Elusion – Shifting in ParadoxTuesday, 17th January 2023
Seasoned musicians with ties to various Belgian bands like Agathocles, Ancient Rites, and Gracefallen among others, Elusion consists of a group of talented players willing to embrace a mix of influences across the gothic, symphonic and extreme metal platforms. Their second album The Fundamental Paradox showcases a confident, vibrant style that relies just as much on the abilities of the performers as it does the tools of the trade to execute them effectively. We recently got the chance to learn more about the band through the eyes of drummer Frederik Van Mieghem. We discussed the work and COVID challenges behind the new studio album, why they chose to go the DIY route versus signing with a label this go around, their views on live performances plus memorable gigs with Xandria, thoughts on the Belgian scene, the challenges handling social media, and upcoming plans.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of your earliest memories surrounding music in childhood? At what point did you discover heavy metal and eventually end up picking up an instrument to perform in bands of your own?
Frederik Van Mieghem: I started at the age of eight or nine. I went to a music school; my parents told me to do so. I learned to read notes and what not. At fifteen or sixteen I changed from the flute to playing the drum kit, together with other guys at school I discovered the metal genre. That started this whole story. At first, it was more hard rock – the first CD I got was Appetite for Destruction from Guns ‘n’ Roses, and also some punk bands like the Dead Kennedys and others. It was the era of death metal, Obituary, Sepultura, all those related bands. It was the fact that playing in a metal band was not mainstream from what you hear on the radio that got me interested.
Dead Rhetoric: Elusion started in 2015 – what do you remember about the group’s first rehearsals, did you know what direction you wanted to take the band as far as style and songwriting right away, or was it a feeling out process with the musicians on hand?
Van Mieghem: You have to know that Domingo (Smets), myself, and at that time our former bass player Kristof Degreef, we had been involved in some projects before Elusion. Domingo and I go back to around 2002, when we started playing together in a previous project, the one preceding Elusion. At some point, we felt like being at a dead end. Also, during that period, Domingo got married to Evy our singer. It was natural for me to do the drums in this, Evy had already started writing some songs, and we started working on these songs. From there Elusion, got into its first form.
Dead Rhetoric: The second album The Fundamental Paradox comes four years after your debut album for Art Gates Records Singularity. Tell us about the songwriting and recording sessions for the latest effort – where do you see the major differences between the two records?
Van Mieghem: The new album is different from our debut album on several levels. First of all, The Fundamental Paradox was written during the COVID pandemic, in March 2020 the government declared a lockdown. We couldn’t rehearse anymore; we couldn’t meet anymore besides online. The writing process was completely different. Domingo started writing some music, he sent us some ideas from time to time of the songs he had. We were able to give some input, but it’s not that we got together in the rehearsal room and worked on the songs together like we did on the first album. Domingo and I worked on the songs online. We had some technical difficulties that we had to solve.
Music-wise, there are some big differences between Singularity and The Fundamental Paradox. It’s a natural evolution. We are all into different backgrounds from metal. We think we are quite stubborn; we don’t want to follow the mainstream; we want to do what we feel is good and necessary. You can see the evolution between those two CDs. Lyric-wise it is different as well, it’s more of a concept album. Because it’s all about contradictions.
Dead Rhetoric: Another difference I noticed is more of an incorporation of the darker, extreme growls and vocals next to the clean vocals – how will this be handled in a live situation?
Van Mieghem: Evy took a course, she’s a vocal teacher. During that course, which took about three years, she improved her voice, (learning) more techniques. Our former bass player left, so Evy decided to do all the vocals by herself going forward. Not to be dependent upon anybody else.
Dead Rhetoric: What can you tell us regarding the cover art designed by Jan Yrlund of Dark Grove Design – and how the process works between the band and the artist to reach the final output and what we see?
Van Mieghem: Domingo knows Jan from playing together – we were familiar with his artwork. We decided to contact him, and we told him the concept of the album about contradictions – and let him do his thing. And that’s basically what happened. At one point he came up with this cover art, and we are very glad about it. Not a lot changed from the idea to the final art. It’s a good picture – you see one half is about nature and the other is about civilization. It really fits the music.
