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Extreme Cold Winter's A.J. Van Drenth: "…there will be a One World Order ruled by an anti-Christ figure. And Jesus told there will be plaques, famines, wars in the end times…"

Interview with A.J. Van Drenth from Extreme Cold Winter
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 23 October 2021, 9:43 PM

Slow, full of depth, consuming nearly with each chord, presenting that not all is Green, but rather dark and Grey. Nonetheless, there is a shred of hope within the fog of uncertainty. Things may come around, but with there are dependencies that cannot be denied. Extreme Cold Winter, a Death / Doom Metal project, which lays the lines of sorrow and gloom, including several positive notes out of the desperation, delivered a potential to be reckoned with, “World Exit”, which also conjures a sense of belief and soul searching. Steinmetal had the pleasure to talk to A.J. Van Drenth, founder of the project, in a conversation about belief, the record, and more…

Hello A.J. is awesome to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing sir?

I'm good and happy doing this interview. Thank you for the great feedback.

It was the first time for me to get to know Extreme Cold Winter, and I was also surprised to see that it consists of three veterans from the royal Dutch extreme Metal scene. It appears that the band has been sort of an on and off, with you guys, each to his own busy with various musical activities within your local scene. Was it the initial purpose for Extreme Cold Winter, to become that comfortable place to come back to?

It was 2009 if I remember correctly, I came up with some demo tracks, spontaneous recorded, sent them to Seth, who gave me a phone call to meet. So, we met at Seth's on Silvester night. From day one on we only wanted to record these tracks and see what happens. I recorded the guitars at my home studio, we contacted Hans Pieters if he liked to record Seth his drum tracks, but Hans liked to do the complete recording process. So, we did.

I listened for a bit to your debut EP, “Paradise Ends Here”, and it led me to the understanding why it was so critically acclaimed back in the day. So, if you had momentum with that EP, why didn’t you prolong it, capitalize upon it?

That's because I had a few other projects, I was in the process writing and recording the second Temple album "Design in Creation" which took some time.  And of course, Pim and Seth had their own bands. Plus, the fact we wanted to create a full-length album that stands above high standards. We wanted to take our time, not just write and record and release, Hans and I had a lot of email contact, and sending from and forth track files. I think the outcome is very satisfying.

Eventually, and gladly, you guys returned to the fold, creating your debut full-length album, “World Exit”, and also signed with your local label, Hammerheart Records. No doubt, a great choice. How do you find your new home as a roster band in Hammerheart?

As you may know, Hammerheart Records re-released both albums of my former band Beyond Belief, "Towards the diabolical experiment" and "Rave the Abyss". And they also released an album of Pim’s band Officium Triste and Seth’s former band Severe Torture too.

After we did the final mastering for "World Exit", I did send a file to Guido telling him to release this album and he was like okay, he was really into it. So, we went forth with Hammerheart. They are doing a great job so far. We are already talking about a 2nd full-length album for Hammerheart Records

 “World Exit” is like a faded picture; an example of a sweet memory being looked at in times of great sorrow and despair. In a way, through its stories, it becomes apparent that there is an end, but its time is unknown. How do you view the philosophy of the record?

That's a great way to view at it. Couldn't say it better. The record fits the signs of the times, I hope this album will stand the test of time. I wanted this record absolute complete like everything fits together, the lyrics fits the music and a front cover and title that covers the whole concept. I think I totally succeeded.

I can say that I also found “World Exit” as a spiritual experience, its lyrics penetrate the soul, looking to teach, sharing senses and experiences. In your opinion, what kind of message does this album convey? What makes it a kind of an incorporeal being?

As for the lyrical themes, I came up with subjects that came to mind at those moments. For instance, "Animals in Wintertime", I'm a huge animal lover, and came up with the idea writing a lyric about hibernation which was in a way funny. So not all the lyrics are about doom and gloom.

But I think each individual listener can relate one way or the other to the texts. The music and lyrics are given to me in a spiritual way. I'm a very biblical inspired person, I love to dive deep in some biblical subjects, like example the book Genesis, if you do a deep study you'll learn to read between the lines and start to understand the deeper meaning.

Nearly two years ago, something started that shook the foundations of the world as it seems, and it is expected to remain with us, as a partner that doesn’t stay over just one night, at least for several years forward. Would you say that “World Exit” holds a connection to the events of the pandemic, that sense of loss on a global scale?

Let's say, I wasn't surprised at all, it's all, one way or the other, connected to biblical prophecies the way I see it. The bible tells us, there will be a One World Order ruled by an anti-Christ figure. And Jesus told there will be plaques, famines, wars in the end times. He also said to be beware of being deceived. Those interested should check out Jack Hibbs, a great modern bible teacher, he has the ability to talk about these end time subjects in an understandable way. The CD title "World Exit" is simple, that came to mind over a decade ago, which is a perfect title for this album.

Even though its state of mind is gloomy, is there a shred of hope within the lines of “World Exit”? Anything that the listener could hang on to when it comes to the future?

When there’s doom and gloom there’s always hope as well. Perhaps it is not in the forefront on our album it’s basically up to the listener if he or she gets a sense of hopefulness out of our music. After the dark there’s always light.

