LET THERE BE DEATH!!
With their 3-track EP Awaiting Rebirth released through Blood Harvest on 5 December 2015, Jeroen De Pauw (lead guitar / vocals) and Viktor Walschaerts (drums) of Belgian death metal outfit Bones took time out to talk to MR’s Jason Guest about the history of the band and its evolution, their EP, the potency of death metal and its place in the age of the internet…
Hi both. Thanks for taking time out for this interview and congratulations on Awaiting Rebirth.
Viktor: Hey Jason, thanks a lot! It feels good to finally have a date for this EP. These songs have been in our system for a long time now and finally being able to share them with the world at large is very rewarding.
To begin, can you tell us about how the band formed and what it was that drew you together to make music?
Jeroen: I met Stef (Aertsen, guitars / vocals)in a bar, we bonded quickly over a couple of beers, discovered we had similar musical taste, and Bones was born half an hour later. Stef had by then already written a few death metal songs but he didn’t have a band to perform them with, so I introduced him to Viktor whom I spent some time jamming with before, and we quickly got started after that. Lukas (Huybrechts, bass) joined two months later or something like that. So yeah mutual love of beer and metal, the usual reasons I guess..
Who are the band’s main influences? And how have they informed the band’s sound?
V: I find it dangerous to name any specific influences. I can’t say that I base my contributions on any band. The totality of music that I have listened to during the years has shaped me into the musician that I am today. It is on this experience that I draw to see what comes out naturally rather than think about how some bands that came before would have done this or that.
J: Same for me, there’s no specific band that tells me how my own music should sound, and I’m influenced by a lot of different music, from death metal to hip-hop to Iranian classical music. But it’s no secret I’m a huge Darkthrone fan for instance.
How does the band write? Do you jam ideas out together or is there one main writer?
J: Me and Stef come with the riff ideas mostly separately and fuse them into songs during rehearsal, where Viktor adds drum. In the beginning we used to craft partial or even complete songs at home on our own, but lately it’s happening more during rehearsal together as a band, which is more organic. We take our time jamming everything thoroughly, trying out different stuff, to make sure the song is as good as it can be. We’re pretty critical of ourselves I think. Bass comes after the songs are mostly finished, adding some fresh ideas and finishing touches like harmonies and shit.
Is there a theme, a concept, or a philosophy that underpins Bones’ music?
J: There’s no absolute theme or concept that has to be adhered to, although musically we like to strive for songs that are both aggressive and atmospheric, and have a couple of weird’ riffs here and there. The new stuff we are writing right now has an increased emphasis on all these elements.
When writing for Awaiting Rebirth, did you have an idea of how you wanted the songs to sound or do they take shape as they are being developed?
V: The demo we did really basic and bare bones. Since the material for the EP was musically much more atmospheric and involved we felt we should try to complement this in the recordings. We recorded everything in a live setting once again to keep it organic and in your face, but we added some stylistic elements like the intro to Adulation of the Spheres.
J: For the Awaiting Rebirth EP, I think the songs mostly took shape as they were being developed. There was no specific plan beforehand. Stef wrote Awaiting Rebirth, I wrote Adulation of the Spheres, and Blight Upon Sodom we wrote together. A nice balance I think.
What are the lyrical themes on the EP? And where does inspiration come from?
J: Stef and me worked together on the lyrics for Awaiting Rebirth, and I wrote the lyrics to Blight Upon Sodom and Adulation of the Spheres. My lyrics are mostly influenced by cosmic themes and ancient religion and civilisation, Sumeria in particular on the EP. Stef writes lyrics that, for me, summon feelings of resistance or trying to break free. That’s what Awaiting Rebirth is partially about, even though it’s implied that this freedom is attained through self-destruction. Sodom is about giving in to carnal desires , and the resulting divine punishment. Adulation is written from the perspective of an ancient ruler who makes his appeal for eternal life by reciting his achievements before the gods, which is my version of a common theme throughout ancient Middle-Eastern/Egyptian writings. So you could say there’s a certain common thread.
The artwork for the album is a very impressive. Can you tell us about the design and what it represents?
J: As stated above, the album has recurring themes such as the search for freedom, the breaking of chains and the transcendence of mortality, or attaining of eternal life. I envisioned this by drawing a sort of ‘failed’ immortality, a corpse forever seated upon a decaying throne in some forgotten temple. I imagine it to be in a constant cycle of rotting and regeneration, a bit like the punishment Prometheus received for giving mankind the gift of fire. It’s chained as well, a quite direct allusion to the lyrics of Awaiting Rebirth. There’s also a dagger that might be able to put it out of its misery but it’s forever out of reach. Finally the obelisks on the back refer to the ones in the lyrics of Adulation of the Spheres, underneath a churning starry sky.
