Answers by Isangrim
1.Can you give us an update on what has been going on with the band since the recording of the new album?
Well, to be completely honest, nothing much. We prepared everything that was needed for the release, like artwork, shirt designs and stuff like that, but that was about it, really. We are a band that doesn't rehearse much anyway, we only did that when shows were coming up, and those were quite rare on their own. So with absolutely no shows planned for the near future, there's isn't even much need for rehearsing. However, when the world will finally get back on its feet, we would like to play significantly more shows than we did in the past, so there will probably be more activity by the end of the year. Hopefully…
2.In May you have a new album coming out, musically how does it differ from your previous release?
In the first place, it's a continuation of the previous record since it still is a mixture of death-, black- and doom metal, but in general the songs are maybe a little bit more complex and, in their own way, sophisticated. There's a bit more happening in terms of dynamics and structure. Secondly, I think the atmosphere is even darker and more suffocating on this one, sometimes even downright unsettling. There are these, more or less, ritualistic parts, ultra slow crushing doom bits that tend to really get under your skin. We even used some string arrangements, done by a project of a good friend of ours called "Halls Of Stained Glass", to create a sense of epic and dramatic grandeur. It's little things like that tend to make a difference and I think it's important to do stuff like this from time to time. That being said, there's a big chance that the next record will be raw and primitive as hell. Who knows? Time will tell.
3.The lyrics on both of the albums cover the myths and folklore of the Buck Rider Cult, can you tell us a little bit more about how you got interested in this topic?
When Lykaios and I started this band, we wanted a concept that stood out. We didn't want to be the umpteenth black/death act to dive head first into the occult and the typical "Blood, Fire, Satan"-stuff was also not particularly high on our list. Absolutely no disrespect to bands that use these themes, we quite enjoy these ourselves, but we just wanted something different. I was going to be responsible for the lyrics, so it was really important to me that there was some connection with ourselves in order to create some authenticity. Personally, I love history, mythology and folklore and I love bands who explore and incorporate this into their music. And I especially adore the ones that explore their own history, because in my eyes that makes the most sense. Why should we, a band from Belgium, sing about Norse mythology or something like that? Although very interesting there's no real connection. The Buck Rider mythos however, is the perfect match. Not only are the tales of ruthless gangs of robbers that sold their souls to the devil and flew around on the backs of billy goats horrifically dark, brutal and sinister, they happened, allegedly, right under our very noses. The historical buck riders, or at least the people who were branded with this name, were active in the borderlands of Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands and that is actually very close to where we all live. In fact, the place where some of the trials and executions were held, is merely a few miles from my home. Now, it's important to note that the real buck riders were a lot less "impressive" than the devil worshipping murderers from the tales, nowadays they would be considered mere petty criminals, but their trials were pretty brutal and violent. In our lyrics we have a good mixture of folklore and historical aspects, all bathing in the dark atmosphere that is typical for both.
4.Are there any other lyrical topics or subjects that you plan to explore on future releases?
Good question. In fact, my first idea was to use other local folklore tales for this album, but then I realized there was much more to tell about the riders. Also, our bass player Beleth, who offered to write some lyrics as well (and did a terrific job, by the way) had some fresh ideas about different aspects of the cult, so before we knew it, we had a full album of "Rider"-lyrics again. As for future releases, I'm not entirely sure yet. maybe we dive into the lore some more, there are a lot more stories to tell, or maybe we'll focus on some different stuff.
5.All of the band members also have experience playing in other bands, what is it that you bring into the music of 'Rituals Of The Dead hand' that you where or not able to do with your other groups?
To put it simply, Lykaios and I started this band because we wanted to play some old school death- and black metal again. We both grew up with these genres and we still feel a strong connection with them. Our other band, Hemelbestormer, also shows some hints of black metal, but there it is merely one aspect of a whole range of influences. We always listen to all these cool death- and black metal records, both old school and recent releases, on our way to rehearsals and shows and one day the idea of playing that stuff again ourselves just popped up. Beleth, who we've known for years and even filled in on bass on a Hemelbestormer tour, loved what we did on our first album and joined soon after the recordings. He has a deep affection for old school post punk and new wave, the ultra black stuff, but is also firmly rooted in the metal underground. We use Rituals Of The Dead Hand to manifest this shared passion.
6.Can you tell us a little bit more about the artwork that is presented on the new album cover?
