Wannes: Hello Nathan, thanks for the interview. I am doing fine, thank you very much. Listening to some quality releases while answering your question and Usurper’s ‘Diabolosis’ LP is the next one to keep the fire going!
It’s pretty quit concerning the band. We are concentrating on the upcoming gigs and that’s it. There are some other priorities in our personal lives we have to cope with right now, so the band took a backseat to a certain degree.
I am looking into the possibility to re-release ‘Ancient Death’ right again. It’s been a while since it came out through Damnation Records and Dark Realm (2001-2002), so it would be nice to make it available again. I am talking to a label which is very much interested in making it happen, so let’s see how matters develop. It will take a while, because I don’t want too many re-releases in a row during a short time span. ‘The Fifth Moon...beyond and back’ was released not too long ago and there’s no need to saturate the market with Pentacle releases, right?
2. You guys did a US tour. How was that tour experience? And which cities had the most maniacs?
W: For a non-touring band as Pentacle, the US tour was a marvelous experience. It was a tour I will never forget. All the promoters did a marvelous job and they made us feel very welcome in the US and Mexico. All hails to them for their hard work! It was amazing to meet up (again) with great acts as Infinitum Obscure (R.I.P.), Ares Kingdom, Morgengrau, Sathanas, Unholy Lust, Extermination Angel, Oath of Cruelty, Scythe and many others. Alvaro (Unholy Lust) went beyond the call of duty to make sure we had a great time and everything worked out fine. Kelsey helped us out with the merch (thanks again!). Erika (Morgengrau) and Jeff (Birth A.D.) made us feel very welcome at their house and they were the perfect hosts for our short holiday in between both rows of gigs. Not to forget the amazing BBQ at Chucky’s home, haha! Man, that meat was delicious!
Our first gig in SF was severely shortened because the schedule went overboard and we had cut our set because of the curfew. That was a letdown, because we had driven all the way from LA up to SF to perform only half a set worth of songs. The second gig in LA was better, yet the venue was way too big for the package, so it looked rather empty. The LA hordes gave us a good support, so it was definitely a worthy event. I tend to think our best gigs were performed during the second leg of the tour like the ones in Houston, Chicago or New York. I feel the band was on fire when we performed those gigs and the crowds were rapid. Of course, we never sold out the house and sometimes the crowd was thin, but they always supported the band with all their might and made sure we wouldn't forget them! We had little sleep (approximately two or three hours each night), because we had to cover huge distances so we flew a lot, but it was a part of the deal and we enjoyed the overall experience of being on the road. It’s hard work yet we felt grateful to be able tour the US and Mexico. Thanks to everyone who came out to support Pentacle and the other performing bands during these gigs!
Except for the shows, we had some time to wander around. We visited the USS Iowa, met up with the Cortez brothers at the Dark Realm before they opened the shop again, watch Blade Killer perform in a club, visited the Texas Military Forces Museum, went to a shooting range, checked out some record shops in Austin like End of an Ear, so it was a great mixture of gigs and some sightseeing around the US. Thanks again to everyone for making this visit such an enjoyable event!!! You’re the best!
3. You just released ‘The Fifth Moon… Beyond and Back’ (a compilation of EP’s and demos) and ‘Five candles burning red’ (a compilation of splits), which is really cool. How did this come about? And can we expect a new album anytime soon?
W: The release of ‘The Fifth Moon...’ was a culmination of many requests concerning our old material like the demos and the ‘Exalted Journey’ EP. It took me many years to realize there’s a serious demand for these releases and more important, the material needed an upgrade. For a long time, I was against this, because I felt our old releases didn’t reach the status for a CD’s release. You see, I never felt our old material had gained notoriety like many other demos did, so it didn’t feel right to upgrade them. Vinyl and/or CD-releases of old classic demos like ‘Into the Abyss’, ‘Satanic Rites’, ‘Surrender of Die’, ‘ The Stench of burning Death’, ‘December Moon’, ‘Wedding the Grotesque’, ‘Taste of Blood’, ‘The Science of Horror’ or the Mantas, Grave, Devastation, Massacre, Pentagram (Chile), Messiah, Autopsy and Nihilist tapes are truly worthy upgrades. These tapes were very influential and deserve to be preserved in a respectful way. Somehow, when the question to re-release old Pentacle material was raised again and again, I always compared the Pentacle demos to such legendary items and it’s rather obvious our old releases didn’t pass the test of time. At the time they were released they full filled their purpose and I am still proud of them, but they made a limited impact and should be treated likewise. Only the gems should receive a vinyl or CD-treatment and nothing else. That’s what I felt for many years, so I declined any offer in that direction.
As we all know, the retrospective approach of the scene increased to such an extent, almost every old demo tape seems to receive an upgrade and I am not talking about the more know bands but also lesser gods. It progressed to such an extent (whether you should view this positive or negative is up to the eye of the beholder), I felt no hesitation to re-release our old material anymore as well. It became obvious the status/quality of a band/release didn’t matter anymore and everyone just went ahead and released whatever they wanted to. This development made me lose any hesitations and I decided to move forward as well.
