CHALICE – A Talk With CHRIS LAGRANGE (Bass) & PIETER DEWULF (Vocals)

Posted on May 31 th. 2018

Questionnaire by Stefan on behalf of METAL TO INFINITY WEBZINE BELGIUM


L – R: Tim De Smedt (Guitars) / Pieter Dewulf (Vocals) / Niels Verbeke (Drums) / Chris Lagrange (Bass) / Nicolas Bruggeman (Guitars)

Chalice is a Belgian based Death/Thrash Metal act, established back in 1998. During their 20 years of existence, a lot happened but regardless good of bad situations occurred into the fold, Chalice never gave up the fight and continued until the bitter end… the right spirit to me actually ! The only one original member is bassist Chris Lagrange (ex-Iconoclasm), he had to welcome new members but Chris was also forced to say goodbye to others… the line-up was always unstable within the band’s ranks. Proverbially, it claims that only the strong survive and look at these guys, they struggled through rough times but they’re still in the running and became stronger and stronger as the years passed by.

A few recordings further on the road, Chalice just released its brand new album “Ashes Of Hope”… one of the most interesting Death/Thrash Metal efforts I’ve heard this year. This is living proof that you have to fight to achieve something in life you really want too, therefore my respect and dignity to Chalice is sincere and the pleasure is mine to offer these guys this following interview. My intention is to speak about the past, present and future plans…. A story from one of Belgium’s heaviest you won’t soon forget !

Stefan: Welcome here at Metal To Infinity, good to have you with us ! First things first, let’s go back to the early days of existence, by whom-when and with which ambitions Chalice was formed?

Chris: Yves Ragolle was and still is a friend of mine. He is a guitarist and played in several underground metal bands, IMPEDIGON being the most famous. We share a passion for (extreme) metal, talk about new releases, did some tape-trading and went to gigs together. When the ICONOCLASM chapter came to an end for me, we thought we should join forces and form our own band to play the music we like.

We were at a PRO PAIN-gig in The Steeple in March 1998 when he introduced me to Vincent Debaveye. Vincent became our first drummer and the three of us started writing our own songs. As this went well, we started looking for a second guitar player and a singer…. The rest is somewhat history.

There was no master plan as far as setting ourselves goals or starting recordings or finding us a label…. We were sure we wanted to play the music we all felt strong about. It should be fast, aggressive, heavy and well arranged.

 

Stefan: Who came on with the name Chalice and for what particular reason you choose this way band name, what’s the story behind?

Chris: I came up with the name. CHALICE refers to the passion story in the bible. In that story Jesus Christ, confronted with this crucifixion, asks his father to spare him this last battle, to save him from this chalice of agony…. but, according to that same story, he eventually had to drink it all the way…whether he liked it or not.

The band’s name stands for the numerous things in life we are forced to do….whether we like them or not, whether we believe they are useful or not. It stands for our rather pessimistic view that life, if you live it consciously, isn’t a party. Many times we are forced to fit in, to adapt or to set aside our initial believes. It stands for ‘weltschmerz’, for the fact that life is as much is a battle as it is a gift.

 

Stefan: How the very first line-up looked like?

Chris: As I mentioned before, Yves (guitar) and I (bass) met Vincent (drums) at the Steeple. The fourth one to join was Dieter Demeyer (guitar) who used to play with Vincent in one of their previous bands. I believe they called themselves THE MISTAKES. Gregory Soetaert completed our line-up. He had no experience but heaps of guts and attitude. We did our first gig in March 1999, exactly one year after our birth.

By the time we recorded our first MCD (DISENTANGLED, October 2002), Gregory was already replaced by Tom Decambray.

 

Stefan: Finding the right, well fitted musicians wasn’t that easy those days, right? Some people want to team up with a band but haven’t got the guts to fully go for it, the passion is lacking so I will never understand why joining a band with that kinda attitude. Agree with me or not?

Chris: Looking back and overviewing our line-up issues, I guess I conclude two things… First of all: people change… people make choices in their lives, choices about a professional career, about partners, having children, moving to another place and they determine your life. After a dozen of those choices… playing in a metal band (suddenly) doesn’t seem to fit in anymore..

Secondly: being in a band demands sacrifices and sometimes people misjudge this. For the five of us, this band is a hobby…. but it’s one we are passionate about. Many times, we have to put partner, family, children in the second place. Rehearsing, doing gigs, recordings, doing promo-stuff makes us putting time in the band.

