Sander Gommans

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“You know all is not well when Hell resorts to outsourcing to close deals made with the Devil. Or in this case, a guy named Stan.”

That’s the tagline for my new would-be book, a work of fiction entitled GRIM – My Way To Hell. I launched a 30 day Kickstarter campaign a little over two weeks ago in an attempt to raise pre-order funds to finance its publication. If all goes well, the book will be released in October 2016.

Some people might remember, however, that I condemned the idea of crowdfunding in my BraveWords year-end write up back in 2014, which makes me something of a hypocrite. Funny how things come back to bite you in the ass when you least expect it. The problem is I’ve had this book burning a hole in my brain for the last few years, and real life being what it is, saving the funds needed to publish a book independently with a limited income is next to impossible. So, I’ve had to swallow my pride. We’re going to see what happens with this, and if the campaign fails I’ll have to go back and do things the hard way.

Cover art for the book was created by former BW&BK graphic artist Hugues Laflamme, while the video trailer above features music composed exclusively for the project by After Forever guitarist / death vocalist Sander Gommans. The voiceover was provided by Trillium / Avantasia vocalist Amanda Somerville. It was shot and edited by video director Andreas Spitz. Continue Reading

Grim

So yeah, I’ve been all about trying to publish this book independently for the last few years and it has been a very slow process. The writing itself wasn’t an issue, although I discovered some fantastically awful grammatical errors when I went back to look at the manuscript some six months after the fact. I dragged my feet putting together a Kickstarter campaign to finance the book, as I have publicly denounced crowdfunding in the past, but realized that it’s the only way I’m ever going to (hopefully) secure the funds to publish. Back in January I foolishly announced March 15th as the Kickstarter launch even though I didn’t have all the pieces to the puzzle assembled. My pride took a beating when those plans fell through and I’m still eating my words.

It was plan from the very beginning to have a video trailer to advertise the Kickstarter campaign. One thing the music biz has taught me is Promote Or Die, and video is seemingly the best way to go in this day and age. Finding someone to do the work proved to be a problem, however, as the one soul who promised big and brash and bold things took a powder when he realized I wasn’t kidding about going through with it. Either that or the music composed by Sander Gommans (After Forever, HDK) scared the bejeezus out of him and sent him running with his award-winning tail between his legs. Trying to find someone else to do the job took a few months of hair pulling, one profanity-laced rant on Facebook, and a phone call from Rock & Royalty photo god Heiko Roith who introduced me to a colleague we’ll call Spitz for the time being. Continue Reading

This story was originally published on this site back in April 2014, heralding the arrival of HDK’s new album Serenades Of The Netherworld. Or rather, the first taste of the record in the form of two singles to get people talking, which they did. Here’s the updated version of the story to coincide with the full album’s September 1st release.

By Carl Begai

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It’s been five years since former After Forever guitarist Sander Gommans broke his self-imposed hiatus from the music business with HDK, a slavering beast of a project that flew in the face of his former band’s symphonic goth metal sound. The debut album, System Overload, was a full-on metal assault that presented both Gommans and vocalist/co-conspirator Amanda Somerville (Trillium, Avantasia) entering unexplored territory, showing off a very different and altogether volatile side of their musical personalities. A second HDK album was always in the cards; it was just a question of when the pair would get around to writing and recording it in amongst other projects that were on the go, which included the launch of Gommans’ studio/music school The Rock Station, working on albums from Trillium and Kiske / Somerville, and tours with Trillium, Avantasia and Rock Meets Classic. Serenades Of The Netherworld has finally surfaced – creeping into the light slowly but surely – as a bigger and more melodic take on System Overload. It’s certainly more dynamic and less bent on bludgeoning the listener into submission, but not at the expense of healthy sonic violence.

Amanda: “That wasn’t because of me. That was definitely Sander’s fault (laughs).”

