Desecration, Scythian Oath, and Sentinel are three bands intertwined both musically and by membership. Any examination of one band invariably leads to discussion of the other two. Formed in 1983 under the original moniker Cynwulf, the band changed its name to Desecration in early 1984 and played many successful shows with the likes of Matrix, Militia, and WatchTower. The lineup consisted of Buddy Forsythe - vocals, David Jancha - Guitar, David Roach - Bass, and Jon Liveoak - Drums. To avoid confusion with a band out of Phoenix with the same title, Desecration made another name change to Scythian Oath in 1985, the same year their acclaimed and sought-after demo Shadow Of The Torturer was released. Listen to samples in our Audio section. By 1986 Forsythe had departed Scythian Oath and taken over rhythm guitar duties in Sentinel - a new project started by local guitarist Steve Larsen. Buddy's guitar duties were to be short lived though, as he was soon asked to relocate to Dallas and take over vocal duties in the up-and-coming progressive thrash band Eldritch Rite. On Forsythe's suggestion, David Jancha took over his guitar position in Sentinel. Sentinel went on to perform many shows in the Austin and Dallas areas and record a fantastic and hard-to-find two song demo. To further complicate and intertwine these musicians, Steve Larson went on to form the legendary Austin party-funk band Retarted Elf which at varying times in its history claimed Buddy Forsythe as a backup dancer and Rick Colaluca and Doug Keyser from WatchTower as its rhythm section!
Recently TexasMetalUnderground.com was able to conduct a triple interview with David Jancha, Buddy Forsythe, and Steve Larsen and get their recollections on the classic Texas metal scene they helped put on the worldwide radar. Many thanks go out to these guys for taking the time to reflect on the classic scene and help sort out some of the tangled web these three bands created.
Click here to view an awesome gallery of band photos and scans from the first issue of Cerebral Devastation zine from 1985. Also, be sure to visit the Audio section for some rare samples from Scythian Oath's 1985 demo Shadow Of The Torturer.
Coming soon...samples from the rare Sentinel demo.
Texas Metal Underground: What originally drew you to heavy metal? Were there any bands in particular that you would consider influences?
David Jancha: I started listening to the roots of metal such as Iron Butterfly, Hendrix, Zeppelin, Cream, Ted Nugent, Bad Co., Foghat, Thin Lizzy, and Pink Floyd at an early age because I was hearing it all the time from my siblings since I was the youngest of five children (I was born in 1967). In the late 70’s I discovered Rush, one of my biggest influences. Rush was one of our band’s biggest influences. In the early 80’s bands such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Metallica, Tygers of Pan Tang, Anthrax, Accept, Motorhead, Queensryche, The Ramones, Saxon, Trust, and Twisted Sister influenced every member. Metallica and Maiden were strong motivators for us to write music. In 1983 we listened to an import of Twisted Sister’s 'Under the Blade', then learned it. That 'hooked' us as a metal band. In 1984, I was captivated by Yngwie Malmsteen’s 'Rising Force' album. It was better than his previous projects and gave me more inspiration. I had always enjoyed classical music also. In the 90’s I got into Faith No More, Rammstein, and Type O Negative. Those three bands mix cool vocals, keyboards, rockin’ guitars, and a sense of humor, which a lot of the latest bands lack. I just enjoy the mix of singers such as Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Fantomas…) and Pete Steele (Type O Negative). I also listened to Body Count in the 90’s. They had a cool mix of metal with a punk twist. Body Count just shows how diverse and multi-talented Ice T can be. I can’t leave out how much Eric Johnson has influenced me since 1986. He is one of the smoothest and best guitar players in the world and he sounds great live.
Buddy Forsythe: The intensity and shock of it drew me to metal, since I was a big KISS fan it was a natural progression. Influences were Maiden, Saxon, Judas Priest, Tygers of Pan Tang, Thin Lizzy,…
TMU: When did you first pick up an instrument and decide you wanted to play in a band? Do you play any other instruments besides guitar?
What really got me interested in wanting to play guitar was when I heard Van
Halen’s first album and Rush’s 'Permanent Waves'. I would listen to
these albums over and over. Eddie Van Halen’s soloing techniques blew me
away. That is when I knew that I wanted to play guitar. I learned
guitar and piano by ear. I first started 'playing' guitar at the age of
14, but actually 'plucked' on my mom and grandmothers’ acoustics before that.
My grandmother sang and played in C&W /
I remember when I first met David in 1982. He moved in across the street
from me in
TMU: David, you took guitar lessons from WatchTower’s Billy White. How did that come about? How was he as a teacher? How long did you study under him?
