Monday, March 27, 2017

Interview with Roel of SOULEMISSION by Dave Wolff

Interview with Roel of SOULEMISSION

Soulemission draws influence from heavy and thrash metal to define their sound, besides the death and black metal of the nineties. What value do you see in drawing influence from the nineties as opposed to the 2000s and 2010s?
For me it feels that there were a lot of classic albums made in the nineties. Starting with some classic death metal from the beginning of the nineties and then later the black metal movement. After that you got bands like In Flames and Dissection who were mixing different styles, mainly combining death/black metal with heavy metal. To me that time period sounds really fresh and inspiring. It also has a lot to do with that we were still in our teens. The music we listened to still stays with us somehow. I guess that goes for a lot of people. So we didn’t set out to be trendy or current, it’s all about playing the music that we feel very strongly about.

What is the band name Soulemission intended to mean?
Michel (our singer) came up with that name. You can interpret it as the soul leaving the body when you die, what a lot of people believe. For me it also stands for how we write the music and what we put into it. It’s just real dark and strong emotions (the soul) put into music.

Why do you think bands people listened to in their teenage years stay with them in their twenties and beyond?
When you are young you don’t have a lot of responsibilities. You can dream about being a musician and making it because you are not molded into a role yet. When you are older there is a lot of daily shit you need to deal with. And then you look back on your teenage years and you think about your dreams and your first experiences, and that goes hand in hand with the music you enjoyed back then.

What death  and black metal albums from the 1990s do you consider classics and why?
(Death metal) Morbid Angel – Altars Of Madness (from 1989): Because the songs are really well written and it just has this evil vibe. Entombed – Left Hand Path: Again really well written songs and it’s sounds inspired and loose. Also the punk and thrash influences work really well. (Black metal) Emperor – In The Nightside Eclipse: Enchanting atmosphere and the songwriting was really ahead of it’s time. It’s amazing that Ihsahn could write those songs at such a young age. Dissection – Storm Of The Light’s Bane: Amazing melodies, great dynamics and one of the few albums I never get bored with. Darkthrone – A Blaze In The Northern Sky: Revolutionary sound, great interplay between the drums and guitar and just really inspired. 

Are there any thrash metal albums that you would say fall within the classic category, or was that before your time? Since many bands from the thrash era are still active, are you catching up on those bands so to speak?
I listened to a lot of thrash when I was young. Standout albums for me were/are Kreator – Coma Of Souls, Slayer – Seasons In The Abyss and Megadeth – Rust In Peace. I don’t really follow what those bands are doing now. Basically because I still listen to a lot of the old stuff. To me the songwriting was better then and also the production. I have a hard time listening to the standard triggered and brickwalled productions from today’s time.

How groundbreaking were the albums you cited were for their time?
I think they raised the bar for other bands very high. Especially someone like Ihsahn whose songwriting skills were mindblowing for such a young age. And people nowadays still listen a lot to those albums so that says enough. Those bands were exploring new territory and created something magical.

Do you feel the trend toward classic albums has continued through the 2000s and the 2010s? Or has the mainstream’s acceptance of underground music caused it to wane?
Not really. But that is really personal, I think it has a lot to do with age. I have a hard time feeling the newer metal stuff. A band that to me made some classic albums after 2000 are Nevermore. I found their stuff really amazing. I don’t really know what you mean by today’s acceptance of underground music. From my perspective Metal was way bigger in the eighties to mid nineties. 

By the mainstream’s acceptance of underground music, I mean death and black metal bands are aired on MTV and VH1 and you can buy shirts at Hot Topic. What do you feel the newer material lacks?
I miss a certain surprise element and soul. But I think that there are a couple of factors that contributed to that. For one what we talked about, most productions nowadays. A lot of it sounds clinical and processed because the technologie makes it possible to deliver perfect products. And it takes a lot less time and money to record digitally. The focus nowadays is also more on touring then on creating a memorable album. Especially for bands that live of of their music and have a minimal income from that. They can’t afford to spend three months on an album. And then there’s also the fact that most metal styles have been done before, there is no real renewal.

How much do today’s thrash albums lose when they are overproduced in the studio?
Depends on what kind of thrash you are playing. I think modern type of thrash with maybe some metalcore influences really goes wel with a modern sound. But if you play old school thrash and your influences are old Slayer and Possessed then that goes really well with that organic reverby 80’s sound.