Around that time, I got in contact with Roel (Vic Records) when I ordered a Swazafix CD from him. We knew each other from the old Mortician Mag days, so it was good talking to him again. As Roel is releasing a lot of old stuff and enjoys Pentacle big time, he asked me if I was interested in working with him to re-release ‘The Fifth Moon’. For sure I was as the MCD was out of print for many years now and it seemed a nice opportunity to make it available again for those interested. Roel asked me if we could include a demo to make the release more value for money, so to speak. I told him I wanted to include everything up to ‘The Fifth Moon’ to create an overall view of our old releases and Roel agreed. So, we went ahead with the project.
Together with our former and original drummer Marc we worked very hard to create something exceptional and I think we achieved our goal. The booklet is immense and filled with all kind of interesting liner notes, photos, flyers, artwork etc. It came out great and it was awesome working with Marc together. When he was still a member of Pentacle, we always worked on the layout as a team and it was great, so it was very cool to repeat history again. I am very proud of ‘The Fifth Moon..beyond and back’. The double CD looks and sounds great and I am glad I made the decision to include our old material as well. It’s a great throwback to 1989 and the years and releases which followed.
Concerning ‘Five Candles burning red’, the original intent of the session was to record two songs for the 12” split vinyl with Sadistic Intent. This idea stems from around 2001/2002, but it took a while to materialize, haha! After we started working on new material, we received an offer from our old friends Eternal Solstice to release a double 7” split EP on Dark Descent Records which sounded great in my ears, so we went ahead and added two more songs to the recording session. Then, Costa (Iron Pegasus Records) came up with the idea to release a split with the mighty Mortem from Peru which was an offer we couldn’t refuse as we have huge respect for this deadly force. So, instead of two songs all the sudden we had five songs to record. Not everyone around is into this kind of releases (or vinyl for that matter) and I didn’t want to withhold the songs for these people. So I wanted to release the session as a MCD too, because I feel the songs are linked together. Although the actual tracks are split up for the vinyl, they have a coherent feel and as such they should be available all together on one format, being CD this time. The MCD was released just before our US-tour, so it was great to have such a release around to promote. So, the CD-version is not a compilation in my ears but a regular MCD. I know it sounds kind awkward, but that’s the way I perceive ‘Five Candles burning red’.
A new album? In all honesty I don’t know if we will ever be able to release something like that again. Inspiration is low and it took me a big effort to write the material for ‘Five Candles...’. It’s hard to come up with decent material after all these years. We always have been slow songwriters and being very critical towards our own material doesn’t speed it necessary up either. After the last studio session we haven’t written a single song, so it doesn’t look too good for a full length album. We do have some ideas concerning smaller format releases as it seems we’re more able to handle such effort than a full album these days, but nothing has been confirmed yet. Could be interesting as well though.
4. Can you tell us about the writing process of the band? Do you guys jam and then write a song or do you all come together with riffs and ideas?
W: In our early years we tended to jam a lot more as we rehearsed full Saturdays, so we had time enough to fool around with all kind of ideas, take a break, start up all over again etc. Rehearsing began around 10.00 or 11.00 hours in the morning and lasted until 17.00 hours, so there was enough time to work on ideas.
Later, we moved towards weekdays after school/work, so time was more restricted. You only had a couple of hours, so you have to use this time as effective as possible. It was more about getting the songs tight than trying out all kind of ideas. Of course, you have different kind of rehearsals: working on ideas with only the guitarists around, getting all together to work on actual songs or preparing the live set. But the actual song writing takes place at home. At least for the biggest part. I am sitting on the couch or bed with my unplugged bass in my hands and start fooling around. It’s all terrible dry sounding, but that’s the best way for me to work. First, I start to write certain riffs and try to work from there. When I have enough material, I start to arrange them into a song. I memorize the parts ( I never record anything) and write the arrangements down on a small piece of paper. This becomes the guideline for the song, so to speak. I bring this paper with me to a rehearsal and show the band what I have in mind. It’s still very rough and open to all kind of ideas, but most times this frame is what to become a song in the end.
For sure we had rehearsals when someone comes up with an extra or replacement riff. Rehearsals aren’t that stiff, you know, but most of the work is done at home. There’s a difference when Alex and I are working together, because during such rehearsals it’s a case of showing each other the riffs and/or arrangements one came up with and both of us start working from there. Alex comes up with a riff to which I add my ideas and so on. This is more a case of working together on riffs and arrangements, while I write a lot of material on my own as well. For example, for the last recording session both Alex and I worked together on songs like ‘Pillars of Black Flames’ or ‘The Bloodless Eye’ while ‘Five Candles burning red’ was written by me at home. So, you could say there’s still a certain amount of jamming going around when Alex and I are working together, but there’s also the work at home. It’s not like the old days anymore and sometimes I miss that, because it was great to be able to work on songs for a whole day and having time for a good chat. It’s a good bonding experience.