Sander: “The thing is, with the first album I wanted to do something really different from After Forever. I’d wanted to do it for years and years, and that’s what came out. Since then I’ve had time to work with other artists and re-think some stuff. I wanted to write a new HDK album that was similar to the previous one but it came out much more symphonic and way more melodic. I didn’t have to distance myself from After Forever anymore, and I was ready to write stuff that was more melodic anyway like I did for Trillium and Kiske / Somerville. And I worked with keyboard players this time, so that gave the music a different feel as well. The new HDK is still heavy but it’s different from the first album..”

Amanda: “On the first album Sander was saying ‘There aren’t going to be any keyboards on the album because After Forever is full of frickin’ keyboards…’ (laughs). I think that has a lot to do with how the new HDK album turned out.” Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

During a recent interview for the as-yet-untitled follow-up to his HDK album from 2009, System Overload, former After Forever guitarist Sander Gommans discussed his involvement on the new metal solo album from singer/songwriter and Avantasia / HDK vocalist Amanda Somerville. Gommans enjoys being his own boss, but he freely admits the creative process for the Trillium debut, Alloy, made him realize that even the master of the universe has to take the back seat once in a while.

“In the beginning it was hard for me because normally you wrote something for somebody and let it go, but since Amanda and I are partners, I didn’t let it go that easily. I wanted to make the best out of it, and I wanted Amanda to make the best choices. I helped her out with some of the administrative stuff and I wrote a few songs, but it was really Amanda’s project and I had to get used to her big involvement. Not so much in the writing of my songs, but in the vocal arrangements and lyrics. She had a really good idea of how the album should sound and what she wanted, and I kept telling her ‘It’s not metal enough… it needs to be more metal.’ And she would tell me, ‘This is my project, I want to have it exactly the way I want to have it…’ (laughs).”

“She made the choices in the creative aspects of the album, and now that it’s out, it’s about surprising to me how cool it is. It offers so much more than the average metal band, and it has so much more to it that you can really see what a talented person Amanda is when it comes to having her own vision. In my arrogance, I found out that I should stop being arrogant and shut up sometimes (laughs).” Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

Back in July, vocalist Amanda Somerville spilled the beans on her first official metal solo project, Trillium (interview available here). With the release of the debut album, Alloy, only weeks away she shot a video for the song ‘Coward’, and we got together the following morning over tea to delve a little deeper into the new album.

It’s safe to say Somerville efforts will surprise a lot of fans – in a good way – and earn her some new ones along the way as Trillium plays out. And while it’s a no-nonsense metal album, anyone that’s followed Somerville’s decade-long non-metal career will wonder if some of the songs were consciously tweaked from a singer / songwriter / acoustic state to the tough-as-nails tracks we’re hearing now. Take away the distortion and the tracks in question would easily fit on her 2009 solo album, Windows.

“It was very conscious, actually,” Somerville reveals. “Songs like ‘Path Of Least Resistance’, ‘Purge’ and ‘Mistaken’ were pretty dark, and I’d planned to put them on my next solo album, which was going to be darker and heavier than anything I’d done before anyway. I had all this material that was building up, and since I’m a piano player and not a guitar player, it was clear to me I’d have to work with someone who played guitar as their main instrument like Sascha (Paeth / producer) or Sander (Gommans / HDK) so they could metal it up. That was the idea from the start, and the way things progressed led to those songs being on this album.”

“The songs that I wrote with Sander – and he’s a prolific songwriter, cranking them out like crazy – we already them had in mind for this project. Sander was totally into it, and every time he sits down with his guitar a song comes out of it. The way we typically work, he writes the instrumental parts and then I come in and suggest whatever changes I think should be made. Then I take the song and write a vocal line and lyrics to it. Sander likes a good challenge as well, though, and when he heard the piano / vocal demo I had for ‘Machine Gun’ he asked if he could work on it. He came up with the big main riff, which really supplements the running theme through the whole song.” Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

There was a time when Amanda Somerville’s name was merely another footnote in the metal biz. Her career as a solo artist had legs as of 2000, but in the world of greasy long-haired distortion and debauchery Somerville was a behind-the-scenes helper, credit given where it was due on a guest artist roster or in a thank you list. In 2003 she took the daring plunge into a realm that was still something of a mystery to her, creating the Aina – Days Of Rising Doom metal opera with her Gate Studios colleagues, finally putting a voice and face to her name. Since then, Somerville has become a popular member of the metal world, garnering a fanbase that follows and her work even if it may not always float their respective hull-of-steel boats. Now, after years of offering her voice and knowledge to acts like Epica, Avantasia, HDK and Kiske/Somerville, “the blonde chick” has stepped into a spotlight of her own making.

