Umbra Animae - Dutch Underground Death Metal BandGood friend of Metalrage.com and Guest writer D.M.A. proposed an interview with the Dutch Death Electronic band Umbra Animae, and who are we to refuse such an offer! Basplayer Mike Rovers tells us more about this devouring Death metal band from the dutch town of Oss. [b]Who are Umbra Animae ?[/b] Umbra Animæ is a dutch electronic death metal band, formed in 1999. In 2001 we released a demo titled “A Morbid Dance”, and this month we released our debut-album “Electronic Death”. The members are Maikel Gijsbers (vocals), Teun van der Velden (guitars/programming), Jurgen Spanjers (keyboards), and myself (Mike Rovers-bassguitar). [b]What does your band name van Umbra Animae mean?[/b] Umbra Animæ obviously is latin and literally it means ‘shadow of the soul’. [b]In the past all of you were active in diffrent bands. Are there any current projects outside of Umbra Animae?[/b] We all did quite some different things in the past, that’s right. But at the moment only Teun is doing something else beside Umbra Animæ. He’s working on some songs together with a vocalist called Bert-Jan. The music is more in the stoner-/hard-rock direction, but they still don’t have a complete line-up. I played in it for a few weeks as well, but thought it was better for me to put all my time into just one band. [b]What inspired you to combine Metal with hardcore gabber and piano parts? Band such as The Bezerker? [/b] Well, it wasn’t really something we planned. We were experimenting with programming drums, and we just tried out different things. I always thought gabber/techno sounds very energetic and aggressive, and when we tried to fit some parts into our music it just worked out so great, that we continued to use those influences. The piano-parts obviously come from Jurgen, who’se style has always been closer to the piano, than to just adding some choir-type synth-parts to the music. So the music just evolved into this direction, without really planning it. The Berzerker hasn’t been a musical influence for us at all. I first heard about them when they released their second album on Earache last year. I personally don’t like their music, to me it’s just grindcore, where the drumparts have been replaced with techno-sounds. Maikel likes their album a lot though. They did influence us in the fact that when we heard about them, we found out there were more death metal styled bands experimenting with gabber, so we shouldn’t wait too long with releasing a new cd. [b]What bands influence your typical sound?[/b] That’s a hard question since we all have a very different taste, so there’s a lot of bands that might have had an influence on us. From ‘electronic’ bands like Nine Inch Nails, Atari Teenage Riot, GGFH, a lot of different metal bands, like Celtic Frost, Strapping Young Lad, Morbid Angel, White Zombie, The Nephilim, and other music, like Radiohead, gabber/techno and good old Elvis, we all listen to very different things. There’s just a few bands we all like, so maybe Umbra Animæ is a combination of Samael, My Dying Bride and Slayer but that doesn’t make sense does it ? But if it wasn’t for Samael’s “Passage” album, I don’t think Umbra Animæ would have excisted !! [b]Your first demo titled "A Morbid Dance" was released by yourselves, just like your debut "Electronic Death". Is this because some of the record companies are afraid they won't be able to sell the mix of musical influences?[/b] “A Morbid Dance” was a demo, which main purpose was to get us some gigs, so we didn’t contact labels about it. For “Electronic Death” we did send advance material to some labels, and they all thought it sounded very good, but -you’re right there- they were too afraid to release it because it wasn’t ‘their type of music’. We only sent material to dutch labels though, because we didn’t want to wait much longer with releasing the album. As I already mentioned other bands are starting to experiment with gabber etc as well, so we thought we should release the album now, before we are one of many bands. Also, some of the songs are almost four years old, so we just wanted to release them, and start working on new music. We’ll start sending out promo-packages soon to international labels, and hopefully we won’t have to release our next album on our own anymore. [b]What was it like working with your Producer, Marcel van de Vondervoort in the Torture Garden studio?[/b] It was great. Some people -including himself- tolled us he was hard to work with, but he wasn’t at all. He’s a great guy and just had a lot of good ideas and we aren’t too arrogant to let him get involved in the music and our sound. I mean, otherwise we could just as well have done it ourselves, but we knew we could get a better CD with Marcel. There wasn’t any time-pressure either. He tolled us ‘this is what you’re album is going to cost, and we’ll see how long it takes’ so we could work very relaxed. It got a bit out of hand though, so halfway the process there was a small argument ‘bout some peoples presence and attention, but this soon was solved. Before the recordings we just knew eachother from the bar, but during these months we really became friends. We chose to work with him, because he worked with electronics and samples a lot, and also knows how a heavy record has to sound. And I think he has proven we made the right choice. We learned a lot from him and I think the album sounds great, so thumbs up for Marcel !! [b]To me it seems that lately there isn't to much progression within the Metal Scene. Is it hard to come out with a new style, and how have the public responses been?