ASPHYX Ancient Death…Brutal Way!

With utmost honor and pleasure I here present to you one more legendary guest on Metal Sound pages! Here we have none other than Martin Van Drunen, for many people THE Death Metal voice, the man who was member of such cults as Asphyx, Pestilence, Bolt Thrower and Hail of Bullets. He is here to give us news from the Asphyx world, they have just unleashed one monster of a live album and from the Martin’s tone I can rest assured that the band is stronger than ever, and you will find it too in the following chat. Long live true Death Metal, long live Asphyx!

The first obvious question is linked to your new live album „Live death doom“! This is the first Asphyx live album ever and it seems to me that you really wanted to make it the special treat for the fans, am I right?
Yeah, you’re right about that! I mean, if we wouldn’t stand 100 % behind it then we’d never put it out, and it is great opportunity that video cameras were available there. And we were focusing also on eventually recording it… and it turned out to be really marvelous! And not just that, the fans filled the venue which was sold out and they kept all of it so we played for about two hours or something which is quite a lot for Death Metal band… So yeah, we never did an official live album and this one is one, and we wanted to make it pretty special and we think it turned out that way.

The gig was recorded at „Death… the brutal way“ release party, what kind of impressions do you carry from that gig?
First of all, I will never forget about this! When we arrived there were all cues of people standing in front of doors, and it was all sold out and there were still like 100 to 150 people waiting outside which couldn’t get in. So for us it was quite amazing since it was in the middle of the festival season. Usually everybody, especially metalheads, save their money to go to visit some of the festivals so that made it quite special. Everything was just overwhelming, the crowd and everything surrounding with it… we’ll never forget that show. It was official release party and we wanted to it in Germany beacuse we have very, very loyal fans over there but we never expected it to be like that.

Dan Swano was responsible for the mixing of the album, it seems to me that he became your official sound man, will you work with him in the future?
Yeah, definitely. The thing is with Dan is that he is totally reliable, he knows exactly what kind of sound Asphyx requires. There wasn’t much to do really with the album, but of course you need decent mix, you need decent mastering and we thought that Dan is the only one that can touch the stuff that we put out. We may try to do a little mixing ourselves in the future but I guess that Dan has a couple secrets up his sleeve that we’re not able to find so… if we can’t figure it out ourselves we will definitely ask him since he’s a friend of the band. Especially when we decided to work with him on “Death… the brutal way” he was pretty on it as he is also a fan, he’s not just some kind of mixer… he can be seen as a kind of mad man : )

Since I have only received the audio portion of the release from the label, can you tell me something more about „Hordes of disgust“ historic documentary, how long was it prepared?
We actually put the DVD in 3 parts, the first is a live show, actually it’s not the whole show beacuse they ran out of tape : ) beacuse we played so long, and no one expected it, not even ourselves, beacuse the crowd kept on roaring, we basically played everything that we were able to play. The second is more or less the documentary about ourselves, where we talked about the start of Asphyx, people that were all involved in the band were talking too, ex-band members were featured saying what their experience was when playing in Asphyx and their part of being in the band. The last part is more or less all kinds of concerts from the past and festivals that we played… and that’s basically really what’s all about, it’s material that was never officially released before so we thought it was nice bonus next to the concert show for people.

I have noticed that the setlist was mainly drawn from „The rack“, „The last one on Earth“ and „Death…the brutal way“, was it beacuse everyone agrees that it is the best Asphyx period or simply beacuse you sang on it? Why not more songs off „Embrace the death“?
Well, that’s basically our fans really wanted it. Lots of the songs off „Embrace that death“ (and that’s also on the documentary) were changed, got different titles and were put on „The rack“. „Embrace the death“ was almost never officialy released album. Usually we play the songs that fans want to hear, that includes stuff like „Pages in blood“ and specially things from „The rack“ and „Last one on Earth“… and next to that, it was a release party and we played lot of the latest album so that’s why there’s so many new songs on it. Beacuse the album was received also really well, we still play lots of songs from the latest album. That gap that was between „Last one on Earth“ and „Death…the brutal way“… the reason really is that majority of the fans consider those three albums the most essential for Asphyx. We have to choose as well, I mean if we don’t play „Wasteland of terror“ or „Forgotten war“ then basically the whole crowd would go berzerk!

So Wannes left the band, was the split on good terms? How are you satisfied with your new bass player Alwin?
Oh, very pleased with him, really! He’s just like the last piece of the puzzle that we really needed. We found him by coincidence when he was just picking up some stickers for his own band, Bob and him started talking about everything and we gave it a try, we gave him a couple of songs to rehearse. He went to the rehearsal room and the whole chemisty was there. He gives new blood in the band, he’s always there to help and do the extra things, he’s really proud to be involved in the whole thing so for us it’s just simply marvelous. And next to that, he comes from the region that we all live, we have a certain mentality here so… made that fits also, too. It’s really good for us, for all of us, we’re really pleased with him. There has never been a better atmosphere in Asphyx than it is right now.

