Interview With The Dark Element’s Anette Olzon

“When I listen to our music I think that, you know, they are happy albums, because they are so catchy and melodic. But if I go in too deep into Jani’s lyrics, they are quite sad and bitter.”

Finland’s melodic/symphonic metal outfit The Dark Element was formed in 2017. The band features ex-Nightwish and Alyson Avenue vocalist Anette Olzon as its frontwoman. On the release day of their sophomore album, Songs the Night Sings, I got to explore Anette’s thoughts of the new album, the future of the band, and women in metal.

Kane: Congratulations on your new album today! What was your favourite part of making Songs the Night Sings?

Anette Olzon: This album went really smooth. You know, now we all know each other. In the first album we didn’t really know each other. Of course, it’s always easier, you know, and Jani [Jani Liimatainen, Insomnium, ex-Sonata Arctica] knows my vocal style and he believes in what I do so it was all really smooth.

And who does the songwriting? Is it just Jani or is it both you and him?

A: No, it’s mainly Jani. I mean, he is a songwriter so he always makes the songs and sends me the demos and then I go into the studio and, of course I do the vocals how I want to do them. Of course, I follow his melody, but all the harmonies and stuff that I want to do I can do myself.

And this time he actually asked me in the middle of the process if I had any lyrics because I guess he had some writer’s block, so then I sent him some lyrics and he actually took some of those parts from me and put them in ‘Pills on My Pillow’ so I have been a little more creative this time in that way.

What would you say is the album’s strongest quality?

A: Well I believe The Dark Element was very melodic, so we’re still very melodic and have quite catchy choruses, for instance. This time we talked about, after the last album, that I would really like to have a bit more heaviness and more guitars and he actually listened, so he made it a bit more heavy and bombastic this time and I think he has added some more disco, too, which is really nice.

So I think that the melodies and catchy choruses are the strongest part. Somebody said that it’s a bit of “ABBA metal” and that it truly an honour because ABBA is, of course, the best band. [laughs]

Of course! I mean, if you’re gonna do a poppy style of metal then I don’t think there’s a better compliment you could get.

A: [laughs] No, it’s really an honour when people say that. It’s all fine by me, being a Swede. [laughs]

How would you say Songs the Night Sings differs from your debut?

A: You know, I would say that the first one was a little bit of a tryout, both for Jani and for me. He did pull some songs out of his drawer that maybe he had just had there for years and then he wrote them into something new. These songs are all written new for Songs the Night Sings and I think he kind of knew the direction better after how people reacted to the songs in the first album. So think it’s kind of the same vibe as the first one, just a bit bolder and more elements that he has tried out that are a bit different.

I think I would agree. There’re a lot more orchestrations and it sounds a lot fuller and there’s more detail. I’d say it’s like a refined version of the first album.

A: Yeah, I think so. You know, the first album had songs that differed a bit more over the whole album than this one. I think this one has more of a right balance. I mean the new songs do have a lot of different elements but this album has a red thread into it.

For sure. Do you have any favourite songs?

A: Yeah! My favourite since I heard it is ‘The Pallbearer Walks Alone’. I just love that from the first time I heard it and when I when to the studio to sing it. It’s my favourite song from all The Dark Element. I really like ‘Pills on My Pillow’; there’s a lot of pain in that one, some cool disco, and the poppier song ‘Silence Between the Words’, which is really poppy. [laughs] But I really like it! It’s a really fun and easy song. But I like all of them for different reasons.

So you guys decided to release two music videos and one lyric video. How important do you think music videos are?

A: I think they are important because kids today watch YouTube. That’s how it is. You know, back in the day MTV was the big thing to look at. I think videos today, like our videos, are very easy. They are not like high-cost videos that MTV had, you know, with a big budget, I guess. I mean, Rammstein has a huge budget for their videos. [laughs]

But I don’t think you need to do them so creatively, people just want to see you. There’s something about that thing, you know, when they can look at you. So I think videos are still very important.

Do you guys have any plans to tour the album yet?

A: I mean, yes, we want to play gigs, we just have one issue and that is Jani has joined the big band Insomnium and they are touring heavily. We have gotten a lot of requests and we are very much trying to squeeze in gigs between his touring with Insomnium, so hopefully. There will probably be some gigs but, if it comes to touring, maybe we will just have to join Insomnium! [laughs] Since he is so busy.

We have had to say no to some requests, unfortunately, due to his busy schedule but I think there will be some. Hopefully he has some time off now and then. Not so many days, but some.

Or enough, anyway!

