“This might be our catchiest, heaviest, most brutal work” – Paul Mazurkiewitz (Cannibal Corpse)

Interview with drummer Paul Mazurkiewitz from Cannibal Corpse

Interview for Metalegion Magazine by Estelle on the 19th of October 2017

Hi Paul, thanks a lot for being down for the interview! Could you tell me a bit about your 3 most favorite albums?

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Slayer – Reign in Blood (1986)

That’s a tough one, a one-day answer. There are a lot of influential albums of course. But if we’re gonna stick with the heavier stuff, the bands that really got me wanting to play this kind of music, I’d say my Nr. 1 would be Slayer – Reign in Blood. Probably most people say that (laughs). But it was such a big influence for us, unbelievable. Especially that album in particular. Hearing Dave Lombardo’s drumming, that’s what made me wanna play like that. We were already fans of Slayer with their previous works, but hearing Reign in Blood just took it to a whole another level and it made me wanna try to emulate that. So that is probably the most important album in my career. Nr. 2 would probably be Metallica – Ride the Lightning. That was such a very influential album as well. It came a little earlier that Reign in Blood but when we were getting into music and Metallica was a new band and we were hearing this as teenagers for the first time, it took us to another dimension. “Whoah, what is this?!” So of course we were fans of Kill ‘Em All but then again, Ride the Lightning took it to another level. I remember hearing the song Creeping Death for the first time, it was playing on the radio and we didn’t know what this was, we got to know they were Metallica, the new album comes out, “wow we gotta see them”. Just very influential. And Nr 3 would be Sacrifice – Forward to Termination. It was such a great thrash album every time I hear it to this day, it gets me going.

Red Before Black is your 14th full-length album. What was your main goal you wanted to achieve? What do you think distinguishes this record from the other 13?

The main goal is always just releasing the music, really. We were just excited to create new stuff and get it out to the people. It’s the way we’ve done things and the way out mentality goes: We’re just writing the next batch of songs. There’s no big skin behind it other than we wanna do good and a little better than the last time. That’s what we’re always striving for and trying to do. So that was our goal, to write the next better song. To keep going forward in our songwriting, in our musicianship and all that. And I feel we have.

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Cannibal Corpse – Red Before Black (2017)

I know I worked extra hard on this record, more than on any other so far and I work hard on all! For some reason this time around my mentality was “no rest whatsoever, go go go, double time, triple time” – I just wanted to do better than I ever have personally. The other guys are writing most of the riffs and the songs and when we’ve got three great songwriters spreading it all around… I mean we’ve got some diverse stuff and those guys write some amazing material. But I think on this record, to me it’s just a combination of what we’ve been doing our whole career. I listen to the songs and the whole definitely has more of an old school vibe to it, a little more of a thrashier vibe than our previous releases. So I look at it as a full circle. I tend to look at it as the best of all Cannibal. From the beginning to the 13th album, put it together, work hard, write some great songs and then you’ve got Red Before Black. I think it just stands out because the songs are so tight and precise, great brutal riffs. So I think this might be our best work – our catchiest, heaviest, most brutal work with a great guitar sound.

You even stated in the promo material that this album has got the rawest sound you’ve ever had. And I agree, it does totally sound old school!
Could you tell me about your most beloved song on the album? I’d love to hear your vision of the song, of the lyrics, some instrumental passages or a story in connection with its creation.

I guess the one that stands out to me in particular is Destroyed Without a Trace. That was the song that I had the most hand in. If you know much about the band you might have noticed the last few releases I ended up having myself more of a song that I wrote; if you see the credit it’s usually me and Rob or me by myself. So Destroyed was the one that I came up with. And the way I wrote that song was very interesting: I collaborated with Rob but this is the first time I ever wrote a song (or any of us for that matter) just by playing the drums. I had everything in my head, I wrote the arrangement, the riffs basically in my head, and I was able to play the whole song with nobody (laughs). Cause I wrote it by myself just on the drums. I worked on it for a couple of weeks by myself and then I just said “hey Rob, I wrote a song, I just need you to fill in the blanks here”. We went piece by piece and I showed them how I meant it and in couple of days we had the song done. Very interesting. But I’m so glad the way it turned out: Starting from the skeleton, just me playing a drum beat, to building the guitars and solos and putting the lyrics over the top. It turned out really good, I’m really proud of this song. But I love all these songs, all of them were fun to play and I just worked hard on all of them. Shedding My Human Skin is another one of my favorites, it’s such a great groove. The first one, Only One Will Die is another one that was so much fun to play.

It’s no surprise that the imagery of this album consists again of brutality, aggressivity, death, blood, gore, torture etc. Do you have any limit or border when it comes to lyrical themes or imagery?

