(Comrade Aleks connected with Pim Blankenstein to discuss his band Extreme Cold Winter and the impending release of their debut album World Exit by Hammerheart Records, plus the latest news concerning his main band Officium Triste, the Dutch Doom Days festival, and a lot more.)
I learned about Extreme Cold Winter from Pim Blankenstein some years ago, I think. We’ve done interviews with Pim on a regular basis; it’s almost routine, as it seems that I’m the biggest fan of his main band Officium Triste here in Russia. And in some of these interviews he told about Extreme Cold Winter, the promising doom-death band he takes part in alongside A.J. van Drenth (guitars, bass) and Seth van de Loo (drums).
A.J. played in one of the first Dutch doom-death bands, Beyond Belief, he took part in Asphyx, and now he does deafening deathly noise with Beast of Revelation. Seth played with ten bands or so, and most of the time it was death metal. He even sang in Deicide during their tour in 2007. You see? Serious stuff.
But long story short: the trio proclaimed the start of Extreme Cold Winter in 2009, recorded the EP Paradise Ends Here in 2015, and… and… and I did check from time to time to see if there was some news on their side and didn’t find any. So I was surprised to see in my main box a promo pack with their debut full-length album World Exit some weeks ago. There was no chance to avoid it, so we get in touch with Pim and pretty swiftly this interview was organized.
Hello Pim! How are you doing? True to tell, I still can’t believe that Extreme Cold Winter’s debut is finally out. How long ago did you actually finish it?
Hi Aleksey, I’m doing great. Thanks for asking.
Concerning the full-length it actually took us a while to finish things. Seth recorded the drums back in the summer of 2017. I did my vocals in October 2020 and the album. Then the mix and master was finished in February 2021. So, to say the least, we took our time as we did with our first EP.
How did you, A.J. van Drenth, and Seth van de Loo decide to form Extreme Cold Winter back in 2009? And here there should be a joke with regards to renaming the band Extreme Slow Winter due to such a huge period you spent without any releases…
As you all might know A.J. used to be the driving force in Beyond Belief. But he put that band to rest to pursue other musical things like his death metal band Temple. He did however write some tracks that were more in the doom metal vein. That’s where Seth came in. A.J. met Seth when Houwitser was looking for a drummer to perform at the Fuck The Commerce festival. A.J. kind of was the mediator to get Seth on board for that gig. They kept in touch and A.J. had Seth listen to the aforementioned demo songs, which he liked. So he recorded the drums for them.
Initially Seth also wanted to do the vocals, but A.J. wanted to work with me. I’ve known A.J. for a long time and there even was talk of me joining Beyond Belief just before the band called it quits. I did perform with Beyond Belief once, doing vocals on one track at the mighty Doom Shall Rise festival. I’ve known Seth since the demo days of Severe Torture too.
Anyway, I joined Extreme Cold Winter in 2011 and recorded the vocals for Paradise Ends Here. It took some more years before it was finally released through Vic Records. You know, we are a studio project exclusively so we take our time. We all live in different parts of the Netherlands too. I guess we could rename ourselves into Extreme Slow Winter, haha.
What was your intention when you started recording World Exit? Was it an idea to return back to the life spirit of the ’90s? A method to let off steam and create this nostalgic vibe a lot of people search for?
There’s no intention really. A.J. writes the music and he basically is old-school. That’s where his influences come from. It’s not about nostalgia or anything like that. It’s just the killer tunes he writes that turn out this way. That’s why you will also hear some similarities to Beyond Belief. That’s A.J.’s signature, so to speak. You should also check out his other band Beast of Revelation he has with former Asphyx drummer Bob and Incantation’s John. That’s some killer old-school material too. Yet on World Exit we had Carsten of The Monolith Deathcult add some keyboard parts that give it all a slight modern feel I guess.
Pim do you prefer old school music nowadays or are you into old and new stuff in equal measure?
I’d say the latter. I’m into good music in general and I try to keep up with new releases as much as possible. Now and again I also buy older stuff that’s still missing in my collection. My taste is quite varied so I listen to an eclectic mix of styles. But I guess the genre I love best is death metal.
Did influence the writing of the main stuff? And did you discuss a chance to have a song or two in the vein of A.J.’s Beast of Revelation? You know – more songs in the vein of ‘Cursed Like Cain’.
We haven’t discussed songs or direction. A.J. wrote the material and presented it to us in its raw form. There would have been room to tell that you didn’t like a part or something like that, but that wasn’t necessary. What A.J. presented was great from the start. Once Seth recorded the drums the other parts were filled in. Our producer Hans Pieters, for instance, recorded all the bass parts. A.J. and I did discuss the lyrics though. He had some ideas and I had some too, so we divided the songs between us to come up with lyrics. And to spice things up A.J. asked Carsten to come up with the electronic parts too.
How did you all work together on World Exit in the current conditions? Did isolation make things really slower?
