(We present Comrade Aleks‘ interview with Tom Palms, founding guitarist of the Dutch death/doom band Phlebotomized, whose last album was released in 1997 , who have revived after an extended absence, and whose first new album in 21 years is now on the horizon.)
As you probably know, the Netherlands’ avant-garde death-doom and whatsoever metal legends Phlebotomized didn’t stop working after their sudden resurrection in 2013. The band actively forged their sound in the early ’90s, moving from pretty brutal death metal toward a new direction through experiments which took place on their full-length album Immense Intense Suspense and the absolutely different sophomore record, Skycontact.
It’s now 2018, and Phlebotomized are on Hammerheart Records and at work on their third album (the first one in 21 years!) under the title Deformation Of Humanity, which should come to light soon.
The only remaining original Phlebotomized member, Tom Palms, helped me to learn more about the band’s history and reveals a few things about the new stuff.
Hi Tom! Taking into account that the pre-Phlebotomized band Bacterial Decease was formed in 1989, it seems that you started your road into the deep metal underground about 30 years ago! How does it feel?
Hi Aleks, it makes me proud that we are still around after 29 years! I’m 45 now, so we were very young when we started Phlebotomized.
The early ’90s were wild times for the metal scene; how did you live through it? What were your ambitions back then?
The early ’90s were death-metal prime-time! We saw all the great bands in those days. We were very ambitious and wanted to take Phlebotomized as far as we could after the great reviews of our demo Devoted to God .
Did you start Phlebotomized with an aim on death metal? Do you remember the day when you gathered and chose the name for the band?
It was clear from the start that we wanted to play extreme metal. Lawrence [Payne], Patrick [van der Zee], and me were totally into Death, Autopsy, Morbid Angel, Napalm Death, Carcass, Paradise Lost, and Nocturnus. The direction was chosen…
Phlebotomized – Desecration of Alleged Christian History
The EPs In Search Of Tranquility  and Preach Eternal Gospels  already showed the band’s tendency towards a more complex sound. What was on your mind when you wrote this material?
We wanted to create different/complex music. It was conceived in a natural way though. We had a lot of ideas and put all the ideas in our songs. Sometimes too much…
Preach Eternal Gospels was recorded when Phlebotomized consisted of seven members. How did the recording session go? How did you fit in just one studio?
The recordings went well. Lawrence and I recorded the songs together and the rest played/sang their parts afterwards. We didn’t fit all in one room! We rehearsed the songs before the recordings endlessly, that is what I can remember.
The band’s name, the stuff you played during the first years, all of that points to your love to death metal. How did the prog and doom metal elements start to crawl into the Phlebotomized sound on Immense, Intense, Suspense?
We always had doom parts in our songs. On our demo Devoted to God, the songs “Subtle Disbalanced Liquidity” and “Devoted to God” already had doomy parts. The prog elements became more important when we became better musicians, and certainly after a few years during my study of the classical guitar. We had to analyse symphonies at school from Dvorak, Mozart, Beethoven, etc. Listening to other kinds of music helped too… Harmony became important. The collaboration between the guitars, violin, and keys .
Some people say that Phlebotomized were ahead of their time when you recorded the album Immense, Intense, Suspense. Would you agree with that? How did people react to the album?
Ahead of our time? I don’t think so. A lot of people reacted very cool on that album. We got good critics from all over the world, but to the “conservative” death metal bangers it was too weird.
What’s about gigs abroad? There was this wave of death doom metal that happened — did you get on in time and catch the train?
We didn’t catch the train Aleks. We mainly did shows in Holland and Belgium. We did cool shows though with: Therion, Samael, Anathema, and others…
What led Phlebotomized to those global changes you showed on the Skycontact record? How did you write the album and why did you totally leave your old ways?
Immense Intense Suspense was written by Lawrence and me, and Skycontact was merely an album based on ideas of Lawrence. My contribution, besides “Sometimes”, written by me, was arranging all these ideas into songs. It is the main reason why it sounds so different from our previous releases. Lawrence lost his interest in death metal, and mostly all of us at that time, and therefore the music went in another direction. To us it felt natural, not realising that the music was so different because we thought it was heavy still.