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Cannibal Corpse (2017)

I don’t know, we just do what we do I guess. We really don’t touch on religion of course I mean we dabbled very little on one or two songs a few years back but that’s so minor. We don’t talk politics either. To me it’s all open if it needs to happen though. Personally, I am a father, I don’t wanna talk about murdering children, but at the same time it’s all fiction and it’s Cannibal Corpse. If I look at a song like Remaimed from the new album that Pat wrote and then I sat down and wrote the lyrics (I actually wrote the lyrics for six of the songs), I end up writing a pretty brutal story here. That’s talking about things exactly that I’m not very thrilled about personally. But like I said, it’s fictional gore, fictional horror, it’s not made to be serious so I think it’s okay. But yeah, it’s tough. In-your-face, completely brunt brutal lyrics, there’s nothing to mask and nothing to hide – we still have those but I think we like to be a little bit more of a horrific and read-between-the-lines kind of thing. But I would think pretty much nothing is out of context. It’s Cannibal Corpse, we just write what we write. I’ll just move onto the next question.

Some bands really take in into consideration what kind of a message they convey not only through their music but also through their press statements. Do you guys have a “press-plan”, do you negotiate between yourselves before the release of a new album or in a doubtful situation about what you will tell us about it?

That’s done through the record label and a third party, a guy that does an interview and then he pieces together what you read in the PR release for a new album. Of course we have the say what’s gonna go out to the public, if we’re unhappy with something we say it of course. And yeah, maybe some things we’re not gonna touch on. Some things don’t need to be mentioned I guess. We get the basics out what we feel the people need to know and if they don’t need to know, we won’t tell them.

After your first Demo “Cannibal Corpse” you have always been at Metal Blade. Did you ever receive requests from other labels and if yes, what makes you stay at Metal Blade?

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Cannibal Corpse (1989)

Metal Blade was the only label that showed interest in us. When we were formed and made our demo tape, we had a guy helping us out back in the early days in Buffalo, New York. He wasn’t our manager or anything but he was running a record store and knew some people. And who did he know? He knew people at Metal Blade because the president at Metal Blade is from Buffalo as well! So he had a connection, we had our guy that knew a guy at Metal Blade through the whole city. I think we sent our tape to ten labels or something, mainly smaller independent ones plus Relapse and maybe Roadrunner. But I know this for a fact, the response we got back was from Metal Blade wanting to sign us. So what do you do? As a young band that’s hungry and ready to make music, you get an offer and you take it. You take it because this could be the only opportunity to get your foot in the door. Luckily Brian Slagel at Metal Blade liked the demo and we got through some red tape there that was all we needed. As time went on: “Hm, we’re a small death metal band. We’re starting to do well. Metal Blade behind us, okay.” They’ve given us complete creative control, they were not interfering with anything we do musically and that’s what we needed. So if it isn’t broke, why fix it? That’s what we’ve been dealing with out whole career. It turned out to be more of a friendship than a business relation I guess. So I think it worked out well.

You are in the band since the very beginnings. Can you please tell me about your personal favorite and most unfavorable moments in the band throughout your whole career?

Almost everything has been a positive for us, beyond-our-wildest-dreams kind of a thing, so just the fact that we are still here after 30 years being arguably the biggest death metal band in the world, that’s enough right there. That’s amazing. We never even thought of any of that. So everything that has happened from day one to now is just remarkable, unbelievable and incredible (laughs).

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Paul Mazurkiewicz

Not many negatives, luckily. There were only some personal negatives and I guess the biggest one for me is being on tour about 20 years ago and getting stabbed with a key after the show in my abdomen. That wasn’t very fun. That’s probably one of the craziest things that have ever happened to me. It was back in ‘94 I guess, we just started a tour with 3 other bands, we were second show in, we just finished the show in Holland. It was a little town, 2 in the morning, everything’s completely dead, everyone left. And all of a sudden there’s a fight outside our bus. It happens to be a couple of guys from our band and our crew fighting some people. We’re like “what the hell is going on here?”. It ended up being five or six drunk guys looking for trouble basically. And they started with the wrong people, it was 25 of us. I’m not a fighter, I didn’t need to be involved in this, I was a bystander watching what’s going on. There was a bunch of yelling, a couple of crew guys involved… The next thing I remember, those guys are coming at me and all of a sudden I see blood and my side hurts. “I just got stabbed, I’m gonna die”. Five seconds go by and I realize it hurts and bleeds but I’m gonna live. Ambulance comes, gotta go to the hospital. This was the second show of the tour and we had like 30 more to go. But luckily everything turned out well, the tour went on and I was able to play. But yeah, that was probably the worst thing that happened to me. Not fun.

Which other band in the genre do you look up to? Is there also a band you have any stress or tension with?

Well I love Slayer, I mean that’s my influence, so how can I not look up to Slayer at all times? But any other bands, bands that came out around us, we know them and they’re friends. You can have that friendship and camaraderie and all that bands like Suffocation, Obituary or Morbid Angel; bands that have been around for 30 years that gives us some positive thoughts. I don’t even listen to any new bands at all though. It’s cool there are bands that were influenced by us I’m glad, I feel happy but I just don’t listen to a lot of that. So the bands that I still look up to are my “hero bands” that I grew up with. If we’re gonna play at a festival or share a stage with a band like Iron Maiden, man it’s Iron Maiden! I don’t look at them as peers, they’re above me. That’s the way I think. But yeah, it’s really cool that we’ve still got bands going after 30 years, keeping the old school alive, keeping the death metal going.

You are touring very actively promoting Red Before Black, from November in the USA and from February in Europe. What are the most satisfying moments while on tour?