It can be doable at a certain point, but people start to hesitate when the going gets tough. That’s when people decide to leave because they feel that they slow down the band or that we decide to go on without someone because dedication is lacking.

Stefan: Chalice’s first recording was the MCD “Disentangled”, am I correct and feel free to share your thoughts with me regarding the musical approach.

Chris: We were proud with DISENTANGLED at that time. I am not embarrassed about it, not at all, but a lot of things would be done differently if we were to record those songs again. There was a  small budget, we had very little studio time in a rather cheap studio and our approach, skills and gear were not as they are nowadays. It’s a part of our legacy, so I cherish it.

 

Stefan: By the way, would you mind to describe your style more specifically?

Chris: I consider CHALICE being a real metal band. 20 years of writing and recording music with different line-ups resulted in playing different kinds of metal. I think ‘thrashy and melodic death metal’ comes close as a description. Some songs are more black metal like, some parts are sludgy, some are more progressive, one of our songs has been described as post-metal.

I like the fact that we are not a metal band that limits itself to playing one subgenre. To me, the spirit of metal is about not accepting any boundaries in music and lyrics. Metal is about playing (extremely) fast, heavy, dark, groovy, slow and/or emotional music. Metal is about paying attention to meaningful lyrics about things that move us. When the five of us are convinced of a song, a riff or an arrangement: it’s a go! Giving ourselves this much freedom as a band, keeps it interesting in terms of writing and playing music. It keeps it interesting for people listening to our music.

 

Stefan: Speaking about sources of inspiration, what about yours?

Chris: Not all of these bands shine through in our music, but if  I personally had to pick a few life changing metal releases, they would be:

*IRON MAIDEN: The Number Of The Beast

*METALLICA: … And Justice For All

*GRAVE: Into The Grave

*GOREFEST: False

*DISSECTION: The Somberlain

*CATTLE DECAPITATION: The Anthropocene Extinction

*ANATHEMA: Judgement

Other guys in the band are fond of DEATH, TOOL, BLACK SABBATH, SLEEP, RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, THE HAUNTED, SARDONIS, WATAIN, TRUST.

This variety is one of the things we feed on. In that way, this variety does shine through.

Pieter: When I first joined forces with CHALICE, my knowledge about metal was very little. I grew up as a punk and hardcore kid and although I shifted in taste. I still look up to the sheer emotion that is brought along in that music. To me, deliver my message and emotion as a vocalist, is your most important job in the band.

 

Stefan: May I presume that winning the Metal Battle at BTM Fest 2009 was one of the highlights in Chalice’s career so far.

Chris: It was. More recent highlights were first of all our ASHES OF HOPE release show on the 21 of April. It probably was the most important hour of 2018. We all felt we had some things to prove to the people that had showed up. We worked hard and long on the songs and on the album.

We made some fuzz about our 20 years of CHALICE-madness and Facebook was the medium to keep an eye on our hard work. Finally we were able to show this to the people. All went very well that night and people responded enthusiastic. We got some really nice reviews about that show.

Secondly: the recording of the album was bonding. The process took us 8 months, they say a studio can make or break a band… it made CHALICE more coherent.

 

Stefan: But there were more concerts you delivered, right? With which bands have you been allowed to share the stage?

Chris: The past 20 years, we shared stages with ABORTED, ANCIENT RITES, AFTER ALL, THURISAZ, AGATHOCLES, ENTHRONED, DIABOLO BLVD, CADUCITY, HEXA MERA.

Apart from these well knows bands, we did heaps of small shows in many underground venues that were intense… girls walking the ceiling at the Vort’n Vis in Ypres during a show.

Stefan: Early 2013, Chalice went to the Midas Studio for the records of your fourth album “There Is Nothing”, loaded with 8 songs. New members contributed to the album, please introduce them and give me a briefing history on the newcomer’s musical background.

Chris: There is quite some time between THERE IS NOTHING (2013) and ASHES OF HOPE. One of the reasons is the fact that we had to replace Hans Depraetere  (guitar) and Vincent (drums). Everyone in a metal band knows that it is not always easy to find people who can and want to play this kind of music. There is a set list to rehearse to prepare for shows and it takes some time to write new songs with a line-up that has changed this way.

The new guys teaming up are guitarist Tim de Smedt (since December 2014). He played in SEPTEMBER SYN and SONDER. He ‘clicks’ really well with Nicolas Bruggeman (guitar) and surely did his part in the writing of the new album.

Niels Verbeke replaces Vincent since September 2015. He’s a youngster who is very motivated and has progressed a lot the last few months.

