually turn to shit after a few years, but it seems like we're an exception to that rule.



Are third party opinions (press, fans, etc.) on your music important to you? Or are your music and band the only things that matter?


I would be lying if I said that I don't care about what people say about our music, but I would never go as far as trying to do something to please people. When it comes to writing music, we still do whatever the fuck we like.


Overall, are you pleased with the outcome of the songs or would you have liked to have changed anything in retrospective?


There's always little production details that I wish I had worked more on, but as far as the compositions themselves go, I'm pretty fucking happy with them!

What is your opinion on the ‘metal’ scene these days in South America and what do you think about the overload of bands at the moment? Is there anything missing in the scene?


 I don't know, I don't really follow “the scene” that much any more. You see, I have a wife and a little daughter, so I don't really have the time to listen to other bands a lot. It is true though that there are shitloads of bands out there. I mean, probably half of our friends on MySpace are bands, haha.


Can you tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of things that motivate you in your writing, your poetry, and your lyrics? What are you personally into?


I like films a lot, mostly realistic and dark stuff. For writers it's the same, I don't really like the fantasy or science fiction stuff, I prefer to read a Bukowski, haha.


Which album has been your biggest musical influence, one that made you think “this is what I want to do!”?


Probably “Kill 'em All” or “Show No Mercy”.


With several albums under your belt, how far has Criminal surpassed your original dreams and what would you say is the most rewarding part of being in the band?


Well, when we started as a band I would never have thought that we would be able to play with as many of our favorite bands as we have, so in that respect it has largely surpassed our expectations. On the other hand, we're not rich, we can't make a living with the music, but when you meet someone who is realy into what we do, that is very rewarding I would say.


What were the highlights and low points throughout your career until now?


Too many to mention... keep in mind we've been around in one form or another for almost 18 years!


What can we expect from Criminal in the future and where do you see the band going within the next couple of years?


I have no idea. Anything can happen. I would be more than happy to just carry on making cool albums and getting to tour every now and then.


Thanks for your time!

Eugene Straver


Anton Reisenegger – Vocals, Guitar
Rodrigo Contreras – Lead Guitar
Dan Biggin – Bass
Zac O'Neil – Drums


Victimized (1994)

Dead Soul (1997)

Cancer (2000)

No Gods No Masters (2004)

Sicario (2005)

White Hell (2009)