Playing the show. It’s always cool going to places and different cities and everything but we’re there to perform and play for the people. That’s the most important thing. Once you’re up on stage and you’re seeing the fans and their reactions: that’s why you’re there. A lot of them are going to be new fans. Seeing the excitement on the face of new fans that never saw you before, that’s always gonna make you feel good. Just making people happy. If we can make anybody happy in a positive way, how can that not make you feel like you’ve accomplished something in life? So that’s what it’s all about.

What about your further future plans?

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Paul Mazurkiewicz

We will be touring pretty much all of 2018. If you look at how our cycles have gone, we tour for almost two years after an album. I can see that happening, that’s out immediate future. And that’s all you can really do at this point. I mean, I think we take it day by day now. We’re 30 years in, we’re not a new band looking ahead to the future, the future’s here. Now it’s like “how long have we got?”. Who knows? We’re all feeling healthy and we’re still all mentally on the same page so why can’t we just keep going and doing it for another 20 or 30 years who knows, right? We’ll see. But right, at this point in our career we gotta just take it day by day now. We’ll do these tours and more than likely the plan will be doing the tour, starting the record and doing it again. Just like we’ve been doing our whole career.

Paul, thank you very much for the interview and for your time. I wish you all the best reactions to Red Before Black!

Thank you and have a good night! I’m sure we’ll talk again soon.

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MEMORIAM. So old school death metal still can be played properly?

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Memoriam – The Silent Vigil (2018)

Review by Estelle for Metalegion Magazine on the 31st of May 2018

TRACKLIST

  1. Soulless Parasite
  2. Nothing Remains
  3. From the Flames
  4. The Silent Vigil
  5. Bleed the Same
  6. As Bridges Burn
  7. The New Dark Ages
  8. No Known Grave
  9. Weaponised Fear
  10. Dronestrike V3
  11. Prisoners of War

RELEASE DETAILS

Genre: Death Metal
Label: Nuclear Blast
Country: United Kingdom
Date: March 23rd, 2018

LINEUP

Frank Healy – Bass
Andrew Whale – Drums
Scott Fairfax – Guitars
Karl Willetts – Vocals


Memoriam’s second full-length “The Silent Vigil” goes onto the next stage of the mourning process because of which the two ex-Bolt Thrower and two ex-Benediction members got together to form the band in the first place. The new album is noticeably a lot less affected by sadness compared to their first record “For the Fallen”, instead they’ve become a lot more more aggressive, bitter and raw – Memoriam seem to be moving from the past and trying to develop and form their new identity.

The songwriting on “The Silent Vigil” is true to the quality we are used to and can expect from ex-members Bolt Thrower and Benediction: The (mostly guitar-driven) songs contain nothing else but strong, catchy riffs in the style of good old 80s’-early 90s’ death metal, with some interesting twists here and there. Even though one can clearly identify hearing a different band than the well-known previous ones of the members, occasionally it indeed is hard to get away from the “I’ve heard this before”-thoughts. The production and the artwork (I’ll just say one name: Dan Seagrave) of the record are nothing but the implementation and representation of an old school approach on high standard. Just a note, I don’t blame anyone sitting, looking at the cover and searching for details for hours!

Lyrically, the texts are reflective of the world that we live in containing subjects of war, politics, loss and illnesses – themes that seem to be important for lyric-writer and vocalist Karl. In case a single weakness has to be mentioned, Karl’s voice naturally doesn’t “shine” in all of its glory anymore and his significant growls don’t come out the way they did maybe even just a few years ago.

However, this does not take much from the overall experience of a (lyrically and instrumentally) well-written and -composed old school death metal album; a refreshing and promising music experience suggesting that old school death metal still can be created and played properly. “The Silent Vigil” is composed by veterans of the genre who know what they are doing and why they are doing it, and who want to a) get the most out of making music for themselves and b) get the most to the people that is possible from it. I would say, respectable!

Songwriting: 8
Originality: 7
Production: 8
Catchiness: 7
Artwork: 9
Lyrics: 8
Overall: 8/10


Order The Silent Vigil here.

“A lot of the lyrics on this new album are all very reflective of the world that we live in” – Karl Willetts (ex-Bolt Thrower, Memoriam)

Interview with vocalist Karl Willetts from Memoriam

Interview for Metalegion Magazine by Estelle on the 19th of February 2018

Hi Karl! First of all thanks a lot for being down to talk to me even at this late hour! My first question would be, what would you say is the most satisfying thing you’ve ever achieved along your career?

That’s a really good question, interesting. I haven’t been asked that one. It’s been lots, along the way through my 30 years of working within this industry. There’s been a lot of things that I consider to be high points. Those are quite genuinely often the firsts. The first time you’re doing anything is when you really achieve something, a milestone in the career. That’s what I always remember the most. So for me, even before I was in the band Bolt Thrower, I heard their music in the radio: That was a really big deal, my best mates’ band playing on the radio. But for me personally, I think recording the first album, that was a phenomenal experience.

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Bloodbrother Tour (1990) [Photo from Tshirtslayer]

Also doing my first show, I remember doing my very first European tour which was back in the 80s-early 90s with Autopsy and Pestilence. The first time beyond our little island in the UK. That was a massive game- and life-changing experience, to realize there was such a big potential and big market for what we were doing. Such a lot of people enjoyed what we were doing beyond our small environment. So these were some of the early highlights of my career.

