SIEGE OF POWER have just released their second album “This Is Tomorrow” via Metal Blade Records, which turned out a lot stronger than their already pretty impressive 2018 debut “Warning Blast”. It showcases a band that has musically progressed quite a lot, but isn’t denying their old school Death Metal roots, which are even more present now. There’s just a lot more variety to be found in the songwriting this time: on one hand you hear very slow, almost apocalyptic sounding material and then there’s very fast outbursts, which hit you right into the face. These guys mean business, but that shouldn’t be a big surprise if you find out that SIEGE OF POWER consists of four well known names in the Death Metal underground: Paul Baayens (guitar – ASPHYX, THANATOS), Theo van Eekelen (bass – GRAND SUPREME BLOOD COURT, ex – HAIL OF BULLETS), Bob Bagchus (drums – INFIDEL REICH, BEAST OF REVELATION, ex – ASPHYX) and Chris Reifert (vocals – AUTOPSY, ex – DEATH, ex – ABSCESS). For the following interview we hooked up with Bob and Chris to find out a bit more about SIEGE OF POWER…
Greetings Bob, greetings Chris… hope all is well… It’s great to reconnect again after all these years. I hope you guys are in a good mood to talk a bit about SIEGE OF POWER…
Bob: “Hi Frank. Good to speak with you again also and hope you are doing good?”
Chris: “All good here. And it’s cool to chat again. Here we go!”
Bob, you were already active back in 2013 / 2014 under the name FIRST CLASS ELITE and even contributed five songs to the split album “Grime! Greed! Gore!”, which was released via Horror Pain Gore Death Productions and also featured DIRTY MIKE & THE BOYS and VIOLATION WOUND… What can you tell us about this period of the band? Who actually was the driving force behind FIRST CLASS ELITE, who formed the band? Did you already work with the same line-up then?
Bob: “Yes, we did record five songs in the basement studio here in Atak in Enschede. Originally it was the idea of Paul and myself, just for fun. We had a different singer back then though, who came up with the name FIRST CLASS ELITE, so that is why we changed the name into SIEGE OF POWER.”
What kind of music did you want to play when you decided to give it a go with FIRST CLASS ELITE? It’s obviously a lot more Punk / Hardcore influenced than what you usually are known for, isn’t it?
Bob: “At first something like S.O.D., DISCHARGE, CARNIVORE, AMEBIX which can be heard a bit too. But yes, we do sound a bit different now, but then again it is good not to make the same record over again. That does not make much sense after all.”
Did you really split-up FIRST CLASS ELITE at some point or was the band just renamed SIEGE OF POWER later on? What were the reasons for this?
Bob: “We never did split up, but only changed singers and the name as well. The reason was, the first singer came up with the name FIRST CLASS ELITE and since he had to leave to sort things out on a personal level we respected that and therefore also changed the name too.”
I suppose at first it was just Paul, Theo and yourself… So, were you looking for a Chris Reifert type vocalist right from the beginning, but more or less failed in that, so that at some point you decided to ask Chris himself instead of just searching for a soundalike?
Bob: “Well, it was Paul’s idea to ask Chris and so we did. ASPHYX had to tour the Westcoast of the USA and Chris attended one of those shows and there Paul asked him if he wanted to join us. I asked him later on too and he was really into the idea of making music together and here we are, haha!”
Chris: “I’ve known Bob for ages, but it was actually Paul who asked me about that. I went to go see ASPHYX in April of 2017 in Oakland and he told me that they were working on an album and that their vocalist had dropped out. He then asked if I would be interested in doing vocals for their album and without even thinking about it, I said yes. Sounded like fun and it was!”
Chris, considering that your time is probably pretty limited these days, due to your commitment to AUTOPSY, did you at first ask for some time to think about it or did you agree immediately?
Chris: “I agreed right away. It wasn’t going to be anything that would take up a lot of time. All I had to do was write lyrics and spend a couple of hours in the studio recording vocals. No rehearsing required. Ha!”
Did you just get a rough description of what the guys musically wanted to come up with or did they already send you some rough versions of songs they were working on?
Chris: “They were already working on the music before I joined. They did tell me that they were going for a crossover sound along the lines of CRO-MAGS and CARNIVORE and stuff like that though. That was during the time of the first album. On this new one, musically the material is more varied I’d say, which is cool as it keeps things interesting.”
In late 2018 you released a limited vinyl 7″ entitled “The Cold Room”, which came out on Metal Blade Records right away. I suppose the songs have been recorded in the same session as the album that followed a month later, so how did you get the deal with Metal Blade Records exactly? Did you have the entire album finished already before you got signed or did Metal Blade trust the members involved in SIEGE OF POWER so much, that they signed you without even hearing a single song?
