Angelic Rebirths

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Thanatos were the first extreme metal band to burst onto the scene, from the Netherlands, in 1984. As any band that has been around for so long they have had their highs and lows in the metal scene, seeing the band breaking up in 1992, then reforming 7 years later. I first heard the band in 1990/91 with their debut album, Emerging from the Netherworlds and I really enjoyed their blend of thrash metal with sprinklings of death metal. The band would then take their songwriting to another level on their 1992 album, Realm of Ecstasy, with even more memorable songs and the death/thrashiness still kicking asses all over the place. Their reformation album, Angelic Encounters, in 2000, is a phenomenal piece of music but the production, during that time period, hindered the drum sound quite a bit. That album saw more of an emergence of their old school death metal influences. 2004 saw the band expand on their brutality as well as having a pretty sick looking album cover, with Undead.Unholy.Divine. Justified Genocide, in 2009, saw Thanatos just getting better as the years ticked on by.

2012 saw the partnering of Century Media Records and Thanatos to reissue all their full-length albums with bonus songs from demos to EPs, expanded booklets and remastering of all the source material by none other than Dan Swanö. Dan has done an extraordinary job in doing justice to all these albums and quite frankly with the band releasing a new album this year —  it is going to be the year of Thanatos. The band incorporates some of the best sounding death metal with elements of classic thrash and are just generally a killer band.

Stephan Gebédi formed the band back in the day and is the only remaining original member. His guitar work is impeccable with Thanatos and his vocals are excellent and original, having an old school raspiness to them.  You might also recognize his name as he is also the guitarist—alongside fellow bandmate Paul Baayens—in Hail of Bullets. And while his work and love for Hail of Bullets is clearly evident in his passion and his songwriting, Thanatos, for lack of a better word is his firstborn.  The reissues show this.  If you have the originals, get the reissues; the sound is vastly improved upon and the bonus features are all stellar.

My interview with Stephan Gebédi really goes in depth to all that is Thanatos. So pick up their CDs, shirts or attend one of their shows.  Be warned though, failure to do this will leave you in Utter Darkeness as you become The Devil’s Concubine, and unless you’re a sadist, I doubt you want that happening to you.


Hi Stephan, the last time we spoke I had interviewed you for the other site,, that I also write for and we primarily stayed on target with Hail of Bullets.  For this interview I want to concentrate on Thanatos and their impact on the scene.  So first and foremost, what is going on in the Thanatos camp as of now? I had heard that their was new material being written for a 6th full length, please elaborate?

Hey Frank, we´re working on the final songs now for our upcoming 6th full length album. Later this month Yuri will already record the drum tracks in Spacelab studios in Germany, in March-April we´ll record the rhythm and bass guitars and we hope to have everything recorded before the end of May.

How is the material sounding to the previous Thanatos albums and are you planning on doing a little Thanatos touring in the summer?

When we started writing material we said we wanted to make a record that was just as intense as stuff like Darkness Descends or Seven Churches. Obviously we did not want to copy any of those albums but we wanted to make some very intense songs so there will be quite a bit of fast stuff on this album. Basically we are trying to make a worthy follow up to Justified Genocide which is a pretty tough album to follow anyway. But hopefully the music will speak for itself once the album is released this fall. There will be a few shows later this year, one with Obituary in our hometown has already been confirmed, but basically we´ll wait until the new album comes out and hopefully we can do some indoor and outdoor festivals late 2014 and Summer 2015.

Since 2012 Century Media has been really doing an amazing job with the Thanatos remasters and bonus tracks which is also including the remastering from Dan Swanö.  How did this all come about and are you satisfied with the love that Thanatos is getting in the upgraded sound? Undead. Unholy. Divine. and Justified Genocide are the final two albums that will be remastered and reissued, they will be out, by the time this interview goes to print, but what bonus tracks are on those?

Yep, we´re really satisfied and happy with everything they have done so far and Dan has done a killer job with remastering all the albums. They sound more direct and in your face now.  The deal with CM came about in a quite odd way actually. I was talking to Bob from Asphyx about finding a label to release Undead. Unholy. Divine. on vinyl as that album had never been released on vinyl yet. He told me to get in touch with a German guy called Philipp Schulte who was running a small label which mainly did vinyl releases and who really liked stuff from the ’80s/’90s including Thanatos. It took a while before I got hold of him and I had no idea that the guy was also working for Century Media. So when he told me that he actually wanted to re-release all Thanatos stuff on Century Media I was kind of shocked. After re-releasing the first two albums and seeing that they sold pretty well we started talking about doing a new album on Century Media to coincide with the band´s 30th anniversary in 2014 and that more or less brings us to back to the present…

Each Thanatos album has been unique in their own respective and killer ways, I want to make that clear, but when Aad Kloosterwaard, from Sinister, played drums on the Angelic Encounters release that the band incorporated some blast beats into the Thanatos songs and this continued when Yuri Rinkel played drums on the next two Thanatos records.  I love the addition of the blast beats and do you feel this helped with the overall Thanatos sound and can we expect more of that on the next Thanatos record?

