HELLEVAERDER – Interview

Celebrate life, worship death. HAIL HELLEVAERDER!

HELLEVAERDER (📷 Roel De Rooij)

ROOTS


HELLEVAERDER hails from Heerhugowaard in North Holland and was founded in 2017. Who ignited the fire of HELLEVAERDER and what was the main driver for the birth of this band?

During my education period I had all my classes with Dennis Onsia from the NLBM band DYSTOPIA. We found a common interest in making Metal and I had a few tracks ready to rehearse. This led to the creation of THRONE OF TIME. After the release of the EP ‘Emptiness’ we started doing some live shows and I wrote the demo ‘Emperor of the universe’ (which was released years later). During that writing process I also wrote two tracks in Dutch, ‘Heksensabbat’ and ‘Langs eindeloze paden’.

Being busy with DYSTOPIA, Dennis decided that he did not want to continue in a new direction (Black Metal in our native tongue). But his (now ex) girlfriend recently left the Thrash band MUTATOR and was seeking something new. After meeting up and talking through some ideas we decided to give it a shot. We asked Rene Meijer and Vlad Tudor from THRONE OF TIME to come play for this new project bearing the name HELLEVAERDER.

How did you come to pick this band name?

Being very close friends with A.A.W.R., I always showcase my newly written music to her. After I wrote the lyrics for ‘Langs eindeloze paden’ and the instrumental of ‘Heksensabbat’ we brainstormed together for a name that is original, catchy and would capture what we wanted to say musically. During one of our brainstorm sessions A.A.W.R. spurted out HELLEVAERDER and it just stuck with us.

What does Heerhugowaard have to offer besides the huge Waarderhout forest?

To be honest I have never heard of Waarderhout before hahaha, I moved to Heerhugowaard around 5 years ago because of the (relative) cheap housing prices and the small commute to work (only 25 minutes). But I grew quite fond of this place, only a 5 minute walk to a very large dike called ‘Oostdijk’. But musically speaking we have the ‘JC Kompleks’ which is a small venue and that is about it.

I understood it took effort to come to this quintet as a stable line-up?

After Miranda and I invited Rene Meijer and Vlad Tudor we needed a second guitar player. We had just enough for an opening set and really wanted to go live with our music. After a few auditions we came into contact with Noah Zurhaar, which immediately became a success. He has a certain energy that really works well live.

After some gigs we were ready to record the first demo, but after some struggling during recordings and in general we decided to part ways with both guitar players resulting in recording the guitars on that record myself. Not too long after that we came into contact with Bas Cuperus (JUBAL, NLBM) and Arjen Kleijss (INFANTRY, NL Thrash) and started working on new material.

Two singles (Verloren in de diepte/Gehekeld), two demos (Aan de aarde terug gegeven/Krijgers) which were also released through ZWAERTGEVEGT RECORDS as a compilation tape which was limited to 80 copies, a split with PERFIDE and now the full-length ‘In de Nevel van Afgunst’ as cherry on the cake. That is quite productive for half a decade of existence. Is inspiration always coming smoothly?

The short answer is: most of the time. Music is my therapy, if every little aspect of my life would be perfect I would not have a need to write it off. For months on end I do not touch my guitar or even think about new music, but some days at the most random moments I have a gut feeling that I MUST play something. I just get in the ‘zone’ and make a new track instantly. Most of the time if I cannot finish that flow the moment is ruined and it will go to musical limbo.

Was the Covid pandemic a blessing or a curse in terms of writing material?

It was a blessing and a curse. We were just starting to really get into our prime form with this band and then Covid hit the world. The way we operate is that I write a track and the rest of the band can do their thing with it. But to get the final form of a track we play through it many times together just to find the right balance between every part and to make sure we bring forth what deserves to be upfront. During the first lock-down we did not rehearse, that made it really difficult to discuss the tracks with each other.

But if we are talking purely on writing material, it was a blessing. We all had more time to spare during the lock-downs to pursue our other bands/solo-projects and every one of us spent their time well.

Are you still satisfied with all your releases?

We stand behind all our releases! We gave the best we got with our current gear and recording possibilities.

Anything you will approach differently with what you have learned?

Take less time to plan for recording and just do it. We had plans to record this album for a long time but we never had the chance to rehearse for the last three tracks. Rene and I just said f*ck it, bought a cheap microphone set and a multi-track interface and a week later we went to his storage space to set everything up and test it out. After recording one track we both were like, why not continue this and record it all?  So a few hours later all the drum tracks were recorded. Even though I never played three of them before on drums at all, we were both surprised it worked out so well!

How did the collaboration with PERFIDE come to being?

Our good friend Alex from ZWAERTGEVEGT contacted us with the question if we were interested in releasing a single as part of a split 7’’ with PERFIDE. We always dreamt of being released on vinyl so we instantly said yes!


DEBUT


HELLEVAERDERIn de Nevel van Afgunst
(🎨A.A.W.R.,)

Your full-length debut is titled ‘In de Nevel van Afgunst’ (‘In the Mist of Envy’). Why should one check it out? What is the red line on this album? Is it a concept album?

If you are searching for raw, pure Black Metal this is an album for you! This album brings you not only something we are all very proud of, it shows our growth over the last few years, as musicians and as persons. We became very good friends with each other, although everyone has a different life, this is the one thing that brings us together and we enjoy working towards a common goal.

The red line throughout this album are the ‘Aanbidders van het niets’, the worshippers of nothingness. A group of monks who bring the message of death, a constant battle between dark and light. Every track tells a tale about a primal feeling, it being love, death or despair. A battle between good and evil fought internally.

All summarized: You are worthless, death is liberating. Nothing can hurt you if your desire is eternal peace, the worst that can happen is death. But what if dying was your goal all along? Celebrate life, worship death.

How is the response so far?

So far we receive many good responses! We are all very surprised how well it went during the album premiere, and are really excited to release this record and bring a new live ritual!


LABEL


Did you self-release the album, was it released through ZWAERTGEVEGT records or kind of both? How did it happen that ZWAERTGEVEGT signed HELLEVAERDER? How is the record label supporting the band exactly?

I met Alex through Dennis during our THRONE OF TIME era, and I pitched some demo tracks from HELLEVAERDER to him. He immediately was excited and we met up during many concerts in the area, and during our own gigs. We instantly liked working together because we have the same mindset, we do not become rich from this, but let’s give it all we have and support the Dutch Black Metal scene.

That being said, during our third release ‘Krijgers’ Alex asked when we finally wanted to bring our work to a physical release. As I am someone who is very critical about my own work it never felt right. But Alex and I talked it through and we decided to bring everything we released thus far on tape, which brought the ‘Discography’ release and made the deal that any work from HELLEVAERDER will be released on tape exclusively on ZWAERTGEVEGT.

Alex also offered to release our (no named) release at that time on 12’’ vinyl. Almost 2 years before we actually would release it, and supported us on every live show and with every opportunity. Our work relation is based on respect and love for the scene. And we became very good friends along the way. We are signed for every kind of release ZWAERTGEVEGT will do, as for now it is tape, vinyl and patches.But the moment he will move to another part of the market be sure we will follow! The digipacks will be released through our Bandcamp but even on those we have the ZWAERTGEVEGT logo, as to support our friend/partner and thereby the underground NLBM scene.


NLBM


Do you feel part of a Dutch Black Metal scene? Is there unity in that scene? How does that manifest? Which bands/projects would you highlight/recommend? Why Black Metal above all?

We are all part of the scene. There is a big mutual respect between the Dutch Black Metal bands as we all do what we love, and try to give our own spin on the music. I would highly recommend the bands and projects from Floris Velthuis (ASGRAUW, SAGENLAND, SCHAVOT, MESLAMTAEA), in my opinion one of the greatest musical minds in the Netherlands. Be sure to keep an eye on him for the newest project STUPOROUS!

And why Black Metal above all? Along with Death it brings a certain energy. It has a possibility to be atmospheric, emotional, but also can be as fast as lightning and just deliver a raw, primal feeling. There is no other genre with such variety (In my opinion of course).


COMPOSITION


Being able to play both drums and guitars, Daan is writing the songs. How do the other band members contribute democratically?

Every track I write will be critically reviewed by the band. Does it capture the feeling we all would like to bring forth? Are there certain parts that need to be rewritten? Are there parts where something needs to be added or is the general flow of the track good?

We all agree on a single ‘main’ writer to keep the red line the same. But many, many parts will be changed during rehearsal sessions (and even during recordings). An example: our guitarist Bas had an idea for a different bass line. We tried it and it really added to the song, so it stayed. Vocal lines will be replaced, guitar riffs will have added details. Eventually only the red line of the track will remain but everything else is made our own. Everyone has the freedom to add or remove. We can always try it, review it and work from there on.


RECORDING


Daan also took care of the recording, mix and mastering at his home. Did he have any experience with this before?

I started with recording music when I was 14 years old (28 at the time). It started with basic things like pre-made midi patterns and playing over that, it was a way to express myself. After years of practice with that I started a sound engineer degree, but dropped out after three years because I could not get motivated to make music myself anymore.

Some time after that I started working for a steel manufacturer and my passion for music came back. So a long story short: I have some experience, but it was mainly all trial and error. Just trying new things, deleting entire projects and starting over again with new ideas.


LYRICS


It seems vital to HELLEVAERDER‘s identity that the song texts are in Dutch. What are the primary reasons for this? According to Metal Archives the themes deal with ‘Anxiety, Darkness, Death, Occult, Philosophy, Spleen’. HELLEVAERDER‘s motto is ‘You are worthless, death is liberating. Celebrate life, Worship death. Hail Hellevaerder!’. Again it is Daan who produces the words. What is it that makes Daan write about the dark side? Are the lyrics fictional or drawn from life itself? Which message would you like to convey?

To speak in our own tongue gives an extra dimension to our feelings we bring into the music. In our daily lives we converse in this language and it just feels more personal to express ourselves like this. The Dutch language also has very nasty sounding pronunciations. Like how we use ‘ch’ or the letter G, it brings a nasty vibe to the music which we all love.

The lyrics are a reflection of my life. Everything that happens shapes certain visions and ideas. I translate those new ideas to lyrics fitting the story of the Worshippers of nothingness. So they are part fiction, part real life. They follow philosophies and the everlasting debate between both sides of those thoughts.

The biggest message I try to bring forth is that your life means nothing compared to the universe. You are but a speck of dust on a big rock floating in space. Your life means nothing, death is eternal. Everything you do and will be doing is just a small reflection of the vast nothingness. You are worthless, death is liberating.


VOCALS


Whereas female vocals are the rule in Symphonic Metal, they are still rather the exception in Black Metal. Miranda stands her ground with mean, grating shrieks. How did she start this? How did she evolve from Thrash vocals in MUTATOR to ending up doing Black Metal screams for HELLEVAERDER? How are those vocal cords trained? How does she take care not to damage them during an hour-long live performance? How do you like other female fronted Black Metal such as ASAGRAUM, ASTARTE, DARKENED NOCTURN SLAUGHTERCULT, OPERA IX/CADAVERIA? Anyone who served as an example?

I was 15 when I started listening to Metal. The bands I listened to were all very different from each other. It was not only Black Metal bands like MAYHEM, DISSECTION, HELLHAMMER & ENSLAVED that I liked. I was listening to different Metal genres, I also was a fan of TYPE O NEGATIVE, DEATH and TOXIC HOLOCAUST. I was 17 (2009) when I discovered I could scream & grunt. I will never forget how excited and shocked I was. At that time, there were not many girls that could scream/grunt. After that discovery I was busy practicing my screams/grunts. My throat never hurts, I can do it for hours. The sound is also not coming from my throat, more from my diaphragm, I think. It’s always hard to explain where it exactly comes from. When I got older, I started in 2014 as a vocalist in MUTATOR, a Thrash Metal band. This was my first band. I was excited. In the beginning it was fun, but after a while I noticed that it wasn’t quite my thing. I also had a different view/vision compared to the rest of the band, so I decided to quit.

After that time I started to delve into the Black Metal/Doom Metal scene. I discovered bands that changed my life, that changed me. (Bands like EMPEROR, MGLA, BATUSHKA, SUNN O))), PALLBEARER, ELECTRIC WIZARD & SLEEP) I was so captivated by the raw, dark atmospheres and sounds that I discovered; this is my world. This was the music I wanted to do something in. At that time I came in contact with Daan, our drummer. We clicked right away. In 2017 HELLEVAERDER was born. I immediately felt comfortable in this band. I could be 100% myself and I got the space to grow, not only musically, but also as a person. At this same time I made a life changing decision. I ended my relationship after 6 years, we sold our house and I started a new and better life for myself, somewhere else, on my own. But this time was also very dark for me. I was dealing with a lot of sadness and anger. I used those feelings for my music. In our song ‘Zee van Dromen’, I do a huge, powerful, almost desperate scream, exactly like the way I felt. When I listen to that part of the song, it still gives me chills. (Starts at 6.05)

During my time in HELLEVAERDER, people compared me sometimes to OATHBREAKER‘s vocalist; Caro Tanghe. I see that as a huge compliment, her vocals are very powerful and I think their music is amazing. This was also the time that I started to delve into female vocalists in the Black Metal scene. To be honest, I had never compared myself to anyone. I never had an example in the Metal scene. I was always very focused on myself and on my own. I also think I am very different from al the other Black Metal woman. I like their music and how they look, with the corpse paint and clothes. It really has some raw, abstruse and old school atmosphere. But it’s not something for me. I do have favorite female vocalists, like KRISTIN HAYTER (LINGUA IGNOTA), CHELSEA WOLFE, KRISTINA ESFANDIARI (KING WOMAN). But they don’t make Black Metal. It leans more towards Doom. They reach my feelings and thoughts with their dark, gloomy music.


INSPIRATION


The press release described HELLEVAERDER as for fans of DARK FUNERAL, HATE FOREST, EMPEROR, DARKENED NOCTURN SLAUGHTERCULT. Can you relate to this comparison? Which other bands serve as inspiration? What or who else can be seen as HELLEVAERDER‘s muse?

All the bands above were somehow compared to us in the past. To be honest I think this is a very hard question. I always did what I liked myself, I am a big fan of HATE FOREST, old IMMORTAL (till ‘Sons of Northern Darkness’ that brought me into making music myself), BELPHEGOR and 1349. They all have certain moments in their music which gave me new visions on my own music. The opener for our new album (‘Je Bent Niks Waard’) is a salute to HATE FOREST’s ‘Our Fading Horizons’, as well as many more works of ROMAN SAENKO. All the bands I mentioned somewhat gave me a feeling of power. And many more bands give inspiration to make new music.

I can honestly not answer the question who could be seen as our muse, give our music a spin and make your own conclusion!


VISUALS


With photography by ROEL DE ROOIJ, artwork by A.A.W.R., and a logo by VIRAL DESIGNS I imagine that HELLEVAERDER values the aesthetics alongside the music. How important are these cosmetics indeed? How did you select your partners? Did you give any specific instructions on what you had in mind or did you let the artist act rather freely? Which visual art movement is closest to HELLEVAERDER’s music?

Music is a form of art, every sense needs a certain stimulus to complete the picture. We are the bringers of your deepest feelings. We wanted to tell the story of the worshippers of nothingness and do so in the best possible way. A lot of bands perform as themselves, which is perfectly fine. But we all had the feeling our music needed the extended visuals to complete our vision. What better way to tell a story than to act it out?

We all brainstormed over what our aesthetic should be, but we agreed on the worshippers as a red thread throughout our music. Miranda is the storyteller, the victim, the conqueror and the light bringer of this tale. And we are all the worshippers of nothingness.

VIRAL DESIGNS is the work of BENNO MEIJER, I found him on Instagram during the search for a logo for THRONE OF TIME. He did such a great job that I asked him immediately for a logo and icon for HELLEVAERDER, which he nailed on the first try! He also did the logo for my solo project DUINDWALER.

A.A.W.R. does all our artworks, as she is always a ghostwriter for the band. She came up with the name and still makes some lyrics for the band. Her work is performed on the tracks ‘Heksensabbat’ and ‘Donder dwalen’ from our newest release. For artworks we always brainstorm together on ideas I have for a release, but with lyrics she goes her own way. Her writing themes fit perfectly with the vision of HELLEVAERDER.

ROEL DE ROOIJ is a very good friend of mine with a lot of experience in photography. He always supported our music and gave very good critical responses to demo’s I sent to him. And a good critic is vital to getting better, as someone like him hears different things than our own band does. And he is someone who is well spoken enough to talk in musical terms, he has a big part in the mixes I made and I will continue to work together with him to make music which is even greater than before!

For the photo-shoot of the new image for us we talked through some ideas, he gave some tips and tricks to really get what we want. Although he has a very busy life, he always makes some time to help us out. He is a great person and one of our greatest assets to our band!

HELLEVAERDER (📷 Roel De Rooij)

RITUALS


What can one expect both musically and visually from HELLEVAERDER on stage? Which past live performance stands out so far and why?

On our previous shows you can expect some very fast noise, melodic pieces and a shrieking lady who tears through your soul! The essence is there, only the visuals could be better. We stand there as ourselves, as bringers of death, noise and despair. Our greatest shows were both live recordings during Covid times, namely live @44NEXTDOOR(a very cosy setup, in an extremely small container). But our best live recording so far is on Youtube under the name HELLEVAERDER – Live in Leiden, a show we performed in Leiden in the GEBROEDERS NOBEL venue. We played some of our new tracks and our favorites from older releases.

Our new live image is all about the worshippers of nothingness. We will perform as the worshippers and the storyteller of light. Dressed in black robes and Miranda in a white dress. We will not speak a single word with the audience; we just bring a hellish soundscape for over 50 minutes. We want to give people something to think about…you are worthless, death is liberating.


OTHER PROJECTS


Some members are also active in other projects i.e. THRONE OF TIME, DUINDWALER, WHORE OF THE UNDERWORLD. Can you elaborate on those projects? Do you consider all projects including HELLEVAERDER equally important or which project has priority? Why do you feel the urge to express yourself in multiple projects?

THRONE OF TIME was the beginning of HELLEVAERDER, it will always have a special place for me. But due to differences with Dennis I do not wish to continue further with it. We had a live show as a sort of comeback but that was that. Expect no other releases from it, and if I will continue it, it will be under another name and lineup.

DUINDWALER was my Covid project, one of my biggest inspirations HATE FOREST released their album ‘Hour of the centaur’ and I just wanted to make similar music with my own touch to it. So became the EP ‘Landloper’.

WHORE OF THE UNDERWORLD was a similar kind of project but started as a homage to the mighty BELPHEGOR. A re-release is in the making with a live lineup to complete it. So expect more of that soon!

HELLEVAERDER is my child, it is the showcase of my musical growth. And to work with such fine musicians is a great thing. We support each other’s projects and works, but HELLEVAERDER is something special. It dives deeper in the primal feeling we all share. The one thing that brings us together as people.

Arjen has his own band INFANTRY, which is Thrash Metal with Death Metal influences, he is doing really well with it and we support his band fully, go check them out soon! Also he is working on a project called DRAECK which I can recommend! Check his work out on Youtube!

Bas is also very busy with his band JUBAL, check out his previous release ‘Archaic Discipline’ and keep an eye out for his new upcoming album! He is a very talented musician and I expect great things from him in the future.


NORMALITY


What do your family, non-Metal friends & colleagues think of HELLEVAERDER?

We all get a lot of support from our family. Even though it may not be their preference, we get all the support to do what we want. Many of our colleagues think it is a bunch of noise but respect the amount of work and time we put into our music. It is not music for everyone, but we all feel very supported in our cause!

What are your professions?

We all work in very different fields. Miranda is a shift leader in a mental hospital, by nature she is very caring and it suits her well. Rene works as an electro technician for Liander, which is a company that runs the power network for the Netherlands. Arjen works for a television company as an A/V technician and Bas works as a Marketing Intelligence consultant for a software company. I work as an operator and quality inspector on a slitting line for a steel factory.

Any special pastime outside Metal? Favorite drinks?

Besides our music we all like to go to restaurants, visit other countries and just live an average life. We all like to see movies and enjoy some special craft beers. Nothing too special!


FUTURE


What are HELLEVAERDER’s ambitions? What should we watch out for?

We aim to perform at least once a month live, and we continue to write new music and perform our live rituals. For this album we aim on going international with it, we want to tour across Europe and maybe even further!

You should watch out for the upcoming works of INFANTRY, JUBAL, DUINDWALER and WHORE OF THE UNDERWORLD. As well as keeping an eye out of further releases from ourselves!


FINAL WORDS


Anything else you would like to spit out?

Celebrate life, worship death.

HAIL HELLEVAERDER!

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