Bob: “Those are the same sessions and same recordings too. Well we just send the songs / album, unmixed, to Andreas of Metal Blade and he responded right away and so the deal was done. It was all very easy, but I must admit we were a bit surprised that we got the deal so fast since we didn’t took it all too serious and the songs were nothing more than one big jam session, but we are happy the way things turned out.”
‘Servant Of Nothing’ and ‘Mushroom Cloud Altar’ originally were meant to be exclusive to that single, but then they both also ended up as bonus tracks on your debut full length “Warning Blast”… When did you change your minds about this?
Bob: “Well we didn’t change our minds about it. Metal Blade put those tracks on there. On one hand it is good for people who did not get the 7″ but on the other hand the 7″ gets less exclusive too. But well, what can you do?”
The opening riff of ‘Conquest For What?’ on your debut full length “Warning Blast” immediately reminded me of S.O.D.’s ‘March Of The S.O.D.’, while the riff in ‘Torture Lab’ recalls the famous main them from the “Terminator” movie a little bit…. was all that intentional or is it pure coincidence?
Bob: “True and it was indeed inspired by S.O.D. we must admit, haha! Oh, but the “Terminator” recall does not ring a bell here, could be though, since I never saw Terminator myself, not sure why not, but it never appealed to me somehow. So now I better check that movie out by now, otherwise I will never know the truth about ‘Torture Lab’…”
By the way: is ‘Conquest For What?’ a new version of ‘Ready For War’ from the FIRST CLASS ELITE period?
Bob: “Yes, it is actually the same song indeed. But we wanted to have it on our album.”
You have released two videos from the “Warning Blast” album: ‘Mushroom Cloud Altar’, which is a fast track and ‘The Cold Room’, a slower track… Was this diversity the reason why you chose those two tracks? To showcase both sides of the band?
Bob: “Yes indeed. Releasing two fast or two slower tracks wouldn’t show the whole picture of our album. I really like the ‘Cold Room’ version.”
I suppose you recorded the video footage in your rehearsal room and Chris’ part was added from the recording session of his vocals… What else can you tell us about the origin of those videos? Will there also be videos from the new album again?
Bob: “Yes, true. It had to be done this way since there is a milage gap from 20000km between us, but it did work out very cool. Both videos ‘Mushroom Cloud Altar’ and ‘The Cold Room’ are recorded in our rehearsal room and Chris did his part overthere. I still like the simplicity of both videos, straight up and no bullshitting. We have a video clip from ‘The Devils Grasp’ of the new album and two visualizers, as they call it these days.”
The majority of the songs on “Warning Blast” is rather fastpaced, often also D-Beat influenced and there’s a total of twenty tracks, which mostly have a playing time under the three minutes mark… That has changed on your new album “This Is Tomorrow” now, which features “just” eleven tracks and only three of them don’t exceed the three minutes mark… all others are longer. ‘As The World Crumbles’, ‘Deeper Wounds’ and ‘This Is Tomorrow’ are even pretty doomy, so was that pure coincidence or did you want to come up with something different this time?
Bob: “We do use alot of D-Beats in the band, since that was also pretty much the idea when we started out at first. Those beats can also be heard on our new album, but we have alot more variety this time with, like you said, longer tracks and more slower parts too. We did want to make a more serious album this time, although also now we did not rehearse yet again before entering the studio haha! We wanted too, we had those plans, but it never happened. Paul had 80% of the songs ready and we made two ones up in the studio right there namely ‘Scavengers’ and ‘Deeper Wound’.”
On both albums it says “Music and lyrics by SIEGE OF POWER”, but since the debut features the handwritten lyrics by Chris I suppose he writes all the lyrics? Have you told him vaguely which direction you would like to go lyrically or did he come up with the lyrical topics all by himself?
Bob: “Chris did wrote all the lyrics, yes. He is in charge with that and he knows exactly what to do and we stay away from that haha! Chris knows what each song needs and he knows what subject to sing about the best too. He is the singer and he tells the story and he does it perfectly!”
Chris, did the songs already had titles, which inspired you to write in one way or another? Did you try to write about topics that don’t fit to AUTOPSY or is it basically similar stuff?
Chris: “They let me write my own titles and lyrics. And yeah, I had to think differently than I do with AUTOPSY, because the music sounds nothing like AUTOPSY. I tried my best to come up with concepts that sounded cool and fitting for the music the guys were sending over.”
Since you live in California and the other guys in the Netherlands, was it difficult for you in any way to come up with suitable vocals completely on your own? I mean, it must be different to get feedback right away, when you work on songs with band members in a rehearsal room together, as opposed to just getting finished instrumental versions and then having to improvise all on your own…
Chris: “No, it wasn’t difficult at all. The music they sent over was killer and it was fun finding vocal styles to fit each song. I just hoped they would like what I did, ha!”
