EXPLORER (L to R : Jan, Ivan, Hubert) (picture courtesy of Henri van Dommelen & supplied by Gert Ouderits)


EXPLORER were a speed metal outfit from Zele, near Lokeren. The band started out in January of 1984, when vocalist Armand 'Armando Don Beast' Thiťbaut (ex REVIVAL) rejoined forces with former REVIVAL guitarist Ivan 'Yves Lancelot' De Strooper and former HIGHEST STAGE guitarist Jan 'Jay D. Vamp' Van Der Poorten. Neither REVIVAL nor HIGHEST STAGE ever released any demos, nor played live. This early line-up soon joined forces with brothers Marc 'Speedy' Haentjes (drums) and Hubert 'Bertus Bomber' Haentjes (bass). Although it wasn't easy to persuade Hubert at first, as he had to switch from guitar to bass in order to join. Also, both Marc & Hubert had already been part of HIGHEST STAGE as well, so in fact EXPLORER turned out to be a mixture of HIGHEST STAGE and REVIVAL in the end.

For the first couple of months this newly formed outfit didn't have a name, and they just rehearsed for the fun of it. Around mid 1984 they decided to call their band EXPLORER, simply because all guitarists played on an Explorer guitar. The band continued to rehearse almost daily for the next nine months and by March of 1985 they felt ready to play live for the first time.

The occasion came during the first Hard & Heavy festival at the Gildenhuis venue in their hometown Zele, on Saturday March 23rd 1985, when they were the second band to go on stage, after EXOCET and prior to IRON GREY & TRIAL, another local band. On that occasion EXPLORER played plenty of original material, such as I Want Your Blood, Play It Loud, Donít Let It End, Deadriders Suicide Squadron, Rolling Out Of Live, Hell Death, Hurricane, Lady Dark & Virgin Killer. Plus a cover of METALLICA's Seek & Destroy.

What only few people are aware of is that EXPLORER in fact did a try-out gig prior to this, three weeks earlier (on March 2nd 1985) in front of a selected audience of some thirty people at a small pub in nearby Durmen.

Prior to this first ever gig EXPLORER had already released a demo, but in fact it was already outdated by then, as they hardly played any songs from that tape any longer. As a matter of fact they planned to go into the studio again soon, to record some of their new material. Which surfaced as a 6-song demo in June, including a couple of brandnew tunes as well as some older ones. The band also played another home game at Juvenes on July 20th 1985.

More live experience was gained as they were the second band during the first Whiplash (magazine) festival on August 31st 1985. Other bands on display that day were openers BATTLECRY, AXEL, WARHEAD, Holland's HORIZON and German headliners LIVING DEATH. More shows followed in Kerksken (September 7th, with CYCLONE and TRIAL) and at the Gildenhuis venue in their own Zele on October 26th, together with BATTLECRY and TRIAL. In between these two dates, on September 21st 1985, EXPLORER was part of the first Giants Of Metal festival at Zaal Lux in Herenthout as well, alongside XIRONIX, EL LOCO (who replaced IRON GREY), TRIAL, PARIAH and England's headliners BLIND FURY, who replaced OSTROGOTH for reasons unknown.

Somewhere in between all of those live dates another (3-song) demo was recorded (including a new version of Burn The Witches), which was way more representative of what the band was like in those days.

A copy of said demo was sent in to Pink Productions, in order to participate in the Metal Race battle of the bands. Some 60 demos were sent in for selection (originating from Belgium as well as France, Germany and Holland) and EXPLORER turned out to be among the best 10 entries, and thus advanced to the semi-finals. Better yet, EXPLORER eventually made it to the Metal Race final, alongside CYCLONE, IRON GREY and LIGHTNING FIRE. The final was held at ATC in Zottegem on November 15th and EXPLORER came out as runner-up to winners IRON GREY, but ahead of LIGHTNING FIRE and CYCLONE respectively. All four bands' performances were recorded and in early 1986 Roadrunner Records released a compilation LP, appropriately titled Metal Race, which included two songs by each band. And as a direct result of being second in the Metal Race event, EXPLORER would be able to sign a deal with Roadrunner Records as well.

EXPLORER's Armando Don Beast live at the Hard & Heavy festival, 23rd 1985 (picture supplied by Stephan Colman)

On January 18th 1986 EXPLORER ventured off to the De Kriekelaar venue in Schaarbeek (Brussels) to be part of the second Battle Of Death festival line-up. EXPLORER didn't go on stage until after RED DAWN, AXEL, PARIAH, and prior to CYCLONE and BAD LIZARD. Two months later, on March 22nd, the 4th Metallysee festival took place at Zaal Sportschuur in Liedekerke, and EXPLORER were asked for the second spot on the bill, after openers BRAIN SHAKE, and with LIVING DEATH, GRAVE DIGGER and CELTIC FROST also present. In February 1986 EXPLORER had also played in Apeldoorn, Holland.

The band also planned to release a split EP with CYCLONE in March of 1986. In the end this never happened since CYCLONE released their debut LP in stead. Plans to enter the studio again in late April, early May 1986 to record their first full-length LP, to be entitled Belgian Warriors, had to be cancelled as well, since the deal with Roadrunner never turned into reality. Regardless of this all, the band was focusing on playing plenty of gigs in Belgium & Holland, and were hoping to be able to play in France, England and Germany by the end of the year as well. The band did make an appearance at the Spettel Metal festival in Tienen on May 31st 1986, alongside PARIAH, BLACK SHEPHERD, BREATHLESS and CYCLONE. Not to mention another festival appearance at the Keiheuvel in Balen, on August 16th 1986, alongside the likes of PARIAH, NATION, CYCLONE, TAILS BLUE, BLACK SHEPHERD and INQUISITOR. But they never managed to display their skills live outside of Belgium & Holland, unfortunately.

Fact is that no more EXPLORER vinyl would see the light of day, but on September 23rd 1986 EXPLORER recorded 4 songs and released them as the Served As A Meal demo.

In the spring of 1987 EXPLORER was negotiating a possible tour of Denmark and Germany with DESTRUCTION, but since both Hubert and Marc weren't really cut out for the life on the road, the band had to decline the offer in the end. Which was the beginning of the end. On May 16th 1987 EXPLORER played at the Sporthal in Ledegem. And on July 4th 1987 EXPLORER was part of the Madison Metal festival at the Cultureel Centrum in Lokeren. Also on the bill that day were openers EVIL SINNER, ATTILA (Holland), HELLFIRE & VENGEANCE (Holland). Later on that same month brothers Marc and Hubert Haentjes left and EXPLORER ceased to exist.

Hubert and Marc was never heard of again, while Armando, Ivan and Jan soon teamed up with former TRIAL members Gunther 'Metal Gunny' Poppe (bass) and Marc 'Mike Thunderstick' Vereecken (drums) and formed DEAD SERIOUS.


1985 : demo {Virgin Killer, Stay Forever, Lady Dark}

1985 : demo {Burn The Witches, Rolling Out Of Live, I Want Your Blood, Don't Let It End, Deathrider Suicide Squadron, Hurricane}

1985 : demo {Hanging On A Rope, Hell Death, Burn The Witches}

1986 : Hangin' On A Rope & Hell Death released on Metal Race compilation LP (Roadrunner)

1986 : Served As A Meal (demo) {Saints Of Disaster, Served As A Meal, Raiders Of The New Law & Kiss To Kill}

Consulted people

Ivan De Strooper

Related links

First posted

October 8th 2006

Latest adjustment

September 8th 2008 (January 11th 2008, December 15th 2006, October 22nd 2006)

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