||Chile-born, UK-based thrash masters Criminal have announced the departure of lead guitarist and founding member Rodrigo Contreras.
Band leader Anton Reisenegger (guitar, vocals; also in Lock Up) comments: "As some of you may be aware, Rod decided to go back to Chile a few months ago, leaving the future of the band uncertain. After much deliberation, we have now decided to replace him in order to be able to carry on as a band.
This is not something we wanted to happen, but we have to be realistic, and being thousands of kilometers apart wouldn't have allowed us to work as a functioning band. This is not a studio project, our music is meant to be played live, and we have many plans for the future which require the four of us to be geographically close.
Rod and I started this band almost 20 years ago and he wrote some of the band's best and most characteristic material, which made this situation extremely difficult for me personally. I feel, however, that we've done the right thing, as everything was talked through with all people involved, and Rod's departure happened in the most open, civilized terms possible.
We hope that you, the fans, will understand this decision. It's not an easy step for us to take, and it wasn't a rushed decision, but if the only other choice is to stop playing as Criminal, we'd rather take the flak and soldier on.
We may still play a few shows with Rod in South America next year when we celebrate our 20th anniversary, but nothing is set in stone yet.
Rod's replacement is Olmo Cascallar from the Basque band Gamora, who already did a fantastic job as a stand-in on our last few European dates. Not only is he an excellent guitarist with a great stage presence, we also feel he will contribute an entirely new approach to our songwriting."
Criminal will enter HVR Studios in Suffolk, UK in March of 2011 to record their seventh, as-yet-untitled studio album.