A: [Laughs] Yeah, I’m on him every day like, “Hey, have you checked your schedule? Have you checked your schedule?” because I would like to play a lot next year, much more than we’ve done. It’s really nice that he’s joined Insomnium but it a bit more of a hassle for us. But we’ll see!

Do you have anything you particularly like or dislike about touring?

A: Well, for me, I’ve done that big, heavy touring thing that he’s doing at the moment. I did it with Nightwish. It was fun but it was also very, very hard. I have problems sleeping in the bus, for instance, so either I have to drink beer or take pills to sleep, [laughs] which is hard. I also think it’s a bit boring when it comes to traveling. Nowadays, I don’t really like to go anywhere and I just stay at home because I’ve seen the world, I’ve been in cities. I remember that I woke up many times and I didn’t have any clue what country I was in, what city I was in, and it was kind of scary, you know, when you just wake up like, “Where am I?” It happened a lot. I also have a lot of memory losses from my touring days because it was very intense. So I try to think that I’ve done that, you know, that Jani’s doing at the moment, and I cherish it, but I prefer to do a little bit less gigs. More like “let’s do two gigs and have fun” and then we go home. I prefer that.

I can see how that saves a bit of energy, too, and nobody has to really strain themselves.

A: Yeah, and I think also that when you do a tour like that six days a week, travelling, travelling, travelling, people getting sick and still having to perform, you know, singing with a flu in your body and stuff, you don’t give your best every evening. If you only have a few gigs, normally you’re not ill and you’re good and you’re happy, and I think that shows to the audience, too. You can give them much more for their money, I believe.

Shifting back to the album, do you think the lyrics or the overall sound are more important?

A: Oh. Well, when I listen to our music I think that, you know, they are happy albums, because they are so catchy and melodic. But if I go in too deep into Jani’s lyrics, they are quite sad and bitter. They are not happy lyrics. They are sad lyrics, all of them, and you wonder if he’s been through Hell in his life or not. [laughs] So, for me when I listen to the songs, I think the overall sound is what I listen too. Of course, I listen to the lyrics, too, but I think not many people sit down and just nail through and listen really deep to the lyrics. I think people just want to hear a good song with a good tempo and something fun in it. So I believe lyrics are important but the sound is probably more important.

Aside from The Dark Element, what are you listening to these days?

A: Well, I listen to the radio. [laughs] But I listen to many different things depending on my mood. I listen to a lot of metal, actually, because me and my husband share the Spotify account and he’s like a “death metal dude” and “metal dude” so the only thing that comes up in mine is Katatonia and stuff, so I listen to that. I also listen to singer-songwriters, but I listen to a lot of radio mainly, all those hit that are in the pop charts. They are easy listening.

As a female metal artist, do you feel that women are having more success these days?

A: Well, I remember when me and Alyson Avenue came out with our first album and we were out gigging back in the days when I was very young, that was in the late 80s and early 90s. Female-fronted bands were, like, the worst of the worst. It was so bad. People were like, “Female-fronted? They suck!” And I think you still can feel that vibe, in a way, as soon as there’s a girl singing there’s something with a lot of men, because that’s just how it goes, where they prefer a male singer. I don’t know why.

But I think it’s gotten better with so many good singers out there who’ve showcased that they can growl and they can do all those things a male singer can do, too, like belt and sing progressive and stuff. So, I think it’s better these days than it was when I was younger and started singing.

I think it definitely helps having big bands like Nightwish, Battle Beast, and Amaranthe that have fantastic frontwomen to help move it forward, too.

A: Yeah, and where bands like Evanescence are still going, and like you said Battle Beast. Noora is fantastic and she proves inmany ways that a girl can do what a man can do because she really sings in many ways like a guy. And then you have, of course, bands like Arch Enemy that also proves that there are some really good female-fronted bands out there.

We’re just about out of time here so I want to squeeze in one more question! What do you want to see The Dark Element become?

A: Oh! Well. I personally would love to do some more gigs, that’s my aim, because we’ve had so much fun. And hopefully some more albums, before I get too old, with that same happy feeling Jani and I have at the moment, and that his creativity continues the way that it has and that we get better and better with every album because he’s a very talented songwriter. And, hopefully, sell a lot and sell more so we can do more of what we want with more gigs and better videos and have a higher budget for everything. That’s always what you want.

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me!

A: And thank you! It’s been an honour.

The Dark Element’s sophomore album, Songs the Night Sings, is out now! You can catch it on YouTube, streaming services, or buy it >>here<<! And don’t forget to follow The Dark Element on Facebook!

The Dark Element – Songs the Night Sings Review

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Interview With Elvenking’s Aydan

When you think about folk metal nowadays you maybe think of different stuff. . . Bands like Korpiklaani or Ensiferum, which are more on the extreme side. I think we are still something a little bit different.

