Interview: The Fifth Alliance

On August the 30th The Fifth Alliance released their new album, entitled The Depth of the Darkness. On September the 27th they had their second release show at the Little Devil in Tilburg, The Netherlands. DutchMetalManiac’s Tim van Velthuysen was there to interview The Fifth Alliance’s vocalist Silvia Saunders and drummer Tim van der Zanden.

Hey, congratulations with your new album, The Depth of the Darkness. It’s really nice!

Both: Thanks!

At this moment the album is already released for almost a month and last Friday you had your first album release show. How are the reactions you got on the album so far?

Silvia: Fantastic. From the first day on we received a lot of reviews from various countries. That’s really nice. The reviews also came from people who listened to it very well, who really dived into it and who are writing a review per album, that means a lot. That’s something we’re really happy with.

Tim: Of course there are the good reviews, but what’s also interesting are the comments on social media. We read things like for example “Imagine a show with Neurosis and The Fifth Alliance playing..”.That is something that gives us goosebumps, that’s next level, very nice.

Silvia: People are describing it with different comparisons. Last week at the first release show somebody came to me and said they get a similar feeling like Downfall of Gaia. One reviewer compared my clean vocals with Ryanne from Dool. That was a link I didn’t get, but it’s funny that people are making comparisons.

And how did the fans react at the release show?

Silvia: Really nice.

Today is your second release show. Looking forward to it?

Silvia: Yeah, for sure.

Tim: Yes, indeed. The tension is rising already, but in a good way.

Silvia: That’s always the case. Performing is super nice, but at a release show, when most people you know are coming, people who aren’t always that trusted with the genre, who really come to see you, that gives a different kind of tension. Which, of course, is logical.

Does that mean you also have some less positive nerves then?

Silvia: There’s always a fraction in me wishing that I didn’t invite anyone, but that doesn’t make sense.

Is that also a bit of uncertainty?

Silvia: Of course, it’s always exciting. It’s just getting through the first song and then everything is fine.

Tim: You are showing a part of your soul to people. For an artist that’s easier to total strangers than for people you know, maybe because there’s some sort of fear for criticism, while you are just doing your own thing.

It’s easier to get critic from strangers than to get it from people you know, right?

Tim: Yeah, you just think something like “okay, whatever.”, but when some of your best mates would say something like “couldn’t that be better?”, you’d probably would feel a bit disappointed.

Silvia: They won’t say something like that though, because they would be positive about it.

Is that something that’s even more today, because this show is in Tilburg, your home-province and for you, Tim, even hometown?

Silvia: It’s a hometown release show for sure, there will be a lot of people we know.

So you are more nervous than last week?

Silvia: Definitely.

What’s the reason these release shows are happening now, a few weeks after the album release?

Silvia: We planned the release date for the end of August with the labels who are involved so it was all about release schedule. So by the end of August our new album was released and a bit earlier, our first single Black went online so we planned on doing shows just after the release of the new album which was right after the whole holiday- and the festival season.

Tim: It’s quite practical and based on schedule. The festivals are still happening in August, just as the holidays. Not only for the band, because of course there are also band members who were on holiday, but also for the fans that are on holiday at that moment. So, it’s just because of practical reasons we decided to do it in September. Everyone’s back and the club shows are starting again. That was the most logic.

Tim, you also have a label called Monomentum Collective, which also is co-hosting this release party. What’s the reason you didn’t release the album on Monomentum Collective?

Tim: Monomentum Collective is a very small, DIY label. At one moment we did a weekend tour in Germany with Wode (UK), and we also did a show with Woman is the Earth (US). During that show Niels, our guitarist, spoke with Steven, the owner of Init Records. He was very enthusiastic. I was the newbie in the band at that time.

Silvia: Our puppy.

Tim: Yeah, I am the puppy. We already unanimously decided that we wanted to aim a bit higher with this album. We wanted to approach it even more seriously. In the end it came down to a co-release between Init Records and Burning World Records, for vinyl. The CD is released via Consouling Sounds from Belgium. The tapes are released via a German label called Bharal Tapes. And we are truly very pleased and grateful for all labels involved.

