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Grave Decay

Enkele weken terug werd ik serieus overdonderd door het debuut ’From Dust To Dust’ van de Nederlandse band Grave Decay. De band bestaat uit het duo Roger Koedoot en Maurice Lefeu. Samen schreven ze een hoop nummers die de symfonische death metal richting uitgingen. Roger speelt gitaar en doet de zang. Maurice doet de lead gitaar. Samen hebben ze dan maar de bas, drums en alle symfonische elementen gedaan. En ja hoor, ze zijn erin geslaagd om een meer als degelijk album te maken. Een interview met de heren was dan ook snel geregeld.

Door: Koen W. | Archiveer onder death metal / grindcore

Hello Roger and Maurice. Grave Decay is a new band that has been founded in 2018. Can you tell us something about the history of the band?
Mauce: Hi Koen, Roger and me oddly enough met through an online advertisement from me selling my old video recorder. When Roger came to my place to pick it up he saw my guitar and gear in my living room and we ended up in talking about music, guitars and personal vision about metal in general. It became clear we shared the same vision. Both of us were looking for an opportunity to start a new band to give this vision a chance; we wanted to start a bombastic symphonic death metal band.We agreed to sit down on a regular basis and start jamming along with songs we both liked to see if we be a match as guitarist and personalities. It turned out to work well. From there we’ve been in several bands together of which The Memory Remains (TMR) was the most active band. TMR was started as a one-time line-up 80’s/90’s metal band because we were asked to play that type of metal on a motorcycle club (MC) event. MC’s in general are more into 80’s metal. We had Peter Zaal (Decision D, Blue Labelled) on drums, Erik van der Vlis (Dilemma, Blue Labeled) on bass and Henk Overbosch (Blue Labelled) on vocals. This cooperation felt good and we decided to stick together and do more shows. So for the next few years we did several festivals and clubs with TMR. However, TMR’s focus was 80’s/90’s metal and we only played covers (Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Dio, etc). We really enjoyed that time but Roger and I gradually felt we really wanted to pursue our own vision to start our symphonic death metal band. That was the reason for us to start playing after all. So in December 2017 when TMR sat down to discuss this, we agreed to quit TMR in good standing. We started Grave Decay as a two-piece band officially in January 2018.

It is quite unnatural that in the same year a band is formed, they are already made a full album. How did you managed to record and release ’From Dust To Dust’ so quickly? Were there already some ideas that had been growing for years?
Mauce: You are right, the album came soon but as explained we already put effort in getting to know each other for years and that helped a lot. We recorded everything ourselves on our own PC’s. Yes, that’s right, just our guitar gear and our PC’s. This way we could just plan our recordings to our own needs without being pushed because of limited studio time. During the time with TMR Roger and me already shared some ideas about own songs, so yes we had some bits of music, but no complete songs yet at that time. In first place our intention was to release a three song demo which we could use to recruit those missing bandmates. It’s easier to have some complete songs already instead of starting from scratch with musicians who don’t know each other that well. We did some experiments and Roger was practicing grunts and offered to do vocals on the new songs for the time being while we’re in search for a vocalist. This worked out very well. As a matter of fact, writing new songs went that well that we that we didn’t stick to three songs. Three became four, four became five, etc. At the end we came to a certain point we had to decide whether to take it to the next level and go for a full length album. We had enough ideas after all. Besides that, we thought it would also benefit for us in finding new bandmates as all music is available and there is no need to write new songs with new band members to start with. However we needed someone else to assist us with mixing and mastering. Someone who wasn’t involved in writing and could listen to the songs with ‘fresh ears’. That’s when we contacted Ruben van der Kooij for this job and frankly, we’re happy with that decision and the final result of that.

Roger: We experienced a synergy while writing and recording. I’d say: 1+1=3. On your own it is so much harder to get this done, but with the two of us together we felt this could be done. We dedicated ourselves to get this album out and that worked out fine!

