Pestilence to Asphyx: Martin van Drunen Talks 5 Favorite Vocal Performances | Revolver

Pestilence to Asphyx: Martin van Drunen Talks 5 Favorite Vocal Performances

Dutch death-metal great tells stories behind standout songs from his career
asphyx-live-jeanny-petrocchi-3-web-crop.jpg, Jeanny Petrocchi
photograph by Jeanny Petrocchi

Revolver has teamed with Asphyx for an exclusive, limited-edition white vinyl variant of their new album, Necroceros. It's limited to just 200 worldwide, so get yours before they're gone!

Asphyx vocalist Martin van Drunen is nothing short of a death-metal legend. His impressive resume boasts some of the most iconic releases of the past 30 years, including Pestilence's Malleus Maleficarum and Consuming Impulse, Asphyx's The Rack and Last One on Earth and more. Over the years he's also lent his distinctive vocal skills to Bolt Thrower, Grand Supreme Blood Court, Hail of Bullets and others.

As a fan it's hard enough to choose a favorite record from his catalog, let alone a favorite song. So we went to the man himself and asked van Drunen to tell us the stories behind his five favorite vocal performances from across his storied career. See his picks below — plus learn the origin of his iconic "This is true death metal you bastards!" intro to Asphyx's "Deathhammer."

Pestilence "Chronic Infection" (Consuming Impulse, 1989)

First of all, it's my favorite song on that album. And I think it was also my favorite song to do in the studio and also to perform live. Even though people prefer a lot of other ones from the album, it's got this rhythmical groovy kind of feeling that I really like. It really integrates that and matches it perfect with the vocals. There's a lot of others that I really like: "Reduced to Ashes" I really like as well. But I've gotta go with "Chronic Infection." Marco [Foddis], the drummer, we did the lyrics together. He had a really good sense and rhythmical feeling on how to implement the lyrics in the songs [with] the riffings. "Chronic Infection" is like a perfect example of that. Quite a few years ago there was a Dutch band Legion of the Damned who wanted to cover that song as a bonus track, so I did it with them together in the studio. I was really chuffed with the version that they came up with because it was really cool.

Asphyx "The Rack" (The Rack, 1991)

My voice had grown throughout the years, and at that time it was super strong because we did a lot of touring with Pestilence. So you learn how to control your vocals and how far you can take them. I think that I was at my vocal peak for those two records [The Rack and 1992's Last One on Earth]. With those kind of medieval lyrics and the whole atmosphere of "The Rack" — it's just some of our best stuff. We still have to play that live because, you know, people are going to lynch us if we don't. But yeah, it's kind of turned into an iconic song and I still like to play it live with the boys. For me, it's the most outstanding song on The Rack. I also really do like everything that I did on Last One on Earth, so that's a tough one …

Hail of Bullets "Ordered Eastward" (Of Frost and War, 2008)

I think "Ordered Eastward" was the first track that I wrote [for] Of Frost and War, which is to me still the heaviest Hail of Bullets album. I was proud of that whole concept. It's got the fast paces everywhere, which is kind of also my trademark. I just still love this song. [Producer] Dan Swanö [who also has a vocal credit on "Ordered Eastward"] did the slow part in the song where we do, "We were ordered Eastward." That's him. So he does a whole vocal part with backing vocals from the rest of the band. What I did live was I stepped back and then it was [guitarists] Paul [Baayens] and Stephan [Gebedi] doing Dan's part there …

Grand Supreme Blood Court "Veredictum Sanguis" (Bow Down Before the Blood Court, 2012)

This is some of the best stuff I've ever delivered, now that I listen to that one back. It's simple ... I don't think I can do that any better than I did on that track. I still love it.

Asphyx "Death the Brutal Way" (Death… The Brutal Way, 2009)

"Death the Brutal Way," specifically the seven-inch version. And the reason for choosing that is that I did the things in one take! It's an enormous pile of lyrics and just goes on and on and on, and the older I get, the harder it is to perform — it really drains me out. In the studio I said to the guys, "OK, just leave it running and just let me do the thing." I finished it and I said, "Just leave it the way it is." I'm really, really proud of that effort.

BONUS: Asphyx "Deathhammer" (Deathhammer, 2012)

MARTIN VAN DRUNEN It was just for the fun of it — it came out of nowhere, I think. When we play together, we do have a lot of fun. I'm with the guys and I'm singing and we're all drinking a couple of beers and enjoying ourselves. I think I was just standing there going "rock & roll!"