INTERVIEW: Drummer James Balcombe of Osmium Guillotine


Coming straight from Essex -homeland of acts such as Crass, David Byron and Paul Allender- is Osmium Guillotine. A punk-infused Traditional Metal foursome that seems to be bringing some more life to fans of bands like Iron Maiden or even Dio. 

*Firstly, I’d like to say thanks for taking the time for this interview as well - it means a lot to hear from bands such as yourselves.

No worries, thanks for having us!

*What sort of struggles have you faced breaking out in the Essex scene?

Certainly when we first started out playing our style of ‘traditional’ heavy metal, back in 2009/2010 the local metal scene seemed to primarily consist of metalcore/screamo bands, as that style was pretty popular at the time, and we kept being put on those sort of line-ups. I’ve nothing against those bands or their fans, but it did mean that for us it was harder to find an appreciative crowd for the style of music we were into. Fortunately, in recent years there has been more of a resurgence of bands and metal nights which are better suited to our style, and through that we’ve been able to make a few allies with other local bands who’d experienced the same struggles, and collectively gained a supportive fan base.

*Not many bands are lucky enough to play with alongside likes of Dennis Stratton and Blaze Bayley, how did that come about and how did it help push Osmium Guillotine forward?

Obviously we’re all big Iron Maiden fans, so the opportunity to share a stage with former members of the band is a great honor. The Blaze Bayley gig was a few years back at a venue in Chelmsford, Essex, which we were offered a support slot for pretty much because the promoter knew our tastes and style of music would suit that crowd. The Dennis Stratton support slot was a lot more recent, and that one was extra special because we were actually joined on-stage during our set to perform a rendition of ‘Prowler’ from the first Iron Maiden album, with Dennis on lead vocals & guitar, so that was an awesome moment the band and myself personally will be something I’ll always remember.

*Traditional metal has sort of lost its steam these days, do you guys think Osmium Guillotine can make a difference in the genre?

True, that particular style it hasn’t been at the forefront of mainstream heavy metal for a while (excluding the ‘big names’ who headline festivals every year!) but it’s always been out there, you just have to look a little harder to find those bands. There’s definitely been a ‘British Metal Revival’ lately, with new festivals and metal events happening locally more tailored to traditional heavy metal, NWOBHM, thrash metal, etc. there will always be a place for it, even if it’s not what the mainstream music media ever considers ‘popular’.

*What albums/bands would you say inspired the formation of Osmium Guillotine and the creation of your first album - or maybe just stuff you guys jam to?

The first band that springs to mind obviously has to be Iron Maiden, for me personally their ‘Powerslave’ album was the album that really helped me discover heavy metal, so they’ll always be an early influence, likewise bands like Saxon, Judas Priest and many other bands from the NWOBHM-era. On the other side of the coin, the early Black Sabbath albums have definitely played a big part in the development of our sound. Other notable bands for me include anything from fast, raw energy of Motörhead, to more progressive stuff like Dream Theater. Our guitarist/vocalist Peter is big into the likes of Pantera and Alice in Chains so some of that creeps in as well, but overall we have a pretty varied mix of tastes, from thrash metal, punk, blues, jazz and even folk goes into the ol’ influence bag.

*Though Traditional Metal these days follows a pretty standard route with content, you guys manage to mix things up with some really unique lyrical content in songs like ‘Phobophobia’ and especially ‘Goomba.’ Would you say that it was your choice to go this unique route or simply something that happened?

We don’t really stick to any particular theme, lyrically, it really is just as the ideas come. Some of the songs are more tongue in cheek, or based on something fictional, while other songs have a more serious down-to-earth level. Phobophobia is a genuine thing I found out about, which is literally a ‘fear of fears’, people have a phobia of developing a phobia, seemed like a good topic to write about! Goomba is lyrically a bit more tongue-in-cheek as it’s actually written from the perspective of a Goomba (enemy from the Super Mario games), about what a horribly short and repetitive existence they live.

*I don’t usually ask this, but what exactly is the inspiration for the band name? Even in my experience with countless death and black metal bands - I’ve yet to even hear the word ‘Osmium’ used.

‘Osmium’ is actually on the periodic table, it’s literally a type of heavy metal! We were originally deciding between that and ‘Guillotine’ as two potential band names, and then figured, what if you had a guillotine made of osmium? Having your head taken off with the heaviest metal - Osmium Guillotine!

*Do you think Osmium Guillotine will hit North American in the future?

We’ve had quite a few CD and merch sales come from America, so someone over there must like us! Yeah naturally if we ever have the chance to play overseas we’d jump at it, but it’s a costly venture for us just to play gigs further afield in our own country, we all work full time jobs to cover our costs as playing in an underground metal band isn’t really a big money-making thing. But who knows what the future holds, if an opportunity arises for us to get out of England and come play some shows in different parts of the world, we will grab it with both hands.

*What can we expect in the future from you guys?

Our next release will be a live album, “Osmium Guillotine – Live From The Asylum” which was recorded at the Asylum venue in Chelmsford earlier this year, we plan to release this in mid-October, with a big launch gig at the Asylum venue.

We’ve recently had a change of personnel in the band, as our bassist Dan has unfortunately had to leave the band due as he’s recently moved away too far to gig/rehearse with us on a regular basis, so we’ve just welcomed Josh Birch into the band on bass and are now concentrating on rehearsing and gearing up for our first gigs with this new line-up, we do some new songs in the pipeline as well so people can definitely be expecting to hear some new material for our upcoming gigs.

*Thank you for your time and I really appreciate, again, that you took the time to do this interview! \m/

Cheers, keep the metal flag flying!