Give me your honest opinion about your last album „Death the brutal way“, I would even say that it is maybe your best offering along with „The Rack“ and one of the best comeback albums ever!
Oh, thank you very much! I’m very pleased with it too. Actually it wasn’t really even planned, we just ended up in a rehearsal room and jamming a little bit, and before we know we had so many songs ready and we were like „huh?“. Next to that, we felt 100% behind it and we were enjoying just playing them as well. Usually when we like our own stuff and consider it typical Asphyx style then our fans will agree too. That is actually what happened and we’re really proud of what we’ve achieved, that’s for us the most important thing. Asphyx is not a band that changes style or whatever, as soon as we do that the fans will not support the band anymore, we avoid playing technical stuff… we do groovy stuff that we always do, couple of really catchy riffs and real heaviness along with my voice on it, that is the chemistry. I was really surprised that Paul came up with so many marvelous riffs so that made him worthy follower of Eric. And like I said, now with everyone together and the new songs we really like to play live it turned out better than expected. I’m really, really pleased, I’m really proud of it! I think that for so many years still to find that certain sound and style that we have… it’s really difficult to get that and to catch that, we have our old base but still it sounds a little bit modern beacuse Dan put his own little thing in the mix to it next to Paul’s little bit different guitar sound but the overall sound is typical Asphyx and that’s for us something we really cherish and that’s really important to us!

In connection to my last question… Century Media re-released most of your back catalog, you have just did fantastic live album and had killer previous release… it seems to me that Asphyx is stronger than ever today, would you agree with me here?
Yes, I can really easily agree with that. There’s stuff that I have to add to that, I think the band is stronger than ever. It’s not just the way that we play, it’s also the fun that we have. For example, maybe you can also hear it on the live album, I made my jokes and we were just having fun. When you have the DVD you could watch the show, you will see us smiling, making jokes all the time and really enjoy what we are doing. If we wouldn’t have that we would quit immediately beacuse that’s also one of the essential things in Asphyx – you have to have fun and believe in what you do. I think that it’s never been as strong as it is today. Maybe it was the same in the days of „The rack“, Bob and I had the same kind of fantastic atmosphere but nowadays it is different, we grew, we’re more easy to work with, to get along with… so you’re right, I do agree that we’re stronger than ever. Century Media also support all kinds of things, the whole corporation within is also fantastic, the communication with the label, the business aspect… everything is perfect, they’re really professional. They are also a bit different in the past beacuse at the time they were also starting label so they had starting problems, but nowadays it’s fully grown, they do their shit for also 21-22 years. So it’s never been better!

I need to ask you quick question about your other band Hail of bullets, what can we expect from the new album?
Well, basically what we think what was really difficult is to beat the success of „…of frost and war“. It basically was seen like a bomb and we knew we had a good product so it wasn’t easy to try and improve that but… for us the most important thing is that I think we have succeeded it. What you can expect is that the songs are more compact and even more recognisable than we had on the first, and next to that we have, without loosing the heaviness, some more melodic and harmonic guitar parts on it, too. I think that leads are also a lot better. I think we just grew as a band and it’s more mature than the first one. And there’s another subject; it’s a concept album too but this one deals with Pacific war, Japan against United States… that’s what it’s all about.

As an old fan, I really need to ask you about your opinion on Pestilence reunion album „Resurrection macabre“ and new line up. Have you spoken with Mamelli recently? I know that this may be touchy subject for you.
Well… it’s not much for me to say about that. Someone played me the songs that were re-recorded old songs beacuse I was just at the party with someone and he puts it on, I go „what’s this?“ and he goes „oh, that’s your ex-band“ and I went „well, why the Hell they recorded „Out of the body“ and „Chemotherapy“ again? That’s bullshit.“ I mean, they are classic, you should just keep them the way they are. So I think it’s just the stupid thing from the band to cover themselves, I would never do such thing. I mean, the song „The rack“ – it’s there like it is. What would be if Black Sabbath do „War pigs“ or something again? You can never get that feeling like you had in those days. When I played with Pestilence on the festival, they tried to avoid me, meeting me… you know, like if they’re scared or something, I don’t know. I’ve heard from other people that their live performance is not really long so… People said also that when we played with them on With Full Force festival we completely blew them off the stage! Asphyx is like a machine, headbanging and everybody’s going berzerk and I’ve heard that Pestilence is pretty much static on stage, there’s not much going on so… From what I’ve heard from other people, I don’t think their union is quite a success.

So what can we expect next from Asphyx, is the new album already in works?
Well, we’ll go and try. I have enough songwriting topics for it, but now we have to find out how many riffs Paul has and we will start jamming and rehearse and we will see how many songs we can make and then see whenever we can make the new album. But there’s no real pressure, it’s not like we will say „then and then is going to be the release day“. But I think… might be even the end of this year, might be the beginning of the next year, might be also in the half but definitely next year there will be the new album, that’s for sure. First we will focus on this one and the shows that we still have to do and basically that’s how everything still goes, easily. We’re not the band that let all kinds of things put a pressure on us, it doesn’t work for us. We take our time, we take it easy and we just take the concerts that we want to play : ) we have that luxury, I hope so.

Alright Martin that would be all for now, I wish you all the best. Do you have any message for the fans who support the band so much?
The thing that I will always say to all the fans: I would like to really thank them for all the dedication and support througout the years. I think Asphyx is one of these bands that has really strong following that will never lets us down as long as we don’t let our own fans down. That is something we really cherish, they’re really loyal. All I can say is:thanks very much for all the support and we will never let you down. If we can play somewhere then we will! Thank you very much for this interview!

  • Answers by Martin Van Drunen
    Interview was done by Slobodan Trifunović