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We Build Alaska

Godfathers of Anchorage Thrash: An Interview with Decepticide

Musically, Anchorage is a pretty transient town. It’s not uncommon for bands, venues, and even whole scenes to pop up and dissipate seemingly overnight. So when a band sticks around for a while, musicians and concertgoers in the 49th state tend to sit up, take notice, and attend shows almost religiously. Local legends of this caliber include groups like metalcore outfit 36 Crazyfists, ska group Nervis Rex – and thrash metal rockers Decepticide, who’ve been rocking venues all around Alaska for almost fifteen years.

“January 1st, 2008,” recounted Ryan Hull, Decepticide’s vocalist, about the group’s origins. “It was over a New Year’s party.”

Enzo Montana, Decepticide’s guitarist with the prerequisite long hair of a career headbanger, idly plucks a few chords in the group’s small Midtown practice space, which is festooned top to bottom with different band flags and posters – Slayer, Metallica, Motorhead.

“The first time I ever saw Enzo was my freshman year in high school,” said Brian Harris, Decepticide’s bearded drummer. “He was sitting on his amp in the lunchroom, playing ‘Master of Puppets.’”

Harris and Montana both attended Dimond High School, along with Mercy Cofield, the guitarist for Anchorage hardcore band She.

Decepticide emerged from the remains of Montana’s band Murder is Justice, a project that lasted from 2005 to 2007. Originally a five piece band with two guitars, Decepticide’s been pared down to four members since 2016, with a semi-revolving bassist position that’s recently been filled by North Carolina transplant Josiah Everett, the youngest member of the band, who met Hull through a warehouse job and took over as the bass player in 2022.

Members of Decepticide. Left to right, Enzo Montana (guitar), Josiah Everett (bass), Ryan Hull (vocals), Brian Harris (drums)

“It’s like ‘Spinal Tap,’ with the drummers,” Hull said. “We’ve been through a lottery of bass players.”

After playing to significant acclaim for a few years in Anchorage, Montana wanted to take Decepticide to the next level.

“When we started Decepticide… I really thought we had a shot at being a real metal band, a touring band,” Montana said. “At the same time, being here in Alaska, it’s kind of impossible to accomplish that.”

In 2010, the band moved to Pennsylvania to pursue a career touring up and down the East Coast. However, personal problems (including the pregnancies of both Montana’s and Hull’s girlfriends) stymied their ability to perform.

“We were getting pulled back to Alaska from every direction,” Montana said.

In October of 2010, Montana flew back home to witness the birth of his daughter. The guitarist’s desire to break his family history of absent fathers contributed to Decepticide’s eventual return to Alaska.

“I called Ryan, and I said, ‘I’m really sorry, but I have to come back,’” Montana said.

“I joke about it a lot, but Alaska is a black hole,” Hull said. “And I don’t mean that necessarily as a bad thing, but when you’re leaving Alaska, there are so many gravitational pulls that are pulling you back home.”

By December of 2010, the band was back, and they’ve been an Alaska group ever since.

To an extent, Hull, Montana, and Harris look back ruefully on their Pennsylvania experiment – especially considering that by the time Decepticide left, word of their musical prowess was just reaching promoters on the East Coast.

“A lot of people thought at first, a band from Alaska, that we were a gimmick,” Hull said. “But our names started getting heavily passed around in circles.”

“I was getting calls from New Jersey, from New York,” Montana said. “When we played, we played fucking hard.”

One gets the sense that, had things gone differently in Pennsylvania, Decepticide might have been a household name among metalheads, given the group’s enthusiasm, passion, and technical skill.

Decepticide’s sound, influenced by favorites like Pantera, the Black Dahlia Murder, and Lamb of God, has remained relatively consistent since the group first started playing.

“If you’ve been listening to our music,” Montana said, “it’s evolved, but it hasn’t drastically changed. I think it’s gotten heavier and faster, but it hasn’t changed to something you can’t recognize.”

One of the biggest issues with the local music scene Decepticide pointed out was the lack of of all-ages venues in Anchorage.

“It’s not garnishing a new generation of bands to play,” Hull said, “because they’ve got nowhere to play.”

A number of all-ages venues have existed, from the Paddleboat Cafe to Anchorage Community Works, but for one reason or another, they’ve either folded or become otherwise inaccessible to Anchorage youth. Without a reliable venue for the under-21 crowd to access live aggressive music, there’s no guarantee that metal, hardcore, and punk will continue to exist in our town.

