Cult of Luna
Voivod: Part 2
Voivod: Part 1
Dillinger Escape Plan
The Year In Metal
Dead to Fall
Tapping The Vein
High On Fire
Metal Meltdown IV
Metal/Hardcore Fest 2002
Century Media Records
My Dying Bride
The Year In Metal
Metal Blade Records
Maudlin of the Well
Thrash of the Titans
Dust To Dust
Six Feet Under
Metal/Hardcore Fest 2001
Metal Meltdown III
Pain of Salvation
Children Of Bodom
Cradle Of Filth
Lamb Of God
Garden of Shadows
March Metal Meltdown
Metal/Hardcore Fest 2000
Flotsam and Jetsam
God Dethroned has been pounding audiences with their own brand of melodic death metal for the past decade to increasing acclaim. Having just released their latest opus 'Ravenous' in Europe, the Dutch act is poised to assault the old country in April on the No Mercy Festival tour alongside Vader, Marduk and Amon Amarth. 'Ravenous' will hit the new world at the same time the band is honing their live skills overseas. US fans can only hope that the road-conditioned foursome will head over shortly thereafter with sharpened axes. It is a busy time for God Dethroned, so we were pleased that founder / guitarist / vocalist Henri Sattler was kind enough to check in with the Metal Update to talk shop.
METAL UPDATE: If you looked at 'Ravenous' compared to your other records like 'The Christhunt' and 'Bloody Blasphemy', how have you progressed as a band?
You know, 'The Christhunt', the first one, is completely different. Well, not completely, but different from the last three albums. It's a big gap in between, you know? 'The Christhunt' is from '92, and then we did an album in late '97. There's a big gap in between. So, the first one is really brutal and extreme, and then 'Grand Grimoire' is more like fast and extreme but also very melodic. That's something that we kept on doing. 'Bloody Blasphemy' is fast and extreme but also very melodic, and the same goes for 'Ravenous'. The biggest difference is that 'Ravenous' has shorter songs, and is a little bit faster, I think. So, there's not much difference. It's only that we try to do better songs, maybe, and we try to keep a lot of variety in between the songs and the albums. That's important, otherwise it gets boring.
MU: How long have you been into metal?
Oh, well, since I was twelve, thirteen years old. I'm becoming thirty in a few weeks, so this is a pretty long time. I listened to Kiss and Iron Maiden in the beginning, and then developed into Metallica and Slayer, and later into Death and bands like that - Morbid Angel, Entombed, Nuclear Assault. That's basically it.
MU: You started out with some fairly normal heavy metal bands and then you progressively got into harder and more extreme music. What attracted you to death metal?
I loved it when I heard it for the first time. At that time, we had a radio station in Holland that had metal on it. They played Death for the first time and I heard it and I was like, "whoa, I want to do this, too." I liked it so much, it was unbelievable. It never had that impact on me like when I heard Death, and then 'Leprosy' came out. They played 'Leprosy' on the radio, and it was like, "oh, man, this is unbelievable." I just love that type of music. That's when I really started playing death metal myself.
MU: Do you consider the band to be more of a death metal band or a black metal band? Does that really matter to you? Do you worry about stuff like that at all?
Oh, I don't worry about it at all. You know, I think we're mainly a death metal band, but we also have some thrash and black metal influences. That's good, because that means we have some variety in the music. Some people think we're a black metal band, and that's fine by me. I mean, I don't care as long as people like it, but I see God Dethroned as a death metal band and I think most people do.
MU: Do you think God Dethroned has anything unique to offer the death metal scene?
Well, unique, that's impossible. But I think we sound refreshing between a lot of death metal bands because we have a lot of melody in the music and good musicianship. Okay, lots of bands have good musicianship, but we have a lot of variety in the songs, and we have lots of melody. I think the melody that we have in the songs is something that a lot of bands don't have. I think that's one of the good things about God Dethroned.