Ushering the qualities of Doom meets Death Metal of the late 80s and early 90s, with a meaty sounding musical intensity, slow and monstrous, Extreme Cold Winter is a fine picture of a thick and depth essence. How would you describe the steps that you took, going with the band forward musically, ever since the debut and into the veils of “World Exit”?

Well, I grew up side by side by this style of metal, I totally felt comfortable listening to late 80s and early 90s death/doom metal. I feel blessed having a talent creating dark musical themes that seemingly touches the soul, music with a deeper meaning. Since I've been active in the metal scene for over 30 years and had the honor to work with many talented people, which helped me to get where we are now with "World Exit". The debut was a great starting point.

And therefore, I ask as well, what changed in your musical vision in regards to Extreme Cold Winter’s music, as a result of “World Exit”? Where do you intend to go with it, going forward?

Not much has changed really, just better and more in-depth songwriting, and most of the times I take a good advice in writing and production wise serious. This album and especially its great reviews give us the motivation to go on and write some new material.

As both a guitarist and a songwriter, how do you find your own development? What did “World Exit” contribute to your abilities on writing riffs and structuring songs off raw material?

Experience I think, after a while you get better and more experienced in the whole aspect of writing and recording. On this Album I worked closely with Hans, who has a ton of experience. Since I started my solo studio project Temple I developed and learned a lot, in both writing, arrangements.

Beside the music and lyrics, I also always responsible for the cover concepts. If you know my 2020 released Beast of Revelation album "The Ancient ritual of Death", that one I did almost completely by myself, music, lyrics, vocal pattern, production and the albums concept.

As a trio, which has been together ever since the band’s inception, how did “World Exit” make it happen in regard to the chemistry between you guys? Would you say that you learned new things from your partners in crime while the record was at work?

With every recording you learn new things. Even though I wrote all the music and 4 of the 6 lyrics, the others certainly had their input. Not to mention an A.J. to become a solo album, I asked Pim to write two songs, text and vocal lines, to make a difference between the songs, which turned out great. Pim as a vocalist has a different view on writing lyrics and pattern. I was present at the recordings of the drums and vocals. We wanted it to sound like a band on record, not a separate project. I' am extremely happy with the end result.


With the vocals and riffs being the centerpiece of the record, the addition of the Keyboards, playing celestial driven hazes of atmosphere, is exactly what the album needed in order to achieve a level of drama. How do you view the position of the keyboards on the album? How did it upgrade the efforts of the rest of the roles in the band? Is there a consideration to add a permanent Keyboards player?

After recording the traditional instruments, I thought something was missing. And I knew Carsten is great musician, I asked him to fill the music with some keyboard parts. I knew already on which parts to put some keyboards, so I handed him a timetable with the expected soundscapes. Carsten really added some drama and atmosphere to the already doomy sound. For sure Carsten will be part of the next recordings.

Hans Pieters, which also played bass on the album, nearly did everything for you guys sound wise. The end result is an old school driven thriller of Doom Metal welcomed, engulfing and celebrating the very heart of the extreme measure of the subgenre. What is your appreciation of Pieters' work?

I have great respect of Hans, he really was into this recording. As said before, Hans and I were both heavy into making this a classic doom metal album. Hans is also an easy and nice going guy, who knows his talent and abilities. Hans also did some editing work for the Beast of Revelation album. Plus, he's a great bass player!

 “World Exit” is a bone chilling album, living up to the band name. Nonetheless, one of the tracks that really sent chills down my spine was the instrumental, “The Sea Taketh”. I am not really sure what, and where, is this sea, but its music is no less than haunting. What did you try to reflect through this instrumental?

This song was written ages ago but was never recorded. So, I thought this track would fit perfectly as an instrumental in between. One can feel the emotions of getting lost at sea forever by hearing this song. You can almost feel the flowing and drowning. I gave Carsten some ideas to go along with. He totally succeeded in my expectations.

The final track, “Cursed Like Cain”, has shared merits and traits with the rest of the songs, yet it also displays a few other aspects of the songwriting that aren’t common for the record itself. There is a storm coming, and it came to rampage with a massive atmospheric sensation through the half of the record. I guess that it was imminent for you to burst up with a semi energetic delivery? How do you find this song overall?

That massive atmospheric sensation you talk about is one of my favorite album parts, it has a slightly black metal feel to it, it's also the fastest part on the record. Overall, the song basis is simple but effective.

I mentioned being chilled by this record, I wonder what is your reaction to the matter? How do you perceive what you guys wrote while listening to the final product of the record? How does the album make you feel?

We felt that we've recorded a massive and dark album, with the clean production and heavy guitar sound, the attack in Seth his snare drum and Pim's unique vocals and of course Carsten's input gave us having a proud feeling listening to the final mastering. Greg Chandler of Esoteric did the final touch, mastering, Greg indeed is a master in mastering!

A.J. thank you for letting me explore your mind with these questions in regards to your new record. Let’s try not to wait that long for the next album, shall we? All the best mate, Cheers.

Thank you


 



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