Former ILL NIÑO members Cristian Machado (vocals), Ahrue "Luster" Ilustre (guitar) and Diego Verduzco (guitar) have launched a new band called LIONS AT THE GATE. The group's lineup is completed by bassist Stephen Brewer (WESTFIELD MASSACRE) and drummer Fern Lemus.
LIONS AT THE GATE's debut single, "Not Even Human", will be released on Friday, June 4. A teaser for the track is available below.
Ilustre discussed his renewed collaboration with Machado and Verduzco in a recent interview with Pierre Gutierrez of Rock Talks. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "I can't even explain how happy I am with how this came out. It sounds, in my opinion, better than anything that Cristian and I have ever done together, and that includes all the ILL NIÑO records that we've done together."
Asked about the musical direction of LIONS AT THE GATE, Ahrue said: "It's a very polished sound, similar to… I don't wanna say it sounds like [ILL NIÑO's 2003 album] 'Confession', but there's a lot of singing on it, there's a lot of production. But at the same time, there's heaviness to it. But the songs are better than anything we've written. And the crazy thing was the process of writing 'em was way easier than it has ever been for us. Usually an ILL NIÑO record would take us three to six months to finish. We finished this record in 20 days, and we believe it sounds better than anything we've ever done in the past."
According to Ahrue, the debut album from LIONS AT THE GATE was produced by Kile Odell. "He's worked with BAD WOLVES," he said. "I think he may have co-wrote with them. But he has a huge resume, and he's had, like, five Number One hits last year. And he was amazing to work with. I've worked with Ross Robinson, I've worked with Johnny K, I've worked with Terry Date, as a mixer, and I've worked with some other big names in the industry that have all had platinum records, and I'll say, hands down, Kile Odell is amazing. I would say, second to [MACHINE HEAD's] 'The Burning Red', it was an amazing experience. It was a different way. As far as Ross Robinson was really into the emotion and getting the emotion out of the players and the music, Odell is very musical and he's really able to help with the songs, and he has a great ear and a great vision."
In March 2020, Machado, Ilustre, Verduzco, drummer Dave Chavarri and bassist Laz Pina announced that they had "reached a mutual, amicable and binding agreement" that will allow Chavarri and Pina to continue with ILL NIÑO while Machado, Verduzco and Ilustre will move on with new projects. According to a joint statement release by the five musicians, "No party has admitted fault and there has been no court judgment on the merits. The parties entered into a confidential settlement agreement."
Back in January 2019, Chavarri and Pina said that they had recruited vocalist Marcos Leal (SHATTERED SUN), lead guitarist Jes DeHoyos (SONS OF TEXAS) and rhythm guitarist Sal Dominguez (UPON A BURNING BODY) to be in their new incarnation of ILL NIÑO. The Chavarri-led ILL NIÑO also issued a new single, "Sangre". A day later, Machado, Ilustre and Verduzco dismissed reports that they had left ILL NIÑO and vowed to continue with their own version of the band. Two months later, the trio filed a lawsuit against Chavarri and Pina, accusing the drummer and bassist of failing to pay the band's tour rental company and engineers, slandering Machado by spreading rumors that he has a drug problem, collecting and spending the band's money without consulting in all of the members and refusing the members access to the group's financial records.
In a statement announcing the launch of his new version of ILL NIÑO, Chavarri said about the split with his former bandmates: "Being in a band is much like being married, and sometimes people grow apart, and no longer see eye to eye, and a separation becomes inevitable."