Singer Guido Gevels about Cyclone’s first album Brutal Destruction
The Belgian Heavy Metal scene back in the 80’s wasn’t as big as the English, German or Swedish one. The Belgian bands neither became successful, nor left their mark on the scene, but they managed to produce some cult records, for example Acid, Ostrogoth, Killer or Crossfire. One of the best bands coming from Belgium was undoubtedly Cyclone, who released an excellent Thrash Metal album in 1986, titled Brutal Destruction. Former singer Guido Gevels shared his thoughts with us about that legendary record.
Guido, Cyclone began as Centurion in 1980; what can you tell us about this outfit? What was the line-up, the musical style that you opted for etc.?
Yeah, the end of 1980, I was friends with Pascal Van Lint and Johnny Kerbusch and I knew both were jamming together in Johnny’s room so I came up with the idea of forming a band. We started out as a 5-piece but we immediately got rid of the drummer and bassplayer as they couldn’t keep up with us…. :-). We played Heavy Metal influenced by bands like Tygers of Pan Tang, Riot, Holocaust, etc.
Was it the first band for all of you that you were involved in?
Yep, for all of us.
Did you record any materials as Centurion?
We recorded some rehearsal stuff, but that’s it.
You changed your name to Cyclone soon after that. Does it mean that you were into that movement and it influenced you a lot? Did you start to entrench yourself in the underground scene at this point?
Yep, after a couple months I saw an ad in Sounds for a band Centurion so that’s where we decided to change the name. At that moment the N.W.O.B.H.M. was booming and we were hooking up on all those bands. So we took the name from the band Dervish featured on the Kent Rocks compilation, as that track was a total ripper. At that point we really started to get into the more heavier bands like Demon Pact, Deep Machine, Hollow Ground, Samurai (Roksnax compilation), etc. and our stuff was becoming faster and heavier, it had a serious impact on our playing. Especially the downpicking style on the guitars. I was also very active in the trading scene at that point (tapes, mags, pictures – anything I could find).
How about the Belgian scene as a whole? What were the first bands that were popping up from Belgium?
Killer, Crossfire, Ostrogoth, Acid, Buzzard….we didn’t have too much contact in those early days as we as a band hadn’t found the right line-up yet. As soon as we started to play live we got more involved with all those bands.
It seems that the line up became complete around 1983 with the addition of bassist Michel de Rijdt and drummer Nicolas Lairin. Why did it take two years to find the members?
Well there were other people in the meantime, but it never lasted, most of them didn’t like the faster stuff we were doing or simply couldn’t keep up with us. Although we had a very good drummer during the period ’82-’83, he was a guy we knew he lived in the same part of the city as we did but he ended up joining another band more Rush influenced as Rush was his favorite band at that point. We already had Michel De Rijdt in the band, he was a friend that lived across the street where Johnny lived as he was a guitar player. He at first didn’t want to join us as a bass player, but finally he picked up the bass and he was great. So when that drummer left we just decided to put up ads in metal bars and music stores and so we came in touch with Nicolas Lairin, he came to see us rehearse and joined right after.
Were they your first choices or did you take a lot of auditions to find the suitable, enthusiastic musicians? Did they also live in the same area as you?
Michel was for sure a guy we wanted for a while, he was a good friend and had the same taste in metal as we did. Nicolas we didn’t know at all, he was from Brussels and French speaking, all the other guys were from Vilvoorde and Dutch speaking.
Did you start writing originals or were you jamming mostly on covers?
We did both from the beginning. We did some covers (Am I Evil by Diamond Head, some stuff by the Tygers of Pan Tang and Holocaust, little later we also did Eye of the Storm by Sweet Savage), but also had some originals.
Three demos (Rehearsal – 1983, Demo ’84 – 1984, In the Grip of Evil – 1985) were recorded; would you exposit your thoughts regarding those materials?
We did record more demos and certainly more rehearsals.
What do you think, with that rehearsal tape were you looking for the musical style that you wanted to achieve with Cyclone?
Well, I don’t really know what’s on that 1983 rehearsal, if it is correctly a 1983 rehearsal or whatsoever.
At which point did you turn into a more brutal, faster and heavier direction?
By the end of 1982 we had a few songs (Hellslayer’s Vengeance, The Gravedigger), that were going in the right direction but halfway 1983 we wrote In the Grip of Evil and that was the first track of which we said, this is it. Also Incest Love followed a little later, this one inspired by an older track Cyclone Attack in fact.
Were all of the demos spread around the tapetrading/fanzine network? Did you try to make a name for the band with those recordings, to draw the fans’ attention to the band, etc.?
