Interview with guitarist Joost Noyelle (AKA: Josh)
Interview by MetalGeorge
For many newer fans of the metalcore stylings of bands like
Killswitch Engage, Heaven Shall Burn, and Caliban, the name Congress
might not ring a bell. There was a time before it was cool for xHCx
bands to incorporate Slayer riffs and Heavy Metal imagery, however, and
Belgium's Congress were there spearheading the Edgemetal cause. Some of
us remember these days, and look back on LPs like "Blackened
Persistance" and "The Other Cheek" as classics of the
Metal/Hardcore crossover style popularized by what eventually became
known as the "H8000 Scene" (a term describing the area code
where a lot of the bands, like Congress, Liar, and Arkangel hail from).
Unfortunately, the band never seemed to get the recognition it deserved,
while band after band latched onto the sound that Congress pioneered in
the mid 90s. So what ever happened to Congress, you ask? They're still
alive and well, thank you very much, and have returned with a kick ass
LP entitled "Resurrection". I caught up with main axemaster
Josh to see how things were doing in the land of the perfect waffle..
What's up, man? I'm fucking stoked to finally be able to interview
you guys! I've been a huge fan since "Blackened Persistance",
and I think your newest record is the best one since then! Congrats!
What are your thoughts on it, and how have the reactions been so far?
We're also pretty proud of the new record, all minor flaws
ignored...Lots of people say it's the best since
"Blackened..." or "The Other Cheek", so I'm glad to
hear that! Reactions have been a mixed bag, mostly very positive, some
new kids think it's shit...too bad. I'm getting used to the stupid views
of those uptight nerds!
Congress are the forerunners of the H8000 Edgemetal sound that so
many bands embrace these days. How does it feel to have created
something that so many kids have latched on to? What do you feel makes
Congress special and stand out?
No idea, I just write the music I like best and like playing best.
What makes us stand out is the fact that we've never been
"big", or that we never followed any trend or compromised to
be "cool". We've been around for so long now, only the older
people into HC remember what we meant in the early days. Some
trendhoppers ignore us blindly and think Arkangel invented Edgemetal.
Too bad. We know where we come from, and what we still want to achieve
with the new record, or the band overall...
Of course, the band has been known to embrace a thrashing,
blackened death metal sound blended in with your brand of hardcore,
complete with tons of double bass (like in the killer track,
"Dogma") and guitar solos. Did you experience any resistance
to this idea at first when you were first coming up, and what made you
stick to your guns all these years?
Well, when we started out, emo and old school was still the thing to
do; so yes, we had some problems at first. To me, though, I never aimed
to please with my band, I just wanted to play what I liked to play or
listen to. I didn't care too much about bands like Youth of Today or
Gorilla Biscuits...although I grew up with them, I never wanted to sound
like any of those bands. I liked early NYHC, Clevo HC, and black/thrash/deathmetal,
and tried to combine these styled in Congress. All of a sudden, after
"Euridium" (the first 7 inch-mg), everyone played the metal
style, and we were "hot", but a lot of sincerity got lost in
the HC scene. Kids who didn't care about the ethics of HC just played
their Slayer-riffs, and thought they were about to make it, whereas the
old school kids hated the metalcore thing even more. Hard times for
unity...now it's still not improved that much, but now I can cope with
all this, and think that this is the way it'll always be. Unity is
utopia, image is everything, respect and tolerance are hard to find in
Speaking of "Dogma", you have Dwid from Integrity
screaming on this track, which only adds to it's intensity. How did you
come to work with him, and how did it go? How did you get in touch with
Well, Integrity toured for the "To Die For" record shortly
before we were about to hit the studio, and I asked Dwid at one of their
shows if he could do some guest vocals, which he was really into. I
think Dwid sung everything in 3 tries, he's a natural! He's done our
first videoclip now for "Fever Rising", and is living in
Kortrijjk, trying to make a living off of doing clips for bands.
What to you keeps things fresh for the band album after album?
Does the whole band contribute to the songwriting, and how do you
compare the "Resurrection" material to your past material? Is
there any significance to the title, do you see this album as a
"resurrection" of the band?
Well, the new record is lower tuned, because we wanted to sound
heavier than before. Also, the new songs are focused on groove and slow,
heavy, chunky riffs, rather than the speed/thrash riffs we used to make
songs of. I write mainly all the songs. Some adaptations were made for
the rhythms, so mainly it's me and Ill J who put the songs together. As
for the title: after our previous record, "Stake Through the
Heart", the band kinda fell apart, and for most people we were
history, although we still played out a lot. It was when we found our
current singer, "Tim", that we started writing songs again,
and got the chance to record a new album. So it's kinda like the
resurrection of Congress, if you like to put it that way.
