There Before Me Was a Pale Horse: A Conversation With Sal Abruscato

Brooklyn, New York, for a long time, was one of the foremost scenes in all of heavy metal. Generally characterized in alternating turns by sludge, sleaze, doom and camaraderie, the city gave rise to some of the most influential metal acts of the '80s and '90s. Chief among them were Type O Negative and Life of Agony, both acts featuring New York veteran Sal Abruscato. Sal has returned with a band all his own, releasing a second album with A Pale Hose Named Death, and hopes to keep the spirit of Brooklyn metal alive. Here to discuss his album, his band, his history and pizza, is Sal Abruscato.

M.DREW: Tell me about your new album; Is there an evolution of sound between “All Hell Will Follow Me” and “Lay My Soul to Waste?” What’s new for the fans out there?
SAL ABRUSCATO: We wanted to keep continuity between the albums but at the same time improve tones and production a bit more. We wanted it to sound even bigger and better than the first. I dove into writing even darker and more orchestrated. I pushed my vocals harder and experimented a lot with harmonies. Fans can expect to find the original traits from the first album but we brought a bit more piano and organ into the picture along with just a better and darker sound. Plus having it mastered by Ted Jensen was the icing on the cake.
M.D: Is there a sound that A Pale Horse Named Death is going for? What inspires the music of this band, and do you cite different inspirations for this project than for your others?
SA: The sound we go for is a deep tone that’s sludgy and clear at the same time. I like to write a lot of bends in the guitar lines, that’s kind of my signature thing along with embellishing chords that sound massive and beautiful.
M.D: What are the themes of “Lay My Soul to Waste?” What’s the message of the album?
SA: The message is we are all temporary and humanity is an ugly animal that is destroying our world. I write about the worst side of people and what we are capable of from murder, drug addiction and betrayal. What's scary is these thoughts live in my mind and it's a requirement and therapy to write it out. Also the theme is that we wanted to prove that we are not a one album side project, it is a very real band.
M.D: With all the familiarity you have with the other guys in the band, did (does) A Pale Horse Named even feel like a new project?
SA: Yeah, it felt new to me because I was taking on a new persona and challenge. Everybody knew me as a drummer and at first it was a nerve wracking experience to stand out front and rely on my voice.
M.D: What’s the ceiling and future for this band? With all the projects the band members are a part of past and present, can fans expect that A Pale Horse Named Death is a permanent fixture?
SA: A Pale Horse Named Death is definitely gonna stick around as long as we can, I am already thinking in my mind about the third album. We all want to see APHND succeed and be full time. It's just tough when you’re older and have major responsibilities, we need to carefully plan everything. But I am down for it all.

M.D: What makes this band different from every other project you’ve been a part of?
SA: That it is truly an extension of me. For the longest time I wanted to put out my music and it just took this long to gain the experience, knowledge and timing to do it. Also even though it is a lot of work I am the happiest I can be with A Pale Horse Named Death over any other band I was in.
M.D: What drives you, after all the ups and downs, successes and disappointments, to continue to make music?
SA: I have no idea sometimes, it's like a heroin addiction, I wanted to quit so many times but the magic of creating music and playing on stage calls me back. I will keep going as long as it makes sense for me and my family.
M.D: Give us a glimpse – what was it like to play at L’Amour back in the day? How important is that place to metal’s history?
SA: When I was a kid it was a big deal to play at L'Amour, it was the center of the universe for metal heads in Brooklyn. Every great metal band has played there so it was prestigious to have a show there. The first Type O show under the name Repulsion played there and it was a great night that I still remember.
M.D: Between Type O Negative, Prong, Life of Agony, Seventh Void and I’m sure a fistful of others, how connected does the Brooklyn metal scene remain to this day?
SA: Well I don't think it's connected anymore like it was in the 90's, we all have moved out of Brooklyn and I really don't know with the new generation of bands if there is much of a scene anymore. Things have changed a lot in NYC and a lot of good venues have closed down in the last 15 years.

M.D: I know you’re likely sick of talking about this, so I’ll try to keep it short: Do you feel like you ever had proper closure to the story of Type O Negative?
SA: Yeah, I have some form of closure especially when me and Peter had intimate conversations of what went wrong back then. We both apologized to each other for being shit heads and that’s cool with me. People have a lot of mixed up ideas about what happened then so it's these false assumptions that irritate me most.
M.D: Obviously, no one could have predicted Peter Steele’s passing, but did you have any suspicion or reason to believe that “Dead Again” would be the final Type O record?
SA: I was just aware they were trying to get the ball rolling to do another record and get Peter back to NYC. Peter was calling me a lot right before he passed away, he was discussing about playing together again as a new version of Carnivore along with doing Type O songs that I performed on the first three albums. It was almost like he knew something was gonna happen and he was just reaching out to old friends.
M.D: Settle the debate once and for all – who makes the best pizza in Brooklyn?
SA: Tottono's in Coney Island and Lenny & Johns on Flatbush avenue
M.D: Are you or the other members of A Pale Horse Named Death horror movie fans?
SA: Yes I believe most of us are, I like horror movies, they inspire me. All the [Rob] Zombie stuff, “The Exorcist” is a favorite of mine. “The Shining” is great. I just wish I had more time to see some nowadays.
M.D: By way of a follow up, have you ever taken songwriting inspiration from horror cinema?
SA: Yes, I have at moments actually. “When Crows Descend Upon You” from the first album was inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's “The Birds.” I watched it with my wife in its entirety and the next day I wrote that song.


Music Editor

D.M is the Music Editor for He tries to avoid bands with bodily functions in the name and generally has a keen grasp of what he thinks sounds good and what doesn't. He also really enjoys reading, at least in part, and perhaps not surprisingly, because it's quiet. He's on a mission to convince his wife they need a badger as a household pet. It's not going well.

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