One of the most savage-sounding bands to come out the European hardcore punk scene in the last decade or so has been Blind to Faith. Established in 2008, its lineup consists of musicians who have played in such bands as Rise and Fall, Reproach, and Lifespite.
Integrity's Dwid Hellion was an instant fan of Blind to Faith's brutal sonic approach, releasing the group's The Seven Fat Years are Over debut LP in 2009 via his Holy Terror label. Further releases came out sporadically throughout the following years, including the Under the Heptagram EP in 2015 through Dom Romeo's (Integrity, Pulling Teeth) sorely missed A389 Recordings.
Hitting stores just last week, Unstoppable War is Blind to Faith's long-awaited sophomore album. Recorded in the band's two home countries (Belgium/The Netherlands), the 9-track collection ups the filth ante, with a stylistic palette that brings to mind everything from classic Earache and Peaceville to Japanese hardcore to crust punk.
In this new interview, musician Bjorn Dossche (Chain Reaction, Rise and Fall) chats with longtime friend and musical collaborator, Blind to Faith guitarist Vincent Maes about Unstoppable War, and the road to its vicious concepton.
Most obvious question first. It’s been over a decade since your first LP, The Seven Fat Years Are Over. It was followed up by a handful of EPs, but in the last few years things were pretty quiet. What was going on? Did you ever feel like the band had run its course? What prompted you to get writing again?
Well, to be honest, we were sick of ourselves. In 2015, which was about 2 years after the release of the 12” EP and 6 years after the LP, we were always playing the same songs and set at every show. We were always talking about not playing anymore until we had a new record but then we got offered cool shows here and there so our time went into that instead of writing new material. Our last show to date was with Harley Flanagan in 2017 and after that show we decided to stick to our resolution to not play until we had a new record out. Which we did/are doing.
I went through sporadic creative periods without really committing to finishing a record or songs for that matter, until I went to see Today Is the Day later in 2017. They have been one of my favorite bands for over 20 years and seeing them perform their classic Temple of the Morning Star LP with such devotion and determination was the definitive boot in the ass I needed to kick the work on the new Blind to Faith record into a higher gear.
One of the strange things about Blind to Faith is that the band almost immediately had an obscure cult vibe, feeling almost deliberate. Why do you think that is? What was the band’s initial mission when you started it?
It’s definitely strange that we have that. It’s cool because it means people are interested but I can’t really explain it. I guess it’s a combination of the different ingredients. First of all, we write music that is prone to having weirdo cult followers [laughs]. We also rarely play live so people come and see us when we actually do play. We’ve all been in other bands that had or have some exposure, we have good artwork and work with cool people and labels… Plus, we don’t suck at what we do. I mean it’s weird to say these things without sounding like a complete shithead, but this is pretty much just how it is.
Unstoppable War sounds pretty gnarly and unpolished, which is a perfect match for your music. What were you aiming for sonically? Did you have any reference points in that regard?
Regarding the guitar sound, I definitely wanted to steer away from the obvious HM-2 Swedish DM sound for the guitars. When we recorded and when we were writing I was listening to a lot of Autopsy and more specifically the Mental Funeral LP and I love the way the guitars sound there. So, we emulated that sound a little for my parts. Cedric used a little more HM-2 to create some dept in the mix but he made it subtle. And I think the result is super sick.
I dunno, we didn’t really bring a record to the studio and say, “Can’t you make it sound like this?”. Yes, I used the Autopsy LP as a reference for the guitar sound to have some direction and make sure we didn’t lose too much time finding the right sound but besides that we pretty much trusted the people we worked with.
We were like “OK, let’s record this shit and let the songs speak for themselves" and to be honest no one involved proposed anything that sounded weird or in the opposite direction of what we had in mind. So massive shout out Ronny at Overdose Audio, Lander at Hearse Studios and Brad at Audiosiege for their help and getting our vibe. They used their knowledge and instinct to make this record sound the way we wanted. We went through a few mixing and mastering drafts, but it was relatively easy.
When it comes to songwriting, I know it’s mainly Nabbe and yourself that write the songs together. How would you describe the connection you two have? What makes this partnership work so well?
