Hail of Bullets is one of the most interesting death metal bands of nowadays. With members of very reputable bands (Asphyx, Bolt Thrower, Pestilence, Thanatos etc.) they now release their third full-length. III: The Rommel Chronicles is a journey through Erwin Rommel’s life and we talked with the guitarist Stephan Gebédi to know a little bit more about this new album.
Since On Divine Winds (Metal Blade Records) confirmed that Hail of Bullets it’s indeed a relevant and exciting death metal band by critical acclaim and the participation of the band in many notorious festival (Hellfest, Wacken etc.), would you say that pressure was there when creating this new album?
Yeah, I think so. On Divine Winds was the ‘Album Of The Month’ in many magazines and it even reached the charts. So yeah it was a good experience for us, without a doubt, but you don’t want to repeat yourself too much. I mean, we will stay true to the death metal style (it will always be like that) but you want to do things differently and avoid to the same album over and over again. So there was some pressure and that’s why it took us a little bit longer to finish this new record. But I think it worked in the end, the time that we spend on it was worthy and the most important thing is that we are really happy with the final result.
Why did you decide to have a new approach, lyric-wise? It was a needed challenge?
It’s not a totally new approach. The two previous albums talked about the war, The Eastern Front etc. This time around we decided to approach things a little bit different by talking about this person, Erwin Rommel, so the big difference it’s that now it’s kind of biographical, about the career of that person during the World War I and World War II. I think it’s a little bit more personal because you’re talking about just one person and you walk about his life, the ups and downs, his death etc.
It seems that not only the lyrical concept has changed, but also the music itself. Everything seems more raw and, to some extent, more human. Do you agree?
Tell us a little bit about the concept of this album – Erwin Rommel and his chronicles.
I agree with the rawness aspect that you mention, definitely. The second album, also because of the concept, it was more epic and heroic, but with this album we went a little bit to our first album, …Of Frost And War, which it was also pretty raw and aggressive. I think that’s what you can hear now, with this new record. It’s more intense and dirty, and you can definitely hear it in the songs.
But there’s also the human side. The previous records were talking about certain times of the war, it was more about the battles and the strategies but now you have that focus in the person, like I mentioned.
About the concept: the album starts in World War I, where he’s decorated with Pour le Mérite, the biggest that a general can get for his bravery. And then it talks about his battles in Africa, of course that’s a big part of the album. The thing with Rommel is that he was fighting on the wrong side, in the German army but he was not a big Nazi, not a big racist or anything; he was simply a good strategist and a good general. A man that was feared by the enemies and loved by his soldiers.
Do you see III: The Rommel Chronicles as being an important changing moment for the band?
I don’t know if it’s a big changing moment, I believe that’s more a continuation of what we were doing since the beginning. Sure, we putt some “extras” to have a, somehow, different result when comparing with the other two albums. Our goal is to get a little better with every album. To grow.
It seems that Hail of Bullets it’s one of those extreme metal bands that are always looking to do a good song, instead of being extreme just for the sake of it. Do you agree?
Yeah, definitely. It’s really important for us. We play old-school type of death metal. We grew up with bands like Autopsy, Bolt Thrower etc… Those bands back in the day were trying to have the heavier sound possible, so for us there’s no point of playing old-school death metal and having an 80s or 90s sound because the present is 2013 and we want to get the best and heavier sound possible… We have an old-school vibe, no doubts about it, but we are looking for a modern sound. What’s important is that I think it still sounds organic.
And like I said, making a good song is really important. Nowadays you have a lot of young bands that are playing 300 bpm, blast beats all the time and the most crazy guitar riffs that you can imagine. Ok, that´s cool, seeing the young fellows playing really nice, because you find a lot of great musicians in this young generation, but the problem is: they sometimes forget about the song, they lose the focus. The songs is the most important thing and sometimes you need to go back to the rock ‘n’ roll and hard rock to understand exactly how important is to have a really good song. I mean, we grew up with bands like Kiss, Motörhead, AC/DC… They made great fucking songs. And even if you go back to the first death metal bands you can find that because they were influence by acts like Black Sabbath, Slayer and Celtic Frost, bands that were concerned on making killer songs.
You guys worked again with Dan Swanö. Can we say that he’s like the sixth member of the band, by now?
Yeah, he is very important for us. He’s involved and interest in this project since the beginning. It’s really easy working with him. Why change a winning team?
The same five dudes since the beginning. It’s, in my opinion, one of the biggest factors for the band’s success. Do you agree?
Definitely. It has very important for us to keep this band together. When we started there were a lot of people, especially in Holland, laughing because they thought that it was a band of people with big egos (because of our other bands) and they also thought that Hail of Bullets wouldn’t pass the six-months mark because we would have fights etc. Seven years later and we’re all together.
It’s really important for this band to have these five people together because this is really a strong group.
The World Wars has been the theme for this band since the very first moment. We are now in a very complicated political, social and economic situation. Can you find similar aspects between these two eras? Do you see the human race committing the same fucked up mistakes?
Sometimes you almost think that another World War would be the solution, but of course it isn’t… It’s stupid, actually. I think there are differences between the two eras. Back then you had people fighting each other and now you have the war inside of each country with the terrorism and we’re talking about wars that no one can actually win. And yeah, I believe that the human race will never learn with the mistakes from the past. It’s a fucking cycle.