Hello Maurice! It is very nice to notice that the year 2014 kicks off with a great new Legion Of The Damned album. But before we will talk about ‘Ravenous Plague’ I would like to overview the last two years quickly, because I guess that the band had to deal with some unexpected difficulties in this period. One of them was the fact that long time member and guitar player Richard Ebisch left the band. I guess that him leaving Legion Of The Damned had a big impact. How do you look back at his decision and the search for a new guitar player which is Twan van Geel?
I am so glad, and so is the band, that we took Twan van Geel in. It was the best decision we made. Twan fits in perfectly. His previous band Flesh Made Sin was not coming any closer to a deal and so he was kind of free. He also lives close to us, he is Dutch and we knew him already. There were also a lot of other people responding on taking over Richard’s duties, but they were living far away or even from other countries. The departure from Richard did come as a shock. And he also mentioned that he was not playing with any joy for those previous two years and we haven’t noticed anything. So yeah, when he told me he wanted to stop, I was shocked and I even told him to finish that same year with us and then we would stop the entire band as a whole. Pff, I am glad I didn’t follow that idea!
Another sad story was the death of former bass player Twan Fleuren. To pay tribute to him you re-released ‘Malevolent Rapture’. Did his death set the band back in their plans?
His death wasn’t that much of a shock. We haven’t been in contact with Twan over those last five or six years until Erik and I sat with him at a bar two weeks prior to his death. We were thinking to be back in contact, but his death wasn’t good news of course. I think it puts some piece in him, he had a hard time living I think. We did a re-release for two main reasons. First we wanted to have his children to hold something that they can remember his dad from. Something positive, something nice. With the release of ‘Malevolent Rapture’ with photos of Twan and his tombstone his children can be proud that their dad was in a known band followed by thousands of fans. Another reason was to give his children some of the earned money from the selling.
At what point in these last two years did you start working on ‘Ravenous Plague’? And was new guitar player Twan involved from the beginning? What can you tell us about the developing process of the album?
Twan came in the band immediately after Richard left. We had several festivals planned like Graspop, Nummirock, Metalcamp, With Full Force and Bang Your Head and we needed Twan to learn our songs urgently so we could still do those festivals. Then we did another tour with Behemoth and Cannibal Corpse and after that we started working on the new album. Twan was involved from the early beginning, which was important of course.
To me, ‘Ravenous Plague’ sounds as a typical Legion Of The Damned album, but this time with a different twist to it every now and then. Let’s have a closer look at a couple of songs please.
What can you tell us for example about ‘Black Baron’ which is very fast and with a lot of small breaks in the middle part?
First of all I have to explain that Twan thought it would have been easy to write some good songs and record the best album of Legion Of The Damned so far. But Twan is different than Richard. He has a different style and inspiration. Twan came with tons of riffs that the band cancelled. We wanted to do something different but it had to be and remain to Legion Of The Damned. We have tons of fans that like this band because of its simplistic style and minimalism. We didn’t want to become a second Flesh Made Sin. So it took a while before Twan had figured out what the band was looking for. We also opened up for some differences here and there but the first album of Legion Of The Damned with Twan had to show our fans that with Twan we are still alive. Fans were afraid that with losing Richard it would never sound like Legion Of The Damned again. So we had to find a balance here. ‘Black Baron’ is in my eyes is a typical Legion Of The Damned song, fast and with a great sing a long chorus!
Also the riffs of ‘Ravenous Abominations’ are killer. Is this the influence of Twan that we hear? And that semi acoustic outro is also a surprise which I had not seen coming.
Atmosphere is something Twan and I love, and I have been screaming for such acoustics since the ‘Cult Of The Dead’ album. Just having songs there is not what I want. An intro, maybe an outro, some atmospheric acoustics, these things make the album complete. ‘Ravenous Abominations’ is a killer song and sounds sometimes more like death metal. I love that one as well.
With ‘Morbid Death’ and ‘Strike Of The Apocalypse’ you even have recorded two old school thrash metal sounding bombs. Are your influences from the past coming back alive here?
Yes. We always plan to have at least two old school kind of thrash songs on an album. And again yes, the old influences always stuck to us of course, ha ha.