Folk metal icons Elvenking were instrumental in the creation of the folk metal scene. Despite a few stylistic changes throughout their 20+ year career, they have always maintained a high level of quality and folky energy in every album. The band released their tenth album, Reader of the Runes – Divination, only a few days ago, and they continue to prove their place at the forefront of the genre. In the midst of such a busy time, the band’s songwriter and guitarist, Aydan, gave me the pleasure of sharing his thoughts on the making of Divination.

Kane: So, Elvenking has been around since 1997, which makes it as old as I am! How have you seen the folk metal stage in change since then?

Aydan: It’s interesting because when we started as a band in 1997, basically there was no folk metal scene at all. I mean, the only folk metal band we knew of were Skyclad from Britain. The communication in the metal world was different from now. So obviously there were some extreme metal bands or black metal bands that had the influences on the folkloristic music and stuff like that but there wasn’t really any folk metal scene existing at all.

Nowadays we are considered one of the originators of the scene but at the time we didn’t have a clue of what was happening. We just did the music we love and we mixed our heavy metal influences with some music coming from the mountains nearby, so it was really something different. Through the years, then, a lot of bands came out and the so-called “folk metal scene” had and still has lots of success.

That is one of the reasons why, through the years, we moved away from the scene and we also did two, three albums that were very distant from that, because we felt like, you know, we started something and then other bands came out and had more success than us so we wanted to show that we were able to do different good things. But from Pagan Manifesto on we went back to the origins of the band, to what the idea of the band was, both musically and lyrically. And, well, we’re still here nowadays!

I can imagine it’d be completely different than it is today, where it seems like there’s a new folk metal album or band every other week from some random town in Eastern Europe or something!

Yeah, exactly, something like that. [laughs] So, it’s kind of weird because it seems like it’s something that’s very. . . I don’t know. This folk metal stuff is coming out of everywhere, basically, so of course at the time it was very different. But we still try to be different as much as possible. As unique as possible. When you think about folk metal nowadays you maybe think of different stuff, maybe more extreme or more rough, let’s say. Bands like Korpiklaani or Ensiferum, which are more on the extreme side. I think we are still something a little bit different.

Yeah, there’s not as many that are closer to power metal like you guys are. Maybe Wind Rose or something but I think that’s it for the more popular bands.

Yeah, exactly. I don’t think that there are as many bands that are similar to us. I mean, obviously we have strong power metal influences and also a lot of stuff coming from some of the extreme metal scene of the 90s, like Swedish death metal and so on, and so there is still something different from what is out there, especially for the vocals, for example. Like the approach to the vocals, stuff like that.

So we always try to be as unique as possible, even though “originality” is a pretty hard word to use in music in general, because there is nothing “original” anymore, probably. But at least we try to be as recognizable as possible.

Absolutely. On the note of being unique, the first thing I noticed about your new album Divination is that it’s pretty distinct from even a lot of your guys’ own work. I found it a lot more heavy and guitar-oriented. Is that something that you guys intentionally did?

Yes, absolutely. We felt that, through the years, we were always kind of losing a lot of parts of our music, like the guitar work, which was always hidden behind a wall of orchestration or stuff. We really wanted to have this time more focus on the guitarwork and stuff like that, and we noticed that in the past we used to put an overlay, you know, a lot of stuff that, in the end, you can barely hear. There were a lot of arrangements that were really cool to listen to on their own but in the whole song it was basically messy because they were moving the attention away from the important melodies or the rhythms that we wanted to hear.

So it is something that I believe you need to learn with time. You know, when you are young, you always try to put stuff on stuff to show that you are cool enough to do all the arrangements. [laughs] But in the end, what really is important is what you should be focusing on so, through the years, we tried to get away from a lot of useless stuff and try to be as basic as possible in order for the listener to be understand exactly what is happening. If you want to have some heavy guitars, the only thing is just to delete all the useless stuff around the orchestration. That’s the only way to make it work properly.

Yeah, I noticed that even all the way up to Pagan Manfesto that there were tons and tons of folk instruments in the background and you can’t clearly hear a lot of them, and the guitars are way in the background. So it’s really nice to be able to actually hear really cool guitar parts.