Dead Rhetoric: Are there any specific reasons why you went the self-released, DIY route for this album release? Do you believe you have assembled the proper team and promotional channels around you to get as much push as you would being on a label at this point?
Van Mieghem: It’s a lot of work to do everything by yourself. For Singularity we were on Art Gates Records, they did a good job. Honestly, they are based in Spain, so they focused more on the markets of Spain and Portugal. When we told them we were going to record a second CD, they offered us a contract that mainly was for a digital release. If it’s only going to be a digital release, that is something that we can do by ourselves. That way we don’t have to spend the extra money, we can spend it on other things. The music business situation is tough, a lot of digital releases, a lot of social media, a lot of work. Maybe with the extra team it would be easier but being a small band, we have to be careful because we don’t have as many resources to spend money on. It’s not easy.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe Elusion when it comes to live performances versus what people experience on record? What do you want audiences to feel from the band, and what have been some of the more memorable performances to date?
Van Mieghem: On stage, we really try to be energetic and get the crowd going – especially with songs from the second CD, we will try to achieve a stronger sound even more from the stage. We try to connect with the audience. Some of the more memorable gigs we have done, we did two gigs with Xandria a German band, they were really great. In 2019 we did a small tour in the UK that was really great. The audience showed up at the different gigs, it was different than how people are in Belgium.
Dead Rhetoric: What is your approach to the drums for Elusion – what do you consider your strengths as a player, and are there specific models/influences you’ve incorporated into your technique over the years?
Van Mieghem: My approach to the drums – I always try to play things that serve the music. I wouldn’t want to exaggerate with fills. The drums have to serve a certain purpose. I like to also keep the drum parts interesting for myself. I put in some technicalities here and there. All in all, the best practice is the drums have to serve the music. That’s the advantage though of playing in a metal band – the drums are really important; you can do your thing and it won’t get boring.
A drummer I think is really good is Ed Warby, a Dutch drummer who used to play in Gorefest. They split some years ago, but he’s a really great drummer. The drummer from Septic Flesh is also someone who inspires me.
Dead Rhetoric: How has Evy’s health been considering her battle with breast cancer and recovery? Has this made you stronger as a unit chemistry-wise, and also think about your own personal well-being/health as a result?
Van Mieghem: It’s been a tough year, especially with Evy and Domingo had to support his wife. She still isn’t 100%, we have to really take into account what she feels and what she is and isn’t capable of. It made us a lot closer as a band. It wasn’t easy, you get to know each other on a different level. You learn to take into account other things besides just music and playing in a band. I think it was a major setback during the diagnosis, but I think once Evy has conquered the illness it will make us stronger as a band.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you view the state of heavy metal currently? What do you enjoy most about the scene currently, and what changes (if any) would you like to see for the better of all parties involved?
Van Mieghem: The Belgian scene, what I like is the gigs in the small venues. When you visit a metal gig, and especially being a musician, when you attend a concert, you mostly meet people that you have already seen somewhere. It’s really cohesive, it is what still attracts me to the scene. What I would change… that’s a difficult question. It would be great if more bands had access to proper distribution and publicity. I think at the moment it’s really difficult to get noticed amongst all the bands that are out there.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you think it’s harder navigating all the platforms in social media being older musicians who didn’t grow up in that era?
Van Mieghem: As you know, the younger people really grew up with all those platforms. On the one hand it’s easier for them, and we are familiar with computers and what not. We can find a way. What is difficult is there are so many platforms, new ones get launched, and you have to be sure not to miss the trends. Social media is good on the one hand, it helps you to connect to the right people all around the world, but on the other hand it takes a lot of effort. It’s a fast evolution.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the horizon for Elusion over the next twelve months as far as promotion, live shows, touring, festival opportunities? Are there any other side bands or guest appearances on the horizon to look forward to as well?
Van Mieghem: We are going to try to do as many live performances as possible. Some of them are small, some bigger – we will see. We are going to be releasing another video for the song “Isochronism” probably somewhere by the end of February, beginning of March. Besides that, nothing is really fixed. The situation in Belgium right now, it’s not easy to organize gigs. We are also trying to organize some things abroad.