Writing music with Nabbe is one of my favorite things. I’ll roll up to rehearsal, usually with a whole bunch of riffs and ideas for songs. I’ll play a basic song structure for him and he’s like “OK, this is cool” or “That sucks, let’s try this” and usually he’s right because you know when you’re writing alone, sometimes you lose perspective. We are also not emotionally attached to our ideas. Everyone who has been in a band has been in the position where you need to explain your bandmate why you like or dislike a part. And in some situations, you know the discussion is going nowhere because no one wants to budge, and it just creates frustration.
In Blind to Faith there has never been such a moment. If Nabbe says he doesn’t like a part, it’s out. If I really like the part, I’ll try to convince him once but after that we move on.
I know Cedric contributed some riffs and ideas too, would you say that adding him as a second guitarist has opened a new range of options? And what did Stijn and Loek bring to the table for Unstoppable War?
Oh, for sure, my guitar playing is really primitive at best, so with Cedric joining we could do some cool stuff with leads and variations. Let’s just say we prepared the basic dish and Cedric added a lot of salt and pepper. Stijn and me wrote the lyrics together and Loek wrote his bass parts on his own and both are crucial to the Blind to Faith sound. We could not have made this record without them, or it would have sounded totally different. I mean, let 5 people play the same riff on the same guitar and amp and you know it’s gonna sound different every time.
So, where the skeletons of the songs were pretty much ready when Cedric, Stijn and Loek stepped in, the record really demanded their talent to create the end result.
Blind to Faith may seem like a nihilistic bunch, but lyrically the new album tackles topics such as mass delusion, fear mongering, fascism and indoctrination. There’s also an explicitly anti-fascist and anti-racist statement in the inlay. What prompted all of that?
The world as it is right now. I might have been blind to it before, but I see all of the stuff you noticed in the lyrics every day when I open the newspapers. So, whereas the previous releases mainly focused on this dystopian world view, I really wanted to address some topics without making it a preachy political record. It’s more like “Hey! open your eyes”!
There are people out there who want to shove certain ideas down your throat, they’re making scapegoats out of the less fortunate to divert attention from their fucked-up politics, etcetera. Especially when you notice these ideas filtering through in a scene where 20 years ago it was a given that there was no place for racism or other forms of discrimination, I really wanted to make a statement and let people know where we stand. Am I making sense?
For sure. However, it must be said that throughout hardcore, punk and definitely metal’s history there’s been quite a few bands that have spread ideas that were intolerant, sketchy or just plain racist. Where do you draw the line between the freedom of expressing ideas and shutting people up because their hateful rhetoric can lead to much worse?
Very though question and to be honest, I doubt there is a right answer because it’s a grey area where people have different opinions on what is sketchy and where you draw the line. It’s just a matter of common sense, I guess. But common sense is tricky too, because everyone who claims to use it tends to think that his common sense is the truth.
I just like to think I’m on the non-discriminating end of the spectrum and if I listen to a sketchy record or band people are free to check on my ideas. I think it’s still important to talk to people if you see them slipping. If you think I’m slipping talk to me and you’ll see I don’t hate people based on their skin color or sexual preference or whatever…
Right now, I’d say that “Coffin Earth” is my favorite track on the album. The ominous Slayer-esque intro, the “uuurrgggh” and the grinding halt in the middle seal the deal for me. What are the standout tracks in your eyes and why?
To be honest, I think every track is sick [laughs]. They all have a little different vibe and the songs on the record really work together to make the whole like a sonic fist in the face. Since I only have favorite tracks on this record, I'll tell you about a few of my favorite moments on the record.
“Force Fed” is the opening song on the LP. When the song starts Cedric immediately and abruptly plays a sick explosive lead over the fast picking riff. Totally awesome. Total “Incarnate 365."
Then “Set Yourself Free”, the song we released first when we launched the preorder. This song is divided into a first part which is the actual song and a second instrumental part. I love the first part but Cedric wrote the end of the song and it's this sick Sabbath riff that we planned to record all along but in the studio he added a Crowbar-ish lead that came out of nowhere and it’s just fucking awesome.
“Coffin Earth” is also one of my favorite songs for many reasons. But I’d say that Nabbe’s thunderous drumming and the guest vocals by Mike Cheese (Gehenna) just push the whole thing over the edge.
You guys have never been a super active live band. Will the release of Unstoppable War bring some more live action or not?
Well, assuming that there will be shows again one day, we definitely will play shows, but it will stay sporadically. We’ll play Belgium, Holland, Germany, France, the UK... all in due time but we have no ambition to start touring full-time or play out a lot for that matter. So we’re pretty much sticking to the same plan we’ve always had.
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