Evil Invaders – Breaking Down Barriers

Tuesday, 22nd March 2022

Imposing an intoxicating blend of traditional, speed, and thrash influences, Evil Invaders has made quite an impression with their sound over the course of their brief career. Shattered Reflection will be another bold step forward as the key third album – the performances, songwriting, and vocal melodies taking things to the next level in terms of expansion while not abandoning the elements that got them a sustained following across the underground. We reached out to vocalist/guitarist Joe (aka Johannes Van Audenhove) on Zoom one recent afternoon and he was very excited to delve deeper into the work behind this latest effort – the impact of the emotionally charged first single “In Deepest Black”, the DIY philosophy that still runs through the band to building their brand, discussion on his love of Crimson Glory, Savatage, and King Diamond beyond the expected favorites, plus his worries over society and their constant exposure to social media.

Dead Rhetoric: Shattering Reflection is the latest Evil Invaders album. How much pressure did you put upon yourselves to elevate your playing, performances, and songwriting to the next level for this effort – as often in the metal realm, the third album can be a key career benchmark for any act?

Joe: Basically, we always try to improve with everything we do. Whether it’s a live show, a record, a sound, production. It was just the same as the other records to us. Every time we release something new it has to be way better than what we’ve done before. And so far, we are keeping up climbing those stairs, so we will see if we can keep it up in the future. I’m very satisfied with what we have achieved on this record. I’ve been practicing with my vocals a lot and you can definitely hear that on this record. Also, because we had a lot of time due to the COVID-19 situation, we really dug in very deep into the songwriting, rewriting songs sometimes ten times. It was fun.

Dead Rhetoric: When it came to the recording and the production, did the pandemic affect how things were done due to restrictions and lockdowns?

Joe: Definitely. We were mainly writing by ourselves at home, we do tend to do that as we are on the road a lot. Right now, it was even worse because we couldn’t physically sit together and rehearse the licks. We made a Google Drive map, put all our demos in there and we ended up with twenty possible songs. It was cool, we had way more stuff than we imagined. It had been five years since we had released something new. We worked with Francesco Paoli, who is with Fleshgod Apocalypse, as a producer. It’s the first time we’ve ever worked with a producer, it was a different way and different approach of doing things. As soon as we had to hit the studio, shit was more flexible, we were lucky with the timing.

Dead Rhetoric: As far as the songs, you said that some of them had a lot of revisions. Were there any specific songs that are on the album now that you see the transformation from those early demos being so different to the final recording?

Joe: Yes. Songs like “The Circle” and “In Deepest Black” – they had so many versions and it was definitely worth the effort that we put into those songs. They are some of my favorites on the record.

Dead Rhetoric: A song like “In Deepest Black” certainly stretches the capacity of what Evil Invaders can do – not only in terms of tempo, pacing and melodic touches on the music front but also with your delivery and clean accents. Tell us about the development of this track, was there any apprehension from the band members on how your audience/fans would take this song – or do you trust your instincts and hope that the fanbase will grow with the band given these new dynamics at play?

Joe: That’s a lot for one question. We don’t really think about (the criticism) too much. If we like the song, we think the crowd will like it – because it will always be us playing it. We have a certain style of doing things, even if it’s a ballad. It’s a little dark, and it has some angry parts in it as well. We really like this song; I wasn’t afraid of the reaction. It’s what I like to do, to show contrasts in what we do. We came from an album like Feed Me Violence which was very aggressive, and then as the first single for this album we chose “In Deepest Black” to contrast. Everyone was expecting us to do something new but be the same like the stuff they love. I wanted to flip the coin around and say hey – we can do this too also and it’s cool.

That’s something I like about bands like Savatage and stuff, they have a lot of dynamics on one record. Bands like Metallica as well, a song like “Fade to Black” on the second album, it gives some air to the album as well. It’s something I think that is a pity in the modern thrash scene – full on albums from start to finish with the tempos, that when you compare it to the old records, Overkill, Exodus- they have some tempo switches. I am more of a fan of the Bay Area scene than the German scene, the German scene most of the time was full on back in the day, the first Kreator records, very hard all the time. An album like Bonded by Blood instead has a nice flow, like “No Love”.

Dead Rhetoric: I also enjoyed you channeling some Jon Oliva-like high octane screams in sections of opener “Hissing in Crescendo”. What thoughts and topics did you want to get across for the lyrics this time?

