Wannes Gubbels about Pentacle’s brand new album Sceptre of the Eight Ropes – Part II
Drummer Robert Smissaert wrote me that „we (the band) feel the last release is as a kind of a crown to our work over the past years”. How do you explain this?
You should ask him, not me, haha! It’s Robert’s last album as he will quit the band in 2020. As age increases, it has become more and more physical demanding for Robert to perform our music, leading to a point it becomes frustrating not being fully able to perform on a level as intended by himself anymore, which is never the intention of being a part of a band in the end, of course. It should be rewarding and not turn into a battle (negative meant) with your own body. After the recording “Spectre…” he decided to close the chapter and to lay down his sticks for the band in the near future. So, with this in mind, Robert’s statement is rather obvious. “Spectre…” is an honorable moment to depart and walk his own path again.
Is the Necrophagia cover „Forbidden Pleasure” a bonus track? I think it was dedicated to the memory of Killjoy… Are all of you satisfied with end result by the way?
Yes, it is. Originally it wasn’t planned to record this track at all. We had a different one in mind, but had to let it go as we had to concentrate on our own material first. We needed time to get the original material tight, so I skipped the idea of a cover track. When we had our first meeting with Erwin, he tried to talk us into recording a cover track. He had done the same with Inquisitor (they recorded Dark Angel’s „Perish in Flames” and released it on their EP). I told him to come up with a suitable track and let us know in time, so we could rehearse it beforehand. When time was ready to enter the studio to record the album, I told him he forgot something to let me. „What?” he asked me. „The cover track” I told him. He had forgotten all about it, but the idea kept spinning in his head, so when he brought it up again, we start thinking what song to do.
Erwin still kept his dubbed tapes with the albums he recorded when he was younger in his studio and he started mentioning the content of the tapes. One taped featured Necrophagia’s „Season of the Dead” and this clicked with me instantly as this album is one of my faves since it was released back in 1987. „Forbidden Pleasure” came straight up in my mind. He told us we could record the song for free. We decided to accept the challenge and started with the help of my mobile phone (I carry loads of classic Metal albums with me around, including „Season…”, obviously) to learn the riffs straight at the spot. Bit by bit we worked on the song and recorded it.
I was a bit anxious about recording the vocals as Killjoy’s vocal patterns are rather unconventional, so say at least. I adjusted my style a bit towards Killjoy to keep the original vibe somehow intact and gave it a try. Erwin performed the solo which sounds uncanny like the original. I think it came out really cool and the song added an extra dimension to the album. It fits our tradition of recording covers very well and I am proud of our version. Old Necrophagia was essential for the old underground scene and I am very glad we paid a suitable tribute to this amazing act.
For the LP it wasn’t possible to add the song to the rest of the tracks as the playing time for side B would become too long, so we kept up the tradition of a bonus song on the CD like the end of the 80’s (Earache, Peaceville, Nuclear Blast etc.). A nice counterweight compared to all these „vinyl only bonus tracks”, hehehe…
Pentacle is often cited as Ancient Death Metal. What does it mean for you?
It conjures the spectres of the first wave of extreme Metal bands: Hellhammer/Celtic Frost, Possessed, Mantas/Death, Messiah, Slaughter, Necrophagia (OH), Deathstrike/Master, Genocide/Repulsion, Pentagram (CH), Insanity, Devastation (IL), Necrovore, Incubus (FL), Obscurity, Massacre, Slaughter Lord, Sepultura and the likes. Personally and musically, I feel far more connected to above mentioned acts. Old school Death Metal to me refers to the second wave. You know them all: Entombed, Obituary, Carcass, Morbid Angel (a border case though as they recorded the amazing “Abominations of Desolation” in 1986, but their fame came through “Altars of Madness” and had a huge influence on the scene after that), Pestilence, Bolt Thrower, Asphyx, Autopsy, Dismember, Immolation etc. All great bands with crushing albums, classics for sure, but for Pentacle, our roots are the first wave + the end 80’s demo era. That’s the reason why I refer to Ancient Death Metal, a band being inspired by originators of our beloved scene.
As a diehard (ancient death) metal fan you are, how did you find the comeback release of Possessed titled „Revelation of Oblivion”? Is it on the same level with their cult, classic 80’s materials?
No, I don’t think so. It’s not easy to compare this record with the old ones as we are talking about different bands/times here. The original band will always remain the best as they were a ground breaking act which inspired and influenced hundreds of acts around.