David Jancha: Yes, I took private lessons from the almighty Billy White for several months. I started as a music major in college right after high school. In college I took all the guitar and music theory courses they offered. My college guitar teacher was Russ Scanlon (The Brew, …), one of the best Progressive Jazz guitar players, but we learned mostly classical acoustic. I felt I needed some 'one-on-one' lessons from Billy White to help me with the rock style of soloing and theory. I studied music in the morning at college then drove straight to lessons with Billy, then practiced three hours a night, 5 nights a week with Desecration/Scythian Oath! It left me little or no time to practice my lessons. I still have a three ring binder full of lessons from Billy that I periodically review. He was a nice guy that pushed me to practice hard, but that's not to say that he wouldn’t get agitated at me when I failed to practice a lesson. Besides all of his critical guitar theory lessons, he made me do finger exercises on the fretboard, which made me start using my pinky all the time while soloing. He wrote me notes on my lessons that said, “Do your finger exercises and DON’T FORGET TO USE YOUR FOURTH FINGER!!!” (pinky). I do remember my first lessons. I came in showing off my Eddie Van Halen hammering/pull-off technique. He then said I had mastered hammering/tapping, but I needed to now go back and learn basic 'blues scale' solos. I kind of felt 'shot down' when he said that, but it gave me motivation and was worth starting fresh with such an excellent guitar player/teacher such as Billy. He is truly a humble guy.
TMU: The nucleus of Desecration/Scythian Oath started with a band called Cynwulf. How did you guys meet and decide to start a band? What was the average age of the band members?
David Jancha: We were all living and going to high school in the Buda, Texas area (just south of Austin, Tx.) when we met in 1982.
Buddy Forsythe: We met in the neighborhood or at school. I would say our average age was seventeen when we started Cynwulf in 1983.
TMU: What year did Cynwulf form and what type of music did you play?
David Jancha: Scythian Oath’s beginning started off in 1983 with a band called Cynwulf. We had one original called 'Hotter & Hotter' that sounded very similar to the beginning/verse of Iron Maiden’s 'Two Minutes to , but was written years earlier. We played covers such as Trust (Anti-Social), Twisted Sister, AC/DC, Def Leppard (1st album), Dio, Tygers of Pan Tang, Riot (Swords and Tequila), etc. Before Cynwulf, David Roach (Bass player) and I would sit around at my house jamming anything we could. I had a 'no-name' Marlboro Les Paul copy guitar and he had a Fender Longhorn bass that would never tune correctly. Soon after that Buddy and I would sit in his room writing songs on guitar. We formed Cynwulf shortly after that.
Buddy Forsythe: Cynwulf formed in 1983. We did hard rock covers from Def Leppard, Judas Priest, Tygers of Pan Tang, etc. The songs on the Cynwulf demo were: our original 'Hotter & Hotter', AC/DC 'TNT', and Twisted Sister 'Shoot em’ Down'.
What else was going on in the
Jancha: What I remember of 1983
I remember bands such as Ground Zero and
TMU: How long was Cynwulf together before the band evolved into Desecration?
Buddy Forsythe: Approximately one year, then we changed our name to Desecration. The name was changed again for its final time one year later to Scythian Oath. The singer of Cynwulf (Sid Donalson) went on after Cynwulf to play in Vicious Distortion. Buddy then took over on vocals and David Jancha became the sole guitar player.
Jancha: When Cynwulf disbanded we
also lost our drummer Roger Ables. Roger was a great drummer but he had
other obligations. That is when we met Desecration/Scythian Oath drummer Jon
Liveoak in high school. Jon had just moved to Buda from
You guys had a practice space in
Jancha: Practice places were hard
to come by for a bunch of high school kids, so in the early days of Desecration
we drove to
Buddy Forsythe: Our bass player’s Dad was the manager, we all worked there at one time or another.
I saw Desecration live several times in
Jancha: Memories of large crowds
and major anxiety before we came on, but yet comfort from fellow bands.
WatchTower helped us get our start. At the
time, Buddy was a good friend with Jason McMaster and I was Billy White's
student. I had major performance anxiety while Billy watched from the side
of the stage. We had known Mike Botello, the drummer from Matrix,
since he had lived near us in Buda and went to high school with us. Phillip
Patterson of Matrix was such a nice person and friend, besides being an
excellent guitar player. He really
was a cool guy. I remember Phil and
I 'freaking out' about the scene at Rascals in Fort Worth when we first played
there. Unfortunately, the last time I saw Phil was at an Eric Johnson gig at
Aqua Fest here in
Buddy Forsythe: I can remember be nervous before we went on at those gigs. I also remember eating 39-cent hamburgers from a place near the Ritz before the show. Anxiety and hamburgers…what a mix!