5. Is the recording process something you like to do or is it a necessary evil so to speak?
W: Yes, I do enjoy it very much. For me personally, it’s the culmination of months of hard work and in the studio it’s great to see a song progress: recording, mixing and mastering. Beforehand you have a certain picture painted out in your head how a song should sound in the end. You hope to record the ultimate version of a track and make it even more powerful than during rehearsals. You envision a killer sound and hope the band is up the task, not to forget the engineer, haha! I think it’s an awesome experience to watch a song fully develop in the studio: first drums, then bass, guitars, the vocals (always a very important stage as I never rehearse new material during rehearsals. I am always late with writing lyrics), some effects and that’s it. Layer upon layer a song comes to live and this is very intriguing to me. Sure, it can be a bit boring at certain moments and after listening to 666th version of a particular song, your ears are bleeding, but in the end it’s all worth doing it. If everything works out as planned, it’s a mutual band effort with the focus on recording the best session possible and it’s great to have this mindset when being in the studio. You’re set to make this happen and move forward to create a great piece of Death Metal. Of course, the studio environment and the engineer are very important aspects during this process and I am glad to say we never had any troubles concerning this matter. With Pentacle have been recording in three/four different studios and every time the overall atmosphere was very supporting and encouraging. For sure there were matters of different opinion and egos playing their part of the game, but in the end we always succeeded in recording the best we could.
We are a very traditional band as we record as we rehearse: as a full band. Of course, sometimes we have set up out stacks in different rooms to make sure the guitars won’t bleed into the drum mics, but for the rest it’s a band playing a song. One, two, three, go! We always recorded that way as I feel it’s the most honest and powerful way of recording. It may be not the most tight or perfect way to record a song, but I feel it gives our sound/songs this extra energy, punch and authentic vibe which makes the listening experience more real, I think. When you listen to a Pentacle recording, you hear a band performing. Somehow, you’re listening to a very good sounding rehearsal track. I do believe very much in this approach. Death Metal lives through power and this way, we try to get hold of this authentic feeling as much as possible. Yes, we do double the guitars and record the vocals afterwards, but the mainframe is kept live. You hear humans, not computers performing Death Metal.
6. You release your music on vinyl, CD, and cassettes. Why do you think physical media is way better than digital download? Also, do you happen to be a music collector?
W: Well, a big part has to do with nostalgia. I grew up with LP’s, tapes and the CD afterwards. I love all three formats as they have their particular pros and cons, yet I feel there’s no need to let them go, just for the sake of technological development. For sure it’s great to be able to share your music wherever you go on this planet, but the experience is different. It’s not only because of the fact a physical release can be enjoyed on way more different levels than digital download, but it’s also about the awareness of consumption these days. Digital downloading degenerates music into something disposable and fast and easy consumerism. It doesn’t amaze me when people tell me they downloaded an x-amount of albums and don’t have the time to listen to all these music. It’s like buying 50 albums in one moment. I rather make a deliberate choice to buy a certain album and take the time to digest it. Of course it will never be the same again when I was a teenager with little money and was able to buy one or two record(s) each month. You played these records over and over again and you knew them from A-Z, yet I still try to keep this experience somehow alive by taking time to listen to an album, to ‘study’ the artwork and the layout, to watch the band photos, read the thanks list and to ponder about the lyrics. And again, it’s different these days because my collection is much bigger than when I started buying albums and to a certain degree ‘I have heard it all’, but I find it important to dive into album and let it carry me away. Some succeed, some not, but I want to give it a try for sure.
I really understand the benefits of being able to get hold of one’s music that easy and almost without any effort. It’s the same with books. A digital reader is all about comfort and being able to carry hundreds of books on you without the need of driving a van stuffed full of books. For sure it’s easy and cheaper as well, yet life is about experiencing certain values and I believe physical media is an important aspect we must cherish and respect. I do believe there’s room for both and although I am an old fashioned guy still buying books, DVD’s, tapes and LP’s, I won’t claim it’s the only way to do it. For me, such physical items are very important as they offer me an experience I don’t want to let go. I feel there’s more focus and emotions involved when you deal with a real book or an LP. It’s more about senses, you know. Touching, holding, seeing, smelling, hearing etc. All these elements are essential as to experience what is going on around you. I tend to think you are more...one with a physical product.
Before it’s getting too trippy one shouldn’t forget the more obvious reasons like the artwork, lyrics, layout, photos and the actual sound quality of the song material. It’s way better when you use a physical release than a digital one. When you hold a tape, CD or vinyl in your hands, it’s a real product. Someone worked hard to make this actual happen and you have the result in your hands. It’s like reaping the harvest, you know. Blood, sweat and tears can be seen, heard and felt in such a release and one should cherish such moments.