[/b] You’re right, there isn’t a lot of new things happening in the scene, it’s all reunions and retro. Don’t get me wrong, I like a lot of ‘old-school’ style bands, and old bands getting back together, but there isn’t a lot of interesting new stuff happening. But is it hard ? I think it’s hard for every new band to get people interested in their music, to get gigs, and to get people to listen to your record. A lot of people don’t like us in advance, because we refuse to play with a drummer, or because we have death-grunts, but the people who do accept those things like us a lot. But I think there’s only people who like what we do or absolutely hate it, and nothing in between. Fortunately the first group is getting bigger with every gig ! [b]The production of your demo was good, but with your debut-album is even more amazing. How have the responses been so far?[/b] Thanks for the compliments, but none of us really likes the sound of the demo anymore. We did it ourselves in Teun’s old garage, it was good enough to get some gigs and let people hear what we were about, but that’s all. The album sounds great doesn’t it ? That’s Marcel’s work... All reactions thus far have been great. Most people are surprised by the sound, and the music as well. But it’s only out for a week, so it’s too early to get an objective opinion on the reactions. Now he’ll have to top this record with the next, so we’ll see how that’ll work out ! [b]I saw a limited edition of The Electronic Death at a local record shop the other day. What does this dubble cd contain?[/b] Yeah, we did the first 100 as a limited edition. It comes in an old school 2CD box that won’t fit into most CD-racks. The bonus disc (which is a CD-recordable) contains a remix of “F-H” by Marcel, which is called “Amorphed Homicide” and a remix of Reduced To Ashes by Teun called “Remixed To Ashes”. The third song is “Zand” and it’s a song we’ve done live a few times; It’s the music of “Inquisition”, but with the lyrics of “Zand”, which is a song by a dutch band called ‘De Raggende Manne’. Live we just did the normal “Inquisition” music with two verses, but for the bonus-disc Marcel and Maikel cut it in a way that the 3rd verse also fits into the song. The package is completed with a photo-collage, containing mainly pictures of drunk Umbra members. So it’s all not too serious, that’s why there’s only 100 copies. [b]I understand that the cd presentation was an enormous success, with a long set on stage. Are you going to keep those long sets in upcoming gigs?[/b] Hell yeah ! it was a great gig, the best we’ve done so far, in my opinon. Everything went perfect, (except for some amp problems in the end) but we were at the venue eight hours before the show started, so we really had the time to do things the right way. Our light-engineer Gijs also did a great job, and so did soiundman Robert. We played for almost one-and-a-half hour, which is quite long for us. But we did some things to lengthen the set list. We planned on doing the old demo songs as well (although we didn’t play ‘Redeemer’ after all, and never will again), we did both “Inquisition” and “Zand”, and played a new song which wasn’t 100% finished yet. Also we did a cover version of the song “Berserker”(not the band) from the infamous “Clerks” movie. If we’ll do it in the future all depends on how long a venue wants us to play, we often had to drop some songs due to time restrictions in the past. But at least we now have enough material to do play longer if we’re asked to. [b]Any gigs or maybe even a tour through holland in sight?[/b] The last few months we’ve put all our time in the album, and preparing for the release-party, so we didn’t put much effort into getting gigs. At the moment we have only one show planned, which is at the “Broermoats Festival” in Leende on July 12th, together with The Wounded, Inertia, Rompeprop and 6 or 7 other bands. We’re contacting venues at the moment, and hope to have a series of gigs in the fall, but I don’t think we can really call it a tour, but there will surely be some gigs later this year. [b]Who would you like to tour with?[/b] We’ll play with anyone, but if I could pick a band it would probably be Next Waste Dimension. They also played on our release-party, are cool guys, and their music is interesting as well. Looking at international bands, we’d love to do a support-act for a band like Samael or Strapping Young Lad. [b]That was my interview, any last words for the Metal Rage readers?[/b] Well Dirk, first of all thank you for the interview. To the readers out there I’d like to say check out our music, we’ll have some complete songs from the CD on our website very soon, and if you like it, maybe order our CD or t-shirt (we have 2 designs), and I hope to see you all at one of hour gigs. cheers m/ Interview by : D.M.A.