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Legion of the Damned

De Venlose thrash metal band Legion of the Damned is terug aan het front met een nieuw album getiteld Slaves of the Shadow Realm, waarmee zij hun sterkste album ooit afleveren! Na de release van hun succesvolle album Ravenous Plague in 2013 besloten de heren van Legion of the Damned het even wat rustiger aan te gaan doen. De band had in de zeven jaar daarvoor welgeteld zes studio albums uitgebracht steeds gevolgd door een tour gevolgd door weer een nieuw album. Voor het zevende studio album Slaves of the Shadow Realm nam de band dan ook uitgebreid de tijd om een elftal pakkende songs te schrijven. Met de komst van gitarist Twan van Geel, die gitarist Richard Ebisch verving, sloeg de band op het vorige album een wat melodieuzere weg in, die op Slaves of the Shadow Realm uitstekend wordt voortgezet. Het resultaat is een uitzonderlijk vlammende thrash metal plaat geworden met catchy thrash metal riffs voorzien van een flinke dosis melodie zonder daarbij aan enige agressiviteit ingeboet te hebben. Bij tijd en wijle flirt de band met black en death metal waardoor een zeer duistere atmosfeer op de plaat ontstaat. Enkele dagen na de CD presentatie van Slaves of the Shadow Realm in de Turock in Essen spreek ik met zanger Maurice Swinkels over de totstandkoming van het nieuwe album.

Door: Dennis | Archiveer onder death metal / grindcore

It has been five years since your released your last album Ravenous Plague and it looked like you were laying low for a couple of years, especially considering the five albums before that came in short succession between 2006 and 2011. What have you been doing during the past five years and why has it taken more time this time around to release a new album?
After Ravenous Plague with Twan van Geel I felt we were moving like a big brick stone train, release after release, festivals, touring, shows and in between recording, writing etc. When Richard left we got Twan really fast because we had tons of festivals lined up, then when his release came out, I personally needed a break. And I told the band already there that the next release will take more time. Maybe I thought of three years? It was not really intended to wait five years, but it just happened. Meanwhile we did play shows of course, but for instance not as much in Germany and we took more time to write.

On the new album Slaves of the Shadow Realm you really sound on fire again! I have to say I was a little skeptical about yet another LOTD album with the same riffs and ingredients again (I thought), but from the moment I tuned in to The Widows Breed I was hooked on the aggressive yet melodic guitar riffing and pounding drumming. I guess taking some time off from writing and recording has done you guys really well?
The idea of doing some melodic stuff was there already for a longer time, of course on Ravenous you hear a little of this already, the thing is, with Legion of the Damned we started with one guitar player, Richard never wanted to hear anything about a second guitar player while a lot of people told us we should use one live, and of course it would be much steadier especially when doing a melodic part or solo. Once Richard left the band, this option was much more open. When we wrote for Ravenous, half the record was already written for one guitar player, then we got a 2nd session guitar player and we started writing the next part of the album with this 2nd guitar in mind. We said that our next album would contain more but Ravenous was a taste of what was to come next. Now with Slaves of the Shadow Realm there was much more possible since we could write all eleven tracks with a second guitar in mind and do melodic stuff also live. Of course Twan is also a different writer than Richard. It should be balanced of course, we are Legion of the Damned and not Arch Enemy hahaha.

This is the second album with Twan van Geel as your guitar player, after long time guitarist Richard Ebisch left the band in 2011. Van Geel who is known from his other bands Soulburn and (formerly of) Flesh Made Sin seems to fit in really well in Legion of the Damned. Is he main songwriter for the band now, or how does that work in Legion of the Damned nowadays?
Nobody is main man, the guys jam together and what is great stays and what sucks will be thrown away. Erik and Harold are heavily involved in writing and some riffs are even coming from Harold, he is also a guitar player. And in the end I also say what riffs I do not like and which I do like.

Legion of the Damned is a four-piece band, but for live dates you are bringing Fabian Verweij (Disquiet) as an extra live guitarist. I was wondering why he is not on the promo pictures of Legion of The Damned? Is he not a full time member of the band?
Fabian is not a full member, Legion of the Damned is still the four of us, Fabian is there to support the songs live specifically for the tracks that have melodic stuff or need support from a second guitar.

