Hey, just look around folks! There’s something incredible happening on the metal scene!!! Tested by time and obstacles, brutal bands decided to pay back for the lack of attention and released their best albums ever. There is no need to name them: even your grandma has got one of the CDs next to the antic country music collection! Dutch SINISTER, that is now ten years old, thunderstrikes us with the brain smashing album «Aggressive Measures». Death metal, thy name is SINISTER! «Big words», you say? May be, but there’s something in it. The bass player Alex - the fancier of the aggressive measures - gave us his point of the past, present and future of death metal.
What things come first into your mind when you recall the early ‘90s?
I remember there were DEATH and OBITUARY and they were awfully brutal that time. Especially the vocals. I had never heard that kind of singing before. I was fifteen years old then, and when I first listened to it I thought it was great! Later some other bands appeared and so death metal was growing bigger. And SINISTER was one of those first bands that appeared in the beginning of the ‘90s.
Why do you think death metal became popular in Europe?
The influence from the United States was the most important for Europe. I think people wanted to have something different: they had thrash music and speed metal. But it was totally new. So people in Europe and Holland for example, became interested in those death bands. So, in their own way they began to do the same thing. They wanted to play loud music with heavy drums and fast guitar riffs.
Yeah, and «their own way» was first of all reflected in their sound...
Yes, the sound of SINISTER can’t be mixed with any other band. If you hear that sound, you can definitely say: «That is SINISTER». First of all SINISTER is very fast. DEATH and OBITUARY were much slower, brutal but still not that fast. This is one of the main distinctive features of SINISTER. Talking about Scandinavian bands like ENTOMBED and DISMEMBER, they had a very row sound with a polka beat. And the sound was very heavy, with low tuned strings. So it’s quite easy to say that the band is from Scandinavia. But nowadays the States are still fundamental, as you can see bands like VITAL REMAINS and SUFFOCATION, they are very fast too.
Are there any differences in lyrical sense between European and American death metal bands?
Lyrically you cannot find so many differences. But for example MORBID ANGEL sings about religion and we do the same thing, but this is not a life style for us. We just write about it. But ideas in lyrics on the continents are basically the same.
It seems that death metal has the three main subjects: death (of course!), social crap and religion. Which of the tree is you «beloved» one?
SINISTER doesn’t write socially or politically oriented lyrics. We don’t have it in our music. Mike, out former singer, wrote about occultism and Satanism. But now out new vocalist Eric and me, we generally write about antichristianity. But I would prefer to write lyrics without any particular subject, more obstruct. I would like to have nice words and nice lyrics. But I can’t do it for SINISTER as it doesn’t correspond to the main ideas of the band. The main goal for SINISTER is to make brutal music with some cool lyrics. That’s the most important thing. And some our personal ideas are not important. Music is the most important thing, and to make it sound really good we write some good lyrics.
If you criticize Christianity, then one might guess you are Satanists?
No, I am not a Satanist. And the most guys in the band are not Satanists as well. Mike was more into that thing, you know. But we still like to write about it.
Lots of great bands that started the whole death metal thing, began to play «sweet» pop for teens. They «got tired» or became «more professional» as they put it. You have been playing for about ten years, but it doesn’t seem to me you are becoming «more professional» if you know what I mean...
It’s the main goal for us to be brutal. We have the same ideas about music. If you wanna be brutal you have to stand for it. You have to say: «I like this music, I want to make it sound like this.» And then you do it. But if you don’t like this music any more you will not be able to write this music. We all like that brutal stuff. We like many different bands but the main influence for us is the brutal bands. And we will never change it, we will always stay like this.
I heard that anger is a good «medicine» for keeping bands brutal. What angers you personally?
You shouldn’t confuse brutality with aggressiveness. We are not aggressive or something like that. We are not angry about the whole world. We just wanna make fast and loud music.
But I still wonder what is the secret of your brutality!
Actually you don’t have to be very «gothic» in order to write gothic music, and you don’t have to be really «classical» to write classic music. The main idea is that if you like enough brutal music - you write it. It’s not like the pissed off guys enter the studio screaming: «Hey, we wanna make some really brutal stuff!» and then grab their guitars and ram on them. We are the musicians and brutal music is a very controlled music. You should practice a lot to make CDs like «Hate» or «Aggressive Measures». It’s not that simple as some people might think. Not that easy. And SINISTER has proved that it is a very technical band.
