The Dutch Death-metalhead motherfuckers from PENTACLE arose from the first wave of 80s death metal, alongside their fellow countrymen Asphyx. When I first heard their second demo "Winds of Fall", I found their morbid feeling to be similar to the trademark sound of other Dutch bands, with cold atmospheres thick with the pestilential stench of cadavers. In the first years of the band, totally dedicated to the glory of true death metal, PENTACLE acquired considerable experience on stage; also, the bands' determination soon turned them into a cult underground act. Later in time, Wannes Gubbel created a project with his mates from Asphyx under the moniker Soulburn - sadly, the band split up after just one album. Two years later, Gubbel joined Asphyx on vocals and bass on the album "On the Wings of Inferno", following the unexpected departure of Theo Loomans (RIP). This interview, which Mister Wannes kindly replied to in great detail, looks over the whole of the bands' career. Only death is real...
01 - The descent into hell has begun, my dear Wannes! Pentacle is one of the earlier death metal formation with already 11 years of activity. I believe that you are proud of your work during all these crazy years
Yes, we have been around for quite some time now. It’s even almost 15 years by now, since Mike and me started the band back in 1989. I never expected Pentacle would last that long. Many bands which started the same time as we did don’t exist anymore. It’s a weird feeling when looking back those years. I still can remember very well we started rehearsing at the attic of the house of Mike’s parents. Just the two of us. There we wrote our first songs as “Belief from Below”, “Denial of God” and “Under the Cross”. We evolved quite a bit from that time. We have become far more better musicians and songwriters, yet the primitive brutality and aggression of those early days is still very much alive today. Just compare our early material with our latest release, “Ancient Death”. The songs are much better, while still remaining that “punch-in-your-face” direction. I’m very glad we still have that special power in our music. That’s very important to me. It’s not really a matter of being afraid of “wimping out”, because Pentacle would never do such a thing. We started the band with the intention to play Death Metal from the beginning to the end and we’ll keep doing that till it’s all over!!! It’s more the matter of this inner fury or flame that keeps raging/ burning. There’s still a lot of anger in our veins and it keeps fuelling our Death Metal-machinery. When talking about the essence of Death Metal I can still feel the fire burning inside and that’s no joke! I’m still very proud of our releases. My biggest personal achievement will remain “…Rides the Moonstorm”. Maybe the new record will change that, but this album means such a lot to me. It was an incredible hard work to get this album done. My personal life was very intense and the band wasn’t any less. I’m very proud of that record. I never thought we would be able to record a real full-length album, but is seems we made it. It was the first extreme Dutch album being released as a DoLP. That was a major thing for me too. As well as our “The Fifth Moon” was the first extreme Dutch release on PD. Damnation Records made it happen. Those moments are golden. I will never forget this. Again, I enjoy all our releases. The first release, “Caressed by Both Sides”, could have been a lot better, but it was the best we could do, back then. So be it. All our releases are representatives of a certain period within our existence. “Winds of the Fall” is as important as “Ancient Death”, “Exalted Journey” or “A Dance Beyond”. They all have their place in the Pentacle-history. It’s hard to compare one song with a full-length album, but they all mark a certain development within our sound, so they are equal important. A song like “Soul’s Blood” from the 10” with Desaster is as important to our development as “A Dance Beyond”. So these songs have a special meaning to me.Of course there are certain decisions, which could have been made different-wise, but in retrospect that’s a very obvious conclusion. In your life there are always certain choices you regret, but there’s nothing you can do. Life is for a very big deal about learning and making the “wrong” decisions are a part of that cycle. That’s the way it goes!
02 - In the past, the Dutch scene was very strong as Gorefest, Delirium, Acrostichon, Sempiternal Deathreign ect.. Most of these bands had a fucking unhealthy feeling with some heavy touches a la Black Sabbath, Hellhammer. What is your opinion about these pillars of your country?It is really strange that we haven't heard about them for a long time, do you know why ?
