Split Heaven is the name of a relatively new band from Mexico. They have released two albums so far. Their self-titled debut and "Psycho Samurai", which has just been released on vinyl by High Roller Records in a strictly limited edition. Guitarist Pedro Zelbohr sees the following differences between the debut and "Psycho Samurai": "First of all, the production: It wasn't what we wanted for the first album, we ourselves and our record labels don't have the money to pay for a great studio, but I think you can get great things if you know how to use what you have. That didn't happen with the first album. The sound of that album is so far from what we wanted and it's sad. 'Psycho Samurai' has Armand Ramos on guitar, and for me, him joining the band gave us more liberty to create songs, because before he joined we had to think songs without two the guitars arrangements and is not too easy when all the albums you hear and the songs you like the most have twin guitars, battles of solos and all that cool stuff … things we do on 'Psycho Samurai'. Another reason for me was the immaturity, not in a bad sense, with the first album album we didn't know what we really wanted, second, we did all in such a hurry, from choosing the cover artwork to making songs, and all for what? All to wait two years until Asenath Records remembered we had a deal, and finally released the album, an album we already had played all the songs from for too long … With 'Psycho Samurai' we took our time, we knew what we wanted, and we did it with a good label." Tommy "Drumdestroyer" Roitman explains further: "As Pedro says, we did 'Split Heaven' in a time we were desperate to get our first album out, no matter what happened. The real Split Heaven sound is the one you can hear on our demo 'R.I.P' and 'Psycho Samurai'. The first album has cool songs on it, the thing is, the production is lame and does not reflect the power that we have. Fortunately, some songs are good and maybe in the future we can record it again with the right producers, the right label and with time to think about what we want to transmit. In case people don't know, we re-recorded 'Eternal Life' for that album and we definitely like the demo version more, because again, the production is far far away from our real sound." How would the two describe the style of Split Heaven? I think there are a few paralells to early Queensryche to be heard ...
Pedro Zelbohr reflects: "It is Heavy Metal, Heavy Metal right to the balls. I don't know how to describe it but I know we were influenced by a lot of bands. Queensryche is one of them, we love them and I think Eligio is a great follower of Geoff Tate but as I was sayin' we were influenced by a lot of bands, for example: Metal Church, Ozzy, Riot, Tokyo Blade, Stormwitch, Accept, Gravestone, Savatage, Crimson Glory, to name just a few, some of them, as Queensryche, made great Heavy Metal but they weren't obvious in their riffs and in their music, it was right to the nuts but in a sort of way they played the usual heavy riffs but with some twist that makes them unusual. I think that is what I like the most about Queensryche and other bands who have influenced us." Tommy Roitman, his colleague on drums, adds: "Our style is Heavy Metal with influences of Rock and Metal of the 70's and 80's, always trying to find our own sound; we don't like to be labeled as the band that sounds like somebody else. I think we're doing a good job, at least that's what the reviews say and we're happy and very proud of that fact." "Psycho Samurai" is quite a strange title for an album of a Mexican band. What's the connection to Samurais then? Pedro Zelbohr does not take long to come up with an answer: "I love the song, so I agreed when 'Psycho Samurai' was discussed as the name of the album. I know it's weird for a Mexican band or any band to take something from that far but how many Metal bands have taken something from Egypt. I think it's the same, but with something not so often used. Now, about the song, I don't know what the heck was happening in the head of Tommy." So Tommy might be able to explain himself then: "Well, I think the name ... it would be strange if we didn't feel like Mexicans ha, ha, ha. The thing is … the album was supposed to be called 'Forged In Steel' but we had a few problems with the artwork and we thought the name had already been used and it was not that original anyway. We remembered that Pedro's cousin (Chema Cano) had made an illustration relating to my idea of a 'Psycho Samurai'. So we didn't hesitate to use it for the album because it is aggressive and reflects the sound of the songs perfectly. Honestly, I don't remember when I did the lyric, I was thinking of a 'sticky' chorus and I thought 'psycho, psycho, psycho', hmmmmm, 'psycho what?' Well, 'Samurai' is awesome, ha, ha, ha."
So now you know how the album title "Psycho Samurai" came about in the first place. It is up to Tommy "Drumdestroyer" Roitman to explain the lyrical concept of the record: "Most of the lyrics are written by me and by Eli. One of the main subjects of Eli's lyrics are things related to life experiences like love, moods and for example more 'poetic' things. I love to create characters like the 'Iron Witch' or a 'Psycho Samurai'. Those are like 'heroes', who punish people who have betrayed them. I like to talk about injustices in the world and how people don't react to them, so I created a character instead of grabbing a weapon and killing them all, ha, ha, ha. For the third album, I guess there will be some new characters and we'll include a new one, which is going to talk about our trip to Germany and Hamburg's Reeperbahn. Eli has written it and it's called 'The Red Light District'. If I remember correctly ..."
In October last year Split Heaven shared a stage with Stratovarius, a band Tommy "Drumdestroyer" Roitman rates highly: "It was a hell of a show. Many people didn't know that there would be a supporting band; so 2,300 people were expecting to see Stratovarius at 8:00 p.m at Circo Volador Venue. The lights were turned off and people went crazy, by the time some of the audience saw that it was not Stratovarius, they started to scream funny things at us, ha, ha, ha. But by the first second we played our music, people were shocked and impressed and started to support us in a very cool way. Some people already knew us, most of them did not, there was a lot of curiosity because they wanted to see the first Mexican band which had played at Wacken and they enjoyed it a lot. We played for 30 minutes, just as we did in Wacken. Eli managed the audience pretty well, they responded to everything and by the time we finished the show, people were asking for another song, a strange thing for a support band here in Mexico. The crew of the organization and of Stratovarius were impressed, our records and t-shirts were pretty well sold out, so we think it was one of our best shows ever. Yes, we do like Stratovarius musically, we think all their albums are good and we respect their work very much. They're great musicians but they're not a direct influence on our music. As a musician, I like the drumming of Jörg Michael, especially in his work with Rage and Running Wild, and of course Pedro and Armand listen to some of the work that Tolkki has made over the years."
As you can see quite a few Mexican Metalheads at European festivals like the Headbangers Open Air, Keep It True or Wacken, one might suspect that Mexico does have a pretty healthy home grown scene. "The scene and people are changing", says Tommy Roitman. "We had to fight for five years for the first concert of Split Heaven and there are still some things that promoters don't give us. From my point of view, having a Heavy Metal band in Mexico is to be in constant danger of extinction. I hope we can change that and we're trying to doing it because we love what we do and believe in Heavy Metal. The only thing that we need is promotion; we have played with bands like Hammerfall, Rata Blanca, Agent Steel, At War, Brainstorm, Stratovarius, Paul Di'Anno, L.A Guns and many others and when people see our show, they really enjoy it! They are really impressed of what they're watching and hearing, sometimes they can't believe we're Mexicans. I think we're creating our own scene with our own followers and that's cool but for example, the time that takes a European or US band to be known and to be in the Metal market is less than our time to get there and then return here as 'the Mexicans who have success in Europe' so people can say 'yes, they're good, they played in Wacken, I'm going to listen to Split Heaven now' … ha, ha, ha. Five fuckin' years to get a little bit of recognition and success in our own country."