Dutch death metal stalwarts Hail of Bullets have launched their second aural offensive with On Divine Winds. Much like 2008's
Of Frost and War, it's a devastating dose of oldschool heaviness filtered through the topic of World War II. Thrashpit's Matt Hensch corresponded with drummer Ed Warby about death metal's past, present and future.
Matt Hensch of Thrashpit.com: First off, I'd like to congratulate you on the new album, which is definitely on par with
Of Frost and War and one of the year's best metal albums. How was it getting back together with the guys of Hail of Bullets and hammering out another record as opposed to the recording of
Of Frost and War or Warsaw Rising?
Ed Warby (drums): Thanks a lot! We're happy with the album, so it feels good to hear praise like that! The main difference with the debut was that we recorded most of the album at my home studio with me acting as producer, a strategy we tested and liked with the EP. We worked a whopping nine months on this one, so I wouldn't say we hammered it out. It was fun and hard work at the same time.
Thrashpit.com: Why did the band choose to theme On Divine Winds around the Pacific conflicts between the United States and the Japan, as opposed to the numerous battles fought elsewhere during WWII?
Warby: We wanted to do another concept album, but without creating a carbon copy of the first one. We decided to look beyond Europe for lyrical inspiration and our vocalist Martin van Drunen suggested the Pacific Theater as a possible subject. It has at least the same scope as the Eastern Front and as such lent itself perfectly for a 10 to 11 song concept album.
Thrashpit.com: One thing I love about the new album is the inclusion of stronger melodic elements that aren't the generic or boring trap so many melodic death metal bands fall into. Generally speaking, why do you think these ideas ultimately appeared on On Divine Winds and leave such a great result?
Warby: I'm the melody guy in the band, and it was a completely natural development for me. What I try to do when writing is create a soundtrack to the images I get from the subject matter, and apparently this is the stuff that comes up when I think of aerial warfare and island battles as opposed to tanks trudging through the mud. I didn't really notice that the new material was more melodic until the other guys pointed it out to me, not without some concern I might add. Fortunately they went along with my vision, and I think it's one of the things that set this album apart from the debut.
Thrashpit.com: Hail of Bullets has made it clear that the group doesn't tour on a large scale, only playing festivals or a show here and there. Are there some times you wish Hail of Bullets could hit the road on a massive tour as opposed to the band's current concert schedule?
Warby: Of course I wish for longer tours some times. Then I read about band X losing thousands of Euros on a botched tour or wasting half their album budget on tour support while still having to follow the real tour bus in a small van and I'm glad we do it our way. One of the reasons Gorefest broke up was that we never fully recovered from the last tour we did. It was reasonably successful but it still broke us financially. With my current band's blitzkrieg style we're able to visit countries that we'd never be able to go to with a tour bus, and we even make some money in the progress. I'm not saying we will never tour; we're open for any sensible offer as long as it's doable for us.
Thrashpit.com: The Netherlands is highly regarded as one of the best death metal scenes in the world with bands like Pestilence, Asphyx, God Dethroned and Gorefest forging one of the most influential scenes in extreme music. How do you think the today's death metal has benefited from those earlier, prototypical days in the Netherlands?
Warby: I don't think there is much of a death metal scene here anymore. Hail of Bullets isn't so much a new band and apart from us there are only the oldies like Asphyx and God Dethroned still making waves. I haven't seen a new band that could fill our or their shoes in a long time. In recent years the Netherlands have become more synonymous with God forgive me for typing this female fronted/gothic "metal." There's no need to explain how I feel about that one.
Thrashpit.com: One thing I appreciate about Hail of Bullets is the World War II lyrical content dealing with battles or situations that are most likely forgotten or unknown to a lot of people (The Lake Ladoga Massacre, for instance). Do you think the band is opening up awareness to obscure occurrences throughout World War II?
Warby: I like to think so, yes. As you probably know Martin takes great pride in the historical accuracy of his lyrics and I think one of the greatest compliments he ever received was when a history teacher used his lyrics for one of his lessons. It works for us as well I didn't know sh*t about the Pacific apart from Pearl Harbor and the atomic bombs, but now I know the whole story in detail. Our fans are pretty fanatical in general, so I'm sure they learn stuff from reading the lyrics and we even included some liner notes this time to provide background information on the tracks.
Thrashpit.com: What are some of your favorite albums released this year?
Warby: I've been working so hard on our new album I didn't listen to as much music as I normally would, but here's some albums I did enjoy: Triptykon's Eparistera Daimones, Kvelertak's Kvelertak, Accept's Blood Of The Nations, Helevorn's Forthcoming Displeasures, Grand Magus' Hammer Of The North, Dark Fortress' Ylem and Fear Factory's Mechanize. There's not a lot of death metal, although I just picked up the new Facebreaker. I haven't heard it yet but I expect it to kill! The Autopsy EP was sweet as well.
Thrashpit.com: How do you feel about all the reunions and new albums by defunct bands (Atheist, for example) emerging in the last few years or so?
Warby: If it's a reunion for the right reasons, why not? I must say I have my doubts about Pestilence and watching them sleepwalk through their set on stage doesn't exactly change that impression. Then again, when Gorefest reunited we also had to face a lot of skepticism so who am I to judge? I think Asphyx are a prime example of a good reunion. They got back together for one show, enjoyed themselves so much they decided to continue, recorded an absolute monster of an album and are now once again a force to be reckoned with.
Thrashpit.com: You've been playing in metal bands for over twenty years now. Looking at the highs and lows, what is the best moment of your career?
Warby: The best moment will forever remain Gorefest's first appearance at Dynamo Open Air. I can't think of that day without getting chills, for a number of reasons. Second best is the US tour we did with Death back in '93 and if I can pick three I have to mention the awesome and highly memorable Star One tour in 2003. An honorable mention for the first Hail of Bullets show in Arnhem, I don't think I've ever been so nervous in my life!
Thrashpit.com: Thank you so much for your time, Ed! Are there any last words?
Warby: Thanks for the fun interview and see you in the pit!