Aborted – Re-Animating the ‘80sMonday, 11th April 2016
The journey of Aborted from their humble beginnings in the late ‘90s as simply picking up the Carcass torch to being a death metal juggernaut over the past 20 years has been an uphill battle. Plagued by line-up changes, it hasn’t been until their last few releases that the band has finally achieved some level of consistency with members. Coincidentally, it has also been the time that Aborted has really peaked, creatively-speaking. Celebrating the band’s 20th anniversary, it’s been busy so far this year for Aborted. First we got the Termination Redux EP, some extensive European touring (seven weeks straight), and now comes the latest full-length, Retrogore. And it’s only April.
From the Easter egg-filled cover, to the lyrical content, to the sound clips, Retrogore is a celebration of everything Aborted loves about the 1980s. It’s also one of their strongest albums, doing what the band has continued to do best in the last few albums – merging death metal brutality with some sneaky yet intensely satisfactory melodies underneath. Bassist JB van der Wal was able to chat with us for a few minutes regarding the ‘80s approach to the new album, Aborted’s lasting power, and what’s ahead in the band’s busy schedule.
Dead Rhetoric: What inspired the retro/’80s style of the new album?
JB van der Wal: The whole band is a big fan of the old ‘80s movies and the whole atmosphere. Even the soundtracks that come with it, so we wanted to have that vibe on the new album. That’s why we took all of the old movie posters and put it into our own band pictures, like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Re-Animator, and Ghostbusters kind of stuff. That’s what we wanted to do with the album too – having that vibe of our favorite movies. We also put a bunch of weird synth sounds in there. For the intro, it’s more of an ‘80s inspired theme. We are all fans of the ‘80s, so we decided to do that on the album – even more so than the other albums. It’s been a thread throughout the band’s career, with the horror movies and serial killers, but we just took it a step further. We had some more layers that our friend Alex Karlinsky did. He does an ‘80s synth project called Highway Superstar, so he was the perfect guy to add synth layers to our stuff in that regard.
Dead Rhetoric: Does that align with the fact that the band has been around now for 20 years?
van der Wal: Of course. We’ve all grown up with those movies. We also have to think of something new and decided to over-do it a little bit.
Dead Rhetoric: What does Retrogore bring to the table compared to your last album?
van der Wal: We honed in our songwriting skills. We are a lot more practiced as a group right now, since we wrote The Necrotic Manifesto almost in the same team as we did for Retrogore. Necrotic Manifesto was like practice, and Retrogore is like a perfected version of that. We work better together now, since we are used to what everyone writes and what we can do. It became a darker album, there are weird overdubs, and we really tried to get that ‘80s theme through, and it became more atmospheric. We are not losing any brutality – all of the elements we had on the EP and Necrotic Manifesto, we tried to emphasis. The faster stuff is faster, the brutal stuff is more brutal, and the atmospheric parts are more atmospheric. It was easier to write this time too, which makes it more fun, which makes for a better album.
Dead Rhetoric: Going along with that, as you said, most of the writing team has stayed together. Does that help to have you refine what you have been doing?
van der Wal: You don’t have to get used to people anymore. The Necrotic Manifesto was the first time we wrote with Mendel [bij de Leij]. He was a longtime friend of mine – I’ve known him since I was fifteen. But writing together is a whole new step. You have to get used to each other as songwriters. By now, it’s easier. We now have guitarist Ian [Jekelis], who played for Abigail Williams, who is a longtime friend of Ken [Bedene], so he fit right in songwriting-wise. It’s a really comfortable team to work with at this point, which helped to refine the album.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel that Ian Jekelis has brought into the band?
van der Wal: Because he and Ken have been friends for so long, they actually wrote songs together. We are doing a video for “Divine Impediment,” which is a song that they wrote together. It’s basically 50/50 with both of them writing the riffs. It has the classic Aborted elements but you can hear some new stuff that is awesome. They had some cool ideas on the riffs and the overdubs and it turned out great.
Dead Rhetoric: How did you decide upon the guests to appear on this album?
van der Wal: We know all of them because we’ve toured with them. We’ve toured with Cattle Decapitation, we’ve toured with Origin. Julien [Truchan] is a really good friend of the band, and we are all big fans of Benighted, so that’s a no-brainer. We’ve toured with Revocation as well. David Davidson is a killer vocalist and we really wanted him on the album. Travis [Ryan] is an immense vocalist as well. We knew all of them, and they are friends, and they all have insane vocals – that’s why they are on the album.
Dead Rhetoric: How does it feel be in a band like Aborted, that has reached the 20 year mark?
van der Wal: You really do notice how much a fanbase [builds] after so long. You realize that the band has been going on for 20 years and that’s insane. Especially considering that Sven has been doing it for 20 years. You can give the man a medal for that, especially for dealing with us idiots [laughs]!
