Interview with vocalist Maurice Swinkels
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: December 8, 2018
It's been five years since Dutch messengers of extreme Thrash Metal Legion of the Damned released their well-received album Ravenous Plagues. Make no mistake, they have not been resting comfortably on their laurels the past few years, quite the contrary because these lads have been crisscrossing the globe touring, even in some of the most unusual countries. The band has also been working on their sixth studio album titled Slaves of the Shadow Realm. The wait will be over for fans of these madly thrashing Dutch skull crushers as that album is set to be released January 4, 2019, via Napalm Records.
The Metal Crypt checked in with vocalist Maurice Swinkels and asked why it took a half decade to get the next album done, what they have been doing in the meantime, and what else they may have hidden up in their sleeves...
Luxi: How's life in The Netherlands these days?
Maurice: Good, busy, expensive, but we had one of the best summers for weather in ages, haha!!
ABOUT STAYING AWAY FROM THE SPOTLIGHT
Luxi: It's been nearly five years since Legion of the Damned's previous album, Ravenous Plague, came out in 2014. What are some of the reasons it took such a long time to get your new album, Slaves of the Shadow Realm, completed? Did you feel a lack inspiration or motivation and decided to take a break before writing the new album?
Maurice: Since 2006, things have been pretty hectic with Legion of the Damned. We toured a lot and released an album almost every year, whether it was an old release or newly recorded stuff. Sometimes it's good to have a rest and stay away from the spotlight. During those four years that we were "away", we started writing songs for our new album plus we started playing in countries where Metal bands have never played, like Lebanon.
Luxi: When you eventually started the songwriting process again, did you take a different angle on how to approach the new songs?
Maurice: Yes, of course, especially since we had a live session guitar player. We tried to write stuff with another guitar in it instead of two guitars doing the same stuff as we did with our former guitar player, Richard Ebisch. It had to maintain the Legion song structure, of course.
Luxi: How much did each of you contribute to this new record? Did some of you step more on this opus than on some of your earlier albums?
Maurice: Everybody contributed, although I do not play any instrument by myself. We meet each other from time to time and talk about the songs, which parts are too long, which riffs are not great, and we talk about changing this or that while we proceed.
Luxi: What can you tell us about the lyrics on this new opus? What were some of those main sources of inspirations for you when you were diving deep into the world of shadows, death, dark fantasies, and similar stuff.
Maurice: The lyrics could be considered antireligious and extolling the quest for freedom from oppressive religions and thought systems and to carve your own individual path of self-realization, rejecting the pipe dreams of higher "spirituality". To what extent do the lyrics have a message? First of all, the lyrics attempt to convey a certain dark mood fitting the music, but can also be seen as antireligious horror inspired by actual events, persons and occult thought. Through the lyrics shines defiance, pride, vengeance, embracing the carnal nature of man, the quest for wisdom and altered states and the quest for self-godhood and the rejection of the Absolute while embracing the flow of chaos. Deconstruction of the feeble religious illusions.
Although the lyrics of all Legion of the Damned albums address related content (anti-religion, self-godhood, war, occult serial killers), the lyrics on this album are darker and more esoteric than some of the previous albums. In that way, the lyrics on Slaves of the Shadow Realm are closer to Sons of the Jackal, which had a strong Left-Hand Path flavor to it, and Cult of the Dead, which was more explicit in its anti-Christian nature (although this album is less apocalyptic in tone than Cult of the Dead). The predecessor Ravenous Plague had its share of dark occultism, but also had some more mundane tracks like "Bury Me in a Nameless Grave" while the war lyrics on this album ("Nocturnal Commando" and "Warhounds...") have occult or more apocalyptic elements as well.
IT'S DIFFERENT BUT IT'S STILL LEGION OF THE DAMNED
Luxi: Your new album is said to be your most versatile album to date, with a more contrast between each song, but still maintaining those same elements that make L.o.t.D. sound like L.o.t.D. Do you believe this new album may surprise listeners?
Maurice: I think so ... yes. It has more melody than Ravenous, to the Legion extent, of course. It's a tricky and surprising kind of an album, which sounds completely different than what the Legion fans may expect from us. However, fear not as we are still Legion of the Damned, so we have stuck to our songwriting formula on this new album.