I have a nice collection of all kind of different formats, yes. I have been into this kind of music since the early 80’s and aside my big interest in WW II, this is my passion. Not to forget my family, but that’s on a different story, hehehe... I go for quality and not quantity. Except for some bands/records I am not a diehard collector who buys every version available on the market. Granted, releases like ‘Morbid Tales’ or ‘Apocalyptic Raids’ are to be found in multiple copies in my collection, but I am a guy who actually plays his records and enjoy them. For me, it’s not about collecting just for the sake of it. No, I buy a record, tape or CD, because I am interested in hearing it. After all, these are objects for ‘entertainment’ and not to collect dust on a shelve, so I own zero non-played and mint records in my collection, haha!
7. Pentacle has always been a band playing Ancient death metal I really enjoy your style. Back in the 90's you guys were kind of outside the norm when it came to death metal. Would you say Pentacle only attracted real die hard metal heads who were into the old school style of death metal?
W: When both Mike and I formed the band in 1989 it was obvious we would appeal only to a selected audience. One of the reasons why Pentacle was formed/developed was to ‘counter’ the second wave of Death Metal in the sense we wanted to pay homage to the originators of the scene: Venom, Hellhammer/Celtic Frost, Possessed, Messiah, Slaughter (CAN), Necrophagia, Deathstrike/Master, Necrovore, Mantas/Death, Bathory, Poison (GER), Repulsion, Samhain/DesExult, Mefisto, Mutilated etc. We loved releases like ‘Consuming Impulse’, ‘Left Hand Path’, ‘Slowly We Rot’, ‘Severed Survival’, ‘Lost Paradise’, ‘Realm of Chaos’, ‘Soulside Journey’, ‘Altars of Madness’, ‘Dawn of Possession’ etc and still do, but we didn’t like the attitude of a big part of the scene which mocked the old bands, because they weren’t extreme enough (anymore) and only enjoyed the new ones. It felt like treachery to me and we weren’t interested to copy these new bands, so we decided to carry the spirit of the old guard with us. So, when the scene develops one way and you decide to go the other way... Well, it does has its consequences, yet I never felt any animosity because of our direction. People respected our sound because it was genuine from the heart and we weren’t trying to sound like the new Morbid Angel or Death, you know. They knew/felt Pentacle was an honest band and if they enjoyed it, that’s another case, but they couldn’t accuse us of follow the trend, right? Straight from the beginning we started playing cover tunes from bands like Hellhammer, Celtic Frost and Slaughter, so people knew what to expect from us. Our image made it clear we held the torch of the old bands high, so no shorts or sneakers on stage. Though the second wave of Black Metal was coming up as well, few Death Metal bands followed the path we did, so yes, we were an exception. But the choice was a very deliberate one and I still feel proud of it!
Yes, our audience was different from the usual Death Metal crowd. I think we were still aggressive and intense to keep our ground related to more ‘common’ Death Metal bands, but when you start playing songs like ‘Messiah’ or ‘Tales of the Macabre’...not everyone will enjoy such primitive tracks. They are truly a blast from the past, eh? When I think of it, people who enjoyed Pentacle were often those who enjoyed the old bands as well. It was not the regular Morbid Angel crowd, but often old timers who thought it was great to see and hear a band somehow connected to their old faves and heroes or younger fans who developed a taste for the old ones as well.
8. One thing I must say is that you guys really deliver on each album. ‘Rides the Moonstorm’ is an incredible album and also ‘Under the Black Cross’ and the material on the EP’s. How do you guys make such incredible Ancient Death metal? Every album is different yet it's still Pentacle (I hope I'm making sense). To me I don't understand why Pentacle isn't more popular since you guys have such great music. Way better than most of these "death metal" bands now a days.
W: Yes, I get your point. Progression is very important to me. I want the band to improve with every release and try to keep away from stagnation as far as possible. Within our self-defined borders of Death Metal I want to progress as much as possible, yet I want to stay true to our roots at every cost. We will perform Death Metal to the very end, but we will not release the same record over and over again. Some bands have a specific formula and they repeat it with every record. You will hear the same elements over and over and it’s a part of their sound. It makes them recognizable and you know you’re hearing band X or Y. There’s nothing wrong with sticking to your guns as many bands have proven still being able to release quality albums yet remain loyal to their original sound. But many turn stale after a couple of albums and they repeat themselves again and again without offering anything exciting. Of course, it’s hard to create something fresh and innovating after a couple of albums. Especially when the band has a traditional concept it’s difficult to keep up the eagerness, innovation and energy of the first albums. During the second wave of Death Metal I remember very well certain albums let me down big time, because I felt the band was repeating itself, changed their style or didn’t show the primal aggression anymore. Albums like ‘The End Complete’, ‘Been caught buttering’, ‘Blessed are the Sick’, ‘Gothic’, ‘Testimony of the Ancients’, ‘Erase’, ‘Soulless’, ‘Odium’, ‘Wolverine Blues’ etc. didn’t feel good to me at that time. These days I appreciate ‘Blessed...’ or ‘Gothic’ way more, but back in the early 90’s, I felt rather let down by these efforts.
