Hi Chris. Chalice has been around for twenty years now and recently you released your fourth album with 'Ashes Of Hope'. Yet I had never heard of your band before. How is that possible?
If I put my hand into my own bosom, then I think that we have probably spend too little energy or attention in selling Chalice in recent years. Everything we have to do with marketing like selling our brand, we did not paid enough attention at. We will deal with that differently. What primarily drove us was making our own music, rehearsing and playing live. But a record deal, selling in stores or making contact with a label, we have not been sufficiently accusatory. We did not paid enough attention to that. Well for the music, the songs and the artwork. Once these things were ready, we decided to move on to the next album. But all that normally had to come in between, such as promotion and sales, we have been doing too little in recent years. We want to change that now.
Now you have 'Ashes Of Hope' out, that is self-released and will be out soon. In the meantime you are the only original band member. How did you see the band evolve in twenty years?
In recent years there had been several line-ups of singers, guitarists and drummers around and beside me. That always resulted in a different kind of metal. I especially find the voice in the genre very decisive. The face of Chalice has always changed. What has always been, is the love for the extreme music that we listen to listen to. You have to feel hot and cold and buy CD’s. That has always been a constant. An anger and aggression that sneaks into music and singing.
Now I have to say that 'Ashes Of Hope' sounds very good. What are the most important elements that a Chalice number has to have?
The sound itself and the record sounding quality is one of the areas where we have invested much more. We have now paid more attention for promotion. That was one. The recording process has also been taken much more professionally. We have worked in two studios: in Lokeren and in Mol. That is one of the reasons why we made a great leap forward in terms of sound and quality of the sound. Part of the progression is in the recording process and in experimenting. Another sound or drum set and choose from two or three options. In the past, we did not always had that choice. It is self-released so you have to pay for your own recordings. That is twenty percent for each band member. In reality also something to take care of. We have now also set the bar higher for ourselves. That is why the album sounds good. The levels, production and mastering, it had to be modern and splash out of the speakers. There must be emotion. Metal is very emotional music. That is something that you will not often hear when you talk to people who have little affinity with the genre. Metal remains an extreme genre and when you ask people what it evokes is evil, aggression and even devils. For me it has to be in the music and in the lyrics. If it succeeds to get a fusion of the words on the one hand and the music on the other. The hair comes up a bit on your arms when you play or rehearse. Then the music does something with you. When do I find something good? If it catches me or if it touches me. That can be an acoustic passage or the lyrics. That is our main criterion.
Who does the main writing work of the band? How long did this take for this album?
Vocalist Pieter Dewulf and I do the lyrics. Pieter does write a bit more. Two of the eight songs are from my hand. Pieter wrote the rest. Musically it is mainly the guitar duo Tim de Smedt and Nicolas Bruggeman who come up with the most ideas and the riffs. Arranging what we keep or what we cut is a group event. We decide on that together. At rehearsal there is often a one plus one is three feeling. I wrote more on the previous album and that sounds better when you arrange everything together. It is much better if it is only in your head. Even if it is something that you work together and work on, to work on it and to play it live so that you still have the essence. That has been very successful on this record. We've already played most of the songs live and every time that grows.
The recordings started in September 2017. The closing track 'Death Without Warning' is already four years old.
I hear a lot of different styles. 'Amongst The Damned’ has a screaming voice in combination with grunt. 'Eternal Sleep' then has fantastic vocal lines with even something clean almost Industrial singing. Every song has one thing in common and that is that it sounds very good. Have you already received reviews?
We have already received a number of reviews but only digital. Rockportaal.nl is one of them and then the things we have read so far have been very encouraging. If you read something positive, it is a liberation and a relief. There is something in it that we like to do and we want to come out. It may sound somewhat selfish but it is very important to us. We all work and Chalice is our most important hobby. We do not have to pay for a house with it. So we can do our own sense. We must not take any advice or pressure from others. We can do what we want and people will find that right. Then that gives an absolute feeling. A moment of recognition by people who know that kind of music and pick things up. That is comment from someone with a frame of reference. That is different from what your best friends say. They come out of curiosity to watch a show and say that you played well. But if you then ask what was good, they cannot really respond to that. Someone who writes reviews and who picks something out about the production or about the arrangement, that does really well to all five of us.
Then you have the long closer 'A Death Without Warning' that is completely different. It goes out in the direction of post metal itself. Was it long cut, paste and search to get a final result?
Not really. The origin of that number was that it builds up that way. There is something repetitive about it. It is built up quietly, broken down and rebuilt. It originated around a simple riff. Pieter's singing has also been well done. It was there at two rehearsals and the structure was there. It is by rehearsing and playing live that some points and commas are added. But for eighty-five percent was already finished.
The album was partly recorded in the Midas studio in Lokeren and in the Galaxy Studio in Mol. Was the final result complete as you had in mind?
I think it got better as we thought. We are now working more thoroughly. I can still see pictures of the very first drum session in which drummer Niels Verbeke was polishing all his discs and brass work. He had never done that before. It can be wishful thinking but I think you hear it. If it is polished after three years, it sounds different then when there are three years of dust and sweat on it. In Lokeren and Mol there was played with two different drum sets. We could choose between the two recorded versions. The same with the guitar solos. With Tony De Block from Midas and the people in Mol, people thought about it very well. Everything exceeds our expectations.
Everything was always self-released. Is that a conscious choice of the band or is there the hope that a label will pick you up?
'Of course, there may be a label. We have contacted several. But then you hear that there is no place. They want to manage X number of bands so nobody can join them anymore. We will continue to negotiate in the coming weeks. Then you still have managers and promo agents who want to do something for us. We are now at the top of the mountain and certainly do not want to go back down and die out. There is the release show next Saturday, April 21, 2018 and we still continue to demand the attention for promoters. Everything is recorded in self release but that is more out of necessity. The music deserves to be released. We are not going to wait for someone coming or not coming. But labels are absolutely welcome. That is certainly something that is on our bucket list.
Are there actually a lot of shows in the future?
For the time being there are four shows coming. There are two people coming to watch the release show who will help us out for promotion. France, Germany, the Netherlands and even Great Britain are in sight. Not immediately an American tour but everything that is within a radius of six hundred km. To go beyond the borders of East and West Flanders. We played for eighty percent there in the last twenty years. We came a few times in the Netherlands and France, Antwerp and Limburg. But that was very local. And maybe a place on a medium-sized festival. Not only in the underground circuit. Metal Fest or something smaller but still, a festival should definitely be there. So that more people can see or discover us.
The problem with self-release is sometimes the search for the music. Where are you all going to distribute the music (YouTube, bandcamp) and where can the album be bought or ordered?
I think the classic things will definitely come up. Through Facebook and the website of the band and of course on our merchandise at the shows. There are still some arrangements around the CD to sell it in shops. But you can no longer compare that with the past. We have a YouTube channel, want to distribute it through Spotify and have a bandcamp account. You can certainly find us again.