Interview Interrogation: Iris Goessens & Steven 'Gaze' Sanders from Spoil Engine (Belgium / Netherlands)
Spoil Engine have been rampaging in the Belgian Metal scene for 15 years and yet it's only in the recent years that they caught the attention of the more well-known labels, Arising Empire (owned by Nuclear Blast) in this case.
Their unique slant on the Melodic Death Metal / Metalcore crossover has made them distinguished guests in the world of metal and yet despite their original vocalist leaving in 2014, they've maintained their brutality through Dutch vocalist Iris Goessens. Word of warning, don't let the fact being the new vocalist is a female overthrow you or undermine this new instalment of Spoil Engine, because her vocals and charisma is ferocious enough to leave you spit-roasted inside and out.
Here Iris and Steve spoke to GMA about their crushing new album 'Renaissance Noire', it's meaning and origins. How they come to meet at their rendez-vous point of Antwerp (as Iris and Matthijs both live in The Netherlands), the Dutch and Belgian Metal scenes respectively and why the single 'Riot' has arguably come at the right time for the band...
"I think music is a beautiful way to make people aware of important topics."
You must be stoked to release your fifth album 'Renaissance Noire', could you tell us about the meaning behind the album title and give us an overview of the album topics?
"Yes we are! We’re very proud of what the album has become. The title translates as “Dark Rebirth”. After our last “Stormsleeper” shows Bart had to make the decision to leave the band (work & family were too difficult to combine with SE). We decided that we would move on as a 4 piece band and started writing. This whole process was a “rebirth” for the band. Also we felt inspired by the “Renaissance” age, which you can see in the artwork. We think this album is darker than the previous one so that’s why we added the “Noire” in the title. The song topics are very diverse but they are all about evolving (as humans and/or as a society) so it basically became the overall topic though the album."
Iris, having come from Maastricht would it be OK to assume you moved to Belgium instead of travelling to and from The Netherlands?
"No. I still live in The Netherlands. Our drummer Matt is also from The Netherlands. For rehearsals we meet in the city of Antwerp which is in the middle of where all the band members live. Before we do this we arrange as much as possible online & everyone rehearses and writes songs at their home studio’s."
Steven do you feel the Belgian Metal scene is often overlooked by the music industry as a whole? Iris the same for the Dutch Metal scene?
"I think there are many Dutch bands and musicians who made it big in the international metal scene. So I don’t think we’re overlooked… It just takes lots of time to build a brand."
"Well, I guess the scene wouldn't be overlooked if we had bands who really get all the promotion. We have some great Belgian bands (Aborted, AmenRa, Evil Invaders, Carnation,...) but these boys must work very hard to get something done in the global scene. If you compare with our Dutch friends (Epica, Within Temptation,..) they get much more support and credit from the bottom-up, meaning from their own country and their promo channels like BUMA. Dutch bands tend to help each other more where Belgian bands are more lone warriors. But it's good to see the Belgian scene is rising!"
Do you feel your single 'R!ot' has come at the right time when climate change protests, social unrest across the European Union and hatred towards the Trump administration is rife? Is the single a political statement?
"Yes, it just came together like that. We wrote this song at the beginning of 2019. I think music is a beautiful way to make people aware of important topics."
With that in mind, do you feel metal music offers itself as a way of venting fury, anger and discontent in a constructive way?
"For sure. Metal has a great energy to spread messages. I think most metal fans are conscious people who think for themselves. So it’s nice to spread messages through our music for a better world. "
For metalheads visiting Maastricht, what sights / attractions could you recommend? Any good bars, clubs?
"We got some nice pubs here in Maastricht. Most of them are overflowed with students though. Same for the “clubs”. I’d rather recommend Maastricht for day visiting than overnight partying. We have many nice restaurants and a beautiful city centre."
What plans have you got for the rest of 2019 (along side the album launch) and into 2020? Do you have any greetings or thank you's that you wish to send out to friends, fans, etc?
"We’ve launched the album and we’re ready to hit the road! Thanks for the interview. And to all the fans who read this: We hope to CU soon on tour!"
Metal music is unmistakably global, we've seen the rise of metal bands from all corners of the globe, from Brazil's Sepultura to New Zealand's Ulcerate and all the countries in-between and... basically everywhere. However it's multinational bands and projects that just show the solidarity this music brings irrespective of religious, cultural, political or societal traits... Metal is the Mecca of open-mindedness. Akheth, a project generally central to Canada features members from American, Dutch, Iranian and Mexican backgrounds and as they drop their debut single it's only right that they get all the attention they deserve because Akheth are not just a band, they are a prime example of 'metalisation' (a portmanteau of metal and globalisation; I just made it up); that is the power of metal music bringing different nationalities together under one roof.
Akheth gave us an insight into their world, their new single, their paths to metal and the challenges of being a project separated by vast lands and open seas.
How did Akheth come about? What does the band name mean and how did that come about?
