By Ryan Meehan
Hail of Bullets were formed at the end of 2006 when guitarist Stephan Gebédi approached singer Martin van Drunen, drummer Ed Warby, bass player Theo van Eekelen and guitarist Paul Baayens with the idea to join forces in an old school death metal band. The band members already knew each other from their previous and present bands like Asphyx, Gorefest, Thanatos and Houwitser. From the start it was crystal clear there was a mutual love for true death metal bands like Autopsy, Massacre, Bolt Thrower, early Death as well as Celtic Frost. The metal started flowing and in July 2007 the band decided to record four songs for a promo CD. Swedish death metal guru Dan Swanö produced the four songs at his Unisound Studios and the result turned out pretty monstrous. Metal Blade Records didn’t hesitate to sign the band and Hail of Bullets’ debut album ‘…Of Frost And War’ was released in May 2008. Apart from the thundering drums, scorching guitars and tormented vocals, the lyrical concept about the battles at the Eastern front during World War II made the album’s impact even bigger. The reactions of the press and fans were amazing and the band played countless festival dates and club shows all over Europe. The debut album was followed by a six-track mini album in July 2009, entitled ‘Warsaw Rising’ which featured two brand new songs, a cover version of Twisted Sister’s ‘Destroyer’ plus three live tracks recorded at 2008′s Party.San Open Air festival. More shows followed and the band even made their first visit to the USA at 2009′s Maryland Deathfest. In the beginning of 2010 the band started work on their second full length album, another massive chunk of war-themed death metal. Singer/lyricist Martin van Drunen managed to come up with a new, intriguing concept. The rise and fall of the Japanese Empire. The album was produced by Ed Warby and like before the monstrous mix was in the capable hands of Mr. Swanö. “On Divine Winds” was released in October 2010 and once again the reactions were overwhelming. The album even entered the German album charts and was voted ‘album of the month’ in various leading metal magazines like Rock Hard (Germany), Legacy (Germany), and Terrorizer (UK) to name but a few. 2011 saw the band playing most of the prestigious European Summer festivals Like Hellfest, Wacken Open Air, Summer Breeze, Party.San, Brutal Assault and many more. In the second half of, 2012 the band started writing songs for their third album, which sees the band approaching things a bit differently lyric-wise. Instead of describing a certain campaign or theatre of war, this album focuses on the military life, rise and fall of German field marshal Erwin Rommel. Despite fighting on the wrong side, Rommel was undeniably a great strategist who was both feared and admired by his enemies. Musically, this third album, entitled “III The Rommel Chronicles,” slightly harks back to the debut album. The songs are faster, more raw, more aggressive and direct than “On Divine Winds” which had a more epic, heroic feel. Once again, production duties were handled by Ed Warby and the album was mixed and mastered by Dan Swano and. And Ed was cool enough to be our guest today in 7 questions.
RM: First and foremost, what do we need to know about “The Rommel Chronicles III” and how has the band progressed since the release of “On Divine Winds”?
EW: What you need to know is that it’s our third album, and we continue to steadily perfect and improve our style without making too many changes to the formula of groovy old school death metal. Some may have expected us to become more melodic after “On Divine Winds” but instead we chose to go for a more stripped down, brutally in-your-face sound. The melody is still there (I strongly believe it can enhance the brutality when used properly) but the main focus is on the riffing.
RM: What made the band choose (Dutch artist) Erik Wijnands to do the album artwork? What piece that he did made you really want him to add imagery to accompany your music?
EW: When our original artist Mick Koopman (who did all our releases so far) pulled out due to time issues, we had to find a suitable replacement and Stephan saw some of Erik’s work on Facebook so we arranged a meeting with him. At the time, we weren’t sure what direction the artwork should take so initially he had a hard time coming up with something we all liked. After a while he got so frustrated he decided to make the ultimate HoB cover and throw everything in that connected with the subject matter, and that’s what we ended up using. I absolutely love the way it turned out and we even had Erik do our promotional photography as well as a full stage-set consisting of banners and a large backdrop. The guy’s very talented, to say the least.
