Alkerdeel have just released ‘Slonk’; dark, earthy black metal with mid-paced doomy passages and faster sections that just don’t want to stop – it might remind you of being in an old five cylinder car going as fast as it could down the motorway, with everything rattling and the engine making one hell of a noise, but seemingly ‘as happy as a pig in shit’. And, simultaneously possessing the charm of a rehearsal room tape and a properly recorded album, Slonk is also a grower, at times sounding like a theme and variations on short cuttings from Darkthrone’s classic albums, but with the bass turned up, so that everything shakes.
But who are they, and what would you ask them if you had chance? I’ve had half an eye on them for a while, and in fact the more I listen, the more of an enigma they are, with varied influences in the back catalogue – European and US – an old school and new-school mixture of sounds, an artistic eye, and like all good artists a tendency to occasionally obfuscate, which is OK until you’re you’re on the wrong side of it, hahahaha! I was a bit stumped with what to come up with for questions, other than the usual interview shit, yet, I wanted to act quickly, so, I thought, ‘How about this old fail-safe?’: ‘Is this [insert country] music, or music made by [insert country]s?’. A question as old as music and nations themselves. I mean…they’re from Belgium after all. Does that make a difference? Well, I managed to get a chat with vocalist Pede to find out a bit about the band, the new release, see how serious they are, their influences and connections, and try not to bore him with any journalistic enthusiasm for the theoretical existence of Flemish agricultural two-stroke engine run-away lawnmower black-doom-metal…
Hello! How long have you been going? What mysterious forces make that noise? Surely not real people with day jobs?
Alkerdeel is active since 2007, however the fundaments of the band we’re laid in 2005, when we started out as some kind of jam/improv band. Not in a jazz way though, pure metal. We’re four people and never had a line-up change: Pui (guitars), Nieke (drums), QW (bass) and me, Pede (vocals). What our day-jobs are is irrelevant though, I hope not to sound like a dick, but Alkerdeel is not about earthly issues like this, on the contrary, it’s an escape from it. Therefore I’d choose not to go into that. However, smart-asses can find out what we do in a few clicks. I can elaborate more about our early steps. Although some members knew each other since childhood or high-school, the local metal bar in Ghent, called the Frontline was the glue to form the band. Also, QW’s old death metal band Welkin, often used me as a driver to take them to gigs. I used to have a huge Volvo 240, an old intervention ambulance actually, white with red stripes and a huge cross on the roof – always fun to arrive at the venues. Back in that time, I speak about the turn of the millenium, metalcore was quite big here, and mostly these gigs consisted out of these bands, technical death metal or Walt- Disney-keyboard black metal. I loathed it. My interest was within first and second wave black metal, doom and sludge. Mind, not post-metal, but actual sludge like Iron Monkey. That’s how connected with Pui – he seemed to have the same interest. He played with Nieke in a death metal band, called Headmeat, that had an album out on Killjoy’s Baphomet Records, but the band was fading out. Instead of moaning about all those shitty acts, we decided to start a garage act, with the only ambition trying to merge both Ildjarn and Eyehategod, and even some Merzbow. We jammed in his garage an crappy instruments and surrounded by his lawn-mower and other garden tools. To remember the good parts from our jams, we recorded everything on a dictaphone, rehearsals were mostly three hours long improv sessions without interruption, so some kind of backup was welcome. One of these tapes arrived in the hands of Blesken of Sylvester Anfang/Funeral Folk, who wanted to release it, and from then on, the band turned the page to something more serious.
Belgian black metal seems to have its own sound, would you say? How does the world see the Belgians, do you think, and what are you really like? And does that inform the approach of Alkerdeel when you are exporting your music?
Honestly, I wouldn’t know if Belgium has its own sound, but some bands may let you think we have. Lugubrum for example, who’re a bunch of eclectic weirdo’s, good friends though, and a huge inspiration. Not in sound though, but in the way they surely opened our mind to not care, give a middle finger and follow our own path. It’s also something which is often expressed by many of the protagonists of the black metal scene, that all bands sounded different back then. Darkthrone is something totally else then Samael, Beherit doesn’t sound like Rotting Christ at all and one should explain me the similarities between Absu or Mortuary Drape. That’s how it was, but since that Scandinavian scene exploded, that norsecorse seem for many the blueprint. We watched it and took our lessons let us say. Maybe it has also something to do with the stubbornness we’re said to have. Many explain it due to the fact we have been invaded so many times and have been under rule of different powers: The Netherlands, Spain, France, etc. Many rulers mean many rules, which make people look for their own way. Don’t know if this is scientifically proven, but for a good round of beer-related pub philosophizing it makes sense. Also, there’s this typical Belgian humor, surrealism we were baptized in, which can be bizarre and quite dark, so maybe that also explains something. How people from abroad see is, I don’t really know, however an Austrian friend once told me that Belgians complain. Bitch. We like to confuse people, it’s also challenging for us, to put people on the wrong leg and see how far we can go with it. The general philosophy of the band is shown on the cover of our previous album: we fart in your general direction.
