-- Spankraght gets shredded! --
Interview conducted & written by Stijn "Metal Shredder" Daneels.
One recent album I had a tremendous time shredding through was the album “Thou Shalt Drown in the Blood of Thy Children” by the Antwerp-based industrial metal duo Spankraght (read that epic review: http://belgianmetalshredder.be/reviews/193) Not only was the album itself an impressive, high-energy mix of metal riffs and electronic beats, but the band also supported the release with a 6-level map pack for the old-school shooter game DOOM. Being a big fan of both industrial metal and DOOM, I of course couldn’t resist getting the band shredded.
And so on Thursday April 2, 2020 I booted up Skype and called up K, Spankraght’s co-founder, to talk about Spankraght’s origins and the making of their epic album “Thou Shalt Drown in the Blood of Thy Children,” and we also talk a lot about DOOM! Rip and tear, until it’s done! Band pictures by Koen Van Mol Photography.
BMS: Hello K! Let’s start with a generic question, how did Spankraght begin?
K: Hey there! So, my friend and Spankraght co-founder W and I have been playing together in bands as early as 2004 when he joined me on bass in the groovecore/nu-metal act Tud Russel. In 2007 W and I left Tud Russel and formed Notti Del Terrore because the both of us wanted to play heavier music. The sound we made as Notti Del Terrore was inspired by acts like Ministry and Fear Factory and our band members included Guy Van Campenhout (who now plays guitar at death metal band Wound Collector) and Frederik Van Mieghem (who now drums at symphonic metal act Elusion).
K: However, after releasing a couple of albums W and I felt that Notti Del Terrore was getting stagnant so we decided to just start a new project written and performed entirely by the two of us (and a drum computer) and so in 2015 Spankraght was finally formed.
BMS: And it’s still just the two of you, right?
K: Indeed. Since W and I have been performing alongside each other for almost 20 years now we’ve built up a huge creative and personal bound. I know what he’s good at and vice versa. In addition, through the years we’ve learned a lot about songwriting, recording, mixing and programming and all of Spankraght’s material is completely DIY (with the exception of artwork). It has given us a ton of creative and practical freedom (especially when it comes to drum beats since we can now program them as fast and as multi-layered as we want to) as well as saving us much money and planning.
BMS: I also love your masks, their designs remind me of Doom Guy’s helmet and Jason Voorhees’s hockey mask and this part man, part machine look fits very well with your aggressive, electronically fueled beats.
K: Originally we had intended to limit our live shows to just the two of us sitting on a chair with just a white curtain and a sansevieria plant as stage props. However, a couple of our friends said that the energetic music we were making required a more visual presentation and then the idea occurred to us to wear masks and uniforms. Our first Spankraght outfit was identical for both of us, with spiked masks and hockey shirts but for TSDITBOTC we wanted our outfits to be more comfortable and with more visual differences between me and W.
BMS: Now let’s talk about the inspiration and production of your current magnum opus, “Thou Shalt Drown in the Blood of Thy Children” (from now on shortened to TSDITBOTC). It was a great release for me to shred through!
K: Thank you! It was a pleasure making it as well! Back when we had released our eponymous debut EP in 2018 we still had 3 tracks left for a next release (which eventually became TSDITBOTC), specifically “Hoop,” “Carnivale” and “Resilient” with tracks like “Reset Mankind” and the lengthy “Exodus” written shortly thereafter. Of course, those tracks were initially written as instrumentals but we wanted to create some coherent structure or storyline to those various tracks. First, I thought of an album title and I was originally thinking about short, one or two word titles but they felt so generic and vague and I wanted something that really stood out.
BMS: What I like about TSDITBOTC’s title is how gruesome and foreboding it is. It sounds like an apocalyptic biblical prophecy and reminds me a lot of the title of DOOM’s fourth episode, “Thy Flesh Consumed.”
K: Exactly and we’ve deliberately chosen this Old English writing to make the title sound more artistic than the modern sounding “you shall drown in the blood of your children.” Of course, a great title only works if you put a great concept behind it so the rest of the album’s premise was built around it. Plus a coherent storyline also encourages listeners to listen to the entire album rather than just bits and pieces.
K: Of course, the apocalyptic concept of TSDITBOTC is nothing new, but it’s quite scary to see how our album’s release date (February 21, 2020) happened just 2 weeks before the Corona virus outbreak, not only that, but only 2 weeks after Bram Bruyneel had sent us the initial sketches for TSDITBOTC’s artwork (with the burning city of Antwerp and its iconic cathedral) the Notre-Dame caught fire.
BMS: Yeah, crazy world! Anyway, what I love the most about TSDITBOTC’s sound is the overall balance between the metal riffs and the industrial beats. It’s great for dancing and headbanging and the pacing is very tight. In addition, the many guest vocalists give each song a unique feel while staying in line with the album’s overarching theme. And finally, I feel that Spankraght’s style would fit very well as an alternative soundtrack for Carmageddon (one of my favorite racing games)!
K: Thank you for those kind and honest words! And yeah, I agree! Since Carmageddon also has a badass industrial metal soundtrack inspired by the likes of Fear Factory, Spankraght’s own sound may be very suitable as well.
BMS: Now, speaking about guest vocalists, for TSDITBOTC you’ve worked with a plethora of national and international singers include Channel Zero’s Franky DSVD, Elusion’s Evy Verbruggen, Alex Agnew, Axel Peleman and even Clawfinger’s Zak Tell!