And who wrote lyrics? Did you discuss the texts with the entire band?
Lawrence was responsible for all lyrics. I contributed some phrases in “Mustardgas” (from Preach Eternal Gospels) and Dennis Geestman in “Cookies” (Skycontact).
Did people’s reactions to the totally updated progressive sound of Skycontact somehow disappoint you?
Of course! We thought we created a hell of an album… that album was more “ahead of its time” than Immense Intense Suspense. Later on we realised it had almost nothing to do with our previuos releases, The step was too huge.
Phlebotomized – I Hope You Know: A Cry In July
How did the release of Skycontact influence your live activity? Was it more difficult to organize gigs after that release?
It wasn’t more difficult to get gigs but the audience was divided into Death metal and Prog metal fans. We played three songs from Skycontact — “StoleShowSoul”, “Achin’”, and “Cookies”. “Achin’” was like Nirvana tuned in C. Totally different from anything we did before.
What made you to take the decision to disband Phlebotomized in 1997?
Personal problems and in the end a feeling that the band was going in a wrong direction…
Tom, you’ve managed to resurrect Phlebotomized with almost the initial lineup, but now you’re the only original member of the band. Why didn’t it work out with the guys?
It was very cool to resurrect the band. Playing live again with former bandmembers was fun. After two years I had the idea to create a new album, which in my opinion was necessary to go on. Playing live and creating a new album asked a lot of your time and commitment. It was too much for some of the guys for different reasons.
How soon did you find replacements for Jordy [Middelbosch], Maarten [Post], and Patrick? Did they take part in writing the new material?
Jordy was replaced easily by Dennis [Bolderman] in August 2016. We had try outs with several guys and he was the man! We will not replace Maarten permanently. Maybe we are going to work with a violin player on “special” occasions. Patrick was replaced by André [de Heus] three months after his departure. Jordy had a very important role in creating our pre-production, pre-producing all the drum parts and playing rhythm parts in his “home studio”. Maarten wrote a very nice melody which we have used on our new album. Both get the credits for their contribution!
Phlebotomized are signed on Hammerheart and your new album is almost at hand. How long did you write this material? Was it difficult to do that with all these lineup changes?
I wrote the material between October 2014 and July 2015. I’ve used some riffs from ’93-’94 and 2006. After listening to old tapes I found cool stuff. The rest is totally new! Writing the material wasn’t the problem. The concept of our new album was ready/completed in November 2015.
Phlebotomized – Barricade (live)
Can you reveal this concept? What’s it about?
The title of our new album is Deformation Of Humanity. The lyrical content of the album is based on that theme. Moral decay… written from different perspectives.
Do you have in your arsenal some equipment you used back in 90s? What kind of sound did you search for on the new album?
I still use my old choruses and delay from the heydays but my guitars and amplifiers are modern stuff. On one solo, the last song, I used my Peavey T-60. With that guitar I recorded the demo, our mini Peach Eternal Gospels, Immense Intense Suspense, and Skycontact . We searched for a heavy but clear sound, not muddy at all. Warm and expressive!
Do you feel any cardinal differences between how you recorded the new stuff and those songs in the ’90s?
This time the recordings went much more fluently than the recordings of Immense Intense Suspense and Skycontact. Modern technology offers great possibilities, our preparation was very good, and the technical abilities of the bandmembers is higher than in the old days.
How much of the old Phlebotomized is in it? Did you try to keep the spirit of the ’90s in new songs?
I think a lot of people can hear old- Phlebotomized elements in the new songs. It is a heavy and loud album but diverse and different from previous releases again. The spirit is totally ’90s but with a modern touch to it. Soundwise and feelwise…
And the last question is… what’s the date of new album’s release? Will you support it with a tour or just with a few local gigs?
That date has not been confirmed yet. We are aiming for Autumn 2018. It will be released on Hammerheart Records. The recordings are finished. The master as well. It will be released on CD, vinyl, and downloads. We will support it with gigs. Where, when, and with whom is still a surprise for us as well… watch our Phlebotomized Facebook site and we will keep thee informed!!!