Sisters of Suffocation – Queens of BrutalityMonday, 18th March 2019
Sisters of Suffocation made a name for themselves back in 2016 with their Brutal Queen EP. Then an all-female death metal act (today the only male member is drummer Kevin van den Heiligenberg), their old school death metal flavor struck a chord with a number of extreme metal fans. After a full-length effort and some singles, the band ended up on Napalm Records for their sophomore effort Humans are Broken.
An effort that is still laced with malevolent riffs and heavy grooves, the band also incorporated more diversity in their extremity. More thrash, black, and melodic influences rear their heads as the album progresses, and it’s clear the band made a conscious effort to step up their game. We were able to talk to vocalist Elsemiek Prins just prior to the album’s release to discuss the band’s works to date, lyrics and some online backlash to “Little Shits,” and how they keep the fun in death metal.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the idea for Sisters of Suffocation initially come to be?
Elsemiek Prins: When I was really young, I was a big fan of The Runaways – they were an all-female rock band. I always wanted to start my own bands with girls. I started studying at The Metal Factory, and I met Simone [van Straten], our guitarist. I told her that I wanted to play in a band with girls, and play death metal – because that’s my favorite genre. She liked the idea as well, and that’s how we started the band.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve been on an upward trajectory since Brutal Queen. How’d you decide Napalm was the best choice for getting the band to the next level?
Prins: We really liked the bands that they are working with, and we were in contact with a few different labels for the new album. They gave us a good offer – we talked about contracts, and they were very nice to us. The contract we decided on was good, and we were happy. It was the best option for us, and we are glad that we made that choice. They all do their job very well, and they are very nice.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see Humans are Broken as evolving your sound?
Prins: We grew up a lot – we were very young when we started. I think you can hear us mature when you hear the EP then the first album, and now the second one. We also wanted to include more metal genres on this one – thrash and black metal, things like that.
Dead Rhetoric: What does it take to stand out in death metal nowadays?
Prins: I think you have to have a unique selling point. First for us, it was being all female. We feel like our unique selling point [now] is that it’s a lot of fun to play death metal. We like to share the joy and fun in it. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. I also think you have to work very hard. If you put a lot of time and effort into it, you will grow faster and people will notice you [more]. So it’s a matter of finding something that makes you different from the rest, and putting your all into it.
Dead Rhetoric: Could you discuss the lyrical inspirations for the album?
Prins: The last album I wrote about diseases, so it wasn’t very personal. I was just doing a lot of research and writing songs about that. For this album, we wanted to make it more personal. So we talked in the rehearsal space about what angered us, like society and environmental issues. As a band, we were all on the same page for a lot of topics, which was very good. We decided to write this album about why humans are broken. I get a lot of inspiration just by watching the news and going on social media. There are a lot of things that anger me, and this time I took that anger and put it into the lyrics.
Dead Rhetoric: So do you feel more personally invested in the lyrics this time, instead of just doing research and talking diseases?
Prins: Definitely. I really enjoyed writing the last album because it was fun doing the research and I was interested in the topics. But this time it was about feelings and things that I think about on a daily basis. It was really nice to put my opinion out there for once. I’m not the type of person to rant on Facebook or have discussions with every person I meet. It was a nice experience to put that experience to music and to let people know what I think, and we think as a band. It’s way more personal.
Dead Rhetoric: Looking at the YouTube comments on “Little Shits,” do you kind of feel like you’ve proved your point in the lyrics with some of the things people were saying?
Prins: I think it’s really funny. It’s shocking to me for people to be very mean. But they have always been very mean to us since we started. There’s a lot of sexist people in the metal scene, and people don’t realize that until they see it for themselves. We’ve experienced it on a daily basis since we have started. “Little Shits” is actually the most important song on the album for me. It was the first time I really spoke up about it and said what I thought about it. Because of the Internet, people feel they can say whatever they want about me and I don’t respond. But this was a response. If people get very angry about it, and they don’t like us anymore…that’s their loss.
People also say that we are whining and that there’s no sexism, but there is. You can shut your eyes and pretend it’s not happening, or maybe listen to it and get more knowledge about it and what’s really happening around you. All of my close friends and people that I work with in this industry are extremely proud of me for writing it down and saying what I feel. I got a lot of love from people that I work with saying, “I’m so proud of you for doing it this way and standing up for yourself.” It’s hard to be a young girl and people judging you for being a girl. This is a way to cope with it.
Dead Rhetoric: I had to laugh when I read some of them – it makes you say, “And you wonder why they had to make a song about this” after seeing the remarks.