When you look at the rate of progression those classic 80’s bands made in their first three, four or five years, it was incredible. Just compare releases like these:
- ‘Show no Mercy’ versus ‘Reign in Blood’
- ‘Kill ’em all’ versus ‘Master of Puppets’
- ‘In the Sign of Evil’ versus ‘Persecution Mania’
- ‘Apocalyptic Raids’ versus ‘Into the Pandemonium’
- ‘Bathory’ versus ‘Hammerheart’
- ‘I.N.R.I’ versus ‘The Laws of Scourge’
- ‘Sentence of Death’ versus ‘Release from Agony’
- ‘Mutilation’ demo versus ‘Spiritual Healing’
- ‘Endless Pain’ versus ‘Extreme Aggressions’
- ‘Bestial Devastation’ versus ‘Beneath the Remains’
Many bands were barely recognizable anymore! If it’s progression for better or worse I won’t discuss here, but all these bands evolved into a mature entity. For many bands it was the end of an era as well as they shifted into different sounds after they reached their natural zenith of technical progression (‘Renewal’, ‘The Mourning has broken’, ‘The Black Album’, ‘South of Heaven’, Quorthon’s solo albums etc.). For me personally, those first formative years of mentioned bands made the biggest impression upon me. I was there when these bands released their albums and to a certain degree I grew up with the progression of mentioned bands too as I picked up their albums year after year and such development seemed very natural to me, yet reaching their limits and starting something different alienated me from such bands. My brains understood this change, but my heart couldn’t get along with it, so I had to let them go.
When I noticed the same development during the second wave of Death Metal as well (see above), Pentacle was already in existence. So, for the second time a new wave was letting me down (to a certain degree) and I felt I had to make sure I would not walk the same path as mentioned acts. I made the promise to myself I would stay loyal to our Death Metal roots, would progress as much as possible, yet when we would reach our limits, the band would be terminated not to turn into a copycat of our own sound and keep the honours to ourselves. So, this whole story explains why our albums sound different from each other. I truly believe each release represents Pentacle at that particular point of our career for a full 100% and you will be able to find a certain Pentacle-vibe in our creations every time we release something new, but we will not copy ourselves and regurgitate old ideas all over again. This is way too cheap for me and I won’t succumb to such trappings. To a certain degree we have to reinvent the Pentacle sound over and over again, yet keep the basic ingredients involved so we have a natural flow from song to song. This sounds very calculated, but in our case it’s not. The material comes spontaneous and when I feel the song has reached a certain level of maturity, it’s ready to be recorded. The only (ahum...) pressure I feel is the need to improve and to create strong material, but ‘that’s all’. It comes as it comes and nothing else. No big plans or whatsoever. Sometimes I tend to think compared to the development made by these 80’s bands during their first years, Pentacle spreads it over a couple of decades, hahaha! So, we move forward until there’s no path to walk upon anymore.
I don’t know if I am the right person to answer the second part of your question as I am too much involved and obviously not objective concerning Pentacle. I can you give my two cents though. I tend to think we’re more a ‘middle of the road’ kinda band. There’s nothing outrageous, spectacular, innovating/boundaries breaking/original, extreme, shocking, outstanding etc. about us. We’re an old band and old news. We don’t write catchy tunes as I tend to think our arrangements are somewhat intricate for a band with an 80’s concept. We don’t use the standard formula with choruses etc. so one needs their time getting into our songs unlike many other bands that are more accessible. Our brand of Death Metal isn’t too popular either. Our mix is a bit alien to the scene I guess. We don’t sound like Morbid Angel, Autopsy, Nihilist/Entombed, Obituary, Incantation, Immolation etc. Our influences like Celtic Frost or Venom are not very common for a Death Metal band these days anymore. It’s old school Death Metal or obscure Death Metal like Necros Christos, Grave Miasma, Swallowed and Teitanblood. Pentacle is not a musical part of any of these scenes, though we have many allies in all mentioned ‘divisions’ and appreciate many acts performing these different brands of extreme Metal. It’s just we’re following a different path.
Of course we never had any big label support and/or high profile tours, but even an underground band is able to reach a higher level of exposure these days than Pentacle ever has experienced. Another aspect working against us it’s hard for us to keep the momentum going. Two full length albums in 25 years isn’t really much. EP’s and MLP’s/MCD’s don’t have the same coverage as full albums, so we’re missing a lot of press. Something I really regret not being able to pull off on a more regular base, but it seems we’re not able to write full length albums. The inspiration and focus is just not working out for us. With so many bands, releases and labels around these days it’s hard to get/stay noticed. We don’t do many gigs either, so spreading our name that way is rather limited as well. We don’t use the typical satanic/occult/gore/death formula, so somehow Pentacle doesn’t fit in this underground template many acts use.
Pentacle is a solid band, but it doesn’t turn heads like ‘What was that?!?!’ People do enjoy us, but they will never say Pentacle ‘changed their life’, you know. Lots of people respect us for our determination and cause, but seldom people go wild when they hear us. It’s just... There’s little or nothing outstanding about Pentacle, you know. We do what we want do and that’s it. No big scheme or whatsoever. People enjoy it or not, but there’ll never be a hype surrounding us and I guess it’s better this way. I remember an interesting chat with Ryan (Blasphemy) I had about the same matter and after he returned to Vancouver and wrote me a message he said and I will quote him:
‘I personally think that the status that Pentacle has is great! Only for actual DIE HARDS! There aren't many wimps, fence sitters, tourist metallers, etc into Pentacle. It seems as only the people passionate about the metal underground support you guys!’