Yeah, exactly, that’s the reason. You know, maybe there is a folk instrument there, and you write the part and you record it and say, “Yeah, this sounds really cool,” but then, maybe it’s overlayed to the vocals, so you need to keep it very low, and then, even if it’s low, you distract from the vocals, so you put it even lower, and in the end there’s a lot of things surrounding it but you can’t really focus on anything, so what we did with this album was say, “Ok, do we need this part? Is it something that is fundamental?” No; it’s cool, but you cannot put your attention there if there’s something else going on. So we really put the guitars on top this time and, when there was space, we went for something else. But I’m really happy with the production of this album and finally we have reached this goal that we had for a lot of years.

As a huge fan of you guys, I obviously like this album pretty much as much as I love all your other stuff, but are you happy with how other fans and critics have received it?

Well, you know, the album has just been released; it’s just a couple of days out. But what we have seen so far is that the reaction from the press is overwhelming and really beyond any expectation. You know, I had the feeling that the work we did this time was pretty okay, that it was good, and we had a good feeling about it, but the reaction from the journalists and the press went really beyond any expectation and we are getting a lot of good words and great evaluations and stuff like that.

For example, we put out limited edition box sets for the album that basically sold out already. I had the impression that the press copies were too many and I talked to the record label and said, “Ok, let’s do less,” and they said, “No, let’s do this,” and we sold out on the preorders. And the reactions from the fans so far are amazing, I would say.

Has there been any real negative feedback or does everybody just love it?

[laughs] No, well, you always have negative reviews or something like that. To be sincere, so far I have seen probably one review which was, like, five out of ten, but I have read it – you know, I don’t really read the reviews. I did the work, you know, and I care about more of what the fans say.

Of course.

But the only thing I read was that one bad review, but it was really, from what I read, like, “I hate this kind of metal,” and I thought, you know, ok. Honestly, what we used to receive as negative feedback was always what we put out as the first singles because, when you put out a single or a video or something like that, it’s always difficult because you have to choose one song to reflect an entire album. I think we are still too old school and we have the impression that the song is the part of the whole album that you would need to listen from the first one to the last one, taking a certain journey through the songs and reading the lyrics and trying to understand what is happening.

So it is very difficult for us to choose single songs to represent the entire album. You never know if it should be a melodic one, a commercial one, a heavy one. Now, we have told the record label, “Choose what you want,” because everything we choose is not always the right choice. When we put out a single there is always someone complaining, “Oh, this is too melodic,”, “This is too that,”, “It’s not good enough,”. It should be the mirror of the album but often it is not like that. So this is something that happens often for an album, and it happened with this one, but that’s pretty normal, I would say.

So you guys have had a pretty stable lineup for the past few years, except for a couple drummers. Did that have a big impact on how the album turned out?

I don’t want to say, “Not really,” but as you probably know, me and Damna, our singer, are the ones who write the music, as we always did. So I don’t want to say that lineup changes can’t affect the music, but it really didn’t, in this case, because the songwriting was not affected.

The fact that we have great people, great musicians, amazing people is a plus, and, in terms of recording, especially in this album, everyone did amazing work, especially how Lancs played the drums and recorded them in the studio, because everything you hear is pure natural drums. It’s probably the first time that we never used any trigger or samples on the drums because his drumming is so consistent. When we gave the recordings in to Dan Swanö for the mixing, he was absolutely impressed about how the drums were recorded and said, “Ok, guys, I think this is the first time in my life that I won’t use any samples or trigger on the drums! Even though it’s a metal album, it needs to be respected how it was played.”

And we wanted to have a very 90s production, still modern but as natural as possible, so that was possible thanks to the performances of everyone in the band, so that was great.

Was the songwriting process for this album very different from how you’ve done previous albums or was is business as usual?

It was actually different for the very first time because this is the very first concept album that we have done, even in the past if we have done, you know, themed albums, like The Scythe, for example. So, for the very first time, there was less freedom in the songwriting, because we needed to have the music follow the lyrics follow the story follow the atmospheres of the story. So, the songwriting wasn’t as before where we were like, “I have this song, let’s put it in this part,” It was more like, “What part of the story does this feed? What mood of the story should this be? What kind of atmosphere do we need to explain this part of the story?” So it was pretty different, I would say, and also pretty challenging. And also this is just part of the concept, because there will be at least two more albums in a longer concept.

What was your favourite part about making Divination?

Uh, well, songwriting itself is always my favourite part because it is always surprising what we come out with. Every time we finish the songwriting of an album, I feel like I did everything possible for the album and like I have no force to write anything else in the future [laughs] because you just feel, like, empty and so on. And it’s always surprising when you come out with something new. You start from an idea to form a full song and the song then becomes something that really works and then, obviously, hearing the final result is always something that you don’t imagine when you start songwriting. You don’t have a clue where the journey will bring you or how the songs in your mind will really come out, in the end.

