THANATOS is back with a new release entitled "Beyond Terror“, a four track MCD which they financed and released completely on their own… Reason enough for us to get in touch with mainman Stephan Gebédi again for a little update on the band…
Tell us a little bit more about the material, like when you wrote it, where you recorded it, if it differs from your previous releases and so on?
"The mini-CD contains 3 new tracks that were written last year, one new version of ‘Angelic Encounters’ plus a video clip; I think these three new tracks are among the fastest and most aggressive tracks we’ve written so far, it’s pretty brutal Death Metal with an aggressive “80’s Thrash-feeling”. Like I said we also recorded a new version of ‘Angelic Encounters’; this version is faster and a lot tighter than the version on our last full length-CD; we wanted to show the playing abilities of our new members and the new found aggression. In a way we’ve become more brutal and faster but on the other hand these tracks are a return to the feeling we had in our early days. We recorded the songs in a small local studio in just two days which also adds to the raw, underground feeling of this disc."
The copy you sent me is a CD-R which comes with a self-made coloured cover. Is this also the version you’re selling or just a promo copy to safe money? Do you actually sell this release or is it just for promotional manners?
"This is also the version we’re selling, and it isn’t meant to save money; in contrary; it costs us a fucking lot of money to do it this way. First we wanted to use these recordings for record labels only, but then people started asking us why the mini-album wasn’t available…it wasn’t planned first to make it available to the public, but we decided to make a limited number of copies (a few hundred) available through our website (www.thanatos.info). We paid for everything ourselves; the recordings, the videoclip, we print the covers and labels ourselves and you have no idea how much money I have already spent on (black) ink-cartridges, CD-labels, glossy paper for the CD-covers… it’s really unbelievable… we sell the CD for 8Euro at concerts and 10 Euro by mail (including Postage etc)… I think it’s a fair price if you look at the costs we made for the recordings, video and packaging. Besides that, it’s the music that counts and now you get 4 great songs and a professional looking video… I think it’s value for money…"
You already mentioned the video clip for ‘In Utter Darkness’, which is included on the CD as well… It looks kinda professional, so I figured that this was still financed by Hammerheart, but from what you just said, it wasn’t. So, when and where did you record that and why does it stop all of a sudden?
"No, it wasn’t financed by Hammerheart; we paid for it ourselves. The video was shot by the LowlifeMedia Group, which is set up by Maurice, the singer of Occult, who’s a good friend of us. He did a great job on our video, and he already recorded many clips for bands like SEVERE TORTURE, MELECHESH, USURPER to name but a few. The video stops at the end of the song, when you see a zombie going for the throat of a woman. We stopped it at that scene, cause with all the eating and gore that follows, it wouldn’t be broadcasted at any TV show… , so it stops at the end of the song… maybe the end of the song comes all of a sudden to you…? I don’t know."
Yeah, I had the impression that it somehow got cut off at the end or something… But anyway, ever since the release of your last album “Angelic Encounters” the THANATOS line-up has changed again… Bass player Theo van Eekelen and drummer Aad Kloosterwaard are no longer with you. Was this mainly due to their commitments in HOUWITSER and SINISTER or have there been other problems?
"Yes, and I’m really glad the line up changed this time! There were no personal problems with Aad, cause he’s a nice guy, but you don’t have to be a skilled drummer to hear that the drumming on "Angelic Encounters" sucks! Shortly after the recording of this album I already decided that Aad would not play on another THANATOS-recording. I didn’t have to kick him out though, cause he left the band when things started getting busy again with SINISTER. I’d already contacted Yuri about a possible replacement a couple of weeks before he left, because we already knew he was either leaving or we were going to tell him to leave, so we lost no time when Aad left. The funny thing is that Yuri was the first drummer I approached when I reformed the band in 1999, but then he was too busy with his other band. Then I turned to Aad. Of course the drumsound on "Angelic..” is awful as well, so that doesn’t help things either.. There were also no personal problems with Theo. After Aad left Theo first decided to stay in THANATOS, but he’s very close with Aad and they’re both in HOUWITSER, and after a while I noticed he couldn’t give it 100% to THANATOS anymore, so we talked about it and I told him it would be better for him to concentrate on HOUWITSER, we’re still good friends though, cause he’s a fucking cool dude…"
Tell us a bit more about Yuri Rinkel and Marco de Bruin. What have they been up to previously and how did you hook up with them? Are they fulltime THANATOS members now or just temporarily fill ins?