Personally I already wanted to incorporate blast beats on the 2nd album but I guess our drummer back then was not too much into doing that. In 1992 the other band members wanted to go into a more technical direction. They were listening to stuff like Watchtower and Confessor where as I was more into the first wave of death metal at that time. That was one of the many reasons for disbanding the band in 1992… personal differences, musical differences and a shitload of other things… Although I didn’t like the drum sound and the overall way the drums turned out on Angelic Encounters I think the idea to incorporate some blastbeats in our sound worked quite well. Since then they have been a part of our sound and since our drummer Yuri is a master at blast beats they will remain a part of our sound although we will never be a band that plays blast beats all the time. But a few songs on the new album will definitely have some blast beats.

Thanatos is pretty much responsible for starting the Dutch extreme metal movement, how does it feel all these years later that albums you recorded in the 90’s are now considered legendary and in a few words describe each Thanatos full-length album?

It feels good to get some sort of recognition after all these years obviously, but apart from a shitload of bad luck we also have ourselves to blame for not having more success in the nineties; as a band we did not always have the right attitude and quite a few times we made the wrong decisions. But anyways, I’m happy we’re still here and that all our albums are available again on a decent label now.

Emerging from the Netherworlds marked the first time in a real studio for us. We had no clue about recording techniques and we basically played all songs live as a complete band; after a few takes of every song we picked the best ones and added the guitar solos and vocals. That’s the reason that album more or less sounds like a demo tape. I still think that album features quite a few cool songs that are still in our set list, but it’s never been my favorite Thanatos record; it didn’t capture the aggression and atmosphere that we managed to create on stage in those days, but all in all it’s a decent debut album..and I still like the album cover. Whereas I totally dislike the cover art of Realm of Ecstasy.  But music wise I still consider that album one of the best things I ever did. I really love the dark atmosphere of that record. It’s one of those things you can only capture once obviously… My vocals are too low and monotonous on that album… I guess I was trying too hard to sound more brutal and more death metal-like, but apart from that still a great album in my eyes.

I think we fucked up a bit with Angelic Encounters production, especially the drum sound, sucked. Still it put us back on the map and the label we were on back then, Hammerheart Records did a pretty good job promotion wise. I’m very happy we got a chance to actually re-mix this album for its initial re-release in 2006. It at least sounds pretty decent now. Undead. Unholy. Divine. was a much better album though in my opinion; we played tight as fuck, the songwriting was much better and we managed to incorporate some new stuff in our sound without losing the original Thanatos feeling. I also really like the cover art for that album. I finally received it on vinyl last week and the LP cover looks fucking awesome!

Finally, Justified Genocide was a really tough album to make. Our record label went bankrupt while we were already in the studio recording. So the studio did not get paid and we were forced to put the recordings on hold. We started looking for a label that was willing to release the album and pay for the remaining recording and mixing costs but nobody seemed interested. Around the same time I had formed Hail of Bullets and that band took off like a rocket. About three years later a small Dutch label stuck out its neck and released the album. Unfortunately they were not able to promote the album properly. We had already given up hope on that album anyway… we even started to dislike the recordings until we heard the final mix from Dan Swanö; he actually managed to blow back life in those songs and nowadays I consider it the best Thanatos album so far, together with Realm of Ecstasy. Justified… is so damned aggressive.. it will be really tough to top that record, but we’re going to try!

You have covered a lot of classic bands, most notably, Celtic Frost, Possessed and Massacre.  I want to know what it was like for you to sing “Into The Crypts of Rays”, from Celtic Frost and how on earth did you get that guitar tone for “Satan’s Curse”, from Possessed?  I swear, it sounds just like the 1985 tone Possessed used on their debut album.

Oh man, singing tracks from your favorite bands is always a cool thing to do and getting compliments from people like Gene Hoglan, Terry Butler and Jeff Becerra for the Dark Angel, Massacre and Possessed covers we did is totally fucking awesome of course! About the guitar tone… I really have no idea… I guess we simply tried to get the same feeling/atmosphere across as we got when we first heard those songs. I mean these guys are more or less my age, we all grew up listening to the same bands and we all started playing in bands in the early eighties, so maybe that’s the reason why we got pretty close to the originals, not only in terms of playing the riffs correctly but also in getting the same feeling across… if we succeeded in doing that, it’s a great compliment to me.

Do you use different guitars/pickups/amps when playing, performing and recording with Thanatos, as opposed to when in Hail of Bullets?  Also has there ever been a time at a live festival that both Thanatos and Hail of Bullets were on the same bill and you had to pull double duty?  What was that like, pretty tiring?

