RITUALS OF THE DEAD HAND

RITUALS OF THE DEAD HAND has a really cool band name. Of course I had to interview them. Answered by Frederik “Isangrim” Cosemans, drums/lyrics. Anders Ekdahl ©2018

When the band came into creation what was the main purpose for it?
-Well, that is actually quite simple: the main reason that Filip and me started Rituals Of The Dead Hand was to vent our mutual love for death-, black- and doom metal. Of course our other band, Hemelbestormer, also incorporates some elements of these genres, but we wanted to go all the way and see what we could come up with. So no big story here, really. Just two thirty-something guys trying to evoke an ancient cult by playing slow, crushing and blasphemous music.

How hard is it to come up with a sound that is all yours? What bits’n’pieces do you pick up from other stuff to make it your sound? I have no idea what kind of creative process you guys go through but how hard is it to record and release new songs?
-Filip, who is the main composer of ROTDH, has the incredible talent to just sit down and write stuff. His creativity is simply astonishing and I honestly don’t know anybody else who is capable of doing this. All he has to do is get himself into the right mindset, grab his guitar and before you know it, pandora’s box is open once again. All these pitch black, sinister sounding riffs come pouring out, ready to be moulded into a slow and creeping beast of a song. A big advantage is that he can immediately record in his little home studio, so the skeletons of the songs can be ready quite fast. Drums are recorded separately and elsewhere and somewhere in between I provide fitting lyrics for him to sing. So in fact, all of “Blood Oath” was written, recorded, mixed and mastered before we rehearsed even once! Not really a traditional way of working, but it worked for us like a charm.

Today technology allows you to record at home and release your music digitally. But in doing so is there a risk that you release only single songs because that is what is demanded to stay atop and therefore you end up killing the album for example?
-I don’t really think so. Like I said in a previous question, this album was recorded mostly at our homes, but it was also always intended as an album. When we started ROTDH, we wanted to see what we could come up with, but it was always our intention to make a full album immediately. No demo songs, no try outs, no nothing. We just wanted to do this for ourselves: play the music we love and present a dark, mysterious concept. Of course you hope that some people will pick it up and dig it, but even if no one would have been interested, it would have been ok for us. We are still big fans of the “album”-era of music, where people went for the full package. Writing a single song can be difficult enough, but to write an entire album is even more challenging. There has to be a story and/or a general atmosphere, the artwork has to be top notch and fitting and all songs have to be good, if not great. Most death- and black metalbands understand this and you don’t see them mucking about with singles or loose tracks or whatever. The more commercial pop artists however don’t really seem to care about full albums anymore, because almost no one of their target audience buys them. If they have the popular tracks and flavors of the week in digital format on their iPhones, they’re happy. Flavor’s gone, spit it out, right?

I for one feel that the change in how people listen to music today, by downloading it and expecting to get it for free, will kill music as we know it. What kind of future is there for music?
-Like I told in the previous question, a lot of people, mostly youngsters, don’t really care about music like we do. They just want catchy, corny and easy to listen tunes brought by either way too pretty prom queens or fake rebellious bad boys. It’s all image. They don’t care whether those “artists” composed their own songs or played their instruments themselves, as long as it sounds catchy and looks pretty or cool. It’s the sad truth and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Also, people love convenience. If something they know is presented to them in an easier, cheaper or smaller way, they will go for it. First you had to buy a vinyl and you had to listen to it at home. When you were in school, you had to save the little money you had, because they weren’t really cheap. You cherished your records and learned to love them, because you either listened to the few records you had or you didn’t listen at all. Then tapes and cd’s came and all of a sudden, you could listen to music almost everywhere. Car stereos, portable cd-players, you name it. Still wasn’t cheap, though, but a lot easier than those big clumsy vinyls so they were out. Next up was the digital revolution. Now you didn’t even have to go to the store anymore or have all these appliances that still took a lot of room or needed batteries or whatever, you just picked things of the internet. No good? No problem, just delete it and move on to the next one. You only like two or three songs of an album? Why waste any money on the full product, when you can download the songs you like for free? But who still downloads nowadays? Just get a streaming subscription and you literally have an entire library of music on your phone all the time. It’s convenient and that is what people like. But, luckily there are still people who don’t care about trends and stay true to the things they know and love. I think it’s a fact that most of these people enjoy rock and metal music, music where musicianship and creativity still counts. Vinyl and tapes are back because they remind us of simpler and better times. It almost has become a trend of its own, but one we can relate to. So yeah, music for the masses will die a miserable death or transform entirely into digital bleeps, but there will always be an underground for the true music lover and true art will always find its way to admirers. We’ll keep the music alive for ourselves.

