Tuesday, 16 October 2012


There are very few Death Metal bands who can say they have been around for almost 30 years, but Thanatos can. They were around before the genre was even born so they are definitely a band who have seen a lot of things over the years. This was an exciting interview for me, being that I have always been a massive Thanatos fan myself. I spoke to front man Stephan Gebedi about the history of the one of the genre's most underrated bands...

Hi Stephan, how's everything going?

Hey Matt, well things are a bit hectic right now, we’re in writing mode now for the next Hail of Bullets album, we’ve just had the re-releases of the first two Thanatos albums and I’m having some “domestic issues” right now as well, but hey, that’s life I guess.

Everyone should already know who you are but for those who don't, can please give us a brief introduction of yourself?

Ok, I have been active in the Extreme Metal scene since 1984 when I started the first incarnation of Thanatos. There have been numerous line changes and even a lengthy period of inactivity, but we’re still around. At the end of 2006, early 2007 I formed Hail of Bullets, which consists of (ex) members of Gorefest, Thanatos, Asphyx, Pestilence and Houwitser. Hail of Bullets pretty much became a success story and we’re working on our 3rd album right now. Besides that I also write for Aardschok, which is Holland’s most important Metal magazine. Apart from that I have a semi-fulltime daytime job and a family, sort of …

I have always said that Thanatos are one of the first pioneers of Extreme Metal but are also one of the most underrated. Is this something you agree with or are you satisfied with the recognition you have received?

Haha, have to agree on that one of course. We could and should have had a lot of more recognition but there’s such a thing as bad luck and besides some of my former band mates were experts in missing great opportunities and fucking up things for themselves, so we also have to blame ourselves. We always went against the grain and kept true to our style though and that’s something I can be proud of. That also goes for our perseverance and I see our recent deal with Century Media who will re-release our entire back catalogue as some sort of recognition as well…

Thanatos started in about 1984, with the first demo 'Speed Kills'. What drove you to form Thanatos at this early time?

I guess it had to do with being disappointed with the current local metal scene back then. I had just discovered bands like Venom and Slayer a few years before and there were no bands in Holland that played metal in that style so I decided to form a very fast and very heavy metal band with some friends from school myself. I think we were between 13 and 15 years old when we started jamming and needless to say we weren’t great musicians or anything, but we had some sort of vision from the start…

Thanatos have come along way since the thrashy early demo days to the full on Death Metal monster it is today. What was it that made you turn the corner from Speed Metal to Death Metal?

I think we still have a very strong thrash metal aspect in our music.
When we started out the term ‘ Thrash Metal ‘ wasn’t really used that much yet and we had never heard of ‘Death Metal’ until Possessed released their demo tape a
year after we started out as Thanatos. So it was a logical development for us. We were fanatically into trading tapes and we traded or early recordings with people like Ken and Bill from Carcass, Killjoy from Necrophagia, the guys in Dark Angel, Possessed, Death, Master/Deathstrike etc, so the music we listened to and managed to get hold of became heavier, faster and more brutal along the way, so the step from Speed Metal, as we called it at first, to death/thrash metal was a natural progression. We experimented with vocals to try and sound rawer and more brutal than on the early recordings, so we became more ‘Death Metal’ than before, but we always kept our Thrash influences as well.

There was a long break between 1992 when the band split and 1999 when you reformed. What were the reasons for the split and what was it that made you want to reform?

Several people in the band were more into partying and doing drugs than into playing metal and writing songs. We also encountered a shitload of trouble with our record label back then and two major tours we were supposed to be part of, one with Cannibal Corpse (35 dates) and one with Exhorder (20 dates or so) both fell through, so I got really fed up with the whole thing. Needless to say it began to feel like unfinished business after a while so in 1999 I recruited new members and we made a fresh start

Apart from Thanatos, you are also involved in Hail Of Bullets, Legion and in the past Second Hell. 

What's happening with Hail Of Bullets at the moment?

Well, I was never really involved with Legion; I was supposed to join that band, but it never really happened. Second Hell was the former band of ex-Thanatos guitarist Mark Staffhorst and me, him and former Thanatos member Erwin de Brouwer joined forces in a new incarnation of Second Hell. I really liked to sing those old songs but unfortunately the band disbanded and we never got a chance to re-record those songs. Hail of Bullets has become my main band although Thanatos is still equally important to me. Right now we’re writing stuff for the 3rd Hail of Bullets album which we hope to start recording early next year.

What made you choose Thanatos for the name of the band, and who came up with the logo?

The guy with whom I formed the band, guitar player Remco de Maaijer, actually came up with the name Thanatos. We were first called Whiplash until we found out about the three Tony’s...  I came up with the first version of the logo and a guy from Belgium called Wim Baelus, who also wrote for Aardschok magazine made a better version of it if I’m correct.

