Congrats on your upcoming album, ‘Dodekathlon’... Before we start, can you please introduce yourself and the band to our readers?
Hi Sicktus, nice to meet you and thank you very much! We are very proud of our new product. My name is Ramon Ploeg, founder and guitar player of the Dutch epic death/black metallers Bleeding Gods. The band was founded in 2013, after I had left my previous band and wanted to do something different than only play fast and brutal death metal. In the beginning it still was death metal with thrash influences, but in the past 2 years we have found our way and style of music that we want to compose and play. It is still death metal with some thrash influences, but also some black riffs and we have added some orchestral elements and piano etc. The person responsible for that is Martin Powell, who people might know from his former bands Cradle of Filth, Anathema and My Dying Bride. So we’ve put all those influences together and the result is the epic album ‘Dodekathlon’.
With the ‘Dodekathlon’ promos sent out, there is nothing left to do for you to wait for the reactions of metal fans worldwide... Have you had time yet to reflect on the album, or is it still to fresh? Did it turn out the way you wanted, expected, hoped?
Well, it’s still a little bit too fresh. In September the album was finished and we’ve send it over to Nuclear Blast. A few weeks later we went to Germany and signed the deal. Since that period my phone, email, social media etc. is exploding daily with a lot of messages, questions, interviews etc. So, no waiting here! I’m a busy bee. We think the album itself turned out very good. We like the end result and the producers, mixer and engineers did an awesome job. It’s a very proud feeling.
From a self-released EP/demo, a debut on a relatively small label to signing with Nuclear Blast... From the outside looking in, it looks like that process went quite fast, yet at the same time I am sure that it took five years of a lot of blood, sweat and tears/beers... Can you take us through the timeline from, let’s say, the release of ‘Shepherd Of Souls’, to inking the deal with Nuclear Blast? I’m sure that your live shows played a part in the development of sound, fan base, and building a name for yourselves with Bleeding Gods?
Yes, the release of ‘Shepherd of Souls’ was in February 2015. But years before that I already had contact with Nuclear Blast A&R. To be honest; We have been in contact for over 10 years now via e-mail and we’ve only met each other for the first time in person this year on Summer Breeze festival!
Before and after the ‘Shepherd’ release there was not a real interest, but A&R kept on following the band the last years. I think if you listen to the first demo ‘Blood Symphony’, the album ‘Shepherd of Souls’ and now ‘Dodekathlon’, you can hear an huge growth in the band and in the sound. I think that’s one of the reasons for the signing too. If a band doesn’t grow musically, but they are repeating the same thing over and over again at the same level you won’t get signed. By any major label. But of course, your live performances must be good as well. We didn’t play live a lot last year. We were lucky to get booked at Eindhoven Metal Meeting and Antwerp Metal Fest, two major festivals. On both festivals gigs we’ve received awesome live reviews. And we did a small headline tour in Russia on our own. Those are things a label can pick up from a band.
It looks like Nuclear Blast is giving you guys the full package treatment, with among other promotional stuff and merch and the usual, an official video for ‘From Feast To Beast’. Speaking of that video, talk us through the recordings, the writing (or general idea), how did it all come together and was shooting that thing fun - or maybe it was a long, tedious drag, repeating shots over and over to get it just right?
I don’t know if it’s the full package treatment, but we are very lucky to have it all indeed. Nuclear Blast UK and USA office are very enthusiastic too besides EU, so that could be one of the reasons too of course. Because of the signing and our day jobs we haven’t had not much time to plan the videoclip recordings. I think we had it all planned within a day and one week later we were filming. Director Sebastiaan Spijker, our band photographer Bianca Berger, location, stage props, fire etc. We’ve chosen to opt for a classic ‘band shot only’ videoclip without acting or other scenes in between. The reason for that is that we want to give the viewer a Bleeding Gods live experience. What you see is what you get. The recordings went pretty fast without any problems. Sebastiaan had two cameras in total and he had his plans and preparation ready. I think we had to play the track around 10-15 times and it was hot as hell over there between all fires and explosions. But it was awesome to work with this and two weeks later the full end product was finished. We couldn’t be happier with the end result. In the first 5 days it was uploaded on Youtube it already had 14.5K views. We are very satisfied and proud of our first clip of the album.
The promo I got was send out without an album cover, which has been unleashed a couple of days ago. Tell us about the title of the album and how the album art depicts or fits the title?
The title ‘Dodekathlon’ is the collective name of ‘The Twelve Labours’. It’s a Greek word and it’s also written in Greek on the cover. In the rest of the booklet it’s in English. On the cover it works like a sort of logo idea. Everybody knows it’s Dodekathlon in the future if they see the album. We think that was a good idea to do. Without any spoilers; there is more Greek on the album. Our artwork guy is Dimitris Tzortzis and he works at Immensa Artis together with our album photographer Cristel Brouwer. The album represents Hercules who’s in a pretty bad shape of course after doing his Twelve Labours. Next to Hercules you can see some Greek figures which are referring to parts of some Labours on the album.
If there were any, what were the biggest last minute changes or additions to songs, song structures, or even song order on the album? Assuming that last one is something you think is important, that is of course...