You mentioned some classic Dutch bands here. I recently listened to Sempiternal Deathreign’s album and demo… It was such a great band. Incredible material! I still enjoy it very much. “The Spooky Gloom” is definitely a Dutch Death Metal classic in the ranks of “Cross the Styx”, “Zzzooouuuh”, “Embrace the Death” and “Consuming Impulse”. The Dutch scene was indeed very strong. We had a big deal of killer bands like the ones you mentioned. Some others I would like to mention are Asphyx, Swazafix, Dead Head, Thanatos, Malignant, NecroSchizma, Inferno, Dead End, Beyond Belief, Liers in Wait, Mourning, Morthra, Eternal Solstice, Lethargy, Throne, Usurper, Pestilence, Inquisitor, Sinister, Second Hell and others. Those were really the days. You are right! Those bands made me feel proud to be Dutch, haha! I listen pretty often to mentioned acts and they still give me a greet feeling when hearing their music. The Dutch scene wasn’t too much focused in the same direction as most of the Swedish or US bands were. I don’t believe there was/ is a certain Dutch sound. There was a period when loads of bands from my country where playing this typical Death/ Doom style with female vocals and other assorted instruments. Just as you now have this brutal US-infested sound, but I rather wouldn’t call them typical Dutch.What happened to them? Except for some they all split up. Why? Several reasons. Internal conflicts, no break-through, no motivation anymore, different taste of music, no progression and whatever more can kill a band. It’s just the same as in any other country or scene. You start a band, record a demo, do some gigs, get some recognition, get a deal, do an album, maybe a small tour, get dissatisfied with the whole business-side, try another label, get fucked over again, quit the band and start collecting stamps while listening to house “music”. This is of course a bit too simple and easy, but many bands didn’t have the guts to pull it through. They thought it would be cool to play in a Death Metal band, but gave everything up when they got a good job, a nice wife and house. Exit Metal!! Then you have bands with loads of bad luck. They try and try, but it just doesn’t work. They have a very hard time to find the decent members who are willing to let almost everything go in order to get somewhere with the band. Some people just get other priorities in life. There’s nothing wrong with that. In most cases that’s the cause of bands splitting up. For the rest it’s just everything you can imagine when playing in a band. Bad management, contracts or a label which is a bit to keen on money. It happens everywhere.
03 - I am listening to Asphyx since its beginning but I found that your musical approach was very similar when I had the privilege to discover Pentacle with the second demo “Winds of the Fall". Well, what do you think of my analysis? I’d like you to give me a list of some pioneer which motivated your creation musical?
Well, it’s quite obvious I enjoy Asphyx too. Actually, I was the second person who ordered the first real Asphyx demo, “Enter the Domain”. From that point I followed them till the end. They were my favourite Dutch Death Metal band too, so yes, they did influence us. But on the other hand both Pentacle and Asphyx had the same influences like Possessed, Venom, Celtic Frost, Hellhammer, Necrophagia, Messiah, Slaughter etc. so it is quite obvious our sound did had some similarities to the Asphyx one. On the other hand, Asphyx was far more slow and heavy, while we are more hectic and technical. I always thought Possessed was a far bigger influence to the Pentacle-sound than to Asphyx. You know, the tempo changes and the hectic riffing. But again, Asphyx definitely left its mark on the Pentacle sound and there’s nothing wrong with that. Asphyx was a band to be proud of to have in our Dutch scene!Except for the bands I mentioned earlier on there are some more obscure bands which influenced us. Some I would like mention are Pentagram (Chile), Necrovore and Treblinka. To be honest, this whole 80’s scene give Mike and me the right kick to form the band. We had great records like “Morbid Tales/ To Mega Therion”, “Seven Churches/ Beyond the Gates”, “Strappado”, “At War with Satan”, “Season of the Dead”, “Scream Bloody Gore”, “Hymn to Abramelin”, “Apocalyptic Raids”, “The Return…” and “Hell Awaits” combined with the fresh underground bands like Samhain (DK), Mefisto, Mutilated, Massacre, Morbid, Master, Poison, Obscurity, Morbid Angel, Thanatos, Incubus, Cruise Missle, Slaughter Lord and many others. This whole movement gave me the push to start a band in this direction. Especially when this second wave of Death Metal was coming up and less people were interested in the real masters of extreme Metal. As a sort of countermovement we decided to form Pentacle. So you can say all these mentioned bands have made Pentacle happen. Their timeless energy, originality and manic power spawned forth Ancient Death…Pentacle!!
