More than enough reasons to ask Mike about three records which he considers to be important in shaping him as a huge admirer of music he is today. (Photo credit: Stefaan Temmerman)
We are big fans of Belgium’s underground independent record label Consouling Sounds over at team Echoes and Dust. Not only does this label release some of the best in experimental, drone and ambient music, label owners Mike Keirsbilck and Nele Buys are also leading figures in Belgium’s underground music scene. Not only do they put out a lot of releases, they also organise various gigs and events throughout the country, or are at least involved heavily. Through 9000 Records they have started a smaller sister label focusing on more local artists and through their Consouling Agency they give the opportunity to help small bands to put out their releases and helping them with promo and much more. A couple of years ago Mike completed his dreams when he opened the doors to the Consouling Store in the centre of Ghent, which is a great independent record store and it has grown into a place for musicians and artists to gather and meet over a good coffee and cake and some great music.
I was raised on classic rock. My father — being an old hard rocker — familiarised me with bands like Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and the likes, from cradle onward. Gradually I wanted to follow my own musical path, and with an upbringing like that, I was destined to dive in the deep. The first album I bought with my own pocket money was Morbid Angel’s Covenant. That must have been in the summer of ’93. I discovered other death metal bands like Deicide, but death metal couldn’t really scratch my itch. I liked the brutal, but I missed the definition in the sound and the tone. One year later, my world got turned upside down with the release of Mayhem’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. Their image had preceded their music, with features on church burnings and murder horror stories in the mainstream media. My best friend and I at the time were intrigued, to say the least. On a school trip to Bristol (I think it was), we ended up in a record store where they had a copy of the vinyl version and the CD version of the album. I was really hoping to score the CD, and my friend was fine with getting the vinyl version. It’s safe to say that in hindsight my friend got the longest end of the stick with his first pressing of De Mysteriis on vinyl, but either way it did send us on our way. The sound was just as brutal as death metal, but it was more defined and crisp sounding. This really ticked off all the boxes to my ears, and I got totally submerged in black metal. The Internet was still in its infancy, and was mostly only available in public places. So my friend and I both chipped in to buy us some time at the library where you could consult the Internet, and we started compiling everything we could about Mayhem and the upcoming Norwegian black metal scene. De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas was my gateway to extreme music, and it’s to this very day an album I spin regularly from a band I hold dearly.
By the time I became an adult, I kinda had it with metal music in general and black metal in particular. It all sounded the same to me. Or in any case, something like I had already heard before. It didn’t excite me anymore. A friend of mine told me he was deeply impressed with an album by some Canadians. They called it post-rock, and it sounded very differently than anything that came before it. I gave this Levez Vos Skinny Fists… a go, and I was equally very much deeply impressed. This sounded fresh and exciting, and its effect was just as brutal and devastating as the extreme metal music I came from — although it sounded of course completely different. This album made me turn away from metal music, and I fully explored the post-rock scene. Not long after that, I got to know Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky, A Silver Mt. Zion and all the lesser gods. Eventually Godspeed You! Black Emperor not only was the band that made me turn away from metal music, it was also the band that in fact reconnected me to metal when that same friend who introduced me to post-rock music urged me to listen to Isis. He said it sounded like GY!BE on heavy distortion. A bit sceptical at first, I gave the band’s Oceanic a go, and my musical path instantly took a different turn right then and there. Just like GY!BE, Isis truly knocked me right off my feet, and I never really got back up again.
After I got into Isis, I was desperately in search of more music in a similar vain. It didn’t take me that long to really discover Neurosis, and being swept off my feet again. But these were all American bands. I was wondering if there wasn’t something closer to home. The stuff I found in Europe did sound okay, but the Americans clearly played in another league. Until that day I first encountered Amenra. The first thing I heard was Mass II, and I felt the same feeling of excitement as with the Americans. Shortly after that, Mass III was released. I know I was waiting very impatiently for my pre-order to drop from Hypertension Records. When the album arrived, I stopped whatever I was doing, took my headphones, and claimed our stereo set. I pressed play, and I just stepped on a roller coaster. I couldn’t believe it. Not only was this a band very close to home (also Belgians), this piece of music was the goddamn best thing I had ever heard. Such a complete album! Heavy yet fragile; brutal yet delicate; huge yet very detailed… This album had it all. I must have listened to that album three times in a row before I could look up, let alone do anything else. Amenra has since then released a lot of incredibly awesome music, but I won’t forget the first time I heard Mass III. I got struck by lightning, and whenever I need to regenerate I put on that album. It still gets me. Time and time again.
These are just three albums, but they are three albums that had a lasting impact on me and that have truly shaped my musical path.