Like I said, we are a studio project and the first parts were recorded back in 2017. We all have different stuff going on, and even though Extreme Cold Winter is important to us it isn’t the main priority. We don’t rehearse, so getting the lyrics done and figuring out the phrasing and so on just took some time. The current situation with Covid did not really have an effect on our slow progress.
Pim, do you see Extreme Cold Winter as a continuation of themes you researched in Officium Triste? You know. like doom death is doom death in the end of the day…
I see it as totally different entities. Officium Triste is more melodic and I write the lyrics exclusively. In Extreme Cold Winter A.J. writes the music and most lyrics. A.J. tends to use a lot of biblical reference in his songs. I wrote the lyrics to two songs on World Exit and I wouldn’t use these topics in Officium Triste.
Would you comment about your songs’ lyrics if you don’t mind? What’s your favorite one on the album?
A.J. wrote most of them and he studies the bible a lot and uses this as an inspiration for his lyrics. I wrote ‘Permafrost Entombment’, which suits the band’s name a lot I guess. I think the lyrics to this song speak for themselves. The other one I did is probably also my favorite, which is ‘Serpent’s Seduction’. This seems to have some biblical reference too, yet it is about something that happened in my life where a person I totally detest crossed my path. Through these lyrics I could write off a lot of frustration and hatred.
Do you plan to continue keeping Extreme Cold Winter alive? Or will each of you return to his own bands and projects?
As it is a studio project we are open to any option. It all depends on the material we can come up with. Right now we are stoked that World Exit is out. We indeed all have multiple things going on, so we have to see what happens. Give us another 5 years or so, haha.
Did people ask you to play some shows as Extreme Cold Winter? Would you actually like to do it or would you prefer to keep touring activity low even after the quarantine is over? Well, let’s just try to believe it will be over one day.
I can’t recollect anyone asking us to do a show. I guess it is clear we are a studio project. I wouldn’t dismiss a live show though. You never know. It would be a logistical challenge to even hook up for rehearsals though. We’ll see what the future brings.
Everyone seems uncomfortably used to it, but the metal scene lost a huge part with 99% shows cancelled through the pandemic period, though most bands focused on recording, and in the end metal still never gonna die. Did you try to figure out something concerning Dutch Doom Days? It’s an important event for many, so maybe a DVD release with videos from previous shows or a kind of live stream could work.
Well, I haven’t given it any thought to do a DVD release even though there is some material that was recorded on video. As a matter of fact, there is a DVD available called Chronicles of Doom that was recorded at the 2006 edition. We recently also did a live stream with Officium Triste and Façade under the Dutch Doom Days moniker at the Baroeg venue.
I had a line-up ready for 2020, which we had to cancel because of regulations due to Covid. But now things have opened up again and we can do DDD on November 6 and 7 2022, even when we can use 75% of the capacity of the venue. This is good enough for us. Some overseas bands I booked cannot make it just yet, so I will try to get those bands on in 2022. This time we decided on a bit less bands and all from Europe. We have booked Clouds, Ataraxie, Wheel, Cross Vault, Façade, Pilgrimage, Conviction and Onhou as well as my own band Officium Triste.
Officium Triste’s The Death of Gaia saw the light of day in 2019. Don’t you rush for another release while Gaia still breathes?
Actually, due to the fact we were in isolation has been positive for us, in the fact that we wrote quite a lot of material. We more or less have the structures of songs for another full-length ready. There still is some work to be done, but it is looking good. Still, we are going to do some shows again to more or less promote The Death Of Gaia too. That album was released just before all the shit happened on our planet.
I think I didn’t ask you before, so let’s try: Officium Triste as well as Extreme Cold Winter are quite traditional bands, and Netherlands is known for its… flexibility… concerning many social questions. The world changes, and some of these changes seem to be absurd and unwelcomed. How comfortable do you feel yourself in your country?
Even when our music seems traditional and perhaps not flexible we do it this way because it suits us and we feel comfortable about it. The music is all done from a personal perspective and I hardly think the country you live in has a huge effect on it.
About the Netherlands; I think our country isn’t as flexible as people think. Of course from an outside view we might come across as progressive but in fact on a lot of issues we are regressive, as you see in other countries too. I personally don’t like to talk politics in regards to my music, but I have to say that I feel there’s a lot of polarisation going on. Within the metal scene, within the Netherlands, and in the world. I read comments of Dutch people about how they hate our country. Even when the political situation in the Netherlands sucks I feel very comfortable living here. As long as I can do what I want without having to look over my shoulder I am more than happy to be Dutch.
Got you Pim! Thanks for your patience, let’s hope winter 2021 / 2020 won’t be extremely cold and next year we’ll have some great news from Officium Triste and maybe considering Dutch Doom Days. Thanks again!
You’re welcome Aleksey. Thanks to you too for your ongoing support. Much appreciated. Keep in touch.