I remember when retro thrash started in the mid 90s with Gehennah and Inferno. What were your thoughts on it?
I think that was bands paying tribute to oldschool metal like Venom, Celtic Frost. I remember the album from Inferno, I think it was called Straight From Hell. It’s great music for drinking and partying. Those bands weren’t trying to be trendy but just played what they felt.

What do you think of metalcore influences being brought into modern thrash, besides emo and screamo influences?
It’s not really my scene but if people go nuts about it then that’s great. I think for many people listening to metalcore is a great way to release all their stress and anger. Better than that they go beat up somebody.

Do you see more or fewer bands pushing the envelope of extreme metal and making efforts to take it in new directions these days?
I would say fewer because I think the options are a bit running out. 25 years ago bands could push boundaries to become more brutal, faster and heavy but I think that pretty much has hit the ceiling some time ago. I have to say I’m not that familiar with what a lot of new extreme metal bands are doing so it’s a bit hard to comment on that.

The band is from Holland, where fans have long attended the Dynamo club. Does this venue still host shows today? How many clubs are open in your area at this time?
This venue still hosts shows, only the old building was broken down and completely rebuilt. Recently even Trivium played there. But now it’s just a normal venue. In the old days it had a certain atmosphere because it looked old and you could feel the metal history there. I was also a frequent visitor of the Dynamo Café. They had a re-start with the café after the new build but it was shut down after a while because the old group that hung out there didn’t really like the interior; the atmoshpere was gone. There are still a lot of venues in Holland but the chances to play are becoming less and less. The demand for live music has stalled and kind of been taken over by the DJ’s. But I think there are still four or five venues that hold live music in my area.

How much of the club's history remains though it was rebuilt? How many memories do you have?
Obviously the name is still the same, Inside you don’t see a lot of the history of the old building. It’s all new style. But these things happen, buildings get torn down and something new arises. It’s all part of change. But luckily there are still metal shows being held. In Eindhoven there is also now annually a Dynamo Metalfest which goes back to the old Dynamo festival. It’s just one day and a lot of classic metal bands play. I still have a lot of memories of the old club becaus I used to go there almost every weekend for a few years. You know, just getting drunk, headbanging.

How often have you attended Dynamo Metalfest and what bands have you gotten to see there?
The Dynamo metalfest is relatively young because it’s only been held twice. I was there once and it was great. The Dynamo open air festival was from I think 1986 till beginning 2000. I went there many times in the nineties, it was really amazing because it was almost in my backyard and really cheap. I got to see a lot of great bands there like Type o Negative, Pantera, Metallica, Arch Enemy with their first singer, Testament, Exodus when they reunited with Paul Baloff, Death, Iron Maiden.

What venues are still hosting shows locally? For what reasons are there fewer opportunities to book shows these days?
I think a lot of it is based on nostalgia. People want to see the big old bands that still play and pay a lot of money for that. So they have to make choices.

Which aspects of thrash, death and black metal are incoporated into Soulemission’s music and how are these made unique to the band?
Our influences are from the eighties/nineties. So that goes for the thrash, black, heavy and death metal from those times. The vocals from Michel are off course rooted in Blackmetal, so are the drums I think. But the guitars also incorporate influences from bands like Mercyful Fate, Forbidden, old Metallica, Maiden. A lot of the Scandinavian bands from the nineties had these influences so I would’t say we are unique. We didn’t start this band to be unique. We wanted to play music we feel strongly about.

How easily was the band able to combine their influences from the earlest practice sessions onward? Have you had the same lineup from the beginning or were there a few changes?
There haven’t been any line-up changes. The line-up consist of Michel: Vocals, Benny: guitar and Myself (Roel): guitar. Live we use session players for drums and bass. Up untill now we only rehearsed with the full band two times. The way we write is just at home, that’s also how it started from the beginning. We first write the songs and then we record them with a drum program. So the ability of being able to record at home has changed a lot for bands. The need to rehearse together has become less. I miss that sometimes but it’s much easier to write songs at home with a computer at low volume and being able to get a decent demo right away.

