This coming Saturday at the Dome in Tufnell Park, London, next to Witchsorrow, Serpent Venom and Death Penalty, death merchants veterans Asphyx will headline the fifth edition of the Doom Over London all-dayer. Their legendary vocalist Martin van Drunen agreed to unveil the first details on this special gig, even if he still has a hard time defining what that word truly means to him…
Since there’s always been some confusion around this, we’d like first of all to know what’s your take on this: can you say that Asphyx is a death metal band with a doomish edge or do you just happen to be a doom band that can’t help playing death metal in the end?
“Well, if you look at many of the early death metal bands, a lot of them had all those doom parts already, like Autopsy or Obituary: they always had slow parts in them. The same goes with Asphyx; we always had those slow, sludgy songs in our repertoire simply because we like playing them. So I’d say that we are first and foremost a death metal band that has some doom influences, at least if when you think about doom, you’re thinking later Sabbath or early Candlemass you know?”
Do you agree with people who say that doom is just metal played slow?
“I don’t even know to be honest how to define doom in the first place! I guess at least for me it means that the lyrics have an… existential vibe, be it through depression, natural catastrophe or the loss of someone you care about, that kind of stuff you know? I’d say that’s the main characteristic. Then you’ve got to have all those slow parts but it has to be heavy as well.”
Looking back, what would say is the first proper doom song Asphyx wrote? The Rack maybe?
For me The Rack is more a proper doom/death because it starts pretty slow but then goes faster in the middle before switching back to doom. But the first ‘real’ doom song by Asphyx? Hmm, maybe Diabolical Existence from our first album, because it’s slow all the way through. Or Evocation too maybe but it’s also uptempo in places so… Nah, as a matter of fact, I take that back. You want the first full-on Asphyx doom song? I’ll say Last One On Earth: it’s epic, it’s long, it’s supra-heavy and the lyrics totally have that doom vibe to them.”
You’re supposed to play a doom-oriented set only in London this week. This isn’t the first time you’ve done something like that is it?
“You’re right, we already did it twice. First time was for the Hammer Of Doom festival in Germany in February 2010: the organiser was a friend of ours and since one of his headliners had cancelled their appearance two months prior to the event, he asked us if we could help him out to fill that gap up by playing a doom set. Then Roadburn asked us to repeat the experience three years later. So London is going be the third time we’re going to do this. I’d like to stress, though, that we’re not going to play doom songs only, it’s just to going to be more doom-oriented, if you catch my drift. And for the record, it’s not going to be the same set as for Roadburn or Hammer Of Doom.”
Can you spill the beans on some of the songs you’re going to be playing in London?
“Well, nothing is 100% set in stone yet but I’m pretty sure we’ll do Minefield from our last album. I also hope we can do Asphyx II from Death… The Brutal Way too, plus The Rack and Diabolical Existence from The Rack. There’ll be a little of everything for everybody.”
Being in the scene since the late 80s, how come you never ended up in a full-on doom band?
“As a matter of fact, I almost did. A few years back, a band from the Netherlands called Bunkur asked me to do vocals for them. I initially said ‘yes’ but then Asphyx had reformed. Plus I joined Hail Of Bullets and all in a sudden I had no free time left so that never happened in the end.”
If Asphyx were to cover a doom song, what would it be?
“Hmm, tough one… Probably by Winter, like Servants Of The Warsmen from their Into Darkness album. It would be a nice tribute as they were a huge influence on Asphyx in the early days. And besides, it’s good not to do the obvious. I mean as great as it is, the world doesn’t need another cover of Black Sabbath don’t you think?”
Last but not least: your last album Deathhammer is now three years old. Any idea when your next full-length will come out?
“As quickly as possible! Paul [Baayens, guitarist] and I, we’ve got tons of ideas already. We’ve been talking for a couple of years with our Swedish friends from Torture Division about doing a split together. They actually recorded their part some time ago and are just waiting on us so the plan is to enter the studio next May for this. But we would also like to use that opportunity to also get some songs done for our next album then complete it during another session in the fall. So hopefully we can have a new album out before the end of 2015.”
Doom Over London V takes place at the Dome in Tufnell Park, London on April 4.
Check out Asphyx’s Facebook page here!