And why did you guys decide to make this string of concept albums?

Well, for some years we’ve always had the idea of doing a concept album based on something that we wanted to tell, but we never had the right story or time to do it, I don’t know. When we came up with a story and decided that it was the right one, it was immediately clear that one album wouldn’t have been enough to contain all the story, and that we need to do it in different chapters. So, the idea to create a story that is and will be contained in more albums like the chapter of a story is something that attracted us immediately and we felt it was the right choice to do right now in this moment.

You know, as I told you, from the Pagan Manifesto on it was almost like we were reborn as a band. We tried to go back and rediscover the passion we had when we founded the band back in the day when we were just a bunch of kids with the passion to play music and to create lyrics and stories around it, and we kind of lost this feeling and this passion through the years. But when we decided to restart from that point, we did two albums [Pagan Manifesto, Secrets of the Magick Grimoire] and thought that now was a good time for this. And at that point, to be sincere, the reaction of the people to the band was becoming better and better, so we felt that this was the time, if we wanted to do a project like this, and to do it as epic as possible. So, that was the reason.

What’s your favourite thing about Reader of the Runes – Divination?

Uh [laughs] I like the album. I like really like the fact that we did a concept album that isn’t boring like a lot of concept albums. You know, sometimes you tend to make it as grandiose as possible in order to make it big and something like that, but this is the first thing that we wanted to avoid. It’s not that we want to make a concept album that is very difficult or very complex or something like that. We wanted the people to listen to it and to create songs that could work also live and so on, so I’m very happy that we created single songs that work well on the live side or by themselves, but also that, if you listen to the album beginning to the end, you can feel that there is something going on and there is a story behind that has atmospheres that change as it goes from very romantic parts to very heavy ones.

Yeah, I think that’s my favourite thing, too, is that it works really well both as a concept album and even if you shuffle it into a playlist, where they’re still great songs on their own.

Yeah, exactly. That was one of our goals. Even if you shuffle it and listen to one song, you should enjoy it. And if you listen to the whole thing, you have maybe a different impression, but it’s working good.

Another thing I thought was really cool was the rune puzzle you guys released before the album was even announced. Whose idea was that?

Oh, that was an idea that came out, to be sincere, from our record company. We have a new girl in the company that is taking care of our promotion, and she is super super great. She was especially really into our idea of music and all the concepts we had and she’s a fan of black metal and stuff like that. It’s the first time we have had someone like that because usually a record company prefers music that is more melodic, and the idea we were bringing to the table really didn’t fit their way of seeing things. But since this girl came in, she came up with the puzzle things and we immediately felt a close cooperation with her and a close connection. So she took care of it. We really have to thank her. She’s really really great and did amazing work with us on the album.

So we’re just about out of time here, but I do have one more question. You’re the last remaining original member of Elvenking, so I think it’s pretty safe to say that you love it, but do you have any desire to pursue other projects or other genres?

[laughs] This is a good question! You know, I always felt that I wanted to concentrate one-hundred percent on Elvenking because it was my band and I founded it when I was a kid and especially because this is the music I always wanted to do. You know, back in the day, I didn’t find a band that really one-hundred percent fit my needs, because I love the power metal but also the more extreme stuff and acoustic folk and stuff like that, so I wanted to do something on my own. And, in the end, I think that especially with these last albums this was the music that I wanted to do.

So I never felt the need to do something else. But, your question is interesting because, just the other day I realized that I have a lot of songs that do not fit Elvenking at all. I write music here and there and there is stuff that cannot be put on an Elvenking album, and I have the idea that I want to record something on my own that will obviously be pretty distant from Elvenking. And, for sure, I think it will be something very atmospheric and aethereal, something like piano and vocals and acoustic stuff. And I think I will do something like that pretty soon.

I can’t wait to hear what that brings. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today!

A: Yes, thank you! It was a pleasure.

Elvenking’s tenth album, Reader of the Runes – Divination, is the first part of a multi-album concept. It’s available now on all major streaming platforms, or you can buy it from their >>website<<!

Elvenking – Reader of the Runes – Divination Review

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Interview With Amulet’s Heathen Stephen

After a back-and-forth of conflicting schedules and a shitty time difference, I was finally able to chat with Amulet guitarist Heathen Stephen about their recent album and the state of British heavy metal.

Kane: So let’s begin with The Inevitable War, which came out on 17 May. Is there anything you tried to do differently than you did in The First?

Marek “Heathen” Stephen: It’s more interesting in terms of the songwriting, and the production is a little bit beefier and cleaner and a bit more colour to it. So we actively wanted to have, like, double-track vocals for the first time and incorporate some keyboard sounds and just really take our time to make sure that the record was as good as it could be for us.