Silvia: It’s not the first time that we have co-releases and different products on different labels. Earlier other bands approached us why in the hell we released our previous album Death Poems through ten labels. At that time we released a tape on a Dutch and Indonesian label, CD was released through Consouling Sounds and we released the LP as a collective release through seven different labels. That was really joining forces with DIY spirit on getting the album out. And it’s still a great way of releasing music, but with our previous release for Death Poems, that concept wasn’t too clear for everyone.

Tim: Death Poems‘ vinyl was also released on my label, but that was a collaboration with six other labels. It was a very interesting collaboration which was really cool to do. However, for this new album we just wanted to aim a bit higher and try to get the album out there. My label is by far not on that level and I also think I won’t reach that level, because that’s not the purpose of my label.

Silvia, you already mentioned it, Tim is The Fifth Alliance’s puppy. That change of drummer is the only lineup-change on this album compared to your previous album, Death Poems. Did that also change something of the creating process?

Silvia: The sound is again different. After the lineup change with Matthijs, replacing Ivo on guitar, we also went to a new flow, sound-wise. Everyone was contributing something of their own. That’s also the case with Tim, it’s something that’s very much his own style. The way he plays things, his own specific style and ideas, also for existing songs. It all felt very warm and right from the beginning.
It wasn’t very official, but you did do an audition, right Tim? While we already thought that things would turn out well.

Tim: Yeah, it was a real audition.

Silvia: We were very surprised that he played everything that well. That also evolved on this album. Our sound is very different compared to when we started, twelve years ago. Each time I think it’s getting more beautiful and I don’t listen to the older albums anymore. It becomes warmer, we all are growing and changing every year. We also have some longer pauses in between albums, but we just change quite a bit over time it seems. Tim has been adding different elements to our music which is great. 

Tim: I remember that I asked Niels something about Death Poems for my label. Then he said that Ashwin wanted to quit the band because he was busy with other things. So, I said that I was interested in replacing Ashwin on drums. After that there was, at least that was how I experienced it, an audition. I practiced a few songs and did two rounds of auditions. After that last round, the band wanted me as their new drummer and that was also the case the other way around. When I compare Death Poems to our new album The Depth of the Darkness, I think that Niels put more black metal elements in the music instead of the more doomy elements from Death Poems. That’s a difference for sure.

Silvia: Absolutely.

At some moments you’re drumming is quite special and you’re doing a lot with the drums when the rest of the music is a bit slower.

Silvia: Super jazzy, absolutely. Those are his own things.

Tim: Nice to hear that. I really like to write a kind of a song inside a song for the drums. I really like to give just that little bit extra on the drums. A few examples of my favorite drummers are Brann Dailor from Mastodon, Jon Theodore from The Mars Volta, who is now drumming in Queens of the Stone Age, where he isn’t drumming at his best advantage by the way. They are drummers who have a very heavy sound, but are also drumming in a brilliant, unique and hyper way. I really like that, I really like hyper drums.

Silvia: It’s funny, because he also does that during rehearsals, and we’re just letting him do his own thing. Sometimes I can get pretty distracted of all that and can’t remember my lyrics anymore, but hey that’s all good. Then I let him do his thing and I just keep quiet for a moment.

As long as that won’t happen during a live show, right?

Silvia: It does.

Tim: Yeah, you will probably hear it later tonight. However, during rehearsals I try to experiment a bit more. We recorded the album nine months ago and I also changed some things for the drums. That happens in the moment and then I have contact with the others to check if it’s okay. I am someone who waits and asks a lot, then I get confirmation that it’s cool.

But I guess that you’re quite well-adapted to each other now, so that you, Silvia, aren’t forgetting you text anymore, right?

Tim: That went pretty fast.

Silvia: That indeed was no problem, he can play everything immediately.

Tim: I remember the first show I did with the band, that was a show in Antwerpen. I was very nervous, because it was my first live show. Silvia kept saying that it would turn out great, while I was wondering whether that indeed would be the case or not. Afterwards a burden fell off of my shoulders, which were good old healthy nerves.

