Belgian alternative act STAKE announces their new albumLOVE, DEATH and DECAY is set for release on September 30th, 2022 via Hassle Records. Fans can pre-order the album HERE. The announcement is accompanied by their twisted new single ‘F*CK MY ANXIETY.’
STAKE's latest release sees the band acknowledging their everyday fears and anxieties, in a bid to better understand how to tackle them. Speaking on their latest offering, vocalist/guitarist Brent Vanneste comments:
"Fear dominates us so often, that it can seemingly take control of our decisions without realising it. I already missed many opportunities because of fear. This is the moment I want to draw a line under that. Fuck my anxieties" exclaims Vanneste "We released this as a kind of mantra when you need a little extra strength to acknowledge that fear is winning."
"If we can grasp our personal fears in their entirety, I think it allows us to rid ourselves of them fully." Vanneste reasons. "Don't get caught up in your fear. Turn it around. Am I actually scared? Which anxieties do I have? You try to understand, then you grasp them, and then you can get further in life. Eventually, you have to say, ‘Fuck my anxiety!’”
Brent Vanneste knows that love never dies. Mysteries of the heart, and those of the great hereafter, have rarely been far from the Stake frontman’s busy, offbeat brain. Never broken by the weight of grief or existential dread, however, he uses those feelings as fuel for a musical fire that’s as boldly unconventional as it is bracingly alive. “This band is about all my inner darkness and demons, and finding a peaceful place in my head,” he grapples, preferring his songs to do the talking. “I’m not going to be able to erase them, but making music is a great way of arranging them and surviving this crazy life.”
That process began when he was just 13 years old. Forming Steak Number Eight in honour of his recently deceased brother Thobias Vanbrabant, Brent channelled the most aching personal tragedy into their first four albums, making the whole European rock scene sit up and take notice. The band's 2018 rebrand (accompanying fifth album Critical Method) concluded this “mourning process” by moving away from that unwieldy original name, and the last few years have proven that you can never really leave these things behind. The band's latest offering LOVE, DEATH and DECAY is a testament to that.
Guitarist Cis Deman is, by his own admission, far more of a cold realist than his frontman. The one-time funeral director is a dark foil to Brent’s flightier tendencies, and the contrast between their mindsets is key to the shape-shifting mood and captivating desolation of Stake’s brilliant new album.
Where Brent is more fixated on “love and death”, Cis explains frankly, his fascination lies in “death and decay.” The singer reflects on the meaning of the album title. On the evening his girlfriend’s aunt was dying, he watched the excellent Netflix documentary Fantastic Funghi. He was inspired by the fact that all matter is recycled into new life. Cis, contrastingly, unearths a far harsher recollection. Faced with the pandemic, he initially needed to counterpoint the pervasive misery with brighter sounds, but the loss of two of his cousins –brothers, the first lost to suicide, the second struck by a bus– meant that stepping into darkness felt unavoidable. “I realised I just couldn’t write anything happy,” he shrugs. “The themes of love and death aren’t always spoken about out loud, but they’re always there. For me, they’ve never felt as close as they do on this record.”
This is no one-track collection of course, nor can it be credited to just one or two members of the band. Bassist Jesse Surmont and drummer/co-producer Joris Casier have been there from the beginning, but their contributions here are more significant than ever before. All involved are keen to stress that, as big as the personalities within might be, STAKE working together is greater than the sum of its parts.
If the global pandemic cut short the quartet’s grand reintroduction as STAKE, it also reinforced their understanding that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Reconvening between the farmers’ pastures and battlefields of Flanders in Belgium’s “wild west”, they entered the bunker-like space of the iconic 4AD club in Diksmuide. It's here STAKE found themselves unlocking fresh depths of established themes, as they drove across new musical frontiers.
“I loved that vibe” remembers Brent. “For me, it was nice to let go and trust other people. Before, I was very focused on how I wanted it to be. Now I’m very open to other ideas. It feels awesome to be singing lyrics that might’ve been written by Cis or Joris.” Returning to record in their local Foxylane (Voskenslaan) studio in Ghent and Brent’s home space Stimular, those thoughts and feelings were distilled into eight remarkable, entirely self-produced songs. If Critical Method showcased the Mastodon-influenced riffy technicality of their sound, the isolation and desolation of LOVE, DEATH and DECAY leans more towards the Deftones and Tool textural end of the sonic spectrum.
In an unprecedentedly forward-thinking move, the band will be releasing an alternate version of the album digitally, with the running order adjusted –the title-track front and centre– for optimised enjoyment in what’s generally a much more hectic listening environment. “Spinning a vinyl while at home enjoying your favourite anaesthetic is something completely different than zapping through Spotify or YouTube while skating with your Bluetooth speaker in your backpack,” the band explain. “It was our duty and wish to take this into account.”
Ultimately, STAKE are very much artists rather than salesmen, but their insistence that these eight songs are simply an effort to capture a moment in time – which should be read in conjunction with the rest of the STAKE releases thus far and in future – in no way minimises the brilliance of LOVE, DEATH and DECAY. Rather, it encapsulates why they are so singularly intriguing amidst the often beige modern rock scene, and why it is essential that listeners give their uncompromisingly mercurial music the time to speak for itself. Moreover, as the world steps back into the sun after two years of darkness, the isolation and pain of these songs should be held close as a reminder of the struggle we’ve come through, and why it’s important to embrace every day as it comes.
“Everybody dies,” Cis smiles, leaving off with characteristic bluntness. “So make the best of being alive. Stop being an aggressor in traffic. Just drive...”
Be sure to catch STAKE live including appearances at this year's ArcTanGent Festival as well as a UK/EU run with Cave In. A full list of dates can be found below.
LOVE, DEATH and DECAY is set for release on the 30th of September 2022 via Hassle Records. Pre-order HERE.
LOVE, DEATH and DECAY TRACKLISTING
1 Love, Death and Decay
2 Deliverance Dance
3 Zone Out
5 Queen in the Dirt
6 Deadlock Eyes
7 Ray of the Sun
8 Dream City