Well Thanatos and Hail of Bullets both have different tunings; Thanatos is tuned in D and HoB in B, so yes, I use different guitars. Most guitars that I use for Thanatos have passive pick ups and most that I use for HoB have active pick ups. I’m endorsed by Seymour Duncan pick ups and I really love their Black Outs series. I also have deals with Ibanez and SKG guitars now and for the new Thanatos album I will probably use an Ibanez RG2620ZE with active Seymour Duncan Blackouts so we will see how that works out.

At ‘Way of Darkness’ 2011 in Germany, both Thanatos and Hail of Bullets were on the same bill and even on the same day, which was pretty hectic. Normally I would not mind playing a festival with both bands but rather not both on the same day.

How long do you think you can continue to keep this going for and why do you feel the type of death metal that you play is the best kind out there? Any newer bands you like or do you prefer to stay rooted in the ’80s/’90s scene of death and thrash metal?

Hmmm… two or three more weeks and then I’ll call it a day… at least the way I’m feeling now, haha! No seriously, we just played two German shows with HoB this weekend and everybody got home sick, so I feel like shit right now. If we would cut down the after show-partying and drinking maybe, I guess I could go on with this for a few more years though. But really, I will be 47 years old this year and I don’t see myself doing this in 10 more years from now, but then again… when I started Thanatos in 1984 I could never imagine myself doing this 30 years later, so we’ll see what happens the next couple of years.

I write for Aardschok magazine so I get to listen to new stuff as well. I do not dislike anything just because it comes out now instead of “the glorious ’80s/’90s”, but I must admit that much of the stuff I play at home comes from that era. But right now I’ve been listening to the new albums from Behemoth and Legion of the Damned and both are killer!

Thanatos first burst onto the scene with the 1984 Speed Kills demo, but it was not until 1990 that the band would finally unleash the killer debut, Emerging from the Netherworlds.  What took so long for an album to come out, was it the fact that many years ago it was much harder to get a record deal? Looking back at this time period, are you glad the album came out when it did, because possibly sooner, the band might not have sounded as tight?

There were many reasons for this; we had many lineup changes in the early days, so basically we had to start over a couple of times. And yes it was quite hard to get a proper record deal in those days;  a lot of record “companies” offered you contracts where you had to invest a certain amount of money yourself for the recordings. Obviously we did not want to do that. We were waiting for one of the bigger metal labels to come around and sign us but when that did not happen we got impatient and signed to Shark Records which turned out not be such a great choice. But at least they paid for the recordings, artwork etc. And yes you might be right that the band sounds really tight on that album but we already sounded tight in 1987 as well. So we would have preferred to have the album out a few years earlier…

What are some of the most memorable experiences, while in Thanatos, whether at shows or whatever?  Also how do you find playing guitar and singing, in a live environment? Is it tough or have you mastered it so well over the years, that it’s second nature for you?

I have a lot of crazy memories from the early Thanatos years, ranging from great backstage parties to getting into fights with security guys and drunk idiots on stage, from bringing joy to people with our music to thrashing up hotel rooms and literally destroying the rental car we got from the record company to drive us from the hotel to the studio while recording the second album in Germany, from vans breaking down in the middle of nowhere to victorious shows, but if I had to pick something it would be A) the release of our first album; holding that CD and slice of vinyl in my hands for the first time was pretty much my biggest dream come true and B) a 10 day tour of France, Spain and Portugal; I think we only played 3 shows in those 10 days but we were treated like royalties for 6 days in France; hotels, free food, free drinks, free cigarettes, a touring car with a driver who came to pick us up 5 days in a row to drive us to whatever cool place or attraction we wanted and all of that mainly because the girl who organized the festival had a crush on our guitar player’s brother  and wanted him around for a couple of extra days, pretty unreal!

Guitar playing and singing works pretty well most of the time, since I write most of the songs and lyrics… sometimes it’s more difficult when you’re playing someone else’s music or singing lyrics written by another band member…

Stephan, I can go on and on all day, like I said I wanted to keep this rooted in Thanatos.  What can we all expect in the future with Thanatos and any final comments for our readers?

Thanks for showing interest in us! Right now we’re focusing on completing the new songs and recording them in the next few months. We’re glad we can finally release an album on a good label and we hope that a lot of people who have never heard of the band or who have forgotten about us will pick up this album as well. After the Summer we will definitely try to do more live shows and promote this album wherever we can…



  1. Commented by: Christopher

    Great interview! Thanatos are truly underrated.

  2. Commented by: F. Rini

    Christopher-many thx for your comments. Yeah grossly underrated, but hopefully with all their reissues and new album they will reach some more fans this year!!

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