The new Possessed is a professional offering with many great riffs, but it doesn’t feel like the “real” Possessed to me. It’s hard to explain. Many riffs are different from the classic Possessed sound which is understandable with an almost complete different band around. Sure, Jeff’s vocals are very recognizable and one should have lots of respect for the man for pulling it through. He could have felt sorry about this physical condition and faint away in obscurity, but Jeff showed a strong mind set (don’t forget Sadistic Intent helped him a lot to get back in business again) and made this album happen. Lots of respect for that! Not everyone would be able to pull this through. In any case, live they are a force, but somehow it feels as a cover band to me. Personally, I would qualify the new album as a quality record for sure. Emotionally, I handle them as two different entities. I would have preferred if they would call themselves different, you know. Something like Re-possessed, hahaha!
Same thing with Venom these days. It’s Cronos and two other guys. In this case, it’s Jeff and the guys. There’s little common ground with the original line up left anymore. Same could be said about Mike Torrao’s version of Possessed, true. I don’t like it when certain key members are not part of the band anymore. It doesn’t feel the same for me anymore. My two cents. And I still do think Mike should be part of the new incarnation, as he wrote (almost) all the classic material, but from what I have heard, it’s not possible.
Have you ever had the chance to meet Jeff Becerra in person with?
Yes, we hung out a rather long weekend together when he came over with my friends from Sadistic Intent to play the Wacken Festival as Possessed. We had a gig scheduled in Hamburg with the Sadistic guys a few days later, so Jeff hang around as well. We had some cool chats about the good old days. A nice guy. I gave him an original set of photos from the gig in Tilburg when they toured with Deathrow and Voivod in 1986. The one I missed, because I had no transportation, but the poster is still on the wall in our rehearsal place, hahaha! You should have seen his eyes when he opened the envelop. Totally excited. I remember only too well we were doing the sound check in Hamburg and Jeff started thrashing around in his wheelchair. That was rather surreal to me, seeing an old hero of mine going wild to our music. Fond memories indeed.
And what do you think about the new St. Vitus record?
I haven’t heard it. I am familiar with the old ones, but didn’t manage to pick up the last record. Too many releases around and with a limited budget/oversight I have to be picky. Many releases haven’t reached my ears yet and I doubt if they ever will do.
How do you view the social media such as Facebook, Instagram etc.? How often do you use them? Do they play an important role these days?
I don’t own any accounts in this direction, so I am not fully informed about the pros and cons. From what I have seen, I do tend to think it’s far more easy (maybe faster is more fitting) to communicate this way. To promote, speak out, show etc. To be able to reach out all over the globe to reach one’s public for whatever cause. It’s great to be able to communicate with people all around the world about subjects one likes to share. It brings kindred souls with a common interest together and makes it much easier to share knowledge or an opinion. On a band level, the communication with everyone interested improved noticeably, though it’s always important to keep in mind not everyone uses social media (like me), so there’s a need for other means of communication as well.
What I don’t like, is this exhibitionistic behavior and the need to share everything with the world around. I feel there’s a lot of showing off involved. The “look at me” attitude. The need to be recognized and liked by others. Screaming for attention. Plus the harshness of communication, the “internet/keyboard warriors”… Because the way of communication has changed a lot with the internet/social platforms, so many people seem to have an urgent need to voice their opinion on everything, for whatever reason. Itself, there’s nothing wrong with that, but the tone of voice is often over the top. There’s nothing wrong with a good discussion as it can lead to improved insight, but this yelling and cursing… Like there’s little respect for another view of point. From their safe havens it’s easy to criticize everyone and the whole world around them. One thing for sure, there’s a lot of frustration going around, rightful and/or wrong.
In the last two years a lot of influential musicians passed away, such as Killjoy (Necrophagia), Morten Stützer (Artillery), Richard Brunelle (Morbid Angel), Bruce Corbitt (Rigor Mortis), Carsten Otterbach (Morgoth) etc. What are you feelings about it?
