About Me

Interview with FireForce

It is not every day that you can talk to a band that invented their own genre: Combat Metal! We spoke with Erwin Suetens, the guitarist and founder of Belgium’s FireForce, who explained exactly what this type of music is and where he gets inspiration for it.

In the year that they celebrate a decade of existence, the band launches their 4th album, Rage of War, proving that European metal, with more classic influences, is alive and recommended.

M.I. - Hi! Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions!

No problem, you’re welcome! I have to thank you!

M.I. - First, congratulations on the new album! How has the reception been?

Until now, we had a very good reception. Most people definitely think that this is our best album up to date. I’m very glad it worked out because we have put a lot of efforts in it.

M.I. - What is the main theme of the album? What do you address here?

Like always, the main themes are historical, related to military events through the ages that played a major role in how our society evolves. Sometimes a small action of an “unimportant” person can have big consequences – and sometimes the outcome of a battle, or even a war can be changed.

M.I. - With all the social restrictions of the last year, how was the recording process?

Well, this time we did the instrumental recordings in Belgium, in Bob Briessinck's Breeze Inc. Studios. He's our sound engineer, and fortunately he was available. He did a tremendous job in producing that instrumental part. Vocal coaching is something different though, and that's why we went to Germany again, to record the vocals in the Prophecy and Music Factory studios where we recorded all our former albums. Lia, who is a very good friend of mine, knows how to coach a singer like no other. After all, it was the first time Matt recorded vocals for a real metal band, so we decided it would be the best choice. And because Matt was eager to learn, and was open to changes, it became a success! The final mix was done by Henrik Udd in Sweden, who is famous for his work with “Hammerfall”, “Powerwolf”, “At The Gates” and “Firewind”, among others.

The day we left the studio in Germany, in March 2020, after recording the vocals, was the same day that Belgium and France started their first lockdowns. We were just in time back in our countries. In between the two lockdowns, we recorded our videos for the album, and the extra songs. When this was done, the second lockdown kicked in. We were lucky at that moment that we took decisions quickly. The biggest trouble we're in now, is the fact that it is forbidden to play shows. So when this pandemic is over, playing shows is the first thing we want to do…

M.I. - This album marks 10 years since your debut album (although you have the 2009 EP). How has this trip been?

A bumpy one. A lot of lineup changes happened through the years. Some people stayed a short while, others a long one. Changing jobs, health, only being in the band for ego, their wives ask more attention,etc… were all factors why people left. But, in the end, I’m glad that I mostly still have friends for life through this experience.
We played a lot of shows, big and small ones, did some tours, did always our best to give a show that people won’t forget. We played great support slots, headline shows and made some great videos.
We changed record company three times. When the goals are not the same, you have to part ways. And find something better. 
So yes, this trip has been a hard one until now.

M.I. - What are the big differences between the first album and Rage Of War? In what aspects do you think you have evolved the most?

To be honest, I didn't “try” to “evolve” at all. I just wrote like I always did. So I think there is a natural “evolving” process, because everybody says that there's a difference, (laughts)!

For the new album, I think it's the combination of recording the instruments in a different studio, Matt as a fantastic new singer, and Serge and Christophe who also gave their very best. Everyone is a piece of the puzzle that makes Fireforce.

The songs on “March On” were adapted instrumentally a lot in the studio, mainly under the influence of Lia, our producer. The same can be said from “Deathbringer”. The “Annihilate The Evil” album was more ready when we entered the studio so less changes were done. And for “Rage Of War” no changes were done at all by Lia.
The only thing that stayed the same on all 4 albums was the vocal coaching by Lia. With one big difference: the first three albums needed almost 14 days to get the vocals done, Matt only needed six. Because Matt was eager to learn, and was open to changes, and did a great job in adapting his stuff, it became a success!

M.I. - You call your style “Combat Metal”. What exactly is this?

Combat metal… It’s a combination of Thrash and Power Metal with historical and war related themes. In the beginning we didn’t call it that way. It was only after a magazine wrote about our “March On” album: “If there ever will be a genre that would be called Combat Metal, Fireforce would lead the way!”, that I had the idea to write a song “Combat Metal”, and from that moment on our genre was created, (laughts)!

M.I. - Where does this interest in battles and war in general come from?

Well, I’m a history nerd. Behind every corner I find something historically interesting. As a young kid, my late father always took me with him to all kind of museums, and he had a whole library with hundreds of books about history. You could find me over there all the time. If we don't learn from history, the same mistakes will be made over and over again. I think stories from individuals who single-handedly changed history are very interesting. Sometimes their great deeds changed the outcome of a battle, while others did something stupid and were forgotten. Stories like that intrigue me. Then there is the ruthlessness and cruelty of how some leaders treat their people... A lot of people around the world today are still having to put up with tyranny.
Now, everywhere I go, even with the band, I always look up if there’s something interesting to see in the neighborhood of our trip or the cities we’re passing by. Might it be a fortress, some bunkers, a museum or an ancient battlefield. Sometimes I feel like General Patton staring over ancient battlefields, (laughts)!
For example the song “108-118”, it's about the Kursk. 108 meters deep, 118 lives lost. It could have been less if the Soviets had allowed help from other countries, but they didn't... Or “A Price To Pay” - it refers to a tweet from a person (POTUS) we all know, in response to a so called chemical attack... The people guilty have to pay a price for that, and later *they* will be saying "they'll pay a price for that"... and so on... This way it will never stop. There will always be a price to pay for someone...