MU: You talk about the melodic influences in your band, are you influenced by bands like Hypocrisy and In Flames?
Oh, yeah, we are influenced by a lot of Scandinavian death / black metal bands. The Gothenburg bands are a big influence on us. I think everybody in our band likes Gothenburg bands, and I think you can hear that in our music.
MU: I know you consider yourselves mostly a death metal band, but when you look at some of the more commercial black metal bands, like Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir, do you support them?
Well, we listen to those bands, and I think they influence us a little bit - not that much anymore. Yeah, they try to be commercial, maybe, I don't know. . . it's just like, we weren't used to black metal bands playing this well, you know? I think Cradle of Filth really managed to play songs that last so long - songs like six minutes or longer - and still be able to keep people's attention. I mean, most of the time, when songs last that long, people will lose their attention. For some kind of reason, everybody seems to like a band like Cradle of Filth, and that's some of the good things about it. I don't think that a lot of death metal bands can do the same, because I think it's more extreme. Cradle of Filth has all these keyboard things, and a lot of passages in their music. They have a keyboard playing and nothing else happens. Everybody can listen to a keyboard. That's something else. When Cannibal Corpse is playing their songs, that's something completely different. I don't know, I like death metal.
MU: You formed a band called Ministry of Terror, is that correct?
Yes, that's right.
MU: Was God Dethroned broken up at one point and then you formed that band?
Yeah, well, actually I joined a band and then we formed Ministry of Terror. I played in God Dethroned until the end of '93, then we decided to split up because of all the problems with the record company and also inside the band. Then I started to play with some other guys and then eventually we formed Ministry of Terror. Then we did an album and a European tour. A lot of people recognized me from God Dethroned and they said "hey, you're the guy from God Dethroned, why didn't you go on with that band, because it's much nicer than what you do now." I heard that so many times on that tour, when I came back home I decided to reform God Dethroned. I did that early in '96, so actually God Dethroned didn't exist for a little bit more than two years. I'm glad I got the band back together, because we've been very successful since then.
MU: Was Ministry of Terror also a death metal band?
It was a little bit of death metal, but it also had a lot of thrash metal. I think it was mainly a thrash metal band because of the singer. For some kind of reason, people didn't really like the band. I think they liked the music, but they didn't like the voice, the singer.
MU: What were the vocals like?
It had a little of a hardcore touch to it, and people didn't really like it.
MU: You said at the end of '93 you'd been having problems with the record company. Was this Shark Records? Was that your first label?
Yeah, correct, yeah.
MU: What was the problem with that label?
They turned down the album cover of 'The Christhunt' CD. We had the butchered rat. We re-released it on our own label, Cold Blood Industries - you know, the original cover with the butchered rat. But they said no to that cover back then in '92. They came up with their own cover, and didn't say anything to us. They just put a cover around it, and they didn't even put the band logo on the cover. That sucked completely, and it didn't sell that well at that moment. So, there was not much left to do than quit everything, you know, because we couldn't discuss with these people. They'd just keep on deciding things without talking about it, so it just didn't work. But, you know, we re-released the album in '98 with the original cover, so a lot of people bought it now which is good.
MU: Why didn't Metal Blade re-release it?
I don't know. I thought Metal Blade wanted to concentrate more on the newer album. It gave me the opportunity to start up a label to earn some money, to invest in some new bands, and it was one of my dreams to have my own label. It's just a hobby, but still we have seven releases right now. It was fun to do it myself. The people in Europe weren't really into the first God Dethroned album - maybe the people in the States are - but we decided to do it ourselves.
MU: Are you the sole owner of the label?
Yeah, me and a guy from the studio.
MU: Is anybody in the band involved?
No, the other guys in the band don't have anything to do with it, actually, because they didn't play on the first God Dethroned album. When I bought back the rights of the album it was just my music from then on. Actually, I wrote all the songs, and the guy from the studio also wanted to start the label with me, so we both bought back the rights on the first God Dethroned album and released it.