When you hear the end result with all the symphonic elements, you feel that you both put a lot of effort into it. How hard was it?
Mauce: Correct, the way we worked gave us the opportunity to take the time we needed for each of the songs. I’ve been into bombastic music already for a long time. At young age I already discovered that not only heavy guitars were appealing to me but also movie soundtracks. And at that time there was no such thing as symphonic bombastic metal. Nowadays there are bands such as Nightwish, Mayan and Epica. But long before those bands I was already thinking about combining metal with film scores but didn’t really do something with that. To me it works as long as the metal part of the songs is leading. The symphonies should only support the guitar riffs and add that bombastic symphonic element you can’t get out of guitars. So when we were stepping into this with Grave Decay, to me the inspiration came in naturally. The only difference is that nowadays with digital recording is relatively easy to add this to your music. In the 80’s and 90’s it was impossible to do this unless you recorded with an entire orchestra.

Roger: It is fun to experiment with symphonic sounds and to try things out. We know how we want it to sound but take into account the criticism of each other on the written symphonies. We both have to feel confident with the writings. So on the way we changed things and the result is there.

Where there moments when you really didn’t see the forest through the trees?
Mauce: Yes, I think every band does at some point. This happens when you’re really pushing your limits. For us it was the amount of tracks for instance. Most of the songs have over 40 tracks because we used a lot of instruments and sound effects. If I remember correctly Memories has the most, 47 if I’m right.

Roger: Sometimes I was trying to get the right riff on the right place. Or the right song part in the right spot in the song. That was challenging. But as said before we also helped each other through this process.

You are the only two members and guitarists. Still you did the drums, the bass and the symphonic elements. How good do you both master those instruments?
Mauce: Drums, keys and orchestration are all software and therefore programmed by us. Guitars and bass are real instruments. Because of the lack of fellow bandmates we had to go this way but we prefer to work with real musicians of course. We really put effort in it to have it sound as organic and natural as possible. We learned a lot from this during the whole process. Regarding drums, I’ve played drums in other bands. Not the fast double bass drumming as we use on the album but I’ve enough experience to be able to think like a drummer.

Roger: I programmed drums in writing other music. But with metal it’s even a step further. Also playing bass was challenging but practice to play the bass was the key with that.

From the first till the last second, everything is filled with riffs that stay interesting. And that for more than fifty minutes. How strict were you yourself to get that quality. In other words: how much darlings did you kill along the way?
Mauce: We just start and we do not hesitate to tell if we don’t like a part or riff of each other’s ideas. I think when there’s a good foundation on personal level it will pay out on the end result.Some of the early songs we wrote were not used on the album. In some songs parts were skipped or replaced. The early version of Silent Suffering for instance was almost twenty minutes long, because my idea was to make it kind of a ‘cradle to the grave’ song about my mother (she passed away earlier this year). But we decided not to go into that direction because that would make the song too personal and we wanted that the listeners could relate themselves to the songs on the album.

Roger: Thank you! We wanted the album to have a lot of variations and think about every riff we came up with.

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There is a lot of variation on the album. ‘Boots On The Ground’ has those short commanding choirs, ‘Time’ is played like the old Paradise Lost and in ‘Silent Suffering (Carolina) there is that occult praying. Where do you get these different ideas from?
Mauce: You mean the gang vocals I guess (‘Boots On The Ground’). Well that’s the only song on the album that leans to thrash metal, hence the gang vocals. I always liked the idea of creating a concept album, but we felt that was out of our league at this moment but the next album might be, who knows? On this album we just picked topics that were on our minds at the time of writing. You mentioned ‘Boots On The Ground’ for instance. That topic came on my mind when I watched the news about the war in Syria when president Obama several times mentioned that he would never put boots on the ground. While this is a military term I went thinking about this and found out that today you can guide your drone from one side of the world to kill a human being on the other side of the world. It’s like playing a game. But think of it, what about instead of doing that actually travel to the other side of the world with for instance a knife and then kill that person after looking him right in the eye. That’s way more intense and the will challenge the killer’s conscience. I think by killing someone remotely with a push on a button, you bypass that conscience to choose between good and evil, the power each person has. War in general is already a bad thing but I think this makes it even worse. But this song has more, it has some little surprises hidden in the song. Actually, the whole album has a lot of hidden stuff or ‘Easter eggs’ of you will. Both in the booklet of the CD as well in the music we’ve put quite some hidden presents for the listener. We did this on purpose because we liked the idea of finding out something new in an album even when you’ve got it already for a long time and listened to it for hundreds or thousands of times. Now, I’m not going to reveal all secrets but I’ll give one example; in this song (‘Boots On The Ground’) the guitar solo starts with the sound of a neighing horse reflecting war in the past when horses were used like a few centuries ago. Then the solo follows and ends with the solo turning into the sound of falling bombs reflecting the warfare as we know nowadays (air strikes). Like I said there are more of these surprises in the album and artwork. Can you find more?

