Today we get a lesson in History of Metal, this is the kind of interviews I most appreciate: a great teacher (musician and narrator), a band with so many things to tell and an amazing Thrash Metal to make us enjoy. They could be bigger, they could be more famous, even they could be perfectly living from their awesome legacy, but things as they are. Nevertheless, most important, they are still AFTER ALL, with their own sound after 30 years of career, kicking asses around. Enjoy it.
Hello Christophe, After All is a Belgium band with a long path in the thrash world , fighting since 1987, do you feel you have got all the recognition you deserve?
Hi Alberto, It does make us really proud when we see the nice body of work we have released during our long career, nine full albums and eight EP’s so far! Plus we believe that our latest album «Waves of Annihilation» is truly our very best.
Also the many tours and support slots we have done for people we look up to and that have influenced us is really mind boggling when you stop and think about it for a minute. Some of them have even become close friends. So in that respect yes we do get the recognition, however it still, after all these years, remains a struggle to get on tours and bigger festivals. The competition is huge and some other band is always more flavor of the month…
But that’s just the way of the world I guess, all we can do is make the best possible albums for us and our fans and give the best live shows.
The rest is out of our hands.
True enough. Christophe Depree and Dries Van Damme are the only original members in the band right now, what can you tell us about your current line up?
On bass we have Frederik Vanmassenhove, who already was a very close friend for many years before he joined the band, awesome player with a lot of experience, he played, recorded and toured with Aborted (Belgiums biggest Death Metal band) for five years.
On vocals, Sammy Pelemans, with his amazing voice and range he really is, according to me, one of the best singers out there, he truly is a match for any international big name.
A year ago we were very happy and fortunate to add Bert Guillemont to our line up, after our previous drummer decided to quit. He is also a very experienced drummer hailing from Ypres. He used to play for H-8000 Hardcore legends Liar. We jokingly call him our Dave Lombardo, the dude is a heavy hitter, super tight with crazy drumfills and a super nice guy too.
A great team. This question if for Depree or Van Damme, what memories do you have from the old times of the band?
Dries and I (Christophe) met each other in school round 1984-1985 and have been playing in a band together since 1986, that’s thirty years this year. Two thirds of our lifetime! How crazy is that? We really grew and developed the After All style together and are always busy with band stuff not only music but also the more practical and business side of things. In the early days we bought a guitar and amp, and started playing together every Friday after school, then came our first gig, soon after our first demo followed by our first 7″ EP (Dusk). Some years later our first full album (Wonder), lots of gigs, more full albums, a first tour and we just kept on going because we still enjoy it. Always moving a bit further or higher, getting better at what we do. Music is a very big part of our lives. We are very proud of what we have achieved with the band throughout all these years.
Alive history, something to be proud of, for sure. Talking just about feelings & music, what time was better the 80s or the new century? Age makes you more conservative and less aggressive?
Every time has its good and bad aspects I guess. When we started out – in pre-internet times – not many bands were around in our local scene but also not a lot of people that put up gigs so to get our name out there was really hard. Nowadays with internet and social media you can reach pretty much everybody in the world. The downside is the amount of bands out there is huge. So it’s difficult to stand out. Obviously the music we were into at the age of 14-15 really made a big impact on us. I guess besides the classics (Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest) it was especially the Bay Area Thrash scene (Exodus, Forbidden, Death Angel, Metallica, Heathen, Testament) and LA speed/thrash scene (Agent Steel, Slayer) as well as New York’s scene (Anthrax, Overkill). But we were (and still are) also heavily into Voivod, Mercyful Fate and King Diamond and tons of other cool stuff. Lots of young bands these days don’t have this background or influence, they weren’t even born when we were starting out… But every generation has its idols and influences, that’s just the way it goes.
I totally agree with you, every generation has his idols, but we shouldn’t forget where all this comes from. Your first recording was the Ep Dusk (1992) and the first full length is from 1995 Wonder. You needed some time to take off, right?
Well yeah, we had to learn to play our instruments for starters, haha. The step from a demo to Dusk, recorded in a professional studio was huge. Once we did that the next logical step was a first full length.
But every time we got to grasp our instruments better, along the way we also learned a lot about the business side of music. I don’t think our evolution is that different from any other band from our era.
But since that time yo have not stopped the production machine and in this 2016 you have released a new album, Waves of Annihilation, that deserves the fan attention and a place of honor among the best thrash albums of the year. How long did you work on it?
The new album «Waves of Annihilation» is definitely the most time and work we have put into any full album. It’s also the most collaborative one to date, Dries is still the conductor of the band so to speak and delivers the most amount of riffs but these days myself and Frederik are also writing a lot of stuff. This results in a new and fresh approach to things. «Waves» is our heaviest but at the same time most versatile album.
We worked in three big sessions, writing 3 songs first then recording them, another 4 a year later and another 3 for the last session. We all have jobs and kids so that obviously deserves our attention too.
It’s not like when we started out: we went to school, lived with our parents, so we had a lot of free time to party, go to gigs and play music.
