MATG Exclusive: Catching up with Mercy Isle
Written by Brett Kihlmire
Officially forming in early 2015 and making their debut with their extended play, Storm, that same year Mercy Isle began as an American-Dutch band. By their debut full length in 2016, however, they’ve become a Dutch-American band with their once prominently American lineup becoming largely Dutch.
The way Mercy Isle evolved into a Dutch-American band has much to do with loss of original members, Cory Scheider and Adam Maltby, and the quick recruitment of Dutch natives Ywe van der Pol and Sebas Honing by keyboardist Joop De Rooij.
Unable to commit fully to Mercy Isle, especially with the possibility of playing the annual Metal Female Voices Fest, Honing finished recording the guitars for Undying Fire and tapped friend and fellow guitarist Freek Gielen (ex-Ayreon, Marcel Coenen) to fill the void.
“Sebas asked me, hey, can you fill in for me because I am not able to do the gig at the MFVF festival,” says Gielen, who ultimately decided to stay on as a full time member and recruit a second guitarist, whom he felt fit the music just right – Eelco Slont.
“I’ve been searching for a band like this for ages,” says Slont, who, despite having the skill and passion for heavy metal music, wasn’t able to secure a lasting project.
Regardless of his troubled history with securing a place within the ranks of Marcel Coenen’s band, among others, Gielen believed his friend was the right fit for the soon to be established second guitar position in Mercy Isle.
“I knew Eelco liked this sort of music and I knew he was able to play it, and I knew he’s well-prepared,” says Gielen.
Though Slont hadn’t heard Mercy Isle previously, the band sent him a few songs and he was instantly hooked. What quite possibly sealed the deal, however, was the chance to perform at the famed Metal Female Voices Fest in Belgium in October 2016.
With the band whole again, but spread out across two continents, Mercy Isle was forced to practice their music by themselves for the most part. Slont remarks that the Dutch side of the band rehearsed twice together before the show and had only one opportunity to practice with the entire band prior to show time. And despite having just one rehearsal as a full band so close to show, MFVF was certainly a success for Mercy Isle.
“The doors opened at 1130 and the first 50 people ran to the front gate and never let go,” says Slont with Gielen adding, “The response was just awesome. Every song they applauded and after that pictures, autographs and whatnot. I’d definitely call it a success. We saw bigger bands get less of a response than us.”
Humbled by the experience, the band left MFVF having sold numerous copies of their full length, Undying Fire, signed dozens of autographs and took countless photographs with eager fans, new and established.
“In the end that’s the only thing that matters. That people really enjoyed the music,” Gielen says humbly.
Following the release of the band’s new album, fans have mentioned that Mercy Isle has taken on a much more European style. Of course, Bassist Chad Novell doesn’t quite agree.
“I mean, that may be partially due to when Joop was writing with Cory [Scheider]…Cory being from Casket Robbery and a doomy/death metal guy,” says Novell. “When it was down to the three of us [Joop, Kassandra Novell, and Chad] writing the rest of the material for the album that probably eliminated the doomy, sludgy stuff that Cory brought. Additionally, I can’t overemphasize the contribution of Sebas bringing his own style.”
Additionally, Chad says Honing’s style was what gave the band its “European” style not seen on the debut extended play. And while the band’s original sound hasn’t completely changed, Gielen says the band has been hearing from symphonic metal fans that their guitar style is a breath of fresh air in a genre dominated by bands commonly emulating what was pioneered by Nightwish.
“I will speak for Eelco also. When we make a new record the level is now high, so we’ll try to do our best,” says Gielen. “I’d like to keep doing this style.”
As of right now Mercy Isle is beginning to write the next album. Of course, Undying Fire has recently come out and the band doesn’t plan on having a new release for at least two years.
“I don’t want to make deadlines,” says Gielen in reflection of the band’s philosophy of putting out the best work they can with the finest quality possible.
According to Chad Novell that the band won’t be hitting pavement too hard for a new album until at least the New Year since the Novell’s and de Rooij have been essentially working nonstop since formation. Of course, that’s not going to stop Gielen, Slont or van der Pol from working on new ideas and sending them to their bandmates.
“The music is always alive and flowing,” says lead vocalist Kassandra Novell with Chad adding, “By the time we are rested and ready to dive back in again, these guys will have stuff for us to work with and learn.”
According to Chad, the band could very well have their next full album and many more song ready by the end of 2017. Of course, it’s a matter of honing their work, recording and producing the product, so don’t expect a new album too soon. When it does arrive, however, it’s doubtful that Mercy Isle will let their fans down. This is a band that’s still growing and coming together as a musical unit. Fortunately, they’ve clicked quite well already giving high hopes for the future of this emerging band.