Like the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That old chestnut works when describing extreme metal as well as anything else. When a genre like death metal has been going strong for decades and decades, there’s not much of a reason to stray too far outside of the bounds of the style if one doesn’t want to. If that old school, classic sound is what floats your boat, well, you’re far from alone.
Hailing from the Netherlands, Defy the Curse is a death metal band making death metal the way they want to hear it: crusty as fuck. Since forming in 2016, Defy the Curse has put out a self-titled EP in 2018 and has just unleashed its first full-length, Horrors of Human Sacrifice. For anyone looking for that classic, live-in-the-studio death metal sound, look no further than these crusty bastards. I recently talked to vocalist Wouter Wagemans about his band’s killer debut and why this four-piece likes to keep it old school.
I wanted to start by getting how the band formed. How did you guys meet and what made you want to start this type of band together?
Wouter: The main goal was just to make some music in the rehearsal room and that actually still is the main goal. We all played with each other in other bands in the past, so now it’s the time to combine our forces and make some cool old school crusty death metal.
What got you guys into extreme metal in the first place? Who are some of the bands that were a big influence for you getting into the heavy stuff?
Wouter: For me I just started out like everyone does: from Guns N’ Roses to Metallica, then Pantera, Sepultura, Fear Factory, and from this way it was easier to get into bands like Morbid Angel, Terrorizer, Entombed, and so on. I used to play grindcore with my old band Collision for almost 20 years, so old school grindcore is still a big influence for me. It’s the aggression, groove, and power that got me into extreme metal.
What’s the writing process like for the music side of things? Is there a set process you guys use and has it developed at all as the band has gotten more experience writing?
Wouter: We write most of the stuff together in our rehearsal room. Someone came up with some riffs and we try to write a song from this point. Most of our songs are finished in one rehearsal and we fine-tune them with vocals in the later process. During the Corona years, our guitar player, Harold [Gielen] wrote some songs at home and we worked them out as a band.
What about the lyric writing process? What do you try to do with the words to a Defy the Curse song and do you turn to anything in particular for inspiration?
Wouter: I try to set up a vibe that fits the dark atmosphere from the music. Mostly I get inspired by ’80s horror movies, poetry, books, old videogames, and so on. Also, a lot of the inspiration can be taken from nowadays life.
You guys seem to have had a really consistent lineup since the start of the band. What makes you all work so well together and how do you keep a healthy band dynamic?
Wouter: Actually we started Defy the Curse just because we all wanted to make music with friends. We got a steady rehearsal schedule, once in two weeks we come together. So no frustration with planning rehearsals.
You put out your debut self-titled EP in 2018. What was the process of recording your first album as a band like? What did you learn from the process that you took to future recordings?
Wouter: We recorded the debut EP in one day, all music was played live together. This was a cool fun take because you get the real crusty live vibe. We recorded at Toneshed Recording Studio with Erwin Hermsen where we also recorded with our past bands way back since 1997… or for some members even longer [laughs]. For me this recording was a bit frustrating because my lyrics and vocal lines were finished the night before. So I learned to get this already done before recording [laughs].
Between the EP and the debut LP, there was a bit of a gap. What led to the longer span between recordings and how did you get the ball rolling on recording Horrors of Human Sacrifice?
Wouter: First of all, we were still more of a project, because Boris [Janssen, bass] and I used to play lots of shows with Collision, and Harold is still in Legion of the Damned. When Collision quit, we put more time into Defy the Curse. We recorded this album in March this year but due some personal circumstances I had to record my vocal lines a month later.
What was the process like for recording that first LP? Did you feel more comfortable recording than you did on the EP? What are your thoughts on the final product? I imagine that hearing all the positive reactions must be very gratifying!
Wouter: Oooh yes, this was a big fun project to create! We put a lot of time in the music, lyrics, and rehearsing everything before hitting the studio. I’m really happy with the result. Also, the front cover from Too Many Skulls is amazing in my eyes. The album is doing good, we got lots of pre-orders and got lots of positive feedback from everyone. Even if not, we’re still happy because the four of us are satisfied with our debut album.
I wanted to ask about the musical and lyrical inspiration for a few tracks on there. What’s the story behind “The Tower of Suffering?”
Wouter: This song deals about everything you worked for, believed in, and love is falling apart and will be sucked into a big black hole… yes, you got it right: nightmares.
What about the background on coming up with “The Oppressor?”
Wouter: “The Oppressor” deals about standing up against oppression, this can be in politics or on a personal level. This song is a tribute to the mighty Celtic Frost!
How about the story behind “Dreameater?”
Wouter: Horrors, nightmares, terror… the usual death metal stuff [laughs].
What’s your local scene like where you live? Is there one to be active in and has it shaped the band?
Wouter: Of course, since we all used to play in a lot of local extreme metal and punk bands. Our band members came from bands like Mangled, Collision, Acid Deathtrip, Slam Squad, Legion of the Damned, Inhume, Charlie*Adler, and so on! At the moment there are still some great bands active like From the Crypt, No Permission, Skullhog, and a lot more. Actually, it would be a great idea to make a Limburg Metal Fest or anything [laughs].
Lastly, what’s next for Defy the Curse? What are your goals for the future of the band?
Wouter: At the moment, we are focussing on a few live shows to promote Horrors of Human Sacrifice and later we will probably work on some more songs. Actually, one new song is already written and many more to come. Of course we would like to play some summer festivals, but who doesn’t, right?
Thank you for your interview and support of Defy the Curse!
Photo at top: Horrors of Human Sacrifice cover art.