Wise words. What more to wish for?
9. Throughout Pentacle’s history what shows have been the most memorable?
W: The US tour for sure, but that’s an obvious one. For the rest our very first gigs with Gorefest and Asphyx. We had a long time friendship with these bands, so it was great to share stages with them and initiate us to the live ritual. These gigs were our first, so they left quite an impression. Positive ones I am glad to say! Both gigs drew a good crowd and those days the Death Metal audience was still very active, so we had a good time on stage watching the crowd go wild. When we performed with Asphyx, we used facepaint like Hellhammer/Celtic Frost. Other memorable gigs I would like to mention were the ones when we supported Emperor on their first European mini tour for a gig in Rotterdam. The gigs we did with Ancient Rites when they toured for ‘The Diabolical Serenades’ and ‘Blasphemia Eternal’ as we really bonded. Both gigs when we supported Obituary because we were able to play in one of our favourite halls (‘t Noorderligt, Tilburg) where saw many great acts perform. The gigs we did with Desaster because they are great guys. Every time we met up with Sadistic Intent, because they are good friends since a very long time. The gigs with Mortem, because I felt very honoured to share the stage with such a revered Death Metal act. Supporting Samael, because they were a big fave of mine at that time. The gigs with Acrostichon because we had good fun etc etc. After 25 years there are many high lights, you know. I think both first gigs were very important to us, because they proved we were able to stand our ground and made us realize we were able to pull it off to perform gigs.
10. Personally, I'm big into WWII history. The story of ‘Under the Black Cross’ is very interesting. Do you think in the future we'll have another WWII story? Maybe operation Market Garden? Or what are some campaigns or missions you find very interesting in WWII? Also, I'm curious do you happen to be a fan of the series band of brothers or the pacific?
W: Well, I did use another campaign for inspiration being Operation Mercury for the ‘Archaic Undead Fury’ 10” and three songs of the ‘Five Candles burning red’ MCD, so here you go.
As far as any future release, it hasn’t been decided yet what to do. It would be a bit too easy to rehash the idea of ‘Under the Black Cross’, so if I would use WWII as inspiration again, it will be from a different angle. There are enough campaigns to use for a concept album, but it would be ‘Under the Black Cross’ all over again and I am against such a use of a topic. I try to approach my lyrics with fresh ideas, so there’s no need to regurgitate what has been done before. I was/am very proud of what I did for ‘Under the Black Cross’ and especially the picture disc version of the album was somehow the ‘ultimate’ (well...) release for a concept album in this direction, but on the other hand it was a very impersonal approach as well. I mean, in the end one tells a story composed by facts from several books written by authors. There’s no personal involvement at all, because I wasn’t there when it happened. Simple. You have to know my early lyrics were of a very personal nature and contained thoughts about my own personal being and its surroundings. Because I felt I was going in circles when writing new lyrics after ‘Ancient Death’, I needed a different angle and because of my very, very early interest/passion for WWII since I was a little kid, it felt as an obvious choice to draw inspiration from this field of interest. I remember this moment only too well. I didn’t had any clue what kind of lyrics I wanted to write and I turned myself towards my library and thought ’this is it!’
As far as my interest concerns, I have a keen interest towards the Commonwealth/German side of the Mediterranean theatre and The Netherlands and I notice a substantial draw towards more obscure (underground fan, hehe...) campaigns/actions all around the globe. Whether it’s the (Axis) Navy, Air Force or the Army doesn’t really matter, when the subject appeals to me, I pick it up and consume it. I own thousands of books concerning all theatres of war, big and small, much documented or almost forgotten ones. Written by Australians, Belgians, South Africans, Greek, Italians, Chinese, British, Norwegians, North Americans, Japanese, Burmese, Germans, Russians, Fins, French, Bulgarian, Egyptians, Poles, Indonesians, New Zealanders, Swedes, Canadians, and Danes etc. A good story is a good story and it doesn’t matter to me who wrote it. There are millions of tales to be told and I would like to hear and read them all. It’s worth for sure to pay attention to what such people have to tell you. I must say I am more into the human interest part, because it creeps more under your skin than the rather dry movement of divisions, battalions, companies and platoons, though one needs to get the bigger picture as well
Yes, I watched both series on national broadcast and own the DVD boxes too. I always watch such series/movies not from a war buff-perspective (not that I have such knowledge), but the kind of message they convey to me as a person. I have friends who put such releases down, because they see mistakes in uniforms or gear the actors wear. I understand them, but I find the overall message more important than the use of wrong webbing, so to speak. In any case, I enjoyed both productions a lot though I felt more drawn towards ‘Band of Brothers’ because it’s Dutch history as well, you know. And I could more relate to the geographic dimensions and timeline while ‘The Pacific’ feels all over the place, which in reality was of course.