04 - I noticed that most of your demo tracks didn't appear on your albums except "Descending of the Soul" which featured on "Ancient Death". Why so? Did Damnation records had the idea to ask you the authorization for re-release? .
Don’t forget we recorded the track “Deepness of the Depths” for “…Rides the Moonstorm”! We haven’t used neither “My Fall”, “Buried in Mankind’s Sleep” nor “Winds…” for any other record. “Buried…” will be featured though on our split 10 with Blood Storm, but that’s an old live-recording, previous to the actual recordings of “Winds of the Fall”. We always had enough new material, which is for me rather more interesting than rehashing the same old tune again and again. I thought both “Descending…” and “Deepness…” were the most mature songs of the demo and being two personal faves as well we decided to record them for a later opportunity.No, they never asked us to re-release the demo on any format. Former Damnation-owner Jeroen wasn’t really into our old stuff, whether his partner, Daan, enjoyed the tape very much. So in the end nothing was being done. We only got one other offer to release the demo, but that didn’t work out either. There are not many people who ask about this tape and personally I think it’s better to let it rest. There are too much releases out on the market and why should we play a part in suffocating the more interesting records with some old stuff. Don’t get me wrong here. I still like the demo and I’m very proud of it, but I believe it’s better to concentrate on our present and future than looking back. I don’t believe our demo has become something classic as whatever you may mention. It was a good tape and it served its purpose. That’s it.
05 - As I consider your musical culture of TRUE metal head then I suppose you own nice items in your collection! Tell me which is your most cherished rarity since you honoured this wild style. How old were you at this time and what bands were the first to thrill you?
Pfff, that’s a hard question! I mean, I’m into Hard Rock/ Metal since 1983, so I’ve picked up quite some goodies since then. When thinking of it those most cherished items aren’t the most obscure or hard to get ones. It’s more the stuff I started with or more the albums which really grabbed me by the throat, back in the 80’s. Like Venom’s “Bloodlust” EP, “Black Metal”, “At War with Satan” and “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik”, Frost’s “Morbid Tales”, “To Mega Therion” and “Into the Pandemonium”, Possessed’s “Seven Churches” and “Beyond the Gates”, Slaughter’s “Strappado”, Hellhammer’s “Apocalyptic Raids”, Iron Maiden’s “Killers” and “Somewhere in Time”, Slayer’s “Haunting the Chapel” and “Hell Awaits”, VoiVod’s “Rrroooaaarrr”, Kreator’s “Pleasure to Kill”, Bathory’s “The Return” and “Under the Sign of the Black Mark”, Necrophagia’s “Season of the Dead”, Messiah’s “Hymn to Abramelin” and “Extreme Cold Weather”, Death’s “Scream Bloody Gore”, Sabbat’s “History of a Time to come”, Exodus’ “Bonded by Blood”, Metallica’s “Ride the Lightning” and “Masters of Puppets”, Destruction’s “Infernal Overkill”, Infernal Majesty’s “None Shall Defy”, Sepultura’s “Bestial Devastation” and “Morbid Visions” and Sacrifice’s “Forward to Termination”. You know, these kind of records really made my day(s). Today, almost everyone seems to be into these bands, but back in the 80’s the scene wasn’t that big and when you were into the real heavy stuff you were a outcast!!! In my village only a very few maniacs could cope the extreme sounds of these Black/ Thrash and Death Metal bands. The rest was still going wild while listing to their Ratt/ Europe/ Tesla and whatever stuff they listened to. Even Metallica was considered by most people as a very heavy band. Could you imagine when such people heard Bathory’s “Chariots of Fire” for the first time!!! I’ll never forget their faces, hahaha!