In 1985-1986 Desecration played a few shows in the
Buddy Forsythe: Yes, good and bad. We nearly got killed one night by a crazed biker who thought we were the ones who stabbed his buddy a week earlier. It was quite different than what we were used to. One year on New Years Eve we were minutes from going on stage and the club was shut down for improper storage of garbage. That was garbage! It was standing room only that night. (See flyer here.) After that night we stayed there all week and helped them pay bills so Rascals could reopen and we could go on with the show.
Rascals gigs and our time up there was chaotic at times.
As Buddy said, a big ass crazed biker who stumbled in from the bar next
door to Rascals almost killed us. He
was out for some type of vengeance, possibly on one of Rascals’ employees and
unfortunately at the time we were on stage rehearsing for our next gig.
The management staff and Buddy ran into Rascals’ management office to
find a weapon to defend us while the rest of us were left on stage to entertain
this guy and defend ourselves. I do
remember the guy calling us (in a drunken voice) 'fuckin’ punks'.
He demanded us to play 'old school' rock such as Zeppelin and ZZ Top.
We were so freaked out by this giant hellion biker that we simultaneously
started jamming ZZ Top's 'La Grange'. Then we went into Zep’s 'Whole Lotta Love' at warp speed.
Just visualize Anthrax playing ZZ Top and Zeppelin and you’ll get the
idea. The songs we played pleased
him but due to the speed we played them it was over fast.
The guy then made his way to the office to find his victim.
He found the office door and started beating on it.
By this time Buddy and others inside the office had made a makeshift stun
wire by cutting an A/C power cord, fraying the ends, and plugging it into the
wall’s power source. They had it
plugged in and ready to deliver 110 volts once the crazed biker was able to
break through the door. Fortunately,
at the time the door was almost knocked in, the
Did the music scene in
am not sure of the extent of change but I think we influenced some of their fan
base with progressive metal. The first time we went to the Dallas/Fort
Worth area (at Rascals ~Oct. 1985) with Matrix we were all kind of stunned.
There was very little, if any progressive metal there.
Warlock was basically the 'house band' at Rascals.
It seemed like the audience’s first intro to Matrix and Scythian Oath
was mixed due to the lack of progressive metal that they had experienced. The
club crowd would sit around while the true metal fans were on their feet banging
their heads (still not much, if any thrashing as we experienced in other areas).
Most bands in that area (NOT including Rotting Corpse) in 1985 that we heard
seemed to be kind of a mix of Motley Crue and WASP at the time we first arrived
there. They kind of had a Motley Crue
sound with a harder edge. Let’s
put it like this, a band called 'The Zoo' played with Matrix and us the first
gig and I think their hardest song was a cover of Zeppelin’s 'Immigrant Song'.
No offense to the bands, but that was the style some of them were into up
there. By the time we got back there
a few months later everyone was into harder, progressive metal.
Even Warlock’s style and new songs had even reflected a change.
It seemed like the glam and spandex days were disappearing in that area
after that. Some friends in the Dallas/Fort
Worth area had even told me years later that Pantera’s music had been
indirectly changed by the influx of progressive metal that was started off by
Buddy Forsythe: I remember Rotting Corpse being very heavy and probably the only thrash metal band we met there on our first visit.
Where else did Desecration gig besides Austin and Dallas? Did you ever
make it down to
Jancha: We played in
Yes, we did play
What are some of your memories of playing shows at
the legendary Ritz Theater in
Jancha: – I
remember the Ritz as being this massive place with the biggest stage.
Unfortunately the stage monitors never seemed to be turned on or working
right, so it was a challenge to hear each other during a live performance.
It was a challenge to keep tight on such a big stage.
I can remember looking back at our drummer Jon and he would give the
clueless, “I can’t hear anything” signal due to no monitors and being far
away from any amps, especially the bass amp.
When the monitors are not working there you have to rely strictly on the
acoustics of the stage, and with a stage that big the sound acoustics are
bouncing all over the place. That
was really tough since we had been rehearsing in small quarters.
Somehow we pulled it off. Other than that it was great to play for
big crowds with our friends such as
Buddy Forsythe: Anxiety, large crowds, and the smell of sewage coming from the alley behind the Ritz. It was a great place to play. It was big and in the perfect location.