I’m not sure if you already had it on your Facebook site from the very beginning, but your description there says “VENOM / BATHORY influenced project”… Honestly spoken I wouldn’t expect that from a band that was named after a NAPALM DEATH song…
Bob: “No, we had other influences and still have them, but this time we had those too, but only in two songs, ‘Scavengers’ and ‘Deeper Wound’. But we play it in our own style. ‘Scavengers’ is a bit influenced by VENOM’s “Welcome To Hell” album and ‘Deeper Wound’ by BATHORY’s “Hammerheart”.”
Don’t you think that SIEGE OF POWER is a quite misleading name for a project that musically doesn’t really have anything to do with Hardcore / Grindcore in general or NAPALM DEATH in particular?
Chris: “It hasn’t been a problem so far. Plus, that’s one of the cool things about starting a band. You can call it whatever you want, which is exactly what they did.”
Musically you can hear a lot of different influences in the songs on the new album “This Is Tomorrow”… There’s some old SLAYER, VENOM, BATHORY and also typical D-Beat stuff… So Chris, did the guys also ask you to come up with different types of vocal styles for those songs or was this your own idea? Would the “typical Chris Reifert AUTOPSY vocal style” also have been accepted or was that out of the question right from the beginning?
Chris: “They gave me free reign to do whatever I wanted and to write whatever I wanted for both albums, which was very cool. Also very trusting on their part, haha! As for this new album, there’s a good amount of variation in the songs, so I did vocals that fit each song individually. It was fun doing custom vocals for each song and hopefully helps to make the album interesting to listen to.”
Bob, you already mentioned the song ‘Scavengers’, which is featured on the new album and has indeed a strong VENOM feel to it, with its almost ‘Seven Gates Of Hell’ type main riff and also Chris’ vocal delivery seems very Cronos influenced here. So, was that the musical direction you originally had in mind for the band?
Bob: “Exactly! We wanted a song which had that old VENOM vibe and so we made up ‘Scavengers’ spontaneously in the studio. But it was not like we wanted the whole album to sound like that of course. We wanted variety, so each song sounds a bit different than the other on this album.”
The drum sound on “This Is Tomorrow” is a lot better than on “Warning Blast”, so I suppose you weren’t completely satisfied how that turned out on the debut album, were you? Did you record somewhere else this time?
Bob: “Oh it absolutely is! This time we actually did a decent drum soundcheck and some tuning which totally lacked on the first album haha! The production on our debut is okay, but all was done in a rush and we did not take enough time for it anyway. It will sound alot better if it got a proper remix but that might never happen. The songs on our debut were rushly recorded in three different studios, so the mix engineer had a pretty difficult task to get the sound all back together and he did a pretty good job too, if you consider the rush we had and the circumstances like no time etc etc.”
The cover artworks for both albums were created by Roberto Toderico. How did you get together with him and how much influence did you have on the final result?
Bob: “We know Roberto for a very long time and he became a friend and he knows exactly to draw what we have in mind. He is a true master in turning thoughts onto paper.”
Will SIEGE OF POWER remain a studio only project or have you also considered playing live shows if your schedules would allow it.
Bob: “It is 99,9% pretty sure SIEGE OF POWER will always remain a studio project. But in the music business you never know of course, but still a liveshow is pretty unlikely.”
Chris, how do you see this? If AUTOPSY would be on tour in Europe and the time schedule would allow it, you could probably realize some shows somehow… So, if that should ever happen, would you feel comfortable in the role of a frontman, instead of “just” being the growling vocalist, who can hide behind his drumkit?
Chris: “As Bob already mentioned, right now there’s no plans for live gigs, but who knows what the future holds. And I’ve never been out front as just a vocalist, so I have no idea of what that would be like. Maybe I’ll find out someday, who knows?”
The photo which was used in the new album seems to be the first real SIEGE OF POWER band photo (I suppose Chris was just added with Photoshop on the one you used for your debut album), so when at where did the four of you finally meet?
Bob: “It is indeed the first real bandphoto. AUTOPSY had to play in Eindhoven last year so we went there of course (I printed the AUTOPSY merchandise too, so we had to be there anyway) and shoot some photos. We did meet several times before and even 32 years back already but not for bandphotos haha!”
Talking of photos: Bob, why is the single shot of yours on the back of the new album mirrored?
Bob: “Oh it is? Never noticed that at all! Hahaha! Maybe dark forces got involved along the way? Who knows?” (at least in this interview you’ll get to see it in its original glory, ha! – Frank)
OK guys, that’s all for now. Anything else you’d like to mention, which we haven’t talked about? Thanks a lot for taking the time and all the best.
Bob: “Thanx Frank for this interview! Well what can I say… uhm… check out our new album “This Is Tomorrow” if you want to.”
Chris: “Just thanks for the time and space. And cheers to anyone reading this!”