Interview conducted May 07 2008
Interview published May 09 2008
With a consuming impulse, systematic
instruction, and an extreme compunction, Martin van Drunen
has hailed the bullet belt era of classic deathrash by solidifying his
new band: Hail Of Bullets, and recording their debut release - ...Of Frost
And War. The cycle of resistance is complete, as this is a gathering of
all-star capacity. Ed Warby of Gorefest fame is drumming; while Stephan
Gebedi & Paul Baayens of Thanatos serve as the guitarists.
Of Frost And War is a concept album dealing with the brutal, harsh
conditions of World War II, under Stalin's insane reign. This album honors
the brutal death tradition that Martin epitomized with Asphyx; while reflecting
the glory days of such notable acts as Bolt Thrower, Cancer, Death, Massacre,
and their ilk.
Insanity commands this non general writer, so enjoy our conversation,
advancing once more, as we discuss the new album, and I inform Martin
just how much I relish his unique vocal cadence; especially with old Pestilence
MettleAngel: Man, it's an honor to make
your acquaintance, even if over the phone. You are such a death metal
legend! I just finished listening to the new album before you called.
Man, I sure do love the song Inferno At The Carpathian Mountains! That
song has such an old school feel. So tell me, how in light of each member
of Hail Of Bullets being involved in other projects, did you create the
time to write this music?
MettleAngel: Yeah, I sure can hear that
British bite, as well as the Florida sound of Autopsy, Death, and even
Martin: Exactly, we may all be involved in
our other bands, but I've actually had the whole Hail Of Bullets idea
in my mind for four years, or so. Ed keeps busy with Gorefest and
Ayreon; but he willingly agreed to drum on this album. We decided
to do this because we love to play this type of music, and we have
fun with it. With all the technology available to us today, the timing
was right. We did not have to travel too much to make this record.
It was relatively easy to exchange musical ideas, as we had song files
on our computers.
MettleAngel: Given the beleaguered war themes on ...Of Frost And
War, am I to understand that this is a concept album?
Martin: Absolutely! It's all about the Eastern
Border of the War, under the dictatorship of Stalin; all of which
eventually led to the fall of Berlin. This was a decisive turning
point in WWII. The lyrics focus on the horror and atrocity as depicted
on the Eastern Front. Take the song Stalingrad, this exemplifies my
fascination for the maniacal ongoing carnage depicted by this battle.
Stalin, like Hitler was an evil ruler. Two wicked tyrants on opposite
sides, both hell bent on conquest, at any cost. These two ruthless
souls cost the lives of millions, just to secure their dominance.
MettleAngel: I remember watching "Hogan's
Heroes" growing up, and how Commandant Klink would always threaten
Schultz with being sent to the Eastern Front. I have read about the mordacity
of this faction of the war. I've seen movies describing the malevolence
and mayhem. I honestly believe that Stalin was more malign and rancorous
than even Hitler. Hitler was insane, and he let his SS carry out their
"Final Solution". He is always portrayed by the media as the
evil behind the Holocaust; but few know how wicked Stalin really was!
He was shrewd, and very intelligent. He showed no compassion for humanity,
whom he regarded as slaves to his higher purpose.
Martin: You obviously know where I coming from
on this. I've read a tremendous amount of literature; especially personal
German accounts, who expose the truth about the Eastern Front. I ask
you, how did Stalin expect his soldiers to survive the harsh weather
conditions of -54 to -40 Celsius? They were exhausted from fighting,
they had no food, they were wounded, with little medical attention.
The battle raged on despite these miserable conditions!
MettleAngel: I think it it awesome you have
written an album about this. Even though 60 years have transpired, people
need to wake up to this reality. This is great fodder to feed the minds
of metalheads. It makes for great death metal as well; since the brutality
of the music adequately reflects the relentless lyrical stance. These
squalid living conditions led to to a "dog eat dog", every man
for himself mentality. However, if a soldier dared to defect, he was shot
MettleAngel: I know! So, in light of your
well-penned lyrics with the progenitor projects of Pestilence, and later
Asphyx, I assume you decided to avoid any songs about the Medieval dark
times, and Church corruption?
Martin: I've dealt with those issues before,
and I may yet again; as that very much still intrigues me. I wanted
to explore the Eastern Front issue, as I've had this in mind, for
quite some time. The problem, was that I did not have the proper band
to write these type of lyrics. Hail Of Bullets is the perfect project
for dealing with this type of chaos. This type of concept just fits
the music and style we play.
MettleAngel: Your vocals on ...Of Frost
And War are outstanding! Talk about a return to the Consuming Impulse
sensation. I have always enjoyed your gruff growl, with a lucid deliverance;
never inchoate or too strident. You have such a unique edge to your scowl.