Continuing on the topic of lyrical significance, you've been known
to have explanations after each song, but you've decided to forgo them
this record. Do you prefer for the listener to interpret them for
I used to add lyrical explanations with every song, but I don't feel
the need anymore. I'd rather see people trying to figure out themselves
what the songs are about, or [let them] use their imaginations. The new
lyrics are way more personal and not so in-your-face anymore, too.
Anyone can relate to them.
While definitely metallic, no one can deny that your core roots
have always been there. How important is keeping these roots strong to
you and the band? Have you had a lot of response to your music from
people like myself in the metal world? Has your fan base changed at all
from when you started, or do you think your fans have grown along with
I certainly think some of our fans have grown with us. I mean, when
we started, there wasn't much of a metalcore scene. Everything was
either metal or hardcore. I'm glad to hear that typical HC listeners
realized how great metal really is after they discovered our band, or
that metalheads start listening to HC when they see us live. That's a
great compliment, and a very big motivation. I don't like the scene to
be divided, but it's a matter of attitude rather than musical taste, in
my opinion. Metal has a different attitude than HC, definitely. That's
where the difference lies.
Is promoting the edge message to the metal world something
Congress might want to do? While not edge myself, I'm pretty close, and
I think a lot of metal kids would both benefit and be open to it. Hell,
almost half of my metal band happens to be edge! Perhaps a sign of the
Congress quit the SXE lifestyle/image after "The Other
Cheek". That was in 1996...We decided to focus on other aspects and
issues, because we saw the SXE movement crumbling because of all the
fake-ass wannabees bringing shitty music, wearing the cool SXE shirts,
promoting the vegan/SXE message without having a clue. These idiots
destroyed the SXE scene for me, and are now 'wiggers" or
teKKKnoheads. Don't get me wrong, SXE is a great lifestyle if you keep
it personal instead of being cooler than those who are not. I've seen
it's best sides and worst sides, and decided it's not for me anymore. I
have no other priorities right now...
On the opposing end of the argument, do you feel that being edge
is more of a personal thing? What do you feel the main differences are
between the core and metal scenes these days? Do you think there's more
unity these days, or do you feel more of a separation? Do you see
Congress as a band blurring the line between both?
Let's quit the arguing on SXE...maybe there's more unity than before
between metal and hardcore, because nowadays, if you purely listen to
the music, there's no difference anymore between these genres. It's all
about the attitude and image. Metalheads/bands want to get as big as
possible most of the time, HC bands tend to stick to their local scene
more, and are way more active if it comes to organizing shows/zines/labels,
I think. The DIY principle is more present than in metal in my eyes.
Congress is a metalcore band that tries to get the best of both scenes
and genres, but there never was a metal band that asked us to open for
them, so that's a shame, now isn't it?
The production and music is balls out heavy this time around,
really in your face and energetic, probably the best sounding Congress
record, in my opinion. It sounds meant to be played live, for sure. How
was the recording in Zulte with Kris?
Well, the recordings went great! From the moment I set a foot in the
studio, I was comfortable and self-secure. There was no stress or
pressure at all(at first...!). No, the way of recording was totally
different and new to us compared to previous recordings, and Kris also
tried to get the best of every musician all the time, which motivated us
even more. Let's put it this way: CCR is the new Congress recording
What's life in the H8000 like? It's funny how the Belgian scene
has blown up to Gothenburg like proportions with old schoolers like
yourselves, Liar, Family of Dog, Length of Time, and Arkangel, and the
new breed of Belgian metal like Aborted and In Quest. What's the secret?
Do all of you guys get along and gig together often? I've heard so many
stories about how hard H8000 shows can be, how crazy do the gigs get?
Yep, it happens that Aborted/Liar/Congress share stages together, but
not very often. It's only on festivals that we're on the same bill.
Sure, we get along pretty well. Why not? This is a small, but busy
country concerning heavy music, so we meet quite a lot. The H8000 scene,
or how you call it nowadays, is picking up fast lately with awesome new
bands like Rise and Fall, Morda, Severence, Retaliate, Core of Anger,
Forced Hate(ex Vitality), my sideband Kingpin...playing out quite a lot.
Yeah, the pit can get quite wild sometimes, but it's no emo we're
playing, you know? I'm glad to say that shows have over 200 attendants
again, with small club shows having 100-150 paying kids, and the release
party/bigger events getting over 500 people sometimes, but now I'm very
positive! Overall, I have a good feeling about the Belgian/West Flemish
scene. Superb new bands pop up every time, and the
motivation/inspiration lies high with old, as well as the new breed.
Are we ever gonna see you here in the States? I've been waiting
for what seems like forever! Who would you love to play with here, and
what have been some of your best gigs so far?
Well, we'd love to tour the US, but no one seems to ask us, so we
wait and see. With the great reviews/sales I got, I'm stoked to tour
over there, but I'm not the man to set up tours. If anyone is serious
enough to offer us a tour with great conditions, drop me a line!