TMU: Desecration had a few cover songs in its live repertoire. What were some of these? How many originals did the band have and what were some titles?
David Jancha: Some cover songs were: Motorhead-'Ace of Spades', Judas Priest-'Breaking the Law', Slayer-'Black Magic', SOD-'Freddy Krueger', Metallica-'Motorbreath', Trust-'AntiSocial', Iron Maiden-'Running Free'. A few of the original songs I can remember were: Break the Mold, Plea of Innocence, Shadow of the Torturer, Accidental International Death, & Dark Castle.
Buddy Forsythe: We had about ten or eleven originals.
TMU: Why did the band change its name from Desecration to Scythian Oath?
Forsythe: We heard there
was a band in
David Jancha: The name Scythian Oath was thought of by our bass player. He had read about the Scythians, one of the first groups of warriors on horseback, who had taken their oath as a warrior by drinking blood out of a skull. I guess it’s all true, we believed what he had told us. That is how our 'Shadow of the Torturer' demo cover got the warrior’s arm holding the skull. I really did not like the name much because I felt it was too long, and some people were spelling it wrong on things like flyers. We were doing shows at the time and had to make a quick decision. No one else could think of a good name and we were all kind of despondent about losing our original name, so due to our time constraints we all settled on Scythian Oath.
TMU: Scythian Oath’s 1985 demo 'Shadow Of The Torturer' was well received on the underground tape trading circuit. Where was the demo recorded? Do you remember how much it cost to record? How many were produced and sold?
was recorded at Keylight studios in
David Jancha: What made Keylight studios and the 'Shadow…' demo so unique was that a guy that had never produced/recorded a metal band produced it. Cool thing about that was he put a fresh spin on our music.
Did the band receive mail from fans across the globe like many of the other
Jancha: We were in other zines
such as 'AxeAttack' and maybe 'Grey Matter'. Somehow these publications
such as 'Cerebral Devastation', 'Axe Attack', and even bootlegged demos made it
as far as Eastern Europe. This really helped us gain some international fans. I still have some of
the letters from
Forsythe: Besides the United
States, we received fan mail from
There were rumblings of record label interest throughout
the mid 1980’s
Jancha: We heard rumors of
Electra records wanting to possibly enter the progressive metal arena. We
received several calls, several '3-way' calls a week at times, from a woman in
Buddy Forsythe: I was contacted by Metal Blade Records, but unfortunately the band split before any 'in person' talks could begin.
TMU: By June of 1986, Scythian Oath had broken up and Buddy had moved on to playing rhythm guitar for Sentinel. What was the main cause for the split?
Jancha: Several reasons caused the
split. We all had been close friends
years before the band formed. The
band even pushed us closer due to practicing almost every day for three hours a
night, so this may have even caused some 'burn out' and brotherly fighting.
Another reason was that Jon, our drummer was starting college at
Buddy Forsythe: That sounds about right. A bunch of stressful things happened all at once.
TMU: Did Sentinel play covers also, or were the songs all originals? Do you remember any song titles?
Buddy Forsythe: All originals, such as Idle Minds and Panzer Attack.
David Jancha: Well, actually I do remember playing one cover: 'Honky Tonk Woman' by the Rolling Stones. I do remember it being rather funny to play live since Sentinel was such a fast and heavy band.
How long was Buddy a member of Sentinel before he moved to
Buddy Forsythe: I was a guitar player for Sentinel for about three months, then left to sing for Eldritch Rite. I was with Eldritch Rite for 6 months.
David Jancha: I replaced Buddy as guitar player when Buddy left Sentinel to go sing for Eldritch Rite. Steve Larsen (the founder of Sentinel and Retarted Elf) and I were then the guitar players. Steve was a very humble and patient teacher to me when I joined Sentinel. I can remember sitting in his bedroom for a while learning several Sentinel songs with him. I can remember getting a little tired the first few practices because the guitar parts were like Slayer and Exodus, fast and unforgiving on the arms. Steve and I synergistically sped up Sentinel’s tempo with each practice. We both were seasoned guitar players and we seemed to push the music harder every time we got together. The drummer was not happy about the speed increase and he let us know it several times during the rehearsals. Steve and I would laugh it off. We loved the speed of the music. Once in a while, Kent (Sentinel's singer) would also complain about singing to that tempo. John, our bass player, actually loved the increase in speed of Sentinel, but this came from a guy who did not mind if we went 'Punk'.