Well, in the studio with the recordings there were a few little changes like guitar solos, second guitar parts, vocal lines etc. When the pre-production of the album was finished we decided the sequence of the tracks on the album. Now our vocalist Mark could start working at his vocal lines. We don’t want to have four tracks of up-tempo and than three tracks of mid-tempo. It’s all separated equally over the whole album now, so you have variety of the tracks and of course of the complete album.
The album is a change in stylistical direction from ‘Shepherd Of Souls’. Or, in your own words, a new line-up, a new concept... What is the concept behind Bleeding Gods, what is your DNA, your goal, you’re driving force?
We wanted to do something special and that’s hard to do because you have so many different bands that are doing ‘something’. We are now playing with make-up and blood. Not real corpsepaint because we are no black metal band and the blood is referring to the band name. There has to be blood somewhere of course. On most of our bodies you can find several stripes of blood. If you read the lyrics of the album opener ‘Bloodguilt’ you will understand. The things happening in ‘Bloodguilt’ also come back in the rest of the tracks. So it’s one big story to tell, in music but also in the lyrics. And we like fire. And the fire is referring to the last track of the album ‘Hound Of Hell’. In the video you see it all and we are also planning to do that at live shows of course.
Lyrically / thematically, your songs are about mythology, mythological beasts, old gods, old civilizations... Seems like a topic which could be an inspiration for years to come! What is it that fascinates you with those worlds, histories, stories?
Yes, the first demo and ‘Shepherd Of Souls’ was both about several subjects, myths, gods and history. Now we have chosen for one subject and worked on a concept album about some Greek mythology. Our vocalist Mark has his own library at home with a lot of books about history and myths etc. All band members have a fascination for the lyrical themes so it was easy for us, but we’ve had to pick one for now.
Any topics you are working on or want to incorporate in a future song at some point you’d like to share? It also lends itself pretty well for a conceptual album, is that something you’d consider?
We’ve had several ideas for concept albums, so I really can’t tell you what will be next. Maybe a concept album, maybe not, who knows. First we are going to concentrate on the release of ‘Dodekathlon’ and things to come in 2018 and 2019.
Your musical style/genre is quite hard to describe, it is a broad array of styles and influences, blended into a rich metal amalgam. Not too surprising, given the fact that all of you have a ton of musical history in different genres. On your Facebook and in the bio you mention Nile, Dimmu Borgir, Septic Flesh as influences, among others and I recognise those influences, yet ‘Dodekathlon’ certainly is not a copy of any of those bands. What defines your sound, what makes Bleeding Gods, well, Bleeding Gods?
I think the best way to describe our musical style now is epic death/black metal. Epic because of all the orchestral stuff and piano, death metal because we still make death metal, but now also with a little bit of black influences in the riffs. So we have combined those three things and that works pretty good within the band. The bands you’ve mentioned are indeed a big influence to me. But also bands like Cradle of Filth and Fleshgod Apocalypse. If you take a good listen to the orchestral key parts on the album you definitely can hear the Cradle, Septic and Fleshgod influences. But with the riffs some Dimmu, Cradle, Kreator, Vader like style. Besides that, our (album)sound is also a big part of mixing and mastering by Jorg Uken of Soundlodge Studio, Germany. He and our live sound engineer Janwillem van Voorst know exactly how Bleeding Gods needs to sound. If you combine all of that together with the concept you have found the DNA of Bleeding Gods.
You’ve done a lot of awesome shows with Bleeding Gods so far, any gigs in particular that stand out? And any upcoming shows that are worth mentioning, or you look forward to a lot? Is there a release party/show planned, for instance?
Yes, and all from 2016 and 2017.. Of course Eindhoven Metal Meeting in December 2016. A fully packed venue at Effenaar, Eindhoven. Even the balcony was full at our show! We played three new songs live to check how people would react. And they reacted awesome! Then there was a small headliner tour in Russia which was pretty cool too. And Antwerp Metal Fest in Belgium. We played at Saturday together with bands like Sepultura and Vader. The marquee was fully packed and I’ve read in reviews that Bleeding Gods had the first ánd biggest circlepit of the whole weekend. The crowd went crazy, real awesome and enjoyable! We are negotiating with several venues for a album release party but no date yet. Probably somewhere in January or February. We keep everyone updated on our Facebook page and website.
’Dodekathlon’ isn’t even out yet, so asking this maybe a bit early, but do you already have plans, ideas for a new album, new songs, a new project or live show element?
Yes, it´s a little bit early for answering that question. Like I said before, we first want to concentrate on the promotion and release of ‘Dodekathlon’ and promote the album. I and we have written more tracks that there are on the album now, so maybe there are still some useful riffs and ideas for the next album, who knows.
Are there any bands you’d ever like to do a split EP with, or work together on a truly epic genre borders crossing song?
Well, of course it’s a little dream for me personally to work together with bands like Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir or Septic Flesh. But also for instance to work together with a real orchestra and choir. That would be awesome! Let’s see what the future will bring us.
What will 2018 bring for Bleeding Gods? Oh, and will there be a vinyl version of ‘Dodekathlon’?
Hopefully extensive touring, venues and festival season to promote the new album. ‘Dodekathlon’ will be released worldwide so hopefully we can promote it worldwide too with our live show. There are plans for vinyl, but I’m not 100% sure yet. But I hope it will be released on vinyl too of course!
Alright, that wraps it up. Any last words?
Thank you for the interview! Hope to see you around someday at one of our live shows somewhere!