Friday, November 7, 2014

Pentacle Interview

1. Can you give us an update on what is going on with the band these days?

We just returned from a long weekend sharing the stage with the mighty Funerus and Affliction Gate which was a very positive experience. Although I know John and Jill McEntee for quite a while now, we never performed together with Funerus live and it was a pleasure to see them destroy the stage! Affliction Gate was shredding as well. Great band! We did one gig in Belgium and two in France and the audience was very supportive towards all bands involved.
Right now, we are preparing ourselves for the next gig as support for Thanatos’ release party for their upcoming album. I’m looking forward to share the stage with them again and not to forget Eternal Solstice. We released a double split 7” EP last year with them on Dark Descent Records and I am very much looking forward to see them live again. We did many gigs with Eternal Solstice in the mid 90’s, so it should be great to witness their Death Metal Massacre again. Surely a gig to look forward to!

2. Recently you had released an EP, how would you describe the musical sound that is presented on the recording and also how does it differ from the stuff you have released in the past?

Well, for me personally this DCD features way more than only “The Fifth Moon”. It’s a retrospective album featuring everything we released up to our first major release, being “The Fifth Moon” PD/MCD. The featured demos or EP are equally important to the history of the band and are in no way inferior to the later material. The intent of this release is a trip down Pentacle’s history lane and to give an oversight what kind of Metal we performed during those years. Both on a musical and visual level.
I think this release perfectly shows the progression we made from 1989 up to 1996. One has to remember Pentacle was our very first band, so we had no previous experience and we grew as musicians through the years. Live and learn, as they say. Just listen to the rehearsal version of “Belief from Below” and compare it to a song like “Black at Heart”. It still is the same band, but we matured big time during this period of time.  The biggest differences in my ears are the vocals and the drumming. I really had to find my own identity and learn how to handle vocals the right way and I think the session for “A Dance Beyond” was a step in the right direction as they offer more emotions and power than the ones I did for “Winds of the Fall” and “Caressed by both Sides”. It was a learning process. Our old drummer Marc had turned into a better drummer by the time we wrote the material for “The Fifth Moon” and it shows very much. Faster and more intricate. He added an extra dimension to the four songs. The early material features more slow and doomy parts. We were (and still are) very much into the slow Hellhammer and Celtic Frost songs/parts like “Procreation (of the Wicked)”, “Dawn of Megiddo” or “Buried and Forgotten”, so we incorporated many heavy parts into our material. Songs like “Denial of God” didn’t speed up very much at all and this part of our sound wasn’t featured on “The Fifth Moon” as there was little inspiration to doom around the world.
The production of “The Fifth Moon” is more professional. Tighter, yet I think the “Exalted Journey” EP is way more heavy. The bass was way too low in the mix for “The Fifth Moon” and that was a disappointment back in the days. From that point of view I definitely prefer “Exalted Journey”. Still, we kept the plain aggression, energy and heaviness alive through the years. Death Metal, the ancient way!

3. From 2005 to 2013 there was no new material released, can you tell us a little bit more about what was going on during that time frame?

After the release of “Under the Black Cross” we did many gigs to promote the album. It received an US release, plus an additional PD treatment as well (still the ultimate version of the album to me). It was a very heavy period for me as I handled almost everything and every version of this release by myself. “Archaic Undead Fury” was fast on the tracks of “Under...” as well. In retrospect, “Under the Black Cross” really pushed me towards the edge and I had a hard time dealing with it. I managed to make it work, but it fed on my energy big time. I think I was close to a burn out at that time as I had to keep it all going. I felt I had to keep the momentum going all by myself.
Around 2007 (or was it 2006?), I received the offer to join Asphyx again which I did and this went off like a rocket! We did many gigs all around Europe and the US and it consumed almost all of my spare time. We still rehearsed with Pentacle, played gigs and worked on new material, yet Asphyx was going fast and even faster and I think I was taken aback by the mere speed of the developments around this band way more than I expected it to be. It felt amazing to be a part of these happenings and the internal band dynamics because everything was moving forward. Everyone was pulling the bandwagon and that was a very big difference from Pentacle where I did the major work on my own. To a certain degree, it felt as some kind of relief to be part of such machinery. Maybe it was some kind of escapism, you know. Yet, my involvement in Pentacle was not enough to keep the band going on a regular base. Because I was very much involved in Asphyx, it took its toll on Pentacle which was never the intention. There was stagnation for sure.
After I parted from Asphyx in 2009, I had a hard time being a musician again. I was very much disappointment how matters had evolved and couldn’t find the energy to get going with Pentacle again on a bigger level. Surely, we still kept rehearsing and playing gigs, but matters were progressing very slowly.
The thing that triggered me mostly was the announcement on the radio from Rick Cortez (Sadistic Intent) concerning our split 12”. They were going to make it happen at last, so Pentacle had to get moving again. From that point, everything got back into place and the focus was on again. Except for the split with Sadistic Intent, we received offers to share other releases with Eternal Solstice and Mortem which we very eagerly accepted as they are both great Death Metal acts. So we had several projects to work on and this was a big motivation for me to move forward again. In the meanwhile we (re-)released these items:
- double split 7” EP with Eternal Solstice
- split 7” EP with Mortem
- “Into the Depths of Mill” live tape
- “Under the Black Cross” tape
- “Ancient Death” tape
- “Five Candles burning red” MCD
- “...Rides the Moonstorm” CD
- “The Fifth Moon...beyond and back” DCD
The actual release that triggered me to get back in business again (the split with Sadistic) is still not out. Kind of strange how matters develop when you think about it...