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel the band’s status has changed over the years?
van der Wal: Oh man, when I joined the band – obviously I’m not going to come up with numbers, moneywise. But that has gone way up. You notice that there are a lot more people engaged in the band. The line-up we have right now – every year we tour, and every year we write albums. We are a stable team right now. And live, we have noticed we are getting better every year, and crowd attendance has been noticeably more, since we have played good festival shows. At gigs, people tell you that they saw you at so-and-so festival and they loved it, so they show up to the gig and take their friends. From my perspective, there’s a really big upwards movement going on with the band. I’m really happy with that.
Dead Rhetoric: Is the element of not taking things too seriously a necessity for staying in death metal, lyrically-speaking?
van der Wal: It’s like half-serious and the rest of the time we are kidding around. Obviously, we don’t fuck around when it comes to the musical aspect of it. But it’s cool to write songs about fecal matter and a serious, well-thought out song. Half of the album is about the throwback to the ‘80s horror themes, a lot for hate for humans again this time. Then there’s your typical songs about fecal matter…
Dead Rhetoric: That does seem to be a re-occurring theme in the Aborted repertoire.
van der Wal: We like talking about poop, man! Fart jokes are always funny.
Dead Rhetoric: Does it feel like you’ve gone ‘all in’ on the serious but not so serious aspects this time around with Retrogore?
van der Wal: We just honed in on it a little bit. A lot of the songs are about the recent trend about people trying to be as politically correct as possible.
Dead Rhetoric: It seems like Retrogore, musically, has gone a bit further in terms of balancing the brutality with melodies.
van der Wal: It’s been a lot easier. With Necrotic Manifesto, we had melodic songs and brutal songs. This time, without consciously going for it, it just naturally came out that way. It’s an easier team to work with right now. It was written really fast too. Necrotic Manifesto was written fast, but because we had to. This time, it was fast too but it felt easier. We had so many songs to choose from, just like Necrotic. We use Dropbox and put the demos online and for Necrotic we had like 40-50 demos and it was the same for Retrogore. Mendel and I have home studios so we mix and record a lot, so it’s easier for us to record demos at home also. We just write like maniacs when we have to write an album. It’s easier to throw up trash and be very critical about what you put up.
This time around, we are more used to what people in the band will or will not like. Some stuff you write, you say, “okay, I can send this to the rest of the band, but I already know that people will not like it.” The shit filter was a lot easier for Retrogore. I think that’s why it came out more balanced than Necrotic Manifesto, even though I’m still very happy with that release. If you have a lot of material to choose from, it’s easier to throw the songs together to make it feel like an actual album.
Dead Rhetoric: The album closer (“In Avernus”) is kind of cool in that it’s a bit more atmospheric and different from the normal. What can you say about that track?
van der Wal: I actually wrote that one. It’s weird – I call it the Deathspell Omega song because of the weird clean part and the ending. It was inspired by Deathspell Omega – I’m a big black metal fan. It’s a mix up for me between my favorite Morbid Angel Domination riffs and Deathspell Omega. I love that stuff – the weird, chordy stuff. For Aborted standards, it’s kind of a weird song I’d say.
Dead Rhetoric: With the pre-orders set up for Retrogore, how did you come up with the cool bonuses, like the ViewMaster?
van der Wal: It’s basically all the stuff we liked from the ‘80s! Like the stupid green Ray-Bans – it’s all things we would have wanted ourselves so we put it all together and talked about it with the label. We are all ‘80s geeks and that’s how we came up with the ViewMaster, and the Powerglove on the cover. Skeletor and that kind of stuff. We came up with the dumbest stuff we could and see if it was doable. Most of it was! I’m really proud of the ViewMaster, that one should be killer. I haven’t touched it yet, but it’s cool as fuck.
Dead Rhetoric: I saw you had started posting some of those pictures on Facebook. The Ghostbusters one is killer.
van der Wal: There’s a whole bunch. We have The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Re-Animator, Ghostbusters, The Goonies. It’s also really funny to see yourself in them. It’s a self-indulgence thing too; “it would be so cool to have a cover that is us as The Ghostbusters.”
Dead Rhetoric: Do you think those will be released in any form besides the collector’s edition?
van der Wal: I’m not sure. I think because it is the collector bundle, we will not release more. It would take out the fun for those that bought the collector’s edition. The ViewMaster is limited to the first collector’s bundle. We won’t be releasing anymore of those. But we also have the Playstation controller – we will be releasing more of those. But the sunglasses and ViewMaster will be exclusive.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s planned for touring once the album is out?
van der Wal: We are actually going to take it easy for a little bit. We have been touring for the last year, put out an album and an EP. We don’t want to overdo it and have people sick of Aborted because we tour so much. Plus we need a break too. So at the end of the year, we are probably going to be doing a European tour and a US tour. We aren’t sure yet what – we’ll see what the offers are. Be it a headliner tour or a support tour, we don’t’ really care. If it’s a good tour, we’ll do it. We are really going to try to support the album in the US and Europe. In Europe, we are playing a few festivals this summer, but nothing else is set in stone. We are going to let the album settle in a little bit, then go out and tour for it. We are probably going to play a lot of the new album, because everyone is really happy with it.