Things like these always slow down the writing process but in French they say: “ reculer pour mieux souter…”, so we are extremely happy with the way things turned out.

 

Stefan: I discussed “There Is Nothing” and my rating at the end was quite positive. Did you guys felt there was a huge form of progress audible on the album. Your best performance at that moment I guess, right?

Chris: To me, ASHES OF HOPE is our best effort. I know I am obliged to say this. I can’t remember reading an interview myself wherein one states that the band’s previous album was the best, but I have no trouble saying this record is our best work so far.

We had a strong feeling about the 8 songs we decided to record and were well prepared when we entered the studio. Apart from the songs that have everything CHALICE stands for, we probably booked the most progression in recording, mixing and mastering the album.

We were able to work in two studio’s (MIDAS Lokeren and GALAXY Mol) and had sufficient time to work. We all were very connected to the process, wanting our album to bring us to the next level. There was a great understanding with Tony De Block and Andre Six, the guys helping us to put down our songs as good as possible.

 

Stefan: As far as I am concerned, this album has opened doors for Chalice, a considerable musical progress was immediately audible… agree or not?

Chris: It has opened some doors, but we want to aim high. There’s a potential in those 8 songs and it’s up to us to get noticed, get booked and play the album as much and as tight as we can. Our approach is much more professional.

We send promo-packages to clubs and festivals, we make lyric video’s, we engage people to help us with the promotion of our band and the album. I guess we all are pushing in many ways to get the door opened.

 

Stefan: The release of a very successful album gives every band a boost to continue with good courage, next step in the life of Chalice was to achieve an even higher level.

A new album had to prove this and so you did, a few weeks ago “Ashes Of Hope” saw daylight and while hearing all of the new songs, there is no doubt about this is your best performance so far in my opinion.

Dark, melodic, brutal and aggressive, technical skilled and well done song writings… congratz from the heart guys ! On which topics are the texts based on – who’s the song writer actually?

 

Chris: Nice you ask about lyrics. Pieter wrote 6 of them, I did 2.

Lyrics often are about us, about the human race, about the things we do to each other and the fact that we are our own worst enemy. They are about the ugliness of life, about people struggling with life and their emotions of fear, mourning, despair…. realizing there is a gap between their reality and their childhood dreams. They are about finding ashes where there used to be some hope.

Pieter: I couldn’t agree more with Chris. My main inspiration for my lyrics is my own dark melancholic psyche. The life that I was given is a very bumpy ride and for me writing is a form of relief. To me, it actually is the only way I can say things or entrust people with what is going on inside my head without the consequences of hurting feelings, getting betrayed, etc.

Another major source of inspiration is the endless pool of misery I am confronted with in my job.  I know the human race is not the superior one, we are the filth that roam this world and we are constantly reminded of our own stupidity. I could go on for hours, but I’ll spare you the details. I always find it very important that the lyrics carry a message. They should mean something and should make the reader think about what is in front of them.

 

Stefan: Please guide us through some of lyrical contents.

Chris: The words for A DEATH WITHOUT WARNING were written after attending a study day about suicide. I clearly remember a touching testimony of a mother who had lost her son committing suicide. There was another more theoretic explanation about profiling, stating that some people are very explicit or even grotesque about their plans to end their lives. This being called a cry for help.

Another much smaller group takes that same decision in all serenity and without sending one single signal to the people they share their life with: partner, parents, children, friends, colleagues are unaware. This being called a cry of pain. People left behind are devastated and in order to grieve, they look for answers but none will be found. That day, I believe it was in 2010, inspired me to write these lyrics.

MUSINGS ON THE BANK is about the last thoughts of a person, very aware of the fact that he is about to die. He is very lucid and makes reflections about his living years. The lyrics give us an insight in the way he puts his life in a balance and is confronted with things that didn’t turn out the way he wanted to and the fact that time has run out. Fear overpowers him as he realizes that things are irreversible and this is the moment he has always been afraid of.

Pieter: I’m not that keen on telling what each lyric is about. They all have a very personal deep meaning to me and being that open to the world, is something very difficult for me. I tend to write lyrics with an opportunity for the reader to give their own interpretation. I remember a conversation recently with Tim. He had a complete different view on the lyrics of CULT OF SERPENTS and that is what drives me… people finding a message in those lyrics and give them their own meaning, something that triggers them to reflect.

