Formed in 2005 with all members hailing from the city of Antwerp, Belgium, the band is named after a Corrosion of Conformity song and lead by notorious stand-up comedian and singer Alex Agnew. Consisting of Agnew (vocals), Andries Beckers (guitar), Tim Bekaert (bass), Dave Hubrechts (guitar), and Kris Martens (drums), this eclectic five-piece quickly started turning heads and playing shows to appreciative crowds all over Belgium and the Netherlands. The band’s third album, Follow The Deadlights, is planned for release on January 23, 2015 via Nuclear Blast.
After two successful full-length albums and numerous performances all over Europe, Diablo Blvd recorded their upcoming album in collaboration with American duo Jay Ruston (mix) and Paul Logus (mastering) who have previously been behind the sound of Anthrax, Meatloaf and Steel Panther.
“We definitely have grown as a band since then,” said Beckers, in response to how the new album will compare to the band’s previous ones. “Our first record, like with a lot of other bands, was kind of a collection of everything we had written so far. The first two records only came out in Belgium and Holland. But the first one, The Greater God, was definitely more of a rock album, and it did really well in Belgium. But while we were playing, we kind of became heavier. The second record, Builders of Empires, was definitely more metal. It was mixed by Jens Bogren who did a lot of metal albums like Amon Amarth so it definitely sounded more metallic, especially in the guitars. Our upcoming album will be the first to get an international release and has a mix of both sounds. It’s definitely the album I like the most. We’ve definitely grown as songwriters and really just focused on getting better at writing songs. We’ve been a band that has focused on just writing good songs but you know it’s something you have to learn. It’s not an easy thing. I mean if it was easy, everybody would write songs. But the thing about this record that I’m kind of happy about has been our focus on getting it done outside of just Belgium.”
“Don’t get me wrong, I liked our first two albums,” added Beckers, in respect to the band’s previous albums. “They had a lot of great songs on them, as well! But I think this one is definitely more consistent and, you know, when we first started writing for this album we knew it would be the first time we would all have some time to tour as a band. Before, we had all had different bands and different careers and so it was always a logistics thing. We really had to step up a little bit, especially sound-wise. We wanted a bigger sound and more focus on chords and we really just wanted as big of a sound as possible. Usually we wrote music and then Alex and I would get together to put the vocals on it… but this time I just started with a vocal melody. I think that definitely made a huge difference in our sound, as well.”
When asked how a title was chosen for the new album, Beckers said, “We chose the album title from our song Follow the Deadlights. It’s a song that stands out. Like a lot of our songs, it deals with reality. Most of Alex’s lyrics deal with that. It basically relates to things that you want so much that they usually destroy you in the end.” For those interested in delving further into Diablo Blvd’s new album, Nuclear Blast Records recently posted the music videos for Follow the Deadlights and Son of Cain on YouTube.
According to Beckers, he and the other members of Diablo Blvd became friends before coming together as a band. Each from the same city, the five bandmates share many of the same musical influences. “The five of us all have different backgrounds but there are, of course a couple of bands that we all agree on. We’re all big fans of Metallica. We love all of their albums, especially the first four—they’re instant classics. The Black Album causes a lot of debate but I think it might be the best album of all time that combines heavy rock and metal. We love Danzig, as well. The Cult and Black Sabbath, too, of course. I mean I grew up with them and learned how to play through them. And, if you ask me, Tony Iommi kind of shaped everything, especially in making songs that are compact.”
Each of these influences came together to help create Diablo Blvd’s powerful, and occasionally brooding sound, according to Beckers. “It’s kind of hard to label your own band yourself but I think we’re kind of a mix of heavy rock and metal– kind of a hybrid. We have songs that tend to be metal, but we we’ve also always had that ‘rocky’ thing too,” Beckers laughed. “Nuclear Blast calls us groove rock and that was the first time I’d heard us described like that. But the first time I read that I was like ‘okay, I could see that.’ So I’d agree with that too.”
Among the bands’ countless successes over the years, Diablo Blvd also did some touring with American metal band Machine Head in November. “That was really cool! In all honesty, I think that was our first real European tour. I mean, we did do a lot of shows in Belgium and Holland but that was our first real tour. We were really excited to get to do a tour with Machine Head. I mean, they’re huge in Europe so it was a great tour,” Beckers recalled. “They ended up being really nice to us and it was great! We played at a lot of big venues and the shows were great. Then, after we did that, we did a couple of dates with Life of Agony, which is also one of our favorite bands. It was like three weeks of touring with the bands we grew up with so that was just great!”
“All of the shows were great, but I remember there was this venue we played at in Munich, Germany called the Kesselhaus and it’s like an old industrial building. They really renovated it and it looked so cool! It’s almost like steam punk… kinda like you’re in 1930 but in a science fiction kind of way. It was so loud, too. There were like two and a half thousand people. It was one of the better venues we played at and we had such a great response that I was like ‘Wow! I love doing this,’” Beckers recalled.
Around the same time of the release of their new album, the band will also hit the road with DragonForce and symphonic metal band, Epica, at the start of the New Year. “We’ll be doing a couple of shows in Belgium and then we’re heading towards festival season and we’re gonna do a small headline tour towards the end of the year. Hopefully we can do a little bit of a U.S. thing in between because we played in the U.S. a couple of months ago when Life of Agony asked us to play their show in New Jersey, and we’d love to come back. That’s where it all began or, at least, we’re definitely influenced by so many U.S. bands, so we’d love to come over there and we’d love to play our music for all you Americans when we can! The plan is to be very busy throughout 2015.”
One might wonder what kind of New Years’ resolutions a rapidly amplifying band from Belgium might set for themselves. To this curiosity, Beckers responded, “Of course we set our goals in 2014… we wanted to release a record and we first released it in Belgium and Holland in May already and that did really well. We have goals for the whole country and we wanted to achieve them and make sure we had a record deal and that worked out also. When you’re in a band, you try and set goals every year or whenever you reach a level you’re always looking to the next level. So we’re going through all the motions for it. At the end of the day you just wanna play everywhere and see how far you can get with your band. We love playing and we’re all good friends so it’s all just one big adventure! So let’s hope we can continue doing what we’re doing now.”
With as much success as Diablo Blvd has found in the year 2014, it’s pretty likely the band will see just as much of it in the New Year. Rock/metal fans have a lot to look forward to in 2015 for Diablo Blvd, as well. Between the international release of Follow the Deadlights in January and an ongoing list of shows, there will be plenty of ways to familiarize yourself with this established and well-deserving band before they make their way back to the U.S.