Martin: I am pleased to sing in the manner
as I chose. My deliverance is my technique, namely to move air from
my gut, and stomach. If I try to use my throat, I get ill. I visualize
each part of the song, and how I want to ennunciate the words forthwith.
I ascertain how my vocals work with a certain riff or hook. This is
why Berlin is so brutal and chosen as the last song. It sums everything
up, and it was ultimately the end of the war, as well.
MettleAngel: On Malleus Maleficarum you also wrote some challenging
lyrics. I, myself felt compelled to learn the meaning of several new vocabulary
words. What inspired you to write in this manner?
Martin: I was just a kid, now I am 41. I guess
I thought that was the right thing to do then. I used a dictionary
to write the lyrics, which was a bitch; because, I had enough difficulty
translating the words into proper English.
MettleAngel: That was a common thing to
do at the time. Bands like Deathrow, Dark Angel, Carcass, and later Tourniquet
were known for using polished prose, and having a flair for fluidity.
MettleAngel: Then you drastically switched
your vocal style when you wrote Consuming Impulse. The lyrics were still
informative, but less dressed in pretense and purpose. This straightforward
attitude, then continued in Asphyx; even if the music was even more brutal.
Also, did not your label Roadrunner ban the original artwork idea? Was
it like when Kreator was denied their "Behind The Mirror" cover
design, once they were signed to RCA?
Martin: The label thought that it was too repulsive
for them to promote. I guess it was just too shocking. This is why
they went with the bees cover. Surprisingly, Cannibal Corpse released
their album shortly thereafter, with very graphic artwork. I have
the original artwork cover around here, somewhere. It to had cannibalistic
MettleAngel: You should post that on your
website for us all to see. Given that Hail Of Bullets is essentially a
collection of Dutch Death Metal icons, how does it feel to be performing
with such talent?
Martin: We don't liked to be called a "supergroup".
This becomes a burden on our backs, as people expect too much out
of us. Sure, Ed can play way more technical than he does with Hail
Of Bullets, so can Stephan & Paul, for that matter. So what! This
is not what we are all about. We just want to play in the style that
fits. We honestly don't want people to view us as anything more than
I see your point. You are still aslo active in Asphyx, how is that working
out for you? How do you balance your time between bands to do live Asphyx
- Martin: This German festival has been pushing
us for years to reunite and play for them. We enjoy playing the old
Asphyx tracks for fans. Just like with Hail Of Bullets, it's all about
having a good time while you're doing it. If you are not enjoying yourself,
having a few beers, getting to know your fans, why even bother doing
it at all? I want to follow my heart. I really don't care about all
of this technical shit.
MettleAngel: You mean the over indulgent
style in which bands like Arsis, Necrophagist, and Illogicist try to challenge
themselves to attain?
Martin: I'm not familiar with those bands,
but yeah like when Pestilence put out Spheres. Patrick Mameli is a
good friend of mine, but he pushed the barriers on that album. Most
Pestilence fans don't care for that release.
MettleAngel: Myself included; I respect
what Death, Cynic, Atheist, and their ilk were doing in the day; but Spheres
was way to jazzy for my taste. I think Pestilence found their niche on
Testimony Of The Ancients. I worship that release, even if you are not
on it. Speaking of technical, how was it working with another vocal icon:
Martin: Dan claims that my vocals influenced
his. Usually engineers are mainly concerned with guitar, and drum
sound. Dan was focused on my vocal attendance, and constructed arrangements.
I'm also influenced by Blues music. That is what motivated bands like
AC/DC. I struggle to match my vocal chords to the music. When I began
enjoying music, and ultimately metal; I wanted to know its roots and
origins. This is why I listen to Classical Music. I want to write
melodies which stick with the listener. I want him to bang his head,
and have fun. I hate it when I'm listening to something, banging my
head, and there's this sudden time change, or nuance, which affect
my listening experience. When you listen to Hail Of Bullets, you will
bang your head!
MettleAngel: Just like listening to Amon
Amarth. I also think Dan Swanö is an incredible vocalist. He can
sing so brutal, and yet so clean. Your vocals also initiated Peter Tägtgren
of Hypocrisy and Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth. Hail Of Bullets is a
real triumph for all members who contributed. Songs like General Winter,
Red Wolves Of Stalin, Berlin, and Nachthexen speak for themselves. These
tracks crush and decimate with that old school persistance. I'm reminded
of older Grave, Hypocrisy, Atrocity, & Goreguts. Fans of the early
90's Death Metal milieu, will want to ensconse themselves in this vibe.
They will choose to abscond from the staid direction of modern Death Metal,
a dearth of originality; stipulated by the blend of Metal-core; which
I spurn and despise. Thank you Martin for a journey into the past, and
a promising future.
Martin: Thank you Michael, you are very well
informed. It has been my pleasure to speak with you, and to share
my thoughts. I'm glad you enjoy the new album. Hopefully, you will
see us live someday, take care.