"The band started from the first demo of 'The Asylum' we did back in 2015. It was a song that I had written in 2011 for my band at the time. When I saw a few YouTube videos of Mahafsoun singing I asked her if she'd be interested in recording vocals for the song. We finished that demo but didn't create Akheth as a band until late 2016. The name of the band is an Egyptian hieroglyph that represents where the sun rises or sets. I chose this name for the band because I was looking for something original and short and Akheth was the name of the first song I ever wrote back in 2006, so it has a special meaning."
Seeing as you all live in four countries, do you send recordings over the net or do you meet up on occasion?
"Mahafsoun and I have met a few times but most of the work we do is through the internet. I send the guys complete demos with guide vocals or just the skeleton of a song when I'm still working on it. From there they learn it and add their own thing to it. There is also a new song that we are working on for the EP on which Mahafsoun wrote the main piano parts, it is the first song we are writing together. Next month (April) Mahafsoun and I will meet and practice the vocal lines for the new songs."
What (apart from the previous question) challenges do you face as an international band?
"Sometimes communicating ideas over the internet is difficult, you can't really explain for example a melody or a complicated section over an e-mail. Besides that recording everything separately, specially with a low budget is hard because you have to take all those different tracks recorded in different places and make them fit together. Of course with the technology we have these days it's a bit easier but some of us are still learning and getting more experience as we work more on recording music. Lastly the cost of getting all of us together in the same place, every time we want to do it one of us has to get a flight somewhere."
Mahafsoun, what was it like growing up as a metal fan in Iran? What does your family think of metal music?
"During the time I lived in Iran, I was only eight years old. Because of this I never got to experience what it's like to be a metal fan growing up in Iran. However my mum and dad nowadays enjoy some metal. In the beginning they didn't really care about it, but after I showed them the different sub-genres of metal, they each found one that they really enjoyed listening to. I believe that for each of them, they enjoy metal more nowadays especially because they know that I have such a strong connection to the music and the culture."
You released your debut single 'The Asylum' this year, what has the reception been like and how did you come up with the single title?
"At the time of writing The Asylum and other songs I had the idea of making them all fit together in a concept album. The story is about the human mind and how insane it can sometimes be. So at the beginning of the story everything is somewhat abstract but getting to this song, The Asylum, you start to figure out what it was all about. At this point we aren't even talking about the full length, since we are working on the EP, so we'll have to see if we keep the same subject.
So far the reception has been great! People from all over the world ordered our CD's and merch, as a new band we didn't really expect that so we are very thankful for the support. Not only that but people also liked our music and we were lucky to have Mark from Epica as a guest on the song!
Will the single be included on your impending EP / debut album in the future?
"Our EP will contain 5 new songs and we will include 'The Asylum' as a bonus. Although for our first full length album we talked about re-recording the song because this single was basically home-made and we had some comments about our production quality. So yes! we will have a much better version of 'The Asylum' but it'll have to wait until we record our full length."
How would you describe your style of metal? Who influences you?
"Right now we only have that one song out so it is still too early for people to really know what our style is. However in a review for Metal Injection they called us Progressive Symphonic Metal and we really liked that term because it doesn't limit us to play the same thing all the time. We have so many influences that go from Progressive Rock all the way to Black or Death Metal and everything in between. I think our music will definitely reflect that. Also each one of us has different tastes and styles of playing our instruments or singing.
The good thing is that we are all open minded and so is most of the metal community, our core will always be metal so I think most people will find something that they enjoy in our music. For our EP we are working on a ballad, also other longer songs with middle eastern vibes and instrumental sections. Some songs have more orchestra and others are more riff oriented so you guys can get an idea. The beauty of Symphonic Metal is that you can do so many different things with it and when you throw in the progressive part you get even more variety.
As far as specific bands that influence us I'd personally say Opeth, Dream Theater, Tool, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Evergrey, David Gilmour, Steven Wilson to mention a few. Mahafsoun likes Deftones, A Perfect Circle, Septicflesh, Moonspell. There would be too many to mention them all!"
What plans do you have for the year ahead and are there any greetings you wish to send out?
"Our plans for this year besides the EP are making our first official videos together! We'd like to thank you and everybody for supporting Akheth and we hope you keep an eye out for our EP towards the second half of the year!"
Without a shadow of a doubt, God Dethroned are veterans of the Dutch Metal scene despite having split-up twice (1993, 2012) and whilst some might have cast them off as just 'hanging around', it goes without question that the quartet have arisen once again with newfound vigour, a sense of passion and pride, but above all the feeling that they have left business unfinished.
Starting off back in the old days with Satanism as the core topic of their lyrics, God Dethroned mid-career switched to a more death-orientated stance which transgressed into their modern self as a band who sings about war, specifically the First World War; as shown on their 2009 album 'Passiondale (Passchendaele)'.
26 long years down the line and God Dethroned are set to deliver their 10th opus titled 'The World Ablaze', ending the WW1 album trilogy. In promotion of the album God Dethroned have released three blazingly brutal music videos:-
Fending off the aggression of this Dutch horde, GMA came into calling truce with frontman Henri Sattler who laid out the band's battle plans for the campaign ahead, speaking of their local division, politics and their latest weapon 'The World Ablaze'... prepare for mortar fire.