When did you start writing songs for Slaves of the Shadow Realm? Were they written over this five year period or did you go into the rehearsal place at a certain time to write new songs? And did you have a clear concept in mind when you were working on your seventh album?
We started actually directly after Ravenous Plague was released. I think Palace of Sin was already written in 2014-2015. We took it slowly once we had time to write, the guys started writing, then we were doing shows and we put it to rest, so eventually it took us four years to write the songs and lyrics. We wanted to take the melody part bit further of course, but without losing heaviness and aggressiveness.

For this album you once again returned to Stage One Studios to record with Andy Classen, who has been producing most of the Legion of the Damned albums since the very beginning (apart from Descent Into Chaos that was produced by Peter Tagtgren). What is it that makes you return to Classen every time?
We built up a very good relationship. Andy was responsible for that Legion sound that Legion is also known for, fans reacted negative about the outcome of Peter his production, and Andy is the sound, also for us it is ideal to go there, it is close our home, but also not so close that you drive home easily, but still remain in studio. Also Andy knows what is at stake, knows what needs to be done different, and how we are. I can easily say like the vocals is fine, but Andy knows I can be lazy and he tells me I should try again, and again. Another producer who does not know would maybe say like okay, if you are fine, then fine, we leave it like this, so Andy pushes us to the max, and that is what we need.

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The lyrics were once again written by Tony Manero, who you have been working with since the Occult days. Does Slaves of the Shadow Realm have a lyrical theme? And did you give him a specific direction in which the lyrics should go for this album?
Slaves of the Shadow Realm refers to those who walk the path of adversity towards the organized white light religions. The lyrics all deal with various aspects of the Shadow Realm, which ranges from left hand path occultism, demonology, carnal indulgence and antireligious hatred, to narcosatanism and disciples of the gods of war.

For Slaves of the Southern Cross you recorded a videoclip, did you record and produce this video by yourselves? How did it come about, what was the idea behind it?
We just wanted an old school video, nothing fancy, just fire and a lot of amps. We rented 25 ENGL amps and a fire company. Legion is not about storytelling and preaching a message, it is just banging, violence and aggression.

I noticed the new album will also be released as a cassette tape. Do you guys still buy tapes yourselves?
EMP wants to sell the album with alternate version, never our idea, although I like the idea and outcome. Brings back memories of course, those cassette tapes. I do not buy them anymore haha, I sold my 1200 cassettes years ago already.

In March of 2018 you did a six-date tour in Asia covering Vietnam, Singapore, Philippines and Thailand. Can you tell us something about this experience, how did the shows go and how was the turnout?
Absolutely amazing. In Davoa City in Philippines there were around 400-450 crazy metalfans, also Vietnam was pretty busy, we played in RockHard Cafe Vietnam, that was killer. Also spending three days in Bangkok with the band, drinking beer at fancy rooftops in 30 degrees, wow, I really loved that trip. Shows were excellent experience, lots of expats coming to our shows too. I am working on another Asian tour right now for 2019.

Also, you played shows in Lebanon and Dubai, do you have a lot of Legion of the Damned fans over there? Was it a good experience for the band to play these exotic metal shows and would you do it again?
Dubai was fantastic. We played in a hotel, so after the show I could just go out of the venue, take the elevator and I was in my hotel room, how luxe! Hah! Super show, people going crazy, there a lot of Philippines at the shows, but also from Saudi Arabia for instance. We spend another day exploring Dubai, which was also a super experience. Lebanon was another story. I had doubts there and little anxiety as of course it is a car distance away from Syria where the war was going on. We had to send in lyrics to the government to get approved. But there were also 350-400 people at the show. Also a great experience!

Looking at your live dates calendar it seems that Legion of the Damned is going to be playing a lot of Summer festival shows in 2019. Which festival are you looking out for the most?
All of them really. Playing festivals is always great especially being on the road with the whole crew of nine, always fun times.

Will you also do a proper tour for Slaves of the Shadow Realm?
At the moment no, maybe we should, but there is no rush and there also should be a good tour and offer, it is not as easy as before to do good tours. Maybe we do one in 2020 who knows.

On January 5th you played your album release party in Germany at the Turock club. Why did you choose to organize this in Germany and not in your homeland The Netherlands?
You know we have spoken several times about Turock, and why we have never played there, I mean we got a lot of German fans in that area. It is also close to the Dutch border, and we even had fans from Den Haag in Essen. We have always played release shows in Holland, so we did it in Germany this time around and it was great!

What else can we expect from you guys in the near future and is there anything you are looking forward to in the new year?
No idea actually, the album is released and I am working on shows in South America, South Africa, Asia, so we will see what happens from that plan. Doing festivals this year and just going with the flow!

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