Well, we never had the intention of spreading what is now known as the 1984 demo as we didn’t like it at all. The demo was sponsored by a mag and done in a couple of hours in an 8 track studio. We were never able to captivate our sound so the demo does not reflect how it was at all. As we were not happy with the sound we decided we would record all old songs that day, instead of the more aggressive stuff.
You were part of this new metal approach that took place during the early 80’s with the tapetrading circuit, fanzines etc.. What caused this new metal movement at that time? What did that period mean to you?
I think it was the die hard fans that tried to get hold of stuff on their favorite bands, there was no internet so it was still writing to bands to get more information or music. So you responded to ads in magazines like Sounds, Kerrang, Aarschok, Metal Forces and so you got in touch with other die hards from all over the world, people that would do their own underground metal fanzines, etc. For me this was heaven, it opened up my metal world, the tapetrading gave access to a lot of unknown music and I consider it as being the best era in metal ever.
Is it correct that while Stefaan Daamen is listed as a bassist, Michel De Rijdt actually performed on the In the Grip of Evil demo? Did this tape really represent what Cyclone were about?
Michel played on the In the Grip of Evil demo. For us it was the first recording we were happy about, we were more intense live but the tape was ok.
Michel was replaced by Stefaan; what reasons did lead to this line up change? What about Stefan’s musical background?
Michel decided to get married and left the band so we asked Stefaan to join us. He was a very good friend and always in our company. He was with the band from the beginning, learned to play guitar by Johnny and Pascal and was our guitar roadie. He initially is a guitar player but was happy to pick up the bass when Michel left. We could’t have dreamed of a better replacement, Stefaan was the right guy.
Did the In the Grip of Evil demo establish Cyclone as one of the best Belgian metal bands with your unique style and landed the band a deal with Roadrunner Records?
It for sure shook up the Belgian scene, although we already had a reputation alone by our live performances, without any releases. We were playing crowds of 500-600 people. So when that demo came out it was something people had been waiting for. So it did spread like a rapid fire and so came the interest of the labels. We were first dealing with Aaargh Records from Germany but ended up signing with Roadrunner.
How big was the label when they signed you? Were you aware of the fact that their initial business was importing North-American metal bands’ recordings to Europe?
Well, at that point it was the biggest label signing these kinds of metal bands. We knew they were distributing stuff from Megaforce Records in Europe. In fact we first negotiated with Megaforce and so ended up with Roadrunner.
You appeared on the Metal Race compilation along with your compatriots Iron Grey, Explorer and Lightning Fire. Was it before or after the release of Brutal Destruction? Did this record help to expand your fanbase, by the way?
Before Brutal Destruction. I don’t know if it contributed. In fact Metal Race was a competition like battle of the bands. We at first didn’t want to take part, but it was sponsored by Roadrunner and at that moment they were already very interested in us, so our contact guy said to do it so we did. We did not know that when reaching into the final 4, they were going to record the final, which was a live set of 20 mins by each band. We said we didn’t like the idea of having 2 songs released on this compilation so we were disqualified and ended up being last in the final. Little while after when negotiating the deal with Roadrunner we had to agree on the release of this compilation.
When did you start working on your debut album? How did you work out the songs?
Can’t remember exactly when but I think it was January 1986. Songs always came spontaneous. Someone came up with the basic riff, usually during the jam sessions before really kicking into rehearsal, we always jammed about an hour at rehearsal before playing the setlist. Once we had a great riff we would constantly play it and so the songs grew. We never searched for riffs they just came out of the jam sessions.
Were you prepared to record the material when you entered the ICP’s Studios?
We had all the songs ready before going in the studio. We had been playing most of them for the last 2 years, only Take Thy Breath was a pretty new song.
What about the recording sessions?
We recorded drums, bass and rhythm guitar live in the studio and used it as trackguide, then each instrument part from the drums was recorded again. We did everything in 1 day, part from the lead guitar, that was the 2nd day in the morning. The same day we did the mixing. So basically building up on Friday evening, recording on Saturday and mixing on Sunday.
Did you get a decent budget to record the album?
We had a decent budget, can’t remember how much, I think we didn’t use it totally. Anyway we had to pay it back via our royalties.
Do you agree with the notion that the mid 80’s were the heydays of Thrash Metal and the most influential records of this style were done around those times?
I totally agree.
1986 was a particularly fertile and defining year for thrash with releases such as Reign in Blood, Darkness Descends, Doomsday for the Deceiver, Eternal Devastation or Pleasure to Kill, wasn’t it?