06 - Your killer compositions have very coldest atmosphere and are full of morbidity. What are your sources of inspiration (books, nature, films..)? How long does it take you to finish a track on your instrument?
Well, our music comes natural to me. It’s true I have to be in a certain mood to compose Pentacle material, but it’s not like I have to read a book or hear some certain music to get inspired. I take my guitar and start from there. Sometimes it goes really well, but there are long periods without any inspiration too. I can’t tell you why, but creativity/ inspiration doesn’t come always that easy! It can be very frustrating if you want to compose some cool material, but all you get are uninspired riffs. Not much you can do about it…Most cases it takes quite a long time to get a song ready. This has several reasons. First, we’re not a band which is busy composing new material every day. Pretty rare to be honest. Second, we rehearse not that often. Only once or twice in the week. Third, we are very critical towards our material and we tend to throw away quite a bit. So all these factors combined with the creativity-/ inspiration-matter makes us slow songwriters. I really would like to have seen this different, but there’s little we can do about it
07 - Of course your discography emerged of already sold out material! Personally, do you said me the secret message you want to deliver through the realization of this rare bootlegs?
Nah., I think we’re far too underground for that. Maybe I should say not popular enough. I don’t believe this will happen. Never say never, but I just can’t imagine someone would bootleg our old stuff and release it again. I doubt if he’ll be able to sell it, to be honest. We’re no Darkthrone/ Blasphemy/ Treblinka/ Nihilist and for sure no Mayhem!!!! These bands are being bootlegged to the max, which is very annoying to me. People who are doing this want to raise some cash and they know this will sell. Pentacle is no popular band. We do have our loyal supporters and I hail them with whole my heart, but I don’t think someone could earn some good money with us. I would support a cool bootleg, made with dedication and an honest intention. That would make me feel proud! When such person would have some cool live-recordings combined with some nice photos and artwork and would release it on vinyl…that would be great!!!! Don’t forget that in my opinion such a bootleg is made by someone who loves the band, owns everything they ever released and wants to honour this band by releasing such bootleg. This is no money-making matter, but sheer dedication and that’s something I understand as I’m still first a fan and than a musician. I’ve thought about releasing some bootleg stuff too, but in the end I didn’t had any money/ photos nor the needed know how to release such an LP. I’m not gonna mention you which band I wanted to make a bootleg of. You’ll never know, haha!
08 - The war machine Pentacle seems to be more powerfull on stage like at the Dynamo Streetwise Festival! And lately I saw you played at the Voices from the Darkside festival. Do you feel more pleasure and intensity in playing on stage? So, I think that you have a good and nasty memories, isn’t it? The tour with the alcoholic Desaster maniacs members was a memorable reunion in drinking lot’s of beers hahaha!!!
Yes, the Voices Festival was quite a happening. It was a cool package, but the venue was just too small for both bands and crowd. Unfortunate, we had to shorten our set by 5 songs, because the curfew was getting nearer and nearer. We had a blast playing there and to meet all kind of cool people like Frank Stöver with whom I have been in contact for almost 10 years. I shared twice the stage with Martin van Drunen, which was quite cool. First Martin and me did Celtic Frost’s “The Usurper” with the French maniacs Bloody Sign (Hi Nathaniel!) and later that evening Martin joined Pentacle on stage for our version of Death’s “Witch of Hell”. We had a good time, although we had to wait the whole day before being able to hit the stage. I’m glad when we entered the stage there wasn’t any beer to sell anymore so the crowd was sobering up, haha! Yes, I do enjoy live gigs quite a lot. The power, the aggression, to interact with the audience and to meet other cool people from whole over the world…that’s just great! We played with bands from North and South America, Singapore, South Africa, Australia and Europe of course. I still enjoy banging my head with other great bands like Desaster, Mortem, D666 and others. It’s just great to support such intense Metal-acts! Many memorable stories indeed! It’s always an honour to gig together with Desaster. They are a great band with very cool members! All hails to them! Well, I can’t tell you any alcoholic stories as I don’t drink any alcohol, but I’ve witnessed quite some interesting happenings.
