Back in January when we printed the CD review for the new Legion Of The Damned album, Descent Into Chaos, the band’s record label, Massacre, approached us about doing an interview. As with many European bands, interviews by email seem to be the preferred method. So I emailed off my questions and promptly forgot about it. What can an old metalhead say, other than I’m getting senile?
This week I was surprised when I found the response in my box. It made for a great kick off to the weekend. Lead growlist, Maurice Swinkels endeavored to fill us in on the new record, working with a new producer, his take on critics, and his favorite horror films.
Thanks to Maurice and Massacre Records for taking the time…
Metalholic: Hey brother. How are things on the other side of the ocean?
Maurice Swinkles: All good, summer is on its doorstep 😉
MH: The new album, Descent Into Chaos is out and it’s a beast of a record. Are you pleased with the response so far?
MS: Yes absolutely. There are always critics of course, like with every album, but majority is awesome!
MH: Did you approach this album differently than previous records?
MS: Well I guess we spent more time in writing the new album, and we had no shows or tours planned, which with other albums it was always writing in between shows and tours, which was not a good way of writing.
MH: You opted for a new producer this time around. Is there a reason you chose Peter Tägtgren and Abyss Studios this time rather than Andy Classen?
MS: After the Cult of the Dead album I personally felt we had to move somewhere else and explore other producers, we never really want to change our style of music, so there for this time we choose for a different approach.
MH: In your mind, how does Descent compare to your previous album, Cult of the Dead?
MS: I think its soundwise a big difference. Descent sounds more wider, also a lot in the drums, I also love my voice on there a lot. I hadn’t been using my voice for a long time before recording Descent and it was for the better,with Cult of the Dead I had to sing in studio right between festivals and tours.
MH: Descent has some of the band’s strongest songs yet. Critics tend to seek progression from album to album. I’ve always felt it’s best just to write what comes from the heart, rather than set goals or expectations. How do you feel about this and how do you approach songwriting for your albums?
MS: You are absolutely right!! And Legion has never write songs were we think about it, all of the songs are pure from heart and are build out of jamming together, what is great stays what sucks we will leave out.
Simple as that! We never talk about riffs or do this or that… just pure from heart and that’s how it should be for this music.
MH: Speaking of critics: a few have suggested that LotD is a top notch thrash outfit on the cusp of greatness, but have said that this is all the band will ever be. Solid, but not spectacular. How do you respond to narrow statements like that which make it sound as if you’ve reached your peak, and at the same time imply that somehow you must strive to attain Slayer status as a measure of success?
MS: I mean I can’t deny that, I mean we are nothing special, nor original or anything spectacular, but at this time of age, I think people love to hear shit like what we do. There are already too many technical bands out there, drummers who have to prove themselves how fast or how technical they are. Fuck that. You know? We were never a band who sets goals to be spectacular or anything like that. I also don’t care if we get bigger or not. I mean the band started out as a hobby and it will always be a hobby, we have no intentions on growing even bigger and do it for our jobs, no fuckin way. Slayer also got their success because they started in the right period of course, the 80’s and built themselves up. Look at Metallica and such… But thrash metal as we do it will never reach Slayer’s or Metallica’s level, for this you really have to change maybe your musical style or voice.
MH: I know you love every track on your album’s or you would not record them, but are there any on this record that you are especially fond of? If so why?
MS: I would definitely go for “The Hand of Darkness”, “Shrapnel Rain”, and “Night of the Sabbath”; just love the riffing as well as the vocal lines/choruses.
MH: You used to write the band’s lyrics when you were known as Occult. As Legion of the Damned you’ve opted to cede that task to a childhood friend. Why?
MS: Back then I started to establish my own video production company, I had no time and pleasure in more work and/or writing lyrics, so for ‘fun’ I asked a friend and see what he would come up with that was with Elegy for the Weak, (Feel the Blade album for Legion of the Damned), it turned out so great that we kept him until Descent Into Chaos. It’s like a team working together.
MH: I know some singers have difficulty feeling connected to words they didn’t write themselves. Is it sometimes awkward for you to sing words that you didn’t write?
MS: He has been a friend of mine since we were 2 or 3 years old. He always lived next to me when we were growing up, so we both played together but also came in metal together when we are teenagers. So I have known him for almost 35 years. That’s a tight bond. I don’t feel awkward singing his words, but also we are mostly on one line as for lyrics.
MH: In 2010, thrash music in general got a shot in the arm with the attention received by the Big 4. Do you feel that helps bands like LotD? Or given the difference between the American metal scene and the European one, did it really have any impact at all?
MS: I don’t think it will have an impact, you can’t really compare Metallica or Anthrax with Legion of the Damned. I mean I don’t feel like 800 people are showing up more when we play live 😉
MH: With the ubiquitous issue of illegal downloading, do you feel it’s hurt smaller bands like yours, or has it helped spread the word to those who might not otherwise have heard of you?
MS: Kind of… I mean it has advantages and disadvantages. It’s good for people to download stuff and listen to it beforehand and then later buy the album. But people who only download stuff… that’s a no go of course for us musicians. But what can we do? You usually hope they buy some other stuff instead: shirts or whatever.
MH: Obviously you guys use horror as a theme in your image and lyrical content. What are a couple of your favorite horror films?
MS: Still and always Evil Dead 1 and 2. Like Dawn of the Dead. Also like Resident Evil movies.
MH: 2010 was a huge year for metal. What were a couple of your favorite records which came out last year?
MS: Poeh!! Death Angel came out with a killer record.
MH: Before we go, do you have any words for the innumerable Legions of the Damned fans out there?
MS: Just don’t judge bands and people before knowing them, and try to enjoy and don’t critize bands so much of what they do.
MH: Awesome. Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us, and from all the Metalholics out there, horns up! \m/
MS: Horns and thanks to you!