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Belgian instrumental collective Hemelbestormer offer a combination of Atmospheric Sludge/Doom/Post-Rock sometimes billed as 'Post-Doom'. Following their debut split album release, we asked drummer Frederik Cosemans to tell us about their story so far.

Interview with Hemelbestormer.

(1) Hello, and many thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for Doom-Metal.com. Could we start with the usual introductions to our readers: who are you and where are you from?

My name is Frederik "Cozy" Cosemans and I live in a small town called Hoeselt in the equally small Belgium. I play drums in Hemelbestormer, a musical outfit that offers a total mind expansion experience.

(2) How did the band come about? Most of you have played with other groups - in some cases, over many years! What drew you all together to Hemelbestormer?

A few years ago our guitarplayer Jo Driesmans was looking for musicians to form a band. he wanted to express his love for bands like Isis, Ghost Brigade and Cult Of Luna and quickly came in contact with bassplayer Kevin Hensels (who ironically lives only one kilometre from my place). Through some adds they found me and we soon started jamming. There definitely was some chemistry and we had some good ideas but there was clearly still something missing at that point. It was not until we pulled in my old friend Filip Dupont, who was just putting his old band Gorath to rest at that time, that we really took off. Filip also brought along Joris Timmermans, a guy he worked with in some of his other projects, to take care of samples, drones and keys. After a while, Joris decided to move to the UK so he left Hemelbestormer and we remained a four piece ever since.

(3) Did you choose the name (from the Dutch "stormer of heaven") to reflect what the band was, or did you already have the name and the idea to fit the band into? And what does Hemelbestormer signify to you, as a musical force?

A "Hemelbestormer" is a person with revolutionary thoughts and ideas, someone who thinks outside of the box and is not afraid to experiment and try new things. When we write music, we don't really care if something is "not done" or "unusual", we just try to create the best songs possible. In music there's no such thing as a master plan.

(4) Do you care about genres, or how you are labelled as a band? Is there any kind of aesthetic within the Sludge/Doom/Post-Rock tag that you consider a key element shaping your music, or is it just a convenient description?

We don't really care about name tags or genres, because in the end it always limits your vision and creativity. But we understand that some people need it to get an idea of who you are and what you do, so we don't mind the description at all.

(5) So far, you've only produced instrumental work. Do you see any need to add lyrics, or vocals, now, or at some point in the future?

Lyrics and vocals are two different things to me. As to the vocal part, I say "no" for the moment. I see absolutely no need to incorporate vocals to the songs we currently have, because they won't add anything significant. Vocals shouldn't only fit the music, they should add an extra dimension. To add vocals for the sake of adding vocals seems pointless to me. But who knows what the future brings?
The use of lyrics is something completely different. A poem or quote as part of the artwork can get your deeper into the concept or the world the song is trying to create. It doesn't have to be sung or even spoken, people can read it on their own and figure out its meaning by themselves. We currently have some ideas going in that direction.

(6) Congratulations on the recent release of your debut 'Portals', through Consouling Sounds. How did the idea of a co-operative split come around? What was it like working so closely with Vanessa Van Basten, particularly on the two joint tracks?

The idea of a collaboration came from our label Consouling Sounds. They wanted to release a series of records where two acts actually work together on one lengthy piece of music, rather than write some separate songs and put these together on a split. Vanessa Van Basten and Hemelbestormer each wrote their parts separately and put them together afterwards, so it's not like we jammed and created the piece together. In fact, we never even met in real life. There was of course some sort of communication, but each band is responsible for their own part of the music. You could say this way of working is a bit "hit or miss", but in my eyes it was definitely a hit. Despite the differences in style and atmosphere, the parts blend beautifully.

(7) Were you pleased with the final result of 'Portals'? Have you had much of a response to it, from the press or public?

We are very happy with the result, but we realise there is much room for improvement. That is of course a good thing, because what is the point of moving on when you reached perfection with your very first release? By the way, in my opinion you can't reach "perfection", but that is not the issue here. We've only read a couple of reviews so far, but reactions to "Portals" are quite positive and a fair share of people seems to enjoy and understand what we do. This is something very inspiring and rewarding.

(8) What would the more normal process of composition be like, if you were writing material just for a Hemelbestormer album? The whole band does get credited for music, but is that more for developing the work after it's been written, rather than sharing in the entire process?

Guitar player Filip writes the biggest part of the music. At his place he has got a small home studio and there he prepares the tracks, including 100% finished drum lines, ambient parts and all other details fully worked out. We use his pre-recordings to study the songs at rehearsals, but during the learning process we shape the songs and alter parts to get them exactly like we want them to be. In the end the finished track has been touched by each one of us.

(9) What inspires you to compose? Are there any external influences from other forms of art or music that come into it?

The vastness of space. The endless dark. The lonely wandering stars. Music isn't science, well sure, it's math, but it's the heart and soul that picks the order of notes. Music has to touch you. It has to reach the deepest realms hidden inside of you. The beautiful parts as well as the hideous ones. When writing music we are in a trance and try to write down what we feel.

(10) Do you have any favourite bands or musicians? Are there any you would consider as having been inspirational for your musical career?

All members of Hemelbestormer are dedicated music fans and none of us could imagine a life without it. Together we listen to a wide range of styles and genres, from death metal and obscure black metal to acoustic folk and jazz. I could give you a list of our favourite artists and musicians, but it would be a sheer endless one. People who want to know more about this can always come up and have a chat at a show.

(11) I was lucky enough to see Hemelbestormer at Darken The Moon V, which was - I have to admit - the first time I'd heard of you. It was a brilliant set, though, with great atmosphere against the dramatic video backdrop. Who was responsible for the footage, and what's the significance of it to you?

Our bassplayer Kevin is a professional graphic designer and he created all artwork and visuals. We have an interest in natural phenomena and cosmic mysteries and try to incorporate images of ocean life, volcanic eruptions, insects and vast landscapes to push the music to another dimension. There is not really a deeper meaning or some sort of (political) message behind these images, it's just something to get us and the audience in the right mood.

(12) Do you enjoy performing live? What's the mood like up on stage?

Performing live is the pinnacle of what we do. The feeling of performing your music live to an enthusiastic crowd is unmatched, so we play every show like there's no tomorrow. This creates a very intense atmosphere on stage. Through our visuals and all kinds of drones and samples, there are no intermissions in between the songs, so a Hemelbestormer show is one long, dark and intense trip through time and space.

(13) Have you any plans for the near future that you can share at this point? Any new studio work, or touring schedules?

We have some shows, both domestic and abroad, in the coming months and if all goes well, there will be several more in the near future. For more detailed information, you can always check our Facebook page.
We also plan to record a full length album early 2015, so our main focus now is to write songs that will take Hemelbestormer to the next level. Keep your eyes and your ears open for this.

(14) I hope that we've given the chance for readers to get a reasonable picture of Hemelbestormer, but is there anything else that we haven't covered which you'd like to add? The last words are yours...

Support real music and never stop looking for the next best thing. There is so much quality out there, so don't limit yourself to the stuff you already know. Stagnation is the death of art.

(15) It only remains, then, for me to thank you again for your time and the opportunity to talk with you.

Many thanks to you! We appreciate it!

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Visit the Hemelbestormer bandpage.

Interviewed on 2014-06-13 by Mike Liassides.
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