Aborted push the boundaries of extremity with Maniacult
Spanning some 26 years and now 11 studio albums, Aborted's campaign of carnage has established the Belgium outfit as one of death metal's most accomplished, enduring and ever-relevant names.
The band's lone original member, Sven de Caluwé, has since evolved into the Aborted's all encompassing engineer, refining the band's sound, creative direction and continued progression in a genre that demands a keen sense of tradition and progression in its extremity. Death metal has never been a casual listening experience and thus, it's most championed contributors both understand and embrace that purity.
It's that nuanced finesse that has allowed de Caluwé and Aborted to thrive even after such an extended run. Far from resting on their laurels, the band has managed to build their brand of brutality with a tiered musical assault that continues to keep the audience engaged. All this while never comprising the stylistic signature that has endeared the band to generations of fans that have experienced their dynamic progression.
Following the band's well-received 2018 full-length, TerrorVision and their 2020 extended play in La Grande Masquerade, the de Caluwé has maintained a prolific pace that manages never runs afoul of diluting itself. In fact, in just the last decade the band has churned out some five full length studio efforts and four EPs, all of which have bolstered their already teflon catalog with the kind of diversity that often fails to resonates with the purists of the genre - yet Aborted remain in a league all their own.
Sven de Caluwé offered his thoughts on the band's latest triumph in Maniacult and how the album ranks within the band's dynamic body of work. He weighed in on the reality of working during the pandemic, his involvement with Doom Eternal and composer/genius madman Mick Gordon, the integral role of drummer and songwriter Ken Bedene, and how the long stretch of stability has found Aborted finding their creative stride.
What would you say is the defining feature of ‘ManiaCult’ within the Aborted discography?
I think diversity, there are a lot more dynamics than on the previous record. We really tried to bring a lot of different aspects to the band, we delved a lot more into the dark atmosphere of the band with a lot more grimness to it, there’s more variation, and we also brought back a lot of elements from the past that we haven’t done in a long time.
‘TerrorVision’ brought in a lot of that creepy atmosphere and there are songs on here like ‘Portal to Vacuity’ and ‘Drag Me to Hell’ that feel like they have a lot of that guitar melody, so was that the particular thing from last time out you wanted to focus on and develop?
Absolutely, we definitely worked more on that, and I think we mainly tried to find a good mix between that formula and making it work where there is still quite an emphasis on the more black metal vibe, but it’s a bit more organic.
Your band has been on the move almost constantly for over twenty years now so how have you held up these last 18 months not doing that?
For us the main weirdness has been not seeing each other. On the other hand though, we have always been used to working remotely, so when it came to writing nothing really changed for us. It’s mainly just adjusting to the fact that we haven’t been able to see each other for so long. You end up spending half the year together every year and then all of a sudden you don’t see your best friends for almost two years.
As you've done remote writing for years anyway, did you feel particularly well equipped to work during the pandemic making this album?
We’ve done the remote writing for years but recording, this is the first time we haven’t recorded as a band. Usually we’d all fly over to Germany to Kohlekeller Studio and be locked in for a month to record it, so it has been very weird that Ken had to find a studio to record his drums by himself, I recorded over the timespan of several months at a friend’s studio here in Belgium, and then Ian recorded everything at home, Stefano recorded everything at home, and Kohlekeller mixed it all. It’s really weird because you don’t have that dynamic of being together and on the spot coming up with different ideas with people, but I think that we compensated with the fact that we extensively did pre-production on everything and had everything super laid out by the time of recording.
You did some vocal contributions for the Doom Eternal game right?
Yeah, that was before the pandemic where when we did the last headline tour I flew in a little early to do some vocals for the Doom Eternal metal choir where there were about twenty-five or thirty metal vocalists from all over the metal scene invited to that, and that was an amazing experience for sure. Mick Gordon was an insane moderator because as a metal vocalist you’re used to screaming eight hours a day, but it went by so fast where he really knew how to guide people and motivate people. It was a very unique experience and a very different recording process as a vocalist compared to doing a metal record. It’s something I’m very proud to have been a part of.
It feels like this particular run of records going back to ‘Global Flatine’ is the most representative of what Aborted is, which means that you've been in that groove for approaching a decade now. How do you feel looking back over that time and does that make making albums like ‘ManiaCult’ particularly confident compared to developing that sound back then?
Yeah for sure. I think it marks a big period of stability for the band. After ‘Global Flatline’ we’ve had mainly the same group of people in the band aside from small changes. Ken has been in the band for twelve years, and he wrote 90% of ‘ManiaCult’, he wrote 80% of ‘TerrorVision’, on ‘Necrotic Manifesto’ he wrote a little less than half, so he has been increasingly involved as a songwriter. He also plays guitar, he knows what we’re going for, and he is a big part of the sound not only on drums but also in the writing. You’re with a team that’s used to working together so it goes a lot more naturally than with a lot of changes.
Ken is the second longest-running member after yourself so is it really good to have someone like that to to rely on a decade deep into that relationship?
Oh yeah, absolutely. It’s not only Ken though, that’s partly why we’ve decided to remain as a four-piece for now. The four of us are a very strong unit as Ian has been there for seven years, Stefano four or five years, so we are all looking in the same direction and can depend on each other. That’s why it’s hard to find a fifth member right now because we want to have that same bond with whoever would be coming into the band. Ken was twenty-one, twenty-two when he joined, and it’s like having a little brother!