Yeah, that definitely paid off because it did sound like a more refined and upgraded version for sure.

M: Yeah. I think Nippy and I were particularly chuffed with it but that is a quite cool production that Jamie did. We wanted to try to get something a little bit more hi-fi and the big other decision we made was stealing an idea from our friends Antichrist in Sweden who basically produce the record themselves, in rehearsal rooms and stuff, and really take their time. So we wanted to do that as well so we used Nippy’s brother, Tom, who’s really super-nerd, awesome ear and everything, help us to record every three or four months so we could do it within budget as well. But like I said everything was as good as we hoped it could be.

And how did the lineup complications factor into how the album turned out?

M: I mean, obviously that wasn’t ideal, having three members leave at roughly one-year intervals. It could have been worse; if they all left at the same time, the band would have been over. But we found new members each time. What it did do is give us more time to write the songs. Like, two or three songs on the album we had been writing for at least five years, so it allowed the songs to mature. In ‘The Satanist’ in that bit in the middle where it gets really mellow, that was my idea but it came pretty late in the day. And I think if we had gone into the studio in 2015, what we should have done, really, I don’t think the songs would have been quite as interesting. So, there’s always positive sides to negative things happening in life, and being forced to take more time was a good thing for a band like us who, you know, do it as a hobby, really. We were sad to see the guys go but they just had to get on with their lives. And the new members are all exceptionally good musicians. [laughs] I’m probably the worst musician in the band. They’re definitely a bit more musically adept than when we first started.

So is the new lineup fairly stable then?

M: Yeah, I think so. I mean, we’re still in touch with the guys that left but I think we’re all getting on really well in the band, enjoying it, and we’re all pulling in the same direction. We seem to agree on songwriting and all the decisions, really. So it definitely feels like something that we’re all really enjoying. It’s not like there’s any money in it [laughs] especially because we’re in the UK. It’s just not a popular type of music in this country at all, so it’s quite hard to make any money. But we need to play in Germany, you know, and other parts of Europe as much as possible, and as many festivals as we can. That’s where it can be a bit more fruitful. Where you sell merch and get reasonable fees playing festivals and stuff like that. I’m happy for it to break even if we’re having a good time. And we get to travel, so I’m not complaining.

So, speaking of Germany and Europe, do you have any big future plans to tour outside the UK?

M: Yeah. Our booking agent kind of moved to Sweden so it was bad timing for the tours we should have been doing right about now, but we are doing some gigs. We’re doing Austria, Germany, Belgium, and Holland, just one-off shows, but we’re going to book more around it. I’m trying to arrange a tour with Helvetets Port from Sweden, who I’m a big fan of. They’ve got a cool new album out in August. So I really want to attack Germany with them for a week or two hopefully in October because I think we’ll do quite well there. In this type of music there are lots of good bands coming out now, but for me, personally, they’re the most authentic in that kind of epic heavy metal, slightly Manowarish, sort of a classic cult metal sound. It’s very genuine, I think. So, yeah, we want to play as much as possible and hopefully it works well in Germany and hopefully we’ll come back to North America. We almost made it to Vancouver but we chickened out about the border last October.


I can imagine it’s very different in North America with all the border shit you have to deal with.

M: Yeah, that’s pretty scary for us. A lot of people said going from America to Canada can be quite nightmarish in that way, you know, for bands, so we decided not to risk it. For our nerves. But it’s a shame. You’ve got some great bands there, you know, like Riot City and all that.

For sure. So you said that your style of music isn’t really popular in the UK, but how has the reception been for the people who have seen you or listened to your music?

M: Really good. We’re really happy with how everybody’s responded to the album and the live shows, too. The reviews and the feedback generally seem to be really good. I think there are still ways we can improve, like get more professional, but I’m really pleased that Amulet’s still got that high energy, positive live performance that we’ve always had in the past. But I think that we’re slightly tighter now and some of the songs are arguably more interesting now. Hopefully it will all bubble away and build, you know. We do have quite a few dedicated fans and we tend to sell out shows a lot, especially in Germany, which is always a good sign. So we’re encouraged and happy with the response.

Looking into the future, where do you want to see Amulet go? Are you going to start releasing albums more frequently or are you content with remaining an underground project?

M: Well, we definitely want to put out a new album much, much sooner than we did previously, so we’re starting pretty much right now. We are ambitious, but there are certain limitations when you have jobs. But it’d be great to, you know, just get on the road, just tour Europe for six months. But unfortunately we can’t really do that at this point. So I think it’s a case of sticking around playing as many weekend festivals and shows as we can and hoping reputation builds.