Slonk is really good, well done. Was the approach different with this one? There is more of an old school T.Hunger black metal style structure, but it sounds fresh.
Thank you. The initial approach was to compose a mid-tempo album, but it turned out a different way. We’re not that keen on sticking to an idea and prefer just to follow our guts, let the music flow and see where we end. Mostly the basis of a song gets teared apart, bit like the original cover of Severed Survival of Autopsy. If you’d hear the early forms of a song and hear the result it’s something completely different. Darkthrone has always been an enormous influence, albums like A Blaze … or Panzerfaust is always in the back of our heads, but it’s not that we intentionally copied it. Truth is that, and I’ve expressed this before, influences from the second wave of BM, the Scandinavian style, sneaked in. We all grew up with Ancient, In The Woods …, Tulus, Hades, Forgotten Woods, Helheim etc. and for some reason we embraced that for the first time. Maybe it has something to do with touring with Turia a lot, it can be, but as said, all is unintentionally. We didn’t change the way we composed, didn’t use another recording method, all was done live again in as less takes as possible. Mostly two and never more. We did put more focus on how the drum sounded though, as we felt from previous releases it didn’t sound strong enough.
Does the drummer have a dent in the bell of his ride cymbal after recording it?
No, but the dogs in the area are still howling.
And the pace is very important I guess? On Zop, it’s exactly the speed that makes you want to get up and dance, when you are in fact too drunk to dance…
For the foundations of that song the influence of Invunche and Witches Brew, from the Netherlands, were very important. Both released fantastic music the period we were composing actively, also the Invunche gig in Antwerp had a huge importance. It was so mind-blowing and real that it was in our veins for a long time. Your reference to drunkness is quite accurate, although it wasn’t our intention. The original video clip of the song was showed the daily struggles of an alcoholic, living in a countryside shed with his toy-bunny, but when we finished the montage, I thought it was too direct and not really fitting for us. We prefer visuals and sound being more suggestive. So I threw everything away, except from the agricultural scenery shots, that were used in the final clip.
All the animals on the artwork are equally important, however the hare seemed to be the strongest image for the cover. I moved from the city to the countryside a coupe of years ago, and we’re surrounded by hares. Actually, I wanted to use a hare woodcut illustration from a British artist, but he didn’t allow us to use it (also probably because I expressed my idea to remove the church that was visible in the background). The idea of using a hare remained though. I don’t understand how you end-up from hares to the Walloons though, but we do not have any problems with them. Or at least not more problems than with any of other people in Flanders. The issues are something historically and politically. People seem to express an enormous urge to maintain to what they’re used to, what they know and what their traditions are, and this explains the feud between Flanders and Wallony. As said before, these are earthly issues and Alkerdeel is not about that. When we see a wall, we see an enormous opportunity to take a leak.
I worked on a bulb-farm in Holland when I was a teenager, with a mixture of Dutch, Flemish and British guys. The Dutch and Flems all smoked ‘zware-shag’ tobacco, which made us cough our guts up. Is heavy duty smoking still common there?
Well, I again I don’t know. Apart from our drummer we all quit smoking years ago so don’t know how frequently heavy shag is used. It all depends what you’re used to, not? I remember smoking “groene michel” (green michel), Bastos or similar brands, and my toilet visits have never been as fluent as then, especially when it was related with black coffee. I’m aware of the fact the self-rolling cigarettes, with shag, is not that common abroad as it’s here. Even twenty years ago, when travelling through Ireland we were rolling our own cigarettes and people came warning that we should be careful with smoking weed in public – while it was just ordinary tobacco.
One of the guys I worked with did that dyke sitting thing ( Paalzitten ), where they sit on poles for a really long time. He told me about it, and explained that ‘nothing annoys a woman more than a man happily doing nothing’. Do you annoy your wives and partners with your behaviour, and this band?
Hahaha … what kind of circles did you frequent? I’ve never heard of this, but I feel a new hobby is ahead. We’re all quite busy though, but being active is different from one to another. Cleaning your vinyls three days in a row is of utmost importance to some, but can seem useless to others. I think we mostly annoy them after coming home from rehearsals, which is in an old barn, a cow stable. The stench is quite interesting, let’s say.
The earthy noise you make is quite incredible. And your approach is quite pure. Did anyone ever suggest doing a guitar solo in Alkerdeel? Or using the top three strings? 😉 How do you deal with such mutiny in the band, if it arises?
