Interview: Hail Of Bullets on The Rommel Chronicles

Interview with vocalist Martin Van Drunen | By Brandon Ringo

Picture if you will, what the howl of a demonically-possessed, zombie wolf with rabies would sound like. Now listen to the voice of legendary death metal vocalist Martin Van Drunen and tell me how closely the two resemble each other. Thanks to his incredibly unique howl, Martin Van Drunen has firmly cemented himself as one of the greatest vocalists in heavy metal history, specifically because of his output on legendary albums with bands like Pestilence and Asphyx. In addition to those two, he is also the vocalist of the disgustingly violent/loud project Grand Supreme Blood Court and the war-themed death/thrash powerhouse so eloquently known as Hail Of Bullets.

The neat thing about Hail Of Bullets is that when coming up with topics to write about lyrically, Van Drunen always bases his subjects on real people and events steeped in history. The latest brutal entry into the band’s celebrated discography is about Erwin Rommel, a man Van Drunen referred to as “the most legendary German field marshal that has ever lived.”

He explains, “The whole album is about the military life of German field marshal Erwin Rommel in chronological order. From his baptism in battle in WWI till his tragic (forced) suicide in 1944. The first two songs are about his WWI experiences as a young and exceptionable brave lieutenant, the next two about his incredible storm over France with his 7th Panzer Division -which was later to be called “The Ghost Division,” then four songs about his time in Africa leading the outstanding Afrika Korps, which brought him the most fame and success. Track 9 is about his time in Normandy building up the German defenses and last track is about his death.”

Though Van Drunen’s subject matter is always steeped in history and requires quite a bit of research on his behalf, the process of actually choosing subjects for the band to write about is relatively uncomplicated, “I’m just interested in war in general and read a lot about that, so if I think a subject will be suitable to write an album concept about, I’ll pass it on to the boys and if they agree, we start to match the music with the lyrics after I’ve gathered all required info of course and did my private study on the matter.”

Other than the themes of war that have become their signature, another constant element with Hail Of Bullets is the use of legendary producer Dan Swanö, which has created a match made in death metal heaven. “Death Metal should be bloody loud. That’s how it was meant to be. And Dan understands that as no other,” said Van Drunen. He then elaborated, “I remember Ed (Warby, drummer) came up with the idea of letting Dan mix the first Bullets promo and did he blow us all away! (laughs) So later, we decided to ask him too for Asphyx and GSBC. He just knows what we want and feels that as well. And with all albums he does a fantastic job. For me personally, he likes my voice a lot and knows exactly what to do with it. In that way, I will never be disappointed. We’re a team in all bands and Dan is part of that team whenever we start finishing an album. I guess that’s the chemistry that explains it all.”

In addition to the research done for his lyrics before writing new material for Hail Of Bullets, Van Drunen is also constantly writing new material for his other bands Asphyx and Grand Supreme Blood Court. You would figure at some point, it would be impossible to keep up the kind of pace he has, but according to Van Drunen, the secret is, “I work at one band at a time when working on an album. Even if the other bands come up with riffs during that period, I’ll leave ‘em on the shelves until I finished that particular album I’m writing at that time first. It’s about planning, scheduling and sometimes I just lock myself from the outside world so I can fully focus on what the bands expect from me.”

I’ve always admired Martin Van Drunen for his incredible voice, but I also think the man has an amazing work ethic. Granted, you can’t survive in today’s music industry without working your ass off, but nobody knows that better than him and fortunately, that effort has paid more than its fair share of dividends over the years. “I’m very serious in always trying to put the best out of myself. Not only for myself, but especially for the guys who always work hard too, to make another fat album. And then I’m privileged to work with fantastic gifted musicians that can put out one genius riff after the other and that all were born with metal in their flesh, blood, bones and soul. These guys will stay metalheads till their deaths. No one is a damn trend follower. And our fans can count on us, we will never let them down and will always deliver the goods as long as we make metal. It’s like a boy’s dream come true you know. As a kid, I was miming Ace Frehley and years later I’m on stage myself. Ok, not as outer space huge as Kiss of course (laughs), but I’m there and making people rage along with me when I’m on stage. And that’s something so bloody special. You have to be on stage to understand how that is like, [it is] perhaps only comparable to great sex.”

Purchase III The Rommel Chronicles here:

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