I think it’s important for heavy metal bands to stick around. You know, if you’re good and you keep plugging away, eventually people are going to discover you, but I think some bands make the mistake of stopping too early. We’ve been going nine years so far but I think you need a good fifteen before you really earn your stripes. So hopefully we can climb the ranks and become a threatening festival act in the future. It’d be nice to play some of the bigger festivals in the UK but it’s very difficult to get your foot in the door. So, working on it.

So, do you have any favourite tracks on The Inevitable War?

M: I do like the whole album, actually. And I’m quite fussy with my own stuff. I do enjoy listening to ‘The Satanist’, although I did write most of it. I just think it’s a fun listen, and I’m quite into the occult things.


M: [laughs] Yeah. It’s got a genuine occult feeling to it but it’s not tongue-in-cheek. It’s kind of esoteric but not too po-faced, is how I’d describe it. I think that’s a nice vibe to start the album with. I think ‘Roundhead’ is the best track on the album. Nippy wrote that one and it’s fantastic and a really interesting, epic song. And I’d say ‘Poison Chalice’ is my other favourite listen. I really think the last part of it is just so heavy. Sam came up with those riffs, those really driving riffs at the end of it that I’m really into. A lot of that stuff we actually improvised because it was written last so a lot of the lyrics and the guitarwork were literally just improvised on the spot. That’s the most fresh track to listen to and probably the most fun one for me to listen to now. I’d like to do a video for that one.

I was going to ask if you had plans for any more videos. But is that just an idea at this point?

M: Yeah, it probably won’t be that one, actually, but that’s the one I’d like to do. But I directed the full video for ‘Roundhead’ which is really fun and I think that came out well. And we made lyric videos for ‘Call of the Siren’ and ‘Shockwave’ and we’ve got a plan to do a nice edit from an old movie called Siege of the Saxons for the track ‘Siege Machine’. It’s gonna be a fun, old school, kind of cult movie edit. Quite a simple thing. I don’t know what we could do for ‘Poison Chalice’, really. We’ve got one really cool idea for ‘The Satanist’, actually. Like a one-shot, creepy take of just the singer prowling the backstreets of East London at night. I’ve got to find some sort of interesting location, like a Masonic temple or something, that he could go into at the end, but I think that could make a quite fun, entertaining video.

That’d be a cool idea. Like something that hasn’t really been done a whole lot.

M: Yeah, we want to do things that are more fresh rather than just the usual. I also think it’s important when you’re in a smaller band to put the band in the video if you can, because you’re trying to sell yourself as a live act. That’s how you make your money and everything. So generally, if you can, try to put the band in it performing. But I do think that idea would be a good one and quite achievable. So watch this space!

Other than Amulet, what are you listening to these days?

M: I’ve been listening to a lot of death metal for some reason. I DJ a lot, so, depending on where I go, I like to get into different styles. I’ve been getting into stuff I’ve never really gotten into in the past like Goreguts, Incantation, Suffocation. I never used to listen to those bands but I’m really enjoying them. And some Emperor, Inquisition. I didn’t really grow up with them. And there’s also a lot of new bands I think are really good, too. I’m doing the Live Evil Festival here, which is going to be in January. I shouldn’t really say, but some of the bands I’m excited about. I’ll hopefully get to play Hellish Crossfire from Germany, they’re a brilliant thrash band, and I do really like Eternal Champion and Riot City, Visigoth, and Savage Master, I think they’re all writing really good songs so I’m really enjoying a lot of these fresh classic heavy metal bands that are coming out now.

Yeah, there are definitely a few of them these days. Visigoth, like you said, and TIR from Italy, and Pulver. I think that traditional heavy metal right now is in pretty good hands.

M: It is! It’s really stepped up from even five, six years ago. [laughs] There definitely wasn’t as much quality around.

Maybe eventually like the 80s, almost!


M: Well, I wouldn’t go that far! I mean, it was insane. I’m still discovering old British bands. There were so many, there must have been like five hundred of those by like ’82. But, yeah, it’s going that way. I find it strange. I mean, why? There’s no money. [laughs] Why do they think this is a good idea, playing this? It’s brilliant, though. I love it. The more good bands in the scene, the better. It’s exactly what was needed. When we play gigs with, say, Visigoth, we sell out big venues. It’s really cool to see the possibilities of this type of music if you do deliver the sound that people want to listen to. So it really pushes us to up our game. I think the next Amulet album will be quite a bit bigger-sounding. We had to do this one like it is now, but the next one I think we’ll have heavier guitars, more reverb. It will be more commercial, in a sense. A bit more in-your-face. So hopefully that will appeal to people.