How do you expect to keep Soulemission active in a time when bands have to tour and record digitally? Have you been recording digitally, paying attention to the quality of your music?
I ask myself that question every day. It seems harder to get recognized by audiences because there are lesser options to play live as an unknown band, and it seems that it has become a pissing contest on Facebook who can spam their band to the consumers the most. I must say that isn’t our style. We like to promote our band through interviews and shows but it is getting harder. We recorded digitally but we kind of left it raw. So you can hear the occasional beeps and scratches but we like it that way. Benny (guitar player) recorded and mixed the album himself and really made an effort to get the maximum result with minimum means.

Does the band have their own studio to record in? If so, what are the advantages of this?
Benny has the gear to record an album but we don’t have the space to record drums so we are relying on other studios but we don’t necesseraly need an outside producer. The advantage is that we can work whenever we want. But we would really like to record in a big room and really get a natural organic sound. Hopefully someday.

What practicing and recording material have you gathered for your studio? How does having your own studo and working on your own schedule provide a comfortable atmosphere?
It’s comfortable in a way that when you are not inspired you can just go home. There is no clock ticking. But it can also delay stuff because you don’t have a real deadline. The writing of Tales Of Inevitable Death took a couple of years, working on and off. Although the recording was done in a few weeks, just to keep it fresh.

What accounts for the lengthy period of time it took to write the material on Tales Of Inevitable Death? How did recording the album in a few weeks help make the songs sound fresh?
It took long because there were periods when we didn’t work on the songs because other stuff was going on in our lives. Benny also has a busy job as a soundman. Also when we were writing the songs we didn’t know what was going to happen. We didn’t have a record deal, we had never performed live so it was kind of trying out were this would lead. To me it sounds fresh because it has a rawness. You can hear the occassional scratch and beep from guitars and we just left it in there. But it’s more a matter of that we really wanted to finish the album in a few weeks. Otherwise maybe the focus would be gone.

How was each song composed? Were parts for certain instruments written first?
It all starts with a few guitar pieces that seem to go well together. I record them on my Phone and once in a while I categorise everything on my computer. I then take it to Benny where we record it proper with a drum program. After that we kind of cut and paste to get a song that we think will work. After that the lyrics are made and Michel records the vocals.

How long does it usually take to cut and paste the guitar and drum sections together?
That doesn’t take really long, but a while before we are satisfied. For the song Bellum Omnium Contra Omnes the only piece that survived from what I had originally is the intro. We deleted the rest of the song and came up with better riffs. That happens a lot. We always try to make it better. 

Does Michel record his vocals digitally? What gear does he usually record and save his tracks with?
The recording was done digitally. Benny recorded it with Nuendo I think. The vocals were done using an old microphone, nothing special. 

How is the album title Tales Of Inevitable Death meant to represent the songs appearing on it?
The title is a sentence from the song “Luciferian Blood Orders”. We first had another title but it sounded too complicated. Then Michel suggested Tales of Inevitable Death as the album title. We all agreed instantly, which happens rarely haha. I can’t really comment on the lyrics of the album because I didn’t write them. But indeed they deal with death.

What was the full length’s previous tentative title, and why did you find it too compilcated?
I believe it was something like “Culminating In The Vortex Of Souls”. I have no idea what it meant but it was just too weird.

Where have you had to go to record drum parts? Are there studios close by or do you have to travel?
The drums were done by Menthor (Enthroned). Benny had contacts with him because Benny used to be the soundman for Enthroned. We were stoked that he was willing to record the drums for our album. He recorded the drums in his own studio in England. He just sent us the tracks through the internet.

How does Menthor’s percussion enhance the material written by Soulemission? Does he have a good feel for your songs even if he is not presetn while they’re being composed?
He wanted to lay down the drums if he could do it his own way. So we didn’t really know what he was going to do. He had the songs with the drum computer tracks but he changed stuff here and there. That was really cool because he made the songs more aggressive. Some parts he even double tempoed. So that was a nice surprise. But I have to say it was scary not knowing how it would turn out. But sometimes you just have to trust a professional haha.

How did Menthor forward his drum parts to you once completed? Do you plan to work with him for future releases?
He just sent the tracks through the internet on a secured page. At the moment it’s unknown who will record drums for the next album.

