The Belgian band Ancient Rites recently released their third album "Fatherland". "Fatherland" is according our opinion one of this years greatest album, an outstanding album you not may miss, if you do then kill yourself. Gunther Theys answered the questions.

Interview by Tony      


Ave! I would like to know who is answering the interview.
Hail. I am Gunther Theys bassplayer/vocalist of Ancient Rites and singer of Danse Macabre.

How long has "Fatherland" been out? Are you satisfied with it?
"Fatherland" was released in august. The album is recorded in the German SPACELAB studio's which is owned by classical musicians who also are active in the higly techical progressive rock/metal scene. The producer and the sound engineer both did not know anything about extreme Metal which resulted in a cultur clash. It was a very difficult and stressy situation. In studio EVERY note we played was checked several times until a perfect result was achieved. It was hard and I don't think most extreme Metalbands would have handled the situation well but we saw the positive aspects of working with such difficult producers who are perfectionsts. They pushed us to higher musical levels. The fact they didn't know any other extreme Metal bands I also felt as an advantage: this way I was sure they would give us an original sound and maybe even come up with ideas extreme Metal producers would never think of. One of the producers was a very talanted keyboardplayer so he appeard as a guest musician on "Fatherland". We already had the ideas for the keyboards ready but he gave an extra touch to it and put everything in a wider perspective. We really are satisfied with "Fatherland" but we always try to improve ourselves with each release.

Why the name "Fatherland"?
The word "Fatherland" fills my heart with warmth, nostalgia and melancholy. An epic, timeless feeling takes over my soul when thinking of the concept "Fatherland". Most of the time I am abroad, if not on tour with the band I travel around on private trips, travelling truely is in my blood. However when I'm outside Flanders for a longer time visions of my fatherland come to my mind: the places where I grew up, typical landscapes, the colour of our sky, even the smallest of details. Being a traveller means I appreciate other countries/cultures. I spend a lot of time in different countries. No one will be able to accuse me of narrow minded, blinded nationalism. But it simply is a fact that everyone remains a child of his/her own place at birth. It is perfectly possible to respect and appreciate other cultures and countries while remaining loyal to the own roots and never forget one's homeland. Basicly the song "Fatherland" is for everyone who is aware of his cultural and historical heritage. I tried to create some kind of universal feeling out of the concept "Fatherland". It was my intention that a person (no matter if he/she is born in Italia, Ireland, Argentina or Iceland) will recognize and understand the feelings I describe in the title track of the album.

You sound more thrashy than ever. Many bands are adopting the sound of the eighties more and more and they say they are going back to their roots. Is it the same with A.R.?
We allways follow our own path regardless anyone or anything. When we founded A.R. bay are thrash, crossover and hardcore were the big hype. No one was waiting for a band with Satanic lyrics dressed in leather, wearing inverted crosses and paint. We received bomb threats and boycotts because of our approach, today BM became standard, back then it was a cult. Years passed and suddenly black metal became popular and now we play in front of larger crowds. But again we followed our own path and don't totally fit in because we have an own sound/identity which we is far away from both the popular primitive Skandinavian or the keyboard orientated "Gothic BM" styles . Once again the majority doesn't know where to place A.R. as a band. All A.R. fans grew up with NWOBHM and first generation BM, not with the new bands therefore our roots differ from the other bands in the scene. Now retro Metal starts to become popular but we played this kind of music long before it became retro, back then the majority simply was notaware of 70's/80's Metal and belived B.M. was created in 1990! Somehow we always have been ahead of the trends but only we never did profit from this position. The only reason we have this eighties touch to our music simply is because we are a band created in the eighties! It happens instinctively and has nothing to do with what other bands do. In the past before "retro Metal" was fashionable certain people criticized us for having a sound which is too much 80's and now when it is the lastest trend some suddenly seem to forget we always had this old touch in our music. Basicly we never even try to sound 80's, it just happens because our roots can be found in the 80's scene.