Sentinel played a few shows in
David Jancha: Audience reaction to Sentinel was good. We were a powerful, hard, fast and heavy band that people could thrash to. I do remember our last gig, which happened to be at the Ritz. We ended up playing 'Honky Tonk Woman' at least twice in a row due to the crowd getting into it and to help delay while I got another guitar (Steve’s back-up guitar) since I happened to break a couple of strings in a row at that gig. I can remember Kent, our singer, telling the crowd, “He broke another one”. Man, that broken string situation was stressful for me.
TMU: Sentinel existed before the band Retarted Elf was formed, but some of these shows were sponsored by Retarted Elf Productions using the same logo the band later used. What’s the story behind that? Was Steve Larsen involved in these productions and how did that evolve into the band Retarted Elf?
Steve Larsen: About the elf on the flyers and stuff...Retarted Elf existed 2-3 years as a logo / t-shirt, before it was a band. I had made a bunch of Retarted Elf t-shirts and was trying to make some cash...so I thought putting on a show and putting on the Elf logo might sell some shirts.
TMU: Where else did Sentinel play and with what other bands?
Forsythe: We played at Machinist Hall in
played the Ritz and another place in
Sentinel’s demo is one of the harder
Steve Larsen: We recorded it at Johnny Medina's studio in 8 hours. We never pressed it, so the only distribution was done with tapes that we had dubbed ourselves. That is why it is hard to find.
Buddy Forsythe: Steve and I can only remember the name of one song on the demo called 'Panzer Attack'. The only person I know that had an available copy of the demo was Kent Steele (Sentinel singer), but he gave it to John Perez for the compilation album that Sentinel and Scythian Oath will be coming out on someday.
David Jancha: I have a copy stashed somewhere in one of the many boxes in storage. The only two songs I remember on the Sentinel demo were 'Death Be Proud' and 'Panzer Attack'. There may have been a third song but I can’t remember the name of it if there was.
TMU: How long was Sentinel together before calling it quits? Why did the band split up?
Steve Larsen: We were together for what I seem to remember for 2 years or so. Ended when the drummer Speedy Martinez went to join the Marines.
David Jancha: I still think the we had a 'tempo disgruntled' drummer that was so frustrated with the band’s speed evolution that he joined the Marines. Once he enlisted, he probably constructed mannequins of Steve and I, which he impaled with his bayonet on a daily basis. I felt we were at our strongest point when we broke up.
TMU: Sentinel singer Kent Steele later formed Baron Steele with David Roach playing bass. Were you involved in any other musical projects after the demise of Sentinel? What about the other members?
David Jancha: Buddy and I were in a band together after Scythian Oath (see next question). I was in another band years ago that practiced at Austin Rehearsal Complex (ARC) and did some multi-track recording. We had an excellent line-up of musicians, but none from Scythian Oath or Sentinel. We played originals that had a Faith No More style but unfortunately 'Grunge' was at its peak at that time.
TMU: Are you still in touch with former members of Scythian Oath and Sentinel? What are they up to now? Are you still involved in music in any way?
and I were in a rock band together in the late 80’s called Valhalla.
When the bass player and I left that band Steve Larsen replaced me on guitar and
David Roach replaced the bass player. You can see how we recycle each
other…the matrix of bands we were in together, or at different times were
many. Jon Liveoak (Scythian Oath drummer) and I have jammed together
periodically over the years. We had a group that would get together and play
covers. We would jam entire Ramones and Green Day albums until the cop across
the street would bang on my door. I guess hearing my wife (she would sing vocals
for us some of the time) sing the The Ramones' 'Beat On The Brats (With A
Baseball Bat)' reminded him too much of his job. It’s kind of hard to
lightly jam on the drums and guitar while playing that music. Jon finally
invested in a set of electronic drums and now can jam with headphones so he
doesn’t freak out the neighbors. Jon is a computer programmer, Buddy
works at the Texas State Senate, I am a Registered Respiratory Therapist, and I
think Roach is smoking 'Reds' while fishing and living on the river in
Buddy Forsythe: I play drums in a Disco band with Steve Larsen now. I also do some drumming gigs with C&W bands every so often.
The mid 1980’s – early 1990’s
Jancha: I feel that
some of the reasons for the scene being different and unique were due to factors
caused from population growth in the
Forsythe: It is hard to
say why the scene here was unique except for the fact that most
TMU: And finally, what are your thoughts on the metal scene (or lack thereof) of today?
Jancha: I consider
it to be lacking in the
Thanks for your time! I really
appreciate your help in letting the world know the history of the legendary
David Jancha: No problem, thanks for featuring us on your site! We are honored.