Being in a hardcore band for 25 years can make it pretty darn tough when …
Dirk Verbeuren has warmed the drum stool for an extraordinary amount of bands. Look him up and you will find a list of credits long enough to take up most of this article.
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Perhaps best known to most for his 14 year tenure with Soilwork and his current residency with thrash legends Megadeth, since 2014 Verbeuren has been working with Anders Odden in the slow resurrection of Norwegian death metal pioneers Cadaver.
“Cadaver’s always been special to me because growing up, when Hallucinating Anxiety, the debut album, came out, it really hit me,” he says from his home in Los Angeles. “I was following a lot of the stuff that was going on back then, and obviously this was pre-internet and there was a lot of tape-trading and stuff. My friend bought the original tape of that album and when we played it, we were like, ‘Man! What is this?’ It was a completely different sounding thing. So to be here all these years later, working with Anders on new music is really fun. It’s a real blessing, man.”
The band’s first album since 2004 finally brought master and student together in the studio after they met when Verbeuren was standing in for Kjetil-Vidar “Frost” Haraldstad during a Satyricon tour six years ago. When the drummer mentioned the influence Cadaver had on him to Odden, who has been Satyricon’s bassist since 2013, the conversation led to Verbeuren being invited to check out some ideas that had “been left lying around”.
“We knew from the get-go that it wouldn’t be a priority for either of us because we have our main bands, and different schedules but it eventually got to the point where he came over here to Los Angeles where I live and we recorded the album. It’s just been a great experience because Anders and I just have a very natural connection when it comes to how the songs are laid out or how each of us plays and what works and what doesn’t. We just seemed to agree 99% of the time, so it made it really easy and fun. No pressure, just play music and have a blast.”
A blast is an apt description for Edder & Bile, just over thirty minutes of extreme old school metal that teeters on the brink of complete chaos. The duo stayed true to the band’s roots when it came to the recording process, limiting their use of modern studio tricks and overdubs to virtually zero.
“I think Anders’ approach to songwriting and riffs is unique, and it always has been,” the drummer says. “So we really wanted to capture that, to record this album the way it would have been done back then. With modern equipment, and so that it didn’t sound outdated, but avoiding the pitfalls of gridlocking the drums to Pro Tools, or Autotuning, or things like that. It was literally the two of us in a room together, jammed through the songs, without a click track for most of them, until we just had a good take. That was kind of how I experienced Cadaver as a teenager, and I wanted to preserve that vibe that comes with that.”
If there’s too many mistakes we might have to stop and start again, but at the same time you get a living, breathing organism of a song versus something that has been charted out and then produced to death. With this kind of music, it tends to suck the life out of it and you kind of lose the point as to why it exists in the first place.
[ Dirk Verbeuren ]
Drumming with Cadaver allowed Verbeuren to adopt a very “raw, primal approach,” he says. It’s a method he prefers, even if some of his other bands don’t allow him to be quite so loose.
“What I tried to do was to get under the skin of the song, or in this case, the album, and chart out a path mentally that I think makes sense. I do that literally based on how it feels. It’s not an intellectual process where I think I should use this beat there or that beat there. It comes to me naturally. I purposely didn’t prepare a lot for it before we went into the studio.”
Verbeuren believes that kind of casual attitude can often be key to creativity: “I think a lot of magic comes from allowing spontaneity and being confident that everything may not be perfect and we may have to redo some stuff. If there’s too many mistakes we might have to stop and start again, but at the same time you get a living, breathing organism of a song versus something that has been charted out and then produced to death. With this kind of music, it tends to suck the life out of it and you kind of lose the point as to why it exists in the first place.”
Edder and Bile reminds us all why this type of music came to be. It’s origins are completely primal and organic, a furious release of energy that panders to no trends or rules but those of itself. Even the idea of perfection can be redefined
“Perfection is a very overrated thing,” Verbeuren says. “The way every player plays is unique, and it’s unique because of the little flaws. One person may play the same drum beat or the same guitar riff, but it’s going to come out a different way because of the way they present it, and some of that gets lost in this strive for technical perfection. Perfection can also be just nailing the perfect take together where both Anders and myself feel that’s how the song should sound. The intention is there, the energy is there – those are the key words for me. What are we trying to express? What energy is coming out of the room right now?”
A casual listener might be challenged to find any of Cadaver’s mistakes as they rip through their songs, but Verbeuren admits they are there, and he isn’t phased by that at all. “I like it when this kind of music sounds like it’s almost falling apart, like it will barely make it to the finish line,” he says with a grin. It’s an attitude that has come from his long experience, lessons that have allowed him to jump behind the kit with any band at short notice, from three shows with At the Gates to a full US tour with Satyricon and a permanent gig with Megadeth.
“Experience is the best teacher. I used to not be that confident when I went outside of my comfort zone. I would be confident with things that I had prepared and figured out, but the thing is, that’s not the way life works, as I quickly found out when you do more and more drumming.”
A career highlight for him was his fill-in spot for At the Gates late last year—when Adrian Erlandsson missed three shows due to a visa issue—after learning the set in 48 hours. Nailing that type of gig show after such pressure-cooker preparation was proof of his skills and his adaptability, and why he’s been hand-picked by everyone from Testament and Megadeth to Devin Townsend and Warrel Dane (RIP) among others to contribute to more than 40 albums and dozens of touring slots.
“You learn your way around obstacles and certain techniques to help you out of certain situations. That’s the biggest take away from this, having the joy of being asked by people to help them. [With] At the Gates, Tomas [Lindberg] told me that they were the first shows they ever did without Adrian on drums, and I get to be the guy, of all people they could have asked! It was such an honour for me, and I don’t take it for granted that these kind of things happen. There’s no better way to learn than trial by fire. Those are the sort of situations where you really have to nail it. I don’t want to go on stage with any band – especially a band that I love and respect – and not do a great job, but that’s why experience is such a great teacher.”