We’re on the cusp of celebrating a great many anniversaries here in the Northwest…and rightly so. That’s because the late 80’s and early 90’s were arguably the most exciting and influential times in Northwest music history. The “big four” were still playing clubs, but the buzz surrounding them was something special. But so much attention is paid to “the big four” that people often forget there was another scene gestating alongside the ‘soon to be global’ phenomenon of grunge. And that, my friends, was the groundbreaking Seattle metal scene.
Early albums by Queensryche had pushed the Seattle sound, and really the entire metal world in new directions…but the national craze of the thrash metal movement the early 80’s had a huge impact on the burgeoning local metal scene. Bands like Metal Church, Sanctuary, Coven, Panic, Bitter End and many MANY others had their own interpretation of this kaleidoscope of influences. But in this humble writer’s opinion, there were none more brutal…none more savage…none more ruthless…than the one and only FORCED ENTRY.
Forced Entry’s debut album “Uncertain Future” (which is now celebrating its 25th Anniversary of release) is not only an incredible statement of the Seattle metal scene’s talent, it is a landmark album in the 2nd generation of thrash metal…and if not the first, certainly one of the first “technical thrash” albums in existence.
Recently, I was able to sit down with drummer Colin Mattson and guitarist Brad Hull to discuss their thoughts and memories of being a part of Seattle’s most exciting, groundbreaking and influential metal bands, which enjoys a very loyal (and growing) “cult following” to this day. (Lead Singer/Bassist Tony Benjamins was also scheduled, but was sadly unable to attend)
What instantly struck me was the chemistry and camaraderie that was felt in the room from the moment we sat down together. You can bring the world’s most talented musicians into the most legendary studio, but if there isn’t chemistry between the artists, the outcome will be sub-par at best. But something very magical happens when you get talented people together who play well off one another. Brad and Colin talked about the early days when they would play under the name of Critical Condition. And even though Tony wasn’t present, as you heard them discuss his importance in the band, the close friendship that these three guys shared was warmly felt in spirit. These guys have chemistry in spades.
We went through the entire history of the band, from the days of forming Critical Condition, through the transition to Forced Entry, the early demos that earned them so much acclaim and attention, getting signed and recording Uncertain Future with producer Rick Parashar (who would go on to become a legend in his own right as the producer of Pearl Jam’s “Ten”, Temple of the Dog, Alice in Chains’ EP “Sap” (as well as the “Would?” single) and Blind Melon’s infamous self-titled debut) all the way through the band’s demise under weight of the growing grunge movement, combined with absence of support from the label.
But looking back by all parties involved revealed nothing but positive thoughts about the experience. They truly lived the dream. This is the story of three friends who, at the age of only 15 or 16 years old, started a band playing the music they loved to play, and went on to become local heroes.
“I played in another band, we did A LOT of Iron Maiden stuff…when I was in the 8th or 9th grade and that’s when I met Tony and Brad” recalls drummer extraordinaire Colin Mattson, who first began drumming at school in the 5th grade.
Brad recalled learning his first metal riffs from an old Hit Parader ad “Learn how to play metal guitar!” from Doug Marks. (there’s a trip in the wayback machine for those who remember it) and, as Colin would enthusiastically interject, “He obviously advanced rather quickly!”
Brad and Tony originally met playing soccer together when they were as young as 7, and later forming a band together. “We had a five piece band. Darren Wichers [now with local Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band Whiskey River] was our first singer”, Brad Hull muses…”he was an awesome singer.”
It was Tony that first suggested that he had met Colin at a party and wanted him to come jam with them, “..and I never left!” Colin says, and after some giggles Brad warmly replies that “We didn’t get rid of him, we didn’t have to. We had found one of us!”
It’s amazing to watch youth and vigor return to the eyes of these men as they recall entering “a real studio” as Colin reminisces, for the first time for the recording of their debut.
Rick Parashar had also had time to forge his craft before recording his first label production credit. “I had my own studio in one shape or form since I was 14” he says, adding “I had been recording my own music and other people’s music in my basement, and we opened London Bridge [Studio] in 1985.” So while he had been producing works for some time, “It was the first time the studio got paid by a record company” adding that, “definitely that was exciting.”
“They were SO YOUNG…I mean…they rode their skateboards there” he continues, “That’s what struck me about those guys…for their age, they were *SO* accomplished as musicians, and their songwriting was so technically complex rhythmically with their fills and time changes…and I’ve studied theory and had been taking lessons since I was a kid…I had worked with a bunch of people in the studio already…but these guys blew me away because they were so good!”
Brad and Colin attribute this to hard work at home stating that they would practice for hours every day of the week to get the songs as tight as they possibly could. “Those songs are HARD.” They would insist over the course of the interview. But they are also quick to admit that they would “not rule out” the possibility of getting together for a gig someday. But at the same time Brad says that it would take probably 10 weeks “at a minimum” to get the band ready for another show.
I’m here to say that there is a whole new generation of Forced Entry fans who would light up at the opportunity to see one of the greatest Seattle metal scene legends reunite once again…for old times sake. Maybe when we get to the 30th?
Anyone who likes metal at all would be doing themselves an immense disservice by not having Forced Entry’s debut album “Uncertain Future” and the amazing follow up “As Above So Below” in their collection. They are among the most vital pieces of Seattle metal history in existence.
While Tony and Colin have mostly retired from the music business, be sure to keep an eye out for Brad Hull who is now a full member of the newly reunited Sanctuary. Their new album “The Year the Sun Died” drops on September 30th 2014 on Century Media Records.
See the full interview with Brad and Colin in four parts here: