Because every day another band records another song. Because 83% of those songs are unlistenable and you can’t be bothered to sift through the dreck. Because metal is about not giving a shit and waking your own personal storm. Because music is universal, expression is boundless, and even indie labels (whatever that means these days) don’t know everything, Decibel brings you Throw Me a Frickin’ Label Hack.
Oh death metal, how sweet the sound. Such an overplayed style should be stale, uninteresting and increasingly disappointing. And sometimes it is. Not Belgian solo project Humanity Defiled, though. The sick death grooves that plow through Circling the Drain prove again that doom-struck horror remains rich with rhythmic possibilities, tone depth and skillful aggression. Anybody can write jaded lyrics about bled-dry topics: hate, war, depression, Satan. But HD’s Iwein Denayer pours a very personal dark brew from his throat and instruments, since he works daily with people who have a tough time just making it through each oppressive hour of a life they reject. His work transforms his music into an expression of pain and grief, not simply an outlet for unbridled youthful energy that so many bland bands communicate. Everything on the album vibrates on a terrifying and cathartic level, but definitely check out the centerpiece “Exit?”. The darkness will enfold you. Hopefully you will live more forcefully in its embrace.
Below you can hear the whole album, and you can read Denayer’s thoughtful responses to Decibel‘s questions. And, hey, if you’re into Dutch, you can check out an interview he did with FM Brussels here. I don’t have a clue what’s going on there, but everybody involved sounds excited to be there. Celebrate death metal!
(close-up photo above by Lore Basyn)
How long have you been playing music?
My first experience with music was at a local music academy, when I was 12. I did my first year of musical theory but it was a disaster. My end grade was 1/20. I was frustrated because I really wanted to play an instrument. But it was, again, lessons and boring theory. Until then, the only instrument I was allowed to play was the triangle. Because I was that bad. I quit after that first year.
I started playing guitar when I was 14. I was quickly bored with chords, so I started playing by ear. After two years I played along with music, without tabs or notes. I was in my first band when I was 19. Not long after that, I was in a metalcore band (the good mid-90’s kinda metalcore), an old school hardcore band and a deathgrind band. The band I loved the most [that I played in] was Time Out (the old school band). We recorded 3 demos and played a decent amount of shows.
But after being in bands, I wanted to do something on my own. It was then I decided to risk it. I wanted to go somewhere with my musical ideas. The past years I invested in a modest home ‘studio’ (nothing fancy). The first project I started was Doodsangst – lo-fi instrumental black metal, inspired by Flemish folk tales. A 4-track demo was recorded. I got some really bad reviews and some good ones on that demo. Love-it-or-hate-it, I guess.
How did you get so comfortable with all of the instruments you play/program?
I guess I went through a natural evolution while playing guitar. I always followed my soul. I never learned chords and I’m too lazy to read tabs. I play with my ears and heart, not my brains. When I play or record music, I want it to be something that comes naturally. I don’t know, but I think other musicians would see me as a bit of a weird one. Most of the songs I record are finished on one evening, on-the-fly if you like. For instance: I recorded the intro on “Exit?” on one evening. The [next] evening I did the rest. When I record, I tend to be a maniac about it. When someone’s disturbing me while I record, I get angry. [I] need to be alone. That’s when I feel most comfortable. When not recording, I’m a friendly, positive guy, though.
For Doodsangst, I also recorded some keyboard stuff. It was my first time, but it all came out naturally. Humanity Defiled was the first project where I recorded all bass parts playing with my fingers, instead of a plectrum. The most important thing for me, is that I record when I feel the time is right for it. I think that’s why I’m pretty comfortable playing instruments. On Circling the Drain there’s also parts where I improvised while recording. All the lead parts were done like that. I don’t write songs or structures before recording. When I’m ready, I switch on my recording gear and go for it. Maybe that’s the reason why it sounds comfortable…
What albums or musicians inspired you to put together the Humanity Defiled project?
I strongly believe in DIY ethic. Maybe the biggest inspiration is the hardcore scene. I recently saw the Boston Hardcore DVD (xxxAll Agesxxx – I’m a big Boston Hardcore fan) and when I see the story told there, I feel home immediately. That’s the way we did it when we started those hardcore bands. Record on our own, make our own flyers, organize our own shows. Other than that, there have been a lot of people telling me to simply do my own thing. That’s what I did. I don’t tend to think of other bands while or before I’m recording. It’s just me and my ideas. Sure, it’s impossible to block out influences. But I certainly don’t think consciously of bands or albums.
I’ve always been a big fan of Disembodied (RIP). They were (and still are) the band that, for me personally, embody (no pun intended) the whole process of putting emotion into music. I finally saw them live, a few years ago at Ieperfest and I was ecstatic. One of the most memorable shows I witnessed. I think they unavoidably inspired me.
You’ve said that making music is a necessity for you. Can you talk about what you mean by that?
I need to because it’s a kind of therapy for me. It gets me over things. My day job is really intense. I’m a counselor at an independent youth centre and I see a lot of youngsters dealing with heavy stuff. Suicide and depression are #1 right now. I recently lost someone whom I was counseling. Even with years experience, you take something like that with you. So, it gets translated into a song. There are evenings where I just can’t resist the urge to record. I have to or I won’t be able to sleep. And then, of course, I have to finish the song.
Where and when did you record the album?
The first song on Circling the Drain was recorded on the 30th of October, 2012. From then on, I recorded when I had the time. I did everything at home. From the first riff to the last minute of mastering. Always evenings/nights. During the day, I work and there’s also family life. I’m married and we have two kids. Family and work always get priority. Also, my job is no 9-to-5 one. We also work on some evenings and weekends, luckily not that much.
You have recorded a bunch of short songs, and then there’s “Exit?” at 9 minutes. How does that song differ in its focus and intent from the other songs?
“Exit?” is the song where the most heart and soul went into. At work, we were confronted with a seemingly endless stream of youngsters in a crisis and with suicidal thoughts. 2012 was a year full of suicides in my private life. My neighbor, a friend… I was surrounded by the stuff. At a certain point, it really got to me and I recorded “Exit?”. Two weeks after I recorded the song, a young girl I saw at work committed suicide. It was a strange twist of fate.
The reason why the song is that long is because I liked to match structure and lyrical content. It’s about someone who struggles with suicidal tendencies. It’s about doubt, failure, desperation but also hope, light and courage. I tried to show how this struggle takes up a lot of time and energy. I’m not able to put this into a 3-minute rager.
Do you have any favorite non-extreme music that you’re listening to these days?
I’m listening a lot to Dax Riggs, Trixie Whitley and the new Antimatter now. All three of those singers have a unique voice and put their souls into their songs. I also listen to trance from time to time. Almost all the stuff Mike Dierickx puts out is fantastic.
Besides music, how do you spend your time?
I spend a lot of time with my wife and kids. When not busy with family or music, I like to read a good book, watch British comedy and play a good PC game (because consoles are for wimps and posers). I’m on Bioshock Infinite now, as a way of conquering the recording-cold-turkey.
What plans do you have for your music in the future?
I’m planning a new Doodsangst release in the following year. It first was planned for early 2013, but then Humanity Defiled got in the way. After recording the first self-titled song, I went on to record more songs and before I knew, a full album was finished. Nothing is certain, though. Things don’t always turn out the way I want them to. And maybe that’s just fine.