DEATHSLAYER is a name that you will find back on a few Heavy Metal compilation albums of the mid eighties. They never released any full length album or anything, but their music was highly appreciated in the so called underground scene. We got in touch with Suzanne Morovic (a.k.a. Suzanne Hearts), who a few of you readers still might know from her days with this eighties metal band DEATHSLAYER. She provided us with some great pictures and her friend Bill send us a biography. We used Bill's biography as the actual story of DEATHSLAYER & Suzanne, that you can read here. Who else could have done this in a better way? Right after that, there's an interview I did with Suzanne to get the story complete. Our sincere thanks go out to Suzanne and Bill for all their time and effort to make this interview as exclusive as possible. We wish them all the best for the future!
Suzanne Morovic was born in a Manhattan hospital to parents who had come to the US from their respective homelands of Austria and Croatia. She lived most of her formative years in the borough of Brooklyn, New York. Living in an area near the old Brooklyn Dodger baseball stadium, she kept to herself, she did very well in school, and she did go on to get a scholarship and a degree from NYU. She also developped a big fondness for music. In particular the new breed of hard rock, called heavy metal. Her first group was formed with her boyfriend Johnny, a young shredder guitarist. The band was called MARAUDER (not to be confused with the later-day Brooklyn group of the same name but with a hardcore/metal sound). This was in 1981. The sound was very based on the bands that were getting big in metal at the time and you could hear a big IRON MAIDEN/JUDAS PRIEST influence in many of the songs. Johnny was the chief songwriter and Suzanne's vocals were very strong and she stood out among all the male vocalists at the time.
The group became DEATHSLAYER in 1982 with the addition of bassist John Forte and drummer Steve Alliano. Suzanne and Johnny adopted the last name Hearts for stage, and they began playing shows locally in NY City, New Jersey and Long Island, as well as recording many rehearsals and demo tapes. They were featured on the"New York Metal '84" compilation LP alongside notables like OVERKILL, BLACK LACE, CITIES and VIRGIN STEELE. And then on another compilation called "Iron Tyrants" which also featured NASTY SAVAGE and TEEZE among others. DEATHSLAYER were written about in many underground magazines that were popping up with this explosion in the heavy metal scene, many of whom from Europe where metal was reaching masses of people in comparison to its underground cult status in the US. Eventually DEATHSLAYER bass player John Forte left and was replaced by Hugh Essay and the group briefly existed as HELICON thereafter. Drummer Steve Alliano left to sing/drum in his other band, the Brooklyn based thrash group PRIMAL SCREAM. Suzanne and Johnny got together with bassist Paul Ross and drummer Michael Hamboussi and formed BEWITCH in 1986, which they played one show as before changing the name to MASK. Their sound was slicker and slightly more commercial, going for more of a complex QUEENSRYCHE-type sound as opposed to early IRON MAIDEN-ish sound of DEATHSLAYER. The band played locally and recorded a well-produced and professional sounding demo before disbanding in 1988. At this time Johnny and Suzanne did a solo demo in the home studio of fellow Brooklynnite Josh Silver in his pre-TYPE O NEGATIVE days (Johnny once auditioned for Pete Steele's initial line-up of CARNIVORE, his pre-TYPE O thrash/hardcore band). Suzanne and Johnny then went to LA in 1990 as Southern CA was blowing up with the heavy metal scene and they wanted to be part of it. Once in LA, Suzanne and Johnny eventually parted ways and so Suzanne began auditioning for other bands. Johnny was in several different bands, made a few demos, and played lots of shows in LA, but then relocated to Las Vegas and got married before moving back East to PA years later and joined another band.
Meanwhile, in '91 Suzanne had landed the singer position in the all-girl band WARBRIDE who had existed locally on the LA glam rock scene but disbanded. The group was being reformed by original founding member, keyboardist and CA native Velia Goray. The new group was sort of an international line-up that included another CA native Kim Smith on bass, young Australian guitarist Samantha Taylor (who played bassguitar briefly in PHANTOM BLUE), Canadian Michele Pickering on drums, and of course Suzanne Hearts from Brooklyn, NY on vocals. They performed at many venues in the LA circuit including in infamous Whiskey and FM Station as well as appearing on a local music channel. They recorded some demo tapes and video taped many of their gigs and rehearsals, and developed a following locally. In time, however, friction would develop and due to 'musical differences', they broke up. Continuing on without keyboardist Goray, the remaining four resurfaced as HEROINE, embracing a heavier thrash influenced sound. They recorded a tape with producer Mikey Davis at a studio, he co-ran with then unknown producer Ross Robinson, who was working with KORN on their first demo at the time. HEROINE hoped to land an European deal with their new material, as the songs were hard and Mikeys production was very slick and professional. Once again, though, rifts started within the band and soon HEROINE was no more. After a brief time of living in Ohio, Suzanne returned to NYC and took a 'nine to five' job and forgot about music briefly. It wasn't long before she was placing ads to find a new band. She met Bill, a PA bassist who spent time in California in hopes of making it in metal music as well, although he had gone to San Francisco to instead of LA as he was working in the harder thrash metal, which San Francisco was known for. After San Francisco and then Denver, Colorado, he returned East. In the cold bleak winter of '97, the two created four intense songs filled with moodiness and dark wave overtones in a big raw Brooklyn warehouse space with just her voice and his bass. The songs were never fully realized as the two began looking for other bands. But they remained close.
Eventually, in '99 they began talking of playing together again. They wanted to go in a more electronic meets metal-oriented sound as Suzanne loved dancing and was into some dance music and techno, and Bill was into weird experimental electronic music. They wanted to retain their metal pasts though and incorporate dark wave and gothic atmosphere alongside electronic beats, but also the occasional grind/death metal blasts and chunky riffs and of course influences from all their old thrash and NWOBHM records and of course BLACK SABBATH. Hooking up in a small home studio, the two titled this project WORKER DRONES, as they both realize that they are so busy with their jobs and other aspects of their lives, that they don't have nearly as much time for music as they would like. Suzanne also had a few amateur pictures sent to the infamous NJ death metal 'zine The Grimoire Of Exalted Deads and her pics have been in three issues so far as the mesmerizing Vexx. She did it for fun, but the pictures generated a small fanclub of metalheads interested in her. Likewise, with the email communication, bands began inquiring about utilizing her as a session vocalist for recordings as well as inquiries about her old material being made available. In the near future, Suzanne will be releasing a video with clips from DEATHSLAYER, MASK and WARBRIDE, and also a CD compilation of re-mastered takes from her massive archive of material. There are plans to establish a website as well as put the new WORKER DRONES material on MP3 as well as a few underground metal compilations. A colorful history that is far from being over!
Written by: Toine van Poorten (intro) & Bill Gumble (story) [thanx so much, mate!]
(This originally appeared in METAL MAIDENS No.21/Sept. 2000 (full story + interview) and Snakepit magazine #9, 2001 (revised version, including the interview))