Who’s the artist? And why did you choose to work with him/her?
V: All the art for the EP was created by Jeroen, our guitarist/singer. This has two advantages: he does it for free, and he already knows all the themes, atmosphere and ideas in the music. Not having to explain what you are doing to someone external takes a lot of the uncertainty out of something like this.
How did you come to work with Blood Harvest? And do you plan to stay with them for future releases?
V: We sent promo copies of our demo-tape to the few labels that really interested us, based on their roster, releases and way of working. Blood Harvest was foremost among these. Rodrigo liked the demo and told us that he was willing to work with us for any upcoming release. Luckily, the songs for the EP had already largely taken shape by that time. Working with Blood Harvest (and Pulverised by extension) has been a fantastic experience. We would certainly want to work with both of them again, but I think Rodrigo only wants to release 7” vinyl in the future. Seeing that our next release will most likely be a full-length, we might have to find another label.
J: Blood Harvest is a fantastic label for sure, and Rodrigo is a really nice guy.
What does death metal of today mean to you? Why does the genre remain such a potent force?
V: Whether death metal is still a potent force is something that is up for debate. What keeps death metal interesting for me is the fact that there are always bands that want to push the envelope and try new things. Not content with just rehashing the music of the bands that came before. Such explorers have existed in all generations of (death) metal, from Death Strike across Mefisto to Morbus Chron, and even on the technical side of the death metal spectrum there are bands finding inspiration and trying new things, like Ulcerate. We don’t feel like we have fully discovered our own sound yet, but we are making progress. Every gig, every rehearsal, every recording brings us closer.
J: (Death) metal to me is all about energy, it makes you feel alive. Even though the themes are about evil, darkness, etc, the end result is not negativity. For instance, I was at a Bolt Thrower show two months back. For anyone who’s ever witnessed this band onstage, you know that this shit can come close to a religious experience. Throughout the utterly thunderous show, this huge grin never left Karl Willet’s face, even though his voice was pretty much destroyed. Nearing the end he thanked the crowd, and shouting “A celebration of life, through death!!” they launched into ‘For Victory’. That sums it up for me. Spine-chilling.
What’s your opinion of the internet and its impact on death metal?
J: I don’t know, more good than bad I’d say. Personally, I’ve discovered a lot of good music, death metal or otherwise, because of the internet, so I’m not complaining. Some people say that it makes the music too easily accessed, or that it takes away a lot of the magic, but then again there’s nothing stopping you from turning off your router and paying a visit to the record store. Or record fairs especially. Metal has a tendency to mythologize it’s distant past and the internet only reinforces that, which makes record fairs feel even more like the awesome archaeological digs that they are. Ancient metallic treasures!!
What does the future hold for Bones? Is there more music in the pipeline?
V: We are currently working hard on new songs. We have taken a little gas back on live gigs so we can focus more on the writing process. We already have a few fully developed songs and a few more that we are still slaving over, but we have found a creative zone and during rehearsals, inspiration usually flows freely. In a way we are quite a perfectionist band though, so it could be a while before we consider these songs (and ourselves) ready to perform live or record.
J: Rehearsals are a blast lately. Like Viktor said before we are really starting to find our sound, it feels good. New stuff is (for me) influenced by Morbid Angel, Goatlord (both the DT album and the band), Merciless, Grotesque, Hellhammer…
Any gigs or tours planned? And will we be seeing you in the UK any time soon?
V: We have a few gigs planned currently, the 3rd of January we will be opening for Dead Congregation and Zom in Oberhausen, Germany, which will certainly be another live highlight for us. All of us in the band would love to tour, we have some people that we can work with to set this up, but as of yet, no proposals have been made. We are also in an uncertain situation on this front due to work-commitments and currently not having our own transportation. When the time is right, however, we will definitely hit the road and unless the nether forces conspire against it, the UK will surely be part of that journey.
J: Once practical complications are no longer an obstacle, expect us to hit the road for sure. We love playing live.
Thanks again for taking time out for this interview. Do you have any closing words for our readers?
V: Jason and all the people reading this: thank you for taking an interest in our band. We play the music that we like to play, when other people also like what we do, that pushes us onward.
J: To quote Onslaught: LET THERE BE DEATH!!