When Holland’s Legion of the Damned come to mind, there are two things on people’s mind. The first is: on the 10-year anniversary of their ‘Call of the Dead’ special edition Cheese and Cheese Knife set, will there be a reissue of the cheese set? I had the pleasure of speaking with vocalist Maurice Swinkels and drummer Erik Fleuren to address this pressing question.
“Was it ‘Call of the Dead’ with the cheese?” Swinkels laughs.
“You mean the special edition with the cheese knives?” Fleuren adds.
Swinkels continues, “That was our managers idea to bring out the cheese knives, we tried to come up with something different to attach to the album. With ‘Descent into Chaos’ we had a doll… you know on the front cover we had that tall guy, we made a doll of him. But the cheese thing, that was a weird one, but as we are from Holland and we eat a lot of cheese. The managers thought it would be a great gimmick to let the fans know we’re from Holland. It was an original thing and we only had like 100 of them.”
On that note, it would seem that there will be no more cheese. More importantly, there will be a brand new album ‘Slaves of the Shadow Realm’ to be released on the 4th of January 2019 through Napalm Records. “It has some vibes in it from the early days, but it also has has some melodic stuff and with every album we tried to do something new but also aim for the aggression of the first album [‘Malevolent Rapture’]. We wanted to put this aggressive trash back into the music,” Swinkels describes.
After listening to a preview of the album, I felt like there was a strong Black Metal influence, to which Swinkels informed me, “That has to do with Twan . It’s his second album with us and he has a different approach to writing riffs compared to Richard Ebisch, our previous guitarist. Twan has more of a Black Metal style and my vocals have that blackened sound as opposed to a Death Metal sound.”
It has been five years since the band’s last album, ‘Ravenous Plague.’ “I felt like we needed to step down a bit and give the band a rest, especially for the European fans,” says Swinkels. “We’ve been doing tour after tour, tons of festivals and since 2006 we’ve almost released an album year after year. In 2014 we did a tour with Sepultura promoting ‘Ravenous Plague’ in Europe and went on to play tours in South America, Asia, Dubai and Lebanon. In the meantime we continued to write new songs over the four years and take a break from the constant releases. We took our time.”
Four years is a long time to be working on an album and it shows in the recording process which saw the band take on production with the manner of a well-oiled machine. As Swinkels recounts, “This was actually the first time we weren’t all together for recording. During ‘Ravenous Plague,’ I was in the studio for three weeks. I took my laptop with me and worked in the studio. This time it was Erik and Twan doing drums and guitars, then Erik went home, when I got there Twan went home, I did vocals while Harold did bass, then I went home with Harold and Twan came back to do the solos. It was very different to what we are used to. The vibe was very different, we couldn’t really discuss things in person, but we kept in contact to ask what we thought about this and that. The band is a democracy, everybody trusts each other. When Twan went back into the studio to do his solos and melody stuff, I wasn’t there. After he was done he told me, ‘This is going to be great!’ and you have to rely on that. As we have trust in each other and the songs, the vibe is always good.
“We have a lot going on in our personal lives but we were a band going into the studio well prepared. Everyone knows what they’re doing and it’s not like we’re trying many different things. We go into the studio when we know what we’re doing. Of course we tweak things here and there, but we aren’t one of those bands that goes into the studio for eight weeks and write songs in there.”
Helming the production was Andy Classen, a longtime friend and collaborator to the band. “He’s a very cool guy and we’ve done a few albums with him. It’s always a pleasure to work with him and the amazing benefit is, he knows us. He knows what we can and can’t do. In the studio, he is our fifth band member,” Fleuren says of Classen.
The band had also collaborated with artist Gulya who has worked with Annihilator and Stratovarius. Swinkels tell me, “We started working with him for another thing we’re doing that isn’t common knowledge yet, but our manager knew Gulya and he had worked with a few bands from Nuclear Blast. I gave him a reference idea of the album cover which was written by the guy who does our lyrics and it was really detailed. From there we collaborated on getting it right. My favourite album cover is ‘Cult of the Dead,’ I like those dark and atmospheric covers and the art for ‘Slaves of the Shadow Realm’ is similar. The colours are nice, it stands out really well and we got a great response when sharing it for the first time on social media. People went nuts sharing it with comments like, ‘Hey, this is the best cover we’ve ever seen.'”
‘Slaves of the Shadow Realm’ is an aggressive, fast paced Trash/Death/Black Metal album that is sure to cause more than a handful of whiplash cases. Mark your calendars, 4th January!
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