And gig-wise, when we finally got to Australia with Bolt Thrower. That was in about 1993-94, I was standing on the beach in Perth watching the waves crashing in and I thought “Well, this is quite strange. We actually got to the other side of the world playing this extreme kind of strange music and we’re even getting paid for doing this, this is amazing”. So yeah, those were the biggest highlights that come to mind. But at this point of my career doing Memoriam, everything is a big highlight. It’s an amazing experience. I’m very lucky to be able to do this at this stage of our lives. It feels like a privilege, to be able to do what we’re doing. And that’s really down to the support we get from the people, the fans, the followers, however you wanna call them. So we do appreciate they give us the opportunity to do this. And every day is a highlight at this point – it sounds cheesy but that’s the way it is.

ALL TIME HIGHLIGHTS…

Could you select up to 3 albums (it can be less or more, it’s up to you) from any genre that you consider your all-time favorites and tell me why you consider them personal highlights?

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Antisect – In Darkness, There Is No Choice (1983)

In the late 80s, that’s when I started getting into extreme music. And what was happening in the UK back in those days was the kind of old anarcho crust grind scene. That’s really where my sphere of influence developed. It was a starting point for me in my career and my interest in extreme music. So I have to point to an album from a band called Antisect and their album called In Darkness There Is No Choice. That was a massive influence to me. It really set me on my road to my political point of view. This was also the time in which the whole tape-trading was going on, the precursor to the internet in many respects, global sharing of information on cassette tapes.

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Sacrilege

Also, back then I used to go to gigs regularly at a local pub. One of the bands back then that were really influential to me is Sacrilege, with Lynda “Tam” Simpson as the main vocalist and Damian Thompson as guitarist. Those two were an absolute massive influence to me musically. I was at a Sacrilege gig in around ‘87 and it was one of those lightbulb-moments when I was watching them: “I want to do this. I would love to be a band up there on a stage, doing what Tam’s doing.” I think that was one of the main catalysts for me wanting to be in a band. So I definitely have to name Behind the Realms of Madness from Sacrilege. One of my all time favorite albums.

 

And of course Slayer! When I heard the first offerings that they put out on Show No Mercy and Haunting the Chapel, those were the albums that were really influential. Specifically Haunting the Chapel had a massive effect on me. So those were the 3 protagonists. I think I’d probably have to include the Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath album, it has to be in the top 4-5 as well. They are the legends from my hometown and I am very proud of their musical heritage here in Birmingham.

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Memoriam – The Silent Vigil (2018)

Now let’s talk about your new album coming out at the end of March, “The Silent Vigil”. It’s a pretty awesome one! This record is a lot less affected by sadness compared to “For the Fallen”, instead you’ve become more aggressive and raw. What did you have in mind?

Very perceptive of you. Definitely, I think as you noticed the first album that we released was a document of the time. As all albums are kind of recording the emotions that are going through your life at that point. And the first album was written as a tribute to our lives’ tragic loss of Martin (Kearns, drummer of Bolt Thrower from 1994-97 and 1999-2015 ed.). He’s the catalyst of why the band got together in the first place. The first album is almost a tribute to him directly. And that’s what all the actual songs contained. All the elements that are in there, they are written from a place of mourning, grief and sorrow. Sadness. That was the aspect of For the Fallen. And this new album reflects the way we feel again, it’s almost like a journey, a grieving process, effective by time. Time’s the thing that makes it easier ironically. And things change.

Could you try to describe the album’s identity?

This album I think goes onto the next stage of the mourning process. It’s a part where you’ve lost all the initial shock and the sadness and the sorrow, and you’ve got to get a bit more angry about the situation. So I think there’s a lot more bitterness and anger in this album, it’s a lot rawer as you say. Maybe even more emotional in some respects. There’s a different kind of raw emotion to this one, it’s a lot angrier.

The new album is moving into a new era lyrically as well, with themes that are a lot more reflective about the world that we live in. Lyrics about the real world, things that I think are important to talk about. War has been the center theme, that’s what I’ve written about. There might be a sub-context to the lyrical content involved but the main interest has always been about war. On the first album I did a couple of songs that were moving away from that area but with this new album, The Silent Vigil the lyrics are very different. They are beyond the formulas I’ve been writing in the past. There are songs on there that are based on real theories, real things that are happening in the world around us right now. By that I mean, there are songs on there that have a large amount of social-political comments about the world. They are very concerned about the global rise of the right wing and the fascist ideology which seems to be gaining a massive voice across the planet that we live in. And that really scares me.

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Karl Willetts [Photo: Vivien Varga]

I think voice needs to be raised against it, we can’t just turn away and ignore what’s happening all over the world. As an artist, as a vocalist and as a lyrical writer I think it’s my position to stand up and say something about that. It’s important to me. And I enjoy that challenge of writing lyrics that are not specifically in my comfort zone. It’s quite good to be able to break free of these chains and have that kind of creative freedom, to be able to write about things I think are important. So along with the songs that have large elements of social-political content which are about equality, freedom, racism and all those issues, there are also songs on there which are about transition, about moving forward, about trying to create a new future. These things are very reflective of what the band is trying to achieve as well. That’s how I feel about what’s happening in my life. That’s what we’re doing with Memoriam, we’re moving from the past and trying to develop a new identity, our own band, our own thing.