You've been with Goodlife since Day 1. Would you say they've been
important to your success? How is your relationship with them been, and
do you ever see yourselves signing to anyone else?
Our success is very relative, mind; but our relationship has gone
strong with Goodlife since Day One. We grew with each other. Congress
helped Goodlife out as a label, and vice versa, I guess. It's nice to
visit the office, since it's only a 20 minute drive for us, and we have
good control over our merchandise/CD sales, etc...If we were on a
foreign label, I wouldn't put my trust in them, I'm afraid.
What are some of your favorite metal and hardcore records, new and
old? What do you think is the best example of how metalcore should be
played(besides Congress, of course, haha!)? For me, it's a toss up
between "Age of Quarrel" and "Humanity is the
Devil". How about pure hardcore? For me, once again, it's gotta be
"Age of Quarrel". Where do you see straight up, punk rock
inspired hardcore going these days? How about the modern metal scene?
Metallica: Master of Puppets
Celtic Frost: To Mega Therion
Exodus: Bonded By Blood
Fave HC records:
Bad Brains: Rock For Light
Cro Mags: Best Wishes,
really! (nothing wrong with that, man! That album's underrated!-mg)
Agnostic Front: Liberty and Justice
Sick of it All: Blood, Sweat, and No
Gorilla Biscuits: Start Today
Metalcore nowadays: Hatebreed, Ringworm, All Out War, Born From Pain,
Sworn Enemy...Fave metalcore? Integrity, always! Straight up, punk rock
hardcore is getting mainstream in my eyes. Look at Hazen Street, they're
gonna be huge! Modern Metal is the Gothenburg sound, a la In Flames, Arch
Enemy, Dark Tranquility...but also the bombastic modern blackmetal like
Dimmu Borgir or Cradle of Filth. These bands have a monster fanbase,
despite their extreme music/image. Another proof that in metal, image is
very important to reach the top.
What's your setlist look like these days? Songs like the
aforementioned "Dogma", "Seven Works of Art",
"Sin and Punishment", "Burnout", and the title track
seem destined for crazy live sets. Do you guys still play a lot of the
"Blackened Persistance" stuff?
Haha, come check us live, man! Our new set list contains songs from
pretty much all of our records, a greatest hits set, if you wish! Here's
the common list: 1)The Release 2)Under Pressure 3)Stompbox 4)Worst Case
Scenario(intro)/Dogma 5)Resurrection 6)What we need 7)Mainstream 8)Grief
9)One more Attempt 10)Sinking in Sin 11)In bad Blood 12)Acoustic Life
13)Lifting the Ban
That particular album seemed to break wide open that entire
metal-influenced style. What are your memories from that early period of
the band's career and the response you received from that album?
Well, the media wasn't as evolved as now, so if we wanted to read US
or Australian reviews, we had to get the magazine to read the review. We
got some by mail, but never got the chance to check them all, of course.
Now with the internet, you can just type "Congress
Resurrection", and you'll find tons of reviews, which is awesome!
Memories fom the "Blackened" period"? We got tremendous
reviews in Metal Magazines, points given were really over the top. HC
magazines were nagging about the fact that we sounded too metal, haha,
and that our image was negative, instead of being posi/SXE. It's
strange, I only realizedd how important this record was after a few
years. I always thought that record sounded empty, and not heavy enough.
Now, I'm very aware of the fact that we wrote classic metalcore songs on
that album, and that we spawned a whole new generation.
How about your newest lineup? How is everything working out with
new singer, Tim? Would you say this is the strongest Congress lineup
thus far, and do you have any contact with ex members like U.J.?
Wel, all Congress members are very close lately. It's never been like
this in the past. Most just went their own ways, and met when there was
a show or rehearsal. In the past, most members never really hung out
together. Now that's definitely the case. That's why we want to hit the
road on tour as soon as possible! Yes, now and then I see U J at one of
our gigs, or when we play together...always nice to chat about music
with him. As for Pierre, I haven't seen him in years. Latest gossip was
that he was institutionalized after wanting to set his neighbor on
What's up for the future, guys? Please fill us in!
Well, we just did our first videoclip for "Fever Rising",
edited by Dwid! Check our site:
www.congresshc.be, and watch it! We plan
a tour in Japan/Australia this summer that is as good as organized, and
we play most underground HC fests this summer. No US shows though...Too
THANKS a LOT for your time and this interview! It's my total
pleasure, and I hope you dig the questions! Hopefully I'll see you live
someday, but in the meantime, congrats and best of luck!
Thanx for the opportunity! Props to the metal/HC kids who took time
and effort to check us out, and hopefully till we tour the States! Anger
and Distortion 2K4!!