An Interview...The Brutal Way

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The last couple of years has been spectacular for old school classic Swedish styled death metal; you’ve had albums from the likes of veterans such as Bloodbath, Séance, Necrovation, Evocation, Dismember as well as new blood from Hail of Bullets, DeathEvocation and Fatalist just to name a few. Heck, even Entombed returned from the land of suck on 2007s Serpent Saints. What was missing was a big name reunion- a glorious name from the past, the return of a legend (Séance doesn’t quite count). And that happened earlier this year (at least here in the US) when Ibex Moon Records released Death …the Brutal Way from Dutch death metal legends, Asphyx. Complete with the duo that was mostly responsible for the legendary The Rack, suddenly busy vocalist Martin Van Drunen, founding member Rob Bagchus returned to the fray in spectacular fashion and I caught up with Mr. Bagchus to find out how this legendary comeback came about and other things….

So, the new  reunion album Death… the Brutal Way came about after the Festival in Germany back in 2007- what prompted the show and what was the process after the show for a full on reunion and album?

Prompted the show? Well, the organizers of the Party San phoned me and asked to reform Asphyx for a show in 2007 on that festival. After having some thoughts I phoned Martin (Van Drunen) and he said yes, very enthusiastically. Eric couldn’t make it, but we found a great replacement in Paul. We asked Wannes (Gubbels- bassist) to join in as well and the rest is known. The show was supposed to be a one-off, but we liked it so much again that we decided to play some more shows, also since we got lots of offers. But, the plan was only to do some shows and not making a new album. But as soon as Paul (Baayens- guitar) came up with some killer riffs, and we started jamming, we also thought that we might do a new album after all. Mostly for ourselves.


I noticed on the DVD of the show that came with the US release of the album you only played songs from  The Rack and The Last One On Earth – why was that?

Since that was the most popular period of Asphyx and since Martin was back it was only natural that we were going to play the most popular songs from those days, especially since it was the first Asphyx show in 7 years.


With Van Drunen having so much success last year with the Hail of Bullets album, was there a concerted effort to try and distance Asphyx’s material from Hail of Bullets despite the obvious similarities. Both albums covers are even done by the same artist.

No. Asphyx always had its own style of doom/death metal so there was no need to consider anything at all. We just did what we always did. Sure, it’s both doom/death metal, but we sound completely different. The album artist…you mean Mick Koopman? Mick is a good friend of both bands and he lives here around the corner, so that was easy.


What was the song writing process after such a long lay off and being away from death metal for so many years? Did it all surge at once or have you been plotting and writing stuff for the last few years?

That was very easy, as Asphyx always was. Paul came up with the riffs of “Scorbutics” and Martin and me automatically went from there on. It felt like the Rack/Last One…days were just a month ago, if you know what I mean. Then Paul kept sending those awesome typical Asphyx riffs in our Gmail, even whole songs and Martin and me were amazed by it. So we jammed quite often and in no time we had all the tracks ready for recording. It all happened in, let’s say, half a year. Besides that, I never stopped listening to death metal, of course.


Did successful recent reunions by the Suffocation, Obituary and Gorefest influence your decision to reform Asphyx at all?

No, since we were not about to reform at all. It was that the Party San phoned (September 2006) me and asked me to reform Asphyx for the 2007 edition. I doubt if Asphyx would have reformed if they didn’t call me up then…besides I would have never reformed Asphyx again if Martin wasn’t in it.


Was there a concern that the comeback would be a bit of a failure. I hate to single out another follow Dutch band, but the recent Pestilence comeback album didn’t exactly light the world on fire.

No, since, like I said before, we weren’t about to reform at all. The Party San organization told me they had some kind of a popularity poll in Germany of which bands they liked to see at the 2007 edition of the Party San and it seemed most of the fans wanted to see Asphyx. But I must admit that we were dying of stress right before that show. You know the “if this, if that…kind of things”. But all went great and it was the best musical experience of our lives for sure! So, we went on from there, but without stress and just do what we want to do. People seem to dig it again and we are happy too.


You’ve already addressed this but would you have reformed Ashpyx without Van Drunen?



Was there a part of you that wanted to sort of erase the lukewarm reaction to God Cries and On the Wings of Inferno or are you have with the legacy the band left after those two final albums?

Well,maybe….but you can’t change the past and you shouldn’t ignore it either. God Cries is a brutal death metal album (some even think it’s the best…but only a few),but it’s not typical Asphyx. Eric wasn’t playing on it and that showed, unfortunately. On The Wings Of Inferno is a lot better but was released in the wrong time. Besides,even though I like that album, it’s of course nothing like The Rack or The Last One On Earth, or even Embrace the Death. We have to be honest about that.


How come Century Media didn’t want to release the new album in the US? It seems strange on their part not to want to release on of the more anticipated comeback albums of the last few years, especially after it was so well received in Europe?

I don’t know. I think they were only interested in releasing that horrible deathcore and metalcore shit. That rubbish sells, and besides that, we don’t do any touring so that might have scared the US department off a bit as well. But I think they might regret it a bit now since Death…The Brutal Way is selling very good in the US. Anyway, I’m really glad that Ibex Moon is releasing it in the US since they are 100% dedicated to Death Metal and John is an old veteran, like us (for those that dont know, John McEntee, guitarist/vocalist for death metal icons Incantation, runs Ibex Moon Records). He knows his history just like we do and that feels good.


How did the deal with Ibex Moon come about?

We needed a license deal for the US so we asked John from Ibex Moon. I have met him at the Maryland Deathfest and he’s a very dedicated guy who knows what’s he doing.


You were around at the arguably peak of death metal in the early 90s and now here you are almost 20 years later with classic death metal still here and even making a resurgence. What’s changed in your opinion?

What has changed is that nowadays many bands are involved in some kind of contest of who can play the fastest and most technical “death metal”. Not their hearts are in it, only their minds. They might call it brutal, I call it Dinky Toy metal. It has absolutely nothing to do with real Death Metal at all. Who needs it???? No feeling or soul or whatsoever! Plain rubbish and not heavy.1000 riffs in one song and even more tempo-changes….man. I ask you, where is the song? What is it about??!!?  Also in the past, almost every death metal who could signed were also trading buddies before. That was great!


Is this a full on return of the band or more of a project that you all came back together for? Can we expect another Asphyx album with the same line up in the next year or two?

Well, as long as we like doing this, we will do it. We still are enjoying this a lot and are thinking of another album…Martin even has the title ready.


Are there any US tour plans to support the new album? Maybe a Hail of Bullets/Asphyx tour?

No, but we’ll play on the Maryland Deathfest next year again, and then complete our full set!!


  1. Commented by: Ryan

    Nice read. Couldn’t agree more with the comment about the new crop of tech death. With the exception of a hand full of bands, he’s more than right… “Where is the song?!”

  2. Commented by: Desperado

    Interesting read. I’m a deathhead at heart and enjoy many spectrums of metal, be it tech or otherwise. I love old school stuff a ton and especially doomy death, its so evil and heavy. Fun band. His comment on the new trends is amusing….

  3. Commented by: Justin

    Nice inty Eric. They were amazing at MDF this year, even with borrowed gear and a shorter set than they expected.

  4. Commented by: Justin

    Erik with a k, duh.

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