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Strike Brazil, 1999
Text © Héctor Julián Silva / Strike
Click here for the Portuguese version.
For comence the Interview, Gunther, speak-us about the Ancient Rites image in the beginings of the band.
Ancient Rites was created early '89. All members used to play in other bands before. The line up consisted of Johan and Philip (guitars), Stefan (drums) and Gunther (bass/vocals). One year later the Dark Ritual demo was released and spread throughout the entire underground worldwide. Soon after the recordings PHILIP died in a car accident, problems forced the band to replace Stefan by drum roadie Walter (Stefan committed suicide a few years later) and Johan decided to leave the Metal scene. Pascal and Bart (guitars) joined and the Evil Prevails ep ('92) was recorded and released through our own label Fallen Angel Records and later on through several other record companies such as Wild Rags (USA) and Colombian Warmaster. Pascal was fired because of a lack of dedication. As a three piece Ancient Rites released several split ep's (Belgian After Dark Records and Greek Molon Lave Records), a split lp and appeared on several compilation albums. 1994 The debut full length album The Diabolic Serenades was released through After Dark (CD version) and Midian Creations (LP format). Licensing deals were signed to guarantee a worldwide distribution (Osmose, Morbid Noizz). After Dark turned out to be a total rip off and eventually ceased to exist leaving no penny for the band that had invested its own money in the recordings, artwork and photo sessions. In 1995 a deal was signed with Dutch Mascot Records and Blasfemia Eternal was released January '96. The band toured Europe and the U.K. several times playing with acts such as Deicide, Motörhead, Cradle of Filth, Metallica, Dissection, Morbid Angel, S.O.D., Mercyful Fate, Impaled Nazarene, Manowar, Bewitched, Vader, Sepultura, Malevolant Creation, Rotting Christ to mention a few. Throughout the years of A.R.'s existence the band had to deal with a lot of misfortune (boycotts, bomb threats, violence at concerts, ripped off for large amounts of money by labels and promoters, members ending up in hospital or dying), however anger can be turned into power and all the hardship can be an inspiration. May '96 Bart left the band which made A.R. a duo (Walter & Gunther) working with session musicians. Guitarists of bands like Pentacle, Absu, Katatonia, Swordmaster, Luciferian volunteered to give A.R. a helping hand. Although strongly rooted in Flanders (Belgium) Ancient Rites slowly turned into an international act. On the third album entitled Fatherland (recorded February/March '98) musicians from Holland, Suomi-Finland, Germany and Belgium made their contribution and the current line up is presented. Today A.R. are Erik (ex-Inquisitor, guitars), Jan "Örkki" (ex-Prestige/Two Witches/Lacrimosa, guitars), Domingo (ex-Agathocles/ Renaissance, keyboards), Walter (drums) and I, Gunther (bass/vocals). Recently a compilation album entitled The First Decade - 1989-1999 is released to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the band.
About your facination in Ancient / Medieval Civilizations?
It is a passion I have ever since my childhood. As long as I remember I was dreaming and studying about centuries which are forever buried by time and dust. A fascination beyond my control indeed. It is a real pleasure for me to travel and see with my own eyes the remains of ancient and medieval civilizations I learned about as a child through history books. In between tours it is difficult to find me at home as I spend most of my money on plane tickets and trips abroad. I truely like my homeland and its history but I am always eager to learn about foreign civilizations as well. It makes a person feel rich spiritually.
Your opinion of the Religions?
It is up to each individual to decide which path to follow as long as the intentions are sincere. Personally I think religion is invented by mankind to rule the masses and is a way of insecure people to deal with mortality and their fears. As far as I am concerned everyone can believe in anything they wish as long as they don't try to force it down other people's throats. And it is a pity to see religious fundamentalism increase which leads to terrorism.
I think that your letters have much sense, but others bands from Black Metal alone make lyrics without a signification. How you see this bands?