“If me and Enzo didn’t have a place to play when we were coming up,” Harris said, “it would have never happened.”

As such, bars have have become the default, given the absence of an under-21 venue.

“As of right now, Chilkoot Charlie’s is the only house that really lets us come in and throw a show,” Montana said. “I think our second home is the Carousel Lounge.”

Chilkoot’s, the band acknowledges, has been good to them, as has Sarah Pederson, a local heavy metal promoter. Decepticide, along with several other members of the Anchorage metal scene, recently played a benefit set at the bar in support of Pederson, who is currently fighting cancer.

“North stage at Koot’s,” Hull said, “that’s my favorite. It’s always good sound, good times, good people.”

Incidentally, the first time I saw Decepticide live was at that Chilkoot’s benefit show. Their set was electric, high-energy, and loud as hell. Hull gyrated screaming back and forth across the small stage as Montana sent rippling power chords across the venue. Harris’s drum fills and bass kicks were like machines from some enormous sonic factory, while Everett’s bassline throbbed under it all like a pounding heartbeat. Bookended by other local hardcore and metal acts, including Part Time Super Heroes and Mindful Khaos, Decepticide exemplified some of the best of Anchorage thrash.

With the exception of Everett (whom Hull refers to as the band’s adoptive son) the members of Decepticide are all family men, which affects their musical schedule and lifestyle. But it doesn’t detract from the bond that the band members share, which they’ve worked to maintain.

“Right now, with full-time jobs and full-time families, this is the time where we actually as a group get to interact, outside of playing the shows,” Hull said, referring to band practice. “This is where we get to meet, and this is where we get to continue our brotherhood and our friendships. This is where we get to see each other.”

“If I didn’t have this,” Harris asked, “what the fuck would I have?”

Outside of their families, Decepticide is the group’s most important project.

“We do this,” Hull said, “because we can’t not do this.”

The band’s journey to metal was almost predestined. Hull’s first introduction to thrash was in the form of 2 CDs from a friend – Pantera’s “Cowboys From Hell,” and Slayer’s “Diabolus in Musica.”

“[Metal’s] the only genre of music that gives me goosebumps,” Hull said. “I cannot imagine my life without it. It’s literally the only thing I listen to.”

Harris remembers a tape being taken away on the school bus in third grade – the Offspring’s “Americana.”

“I was playing it really loud, singing it really loud, and it was full of a bunch of bad, naughty words,” Harris said. “It’s been a really long road. I don’t know how to tell you how I got where I am. I can tell you that my biggest influences have been the Offspring, AC/DC, CKY, the Black Dahlia Murder.”

Montana pointed to influences like Shadows Fall, Lamb of God, Sepultura, and of course, Metallica – a touchstone for every metal band since “Kill ‘Em All” dropped and changed the game forever.

Everett recalls video games like Guitar Hero shaping his experience with heavy metal as a kid – something that a lot of younger musicians coming of age in a digital era can relate to. Pop punk like Blink-182 and the Offspring has also influenced the bassist’s sound,

“Growing up, my mom always played Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Poison, shit like that in the car,” Everett said. “By twelve, I was listening to Cannibal Corpse, Dying Fetus, Autopsy.”

When it comes down to the best of the “Big 4” of thrash metal – Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, and Megadeth – Hull and Everett are firmly in the Metallica camp, while Montana and Harris vouch for Slayer’s supremacy.

“I can’t take anything by Slayer and put it up against ‘Battery,’ or ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls,’” Hull argued.

“[Slayer] stayed true to themselves,” Montana said.

Authenticity is important to each band member, and one thing is readily apparent for anyone who’s attended one of their shows – Decepticide’s love of the game. Hull, Harris, Montana, and Everett play every show with heart, enthusiasm, and genuine respect for the bands that came before them. In every bass riff, guitar lick, drum fill, and vocal screech, you can find a high schooler learning the chords to “Master of Puppets” between classes – and that, regardless of venue or genre, is how the music scene advances and spreads from generation to generation.

You can find Decepticide on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/decepticide) and Instagram (@decepticide). The band has tentative plans for a 15th anniversary show in January, and will release more details on social media as events are finalized.

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