Luxi: Would you say "less is more" when you were figuring out how to make the songs flow and stand out on this new album?
Maurice: That has always been the key factor to Legion of the Damned, whether people like it or not. I think less is more and the music needs to stick in your head. I cannot listen to bands that have 50 riffs in a song and go from left to right, with tons of solos. It drives me crazy!! But it is all about every individual's musical taste naturally.
Luxi: Is there a special song on Slaves that you feel is somehow more special?
Maurice: Not really but I do have some faves on the album, based on the riffs/lyric lines.
PUSHING FORWARD BY THE RULE "MAKE IT OR BREAK IT"
Luxi: How would you summarize the making of this new album compared to the recording sessions for the band's previous albums?
Maurice: With this band, I always feel there is some pressure. We became popular in 2006 with our debut album under the Legion of the Damned name and from there, people expected better and better albums from us while the label expects more sales. It has always been "make it or break it" with each album for us, especially now when we haven't released a new album in 4-5 years. Although recording with Andy Classen was similar to our previous albums, there's no point in breaking a working routine of recording when it has always been good and pleasant for us. We did take a break in between the mixing and recording, so we had time to decide at home if some things needed to be different. As a result of this, I went back to the studio to do some additional vocals, threw in some ideas or redid some of my vocals parts.
Luxi: The album cover of Slaves looks stunning! Whose idea was this concept and did the album's artist exceeded your expectations?
Maurice: It was all done by Gyula (Havancsák), who has also done album covers for bands like Annihilator and Destruction. The album's artwork concept comes from our lyric writer Tony "Skullcrusher".
Luxi: The band will supposedly have some brand-new merchandise coming out via Napalm Records, based on this new album. Will there also be some special items planned, like L.o.t.D. medieval war helmets, battle axes, swords, and stuff? ;o) Those would be nice for the die-hard collectors, wouldn't they?
Maurice: Haha, we are no Viking band. Swords? Axes? Nah...! We have a special box coming out, limited to 500 I think, incl. vinyl, CD/DVD media book, etc. There was also launched our own (limited to 100, hand-numbered copies only) beer called Black Baron that came with a big package, including a shirt, bottle opener, LotD glass and so on.
Luxi: Once this new L.o.t.D. album has hit the stores, do you have some touring plans already on the table?
Maurice: There are no touring plans at this point actually.
MISSION: SLAYING AND KILLING IN 45 MINUTES
Luxi: If you cannot do your own headlining tours, are there some bands out there that would be nice to co-headline with?
Maurice: We have never done any headline tours of our own and, to be honest, I am not really into doing them. I would rather go on tour with a big, well-known name. I am always thinking that being a headline act and playing 90 minutes is not for this band. Our music should be played intensive, energetic and powerful for 45-50 minutes, but that's my opinion. I will not say we will never do our own headline tour. Sometimes we do play longer sets as well.
Luxi: As we all know, the world is big and has many yet-to-be-covered territories for many bands but are a bit questionable in regards to whether it's profitable to go out and play in some of those countries. Do you have some countries on your personal bucket list that have always tempted you gigging wise?
Maurice: Actually I found this question kind of funny because in the past for years, when we did not record an album, we played shows in Lebanon, Dubai, Singapore, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico and Colombia. It's always great to play unknown countries and serve the fans there with some fierce Thrash Metal.
Luxi: Anything else in your mind you'd like to share with the readers of The Metal Crypt that we didn't cover regarding your new album or whatever else topic related to the band?
Maurice: I would say, check out our new album and try to enjoy it rather than critique a band for their art.
Luxi: Thank you, Maurice, for taking your time with this interview and wishing you success with this new record and any other future endeavours with the band. The final words are left for you, so be my guest... ;o)
Maurice: I thank you for supporting us and giving us this opportunity! Thrash on...!! \m/
|Other information about Legion of the Damned on this site|
|Review: Feel the Blade|
|Review: Sons of the Jackal|
|Review: Cult of the Dead|
|Review: Descent into Chaos|
|Review: Slaves of the Shadow Realm|
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