And it’s very, very metal.

“I’ve been throwing around the idea of doing this over the last few years,” she reveals. “It really kind of tipped the scales doing HDK. There’s a saying in German, ‘I licked blood,’ which is disgusting but appropriate I guess, since there’s a song about vampires on the album (laughs). I’ve always done my own thing. People know me mainly from collaborations I’ve done with and for other bands, but I started out as a solo artist and I stayed one throughout. Having done all of this stuff in the metal scene for more than a decade now, it’s only natural that it rubbed off on me. I like it, and the songs that I’ve written in the last several years have been very dark and gotten heavier. Basically, I was just going to make my next solo album more metal, but then I decided I’d prefer to keep the waters a little cleaner in terms of doing a metal project. It’s a little weird if I say I’m going to do a metal album and then throw in a jazz ballad (laughs). I don’t want to compromise, and I’ve got so much material now that I might as well do a total metal album and keep my solo stuff completely separate. That way I can do what I want and not have to apologize to anybody.”

Sounds suspiciously like a typical day at the office for former Strapping Young Lad mad scientist Devin Townsend, another prolific singer / songwriter / musician prone to switching musical gears and doing so effortlessly. Somerville is in good company.

“Yeah, like that. It’s me, Devin and Garth Brooks doing his Chris Gaines thing (laughs). It’s us funky musicians and our split personalities.” Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

Normally I shy away from doing live / event reviews simply because I suck at them. Kind of ironic given that’s how I got my start in this business. Fact is I find it almost impossible to express how good I think a show was in print without boring myself to tears. You can only use and re-word the terms “kick ass” and “awesome” so many times until you begin to sound like that idiot hack who shows up for two songs and a shot of Jack, then heads home to compose a glowing review before bed of what he didn’t see. Between bouts of World Of Warcraft and Spongebob.

Temple1watermarkAll that said, I was invited by singer Amanda Somerville to attend a video shoot for the song ‘If I Had A Wish’, taken from the forthcoming Kiske / Somerville album featuring herself and ex-Helloween vocalist Michael Kiske. Also on board for the shoot were bassist Mat Sinner (Primal Fear / Sinner), guitarist Sander Gommans (ex-After Forever / HDK) and drummer Rami Ali. Amanda and I have known each other a long time (yes, I namedropped; sue me ;-)) and Mat has been a long time friend and supporter of BW&BK, so I was more than happy to come down and play a game of hurry-up-and-wait with them.

Besides, it was a good excuse to see if Sander was the metalhead he claims to be. I wasn’t disappointed; the ‘Painkiller’ footage was priceless (a story for another day).

In the meantime, a new video report from Amanda is available here. Below are a few highlights from the experience Continue Reading

hdk22By Carl Begai

Suffering from what has been documented as “stress-related burnout”, After Forever guitarist/co-founder Sander Gommans’ condition put the band on forced hiatus for the duration of 2008. The downtime gave the band members an opportunity to explore other musical ventures, and for Gommans it meant taking a serious stab at bringing his long-fermenting side-project HDK to life. Initially meant as a lighthearted showcase of his heavier side – the Hate Death Kill moniker is an intentional metal cliché – he decided prior to the break that the material was strong enough to be taken far more seriously. Calling on pop rock / temporary Epica vocalist Amanda Somerville, who had collaborated with After Forever several times in the studio, for her assistance, the pair settled in to create what is by far the most brutal piece of work in their respective catalogues. Sadly, the release of the HDK debut, System Overload, was punctuated by the announcement that After Forever had decided to call it quits. Rather than look back Gommans has chosen to push forward by starting a new chapter in his musical career; one that starts on an unexpectedly brutal note.
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