Could you select a special song from The Silent Vigil and share your vision on it?

There’s a song on there that is about my personal experiences with my mother. Nothing Remains, that’s about the issues of dementia, a mental illness, which is a massive growing issue in the world within our aging population. That happened with my mother about a year ago and it’s been a devastating experience, not just for her but for me and my whole family. A massive impact. So I’d say a lot of the lyrics on this new album are all very reflective of the world that we live in: They are all based on real issues that are important to me.

That’s totally understandable.

But that’s just the lyrics, of course musically there is also a big difference to the first album: There’s lots of tones and textures and new ideas on this new album. I think the first album is great and as I said a document of the time but we were very much aware of the expectations on us to a certain extent; people were quite interested to hear what we are gonna do. There was a certain level of expectation on us so we wanted to say “Hold on. We’re not gonna be doing a Bolt Thrower Nr. 2 or a Benediction Nr. 2; we wanna do our own thing, we wanna create our own identity”. But at the same time, we were still kind of in the shadows and the chains of the past on the first album.

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Memoriam (Karl Willetts, Frank Healy, Andrew Whale, Scott Fairfax)


So The Silent Vigil is moving forward – I think we’ve managed to come out of these shadows and create something that is more Memoriam-ish.
We are more comfortable with our own identity as a band right now and that’s expressed in different tones and structures of the songs. There’s lots of different varieties on there. The overall production is a lot warmer as well, we’ve used the studio this time with real amps in it. We feel the last album is great but certain elements are too overcompressed and maybe too digitalized in many respects, we’ve used quite a few samples on there. But we move free from those with the new album. The album has got a lot more warmth and depth to it. I think the reals amps enhance the rawness, the warmth and the depth of the music. That’s really been a big difference for us and we are very happy about the way it has come together. That was a long answer, wasn’t it? (laughs)

It was, but you answered some other questions of mine as well so I guess it’s a win-win situation!
Okay so I just love the album cover, it’s a typical mesmerising Dan Seagrave artwork with lots of details, beautiful colors and an old school death vibe. As far as I know with Bolt Thrower you’ve never worked with Seagrave, how did the idea come this time?

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Some of Dan Seagrave’s works

That’s right, we’ve never worked with Seagrave with Bolt Thrower. There’s a little story about why we were using Dan Seagrave and it’s basically because we are trying to recreate that old school vibe with Memoriam. Call it a midlife crisis if you want but we are trying to recreate the feelings of energy, creativity and joy in how we felt when we were in a band for the first time. That’s the bottom line of what we’re trying to do with Memoriam. And I think we’ve achieved that by the book at this point. However, the reason we used Dan was because when we first got together as a band, we all sat down before we went into the rehearsal room and we thought “Right, let’s see what we all wanna get out of this band. What would be the greatest thing we could actually get from doing Memoriam?” I said I wanted to play at certain places in the world where I haven’t played before. I think (Andrew) Whale(, drummer – ed.) mentioned a few festivals he wanted to do; Frank (Healy, bassist – ed.) he wanted to record at certain studios… And Scott (Fairfax, guitarist – ed.) came along with the fact that before he dies, he wants to record an album which features a Dan Seagrave cover. So we managed to tick that box quite successfully, twice now. But yeah, we approached him and gave him a very brief idea of what to do and that’s how he came up with the first album cover which is absolutely amazing. And you may have noticed on the second album cover, following the theme of the actual contextual idea of the album – grief –, the album cover reflects that as well. On the first album cover the coffin is being paraded across the battleground – funeral procession. The album cover of The Silent Vigil shows the coffin in the center of focus, lying in state with all the minions and supporters, followers standing there and watching, paying homage to the fallen leader (whatever you wanna call him, whatever’s in there). So yeah, we’ve got an idea what we’re doing with this. So I’d say the album cover’s theme just reflects the process of grief.

Do you already have any plans in mind for the future?

We are all ready at the point where we are starting to work on Memoriam’s next album. We work in an incredibly fast pace. We have a trilogy in mind for Memoriam: We’ve already engaged Dan’s services and we’ll team up for the next album cover, too. We’ve got other ideas beyond these three albums as well but our intention is to move forward and get another album out at some point in 2019. To complete the trilogy.

That sound really good Karl! Looking forward to it.  

Yes, exciting times for us here in Memoriam! We’ve got a lot of gigs as well, doing a lot in between. We’re just enjoying every moment for what it is ‘cause we’ve realized that life is short and you don’t know what’s around the corner. So you have to take everything you can, roll with it and enjoy life. That’s what you have, just enjoy life to the maximum and have as much as you can, while you can. And we’re doing that.

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Karl Willetts

Nice words, I’m happy for all of you guys! Some other subject now, as far as I know you have a Cultural Studies degree from the Birmingham University. It’s clear from all your lyrics and previous interviews that you have an interest in discussing about ideologies, ethnicities, globalization, and in general, politically engaged cultural issues.