11. For all the musicians what gear do you use?
W: There’s little exciting to tell. Both Mike and Alex use Peavey stacks, while I still have my ancient Marshall bass stack. Robert owns a Sonor Force 3000. The guitarists use their Ibanez Icemans or Gibson Flying V, while except for my Iceman I use a BC Rich Mockingbird bass sometimes. Compared to the Iceman (which is a passive one), the Mockingbird has way more output so its sound is more heavy. The Iceman plays way more comfortable, so I rather use it for live than the BC Rich although the Mockingbird has a better sound, so I use this one for the studio. That’s about it!
12. I’m a really big fan of your vocal style. Who are some of your main influences? When you first started Pentacle was it the plan for you to do vocals?
Thanks for the kind words. As far as my sources of inspiration go, I would like to mention Tom G. Warrior, Jeff Becerra, Cronos and Chuck Schuldiner. I have some real Dutch influences as well: Theo Loomans (Asphyx, up to ‘Embrace the Death’), Mark Honout (Delirium) and Frank Faase (Sempiternal Deathreign). It’s pretty obvious the originators left their mark, but mentioned Dutchies blew me away with releases like the ‘Crush the Cenotaph’ demo, ‘Amputation demo or ‘The Spooky Gloom’ so I just have to mention them here. If you mix these guys, you have me, hehe... I know often I get compared to John Tardy or Martin van Drunen and although these guys have nothing less than killer vox, I don’t feel they influenced me.
Ah yes, as I couldn’t handle any instrument, it was clear I was going for the vocals. Not that I felt I had any talent or whatsoever, but one had to do the job, right? Mike had guitar lessons, Marc was a drummer, so someone had to go for the vocal shredding.
It took me many years before I reached a satisfactory level in my eyes/ears. It was/is a big learning curve and I am still in the process of improving my vocals. I never feel I’ve delivered my ultimate performance, because there’s always room for improvement. An emotional and powerful performance is very important to me. I really felt down by the first times I recorded my vocals as I didn’t feel it was intense enough, but then again, I had to learn how to handle this part as well. I never had been in a band before, so it’s all about live and learn.
In retrospect I never understood why I went for the more growling style in the beginning of the band. The first time I entered a stage I did vocals for Frost’s ‘Dethroned Emperor’ with my friends Dead End and I sang much raspier. A bit like Delirium’s Marc, that kind of direction, but somehow I changed my style when we started to rehearse with Pentacle as a real band. The time both Mike and I rehearsed at his parent’s house my vocals sounded much more aggressive and intense. I would do Hellhammer’s ‘Triumph of Death’ one on one and it sounded nothing less than sick. As a side note, it was one of the reasons why our original drummer Marc joined the band, because he was blown away by my vocals, haha! I think it was because we had no PA at out rehearsal room and I wasn’t able to hear my vocals. I am not 100% sure, but that could have been a reason why I sound different on recordings like ‘Caressed by both Sides’ and ‘Winds of the Fall’, something I really regret, but it’s a learning curve. Pentacle was my first band, so I never had any experience before and had to learn as I went. As so many before and after me.
I started to improve on the DSFA-session because I wanted to sound more aggressive and show more emotion than before. For that session I had only two vocalists in my mind: Cronos and Jeff Becerra and none else. From that point I improved, but went over the top with “The Fifth Moon”. I like the emotional aspect and the aggression of the vocals on that album, but I can’t stand listening to them at all. Way too screechy for me, but I know where it came from and I can relate to that. I was totally emotional charged and let it go in the studio, you know. Some kind of therapy, hehe, but I find it very hard to listen to these days. That’s why I toned it down for ‘...Rides the Moonstorm’. On that album the vocals were a bit too growling on certain parts again, but overall they are way better than on ‘The Fifth Moon’.
I am (to a certain degree) satisfied with my performances on the DSFA compilation track, the ‘Exalted Journey’ EP, the ‘...Rides the Moonstorm’ album, the ‘Ancient Death’ MLP and the ‘Under the Black Cross/Archaic Undead Fury’ session. The rest is ok or thumbs down for me, for whatever reason.
