(Our constant ally Comrade Aleks today brings us this interview with Ramon Soeterbroek, the guitarist/vocalist of the Dutch death metal band Eternal Solstice, which still lives after almost 30 years — and has a new EP headed our way.)
Formed in 1989 in Bodegraven, South Holland, Eternal Solstice spent about eight years spreading down-tuned and sinister death metal. In sequence they released the albums The Wish Is Father To The Thought (1994), Horrible Within (1995), and Demonic Fertilizer (1997). Eternal Solstice was disbanded after the last of these releases, and who could predict that thirteen years later the outfit would be returning to life in order to continue their dark crusade?
I contacted Ramon Soeterbroek, the band’s original guitarist and vocalist, in order to clarify the facts concerning Eternal Solstice‘s career and suddenly found out that they have brand new EP, Inner Sadist, almost in their hands.
Hi Ramon! Eternal Solstice was started in 1989. What was your motivation back then? What did you want to achieve starting the band?
I don’t know really, I think it was just doing what you like. We liked metal so we wanted to play metal. Do a few gigs, record a demo or maybe a record, just have fun. I don’t think we had the ambition to make it big.
Mischa Hak (drums) and Victor van Drie (guitars) joined the band when their own outfit Sempiternal Deathreign was stopped in 1989. How did their appearance affect the Eternal Solstice sound?
Misha had a huge impact. Our first drummer was a nice guy but had just started to play the drums, so when Misha joined we immediately were a real band. Victor wrote a few tunes so he was important as well at that stage.
The band took part in the split album At The Dawn Of… together with Mourning, then there was a demo record in 1993, and only in 1994 you came with the first full-length album, The Wish Is Father To The Thought. What formed your sound back then? What kind of result did you want to achieve in entering Excess Studio?
We booked the Excess Studio because they weren’t that expensive and were close to where we lived. I think we were the first Death Metal band they did. We just wanted to record our songs and leave the rest to Hans Pieters from Excess. He did an alright job I think.
How did you spend this recording session? What kind of difficulties did you face at the studio?
We had a lot of laughs I remember. No difficulties, only Phil blew his amp so we had to make a drive to a musical instrument store to rent a new amp. Recording went well. Misha is a tight drummer and once the drums are done you’re already halfway through the process.
Eternal Solstice – God In The Flesh
Ramon, what kind of lyrics did you write for your songs as the vocalist? Did you have a certain conception in your mind which you planned to keep from album to album?
First of all I have to tell you that I don’t like writing lyrics — never did, and never will. I wasn’t the original vocalist for Eternal Solstice but was forced to sing on the split because our old singer quit just before recordings started. Then I stuck with the vocals. Victor, Misha and Phil wrote a few lyrics as well but I always did the lion’s share. I got my inspiration from documentaries. In the early days we wrote some zombie stuff but that’s not my thing. Nowadays I got my inspiration from the internet. Reading the news I sometimes wonder why things happen. I don’t understand religion, politics, etc. I like my lyrics to be multi-interpretable. I don’t like to tell people what they should or shouldn’t do. But then again, lyrics to me are just kind of a necessity. I need something to sing.
There are obvious death-doom influences in this album. How do you see the role of doom metal in Eternal Solstice? How much of it was in your stuff?
Well, doom was always important to us. Victor brought some doom influences to the band and we always integrate some doom parts in our songs.
Andre van der Ree joined you in 1994, and he previously played in Mourning. Together your recorded the Horrible Within album. Did he take part in the song-writing? Or did you keep it together with Philip?
Horrible was more of a band effort and was written mostly in the rehearsal room. Philip and I would bring some riffs we wrote at home to the rehearsal room, and while playing, new ideas came to mind.
Did Horrible Within bring Eternal Solstice some recognition? Did you catch that death metal wave of the mid-’90s?
Yeah, it got great reviews, in several magazines. And no we did not catch the wave. I don’t think we were that ambitious and some people did not do what they were supposed to do. Which led to the end of the band in 1997.
How did you spend the period between Horrible Within and Demonic Fertilizer? How often did you have an opportunity to play gigs? With what kind of bands, and where did you usually play?
It is a long time ago but after Horrible was released we did quite a lot of gigs. Most of them in Holland and a few in Belgium. We used to play a lot with Pentacle at the time. We sent package deal offers with Pentacle to a lot of venues but got very little response. Close to the recording of Demonic it all became a drag really, that’s why we split up at the time.