We do have a solo!! Listen to ‘Hessepikn’ from ‘Morinde’, which has the most amazing guitar-solo ever, done by our bass player. Regarding that solo, I remember a specific line from a review: “Hessepikn ends with a solo that would even let Kerry King cringe!”. Hahaha – such a compliment! Everything is possible in Alkerdeel, however some ideas are chopped clean off frequently: when it sounds like it’s sprouted from the mind from someone who likes Batushka. Or Deafheaven. A Bal- Sagoth idea or two could be interesting though.
So, I had tickets for Alkerdeel and Lugubrum in London 2020….sadly it was cancelled, of course, thanks to the promotors for the refund though – I spent it on St Bernadus 12. What did you do instead, when you were supposed to be in England?
Yeah, that was a real pity. We had been looking forward really hard. Had played London twice before and it was always an amazing experience. The first time was in The Unicorn in Camden, where there was still a picture as evidence that Iron Maiden once played there. The setting alone was highly entertaining, a carpet decorated bar, some old dudes that only mind their own business or darts on the huge plasma, with a small area in the back for concerts! The second time was a sold out The Black Heart (hope that venue survives the current lockdown), where a lot of (international) friends were gathered too. We’re good friends with the guys from Palehorse/Remote Viewing, and personally, I hoped to see them again. Awesome blokes, as are Charlie from Crypt Of The Wizard and Dayal from Cult Never Dies, who both put a lot of energy in that gig. We couldn’t do a lot instead. Not much freedom to move these days, so we were lucky the weather allowed us to gather outside the rehearsal space around a firepit. What we do a lot. Drinking Orval, Karmeliet or some Krugers, watching the fire, having a sausage or two and putting black dildo’s on our forehead. And sending emotional yet very manly text-messages to Lugubrum and Turia about how sad it is we have to wait probably another year before we can complain again about the awful micro brewery beers we always got offered when playing in London. Good intentions though, and we appreciate the gesture a lot, but our standards are high. Ours and Lugubrum’s at least, as Turia is raised on Heineken, Grolls and Amstel. Brexit in mind, I wonder how quick we’ll play the UK again. It’s a very sad perspective.
Regarding Sint-Bernardus: those into beers may remember or know that West-Vleteren has quite a few times been elected as “best beer in the world”. It’s a trappist, brew by real monks following a traditional method and not that easy to get. You can’t buy it in shops, only in the monastery itself (which sounds far more mythical than the place actually is – far more similar to an old man’s home). Anyway, another brewery took over the production process for quite some time during renovations in the West-Vleteren brewery. It’s said that they kept some of the secret methods. That brewery is called Sint-Bernardus, so if you want a good alternative to West-Vleteren, truth or not, it’s a very good one. You spent your refunds very good! Other recommended Belgian heavy beers are Orval, Chimay, Westmalle, Karmeliet, La Chouffe, some sours from the Brussels Beer project. Schol!
Hopefully, people will agree with me and think the new album is your best yet, and Alkerdeel have really found their ‘sound’. What do you hope that SLONK achieves?
Thnx again! And I agree have come quite close to what we want to obtain sound wise, but we’re not there yet. One of the few intentional objectives we have is to balance out our rehearsal-studio-live sound as much as possible. We often use this “Only live is real” expression (as a nod to “only death is real”), and attach huge value to it. As a fan, I’ve always been deeply disappointed when a band can’t evoke the same sound, and consequently, atmosphere when playing live. It’s like cheating. We do not have hopes about “Slonk”, in the way the only objective we had was to creating something we love and challenge ourselves with. If others like it, that’s a nice side issue. Come to think of it, we do hope it will open doors to certain live opportunities: we love to play Chaos Descends, fantastic festival in the woods in Eastern Germany, as other gatherings: Funkenflug/Houses Of The Holy, any event in a rare outdoor/nature setting. Muskelrock. Greece or Russia would be awesome too. Iceland (mostly because of wanting to visit that country, haha). And of course we hope that we can continue following our path in the future.
Any words for your old and new fans?
Although I’ve expressed quite arrogantly / clichéd we only make music for ourselves, we of course hugely appreciate the approval of people that put interest and energy in us, the fans. It makes us quite humble when people express the fact our creations bring value to their lives. Also when getting messages and pictures from people from across the world is something we’re not used to and hopefully never will. Sometimes I look for the street view when some dude from Mexico or New-zealand buys merch, it remains quite unreal that our creations end up some shelf there. When being a kid, I always loved when interviewees directed me to new music, so I strongly advise to look for these bands: Moenen Of Xezbeth, the acts from Haeresis Noviomagi, Medieval Prophecy Records, the Wagner Odegard projects (Wulkanaz, Karnilapakte), Kestrel, Apovrasma, and if you like your weekly radioshow with underground stuff – De Pankraker (in English) is your frequency to seek for!