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  • Words by Faye Coulman

Dutch extreme metal crew Soulburn talk post-apocalyptic fourth album ‘Noa's d'Ark’

In a scene riddled with woefully uninspiring posers and pretenders, there are certain bands that have a rare knack for cutting straight through the bull***t, channelling a state of being so intensely raw and visceral in nature as to set the very nerves and synapses alight. The sort of joyously primal, brutalising carnage whose every machine gun-paced blast and abrasive lashing of reverb serves to remind us what it is to be truly and unequivocally alive, savouring every moment as if it were our last. Setting darkly-inclined hearts and minds on fire since 1996, Dutch extreme metal crew Soulburn explain how this exceptionally bleak new decade proved instrumental in inspiring their most vital and accomplished long-player yet.

“A lot of people have lost touch with that very primal, animalistic sense of what it really means to be human and to embrace their true nature,” observes Soulburn frontman Twan van Geel of the increasingly mindless and inauthentic state of being that’s come to define human existence circa 2021. From the insidiously toxic and controlling mechanisms of organised religion to attention-hungry ‘influencers’ and comment feeds teeming with trolls and hateful bigotry, the past couple of decades have certainly supplied the Dutch extreme metallers with no shortage of bleakly inspiring creative fuel. And since first being established by former Asphyx players Eric Daniels (guitars) and Bob Bagchus (drums) out of a mutual fixation with classic black metal back in 1996, the band has since remained unshakably steadfast in its commitment to crafting uncompromisingly vicious and instinctive extreme metal. “We play our instruments with feeling, not with perfect skills,” Daniels clarifies pointedly. “That's the difference.”

While 1998 debut ‘Feeding on Angels’ formed a pivotal first step in the band’s then-fledgling career, the pair’s altogether more pressing touring and recording commitments with Dutch death metal titans Asphyx would see progress with their beloved side-project frustratingly derailed for the next decade and a half. But with the addition of Twan van Geel’s wondrously caustic vocal talents completing what would be the band’s most powerfully cohesive line-up to date back in 2014, Soulburn very rapidly recovered creative momentum in the seven-year period that followed, releasing long-awaited follow-up ‘The Suffocating Darkness’ later that same year.

“That's basically how we are now from 2013, like seven years now with three albums in that period,” Eric affirms. “And I think we have reached a level now with our new album where we can say we are very comfortable with this kind of style we have developed now. It really feels like we’ve finally found our comfort zone as a band.”

“Yeah, exactly,” Twan agrees. “Like when I joined as a vocalist and ‘Suffocating Darkness’ came out, it was more like a real blackened and bare death metal album and then ‘Earthless Pagan Spirit’ came out in 2016 and by then I was a bit more in-depth with the lyrics at that point. Also, the musical approach, I believe, with this album saw all those elements even more fitted into each other which created a very strong slap-in-the-face kind of effect. Musically, I can’t really tie it down to any one particular genre. It's not just like pure death metal or doom metal as it takes influences from both and blends it all into this very sort of awesome and unique style.”

Comprising what is assuredly the Dutch collective’s most tightly cohesive and instinctive body of work yet, fourth studio outing ‘Noa's d'Ark’ abounds with all the flesh-scalding intensity and fluidly instinctive chemistry you’d expect of an extreme metal band operating at the crowning pinnacle of their creative powers. And from explosive episodes of barrelling aggression and thick, frost-stricken layerings of abrasive tremolo through to darkly expansive passages of doom-laden grandeur, theirs is a sound audibly drenched in a myriad different shades of darkness. Paired with an equally bleak and post-apocalyptic lyrical dimension that features a darkly ironic reversal of the classic fable of Noah’s ark and his miraculous salvation of the Earth and all God’s creatures from a devastating flood of, well, biblical proportions, there’s no mistaking the pivotal role that highly catastrophic current events have played in influencing this vicious and insightfully written record.

Twan elaborates, “Well, when we thought about releasing the first single, of course everybody was in lockdown because of the pandemic and I also wrote the lyrics of ‘From Archaeon Into Oblivion’ during the first lockdown back in March 2020. As you can probably tell, I'm really not much of a people person in that I generally much prefer animals to humans, you know? So with the concept of this record, everything is very much interconnected and deals with real-world events and things that are actually happening right now. We are currently overpopulating this earth like a virus or plague, taking so much from it with our materialistic, short-sighted visions and greed, ignorance and arrogance. We really seem to care only for ourselves and only for short-sighted things so we don't see the bigger picture and now nature comes back and finally puts us in our place. That’s a theme that runs through the whole album, but with ‘Archaeon Into Oblivion’, maybe the message was a bit more direct and straight in the face. So we decided to put it out as a first single that’s got all the classic elements a Soulburn song should have, with the same feeling and riffs like on the very first debut album ‘Feeding on Angels’.”

While the pair were undoubtedly well aware of the many and varied difficulties associated with releasing an album during the thick of a globally devastating pandemic, it had equally long been apparent that this was an album inseparably bound to the desperate, crushingly despondent era in which it was initially conceived. Therefore, delaying its debut to a more commercially viable future date would surely, Daniels and van Geel reasoned, serve only to dull and diminish its potentially blistering impact on release. So, in November 2020, the Dutch aggressors opted for swift and boldly decisive action.

“We knew that it was not the most convenient or normal time to release an album, but we just couldn’t wait,” Eric explains of the exceptionally pressing urgency attached to the band’s latest, post-apocalyptic long-player. “We had to do it now, we had to record it now, not half a year later or one year later, because I think we believed that otherwise the magic was already gone. You know, it's like a process you just have to get out of your system, as an artist, as a human being.”

“It had to be done,” Twan agrees decisively. “Because if you wait too long, the inspiration just isn't there, right in front of you, any more. If you waited one year to release an album, you won't enjoy the results nearly as much as you would if you’d struck while the iron was still hot and got it out there. Also, in order to make truly timeless music, it needs to be made and brought out at precisely the correct point in time. And I believe that this was absolutely the right moment for us.”

With ‘Noa's d'Ark’ leaving its indelible, violently compelling mark on one of the darkest and most thoroughly wretched moments in human history, let it be known that we at Dark Matter most emphatically concur with this observation.

Noa's d'Ark’ is out now via Century Media


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