European Death Metal
The Netherlands is country known mostly for two things (depending on the type of person you are): arguably the best kickboxers/Muay Thai fighters on the planet and some of the baddest, most crippling death metal bands in all of Europe. If not for the Netherlands, we wouldn’t have been exposed to such legendary acts of Pestilence, Asphyx, God Dethroned, Hail of Bullets, Gorefest, Sinister, and countless others. Enter the newest member to the Dutch tree of death metal: Icons of Brutality.
After having just released their debut album Between Glory and Despair, Icons of Brutality are just getting started on what they hope will turn into a lucrative and successful career in the world of metal. Sporting a total throwback sound to the glory days of early ‘90s European death metal, Icons of Brutality pull no punches and wear their influences proudly and loudly on their sleeves.
Unlike the majority of new bands playing an old school sound, Icons of Brutality aren’t some cheap thrift store knockoff tributary band. They have harnessed everything that made the scene so magnificent “back in the day” and compiled it all into Between Glory and Despair. TeethOfTheDivine was fortunate enough to conduct an interview with bassist Knolle and lead guitarist Jeunis, though the rest of the band (Jimme, vocals; Bakvet, drums; Appe, rhythm guitars) joined in.
First off, your debut album is solid from start to finish. It’s easy to listen to and it has such an old school sound to it. I’ll assume you and the rest of the band are satisfied with it?
Knolle: Yes indeed, we are really satisfied. The whole album sounds fresh and full of energy. And we think it’s a great compliment to hear it has an old school sound. We are really stoked on how the production came out. A big compliment goes out to Fredde Kaddeth who recorded and produced the album at his Dirty Bird Studio.
The few reviews that I’ve read regarding Between Glory and Despair have been favorable. They all tend to say the same things about how it’s a throwback album, quality release, etc. Do you take to heart any of the reviews about your music whether it’s negative or positive?
Well, we have got a massive amount of great reviews from various cool e-zines and metal magazines and it makes us proud and even more determined to trust our band forwards. We’re not going to change directions because of negative or positive reviews, but it’s a great feeling to get compliments from the critics and that, we do take to heart!
How long did it take you guys to write and record the album, and what is your typical writing process?
Jeunis: The writing-process took us in about one and a half years. Within the first year we wrote about five songs, but in the last half before recording we wrote four songs. The pressure was high (laughs). No seriously, in the beginning when Bakvet and Appe joined the band (somewhere at the end of the winter of 2010) we were asked to perform for some tribute nights, so our attention was going to practice the covers of, for example: Entombed, Grave, Dismember, Gorefest and many more. After that we had more time to focus ourselves on writing new material.
The recording itself took us over about four days I guess. The drums and guitars were recorded in one weekend and the bass, vocals and solos were recorded during some evenings throughout December 2011.
Is there one main songwriter in the band? If so, how liberal is he with allowing the others to incorporate their own ideas for the songs?
Knolle: Yes there is. Our lead guitarist Jeunis has written most of the music and he is always at the frontline when it comes to composing new material, jamming and figuring out cool ideas, and the fortunate thing is that he has the talent to listen to someone else’s idea and compose killer riffs from that.
Jeunis: Thanks for this adoration Knolle. I do compose most of the riffs, but the entire band is involved in arranging those riffs into killer songs. So our personal input in the writing process is more or less evident.
Your sound is an obvious nod to the classic European death metal bands of the late ‘80s/early ‘90s like Entombed, Asphyx, Dismember, Bolt Thrower, etc. I’m willing to assume bands such as those have played a huge part into shaping the sound and direction of Icons of Brutality?
Knolle: Yes they did! From our point of view, those bands along with let’s say, Gorefest, Vader, Grave, At the Gates and many more are untouchable. And we like to add some grind, some hardcore punk and D-beat Crust to our music, forging our own style and sound but definitely inspired by those good old death metal bands. Actually that is what our band name is all about, as it is an homage to all the bands, musicians, actors and many more that have inspired us, another obvious nod to all the icons of brutality.
One thing I’m certain you’ll be hearing a lot of regarding Between Glory and Despair is that it is not overly original, that is sounds too much like the aforementioned bands. Some critics will gripe that you’re simply taking what they did and making it your own. What are your thoughts on these sorts of criticisms?
Jeunis: We don’t write songs because they have to be original, we write songs because we think they are cool. We all adore some great bands; they gave us the inspiration.