Joe: With the song “Hissing in Crescendo”, it was basically written over the course of a few nights when I couldn’t sleep. I was still awake; I was super tired as I hadn’t slept properly for weeks. I started writing everything down that came to my mind, because I was a bit dazed. I felt like I was in a trance, so I wrote down everything I was feeling. What I was seeing in my head – it’s about insomnia. I compare it to the strangling of a snake, or the venom that’s injected into your body.

Dead Rhetoric: What can you tell us about this cover art for the record – once again you went with some very vibrant colors for this?

Joe: We had the idea of our band logo crashing through a mirror, it would represent bad luck. Then we stretched it out into this factory thing, that we have in our video clips as well. You can see the reflection of the artwork of the past, there are little throwbacks to older art. It represents a new beginning for the band, breaking away from the structures of the past.

Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider some of the greatest challenges Evil Invaders faces at this point in your career?

Joe: The thing is, getting the right exposure with our music. Because we are playing a style of music that’s been a bit forgotten these days, I think. Reaching a young crowd for us is the toughest thing. They are being bombarded with new bands from all over the place. We have to appeal to the younger crowd in some way, as well. But I don’t know how to reach them- I’m not up to date with all the social media stuff like Tik Tok, all this stuff. That’s where the young people are, and maybe that’s something we should be working on. To get our music through those channels into their ears.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you think that is a basic struggle for younger people – to have so much new music pumped out today compared to fewer releases back in the 80’s and 90’s?

Joe: I think it’s also – it has two sides. Back in the day, only the best bands were out there. Because they would get picked up by a label, they would get streamed on MTV, on Headbangers’ Ball, and that was shoved down people’s throats as it was all over the place. You can’t see video clips these days looping around as much as you could back then on three different music channels. The big media controls who is becoming a big band. These days, you can do things yourself, and promote your music through online media. The problem is every band that just started out yesterday can record an album and throw it out there, even if it’s shit (laughs). The good bands don’t get the attention they need to survive.

From an artistic point of view, it’s good that you can throw it out. Financially, maybe not so much because you drown in the masses. Every time has it’s ups and downsides. I can’t complain with what we have achieved so far.

Dead Rhetoric: You mentioned in our previous talk the desire to have Evil Invaders become a Judas Priest size band when it comes to live shows, and to keep on improving on that front. What aspects do you believe would be important to develop to possibly achieve that level of a following – and if you had unlimited resources to develop a stage set/show of your choosing, what would you love to offer the fans?

Joe: I don’t really know. I think you have to write good music that appeals to a lot of people. And that’s how you get the following, you can’t just buy fans. It goes hand in hand: the music, the live show, the image of the band. It has to appeal to people. Every band who starts out wants to become a big band – I think it should be every artist’s goal, to be as good as they can be. If I would get an unlimited budget – I would have to think about it, as I’m always struggling to deal with the budget that we have. So far, we do all this stuff DIY. The mic stands we have, we built them ourselves. I make my own guitars, all the stage gear we have is made in a DIY way. To make it look unique, to save money a little bit. We look for people that can help us with certain things – how can we create this thing in my head. Last time we created two mic stands with our logo on it, made it out of metal and I wanted them to turn like a wheel. I looked through my contacts to see if someone could help me develop a system that could be controllable from the light desk. We found a guy who helped us buy those little motors, and made it happen. It’s a lot of sweat and work.

If you have an unlimited budget, you can say hey guys, make this for me by next week. We could focus more on songwriting. I would love to take everything to a higher level all the time. I’d love to have a stage setup like Rammstein where you can set everything on fire (laughs). The budgets are insane for that type of stuff.

Dead Rhetoric: How would you assess the development of Max and yourself as guitar players – do you have distinctive styles and strengths when it comes to the rhythms and lead play, where do you think you’ve seen the most growth at your abilities for the guitar?

Joe: Max and I, we have a lot of differences when it comes to songwriting, as well as playing-wise. That’s where the songwriting gets interesting. He tends to go very fast and aggressive, while lately I have been trying to put more melodies and catchy hooks in the songs. When you combine them together, you get a whole new beast. He’s a better lead guitar player than me. He has his own style; I have my own style. I have fewer solos on this record as I really wanted to focus on the vocals. And also for live (shows) it’s easier to let him do the solos. It’s also the sound in his picking technique, he scratches more with his pick while I have more the ‘dug-ah-dug-ah-dug’. These are things that make his playing a bit more aggressive than mine.