09 - I visited the web-site of voices from the darkside which consecrate an homage to several dead musicians through a "r.i.p" column. Shitty, I was surprised to learn that the first Asphyx singer died. Your soul must be filled with hate and sadness. Do you know why he passed away?
That was indeed a sad story. I remember all to well Bob phoned me to tell Theo had died. It was very weird to hear that. Not too long ago I had phoned with Theo and had quite a long chat with him. Some time later Bob called me… It’s still not clear what happened. It could have been an attempt to commit suicide, because Theo had quite some internal problems, but we did never get any proof of that. His actual death was caused by a train, as his car was run over by it. So we’ll never know what happened. Theo was a person with quite a dubious reputation in the Dutch scene, but I always had good fun with him and he was very nice too. He did some great vocals on “Crush the Cenotaph” and “Embrace the Dead” and I respect him a lot for what he did. R.I.P.!!!!
10 - Hey Wannes! you're a very active person. Not only concentrating on Pentacle, you also play in Soulburn and now join the ranks of mighty Asphyx. What is your priority among all these activities? Which experience do you draw through all these bands?What is your opinion on the new band of mister Martin van Drunen: Dead by Dawn
Wow man, your information is not up to date!!! It’s true I recorded an album with Soulburn, but that was in 1998 and the Asphyx album is from 2000. Both bands are RIP for quite a time now (4 years plus). I know sometimes the underground is pretty slow, but this is a bit too much, haha! Anyway, Pentacle always had my priority. Soulburn and Asphyx were more Bob’s bands, while Pentacle was “my” brainchild. Bob and Eric knew this too. I never made a secret out of it that Pentacle was really my thing. But I am very proud to have played with both Bob and Eric. Sure, we had our disagreements, which were on some occasions pretty heavy, but all in all in was a very memorable time. I’m very proud of both “Feeding on Angels” and “On the Wings of Inferno”. They are both 2 great records of old school Death Metal. I must say I enjoy “On the Wings…” most, but again, the Soulburn record is very cool too. Primitive with a great atmosphere.It was quite an interesting experience to be a member of another band. As told before, Pentacle was my first band and before Soulburn I had never played in another band. Just to rehearse in different room was quite refreshing! Sound maybe a bit silly, but when you have rehearsed for almost 7 years in the same place and then all the sudden you’re in another band in a different rehearsal room…it felt good!!! Yes, being a member of Pentacle or Soulburn/ Asphyx was different. For example, Bob and Eric are 2 persons who are both very retrospective. It was always the “good old days”. Very understandable, because they have experienced quite a bit. On the other hand it was sometimes a bit hard for me to cope with that. I wasn’t there, you know, so at such moments it just listening what they had to tell you. I must say the biggest part were very amusing stories, haha! Both those guys had quite an history together, which I couldn’t share the fullest. It was more a case of looking back than towards the future. Well, at least I have the credits of being the front man who lasted twice as long as any previous Asphyx front man, haha! Fuckin’ diplomat I am, ha! We did some great gigs together like the one at Wacken Open Air (Soulburn), the gig with Warhammer in Koblenz (Asphyx), With Full Force (Asphyx), Goudvishal (Asphyx) and many more. Yes, I have cool memories concerning both Soulburn and Asphyx. I’m very happy both albums were released on vinyl as well! To be honest, I still haven’t heard Dead by Dawn. Although Martin promised me to send me some stuff I still haven’t received them, so I can’t tell you anything about it. I hear all kind of different stories about their music from sounding like old Black Sabbath, to Six Feet Under to even hardcore!!!! I don’ t know. Maybe I’ll see them live next week, but that’s not sure yet.Anyway, all the power to Martin.
Interview : Kanz-Noz