Was that again with the second show or was it less?

Tim: With the second show that was less the case. Playing with this band just feels great.

In my opinion you perfectly deliver a dark and brutal atmosphere with your music. Is that also something you prepare for before going to the studio or before going on stage?

Tim: We are almost all vegan, so before a show we slaughter a piece of tofu backstage 🙂

Silvia: It certainly something I prepare for and which has its impact on myself. I don’t know if that’s the same for the others, but more for me. I also have that feeling with this album, especially with Black, the last song we will be playing tonight. The other albums also had something personal for me and I indeed had to prepare on bringing that feeling to the studio or stage, and that’s something I still do. When Steven, my husband, for example asks me something fifteen minutes before the show, he just knows it’s band-Silvia talking. It’s quite something of a different vibe I go into then. I also think that all of us are into our own zone and energy during a show. I try to interact with the audience but half the time I don’t see them because of the lights, so at a given moment I completely turn into myself. Niels is way off his rocker at some points, just as Matthijs. So we are all in our own atmosphere and energy. About preparing for what’s coming it’s more like taking a moment for myself to get into the right mood, but that’s not particularly for the darkness, more for the performance itself and its intensity.

And what about coming back after a show?

Silvia: When the music is fading out for the last time, I am still very much in my own energy. At that moment I feel things that I won’t feel anymore five minutes later. Then everything’s gone. I come back quite fast.

Tim: It’s not that we have some sort of tradition or something before the show. When the show is over and the audience are applauding I immediately am overwhelmed with some sort of emptiness, not satisfaction. After that I am deconstructing my drum kit. That’s my therapy to come back down to earth.

Silvia: Exactly. The moment I step off stage is when I switch back.

When I listen to your music I completely dream away in it. How do you make sure that isn’t also happening to you during a live show, but instead keep focused?

Silvia: I think that’s just the difference between playing the music and listening to it. I have the same thing while listening to other bands. When you are performing, you’re in a completely different energy. It’s not like I am completely forgetting that I have to sing because I am gone at some point. Fortunately, that never happens.

That’s a good thing of course. Besides tonight’s show you also already announced four other shows, the Black Earth Festival, the Dutch Doom Days in Baroeg, a show in Belgium supporting Wiegedood and a headlining show on March of the Black Horse 5. Can we expect more The Fifth Alliance shows in the near future?

Silvia: The show on the Black Earth Festival, at the end of October, will be the first one. A week later, on November the 2nd, we will indeed play Dutch Doom Days. Of course we want to play shows every week for the entire weekend, but I have to admit that that’s quite difficult combining it with having a family and a day job on the side. We are all very busy, but that’s life.

Tim: There are plans to do a few smaller weekend tours, but everyone is quite busy. We have the ideas, we surely want to, but it’s just looking at what’s possible practically. There are more shows coming for sure.

Thanks for your answers and have fun with the show. Is there something you want to say to our readers?

Tim: No problem, you too and thanks for the interview.

Silvia: Just a tiny thing I’d like to add about the story and concept of the new album. Our previous album, Death Poems, had a story behind it that we never really talked about. It has some sort of concept. A few songs on that album were inspired on some old samurai stories from around 1400-1500 in Japan. That’s something nobody knows, but people didn’t ask about that much. The scratch in Death Poems is referring to a Samurai war. This album is more about the occult, because that’s something I am really interested in. Around 1800 a lot of occult things were happening in Europe, in England. A few songs are inspired on that. Black, in addition to that, is more about how deep someone’s darkness can be for everyone, which also became the album’s title. What are the things you experience in life, how do you handle that and how deep can sink into it? Into Extinction is about mankind’s destructive nature and bringing destruction to the world. We wrote that song some years ago, so it’s an oldie already.

The Depth Of The Darkness is out now on Consouling Sounds, Burning World Records, Init Records and Bharal Tapes. You can listen to it here.

You can read our 8th and 32nd part of Promoting Bands, in which we also mentioned The Fifth Alliance, here and here.

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