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After All's Christophe Depree: "Nowadays anything goes really, if we think it’s cool and it fits the vibe of the song we are working on it’s a go. This really shows in the songs on “Eos”"

Interview with Christophe Depree from After All
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 07 December 2022, 11:02 PM

Everything goes in today's world, in particular in music, as long as a song sounds good, there would be nothing in its path, other than joining a long picket line of competition for people's ears. Hailing to a new era of their careers, the Belgium Thrash Metal band, After All, returns with a new skinman and one heck of a singer. The release of "Eos" just came through, with a lot of positivity going on the After All camp. Steinmetal had a good talk with guitarist Christophe Depree about the new album, recruiting of the needed musicians and more…

Hello Christophe, it is great to have you for this talk with Metal Temple online Magazine, I trust that you are doing well, getting ready for another cold winter?

Hi, yeah all is well. Thanks a lot for your interest in the band.

Over the years I have been tracking After All, I think it was since “Cult Of Sin”, and since then you have been bound to changes, whether on the vocal front, or the musical end. Talking about the present, it has been six years since your last record, "Waves of Annihilation". I guess it was a mixture of things that prevented you from releasing new material sooner?

A lot happened indeed. Our drummer Kevin (who was with us for 13 years) quit shortly after the recording of “Waves”. Our singer Sammy quit shortly after the release of “Waves”. We had to find new guys who not only had the necessary chops but also the same ambition as the rest of us. And obviously it had to click on a personal level too. Not an easy task. We fairly quickly found Bert Guillemont our current drummer through a mutual friend. Finding our singer Mike Slembrouck took quite a lot more time but everything turned out great in the end. But then the pandemic hit and everyone’s life was put on hold for almost two years. That explains the six years between “Waves” and the new album “Eos”.

With 2022 signaling the end of an era of Mankind, even short, and good that it was, you set yourselves for a new release, presenting a new frontman, and a new label. New beginnings are always something to celebrate, right? How do you view the new developments in regards to the mentioned aspects?

Well once we found the new guys they had to familiarize themselves with our back catalogue and we started writing new material. We worked long and hard on these new songs, as we always do. We are our own worst critics. And we are very happy with the outcome on all levels (songwriting, production, artwork).

We already did a small tour with Satan (UK) and Portrait (SE) in October and did two release shows in Belgium. The last one was a special one in our home town of Bruges. It turned out to be an awesome night. “Eos” is the first release with drummer Bert and singer Mike and indeed the first on our new label Metalville. We couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. We’ve done a lot of promo for it and the album seems to be widely available. Critics seem to dig it too so that’s always a bonus.

In regards to your previous frontman, Sammy Peleman, I was sure that it was going to be a match made in heaven for many years, yet, I was wrong. Nevertheless, Mike Slembrouck, the new recruit, who already had the pleasure of listening to the latest Iron Mask album, delivers the goods no less than better than Peleman. I believe that the logical question would be why didn’t it work with Peleman after all?

Well, people’s priorities change in life. Already on the second tour we did with Sammy it turned out the touring life wasn’t really for him. Playing in a band is hard work and everyone needs to be on the same page. Let’s just say Sammy was no longer on the same page as the rest of us and had different ambitions. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, although the timing could have been chosen a bit better, as Sammy quit shortly after the release of the critically acclaimed “Waves of Annihilation” album. We are still very proud of the releases we did with Sammy as we are of all our back catalogue. We have moved on and are all in a better place now.

With the presentation of Slembrouck, as the new frontman, on your new album “Eos”, I was glad to discover that you maintained the sort of operatic line of vocals, to be the voice of After All. I think it provides the heavier edged music, a fine contrast. Was this the plan all along to seek for a vocalist that would be in the same vein of Peleman?