Cultural Studies was the only school of thought in the 70s and it closed down ironically a year after I finished my degree course. I think they just realized it was kind of developing a lot of critical cultural thinkers and critical theorists. Which wasn’t doing the system any good, really. But yeah, I had a great time at Birmingham University. I did that because I left school with no real qualifications. When Bolt Thrower first started and was getting quite popular, I did a lot of A levels and my qualifications. And then when I left the band, I really wanted to go to university and experience that life. So doing that course was fantastic, it almost kind of contextualized the ideas and lyrics I’ve been writing previously. And made sense of them for me. It was a good grounding for me to get all these different ideas of social theory as well. There was lots of postmodern theory, classical social theory. I’ve also spent a year doing a bit of Russian culture, African studies and things like that. Issues of gender and race. So I think that’s really how it formulated my mindset and developed my ideas and maybe gave me the confidence to write the way that I do.

Did you ever think about working in a different field connected to your studies?

The ironic thing about Cultural Studies was that there was such a lot of deconstruction involved in what we did. I came away from the course thinking that academia generally is just a lot of self-justifying bullshit (laughs). Writing things about stuff and not really engaging with real life. That’s what I generally got from my degree course. So I never really wanted to pursue my academic career any further than what I did: I think the three years at university were more than enough for me. And I’ve taken away those ideas and applied them in a much wider context and I feel like that’s a better way forward.

For the end: What do you think is your most spoken sentence?

(Laughs) It has got to be a wrong word really, or like “War Master” or “World Eater” (laughs). I think my personal favorite line is the two lines in Powder Burns “Psychological technique / Invincible no pain”. Psychological technique, I really like that line for some reason. That’s one of my favorite lines I’ve ever written.

Tam Sacrilege

Lynda “Tam” Simpson of Sacrilege

I’m also particularly proud of the song Last Words on For the Fallen from Memoriam, which we did with Tam from Sacrilege. She came with the idea and that was a kind of crowning highlight moment. A highlight moment of my career that I forgot to mention! It was great to get her involved because she was the reason I wanted to do this in the first place. There are some lines in that song that are quite touching as well.

Thank you very much for your extensive answers and your time Karl. I wish you all the best on your way forward with Memoriam and have a good night!

It’s been really a pleasure! Thanks for you time and your support. Good night Estelle!

Metalegion Magazine #3

metalegion3.jpg

Support us by buying the 3rd edition HERE! :)

And it’s here again: The third issue of Metalegion Magazine, another project I am contributing to is out and ready to be purchased for the price of 6€ (printed version) or 0.99€ (digital version)! This time the magazine features my interviews with Karl Willetts of Memoriam and ex-Bolt Thrower, Paul Mazurkiewicz of Cannibal Corpse and Marcel  “Schmier” Schirmer of Destruction; along with a few reviews written under the name of Estelle.

92 English-written, full colour pages with a sampler CD and posters. If you’re interested, visit metalegion.com – we are thankful for any support and are happy to come back with a fourth edition soon! 

Estelle

 

Metalegion Magazine #2

metalegion#2

Purchase the issue HERE

The second issue of Metalegion Magazine, another exciting project I am contributing to is now out and ready to be purchased for the fair price of 6€ (printed version) or 0.99€ (digital version)! Besides lots of other highlights, the issue features my in-depth interviews with top acts of the metal scene like Running Wild or Sodom, a few reviews as well as an extensive festival report of the French Fall of Summer Festival 2017; written under the name of Estelle.

92 English-written, full colour pages + a 79 minutes Sampler CD covering metal bands from different genres ranging from Heavy to Brutal Death Metal: If this sounds good to you, don’t hesitate and support us by purchasing the magazine HERE!

We’re really thankful and will get to work soon with the third edition. Couldn’t be more excited! :))

Living in the pupil of 1000 eyes

Finally have time again so I decided to design some things for my new room. Making a wallpainting came in mind, then how much I love the eye motive on album covers, then how difficult it would be to try painting Morbus Chron`s artwork Sleepers in the Rift, so at the end I went with Symbolic which is among my fave Death albums and was a pioneer for me in many ways. Worked a lot on it but finally it turned out striking, happy :)

“Asphyx will always be Asphyx – what you see is what you get” – Martin van Drunen (Asphyx, Hail of Bullets, ex-Pestilence)

Interview with Martin van Drunen (Asphyx, Hail of Bullets, Grand Supreme Blood Court, ex-Pestilence)

Interview by Estelle at Brutal Assault on the 6th of August 2015

vandrunen1Hi Martin, thank you very much for giving the chance and doing the interview for Darkness Unseen! First I’d like to ask, in which band and in which period do you think you were on the highlight of your career?

Asphyx, right now in this very moment. I just came off stage and we agree with the guys that this was one of our best shows in like half a year. Everybody’s like “fuckin’ hell!”. Even if it was really hot, so we had to kind of dose our energy but it was a fuckin’ good show. We just walked off stage and we all came along to each other like “wow that was good, compliments guys!”. So it’s easy to say, it is right now.

Would you give any advice to your younger self if you could go back to where you started?

Wow. I think I would say “let go a bit of your pride”.