Thank you for appreciating my work. Through my lyrics I try to offer something valid for those who wish to dig a bit deeper. Lyrics are an important part of our work. Therefore I like to give an extra explanation to each track in the album booklet because I think that some fans can be interested in background information and what the sources of inspiration are. Many bands in our style are satisfied with simple "Fuck Jesus" or "Sodomize in the Name of Satan" type of lyrics. All very amusing but personally I relate to a more in depth approach. Apart from that I find it pleasant to share my humble knowledge and experiences with those who are not interested in our music only, with people who try to catch the essence of Ancient Rites and relate to the topics I write about. What other bands do is their business but when I see a group paying attention to the lyrics I am obviously more interested.
Well, what you remember from the first debut demo-tape Dark Ritual?
Dark Ritual is like a testament of two A.R. members who died shortly after the recordings. The demo represents the ancient days and a more pure scene with less bands, when the underground was not commercialized by majors. Also feelings of nostalgia come to mind when remembering those ancient times. Somehow Dark Ritual also represents my youth.
It is available now?
The demo is available at my address. However a small underground label that only concentrates on vinyl (Painkiller Records) printed Dark Ritual as a picture disc lp limited on 1000 copies only for the old underground fanatics.
How is the sound of this demo ? It have some similitude with the sound of Diabolic Serenades?
There is no comparison between these two releases although I believe in both for 100%. Dark Ritual after all was recorded with a different line up in the 80's. Therefore the demo has this true 80's touch and sounds totally like old Black/Heavy/Thrash Metal, not because of fashionable retro reasons but simply because the tracks were written and recorded in the 80's. When I think of Dark Ritual re-live the 80's.
Wich was for the band the CD more dificult for you?
We recorded our first two albums in a very professional studio where usually classical orchestras record their symphonies or soundtracks are being made. We feel this only increases the originality of our sound. We were always assisted by sound engineer (and studio owner) Louis Jans of Studio 20 who is a classical musician himself. He understood perfectly the essence of our music. Metal and classical music fit perfectly together for both are bombastic and can have a very dark approach. Using two different musical forms to express similar dark visions/thoughts/dreams. Interesting experiments are tracks such as Fallen Angel or Last Rites (Echoes of Melancholy) which we first recorded with our usual equipment, afterwards we replaced our modern instruments by medieval ones. The end result is how A.R. would have sounded during the middle ages. We realise many bands/fans prefer a more primitive and poor production when it comes to Black Metal and that is fine by us but we always followed our own path. We seek a heavy/tight sound in old Metal tradition. We are satisfied with our first two albums The Diabolic Serenades and Blasfemia Eternal considering the time/budget available and even believe in our very first releases for they have been important steps in our career; nevertheless Fatherland our latest album is our most professional effort this far. We progressed as musicians and there was a bigger budget available which had a positive influence on matters like sound/production. Since there was almost no time pressure more attention could be spent on details. Fatherland was recorded in the brand new Spacelab studio's in Germany between 14.02 and 24.03 '98. Both our sound engineer Christian Moos and producer Oliver Phillipps are very talented classical musicians who are also active in the progressive Rock scene. They are perfectionists and checked every single note we played. Their demanding and very critical attitude certainly pushed us to higher musical levels. The fact they were not familiar with extreme Metal I felt as an advantage (despite the culture clash and stress!). This way we could be sure they would give us an original sound and maybe even come up with ideas extreme Metal producers would never think of. I was to be proven right, on Fatherland the fusion between Metal and Classical is more successful than ever before in our band's history. Oliver Phillips appeared as a session keyboard player. It is quite unusual that classical/ progressive musicians and extreme Metal musicians collaborate.
You have played in many gigs, wich was the bests?