MU: So, you have other bands on that label?
MU: Are they all death metal bands?
We have a black metal band. We have a thrash metal band called Dead Head. We have a stoner rock band called Stone In Egypt. We got a gothic band, it's called The Wounded, so we've got all kinds of bands.
MU: Do you like having that kind of variety on your label?
Yeah, I wanna have a label just like Metal Blade with all different kinds of metal on it. I think that's better than just doing black metal all the time, you know? With the bands we sign, they're very good live bands. When we sign a band they have to be good live otherwise it doesn't make sense. We're really happy with the bands we have.
MU: Do you go to concerts or clubs and see these bands play live and then approach them?
That's the way we do it. We just go and see the band. We see a band that we really like and who are good live, then we just talk to them and offer them a contract.
MU: Are these all European bands?
Actually, they're from Holland.
MU: Is there a pretty good death metal scene In Holland?
It's getting better, actually. For years there was nothing. I mean, when we came back as a band, there was nothing - hardly anything anymore. But, the last couple of years, people seem to be inspired to play death metal again.
MU: Do you write most of the lyrics and do most of the music yourself, or is that more of a collaborative effort?
I write most of the lyrics, but the music is being written by everybody. I think I wrote three or four songs for the new album and Jens wrote about three or four songs and Beef wrote only one song for this album. That's how it goes most of the time. I think 'Bloody Blasphemy' was something like that, too. Everybody knows what somebody else in the band likes. When I write a song, then I know where to leave a space for Jens to play a lead, to play a melody, or something. We don't have to be together to write good songs, and I think it works out pretty well.
MU: I notice a lot of the songs you have on your records have some sort of historical or mythological theme, like "Soul Capture 1562", "Firebreath", or "A View of Ages". What attracts you to that?
Because it's original. I mean, when I use historical themes from Holland from the early days, then I'm sure that nobody else has done that before and that's good. It gives people something else to listen to or to read, and it gives me the opportunity to sing about something else than ripping off somebody's head, you know? I think a lot of people all over the world know the tale of the Flying Dutchman, the story about the ghost ship, and that's "Soul Capture 1562". The other song's about Nostradamus and the song "Firebreath" is about this sailor from Holland who sailed the river Thames for three days. You know, nobody before him and nobody after him ever managed to sail the river Thames as an enemy country, so it's really cool to write a song about it. I think it fits the music, as well. For some reason, we didn't do that for 'Ravenous'. I just didn't feel like I wanted to write something like that this time. I had different ideas.
MU: Do you read a lot about history?
Sometimes. I know a lot about it because when I was at school I was really interested in historical themes, but I have to do research as well. I don't know everything by heart, and I didn't have the time to do that for 'Ravenous'. I think that's one of the main reasons we didn't use that kind of topic on this album, because I didn't have the time to do that research.
MU: Are you planning on coming to the US anytime soon?
Yeah, we're planning to tour the US in the summer, but we don't know with who at the moment. We'll have to find the right band for that.
MU: Have you guys toured the US before?
Yeah, we toured with Cannibal Corpse last year for five weeks. It was really a cool tour because a lot of people knew about us, and people really liked it. Most of the time, we had a slamming pit going during the first song already. After that, we toured Japan, so we had a cool year after the release of 'Bloody Blasphemy'.
MU: Had you guys toured Japan before?
No, no, it was the first time. We were the first band ever from Holland to tour Japan.
MU: What were the crowds like?
They were really into it - even the people who didn't know the songs. They were really fanatic, and people really enjoyed the music and they didn't leave early. Everybody was staying there until it was really finished, and then they took off for home. They really had a lot of respect for the music.
MU: Was 'The Grand Grimoire' the first release on Metal Blade?
Yeah, that's right.
MU: Did someone from Metal Blade approach you guys first?
No, no, no, we just sent them a tape. Actually, we recorded 'Grand Grimoire' even before we had a record deal Then we just sent them a tape and they liked it and wanted to sign us. It was very simple.