Don’t forget about Martin Ain! Well, as we all should know by now, none of us has the gift of eternal life, so the end is bound to happen one way or the other, but it saddens me when people pass away so young through an accident or a disease. As our Metal tradition is still rather young, the passing away of musicians is still a “new” phenomenon. We aren’t used to it. For many, Metal is larger than life and it doesn’t “fit the scheme” when an important musician dies. We all have our personal classic albums and when one of the originators passes away, there’s a personal void. At least, that’s what I felt when people like Chuck Schuldiner, Quorthon, Jeff Hanneman, Piggy, Theo Loomans, Richard Brunelle, Martin Ain, Timmy “Grabber” Hansen or Killjoy faded away. All these guys have performed on many amazing records which mean the world to me, so yes, I do feel sad about this.
Granted, I don’t feel the same with every musician passing away. It differs from the personal connection with the music I have. The death of Quorthon hit me hard. That was rough and emotional. Same with Martin Ain, but understandable, as the records by Bathory and Hellhammer/Celtic Frost mean so much to me. After so many years, they have become part of one’s identity, you know. That’s the beauty of music, but it can hit you on a personal level when some part of this precious legacy is disrupted this way. This is part of your life, too. Family, friends, beloved ones etc. do pass away at a certain moment in live and it’s the same with members of the bands one enjoys/loves.
Since you have been involved in Asphyx, Bunkur and Soulburn, are you still friends or in touch with Eric Daniels, Bob Bagchus? Do you follow what are they doing these days?
I never ever did anything for Bunkur and it’s remarkable this keeps returning to me. No recording, rehearsal, live or whatsoever… And yes, I am still in regular contact with Bob, so I am up to date what’s going on from his side. Well, mostly, hahaha! I recorded some guest vocals for Infidel Reich’s full length record and that was fun to do. Bob asked me to join Hellehond, but I wanted to concentrate on Pentacle only, so that didn’t work out. I have heard the upcoming Beast of Revelation album and it’s a heavy one! You should check it out when you’re into the slow side of Death Metal like Beyond Belief and the likes. Great vocals by John (Incantation), too! At certain gigs, I bump into Eric and we have a chat, but it’s not the same as with Bob as we always stayed in contact from 1989 on.
Are there any shows or tours in mind to support the new Pentacle record?
As we aren’t really a touring band, nothing has been set up. We wanted to arrange a tour with our friends of Sadistic Intent for next summer, but due to unforeseen circumstances it hasn’t worked out, so we will concentrate on the usual weekend gigs. The normal routine.
Are you satisfied with the promotional work of your label? Do they stay 100% behind the band?
I love to work with Costa and Iron Pegasus Records. Sure, it has its limitations to work with an underground label run by one person as you don’t have the same coverage like other (bigger) labels, but Costa’s label and personal philosophy appeal very much to me. He is a very, very honest guy and fully dedicated to the cause of Metal and very strict about his personal ethics. Costa releases only items he truly enjoys himself, without any thoughts of commercial success or failure. Iron Pegasus has released many quality albums/EP’s from bands all around the globe: Sabbat, Impiety, Zemial, Massacre, Tyrus, Poison, Agatus, Desaster, Metalucifer, Mortem, Sadistic Intent, Angel Witch, Messiah, Deströyer 666, Necromaniac, After Death, Euronymous, Pentagram (US), Mayhemic Truth, Mortuary Drape, Beherit, Slaughter, Dolmen, Sathanas and many, many more. Just look at these names… All released with an honest and professional attitude towards bands and fans… Not to forget, back in the days Costa released his underground ‘zine Tales of the Macabre. This was a great one, too. He gives us 100 % artistic freedom and supports us where ever he can. So, everything combined, it’s great to work with someone like Costa.
Wannes, thank you for your answers! What are your closing words for our readers?
First, let me thank you very much for the opportunity to speak out to you. The coverage is much appreciated! Keep up the good work and thanks for the support!
As this is the final interview of 2019 for me and with all these lists around, I would like to share my current playlist with the readers of this interview:
Cianide – “Unhumanized” MLP
Capilla Ardiente – “The Siege” album
Oath of Cruelty – “Summary Execution at Dawn” album
Candlemass – “Dynamo Open Air 1988” + “Live 1990” live albums
Nifelheim – “Nifelheim” album + “The Burning Warpath to Hell” 7”EP
Born for Burning – “The Ritual” album
Degial – “Predator Reign” album
Spectral Voice – “Eroded Corridors of Unbeing” album
Sijjin – “Angel of the Eastern Gate” demo
Holy Terror – “El Revengo” double album
DON’T FORGET THE ANCIENT FEELING… IT STILL RULES!!!