K: Yeah and we’re beyond impressed by how many people were willing to work with us for the album. Having vocals on TSDITBOTC was one of our main priorities but we didn’t want to overdo it, the vocals were meant to simply establish the setting of the album and to progress its story and then let the music handle the rest. Originally I had thought of doing all the vocals myself but I felt that having multiple voices on the album would make the experience more varied.
K: We first started with a simple post in our Facebook group and through that we got Xavier DS, Dietwin and Droee on board. I also personally contacted my good friend Mario Cesar because he’s being a big fan of our work since our Notti Del Torre days and since I wanted multilingual vocals Mario provided Brazilian Portuguese lyrics for the album.
K: After that great initial response I tried my luck and asked Alex Agnew via Instagram if he were interested to join in (especially since his band Diablo BLVD was following our Spankraght page) and he was quickly on board and with that increased confidence I wrote to Franky DSVD on Instagram (and he was also one of our Spankraght Instagram followers) and like Alex before him he quickly said yes. In addition, Franky and Yves Janssens from Sonic Bastardz were the only guests who recorded their parts at the Rhythm Cage where we rehearse and mixed our album, all the others sent their recordings through e-mail.
K: I’ve known Evy and her band Elusion thanks to their drummer Frederick who, like I told earlier, used to be our Notti Del Torre drummer. In addition, I made a Spankraght-inspired remix of one of their songs called “The Strive” and Evy was very willing to return the favor. Axel Peleman still remembered us from our times as Tud Russel since we had frequently shared the stage with his band Camden back in the day and our paths also crossed regularly when I was working at ATV (local Antwerp television channel) and again, he was quick to come on board.
K: Thanks to my time at ATV I also managed to include real-life news reporters Marc Fransen and Wim Wilri to act as the journalists featured on the album’s opening track “Synopsis.” PJ, the frontman of black/death/doom metal act A Thousand Sufferings, is another longtime friend of mine and he also joined in quickly.
K: And finally Clawfinger’s Zak Tell. I’ve got in touch with him thanks to the aforementioned Yves Janssens since he and Zak shared a huge mutual love for Frank Zappa. And since Yves had already contributed to the album I suggested him to have Zak join in as well. Yves was immediately enthusiastic and did the contact work and 2 weeks before we had our album mastered we received Zak’s vocals! It was a huge honor to have him and all those other people on board for our ambitious project.
BMS: And the end result is ambitious and impressive! Now let’s talk about the DOOM map pack you’ve made for TSDITBOTC. Being a lifelong DOOM fan I’ve had a lot of fun going through that short but sweet 6-level campaign. I loved the setting of Hell in Antwerp, the levels were detailed with lots of demon killing action, a couple of puzzles and some impressive environments and the album’s songs formed a very suitable soundtrack. My personal favorite level is “Blood Refinery,” I love how the level begins at the entrance of the high-tech factory and how you eventually descend into the heart of the infernal machine with blood falling down all over the place and the underground demonic constructions.
K: Thank you! Like you, I’ve been playing DOOM for many years and I’ve even made my own maps as early as 1998 (the map pack’s final level, “Fortress Frenzy,” is a reworked version of the “Ambush1999” slaughter map I made back then). My goal with the map pack was to create large, well-structured and visually pleasing maps that posed a serious challenge without turning them into slaughter maps. I’ve emphasized quality over quantity, since I knew that some experienced DOOM mappers might be playing this and I wanted the maps to be more than just a cheap promotional tool for the band.
BMS: Now, what are you currently up to, especially now with the current Corona crisis?
K: After the year and a half long work it required creating the entire TSDITBOTC project, W and I took a creative break from Spankraght but now since we all have to stay at home we’re already trying out some new material. Our main objective for a new album is to make it even bigger and stronger than TSDITBOTC just like that album was a major step-up compared to our eponymous debut EP. In addition, we also aim to add more classical metal influences to our next Spankraght material in order to make our repertoire even more varied and unpredictable. We also think about continuing the story of TSDITBOTC and maybe even create another, even bigger DOOM map pack.
BMS: I look forward to it! Now let’s go back to DOOM! I saw your impressive DOOM collection that even features a physical copy of the infamous DOOM comic and physical copies of the classic DOOM registered version as supplied by Id Software themselves! How long did it take to collect all those goodies?
K: Not as long as you may think, I believe I’ve worked on this collection for about 2 years now. The trick is to search around long and hard enough on places like Amazon, Bol.com and your local flea markets and eventually you’ll find what you’re looking for without breaking your wallet over it. And that way I managed to cheaply buy well preserved physical copies of stuff like the Master Levels for DOOM II or the various DOOM home console ports that were made in the 1990s.
BMS: Impressive! Is there anything else you wish to add to your DOOM collection?
K: If I had all the money in the world I’d buy one of those huge original artwork paintings of DOOM’s iconic box art!
That’s one hell of a collector’s item! So, what else you’ve got in your life
aside from Spankraght and DOOM?
K: Not much else, I’m a loving husband and father of 3 children, but my eldest kid is now playing DOOM 2016 and he often watches me play DOOM Eternal. He loves DOOM just as much as his old man does! So it’s only a matter of time before we start deathmatching each other!
BMS: Then be sure to invite me to your matches! I’d love to shred your asses, Super Shotgun style!
K: Oh, we will certainly invite you to our BFG Division! It was great talking to you, Metal Shredder! Let’s hope this Corona crisis ends soon so that we can get some beers together!