MU: Do you listen to a lot of death metal, or do you listen to a lot of other types of music, as well?
I listen to death metal. I listen to black metal. I listen to Iron Maiden. I listen to The Smashing Pumpkins. I listen to a lot of music.
MU: Do you do anything outside of rock? Do you listen to classical or jazz?
No, no, I don't. Not at all. I like rock music and I like death metal and all kinds of other metal, but I don't like jazz or classical.
MU: 'Ravenous' is dedicated to Aleister Crowley. Do you study his books and teachings?
Yeah, I studied some books and I like his thoughts about things, you know? I'm not into satanism or something, and he is not into satanism, as well. He was just studying occult things, and he was studying spiritual things. He had a lot of thoughts about that and he wrote a lot of books about that. It's just fascinating stuff.
MU: Is there anything specific that you can say you were attracted to in his teachings or his writings?
Actually, I was more attracted to the person Aleister Crowley than to something he wrote, in the first place. But now I'm reading his books and I was really fascinated by all the experiments he did and all the things he'd been through. This whole story around this guy is really fascinating. It inspires me, but it was the person itself, in the beginning, that made me feel curious about him.
MU: Do you study anything by Anton LaVey?
No, I don't know anything from Anton LaVey and I don't value the Satanic Church. I'm against religion which means I'm also against satanism, so I don't value that. No, I haven't even read anything from him or studied anything about it. I just don't care.
MU: Berthus Westerhuys, he produced your first three records, is that right?
He produced all the records.
MU: I noticed on 'Ravenous', God Dethroned had the production credit, and he had an engineering credit but not the actual production credit. Was he still the producer on this record?
Well, not really. He always engineered and mixed all the albums, but he never really produced the albums. Actually, we always produced the albums ourselves, but we always put his name on the album and this time we thought we can do it differently. Most of the time, it's me and him doing all the mixing, but when we actually record and we need a producer, we just do it ourselves. We know what we want. We actually don't need a producer. Most of the time, we gave him the credit. This time we did it differently.
MU: I was under the impression he was not really into death metal when you first hooked up with him and you were working on 'The Christhunt'. Are you guys friends or how did he get involved?
Well, we became friends all through the years. I started recording there - my first recording I made there in '89, so that's a long time ago. Back then, he had a very small studio and he only knew bands like Slayer. That was the most extreme he ever knew. That was also the time that Death came up with 'Scream Bloody Gore' and 'Leprosy' later on. Then, I got into my new band called God Dethroned and I came back to record our first and only demo tape. He'd never heard something like that before, so he didn't understand it at all. It was not that he didn't like it, he just didn't know what to do. After it was finished he really started liking it, and we became big friends and, since then, he's really closely involved with the band.
MU: Is the title of your latest record, 'Ravenous', taken from the movie of the same name?
Yeah, that's correct.
MU: Do you get a lot of ideas for lyrics and titles from movies?
Usually not, but for this album, yeah, I watched some movies, and especially Ravenous. It was really great, and I wanted to do a song about it. Sometimes it helps, you know? Most of the time you have to read a book or get inspired another way, but this time the movie itself inspired me, and it was great. Sometimes, it's simple to be inspired by a movie, but then you have to reproduce it in the lyrics, and that can be difficult, but with 'Ravenous' I think it worked out very well.
MU: When you look at the development of death metal in America and Europe, do you see any sort of difference in terms of quality or style?
I don't know. I think the US death metal bands are a little bit more extreme than the European death metal bands. I think we have a little bit more melody compared to the Americans. I think that's the main difference.
MU: Would you guys like to go into more of a straight metal direction or do anything different, or are you pretty happy with the style the way you play it now?
No, we're pretty happy with the style, and I don't think we will change it. I don't see why we should change it. This is God Dethroned. This is what goes well, this is what we like, and this is what the audience likes, so I think it will stay the same for coming albums.
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