As a little present, I’ll give an insight in one of my lyrics. AMONGST THE DAMNED is about the feeling that even within this subculture of metal, within this underground world, I am different. Even within this, I sometimes feel I do not belong. Even amongst the damned, even amongst the few, I remain. With those words ‘ I remain’ I I mean that I still remain here because I do not give up and still stand for the things I believe in and fight for.

Call me an idealist on that part. I hope those words will give other people strength to go on with what they are doing.

I challenge everyone who takes the time to read our lyrics to communicate with me about them. I love discussing these things and I am always curious about what people feel or think when they read my words.

 

Stefan: Who would you like to mention that played a major role in bringing out a brilliant effort like “Ashes Of Hope”?

Chris: Credits for the riffs surely go to Tim and Nicolas. For this record, they came up with most of the ideas, so their role was major. Arranging the songs is more or less a band-thing. As I mentioned before, Pieter wrote lyrics for 6 songs, I did 2 of them.

Apart from these credits that are strongly related to the songs, Tony De Block (MIDAS) and Andre Six (GALAXY) did a tremendous job. Working in two studios, especially the GALAXY studio’s, gave us a head start production wise.

 

Stefan: One of our co-writers named Omni wrote down the review as was published at: http://cdreviewsc.metaltoinfinity.be/chalice-ashes-of-hope-independent/  May I ask for a reaction to the discussion from your side?

Chris: We were very pleased with the things Omni picked out in the review. It’s nice hearing that the album can tempt people to look for other, older stuff. The rating (85/100) made us very proud and shows us that our inner compass about how metal should be played and sound like, is still focused.

I agree on the comments about the way the album sounds and the fact that metal heads will enjoy it. It gets better every time you play is.

 

Stefan: In what ways other media sources have responded to Chalice’s newest piece?

Chris: Album reviews, both digital and in magazines, are raving. We get high scores and are pleased with the way the journalists appreciate this piece of work. We get the chance to do some interviews, get some airplay on digital radio stations and even had a short topic on Belgian national television.

 

Stefan: Still unsigned which isn’t right to me, you have never been approached by a proper label? With a killer album like “Ashes Of Hope” I truly hope some labels will come knocking on Chalice’s door to negotiate a possible collaboration releasing the album via their company. It would be a present that you would really earn.

Chris: Thanks for that. Finding a record deal indeed is one of our goals. It would be nice to find some people who can support us to play, promote and distribute the album. We pressed 500 CD’s but we got asked about vinyl, so maybe there is some work to do there.

Future will bring us new songs and logically a new album, so it would be nice to find some support for future recordings. 20 years of existence is a really  nice momentum to look back, but our future lies ahead of us. We started writing new songs last week!

Stefan: With the eye on the near future, I suppose the time has come to play for a live audience offering the new show and songs. What’s on the list to work out the next couple of weeks of weeks/months?

Chris: We are very eager to present the album and playing it live. Some shows for this year have been confirmed: Stormram (Zulte, 9th of June), FrietRock (Oud Turnhout, 2nd of September) and Devils Rock for an Angel (Zillebeke, 29th of September). We have some contacts for the 2nd half of this year, but it’s too early to confirm things. Keep an eye on our Facebook and website.

In het meantime, we promote our band and the album by contacting clubs and festivals ourselves by sending a promo package. It’s not in our nature to sit and wait, the past has shown us it doesn’t work that way. Besides that, we are exploring options to make a video for one of the songs and constantly work on new material.

 

Stefan: Looking back over your shoulders, how do you see the current situation in the camp of Chalice?

Chris: It’s essential to keep the line-up together in a good, creative mood. That’s the starting point to get the things done we talked about in this interview. So I hope everybody stays on board and keeps motivation to go on. I believe in the potential the 5 of us have.

There’s a positive vibe and we have to keep the action going and get everything out of this album. We want to aim high, but realize that it’s up to us to keep contacting labels, look for bookings, venues, festival to rage on stage.

 

Stefan: We are gradually approaching the end of this conversation and like to ask for your future plans and the reason why people should have order your new album “Ashes Of Hope” right on. I offer you the time and space to announce your new beast according to your heart’s content !

Chris: Great riffs, well arranged resulted in great songs. We did tight recordings and didn’t overlook anything. We gave the 8 songs a modern killer production.

Our band is 20 years old, but ASHES OF HOPE is very 2018. It’s a rich album with variety in music and meaningful lyrics. Artwork is tasteful. Reviews confirm all of this, so you must give the album a chance. It is a must have for your record collection.

Contact us: www.chalice.be or facebook-wise. We keep in touch!

@ you, Stefan and the MTI-team: thanks for the support.

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