"I’ve known them both for quite some time already… they’re definitely full time band members and musically this is the best THANATOS line up ever; Yuri also drums in the Black Metal band LIAR OF GOLGOTHA (they released 2 or 3 albums so far), and Yuri and Marco also have a brutal Death Metal project together called ABODE OF THE BLESSED (among the lines of HATE ETERNAL, MORBID ANGEL etc). Yuri is a very fast and technical drummer who fits our style perfectly, Marco is originally a guitarist, but he’s doing a great job on bass guitar for THANATOS…The atmosphere in the band is excellent as well! So me and Paul (lead guitar) are very happy with this new line up."
Considering the fact that you put out “Beyond Terror” yourselves, I suppose that you are no longer with Hammerheart Records… What lead to this situation? I mean, Hammerheart still seemed to be very dedicated with the re-issues of your old albums and “Angelic Encounters”, so what went wrong in the end?
"There were no real problems with Hammerheart, but we only signed to them for the re-releases plus one new album ("Angelic…"). They did a good job promotionwise for us in Europe, but nothing happened in America… Apart from a few small financial “misunderstandings” I think they did a good job for us, although they weren’t able to get us on a European tour or any of the Summerfestivals…Our deal with them simply finished and both parties thought it was better to stop the cooperation…"
Are you already in touch with new labels for a possible fourth full length?
"We are talking to a few small labels at the moment, but it turns out to be more difficult getting a record deal than I thought; a lot of labels have financial problems and are afraid to sign new bands at the moment. We’re not signing to a label where we have to pay for the recordings ourselves, cause that’s not my idea of real record deal. On the other hand I see many labels releasing countless CANNIBAL CORPSE / MORBID ANGEL clones, and I wonder if there’s a bigger market for 381.000 bands that all sound the same than for an original sounding band like THANATOS? I don’t think so, but still these bands get signed; I really don’t understand those label politics… (me neither! – Frank) We still need to write more songs for our next record, so we’re not in a rush… but there’s a small chance that “Beyond Terror” will be officially released through an American cult label; we’ll probably add some live bonustracks, new artwork and have it remastered or so… It’s not sure yet, cause we only started talking to that label yesterday."
How do you personally judge “Angelic Encounters” in retrospect? Are you still satisfied with it? Do you think it was an album that people expected from the resurrected THANATOS at the time?
"I shall be very honest about it; I think it’s a good album songwise, there are some very good songs on that album, but the weak drumming and the terrible drumsound really destroy the album… I won’t go as far as saying that "Angelic Encounters" is a black page in the band’s history, but personally I can’t listen to that album anymore. A lot of people seem to like it though and we got very, very good reviews for the album. I guess it’s because of the songs, which are good and which live up to our standard, but I think our fans deserved a better album after such a long wait. That’s why we are so eager to record a new album and show the people how fucking great we now sound compared to "Angelic…", haha!"
You played several shows again after the release of “Angelic Encounters” – tell us a bit more about them, like where and with whom you played and if people still remembered and appreciated THANATOS?
"We played quite a few shows but not too many; we don’t want to play every little village in Holland every week, but we like to do selected gigs; after "Angelic…" we played with several Dutch bands like SEVERE TORTURE, CENTURIAN and GOD DETHRONED, we also played some festivals with bands like VADER, CRYPTOPSY, DYING FETUS, EXHUMED, most of those shows went very well (apart from the "Fuck The Commerce" Festival where I totally lost my voice due to alcohol and drug-abuse the night before the show… once again my sincere apologies for that, please forgive me!). There were some people from the past who came up to our shows, but most of the time we played for a new generation of Death Metal fans and they really seem to appreciate the band; most of them don’t even know our old albums, but they’ve heard of the band and they accept us. One of the coolest shows was a festival in the big hall of 013 (Tilburg) where we played at a festival with mainly gothic bands (THERION, TRAIL OF TEARS); we were the only real Death / Thrash band that night but the audience loved us… which was quite a surprise to us…"
Anything else that people should know about the activities of THANATOS – past, present or future?
"Well, I think most people know that we started as one of the very first Death / Thrash bands in 1984 and that we’re still going strong in 2002, we have become a faster and heavier band in the course of time, but we still use elements from the very beginning. Hopefully people will check out our new promo and pay a visit to our website: www.thanatos.info. People can also write to (and order the Mini CD from): THANATOS, Van Langendonckstr. 28, 3076 SL Rotterdam, Holland. Thanx to everyone that helped or supported us in any way – stay brutal! Stay sick!"