We have toured throughout Europe and the U.K. many times. Life on the road is like an adventure, very unpredictable: one day all is going perfectly, the next nothing seems to work. Once we stranded in England with all our equipment and without any money, food or a place to stay. Even that one we turned into an interesting experience, often larger than life, and continued touring in an alternative way in order to gain money to get back home. It is kind of strange to see we draw larger crowds nowadays while in the past only very few individuals were interested in our work. Guess this new Black Metal explosion must have got a lot to do with it. Since (specially in the beginning) we received way more appreciation outside our own country, we preferred to concentrate abroad. Nowadays our status also improved within Belgian borders. Most of the bands we toured with we already knew personally, which of course improved life on the road together. When mutual respect is shown we get along with everyone, no infantile rock star attitudes. We toured as headliners several times but also with major acts such as Deicide, Cradle of Filth, Morbid Angel, Metallica, Mercyful Fate, Motörhead, S.O.D., Manowar etc. Highlights in our career were playing the legendary Marquee in London, the famous Thorns club at Athens, the very first big extreme Metal fest in Lisbon (sponsored by Coca Cola and the mayor!) and appearing on mega Metal festivals such as Dynamo Open Air or Graspop to mention a few. It is fascinating to see how crowds differ from country to country, city to city even. Whenever there is some free time available (after the sound check for instance) I leave the venue to taste a bit of the local culture. All this keeps touring interesting. It often is hard and stressful but there's a certain charm involved too. Intensity, positive or negative, is what we seek.
Present Fatherland to the people.
One shouldn't forget on Fatherland a new line up is presented. New, more technical, musicians joined the band and technical skills have improved in general. Each musician has his own style/approach (how it should be!). Originality is highly appreciated within our ranks. Every band member has a long tradition in Metal. We already were into the Metal scene even before Black/Death Metal was created. We obviously take part in that scene but our roots and approach differ from the other bands in our style and older (traditional Metal and first generation Black/Death) and other influences shine on trough as well. Also we ignore what is popular or fashionable at the moment and go our own way. We play what we instinctively feel without ever considering what the press/audience might think of it. We try to achieve a balance between aggression and melancholy, brutality and atmosphere. Unlike most other bands in the B.M. scene we want to achieve a clear, tight and heavy sound/production. Surely we respect primitive Black Metal but because of our ancient Heavy Metal roots we settle for a tighter sound. We try to improve with each release and wish to avoid stagnation. It is our aim to grow without selling out and evolve in a natural way. We have a natural 80's Metal touch to our music because A.R. started in that era but at the same time we have a modern approach. Our sound contains different aspects of Metal and even elements of Classical, Medieval and Folk music can be detected in our music. A classical musician once told us that the structure of our songs (including the modern Metal parts) is similar to the way medieval musicians composed their music, I can't think of a better compliment. We never analyse our music, we simply play what we feel, there is no real A.R. recipe nor are we a manufactured band. Just emotions, dreams and visions we try to put to music.
Have you some band favorite from South America?
I know the guys of Krisiun and Rebaelliun and they are great. Both musically as personally. Rebaelliun played with us in Belgium and Germany and with the guys of Krisiun I partied at Dynamo Open Air a few years ago, also they came to see our show in Holland. All the best of luck to them. Bands I also appreciate are old Sarcofago old Holocausto, old Sextrash and Masacre (greetings to Mauricio Bull Metal!).
That book from literarure you can recomend to us?
La Vey's work The Satanic Bible and The Satanic Rituals are an authority within the Satanic scene, I have both books in my possession already since the early eighties. All literature dealing with historical and occult topics I find appealing. Fiction writers I truly appreciate are Lord Byron, Joseph Conrad, Edgar Allan Poe, Baudelaire, Guy de Maupassant, Hubert Lampoo, Shelley, Lovecraft, Umberto Ecco.
When you will make a Southamerican tour?
We have been approached twice by Columbian promoters who promised to set up a South American tour but unfortunately until now they did not succeed. A few weeks ago another South american promoter offered to fix a South american tour for us so I hope this time it will work out and that this agency is more serious/reliable. We definitely would like to play in front of the South American audiences, also personally I would love to explore the ancient/medieval remains of forgotten civilizations since I am interested in the Inca, Maya and Aztec culture and I'd like to taste of the local atmosphere. Travelling is in my blood and I hav ben everywhere in Europe, Asia and africa but South America I have not explored yet. It is high time my friend!
Thank you very much Gunther for the interview, you can leade your message fro the readers of the Strike Mag. around the world.
Thank you for this interesting conversation. I hope to greet you all in the near future. Keep the Flame burning.
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