How do you see the differences between these two albums? How do you value the band’s progress on Demonic Fertilizer?
The difference is huge, and I would not call it progress. There’s one or two good songs on Demonic, let’s leave it at that.
Eternal Solstice – By Your Command
What happened in 1997 when Eternal Solstice was disbanded?
Well, every now and then I jammed with André at my place or at his and we recorded some basic ideas which we later used for the 7″ split singles with both Decrepitaph and Pentacle.
I see that only your debut album, The Wish Is Father To The Thought, was re-released after the band’s split up – by Dark Descent Records in 2012 and by Vic Records in 2013. Did any other labels approach you about the possible re-issue of Horrible Within and Demonic Fertilizer? Do you feel that Eternal Solstice is an underrated band from this point of view?
We have been working on a re-release of Horrible Within for more than a year now. Everything is ready to go but I haven’t heard from that label when the release date is. Could be any time now. It’s a small label. Maybe I was hoping for a bigger label but hey, I never expected that in 2018 people would still be listening to our old stuff. No we are not underrated I think. It’s more like other bands are overrated hahaha !!! No, just kidding.
Ramon, you managed to bring Eternal Solstice back to life in 2010, in almost its original lineup. How did it happen? What caused you to make this decision?
Well, I got in touch with Wayne from Decrepitaph and he asked me if I wanted to do a split 7″. As I said, I had some ideas lying around from the jam sessions with André so we did it. Dark Descent was interested so we asked Phil to show up for the pictures, and the rest is history.
Did you feel a difference when you started to play gigs again? How often have you played live over these years?
We did a few gigs and I must say I’m fed up with playing live. The time and money you put in it, and then if you’re lucky 10 people show up. Maybe in the future, but for now I don’t see myself performing live.
The band’s first recorded appearances after this return were the splits with Decrepitaph (2011) and Pentacle (2013). And it seems that your idea was to return to the point where Eternal Solstice stopped in 1997. Did you really want to return to that initial sound? Or did you want to update in some way?
Yes, I wanted to update the sound but that was also because Phil had nothing to do with the recordings. I did all the guitar parts myself, and my style of playing is different than his. I’m sure if I played the guitar back in the day we also would have sounded different. The song ideas were from 1999/2000, so they were written not that long after we split up. So there’s some resemblance.
You and Mischa Hak recorded the band’s fourth album Remnants Of Immortality as a duet in the fifth year after the resurrection. What slowed you down? How long did it actually take you to write the album?
We started writing in 2013 I guess. After the re-release of The Wish… in 2012 I took some copies of the album to Misha and he seemed interested in doing something with Eternal Solstice again, so we started rehearsing. Since I had little to no input other than Misha’s, writing took a lot longer than normal and we didn’t want to rush it.
The album seems to be a pure death metal album compared to your previous records. What influenced your approach to writing music this time? And by the way, what are the lyrics about this time? What kind of themes did you raise in your songs?
We just started jamming. Misha played a lot of different styles of music over the years, and I grew a little musically over the years, so yeah everything changes but it had to stay close to Eternal Solstice. As I said, lyrics are not the most important thing to me but I did my best. They are mostly anti-religion, anti-politics, etc., but not in a direct way. It’s all in a metaphor or allegory, if you like.
Can you tell that playing this kind of music somehow affects your personality? Does Eternal Solstice grant you a kind of therapy or something?
Well it’s not a therapy, but it allows me to be creative, and somehow I always end up playing death metal. So I don’t think I will be releasing other kinds of music. However I do listen to a lot of rock from the ’70s.
Eternal Solstice – Rotten Mountain
Ramon, there’s news that Slowrunner Records are going to release an Eternal Solstice EP named Inner Sadist in October. I’ve checked the new song you shared in the band’s Facebook, it seems that you have kept that uncompromising death metal sound. What else can we expect from the new songs? How much tracks will be included in this release?
It will be a 5-track, 20-minute release. All the songs are in the same style, but what I’m very proud of is that they’re all songs by themselves, with their own hooks and stuff.
What’s the current lineup of Eternal Solstice? Do you plan to support the EP release with shows?
The current lineup is just me hahaha !!! And Hugo Ribeiro as a studio drummer. Found the guy on the internet and he saves me lots of time. It’s a shame Misha couldn’t find the time anymore but that’s how it is. We’re not doing shows. Maybe when our next EP is released, I don’t know.
I have songs ready for the next EP which I hope to release within a year or so.