What bands from the UK are you into? Are there any UK bands that influenced the way you play music today?

Oh man, too many to mention. I was raised on stuff like Maiden, Priest, Sabbath, Saxon, Motörhead, Raven, Jaguar, Holocaust, Satan and of course Venom, which was one of our major influences. I was totally into the NWOBHM thing and I also loved the early Sabbat stuff. So yeah, UK Metal has been a major influence on our sound and song structures.

Your latest release was a split 7" with Asphyx, how did this come about and are you happy with the way it's turned out?

It’s a funny thing cause in the early nineties there was huge rivalry between bands from the western part of Holland (like Thanatos) and bands from the east such as Pestilence and Asphyx. It’s really cool to see people form both sides now joining forces in Hail of Bullets and of course our guitar player Paul Baayens plays in Asphyx, Hail of Bullets AND Thanatos, which makes him the biggest musical whore in the Dutch death metal scene right now I guess, haha. I like the way that EP turned out, two cool bands from Holland that have been around for ages both doing a cool cover song, we’re considering a similar release with Hail of Bullets and Legion of the Damned sometime next year.

The last full length was 'Justified Genocide' which is some of the bands finest work to date, has the album sold well and received good feedback?

Thank you, I totally agree and consider it the best album we’ve made so far along with ‘Realm of Ecstasy’. It received great reviews but unfortunately it didn’t really sell well. The label it was released on is just a tiny label with poor distribution and no money for proper promotion so it died a silent death. I’m happy that Century Media records have decided to re-release our entire back catalogue so hopefully it will get the attention it deserves when it is re-released sometime next year.

What are your current plans with Thanatos? Are there plans to enter the studio again soon?

We’re booking some shows for November/December now and hopefully will add a few more next year. First of all the sold stuff will be re-released and after that...who knows?! It would be great if we could do a new studio album for Century Media, but that will depend on the sales of the old stuff I guess.

Looking back over the Thanatos back catalogue, which is your favourite and why?

I really love ‘Justified Genocide’ but I think my favourite still is ‘Realm Of Ecstasy’
I has great songs and I like the dark and brooding atmosphere of that album. My vocal performance could have been better on that album, but as whole I think that’s our pinnacle, although ‘Justified..’ comes damn close.

Do you have any particular inspiration for the lyrics you write?

Sometimes I become pissed off watching all the misery in the world, caused by religions, politicians, whatever and sometimes it’s simply a good old horror movie that inspires me or a combination of fiction and reality...I tend to cross the line with lyrics sometimes but that’s simply the person that I am.

You have done some great covers in Thanatos including Celtic Frost, Massacre and Dark Angel. Are covers something you enjoy doing?

Thanks, yep we enjoy doing them for sure and it’s also a way to pay tribute to the bands that inspired us.

The 'Beyond Terror' EP and 'Undead. Unholy. Divine' album were both only released on CD, whilst the rest of the releases were also available on vinyl. Was there a particular reason for this, and are there any plans to release them on vinyl?

Those were label decisions unfortunately...if all goes well, ‘Undead...’will be released on vinyl next year. A remastered version of the Beyond Terror EP will be added as bonus material to the CD version of Angelic Encounters, which totally has been re-mixed by the way!

Death Metal seems to have gone full circle, with a lot of bands now playing in the style of the late 80's and early 90's. Are you proud to be able to say you always stuck to your same style and didn't change for anyone?

You bet! For me so called ‘old school’ Death Metal is the only valid form of death metal and you should not mix that style with exotic or modern influences...that’s sacrilege. Don’t misunderstand me, it’s good that certain bands and genres try to progress and expand their musical horizons, but death metal is a conservative beast and should remain that way.

Official Thanatos merchandise is hard to come by, you have a couple of cool shirts for sale on the band's website but are there any future plans to make some more merchandise such as reprints of old shirt designs and some patches etc?

As a matter of fact we’re thinking about doing a reprint of the original Emerging from the Netherworlds shirt one of these weeks... all cd’s and lp’s will be available worldwide now once they’re re-released by Century Media.

What plans do you have for Thanatos over the next few years?

Well in 2014 we might celebrate our 30th anniversary... IF we make it till 2014 it would be nice to go out with a bang and release another studio album... our aim is to make an album with the same spirit and intensity as Dark Angel’s ‘Darkness Descends’.

Thank you very much Stephan, and I wish you well with both Thanatos and Hail Of Bullets in the coming years. For those of you who have not checked out Thanatos or Hail Of Bullets, firstly where have you been? Secondly - check out these links - Thanatos on Facebook,  Thanatos official site, Thanatos on You Tube, Thanatos on Myspace,  Hail Of Bullets official site, Hail Of Bullets on Myspace, and Hail Of Bullets on Facebook.

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