Well, more then any other subgenre of metal, and maybe any genre of music as a whole, underground metal music relies a lot on the power of the visual artwork surrounding it. It is a - pun intended – sacred thing in heavy metal. When going through the album bins at a record store, it is just that which captures the viewer’s eye, don’t you agree? Beleth, our bass player and art academy teacher, created it. He wanted to make sure that the album cover was a solid reflection on the atmosphere and ethos of the album, and offer the listener further depth into the music. Instead of using a ‘complete’ image, he decided to depict a part of the whole, since in many cases such an image is more powerful. And it’s quite simple: a wide-eyed goat is staring at you, quite terrifying in all simplicity, with a cloak of ambiguity draped over it: it stands there, calmly, as a prelude for the pillaging acts which are about to begin as soon as the night falls. Even the medium used is very simple but dark as nigh: pitch black Pierre Noire pencil on paper. That’s it.
7.What are some of the best shows that the band has played so far and also how would you describe your stage performance?
Ha, since we've only played three shows so far, I would say all of them! Originally, it wasn't our intention to play live, but we loved the material so much that we changed our minds and decided to play a few shows here and there. But if I have to choose, I'd go for our show at Culthe Fest in 2019. It's a small, but excellent underground fest organized by wonderful, dedicated people who believed in us from day one. Very nice bill as well. As for our stage performance, nothing fancy, really. Just old school metal heads giving it all they can in an energetic show.
8.Both of the albums also have been released on 'Dunkelheit Produktion' are you happy with the support that they have given you over the years?
Yes, we are. They're dedicated people who show nothing but respect and passion for the music. Integrity has always been an important factor for us, in everything we do. In this regard, Dunkelheit and Rituals Of The Dead Hand are a good match. We don't play extreme music to sell thousands of copies or to play big arena's and they didn't take us in because they were expecting to wheel in tons of cash. We play this music because we love it and they support us for the same reason. In the end, that is what matters.
9.On a worldwide level how has the reaction been to your music by fans of black, doom and death metal?
Well, we are a very small and obscure underground band with no real ambitions and expectations, but the overall reaction on our first record was very good. We didn't get that much exposure because we hardly played any shows, but everywhere we came people seemed to like what we did. At this moment, our second album hasn't been released yet, so reactions remain to be seen.
10.What is going on with some of the other bands or musical projects these days that some of the band members are a part of?
Well, Hemelbestormer is about to release its third album in September, so that is something I'm really looking forward to. Without a doubt it's our darkest, heaviest and most dynamic record to date and anyone who's into doom/sludge/black/ambient stuff will surely not be disappointed. Furthermore, Lykaios is unleashing his new project Lhaäd upon the world in a few months and I can tell you that it sounds absolutely amazing. Think of Hate Forest mixed with Akhlys and Mysticum and you'll get an idea. Seriously, keep your eyes peeled for this one.
11.Where do you see the band heading into musically during the future?
I think it's safe to say that we are a band that doesn't feel the urge to reinvent the wheel every time we make a new record. We have chosen our path and we most likely will stick to it. We're extremely happy with that. Of course, there can be some mild experiments to freshen things up, but like I said before, maybe we take it down a few steps and make the next one extra raw, brutal and primitive.
12.What are you currently listening to nowadays?
Oh man, where to begin. Right now, I'm completely obsessed with the new Mare Cognitum-album. Highly recommended! The last couple of months gave us a treasure of great releases, by the way. Alkerdeel, Wolvennest, Emptiness (all from Belgium), The Ruins Of Beverast, Akhlys, Yoth Iria, … The list is almost endless and there's a lot more to come. But it doesn't have to be extreme stuff all the time, sometimes I really long for tranquility. Crippled Black Phoenix, Lunatic Soul, Nick Cave, … they all do the trick when I'm in that mood. Still mostly dark, atmospheric music for sure, because somehow I don't seem to like uplifting music that much. Still, there's a lot of great stuff out there for he who wants to look for it.
13.How would you describe your views on Occultism?
Fairly non-existent, to be completely honest. It can be an interesting matter and I enjoy listening to a lot of bands that embrace the occult and try to escape the mundane, but I'm not a practitioner or expert on the subject, nor will I pretend to be. It can create a fantastic atmosphere and, when done right, also strengthen the escapism that is music. Something about it feels very pure and honest and I can appreciate and love that for what it is.
14.Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?
Thanks for the support and keep up the good work promoting real music!