“Running” is about Zulu warriors that could run very long distances, and still have enough energy left to charge their enemies when they arrive. Incredible... If you're curious about the other songs: read the lyrics on the albums! (laughts)!

And no, not all my songs are about war and battle. On the first album “March On” was a song about child abuse; “The Only Way”. But even then it is about fear, cruelty and rage. That's also a kind of war...

M.I. - In the various songs, there are several historical details that are very little known. Where do you get these references? How do you discover them?

I write lyrics about the things that “trigger” me. Is it in the middle ages, the world wars, the modern times. It might be a small item, or a big battle. If something gets my attention, by watching things in a museum, reading a book or magazine, watching documentaries or movies, I will look stuff up to be fully informed and to write the right things. Sometimes only one sentence is enough.

For example, when I watched the movie “The railway Man”, I never had the intention to sit down, get some inspiration and write a song about it. But when I heard one of the characters say “We’re just an army of ghosts”, I had immediately the song in my mind… The right trigger on the right moment and BANG!

M.I. - When touching on these themes, and in a sensitive and extreme time, such as the one we are living in, are you not afraid of, on the one hand, being accused of promoting violence and, on the other hand, relativizing important events?

No, because I always look from a neutral point of view. I search for the story, not a political position. And I don’t promote violence, on the contrary, I describe the horror, the suffering… as a warning…

M.I. - You clearly have influences from NWOBHM and other bands like Accept or Running Wild... Have you ever had the opportunity to share the stage with any of your idols?

Well, yes, we played the PPM fest in Mons twice, in 2013 and 2014, there were a lot of those bands over there. We also shared stages with a lot of my idols’ bands who are great friends now. For example, “Tygers Of Pan tang”, “Savage”,…

M.I. - It is also the 1st full-length with Matt. What did he bring new to the band? 

For starters, Matt knows what he's singing about, as he's also interested in history. This makes him sing the songs with the “feeling” they need. You really hear he believes that which he is singing. He has a warm voice – you can really feel the “pain”, the “fear”, the “rage”. He's a great musician! And so he fills the gap in what I believe was always the weakest link in the band. Feeling…

M.I. - Changing vocals is something that can be critical and bring a totally different sound to the music, just because that is the point with which fans most identify. How was the selection process? Was it hard?

When Søren and Rooky (Marcus Forstbauer) joined the band in 2018, it was a giant leap forward, and that's why we recorded the “The Iron Brigade” EP. However, when Søren changed jobs, he couldn't find the time to travel abroad for shows anymore. I respect that. He was there when we needed him, and that's why he deserves my eternal gratitude. The same goes for Rooky. After a change of job, things got a lot harder for him to come over. He also is professionally and contractually involved in other projects, so the lack of time was also an issue. He wasn't available, but we both knew Matt as a guitar player, and that's how Matt became involved. After a while, we realized that Matt was also a great singer. We gave it a try, and the rest is history!

M.I. - Christophe returned, after being absent on the last album. Do you already have a full-time drummer? This was a problem you guys had.

It’s a problem that happens all the time, not only with drummers, (laughts). But he came back and is a permanent member again…

M.I. - This is also the 1st album with Rock Of Angels. Why did you change labels?

As I said before, as soon as there is a problem and the cooperation is not fruitful anymore, it's time to explore new shores and conquer new isles...

M.I. - How is it to release an album right now, knowing that there won't be concerts anytime soon? Did you consider postponing the release? What is the promotion strategy?

My deepest wish is that “Rage Of War” would not go under in this Covid-19 madness... When can we support this “live”? I don't have a clue... But indeed, we want to show the world that Fireforce is alive and kicking, that all puzzle parts fell together, and that there are 4 dedicated musicians on stage – metal all the way! So that’s why we are more active on social media now, to keep people focused on the band.

M.I. - It is still early but… Do you already have the next album in mind?

(Laughts) yes, we’re already writing, though slowly, on new songs. We still have time…

M.I. - Do you still have full-time jobs? What do you do besides music?

We all have regular full-time jobs. It’s impossible to live from music alone, and not only in Corona times. I’m a shift supervisor in a big chemical company, Serge works in a printing company, Christophe is an employee in a medicine factory, and Matt is a youth counsellor for young people who will work in the automobile sector.

M.I. - Almost finishing… Any last words for our readers?

For starters, thanks for having me, thanks for the support for “Fireforce. 
And then, when you have a dream, don’t ever let somebody try to take that dream away from you! Stay safe, stay metal!

For Portuguese version, click here

Questions by Ivan Santos