Overall, I think my theory, and understanding of the guitar changed a lot because I started teaching guitar. I had to dig into the theory more, and I never did that before. I understand more how to do the harmonies, how to improvise in solos in different ways.

Dead Rhetoric: And how did you work on your voice more this time? You are stretching your abilities more on this record than ever, was it extra coaching or training that took place?

Joe: Since I started taking this band seriously I started working together with vocal coaches as well. I’ve been with the same coach for years, it’s paying off. After we came home from tour, we got sent home because the last shows were cancelled with the lockdown. That’s when I was like, I had the time to experiment all the way because I had no shows, no performing on the weekends. I didn’t have to play it safe; I was going all the way and I am going to nail those ideas I have in my head and make it work. While in the past, when we were recording demos in between shows, I still had to do my regular stuff to not have the freedom to do this. Taking the time off improved me as a musician so much. There was no stress, we had basically two years to work on this record. Record whenever we want. Especially because I recorded my vocals on my own here. There was no pressure for studio time. If I didn’t feel good about it, I would try again tomorrow. That was very cool.

Dead Rhetoric: Now that you’ve been a part of the Napalm Records roster for some time, how do you feel about their staff, work, and commitment to developing Evil Invaders for a bigger following on a global scale?

Joe: I think I can’t complain about what they are doing for us. It’s just that they have so many bands, how much of a priority are we? For this new record, I think they are definitely stepping up their game. We just signed for two new records. We are quite happy with the label.

Dead Rhetoric: What do you think the live touring/festival environment will be like coming out of these past two years plus of despair due to the pandemic? Do you believe fans and bands will be energetic and hungry, hopefully gaining more appreciation for what has been lost for so long?

Joe: We played a show last summer, the Alcatraz Festival in Belgium. It was the first show that was properly going through again. It was a big festival with thousands of people, and you needed to get tested up front or have your vaccines. Once you got cleared, everybody was taking off their masks because it was safe. It was also the first weekend of great weather, the sun was out and shining. We were very lucky to be playing there – we played on the Sunday, the last day and there were still people there, so hungry. In Belgium we have been so spoiled with the shows and festivals. You could pick every weekend, three shows to go to – sometimes you need to pick. In the end, people get jaded and stay home. Now, you can see the crowd is hungry, it was one of the best shows we ever played.

I hope that people will remember this time and learn to appreciate the luxury we have of going to a show whenever we want.

Dead Rhetoric: What concerns you most about the state of the world currently? Where do you believe the average person needs to put more attention and focus on to make things better for the society and world as a whole?

Joe: I honestly think that the whole social media thing is out of hand. It’s poisoning people’s minds, because everyone is constantly showing their best sides on there. Everybody is on a holiday, everybody is out drinking with friends, you see great shit happening to all your friends – but the bad shit doesn’t get posted as often. Then people start comparing themselves and their own lives and say oh – my life is boring. It’s not true – they just see one guy going on a holiday, then tomorrow another guy is on a holiday. People tend to forget to live in reality. That’s why I don’t have Facebook, I don’t want to be a part of this. It’s a bit sickening to see people always on their phones. Detach from social media a bit and try to enjoy the real things in life.

Dead Rhetoric: You have a deep love for classic metal like Savatage, Exodus, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Mercyful Fate, and Motörhead – what are some of the albums or songs that really give you hope and inspiration to fuel your own songwriting and love for the genre?

Joe: I always tend to stick to the same stuff. An album like Crimson Glory – Transcendence is lately one of my favorites. As a singer, that’s a main example, what (Midnight) achieved on that record, the performance in flawless. Albums that always make me feel good are like Rock ‘n’ Roll by Motörhead, almost every record of theirs. Gutter Ballet– Savatage, the first Exodus record too. Stuff like that, as you said King Diamond. From new bands, I’m not very often blown away by what I hear. And that’s unfortunate. I do like Unto Others though. It’s like they created something new with influences from older bands, they have their own style. When I saw them live at the Keep It True festival in Germany, I was like what is this. They looked cool and they were playing their music cool in a very convincing way.

Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for the next year or two concerning Evil Invaders now that the album will be hitting the streets? Any new countries or territories you hope to venture into?

Joe: I hope to come to the USA one day! Maybe with this record we will finally make it. Right now, we have a release party planned in Belgium, and we have some tour dates in the Netherlands. Some festivals throughout Europe, but outside of Europe nothing has really been confirmed. We are working on stuff, our booker is working, but things are still unclear with the packages.

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