No, totally not, actually. We were just looking for an awesome, powerful singer. We had to be blown away by the guy’s voice. It obviously needed to be someone who knew his metal. After we had some other candidates come into rehearsal Mike was the one that blew us away straight away. We find he can handle the previous material without a problem but adds a lot more melody to the fold. This resulted in a broader more diverse style of songwriting on our part. It’s still rooted in speed/thrash metal but these days there’s some heavy metal and even prog influences incorporated. It took us some time to find him through but as I said that’s all in the past now and our new album “Eos” has been out for one month now. We are looking forward not back.

And there is “Eos”, which was recently released by Metalville. The first thing that I thought to myself was from where did that title come from and what did you try to express through it. Please help me out here as Eos as a term has a variety of meanings.

Well we were inspired by Greek mythology, Eos is the goddess of a new dawn. And we see this album with Bert and Mike and also our broader stylistic approach as a kind of new beginning for the band. Hence the title and the whole concept.

The second thing that had me thinking about it was the atmospheric sort of artwork. After working for a while with Ed Repka, you chose Travis Smith. The end result of the artwork for “Eos” was actually something to dwell on for more than a minute. Trying to understand it is a taks no less, maybe you can shed some light on what is going on with this scenery? What was the initial vision of this art?

Continuing on the renewal theme. We found it was time to also reflect that in the art work. We’ve worked with Ed Repka (who is obviously amazing) for the past couple of albums. But we thought it might be a good idea to turn to another person with another style all together this time around. That led us to Travis Smith with whom we had contact with in the past. We were impressed by his previous work for bands like Opeth, Nevermore, Death and thought it was a good idea to see what he could come up with for us. After some back and forth we were really happy with his interpretation of our concept and are super happy with how the “Eos” artwork turned out.

I can only assume that the emergence of “Eos” brought with it new matters to concentrate on while listening, things that have been bothering you that you haven’t cared to mention up until now. What are the leading themes that guide the record forward?

On “Eos” Mike wrote all the great vocal lines and cool harmonies but writing lyrics is not really his thing. So I (Christophe, guitar player) actually wrote nine of the ten lyrics this time around. It was a first for me but I really enjoyed this role and I guess moving forward I’ll continue doing this.
I can tell you a lot of the themes come out of my personal reflections on life in general.  Depression, loss of a loved one, birth of a child, social media and its role in modern life, betrayal of people you trusted are some of the themes that I wrote lyrics about.

 “Eos” presents After All solidly maintaining its American vibe Thrash Metal, unleashing a series of riffs and high octane tempos, but alongside well written melodies, an element that I found to garner more emphasis on the album in contrast to earlier on. Within the blasts from the past, there is a present and future that aren’t ignored. What is your take on that? Do you find “Eos” to be the next step for After All or rather preservation of a legacy?

Both actually, it’s still rooted in our thrash/speed past, that’s the music Dries (guitars, co-founder of the band) and I grew up with so that’s really in our blood. But at the same time, as I mentioned before, it goes deeper, broader stylistically. Mike adds a lot of melody and harmonies, Bert is also a very technical, tasty drummer who also adds some new flavours. So yeah at this point we feel we’re the best band we’ve ever been. And indeed it’s a next level for us. We write the music we like and we like a lot of styles, all five of us. Nowadays anything goes really, if we think it’s cool and it fits the vibe of the song we are working on it’s a go. This really shows in the songs on “Eos”. I’m thinking here about “Grand Illusion”, “Waiting for Rain”, “Elegy for the Lost”, “At Dawn’s First Light” who all showcase our broader approach in song writing.

We talked about the riffs, and now let’s sink in on the writing of the songs. There are hooks here no doubt, and Slembrouck compliments every minute of it. Nevertheless, a majority of the riffs are also for the purpose of remembrance and indulgence of old. What can you tell about the songwriting of the record? How did the coming of Slembrouck influence the process?