Roger: With ‘Time’ we have “a stranger in our midst”. I also like the Doom style as played before with Morphia. When the melody came to me and I sat down and wrote this piece. Nowadays I prefer the faster songs, but this one we liked to put on the album. I like the meaning of this song: “We’ve got enough time in our lives, it only depends on how we spend it”. A fun fact is that the BPM of the song is 60 sec. Every second a beat.

It is also not very common to see a band put all their lyrics on their website together with a short word of explanation where the idea for the lyrics come from. That is a big help for a lot of people to understand the writing. Where did you get the idea from?
Mauce: I think lyrics can be found easy online and there are more bands out there that put lyrics online. I also remember when I was young I read every bit of text on albums. I wanted to know every detail, who wrote the song, who played that solo on that song. Even the thank list. We did this for those who like to go that far into listening to an album. Also, the booklet in the CD has just the lyrics whereas on the website we explained the background of it too.

You managed to record this album with two members. But a live performance with no drums or bass is impossible, unless bringing a computer on stage. Are you trying to make Grave Decay or perhaps opt for guest musicians for some gigs?
Mauce: We are currently looking for musicians with at least the same experience as us to team up with because we want to have the lineup complete to be able to play live. But we’re also looking for the right personalities to connect with as well because that’s really important. Still, even without a keyboard player we can already perform on stage as long as the drummer can play with a click track. In that case we put the symphonies in the backtrack for instance. Hence the need to find the right musicians with the right experience.

You are both guys older then forty (I guess), probably having a family, work and a pretty much filled life. Is their time to play shows in Holland and abroad or will you stay more local on a few weekend gigs?
Mauce: Well to our own experience that can work very well with experienced musicians who take their task seriously. If everybody takes enough time at home to prepare for the rehearsals you only need to rehearse every two weeks or so. The same applies for doing shows, we will find a way to accomplish that. We feel confident that will work out very well.

Roger: This will work out if members are dedicated. The rewards are high; A band to play with and to share our music around. I believe that when you follow your heart, live your passion, stay focused and have a goal to work to, many doors will open and you’ll be rewarded. We saw that in the last couple of years when we worked together.

Mauce: Indeed, on stage you release to the public what you’ve built as a band during rehearsals. And I’m not just talking about music but also synergy.

So what are the future plans for Grave Decay? .
Mauce: For now we want to get the band and album out to the public as much as possible, find the musicians we need and get on stage. But since we released the album independently it’s hard the get the name out. Therefore we are very depending on the ‘word of mouth’ which these days is mainly social media. So please, if you want to support us we really would appreciate to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, that really helps us.

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The album is a self-release. Where can people who want to buy the album or other merchandise find it?
Mauce: The easiest way is to order it on our Website.

Time to wrap it up for now. I both thank you for your time. Is there any last message you want to spread to our readers?
Mauce: Thanks for having us here and reviewing our album. Yes, check us out and as you already said, there is a lot of variety on the album so don’t just listen only to one song to get an idea of our music. But listen to the whole album and see what Easter eggs you can find….

Roger: If there is any one that knows any musicians that relate to our music just get in touch with us and we can start finding out if sharing the passion for metal is a match.

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