I read in one of your earlier interviews that you tried playing the guitar at first, and then Patrick (Mameli) from Pestilence forced you to start learning bass because Pestilence needed a bass player. When did you realize that vocals were rather your thing?

It’s really weird: I actually met Patrick in a hardrock-metal cover band from some guys that I knew. They were practicing and I was a kid so I just said “okay you guys practice then I come along and drink a few beers”. But their singer, lots of times he was not showing up being drunk or something, and then Patrick joined them and played stuff like Slayer with them. And they asked “who knows the lines?” and I was like “I know the fuckin’ lyrics!” – “okay, try then!”. So that was my first effort, just for fun.

Martin Van Drunen – Photo: Nando Harmsen

Martin Van Drunen – Photo: Nando Harmsen

And a few years later when I met Patrick again, I asked “what are you guys doing now?” and he goes “I have another band, we’re looking for a singer”. Then he asked “and what are you doing now?” I go like “I’m a singer looking for a band” – well I was not, I just had a big mouth. But that’s how it happened with Pestilence, I never thought to be a singer, I just wanted to be in a band. (laughs)

Asphyx is one of the death metal bands that really sticks to the roots of old and ‘true’ style of death metal. Was there always an agreement on this matter between the members of Asphyx? Was there anyone who would have liked trying new ways?

No, this is something which we know THIS is Asphyx. As soon as we start experimenting with new shit, it’s not Asphyx anymore. This is probably safer than to say “let’s do something else” but I don’t feel the need for it, I just don’t like it. I like what we do with Asphyx now, this is the style that I prefer, this is the style that’s inside of me. And this is the same with the guys. So Asphyx will always be Asphyx – what you see is what you get. We never disappoint any people by changing our style, we would kill ourselves.

Even though you were not in the band most of these times, do you know why Asphyx split up so many times so far?

Asphyx (1991-92)

Asphyx (1991-92)

I don’t know it exactly, but actually if you don’t know Bob (Bagchus; founder drummer of Asphyx – ed.), he’s not the easiest guy to handle. I think it also had a lot to do with the relation of Bob and Eric (Daniels; guitarist of Asphyx from 1989-95 and 1997-2000): even nowadays as they do Soulburn together, they are really close friends, they’re like brothers. You just can’t get in between. Even if I really do like them as friends and as collegues in metal, even for me it’s really hard to get in between them. And I think that was the problem, that they were together and somebody else inside – and all of a sudden there was something happening and they just said “okay fuck off, you just don’t fit in”. I think that’s the main thing why so many lineup changes and ‘split-ups’ happened.
And don’t forget the Asphyx – Asphyx album (from 1994) that Eric did basically alone – that was a lineup that had nothing to do with anything else, he just found a few guys. It was like a new band.

Kind of a different subject: You were the vocalist of Bolt Thrower and did two tours with them from 1994 to ’97. Why did you have to replace Karl Willetts (the original singer of Bolt Thrower) live?

They asked me and you know if a band like Bolt Thrower asks you, you don’t say no! (laughs) We were good friends, I knew them because we toured with them with Asphyx, we were on the road for 5 or 6 weeks. They lost call, they didn’t want to do it anymore and they were like “who can do this?”. Then they found out there was something going on with Asphyx and they called me, so I was just like “fuckin’ A, I’m on it!”.

How is your relation with them nowadays?

Nowadays it’s still really good, there’s a lot of respect. We still meet each other, making the good old jokes, so it’s really fine and I’m happy with them. Karl is back and they do fantastic – Bolt Thrower deserves that. It’s a fucking good band, it’s a machine, one of the bests around the world.

You also play in Hail of Bullets and came to give an excellent show last year at Brutal Assault. Which one of your bands do you consider the more important one for you at the moment?

There is a No.1. in between them, I mean if I focus on one band, the focus is the same. I just really enjoy both, to be on stage, to have fun with the guys.

Pestilence (1989)

Pestilence (1989)

Only one question about Pestilence because I know you hate answering these:
Since you said in so many interviews that Pestilence was your life, Pestilence was the band that meant the world for you, don’t you ever feel like you made the wrong decision when leaving? Or that the albums the guys released after you left would have been “better” if you were still in the band? (As we know you don’t like Testimony or Spheres at all)

That’s why I said in the beginning when you asked me if I would have changed things that maybe I should have lost a bit of my pride; because I was a proud little bastard back in those days. If you give everything that you have and you put it into a band and someone tells you that your performance is a crap… When you know that you are just growing all the time… I knew my voice was getting better, at the US shows that we gave we left nothing of Carcass and Death, we blew them away every night on stage completely; they had no chance and they knew it. So we were really, really good. I think if Pestilence continued that way, if I wouldn’t have left the band it would have been probably one of the biggest bands around on Earth. So yeah, in a way you regret that.

But from what I hear, from what Patrick is now as a person, he hasn’t changed. He didn’t grow up. He’s my age now but he’s still acting like a little kid. Very frustrated, feels very attacked, agitated, not happy at all. So even if I would have said okay, it would never work again. I can’t just work with a fellow like that. I do regret it because I know we worked hard and we deserved it, but one day the bomb would blow up, again. It’s not like with Asphyx where we are friends and have a good time, having a few drinks, listening to the same music – I don’t want to sit in Patrick’s house and listen to fuckin’ technical jazz. That’s just not me.

