» M. van Drunen - Hail Of Bullets
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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 & Asphyx!

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?

  • Martin: We are all fans of the old death metal, this mutual love for the glory days, inspired us to form Hail Of Bullets.

MettleAngel: Yeah, I sure can hear that British bite, as well as the Florida sound of Autopsy, Death, and even Monstrosity.

  • 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.

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 on sight!

  • Martin: It was more than "dog eat dog", it was downright fuckin' cannibalism! They had no had no other choice for survival.

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.

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.

  • Martin: Looking back it was a bit much.

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 themes depicted.

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 that, really.

MettleAngel: 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 shows?

  • 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: Dan Swanö?

  • 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.

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