The way I see it is if you like a certain style of music, why not play that style?
Jeunis: This is a great additional note as answer for the previous question. It’s true – some great bands have inspired us. Those bands were around (in the) beginning of the ’90s were unique, most of those bands still exist, or their musicians are still active in similar bands. It’s an addiction which cannot be denied.
Being a new band – even though most of the guys have spent time in other bands – is it difficult these days to write songs that are unique? Considering metal has been around for decades and after thousands and thousands of bands have come and gone, it’s got to be near impossible to write a song, let alone an entire album, that is completely original and unique.
Every song is unique, like every thought is unique; a song is the product of men’s creation. Although the riffs aren’t unique, the song still is. I guess every riff, which is written nowadays, is ever played in history. We don’t have the intention to invent a new kind of music; we just give our interpretation of how cool music has got to sound.
There has been an explosion of new young bands playing an old school style of death metal. Whether it’s American or European styled, the explosion has been incredible for about two years. Do you think that’s a good thing for a band like Icons of Brutality? Or do you think that might hurt you guys a little because you may get overlooked?
It’s good to follow your heart, not to give direction to what other people might like or not. I see it as a big compliment to those bands who are the inspirational notes for all these new-coming bands. And we don’t have to make a competition out of it, every band has got to be appreciated for what they do. For me it’s quite simple; I like both old school European and American death metal, the more bands there are, the more fun it is.
Aside from the band, what do the members of Icons of Brutality do?
Knolle: I’m married and I have two wonderful children which I spend a lot of time with. Besides my family I like to play guitars and bass, listen to music, drink beer and booze. I like taking long walks, I’m very interested in astronomics and I make a living as a metalworker.
Jeunis: I’m happily married with Claudia and together we have two lovely kids, Lars and Aeoni. At the moment I work in a child center, where I accompany children, but due to a reorganization I have to search another job within a couple of months. I’m also active in local politics as chairman for a left-wing party. In my spare time I like to play guitar and bass, watching movies, surfing around the internet, editing photos and videos and I like to cook delicious meals. And listening to metal of course, hell yeah!
Bakvet: I live together with my girlfriend for nine years now. We have two dogs and a cat and a pond full of fish. I like autos and motorsport a lot, especially F1 and MotoGP. I also play the drums in a band called Solidary Trust. For my living, I’m manager at a petrol station on the highway. I have a little web shop (Filthy Records) where you can buy some CDs and LPs.
Jimme: I off course like to listen (metal) music and visit as many concerts as possible. Just like Bakvet I also play in Solidary Trust. Besides my passion for metal, I spend very much time with my girlfriend. Although I’m not a sportsman at all, I often go to the local swimming pool and trying to stay in shape. Watching motorsports (Formula 1, MotoGP etc.) is also a great hobby for me.
Appe: I work as a quality controller in the same factory as Knolle. I like to play guitar at home, listen to music and playing computer games. And I like to shoot with guns.
Your label is Cyclone Empire. It’s not as big or well known as labels like Nuclear Blast, Earache, Metal Blade, etc. However, Cyclone Empire has a strong lineup of solid bands from top to bottom. How did the deal with Cyclone Empire come about and how has it been working for them?
Jeunis: Cyclone Empire fits us well. It’s not as big as Nuclear Blast or Metal Blade, but they have got a lot of experience. And great bands in their roster. We are very happy with CE. The way they are promoting our album is really great. We’ve got a lot of media attention worldwide. Lots of reviews, interview requests, like & share on social media and more, that will bring us further. Thanks to CE, our music is well spread over the world. We are very grateful for that.
TeethOfTheDivine: What are your short-term goals and plans for Icons of Brutality in terms of hopeful exposure and touring?
Jeunis: We want to play as lot and much as we can. We have contacted many Dutch venues and we are planning to contact venues in Germany. Unfortunately it’s a hard time getting gigs. I think the economic recession is debt about, partially, and don’t forget, we still are in the first stage of our existence. If some promoters or bookers are interested, they can send us a mail to: iconsofbrutality at gmail.com.
TeethOfTheDivine: Thanks for taking the time out of your day to do this interview. Best of wishes for you guys!
Knolle: Thanks for the support and the opportunity for doing an interview and to all the readers, check our website and if you like our music buy the record…and stay brutal!