Anyway since Sammy and Frederik joined us in 2010 – I (Christophe) am also doing the recording of all bass and guitar tracks at my home studio, drums and vocals are recorded with our sound guy Bart Vennekens. Also a matter of getting experienced in that side of the music biz I guess. Seeing how we can optimize our way of working.
Would you underline any difference between Waves of Annihilation and past releases?
The drums sound more organic than on its predecessor «Dawn of the Enforcer». As I mentioned before Frederik and myself contributed a lot of ideas on this one, but the main difference is Sammy’s vocals.
His characteristic high pitched voice is obviously still there but he also sings some awesome melodic, more heavy metal type choruses and even a pretty cool death grunt here and there. So vocally it’s definitely covering a whole spectrum of sounds.
One of the things that has never changed with After All is the power and tech of your sound, an with this Waves of Annihilation we get enough of it one more time…
Yeah, we just make the music we like to make and hear. We’re not the type of band that jumps on the latest trend bandwagon and just do our thing. Even though also our musical spectrum is really broad and we – unknowingly – incorporate all these influences when writing new stuff, when the five of us get together and play it comes out as After All music.
There’s really only one rule when we start making music: «there are no rules». We have to like it and are very critical of ourselves as a band and of each other as individuals. But everything is always done for the greater good of our music. And obviously through all the years we’ve been doing this, we’re always getting better at it, we raise the bar every time we start a new album.
Awesome. How was the compostion process of the album?
As always, there were no rules or a predetermined plan. We just write what we think is cool. As I mentioned before, besides Dries who still remains the main composer, I also contributed a lot of riffs (even more so than with «Dawn of the Enforcer where my contributions were already much more than on previous work).This time Fredrik also came up with some very cool riffs.»Waves» is a band effort really, more than any other After All album. We were, and always have been very critical of our own music which is obviously a good thing. No filler whatsoever. We really took a long time to finetune the songs. Even when we were recording we weren’t afraid to still change some stuff, all for the better of the end result off course.
Yeah, no fucking fillers, and we thank it. Fall in Line is one of my favorite on the album, with a revival sound I would say, a great vocal work in different levels and with a great atmosphere in the slow parts…
It’s definitely something different for After All, the main idea came from Frederik and we were obviously very happy to run with this one. Dries and I are very big Meryful Fate and King Diamond fans and that kind of comes out in this track, haha.
We are very happy with the way it turned out, Sammy also shines on this track.
It’s also one of my favorites of the album.
First Class Terror offers an awesome guitar development and the speed of light…
The intro riff and chorus riffs are mine and Dries came up with the rest. The song starts off mid tempo but turns into a real speed metal rager. Our new drummer Bert really has a blast when we play it live. Sick drum fills is what he enjoys and does very well!
Oh sure! What are the lyrics about in Waves of Annihilation?
Life’s gereral themes I guess. Religion and being oppressed by it, addiction, the end of our freedom – the downfall of mankind, how people deal with dramatic changes in their lives, being a slave to society, finding your path in life.
All in all, a very inspired album, that thrash fans will enjoy from beginning to the end. So the question arises clear in my mind: Why After All is not more famous? By quality it deserves to be in the first division?
Thank’s for the very nice compliment! We’re always glad if someone appreciates and gets our music. Why are we not more famous ? I guess because we are from a small country (Belgium). In the past we didn’t have the support of a major label or big booking agent. But now with NoiseArt Records I think we have the best deal we’ve ever had, it’s definitely a big step up …. We already notice this in the amount of reviews and interviews we’ve been getting. So who knows what the future holds in store for us… In any case we think we have made a killer album and were very proud of it that’s the main thing. All the rest is bonus.
As a band with so many years in the scene I supppose you must be a reference in Belgium for the young bands, right?
Who knows, I guess for some yes. Most of the people in Belgium who are into metal have probably heard of us. As you say Dries and myself have been at it for quite some time (30 years !). We still enjoy doing this and feel with every album we become a little bit better. As long as we have that feeling – after such a long carreer – I feel it’s a very positive thing.
How do you see the thrash scene in Belgium right now?
For me personally the kings of Belgian thrash will always remain Cyclone. Nowadays there are some young bands who are working hard at honing their craft. With modern technology it has become more easy to record music, release demo cd’s and so forth, so more power to young guys (and girls) who spend time making music (instead of gaming all the time) because playing in a band is hard work most of the time.
Do you have any touring dates scheduled for this 2016?
We have a few Belgian shows lined up but no concrete touring plans at the moment. The right tour opportunity has to arise – we’ve done a lot of very cool tours in the past and we know which packages work for us and are interesting for the band. We don’t want to tour just for the sake of touring. We’ll keep our eyes and ears open that’s for sure.
Hope to see you in Spain in the near future, thank you very much for your time, Christophe, and for this amazing part of Metal history you represent, we wish you the luck you deserve with your new album!
Thank you Alberto for your time and interest in After All, always appreciated!
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