How did Soulemission hook up with Black Lion Records to release and distribute Tales Of Invevitable Death?
We sent our stuff to different labels but were kind of hitting a wall. There was some interest but it didn’t materialize. Then I saw the band Hyperion on Facebook and liked what I heard. I saw the album was released to Black Lion and I decided to send them two songs. They got back to me within a couple of hours and were really interested in signing us so we decided to make the move.

Describe the recording deal Black Lion offered the band, how it sounded and why you decided to sign with them.
It’s a one album deal and the agreement is fair for an unknown band. We negotiated a bit and Black Lion was willing to give ear to our wishes. We decided to sign with them because we saw what good work they did for the band Hyperion. Promotion is really important. The label is maybe not that well known but it’s a great label to start on. Together we can expand.

How many labels did you contact before Black Lion Records? Were the labels you contacted mostly from Holland or did you contact labels in other countries? Did it take a long time to find a label with a similar target audience?
I think in the range of thirty. We made a list with labels we knew from all over the world. We contacted three Dutch labels. It took a while before there was some interest because we were/are an unknown band and labels don’t want to take too many risk which I can understand. They need to be convinced that it’s going to sell.

Was it a conscious decision to release the album on Halloween 2016, or was the release date coincidental?
The album was originally going to be released in September but there was some delay. It’s just a coincidence it was released on Halloween. In Holland Halloween is not such a big event.

How much of an effort does Black Lion make to promote Tales Of Inevitable Death? How many listeners have contacted the band after hearing of you through the label?
If the band invests a lot of time in the band the label will also invest a lot. You have to work hard to show your label that you are worth it. We are all past mid thirty and have work, families and other stuff that needs to be done. So it’s hard. To get somewhere you have to be busy with your band day and night because the competition is immense. For us that is not realistic. So I understand that Black Lion invests the most in the bands that take off. We haven’t taken off yet and are thinking of ways to get there. The reactions we get on Facebook are really positive and also the reviews are really good so there is potential.

What bands are signed to Black Lion with you? Does the label put compilations together to help bands get publicity?
Hyperion, Vindland, Mist of Misery. So far Black Lion hasn’t released compilation albums but they have different channels for marketing and promotion.

How many promotion and marketing channels does Black Lion have, and which of them has helped Soulemission?
The one that did a lot for us is Qabar Extreme Music PR. They work together with Black Lion Records. Another promotion activity is The Metalhead Box, where people can subscribe to and receive stuff from Black Lion and other labels.

Discuss some of the songs appearing on Tales Of Inevitable Death, what the lyrics are about and what inspired them.
The lyrics mainly deal with Death, Darkness, Misantrophy and Occultism. That kind of atmosphere fits the music really well. Almost all lyrics were written by Michel, I wrote one lyric to Endless Grief. That song is about a person with a rotten attitude who just goes through life complaining and terrorising people. Then when he dies nobody cares and he is forgotten. I describe the solitude of a grave no one visits. A bit inspired by people who are on edge all the time and feel the need to dominate everything but don’t contribute to society.

What do you remember as the most positive and constructive reviews written about Tales Of Inevitable Death this far?
We got lots of 85 points haha. So that’s a good thing. The most positive I read was that the music is well constructed and takes you on a journey. Lots of variation between the different songs and well produced. That’s a great compliment since we didn’t use a producer from outside. Some criticism I read was that we don’t have our signature style yet. I can understand that but it was never the point to be super original. We just play the music we like to hear ourselves. For me the originality is that our riffs are well thought out, it’s not directly copied from another band.

How do the songs on the new album come across when you play them live? Does your audience have any favorites?
Up untill now we have only done two shows. The first one we played with Carach Angren and the venue was packed. Nobody knew our songs because the album wasn’t released then. There were a lot of young kids who really responded to our music so that was awesome.

In what ways do you plan to expand on what you composed for Tales Of Inevitable Death on the next full length? How soon do you think you’ll start work on another album? What will your lyrics be about?
We will probably start to work on it in June. We’ve already got bits and pieces collected. From what I can tell you now is that there probably will be less blasts and more mid tempo parts. Also we want to change the sound a little. Probably get a bit more vintage vibe going on because I love a lot of stuff from the seventies and early eighties. What the lyrics will be about I don’t know yet because I don’t intend to write. Our singer Michel will write the lyrics.

-Dave Wolff

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