Well there’s no limitations these days with Mike and Bert in the fold. Anything goes as long as it’s rooted in metal, all kinds of metal though. We didn’t really purposely write any different than we have done in the past but having a different more melodic singer does steer us in a more melodic way. Obviously not denying our thrash/speed roots, there’s still plenty of fast pace down picking riffs in there as well. And even on the heavier songs with Mike adding his vocals it makes for a different vibe, which is cool.

Your continued work with Dan Swano, as your engineer, brought fruit even more than it did for "Waves of Annihilation". There is more depth to the sound, the bass can be largely felt better, a bit of pompous musical scenery that really complimented the songs, enriched them. How do you find the sound of After All in 2022 and of course Swano’s contribution for the development of your sound?

We’ve been working with Dan for more than 10 years now and we’re always happy with his mixes. He gets us, he has the same age as Dries and I, has the same musical references. He’s also an awesome musician, which also helps. He always brings his A game and he has allowed us to grow to where we are now soundwise. A talented man for sure who really knows his stuff.

The song “Kindred Spirit” might have delivered the vibe of the older albums, however, with the addition of Slembrouck to the fold, and vocal production, the song generates even more power. It was like listening to a different version of Flotsam And Jetsam but with extra fuel. How do you find this song? What is your input on Slembrouck's contribution to its impact?

You are not the first to mention Flotsam And Jetsam and that’s obviously a compliment we gladly accept. “Kindred Spirit” is indeed an old-school fast paced rager but with Mike’s vocals it adds a different dimension. It’s quickly becoming a live classic.

Taking the listening experience to the Bay Area, with an old school conviction, there is “Demons Raging”, an amazing riffer, delivering a hell of a blow, sending a person right back to the pit. I think it is one of the strongest tunes of the album, it keeps things energetic and never let's go, even with its short intermission. What is your take on this track?

Well it’s difficult to choose favourites as all these songs are kind of our babies. But indeed “Demons” is also going over very well live. Satan guitarist Russ Tippins actually complimented us specifically on this song during our tour together with them. His actual words were : “a brilliant composition”. Who are we to argue with the man, haha! But it’s of course very flattering when someone like Russ goes out of this way to compliment us on a song of ours.

Similar to my beloved "To Breach and Grieve" of “Dawn Of The Enforcer’, there is the touchy memento of “Eos”, “Waiting For The Rain”. You surely know how to capture attention with what sounds like a semi-Thrash Metal balladry. Not that it is the first Thrash Metal ballad ever, yet it appears that you have a great knack for creating such good tunes. You found the edge with “Waiting For The Rain”, what can you tell about writing it?

Usually the riffs are mixture of Dries, myself and our long time bass player Frederik bringing ideas to the rehearsal room, On ‘Eos’ that’s no different. If I remember correctly Frederik came up with the first section and Dries added the second part but obviously the five of us add our own specific flavours and ideas which makes an After All song what it is. It’s a real collective effort and we are our own harshest critics.

I hope that you are about to set out, or already started, to support “Eos”. Where can you be found playing anytime soon?

Well as I mentioned before we already did a small six date tour (Belgium, Holland, Germany) with Satan shortly after the album was released. We had a blast both on and off stage. The new songs went over really well live and the lads from Satan and Portrait were super cool. After that we did two release shows in Belgium presenting the new album to our Belgian fans. A real high light was our hometown show in Bruges. That’s it for 2022.

We have a couple of shows lined up and hope to be able to play as much as we can to promote “Eos” I’m pretty sure any fan of metal will be able to appreciate it. Hopefully we can play some shows and festivals in Belgium and abroad. Another tour (or couple of tours) would be nice too.
We are ready to go play!

These are the shows that are booked and confirmed at the moment:

14/01/2023 Little Devil, Tilburg (NL) with Martyr & Dead Head
28/01/2023 De Verlichte Geest, Roeselare (B) supports to be confirmed

Christophe, I wish to thank you for your time for this interview, it was a pleasure of mine as a fan of the band for years. All the best

Always a pleasure to talk to people who are passionate about metal and about our band more specifically. Thanks for your time. Stay Metal!


 



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