What kind of responses do you get to your music? What has been the thing that has gotten the most attention?
-Well, most of the responses we got to our album have been great. It’s not out yet, so not that many people have actually heard it, but the ones who did really seem to like the sheer heaviness and dark atmosphere. We actually didn’t have that many expectations; we mostly did it for ourselves, so every positive reaction is an extra for us. So the fact that a Swedish webzine is willing to take the time to talk to us is something we didn’t really expect, but you can be sure that we are really humbled by something like that.

We live in a world where there are no real distances between people communicating anymore. What has been the most surprising contact so far?>
-Just the fact that you can send an e-mail to the other side of the world and actually get a reaction is still something that surprises me, to be honest. Filip lives in a small town and I live in a village that doesn’t even have a shop, only a school and a church. Thirty years ago, chances that anyone would ever hear from our band, ROTDH, Hemelbestormer or whatever band, were zero to none. The occasional miracle would have happened, sure, but you catch my drift, right? But look, I’ve played with my bands in large parts of Europe, I’ve been able to do an American tour and right now we’re looking at possibilities to go to Japan, Russia and South-America. These things might not all come through, we’ll see what happens, but just being able to talk about these things with the people over there is almost unreal. To me, that is the most surprising, I guess.

Does playing in a band make you feel like you are a part of a greater community? What has music brought with it that you would have otherwise missed out on?
-I think so, yes. Music lovers, especially metalfans, are a breed of their own and the dedication these people have is really special. Brothers in metal, it sounds like a cheesy eighties cliché, but I guess it’s true to some extent. Also, people who are not into metal or rock or something, don’t seem to fully understand what you do. For them, playing in a band is playing cover songs at parties in a local bar or pub. There’s nothing wrong with that, did that many times myself, but we try to aim a little higher, you know? If you explain to these people that it’s not really like that and you tell them that you instead play these clubs and festivals abroad, they immediately think that you’re famous or something. Sometimes it seems that they only have these two extreme views on it, which can be funny, but also frustrating from time to time. Music has brought me many things. For example, I’ve met a lot of people and been to a lot of places. I wouldn’t have met these people or been to these places if I hadn’t been playing music. Music allowed me to do all this and I think that’s magical. Also, creating music is one thing, but if you see somebody in Germany, Romania or America totally rocking out on that music, that is something else. It’s almost indescribable.

What is the live scene like for you? Do you feel that playing live helps building a bigger following?
-I personally enjoy playing live and I do think that it helps you to create and expand your fan base. As long as I’m having fun, I’ll keep doing it in some way. But the older you get, the more some aspects of playing live can get a little frustrating. Long travels, being away from your family, bookers and promoters that don’t communicate or don’t deliver what they promised, … it can get under your skin. When you’re twenty, you just laugh it all away and have a few more beers, but you reach a certain age or point where you want that things are done properly. But in the end, when you see a crowd having a good time on your music, it’s all worth it. And it’s still old school: when you play a good gig, you can come back under better circumstances. Maybe you can play a bigger club or open for a bigger band or maybe you play the same club but there are more people there. It worked with Hemelbestormer, hopefully it’ll work for ROTDH as well. Time will tell.

What plans do you have for the future?
-Well, the original idea for this band was to record an album just for the fun of it. But the music has started to lead its own life and really became a part of us. The more we listened to the songs, the more we felt an urge to play them live, so that is exactly what we are going to do next. We recruited a third member to handle bass duties and we will play some shows in 2019. After that, we’ll see what happens, but a second album seems very realistic at this point. Keep your eyes peeled!

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