4. With the band name and a good portion of your lyrics you have covered some occult topics, can you tell us a little bit more about your interest in this subject?

The lyrical content changed over the years. Up to “...Rides the Moonstorm” and parts of “Ancient Death” the concept was indeed about the occult in all its aspects, but mostly personal views and experiences. After these albums, I felt I was going in circles and started to rehash myself, so I needed a fresh approach which became WWII for “Under the Black Cross”. I still think occult topics fit perfectly to the Death Metal sound, but my inspiration had dried up and I didn’t wanted to recite some book or copy some Crowley, so I took another direction. I still have a big interest in the occult and it keeps me entangled in its web.

5. The band has been around since 1989, what is it that motivates you to keep going after 25 years?

Sheer determination, big-headed, the need to express yourself on a creative level, not willing to give up even when the road is very rocky and most important, a huge passion for extreme Metal! I am very much dedicated to Black/Death/Thrash etc. It’s in my blood!!!! After so many years, the band has become a big part of my identity. One of my qualities is to bite and not to let go again, so here you go...

6. What are some of the best shows that the band has played over the years and also how would you describe your stage performance?

Recently, we did an US tour with great bands like Ares Kingdom, Unholy Lust and Morgengrau and it was awesome! Basically, we are a non-touring band, so this experience was amazing! We are more used to single or weekend gigs, so a US tour is quite exceptional to us. The crowds made us feel very welcome and I want to thank them very much! The promoters did a great job and treated us very well.
About the gigs in the past, a few stand out in my memory: the very first two gigs we ever did with Gorefest and Asphyx. Supporting bands like Samael, Emperor, Obituary etc. Gigs with our friends of Acrostichon, Mortem, Ancient Rites, Incantation, Sadistic Intent, Gospel of the Horns, Desaster, Eternal Solstice, DeadHead, Necros Christos, Sathanas, Excision, Morthra etc. All great memories as it’s very important to us to share the bill with kindred spirits. United we stand, right?
As far as stage performance, there’s nothing spectacular to mention. We are a hard working band with loads of sweet, tears and the occasional blood when something goes wrong! We still love to headbang and get the crowd going. We wear shirts of the bands we support and/or admire and that’s it.

7. Do you have any touring or show plans for the future?

Yes, we have single shows coming up, like the one with Thanatos and Eternal Solstice or Outrage, but nothing big. The usual stuff. We received some offers to play abroad again and we have to look into it what’s possible. The US trip was awesome, so it would be great to have another go as well.

8. Vic Records is going to re-issue your 1996 ep, but with remastered and bonus tracks, what are your thoughts on the final product?