Indeed, I remember Darkness Descends and our album was reviewed at the same time in Kerrang, we even had a ¼ star more than Dark Angel. Dark Angel had 4 ½ stars and we 4 ¾ stars. Never knew it until I met Gene Hoglan and Eric Meyer. They told me. It was so funny, we were Dark Angel fans and they were Cyclone fans. So great, that’s the real spirit :-).
Do you consider Brutal Destruction as one of the best Thrash Metal albums written in Europe?
No, I don’t, but I think we could compete with the rest of the thrash bands in Europe at that time. We got good along with Destruction and Kreator also on friendship basis. I do think that our 2nd album Inferior to None is better than our 1st.
How do you explain that Fall Under His Command, In The Grip Of Evil and Incest Love have more of a melodic, Speed Metal oriented, early Metallica character to them?
We always tried to combine aggression and melody with a catchy chorus. It’s something we learned from the N.W.O.B.H.M. era bands. Now I don’t really hear the Metallica thing in those songs but it is for sure a compliment. Now Metallica is coming from the same school as we did, they were also very influenced by the same bands as we did.
Is the music on Brutal Destruction quite excellent thrash, complete with crushing riffs, pounding drums, and high-pitched, screaming vocals?
Hard for me to judge, but it had all those ingredients it needed for being great thrash of that era. Later on thrash moved into a more technical vibe, hence the difference between Brutal Destruction and Inferior to None.
Did you manage to capture your energy very effectively?
No. We were rookies regarding studio experience and the engineer and producer at the studio had never heard something like us, so we never at any moment during the recording came close to our live sound and aggression, which is a shame, with somebody behind the buttons, that new what he was doing. This album could have sounded a lot better.
Would you say, although the American and German Thrash Metal bands ruled the market/the scene, but Cyclone could be music-wise easily compared with them?
Without boasting I think we could easily compare and compete, we were a voracious live band. We did play with a lot of those bands (Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, Overkill, Agent Steel, Whiplash, Blessed Death, Sadus, Sepultura, Destruction, Kreator, etc.) and always received great criticism from them.
Did the album have all the potential a Thrash Metal band needed for taking the next step success-wise?
I think it did. We played good crowds, everywhere we played at that time the place was packed. Of course as said with a better production it would have been even better, but you don’t hear me complain. We were happy with the way things were going back then.
Can you tell us about the shows that were in support of the record? Did you do headliner gigs or were you mostly an opening act?
We did both headlining as support gigs. We mostly supported great other thrash bands like mentioned before. But we did headline a lot of smaller shows and festivals.
Did you open the doors for bands such as Warhead, Black Shepherd, Target, Death Squad etc. that came to the scene later on?
Warhead was on the scene before us. The other bands for sure took profit of what we had reached.
Your second album came out years after the debut; what happened? How did Inferior to None fare compared to its predecessor?
As Roadrunner kept on delaying the recording of our 2nd album due to releases by bands like Anthrax and Toxik we got into an argument with Roadrunner leading to the fact that our ways parted. Strangely enough other labels didn’t wanted to pick us up as they said if you were not happy at Roadrunner you won’t be happy here either, which led to some members throwing in the towel. New members were found, but every time when we were close to start working on a 2nd album someone would leave the band, so we lost some time there. Finally we signed up with Justice Records, we recorded the album but before it’s release the label went bankrupt. The finished CDs stayed at Sony Austria for a year as nobody could pay the bills. Finally another label took us over, paid Sony and finally the CD came out more than a year later.
We sold far less as it was a small label that took us over, they weren’t even a metal label so they hardly did anything for us regarding promotion, etc. Also the distribution was far less than the Roadrunner’s network. All those facts together weren’t in our favour, although the album received great reviews and we still managed to tour with Sadus in Europe.
Since 2019, Cyclone are active again; what do you plan for the coming years? In your opinion, is the band’s name still in the fans’ minds?
Actually we started in 2018, we rehearsed for 18 moths and did our 1st show in December 2019. We first want to play around, there’s a lot of interest, especially from abroad, we have great offers and will be playing some of the bigger festivals over here like Alcatraz and Keep it True along with smaller festivals throughout Europe and of course Belgium and Holland. We plan to re-release both albums in a re-mastered version and we would love to record some new stuff, but let’s first wait how things go. There was an unbelievable great response on the reunion thing, seems like people haven’t forgotten us plus the fact that with the Internet, YouTube etc. a lot of people have discovered the 2nd album or simply have discovered Cyclone (especially the youngsters).
Guido, thank you for your answers! What are your closing words for our readers?
Watch out for us old school thrash like you haven’t heard it in a long time. We’re gonna kick some serious ass!!!!!