Dutch occult rockers The Devil's Blood are set to release their second full-length album, The Thousandfold Epicentre, in North America on January 17 via Metal Blade Records.
It's one of the most intriguing musical compositions I've heard in a while, and even though we are barely starting 2012, the album throws down the gauntlet to everything else that will be released in the remainder of the year.
The album is based on occultist themes, but in terms of the music, it's one of the most delightfully pure sounds you could ever hear, with female vocals that go with it perfectly.
In late December, I spoke with mainman SL to talk about the writing, recording, guitar tone, influences and other things that had an effect on the album. Check out the conversation below, and check out the band's Facebook page for up-to-date info. You also can read my review of the album here.
Your new album sounds amazing. How long did it take for you to compose it?
The composing of the album took about 11 months. I worked myself from January 2010 to around November 2010. After that, we spent two months listening to the material and then another two months recording it.
The album is 75 minutes long. Was it a conscious effort to keep it long?
We had to actually shorten it down a bit to be able to fit it on a CD. But the longer material on the album was actually the easiest to write, and those songs just developed naturally. I've never been scared of longer form of material, and if it's something that works, I'll never walk away from it. And in this case I think we stumbled upon a few songs that are more, like, single-oriented, if you can call them that, around the four- or five-minute mark, and then a couple more epic compositions. They work very nicely together.
As you said, you had to shorten it down to fit it on a CD. Do you have more songs that you wrote?
No, no. It was only a matter of a few minutes of extra sound. I did my final edit on the record and it ran a couple of minutes too long. So we had to shorten some of the noisier parts, if you will.
Did you work a lot on the guitar tone, or is it something you've always had with you?
For the guitar sound, we used a reasonably simple setup. We just used a few Marshall VM 50-watt amps and a Stratocaster with a humbucker. We had a lot of single-coil guitars as well, including some Epiphones. The guitars on the album are really what we always want it to sound like. Not much gain, and a lot of tone. That's how we like it.
The female vocals fit in really well with the music and have a great impact. When you started the band, is that something you had in mind?
No, it just happened. When I started to write music for the first demos, I knew I wasn't going to do the singing myself, and I found the only person close enough to me to be able to express my own emotions and feelings. That was my sister. And that's why we have a female singer.
You did a European tour recently. Which of these new songs did you play in those shows?
We played "On The Wings Of Gloria," "Die The Death," "Cruel Lover," "The Madness Of Serpents," "The Thousandfold Epicentre" and "Fire Burning." It really depended on how long we were allowed to perform, but we had a major selection of these songs every night.
The album comes out in North America January 17, but it has already received praise in the rest of the world. Do you think there will be a North American tour any time soon?
Yes, there will definitely be a North American tour. I can't give out any further details at the moment, but it is going to happen.
Since there are just two main members in the band, does that make the creative process smoother, because there are just two people giving input and there can't be too many arguments?
There are never any arguments actually (laughs). The way I work is, I write all the songs and the lyrics. Then we go over the vocal lines together. We then record the demo, after which we go into a rehearsal space with the rest of the band, with the drummer, guitarist and bassist, and then we perform the material in as many ways as we can think of, basically. We just keep playing it until we find the perfect way of expressing the songs and the feelings behind the lyrics and music. In most cases, it's me telling everyone what to do, and on a few occasions, someone has a very inspired moment and I allow that to happen.
I would say there's a lot of '60s and '70s hard rock influence on this album. Would you agree?
Absolutely. That's what I listen to more than anything else. Stuff like The Byrds, The Rolling Stones, and later on bands like Black Sabbath and Mercyful Fate became very important, and also Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, obviously. For me, music was perhaps most interesting in the mid-60s up until the mid-'80s, and that's where I get most of my rock inspiration from. I do listen to a lot of modern black metal, classical music and a lot of singer-songwriter kind of stuff. So it really varies, and sometimes it really becomes difficult to point out where the inspiration for a certain part of certain idea comes from, because the way I look at it, it all comes from the same place. Inspiration is inspiration, and it doesn't adhere to styles. It doesn't fit into a box. It's pure energy and nothing else.
When you guys play live, how do you reflect the occultist themes upon which your music is based?
We are not so much concerned with theatrical presentation in that sense, but we do always try to have an altar where we can make our offerings. For us, the entire stage becomes the altar and becomes the place where we can sacrifice. What we offer is the music and the interaction with the people.
On this recent European run, you toured with Watain. How do you compare yourself to them? They really go all out when it comes to doing the ritualistic stuff on stage.
I would never compare myself to them in any way. We are a band that was founded around more or less the similar principles, and similar ways of looking at the universe and looking at the world. That's the reason we tend to gravitate toward bands like them, and that's why we tend to choose them as the ones with whom we perform. It's always with a band that has a similar view of things as do we, otherwise there will be no point. There is no reason to put a musical package together just based on the music. That, to me, is boring.
Andrew Bansal is a Los Angeles-based writer who has been running his own website, Metal Assault, since early 2010, and has been prolific in covering the hard rock and heavy metal scene by posting interviews, reviews and pictures on his website -- with the help of a small group of people. Besides being hugely passionate about heavy metal, he is an avid follower of jazz music and recently started a blog called Jazz Explorer to pursue that interest.