Then the vocals. On the first album they where more deathmetal-like, now they are pure black metal-like. Do you think they fit your sound better?
On every A.R. release I use my voice in a different way. It is true that on "The Diabolic Serenades" the vocals were more Death Metal-like but on the very first release ("Dark Ritual" demo) I had a Heavy Metal approach. On the "Blasfemia Eternal" album and the "Longing For The Ancient Kingdom" (split ep) vocals were black metal orientated and on the "From Beyond The Grave" split ep it is a combination of black and death metal vocals, the voice on the "Evil Prevails" ep was quite doom/death metallike. On "Fatherland" I had a chance to experiment even more, different ways of singing are representated. The reason I always change my vocal style is because I wish to keep it interesting to myself as weel. It would be quite boring if I would always sound exactly the same on each release.

Luttinen from Impaled Nazarene is doing some vocals on the album. Why did you chose him to do that?
Mika of Impaled Nazarene is an old friend of mine, I was his "best man" at his wedding. We got in touch when he ordered the "Dark Ritual" demo somewhere in 1991. He told me once how much he still loves this demo because of the 80's cult feeling and the style/sound. As I explained earlier this 80's touch was instinctive because the songs actually were written in that period. When we decided to re-record "Fallen Angel" I thought it would be a good idea to invite him.

Why did you include an explanation for each song on the album? Do you tink it was nescesary?


Lyrics are an important part of of our work. I wanted to give an extra explanation to each track in the booklet because I thought that some listeners could be interested in background information and what the sources of inspiration were. Many bands in our style are satisfied with simple "Fuck Jesus" lyrics but personally I relate to a more depth approach. Apart from that I find it pleasant to share my humble knowledge and experiences with those who are not interested in our music only, with fans who try to catch the essence of Ancient Rites and relate to the topics I write about.

Why did you recorded the album in Germany? Don't you got any good studios in Belgium?

Ancient Rites band


We have worked in several studios in Europe so far. Oh yes, we do have good studios in Belgium but our label belived this German studo was the perfect one to record "Fatherland" in. Besides the conditions were really great: working with talanted people, using the best equipment in a studio where no other Metalband has gone before and without any time preasure.

How is it going with the new members?
The new members truely are dedicated and talanted musicians. Each one has his own style, background and approach and this way an interesting and good musical ballance is achieved. From a musical point of view propably this is the best line up we ever had. If this is the final one time will tell, nothings last forever.

How do you think "Fatherland" is gonna sell? I think that it deserves some serious attention from the scene.
"Fatherland" seems to have a bigger impact on both press and audiance according to the reactions. First time in the band's history we were voted "Album of the Month" in several major Metal magazines (such as Terrorizer, Mind View), scored very high in established Metal press (95% in Aardschock, 6/6 in Metal Hammer, entered the Metal charts top 10 on national radio etc) and even received a very positive response from non Metal press. Mail has increased and extremly positive recations are reaching us. Of course it's impossible to please everyone (which never was our intention in the first place) and propably there are people who prefer the old work but it remains a fact we never had such a great feedback. I am pleassed to know we achieved this without jumping on any bandwagon and by following our own path regardless anyone or anything. How much it is going to sell simply depends on external factors: on how much the label, magazines and distributors will support the album. That's s how this music industry unforunately works. I know far too many great artists who never gained the attention they desreved because they did not have a major label/management and tons of money to push them. I do not wish to make speculations on how much we will sell.

Are you satisfied with "Mascot"?
Mascot offer us total artistic freedom, a big recording budget, they promote well and their distribution, specially in Europe, is quite good. We are not treated as a number and direct contact on a regular basis is always am advantage. They do a good job.

Are you gonna tour? What bands would you like to tour with? How about coming to Scandinavia?
Of course we will tour Europe several times to promote "Fatherland". The first "Fatherland Euro Tour" should start in January. A big possibility also Absu and Enslaved (both bands are good friends of ours) will be a part of the tour but that is not sure yet. It is too soon to give more details because everything is in the organising stage yet. Of course we'd like to play Scandinvaia because we have many contacts there. (Yes, many bands says that they shall play here but they don't. - ed)

What countries would you like to tour in? Any "strange" and "unknown" ones?
Throughout the years of our existance we have build up an underground following worldwide. We toured Europe and in the U.K. several times intesively but it would be great to play also other continents such as North/South America, Asia or Australia. A.R. is quit popular in those underground scenes according to the many letters we recive from these places. Of course touring the other side of the world costs a lot of money and money is something our band never had. In the past we have been approached to play Mexico but it never happened because of financial problems.