Prins: Exactly. I expected a shit storm, and I knew this was going to happen. That’s why we make that the lyric video. Let them prove us right, you know? People are so angry about a small band writing a song and putting it online. Be angry and prove us right [laughs].
Dead Rhetoric: Did you have any sort of training in developing your growl?
Prins: No – I started the band before I could growl, so I had very little time to learn. I really wanted to because love death metal. I just watched a lot of YouTube videos from growlers that I really liked. I had sung with distortion before, so it was easier [to transition]. I want to go lower and lower, because that’s the type of growl I prefer, so I just practiced. A lot of people say there’s a lot of technique behind it, so maybe they shouldn’t listen to my advice. I just do what feels right for me.
Dead Rhetoric: You manage the band as well – what sort of efforts have to go on behind the scenes to make sure you are succeeding?
Prins: A lot [laughs]. I know some people underestimate it, but this is my full-time job. It is for all of us, pretty much. I am studying right now, but I am also working in the band. My studies suffer from it, my relationships suffer from it, because it takes up a lot of time and energy. But that’s the choice I made. We also have a manager, and it is a team effort and everyone does their job, but there is still a lot. If you want to get bigger, you have to have a lot of contacts and work together. You have to constantly find new contacts every day. I don’t think people realize how much work there is.
Dead Rhetoric: Right – people think that you are in a band and everything is good.
Prins: Yeah, and they say that we are where we are now because we are girls. But they have no idea what is going on behind the scenes. I wish it was that easy [laughs], but it’s not. It gave me a lot more respect for big bands, because when I see my idols play on stage, I know how much they did to get there.
Dead Rhetoric: You mentioned your love of death metal. What do you love about it, and where do you think it can still go in the future?
Prins: I just like very extreme music. For me, I love death metal, black metal, and grindcore – they are my favorite genres. I think because they reflect such extreme emotions. I am way more interested in that than say, power metal or heavy metal. I don’t connect with it as much as I do extreme music. I like death metal the most because it is more straight-forward and in your face. I really like that. For the future, I don’t know if it will evolve much. Out of death metal came a lot of other genres. Deathcore, and things like that. That’s how it evolved.
Now people want to listen to more old school stuff. The interest went from old school to more modern death metal, and in my opinion, people are going back to the more old school stuff again. I hear a lot of people telling me that we remind them of this or that band, like the old days of Cannibal Corpse and things like that. But I have no idea – music always evolves, and I’m not here to do something completely new. I want to make new music that I love and not something I don’t have to be extremely progressive.
Dead Rhetoric: Tying into how you said things could be fun, I see you all do a lot of interacting on the Facebook page. I loved the bios that you did because most death metal bands don’t do something like that.
Prins: [Laughs] We love doing that extreme type of music, and most of the time there’s a more serious image that comes with it. That tough-guy kind of image of death metal, and that’s not who we are. We actually talked about that a lot because you choose your image. You choose your music, but you also choose how you will present yourself to the world. We decided that what would make us happy in the long run would be to stay as close to ourselves as possible. When I play a live show, I’m not going to put up a voice and shout, “Are you having a good time, roar?” That’s not me, and not who we are as a band.
So we wanted to show who we are, and that’s one of the reasons we did the bios. Most of the time we are just having a laugh and having fun, the music is just one aspect and we take that very seriously. But ourselves, we do not take so seriously. We are girly, and we are silly, and like our animals more than people. That’s why we wanted to show ourselves in that manner. Most of the time we are together, we are just having fun and making jokes. It’s the way we interact with each other, so that’s the way we want to interact with our fanbase.
Dead Rhetoric: And that goes into what we talked about before with doing something that stands out. I had to laugh when you talked about the tough-guy death metal image, because it’s definitely pretty spot on.
Prins: Yeah, and I’m not against that. I love a lot of bands that have that image. But I think that is closer to who they are as people. If we were to act like that, it would be very fake. I think it makes us stand out, but it also makes us the most comfortable. I love extreme music, the scene, and the genre – but I also have a big house and a little dog that I spend a lot of time with so I want to show all sides of me. That’s the way it is with all of us.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you have planned for 2019 once Humans are Broken is released?
Prins: We are going to do a small Dutch tour, and we are booking more stuff. There will be more shows announced soon. We will hopefully be on tour soon, then we will write another new album [laughs]. We like releasing albums, writing music, and recording. We have enough inspiration and it’s not hard for us to write an album so we want to continue what we are doing right now. When we started, we wanted to do an EP and an album every year but promotion-wise that is hard. It might be one album every two years, but it’s something we really enjoy.