AFTER FOREVER guitarist Sander Gommans recently spoke to Lucem Fero's Welsh interviewer Anthony Morgan. Topics of discussion included the Dutch group's self-titled fifth album, Sander's recent illness and his HDK project. Several excerpts from the interview follow:
Lucem Fero: How did "After Forever" come about?
Sander Gommans: "Yeah. Me and Joost (van den Broek, keyboards) began writing the new songs, though we didn't really think about the album this time. Most of the time I have an idea of how the album should sound and what style the album should be, but this time I didn't really think about it. I just started writing, we showed the result to the rest of the bandmembers, and then they studied the material. Once we rehearsed the album, we then re-recorded it — our producer Gordon Groothedde from Holland also took care of the sound and so on. After we recorded all the songs, we were really surprised ourselves because of the sound and because of how the songs sounded. Another reason for this was as a result of all the music that we did before it on all the other albums; it really fitted into this album, so we united all the styles into one record and that's this record."
Lucem Fero: What inspirations were there during the period you recorded "After Forever"?
Sander Gommans: "For this album? This album was inspired by, for example, not the new DREAM THEATER album but the album before that. Also, 'The Black Album' by METALLICA was an influence... I think these were the main inspirations for this album."
Lucem Fero: Is there a reason why you decided for "After Forever" to be self-titled?
Sander Gommans: "Yes, certainly. First of all, I think it's our best album but you always say that about your last album. This album though has all the characteristics and all the elements AFTER FOREVER has to offer, but this time united in one album. Normally every AFTER FOREVER album was a different style, but this album shows all the styles united in the songs. I think that's what makes it so cool and that's what makes it particularly AFTER FOREVER, but it also offers something new. It shows all the sides of AFTER FOREVER and the best of AFTER FOREVER, so I thought this album should really be titled 'After Forever'."
Lucem Fero: Ok, I'm just interested in the fact you mentioned METALLICA earlier. I actually picked up on that myself because their fifth album was also self titled wasn't it?
Sander Gommans: "Yeah it was, and it certainly showed some inspiration. If you listen to the first song then the first guitar you'll actually be hearing is a little bit inspired by 'Wherever I May Roam' from the 'Metallica' album in terms of how the verses are. We really focus on riffs with this album, and that's why it's also much more guitar oriented. You need to have a strong riff, and it doesn't have to be difficult sometimes. You need to have a strong riff though which you can use in the entire song, and maybe sometimes played a little bit differently. The song is actually based on a certain riff, and that's what we did with these songs for a part of it at least. The first song especially shows this, this riff oriented material."
Lucem Fero: Is it ok if we talk about your recent medical troubles?
Sander Gommans: "Yeah, it's no problem."
Lucem Fero: First of all, could you tell me about it and give me an overview so to speak?
Sander Gommans: "You have to see it like this; in my job as a full time teacher, as a bandleader, as a songwriter and things like that, for seven years I was extremely busy all the time. I never really thought about it, but this year I took a year off of teaching to give myself the band's full attention and it's always when you take a rest that you notice that something's wrong. I noticed I was really tired, overtired and really extremely tired. I got these blackouts and things like that, then I got really worried as a result, particularly when I had all kinds of pain in my chest later on. I heard that I was really overworked and had to take immediate rest, because otherwise something more severe would happen. That's the situation right now."
Lucem Fero: How supportive have the band and label been about everything?
Sander Gommans: "Very supportive. They support me, and they know it's serious. They know what person I am, they know that it's really serious and that it's necessary I take my rest. They're supporting me and hope I'll be back soon; they will give me all the time I need."
Lucem Fero: How did the HDK project come about?
Sander Gommans: "It's a far more extreme project than AFTER FOREVER. It's more metal-oriented, and at this point I wrote and recorded all the songs. With Amanda Somerville (EPICA) I then wrote the lyrics and vocal lines. I have a lot of guests that I will reveal in the future, but it will really be a project and won't be going live. It will be a project that handles the more extreme side of metal, but still in a very melodic way. I hope to finish the mix in the summer."
Lucem Fero: What does HDK mean?
Sander Gommans: "(laughs) It's a working title at this point, but everything could still change. HDK was actually, before I started writing the songs, was meant to be something funny and not that serious. I called it HATE DEATH KILL in a funny way, because these are typical words you'll find in metal lyrics. I changed it then to HDK for the MySpace site, though now I'll have to see what I'll do with it.."
Lucem Fero: What do you feel these guest musicians add to HDK?
Sander Gommans: "First of all, I think they teach me a lot and give me a lot of experience to write new songs for AFTER FOREVER again, and it's a nice thing to learn a lot from other musicians. Secondly, they also add more dynamics to the project, especially Amanda Somerville who added a lot of melody. That's what makes it much different than all the other extreme metal bands; it makes it more versatile and more melodic without losing the real aggression."
Lucem Fero: Could you tell me about some of the tracks you have so far?
Sander Gommans: "Most of the material is modern thrash-related, but also more old-school thrash-related. It has a little bit of technical things and a lot of groove things with a little bit of the PANTERA style. It's mixed with melodic vocals though, or grunts and screams, more hardcore voices sometimes and even rap aspects. It's mixed and is a really unique combination of styles."
Read the entire interview at www.lucemfero.com.