Are there any records of that run that you are particularly proud of?
I think they all mark something important. When we did ‘Strychnine’, it’s kinda funny because I don’t like that record personally, but it also reflects a really bad period in the band and ‘Global Flatline’ was sort of a rebirth where we have built up from there. It was a breath of fresh air for the band and ‘Necrotic Manifesto’ took it a level further, and the same with ‘RetroGore’, ‘TerrorVision’, and now this record. The atmosphere in the band has been great and that reflects on the records.
Something that's marked those albums is the super exaggerated 1980s fantastical horror aesthetic with titles like ‘RetroGore’ and ‘TerrorVision. Is that fun vibe something continuing with this new one and is that something that makes these records more enjoyable for you?
I think so. Honestly, there are a lot of serious themes going on in the record so the lyrics deal with serious issues, but we always package them in what I call the Aborted sauce. We’re a bunch of nerds and we like to have fun, we don’t take ourselves too seriously even though we take what we do seriously, so it’s just a reflection of who we are as people. We like to mess around and one of those things is always coming up with a ridiculous pre-order item, limited edition stuff that reflects the inner nerd and I’m like a kid in a candy store trying to figure out what stupid shit we can do with each record. We made an action figure for the figure on the cover for this one. I don’t think that’s gonna go anywhere because people’s lives were already so serious, let alone the last couple of years, and metal can be an escape. There are bands to be true and evil and we just want people to have fun and enjoy.
We have to ask about that cover because Aborted are no strangers to crazy artwork, but this one is particularly wild. What was even the brief you gave to the artist to make something like that?
We had a concept but we also worked in a backwards kind of way where we started coming up with the concept based on the figure. I thought it would be fun to do something crazy for the fans with the pre-orders and stuff, and then base the concept on that, so we came up with the idea of the 80s slasher type figure and making him our mascot and all of that before the actual artwork. We wanted it to have that big flashy vibe with contrasting colours and all of that and gave that as the brief, but it’s also something of a metaphor for dealing with mental health issues, and we got these crazy sketches back that fit exactly what we were going for.
What are some of the things you are drawing on for the songs on this record in that regard?
I’m not gonna bring up the pandemic but it’s a lot of how people deal with things. There is a lot of crazy shit that has been exposed that has been going on in the last couple years in terms of how easy it is to fall into the rabbit-hole of conspiracy theory. A lot of that and a lot of mental health in general, dealing with borderline issues and bipolar disorder, it all kind of gets blended in there.
With that in tandem with the exaggerated horror aesthetic, is it a tricky thing to balance those?
In a way. Honestly I wasn’t too worried about making the lyrics particularly horrific or super gory this time around. It’s our eleventh record and we’ve done the gore thing and the try to shock your parents thing, so it’s still within that universe and it’s still explicit, gory and fucked up, but my main goal was to tackle some stuff that was personal to me and do it in a way that fits the Aborted universe.
Is that why something like the movie samples have taken a back-seat on recent records?
Yeah, we didn’t have any on ‘TerrorVision’, and I guess it’s twofold where on one hand Century Media hates it when we put samples on because they’re freaking out about the rights, and on the other hand it just didn’t seem like it fit completely into our concepts here. When it comes to ‘Hellraiser’ I don’t think we can take any more samples from that movie!
Is ‘Drag Me to Hell’ on this record in any way related to the Sam Raimi movie of the same name though?
Yes! The lyrics are absolutely 100% about that movie.
This is also the third album in a row now of the combined word titles with ‘RetroGore’, ‘TerrorVision’, and ‘ManiaCult’. Is that just a little stylistic quirk that you are sticking to now?
For the time being, yeah. I thought it was cool to keep it consistent with the previous few and I guess people will start to expect it from now on.
With the new video for ‘Impetus Odi’ you worked with G13 Productions who have done really impressive videos in the last couple of years for bands like Behemoth. What do you feel you got out of that experience?
It was very cool, they are extremely professional and they came up with the whole concept. We sent them the song and the lyrics and they sent back their ideas. I wasn’t really sure when I read the brief to be honest on some of the stuff they suggested, and I told them but they were like “trust us, we know what we are doing”, and when I was there it was very cool. The one thing that was a bit of the shame was I am the only band member in the video, but that is obviously due to the pandemic and no one else was able to make it. I was the only one there and everyone was speaking Polish the whole time so I was a little out of my depth but they were very professional and did an amazing job.
You’re at a stage now with this long run of popular records where your fanbase seems to trust you to deliver. Is that trust part of the joy of doing this now twenty-five years in?
Let’s be honest, we’re playing very extreme and fucked up music, which is niche. You know you’re not doing it for money or whatever so honestly we’re just writing the music that we enjoy and that we hope the fans will enjoy as well. We get the kicks from playing it live and interacting with people and that’s what we are waiting for to come back. Doing records is really fun and cool and something you can look back on with pride, but that interaction is where the fun lies, so we’re very stoked to get back out there and get back to talking to people. We recently started a new Facebook group for our fans and we’ve been interacting with a lot of them directly on there. It’s cool to see there are a lot of really dedicated people who have huge collections, and it’s very heartwarming and motivating as a band member.
The 11th full length studio album from Aborted, Maniacult, arrives September 10th via Century Media Records. Pre-order the album - HERE