I am very proud to say the end result is the way we envisioned it. It came out very well and offers money for value.
I am very satisfied with the layout. Together with our former drummer Marc I designed it and the cooperation was a most successful one! It was the first project both Marc and I worked on after he left the band in 2001 and it was great to catch up with him again. Back in the days, we often worked on the layout as well, so it was common interest to make this release as good as possible. Marc is still very proud of his Pentacle legacy, so he wants only the best! Granted, the pics are a bit small, but there was so much info we wanted to incorporate... I had to be very picky as we weren’t able to use all the material I had in my possession, so I had to shift through the pile and use the most important ones only. For a chapter like “Winds of the Fall” there was little visual material available, so we had to use whatever I had in my collection, but in the end it worked out well. I didn’t want to re-use material from the big “Ancient Death” MLP booklet nor “The Fifth Moon” PD collage, so it narrowed down to whatever was left. Still, except for the “Winds of the Fall” chapter, there was more than enough.
About the music, there’s not much to say. It was remastered, but we kept the sound as original as possible. We had to work hard on the “Caressed by both Sides” rehearsal demo as the original recordings are very low-ended so we couldn’t raise the overall volume of the rehearsal to the same level of the other recordings, so we had to alter the sound a bit. I think it worked out fine. For the rest there were no problems as I still owned all original DAT-tapes, so we used them to compile the material. Thanks to our sound engineer Robin!
It’s a pity we couldn’t include our version of Hellhammer’s “The Reaper” which we recorded back during the “Caressed...” sessions in 1992. The song was part of the rehearsal demo and we still perform it live, so I really wanted it to be featured on the second CD, but possible royalty payments withhold the use of the song and we had to let it go. It’s a pity, but I understand the reason.
I would have loved to include more exclusive material, but there was nothing left in our archives, so it’s pretty much basic our official releases plus two extra songs and that’s it. We already used our best live recording for the “Into the Depths of Mill” live tape and as I want to keep recordings exclusive as possible, I didn’t want to use any material from that live recording for the DCD again. It felt too cheap to me, so we kept the DCD as it has become now.
Roel (Vic Records) did a tremendous job and I thank him from my blackest heart for his hard work and dedication!!!!

9. Over the years how has the feedback been to your music by fans of black and death metal?

I tend to think people do appreciate our concept. We were and never will be a popular band in the underground. There’s no fuzz concerning Pentacle. We are no groundbreaking act in whatever sense you come up with and it shows rather obvious. Pentacle is not an exciting band breaking boundaries. Our sound neither is very heavy, original nor sheds it light upon something fresh or amazingly intense. We’re no old school Death Metal like Sadistic Intent or Asphyx. We don’t perform Occult Death Metal like Grave Miasma or Necros Christos. We don’t play Black/Thrash as Desaster and Gospel of the Horns. We don’t play Black Metal as Blasphemy or Katharsis. There’s no particular audience for us and I feel we’re somewhere and nowhere at the same time. But, we are a very honest band, very much devoted to the art of extreme Metal. What you see is what you get. We kept the flag of Ancient Death Metal high since 1989 and never betrayed our roots or origins. We always walked our own path whatever trend was ruling the scene. Pentacle never gave in. Never! Though I think we are not an original band at all, we create material with a certain vibe. One is able to hear it is Pentacle and when I actually think about it, there’s no band around like us. We do wear our influences and inspiration on our sleeves and we’re damn proud bands like Possessed, Celtic Frost, Necrovore, old Death, Venom, Slaughter etc. have left their mark on Pentacle. They are the best!!! Yet there’s no other band around sounding like us, which makes it even more remarkable for me personally, as I am convinced Pentacle has little originality to offer. But that was never our intention either. When we started the band in 1989, it was all about the old bands and our dedication to keep their spirit alive through our music. We never aimed for an original approach nor had the urge to create something new, because we wanted to create Metal very much influenced by the classic Black/Death/Thrash Metal bands and nothing else. We didn’t want to sound like a new Morbid Angel, Entombed, Carcass, Paradise Lost, Napalm Death, Bolt Thrower, Deicide, Pestilence and others. All bands very popular when we started the band and we enjoyed as well. No, we took albums like “To Mega Therion”, “Seven Churches”, “Infernal Overkill”, “Apocalyptic Raids”, “Hymn to Abramelin”, “Strappado”, “At War with Satan”, “Scream Bloody Gore” and “Morbid Tales” and combined their sheer power with the rehearsals/demos/live tapes from Hellhammer, Mantas/Death, DeathStrike/Master, Pentagram (Chile), Necrovore and Messiah and off we went! We went for a different take on Death Metal than most bands of our generation did as they went for the “Earache/Roadrunner/Nuclear Blast- approach”, so to speak.
I hope people respect our concept. They know we don’t get influenced by any new developments and we stick to our guns. If they enjoy our music, I don’t know. You should ask them, not me. At least people know Pentacle is an honest band and that counts pretty much for me. I know there’s a fair share of Pentamaniacs out there and I want to thank them very much for all the support they gave us!!! They are the best!