The lyrics of any band stand for certain ideas. Do your lyrics carry any message to your fans?
I don’t think SINISTER has got a message to people. The main idea is to make good music and have fun playing in the band.
But it doesn’t mean you couldn’t care less about your lyrics at all, am I right?
OK, you can listen to our music and read our lyrics and you will say that we play death. Words we choose for our lyrics are suitable for the standard death metal. Well you can sing about life or something, but you mustn’t take it too far ‘cos you can start singing about flowers and trees but it’d not suit the music. If your music is very brutal it sounds funny if you sing about bees! You got to adjust you lyrics to your music.
How would you like to characterize your albums from the present day’s point of view?
The first album was a standard death metal example but still it differed from the American style. Our riffs were different and very catchy. The second album was a bit slower but it maintained a lot of double base stuff. The third album «Hate» was one of the best albums SINISTER ever made. It was very «spooky» so to say. If you listen to the music you got really scared. It got strange riffs and a very dark sound. And our latest album «Aggressive Measures» is the returning to the basics of the death metal: very brutal, very fast and very technical as well. The new album is a sort of mixture of «Hate» and «Bastard Saints». We have also tried some new things: the new album contains a lot of lead guitar solos, and the riffs are much better now. Generally I wrote the most part of the lyrics on the album. And judging by the whole CD - it is an aggressive measure. When we had all the song ready we thought that «Aggressive Measures» would be the best and the most honest title for the album.
Is it really possible to play the same music for many years without repeating yourself?
It’s kinda difficult I must say. It took very long to write new stuff for the «Aggressive Measures» album just because we did not want to copy ourselves. We wanted to stay within the same frames of the death metal style but not to repeat ourselves. We were very critical to the new songs. But still you can’t make a record without doing something you have already done before.
Are there any new ideas on the «Aggressive Measures» album that you would like to develop in the future?
We haven’t really thought about the next album, but we will basically follow the manner we used when recording «Aggressive Measures». I don’t know what else, anyway it’ll be another story...
How did Nuclear Blast like the album?
They are content with it.
And why, by the way, Mike decided to leave the band?
He left the band mainly because we had some musical disagreements and socially we did not get well with each other. We lost that feeling of community between each other. So it was a mutual desire from the part of SINISTER and from Mike’s part to split and work separately. Though in music it did not work that good after many years we are still friends.
Are you satisfied with your new vocalist Eric?
He’s a great vocalist! He’s got even lower voice than Mike had and that was precisely what we wanted for our band. He’s also a great guy and he is very young: he is only eighteen years old!
Yeah, he’s very young. He is a real death metal fan and he loved SINISTER for years. And when we first heard him we realized he was the best. So we took him.
What is the difference between the metal scene of the yearly ‘90s and the one of nowadays?
Death music in the beginning of the ‘90s was rather «low» if you see what I mean, and the new bands now has got a fresher sound, they sound better then many bands sounded back then. But it’s really difficult to hear something new from these new bands, some new ideas you know. In 1990 death was very popular and now it’s an underground, so now it harder to get a good new stuff as death metal is not so popular any more. And the bands now are more technical.
But it seem to me, that today some old bands are not a good example for imitation as well.
Well, I am very disappointed with the latest OBITUARY album. I really liked the first two albums but what came after them was very bad. I don’t think they are very commercialized, I think they are merely tired of their music. And may be they are not so critical any more. They think if they have sold good the latest album so why not do the same stuff next time and sell it good as well?
Why do you think death metal didn’t manage to stay popular and became rather faceless and dull nowadays?
Death metal was a brand new style back then in the ‘90s and that is why it was interesting for the people. And the scene grew. But then in the middle of the ‘90s some bands turned to hardcore style, or began to write a more melodic stuff. People always want to listen to something new and there are very few die-hard-fans like us or may be you, who still like the brutal stuff. But during the last year death metal became popular again.
Who has a future: old school death metal bands or new bands, marching their first steps?
I think there’s a future for both kinds of bands. The main task for the bands of the old school is to stay creative in their own style but that also important for the new bands.
OK, if death metal has a future, what is your prognosis?
Death metal will never die. They often say: «Death metal is dead», but it is very alive and that will be in the future!