RM: What’s your setup like at far as the actual drum kit itself? Do you frequently experiment with changes in the setup or do you basically keep everything the same with each album and tour?
EW: I use a rather standard set-up that I like to call the “Cozy Powell kit”. It’s basically 2 kicks, 2 rack toms and 2 floor toms, that’s all I really need. Well, and a snare and some cymbals of course. I rarely bring my own kit to a show so I have to make do with what’s available, but I’m usually able to piece together a playable kit. I’ve been playing this configuration since the 80’s and never felt the need to add or change anything. The only change I made was switching from 2 separate pedals to a twin, I don’t use triggers and it can be difficult to get 2 acoustic kicks to sound the same, plus I like the feel of 2 beaters on the same head.
RM: The type of drumming that you do is much more difficult than a lot of people who don’t know better might think…Are there any specific exercises that you do to keep your arms and the muscles in your legs in killer shape?
EW: I bike to work every day, haha! Apart from that I don’t do any exercises, I don’t even practice as much as I should, the only thing I do is warm up well in time before a show to prevent stiff/sore muscles. I do try to keep fit by staying away from smoke and drink, getting to bed as early as possible (I really need my 8 hours sleep, esp. before a gig), but that’s about it. I’m lucky to be in pretty good shape for a 45-year old.
RM: War seems to be a very popular theme in your music…Why do you think people respond so fervently to that topic in the metal community? Is it more than just the overall discussion of domination and annihilation that fuels that interest? What makes the band so interested in writing about the subject so much?
EW: To be honest when, we started it just seemed like a good way to set us apart from all those gore-obsessed old school bands. I like gore as much as the next death metal fan, but you can’t really out-gross Cannibal Corpse or Carcass and it gets old fast. So when Martin came up with the whole Eastern Front theme we immediately loved it. What’s more it really suits our sound, on some songs if you close your eyes you can really see the tanks trudging along, in fact I sometimes write a specific riff or song with a certain image in my head, like on Liberators from the Warsaw Rising EP. An ominous sky, black with bomber planes… that’s what the last part of the song sounds like to me, and the first half is more about the mechanics of the plane, and its crew.
RM: What made you decide to cover “Destroyer” by Twisted Sister? It’s a great song, but here are a lot of great songs in the history of metal…Why that track in particular?
EW: Because we were all wondering what that RIFF (I have to spell that in capitals) would sound like with our sound and tuning, and we weren’t disappointed. Besides Twisted Sister is a band we all grew up on, and Destroyer is just one of those legendary songs, it’s really, really heavy and it just seemed like a fun song to do. More fun than doing a thrash or death metal chestnut anyways.
RM: What does the future of heavy metal look like to you? Do you think about things like that often?
EW: Not really, to be honest. We’re firmly rooted in the past, and I think there’s a good future for bands like us but I don’t feel too connected to newer styles of metal. I only listen to the classic stuff myself, although I do try to keep up with new releases as much as possible. But I always find myself liking the bands that pay tribute to the glory days such as Facebreaker and Entrails, or newer bands consisting of old legends like Triptykon. Metal will always be around though, of that I’m sure. And as much as I dislike deathcore and nu metal, if it’s a way for young kids to get into what I regard as the real stuff that’s fine.
RM: What’s next for Hail of Bullets in the remainder of 2013 and into 2014? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
EW: Our booking agent is working hard to put us on as many big festivals as we can humanly play, so we should have a good year ahead of us. We just heard we entered the charts in Germany, which is a good sign – so we should be able to ride that wave all the way to next year’s festival season.
Official artist Page at Metal Blade Records: http://www.metalblade.com/us/artists/hail-of-bullets/
Official Website: http://www.hailofbullets.com/cms/
Hail of Bullets on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hailofbulletsofficial
Hail of Bullets on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HailOfBulletsDM
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