13. What are some of your favourite American metal bands?
Wow, that’s a hard question. I mean, the US has spawned tons of amazing Metal acts. I mean, even when I list a couple of hundred of them, I would probably forget as many other acts at the same time. As I always enjoy the name dropping game, I will give it a try: Mantas/Death, Necrophagia (up to ‘Season of the Dead’), DeathStrike/Master, Morbid Angel (up to ‘Gateways...’), Ares Kingdom, Devastation (IL), Dark Angel, Sadistic Intent, Massacre (up to ‘From Beyond’), Arch Enemy (LA), Equinox/Druid Lord, Cianide, Possessed, Sathanas, Incubus (FL), Xecutioner/Obituary (up to ‘Cause of Death’), Incantation, Blood Storm, Slayer (up to ‘Reign in Blood’), Necrovore, Usurper, Nuclear Assault (up to ‘Handle with Care’), Insanity, Terrorizer (up to ‘World Downfall’), Metallica (up to ‘Garage days Revisited’), Whiplash (first two), BloodSpill, Blessed Death, Nasty Savage, Sadus (up to ‘Illusions’), Rigor Mortis/Immolation, Exmortis, Nocturnus (up to ‘Thresholds’), Goreaphobia, Carnivore, Agent Steel (up to ‘Unstoppable Force’), Nausea, Nuclear Death, Recipients of Death, Dream Death, Blood Feast, Sindrome, Holy Terror, Dejecta, Funeral Nation, Order From Chaos, Profanatica, Exodus (first one), Vital Remains (up to ‘Forever Underground’), Divine Eve/Crimson Relic, Death Angel (first one), Dr. Shrinker, Prime Evil, Disciples of Mockery, Winter, NunSlaughter, Absu, Von, Angel Corpse, Scepter, Autopsy, Drawn & Quartered, Rotting Corpse, Deicide (up to ‘Legion’) Morbid Saint, Horde of Torment, Terminal Death, Acheron, Savage Death, Repulsion, Ripping Corpse, NME and many more. There are so many great acts from the US...
14. Last question for you Wannes and I believe you’re a big Celtic Frost fan so I have to ask what is your favourite album(s) by Celtic Frost and your favourite song(s)?
Yes, I am a major Necromaniac from day one when I laid my hands on ‘Morbid Tales’. I knew Hellhammer before and I loved this band to the death also, but Frost was an upgrade for sure. I know I have to defend myself against any Hellhammer-worshipper around, but to me Frost was and always will be the superior one. But then, I agree Hellhammer is more Kvlt, hehe... As far as my favourite records, everything up to the ‘I Won’t Dance’ 12”. So, ‘Morbid Tales’, ‘Emperor’s Return’, ‘To Mega Therion’, ‘Tragic Serenades’, ‘Into the Pandemonium’ and the aforementioned 12”. Just Tom, Martin, Stephen and Reed, you know? These guys created some of the best (Metal) songs/albums ever recorded and I think these releases are timeless. The vibe of the original Frost is just unbeatable. This era of the band spawned some the darkest and intense music ever created and it was a perfect fit: music, vocals, lyrics, image, artwork etc. Nothing less than amazing!
I like ‘Vanity/Nemesis’ as well, but not every song is a strong one in my ears. I tend to think ‘The Hearth Beneath’, ‘Third from the Sun’, ‘A Kiss or a Whisper’, ‘Vanity’ and Nemesis’ are the best ones. ‘Monotheist’ was a great comeback for sure. Riff-wise, it was rather different from classic Frost, but it was a good thing they didn’t use the success formula and repeated ‘Morbid Tales’ all over again. It was an artistic release and I always listen to it from A till Z. To me, it’s more a kind of sounds cape-like album. I view the album as a whole entity and not composed of separate songs. And to be brutally honest, even ‘Cold Lake’ has some serious riffs. I hear a lot of classic Frost-riffing and with a decent production, more appropriate vocals, the omission of couple of weak songs and a better image (haha!), the record would have turned out better than the original version. But it was not supposed to be, I guess. In the end, it really harmed the legacy of Celtic Frost, but then again, ‘Monotheist’ was a return to form, though an upgraded one.
Fave songs? Too many to mention I guess, although my all-time song ever is ‘Circle of the Tyrants’ (‘To Mega Therion’ version), yep. For the rest, ‘Rex Irae’, ‘The Usurper’, ‘Procreation (of the Wicked)’, ‘Necromantical Screams’, ‘Journey into Fear’, ‘Babylon Fell’, ‘Return to the Eve’, ‘Jewel Throne’, ‘Caress into Oblivion’, ‘Into the Crypts of Rays’, ‘Suicidal Winds’, ‘Dawn of Megiddo’, ‘Dethroned Emperor’, ‘Inner Sanctum’ and and....
15. Any last words to the fans or shoutouts?
As far as new releases we still have the split 12” with Sadistic Intent on Iron Pegasus Records coming up. I don’t have a release date, but I am sure it will be a great album, once it’s out. We have a contribution for the ‘Vestibule of Hell’ compilation LP on Wolfsbane Records scheduled as well. It shouldn’t take too long anymore before this album will be released and it features exclusive material, so keep your eyes open for this LP.
Nathan, thank you very much for such great questions which made this interview a joy to answer. I am sorry again for the delay, but I hope I made it up by giving my best. Keep up the great work and all the best for the future!
Ripper – ‘Fatal Memories’ tape
Mausoleum – ‘Eating your fucking brains’ tape
Swallowed – ‘Lunarterial’ DLP
Acrostichon – ‘Engraved in Black’ LP
Gruesome – ‘Savage Land’ LP
Craft – ‘Void’ DLP
Morbid Angel – ‘Juvenilia’ LP
R.U. Dead? – ‘Dead but Alive’ DLP
DON’T FORGET THE ANCIENT FEELING...IT STILL RULES!!!