What do you miss the most from the old days when it comes to music?

It’s a French word: camaraderie (a feeling of good friendship among people in a group – ed.). I like being camarades and collegues, this is what I miss a lot. I mean we still are good friends with the bands we were, for example Autopsy or Bolt Thrower to name a few, but when we were touring at the time, we were just helping each other out, it was good fun. And now I see a lot of bands envying each other.
But it’s also because at the moment the scene is so big, there are so many bands, we lose the overview. Back then there were just a few bands that were really good, now it went too big. I miss that kind of intimity.

Asphyx (1991-92)

Asphyx (1991-92)

For the end: Is there any question that no one asked you before and you would still like someone to ask it from you?

It’s one of those questions where probably later on when you’re driving to the hotel you’re like “oh yeah, you could’ve asked me that”! Maybe something like what do I think of people writing lyrics nowadays – would I write that, am I interested in that…

Are you?

Mostly no. I think most lyrics nowadays are just completely shit. Rubbish, it’s sad. They don’t rhyme, it’s all done before, it’s not original, it’s really sad to hear. And that’s why a lot of things I don’t listen to, because I open the CD and I hear the singer and I’m like “what the fuck?”. I mean it was not bad in the past with French bands, if you don’t speak English that well, okay we forgive you. But come on, if you’re a Swedish band from nowadays you should speak your English and be able to write the lyrics. I think magazines and stuff don’t pay attention to the lyrics at all. I’d say if the lyrics are shit then the album is shit as well. Point.
I think lyrics should be given a lot more credits – but that’s because I’m a lyric writer. I put a lot of effort into it, I’m really working hard trying to be original, rhyming, having a good pace with the vocals; so it’s a lot of work but I enjoy it. Sometimes it just doesn’t pay off, no one notices.

Seems like it really does grind your gears! Okay Martin, thank you so much for being this straight and outspoken, I wish you a lot more gigs like this one at Brutal Assault both with Asphyx and Hail of Bullets!

Thank you for the support and the surprising questions – take care!

A little piece of the interview made with Donald Tardy

Here’s an audible answer of my Obituary interview made with Donald in January 2015 [read the full interview here].
The reason why I wanted you guys to hear how he speaks is that I guess he is one of the best interviewees any journalist could get: I didn’t have to stop for a minute thinking about any section of the interview or word he mentioned as he speaks in such an understandable and composed way. Listening to the recording and just writing continuously, it’s like the dream of an interviewer, I was done within 2 hours. So enjoy!

My top 10 of 2014 albums

Making lists has never been my cup of tea but let’s try. (Including EPs)

1. Morbus Chron – Sweven
At first the Swedish Morbus Chron’s second album didn’t convince me but I can’t describe how much the record grew on me a few months after the first listening – I got to the point where I consider it to be no doubt one of the most unique death metal stuff existing out there. Completely dissimilar to their first one yet just as excellent in a different way.
Morbus Chron – Towards a Dark Sky
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bölz-s2. Bölzer – Soma
The black/death Bölzer set the standards high with their first EP ‘Aura’ [read my review of the record here] and even though ‘Soma’ needed more listenings to reach up to its level, the two-piece Swiss band did not disappoint. Very much looking forward to the album!
Bölzer – Labyrinthian Graves
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midnn3. Midnight – No Mercy for Mayhem
Similarly to Bölzer, if Midnight’s Athenar wants to reach up to the level of his early works and first album Satanic Royalty, he probably has to put plenty of effort in it. ‘No Mercy for Mayhem’ is a little bit slower as a whole than any of his earlier works but is still really intense and among the very best of 2014.
Midnight – Woman of Flame
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vampp4. Vampire – Vampire
The evergreen Swedish death metal scene shows once again what the Swedes are capable of. One of nowadays’ best old school-styled death metal album for sure!
Vampire – The Fen
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rangg5. Ranger – Shock Skull
Finnish old school speed metallers with crushing live performances. If you don’t understand the hype around them, listen to Shock Skull and afterwards you most likely will.
Ranger – Shock Skull
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acc6. Accept – Blind Rage
Nice to see the German heavy metal veterans being still as strong and enthusiastic as ever. It really is a delight listening to Blind Rage!
Accept – Final Journey
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nocwi7. Nocturnal Witch – Summoning Hell
Bestial German black/thrashers rising with their first album. I’d say it is worth buying.
Nocturnal Witch – Black Star
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riot-unl8. Riot – Unleash the Fire
Awesome to hear the old guys still in such a good condition. Aand… Johnny the seal is back in one of his funniest forms ever.
Riot – Metal Warrior
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port-cross9. Portrait – Crossroads
With their third album in 2014, the Swedish heavy group well-known among quite a few Mercyful Fate-follower bands in the country came up with a record fulfilling every expectation and beating out many other competitors.
Portrait – In Time
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noct-storm10. Nocturnal – Storming Evil
Even though I personally liked both of Nocturnal’s earlier albums better, ‘Storming Evil’ was still a great album worth mentioning amongst the top ones from 2014. One of my favorite female vocalists, all hail Hell Tyrannizer!
Nocturnal – Rising Demons