Another treat from ‘Ravenous Plague’ is the intro which is created by Jo Blankenburg who also did make some music for movies like ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘X-Men’. How did you manage to get him on board for this album?
I have been a soundtrack and trailer music collector for years, and for the previous albums we always used music from a band called Nox Arcana. While I was surfing the net I stumbled on Jo’s website. I have got all his albums and when I saw this contact form on his website I thought: “Why not?” Why not mail him, explain him who I am and what I have to offer. If he would not respond or whatever, then at least I have tried. But he did email me back a week later and he was surprised because he never got such an offer before. Plus it also seemed that was a metal head years and years ago when he still lived in Germany. Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Sepultura are all bands he knew and listened to. We made a deal and I send him a couple of classic Legion Of The Damned songs like ‘Cult Of The Dead’, ‘Pray And Suffer’ and ‘Legion Of The Damned’. I told him what I had in mind for the intro and what it should represent. Then he came with two basics from which we picked one and he started working on that piece for a bit more. The final version can be heard on the album and I am proud to have him on board.
A second external helper is Tony ‘Skullcrusher’ Manero. He wrote all the lyrics for ‘Ravenous Plague’. Why is that? Was there not enough time within the band to write the words for the songs?
To explain this we have to go back to the beginning of Legion of the Damned and the end of Occult. I’ve been writing lyrics for almost all the Occult albums but when I started my business in 2003 (which was also the end of Occult) I didn’t had the time anymore to sit down and write. Plus I always found that my lyrics weren’t the deepest. They were old school for sure, but I am not a writer. Since we changed the name into Legion Of The Damned I also thought that it would be nice to take a different approach towards the lyrics. Then I asked one of my best friends if he would be interested in trying to write lyrics for the songs we have been composing at that moment. And so he did for the first time the lyrics which ended on the ‘Elegy For The Weak’ album, which later turned into ‘Feel The Blade’. We were surprised how great his lyrics sounded. They stuck to your head, were great stories, good English etc. So we kept him doing the lyrics for all the Legion Of The Damned albums and later we also gave him total freedom for finding a concept for the artwork etc. And why change a winning team you know, so for this album we choose Tony again to do the lyrics and again it turned out great.
Some readers might already know the song ‘Summon All Hate’, because it was released a couple of months ago as a split single with Kreators ‘From Flood Into Fire’. Now how cool is that, to release a split single with Kreator! What can you tell us about this idea?
Since the album was postponed we figured it would be a nice idea to do this split. And yes, how great is it to share an E.P. or single with one of the bands I grew up with?
With all these questions going on I almost forgot to tell you that ‘Ravenous Plague’ does not only has great songs on it, it also sounds good. And for this last part you visited again producer Andy Classen in his Stage One Studio. But weren’t you afraid that working with him again would become too easy going?
It was certainly not too easy going. There was again some pressure on all of us. Not only for us to have a new guitar player but also for Andy since the previous album was recorded with Peter Tägtgren. We also took a week extra to record and I remember we were sitting in the studio sometimes until 01.00 or 02.00 at night figuring out ideas. We have never been doing that at Andy’s studio for any Legion Of The Damned album before. We knew what was at stake
After the release of ‘Ravenous Plague’ you will almost immediately embark on a European tour with Sepultura and Flotsam And Jetsam. I guess that you are looking forward to this a lot and I wonder what will be more to come for you guys in 2014? Are there already other plans made?
So far the tour is announced and we are confirmed for some festivals but I cannot mention them here since the festivals haven’t mentioned them either. But I don’t know what else is to come, I have no idea. We’ll see what is coming. But first of all I am curious about the ‘Ravenous Plague’ release since there will be some nice limited packages like the ear book which is 28x28 cm with forty-eight pages and limited to 500 copies. I cannot wait to see the results of those formats.
Okay Maurice. This is it for me so far. I wish you all the best for ‘Ravenous Plague’ and the year 2014, and please feel free to use the space here below for some comments, last message or famous last words.
Thanks Erich. I hope people will enjoy the new Legion Of The Damned album and music in general. And we hope to see you on the tour with Sepultura! Cheers!