What do you think about the Belgian scene? I think that the only bands that are really known worldwide are Ancient Rites and Enthroned. Do you you think the Belgian bands deserve some more attention?
For years we have been the only black metal band in Belgium. Since 1994 some new BM acts have been formed due this BM explosion. While in the past only very few individuals were interested in our band nawadays I see hundreds of people unknown to us wearing our shirts. After returning from touring abroad we suddenly play in front of larger Belgian crowd and some of these new Blegian acts even play A.R. covers. The situation ideed changed in a drastic way. Unfortunately many of the people who entered the scene recently will disappear as soon as another trend comes along. And this goes for the entire worldwide underground. Fashion victims are like a plaugue and many of them can be found within the cult. A natural selection again will take place. There always been interesting bands in my country but due to a lack of support, professionalism or courage, they all disappeared into obscurity soon. I liked the Ostrogoth mini lp ("Full Moon's Eyes"), the Black Sheperd demo's and the Acid debut lp. A new Belgian band I like listening to is Aeon (ex-Oblivion), they recently scored a deal for DSFA Records. Their demo is in the atmospehrical Metal style, great piano/keyboard parts! On the whole I'd say our scene struggles with the same problem as any other scene: too many bands who purely imitate.

What do you think about:

The new Judas Priest album...
I applaud the fact they are not afraid of trying out something else from time to time. Nevertheless the new album is not really my cup of tea. "Unleashed In The East" remains my all time fave Priest album. Old Judas Priest reigns.

What to say about the oldest profession? May be prostitution even helps to reduce rape. I can imagine prostituion is an alternative for those who are not capable of, or interested in having a relationship and fine satisfaction in a brief moment of sex. I guess also people who don't have a satisfactory sexual relationship with their partner turn to prostitution. As far as I am concerned prostitution couldn't be my solution because after all it remains a business and I don't find this particulary erotic.

Handicapped people...
Life didn't treat them well.

La Vey's death...
La Vey was an authority in the satanic scene and I respect his views. His death did not affect me at all since I do not belong to his order or knew the man personally. I reserve my emotions for people close to me. Which is an attitude the man himself always praised.

Terrorizer mag...
An authority in the Metal scene. It was a nice surprise to find out "Fatherland" was voted album of the month (together with Bruce Dickinson's release) in Terrorizer.

A pity their drummer Dan Vanderplas commited suicide. He was a decent bloke, always very supportive towards Anciet Rites. We knew him when he still was playing bass/vocals in death metal bands such as Morbid Death and Blaspherion. Life can be strange, his place behind the drumkit is now taken by his old drummer Fabrice.

The cases of pedofilism in Belgium...
Belgium always has been relative quiet place but these last few years the French speaking part of the country has to deal with a network of criminals responsible for child muredrs and pedofiliac casses, politicians are participating in extreme decadent orgies, a mysterious group of well trained terrorists raided several guns without being interested in the money (which means it wasn't a normal hold up) and disappeared without leaving a trace (no one really knows why), a serial killer (who still isn't catched!) is cutting up women and is playing games with the police by leaving plastic bags with bodyparts all over the place, his identity still is a mystery! Well these cases certinaly made Belgium a famous place! Don't know what went wrong in the French speaking region!

Techno music...
Never expected this trend would have such a big impact on a whole generation, it is impossible to escape from Techno. I know many clubs which played Rock (and even Metal) that turned Techno. Certain Hardcore Techno can sound extreme with over top fast programmed drum beats but the style is a bit too minimal to interest me.

Ok, this is the end of the interview. Thank you for your time. I wish the best for the band. Hail!
Thank you Tony for this conversation, all the best with "Apostasia", keep the flame burning!