10. When can we expect another full length and also where do you see the band heading into musically during the future?

After so many years, it’s very hard to come up with fresh sounding material. Our musical concept is very tight, so we are prone to reach our self set boundaries fast. I’m very keen to progress within our concept, so every record has to “better” than its predecessor, yet we will stay true to the original concept at all costs! No compromise!
I want to see how far we can push the limits, so as long there’s room to progress, we’re on board! As soon as we reached the utter limits and start to rehash ourselves, it’s all over. I mean, many bands have a formula they repeat over and over again and in these cases it often works fine for them, but that is not what I have in mind for Pentacle. I was often disappointed when certain bands delivered kind of the same record again. It was a letdown for me as a fan, so when we started Pentacle I didn’t want to make the same “mistake” as these bands did. Only too often a band reaches a certain technical level and after that they change direction (like Metallica did after “And Justice for all”...) or start repeating themselves. For some it pays off, for some it doesn’t, but that’s all subjective, you know. There are few bands able to progress record after record, but that’s a totally different discussion. Progression for the sake of progression is not always good either, so it really depends on the band and what they are able to pull off. I mean, we don’t want Sabbat (JAP) to sound progressive, right? They did some tricks left and right, but they stay faithfully on course and damn right they do! Same with a band like Cianide. You don’t want them get weird all over, right? Album after album they know how to deliver the goods, so all power to them!
I have respect for songwriters like Chuck Schuldiner (R.I.P.) and Trey Azagthoth who were able to push the boundaries for many years. Granted, their first records are still my personal faves, but that doesn’t withhold me to acknowledge their will/drive/passion/creativity to improve as a musician and to come up with better (...) records. Again, the last point is all in eye of the beholder, yet it is obvious musicians as Trey and Chuck pushed the limits to the max. If you enjoy such developments, that’s another question...

11. What are some of the bands or musical styles that have had an influence on your newer music and also what are you listening to nowadays?

Through the years there has been no shift in musical inspiration from my side. These are still the same: Venom (everything up to “Possessed”), Hellhammer/Celtic Frost (everything up to “Into the Pandemonium”), Possessed, Necrophagia (“Season of the Dead”), Bathory (first four records), Slaughter (CAN) (“Strappado”), Messiah (everything up to “Hymn to Abramelin”), Mantas/Death (everything up to “Leprosy”), Necrovore, DeathStrike/Master, Destruction (“Infernal Overkill”), Slayer (“Haunting the Chapel” and “Hell Awaits”), Treblinka, early Asphyx (everything up to “Embrace the Death”) and some more. Very classic stuff as you can see.
As far as new releases, I try to keep updated in this totally overcrowded scene. I’m still buying demo tapes, 7” EP’s, LP’s and CD’s, so I have some knowledge of what’s going on around me. Some current faves are Blood Storm, Oath of Cruelty, Necros Christos, Dead Congregation, Drowned, Venenum, Grave Miasma, Cianide, Outrage (GER), Hod, Impurity, Ares Kingdom, Mausoleum, Druid Lord, Anatomia, Headhunter D.C., Bölzer and some golden oldies like Autopsy, Poison/R.U. Dead?, Expulsion, Incubus (FL), Pentagram Chile, Bolt Thrower, Nausea and early Morbid Angel (“Abominations..” and “Altars...”).

12. What are some of your non musical interests?

WWII. That sums it up rather quickly. Both Metal and WWII are my passions. I’ve been into this global conflict since I was a verrrrry young boy and it stayed with me though all the years big time. I love to visit museums, former battlefields and other points of interest. I digest book after book and try to keep my library updated which is a feeble attempt with so many publications, young and old, around. My main interests are the British/Commonwealth and German armed forces and the North Africa/Mediterranean theatre of war, yet I read anything interesting I lay my hands on. Being of Italian, French, Greek, Hungarian, Japanese, Dutch, North American, Polish, Russian, Finnish, Maltese, Norwegian, Belgian, Chinese, Danish or Rumanian origin... Whenever the subject is interesting to me, I pick it up and dive into it. Human interest is my biggest love as I want to read the accounts of actual combat on all fronts and by all involved parties. Some current books I am reading or read recently are “Kameraden” by Felix Römer, “Stalingrad: Ereignis, Wirkung, Symbol” by Jürgen Förster, “Corregidor” by E.M. Flanagan JR., “Guns against the Reich” by Petr Mikhin, “Monty’s Iron Sides” by Patrick Delaforce and “Kampfpanzer Maus” by Michael Fröhlich. Quite diverse topics.

13. Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?
Thank you very much for your time and support towards Pentacle. It is very much appreciated! Keep up the good work and thanks for your time!

Play list:
Venom – everything up to “The Waste Lands” and “MMV” box
Terrorizer – rehearsals 1987
Incubus (FL) – demo 12”
Bolt Thrower – “Realm of Chaos” and “The Fourth Crusade” LP’s
Necrodeath – “Into the Macabre” tape
Celtic Frost – “To Mega Therion” and “Tragic Serenades” tapes
Bölzer – “Soma” 12”
Bathory – “Under the Sign of the Black Mark” LP


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