Speaking of a more commercial sound, how do you feel about more modern metal bands like, maybe, Sabaton or Battle Beast?

M: I just don’t really know much about it. It’s funny, because I was literally thinking today, “I should check out Sabaton,” because everybody’s talking about them right now. And then there’s Amon Amarth. I’ve never even listened to Amon Amarth. It’s crazy, right? I don’t know why. I’m not like a snob, you know, I just don’t have much time and I know the old-school stuff I like and because I’m in London I listen to bands that are coming up that are suitable to that more necro, old-school sound. But I checked out Amon Amarth when I was DJing and I thought it was pretty good! I like the vocals and it’s got a really fun tone. But I still have to get around to things like Sabaton.

But, generally, I used to not be into that whole modern production and heavy sound but I’ve kind of matured on it. It’s popular for a reason, you know, it’s what people want to listen to, probably. So I’ve been opening my mind to it. And especially DJing, I’d like to know what things are so that I can play it if someone asks and not just say, “Don’t have it! Pantera!” [laughs] It’s kind of a dick move. But we need bands like that to headline for when all the old bands die out. I’m assuming it’s going to be Sabaton, Rammstein, Ghost, whoever else is still alive.

Are there any bands in the space today that you draw inspiration from? I mean, the Manowar, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath influences are all pretty clear, but I’m talking more recent bands.

M: I do really like Helvetets Port. I don’t think I’d necessarily steal anything from them because they’ve got quite a distinct sound. But I like their lyrics as well and their vibe. Black Magic, an amazing band from Norway, are incredible. They’ve got that Show No Mercy Slayer-era sound mixed with a Eastern British vibe that’s really cool. I wish I could write as well as Jon does. So they’d be an inspiration in that way. We were inspired by how Antichrist did their production and their recordings. There are bits from a couple of bands today but none are a direct influence, I don’t think. I just play and riffs come out naturally. It just sounds the way it does with us.

But we did definitely go for a bit more of an epic Manowar vibe this time. We’re all big fans. I just think the songwriting is really good in Manowar. I quite like simple riffs pummeling your head without becoming tedious. As an inspiration we didn’t really talk about it but it’s evident in the songwriting. I think we’re all quite interested in the success of Visigoth, Riot City, Eternal Champion, and, like I said, for the next album you’ll see that we’re being inspired by their quite big productions, so you might see a bit more influence from the new bands coming through. I think we’ll use that super heavy reverb, really chunky guitar.

So I know you’re now with Dissonance Productions; you were with Century Media before. How is this new partnership for you guys?

M: It’s great. We’re really happy. Obviously we had a big label and big YouTube page and stuff like that but the broad strokes of the deal are exactly the same. We’ve still got really good PR, and we’ve got advertising, the financial deals are pretty much the same, they’re really supporting. And the fact that they’re based in the UK is really helpful. When we make a music video the boss of the whole company comes down to hangout and we go for drinks with him and they’re on the phone if you need them in like five minutes. They’re part of Plastichead Distrobution, which is a massive distribution company, and that’s really what you want, isn’t it? I think for a record label it’s just good to get it into shops. There’s probably no one better in the UK for getting it onto the webstores and into real record stores. So, if you want to buy the record in Europe, you can probably find it, which is nice to know.

For sure. I think it’s a bit important to be able to get your music into people’s hands.

M: Yeah. The only thing is when you put a YouTube video up on Century Media’s page, you get 25000 views within, like, a week, whereas with Dissonance we don’t really have that following. So it’s slightly more difficult to get interaction from YouTube and Facebook but other than that it’s good. They’re a great company, too. Nice people.

So you mentioned your Live Evil Festival earlier. How is that going? Is the lineup pretty much set?

M: Yeah, I’m kind of working on it right now but I think it’s pretty much there. I might have even booked too many bands but there are one or two that are still TBC. But, yeah, I’ve basically got a full, four-day weekend. I’m really happy with it. I’ve been really fussy this time and I think every band is really good. And there’s a good mix. Hardly any of the bands are from the UK. There are some, obviously, but it’s bands from all over the world and a big mix of stars from slightly doomy through to really necro black metal, a lot of good thrash and death and some epic heavy metal. I think it’s going to be really good fun.

It’s the first time we’ve ever done it in January so it’ll be like a winter-themed thing. There might even be a Thursday preshow, so it’ll be Thursday preshow, Friday preshow, Saturday festival with an afterparty until 3 am with the bands, Sunday until 3 am, [laughs] and then Monday we do a screening of maybe of the film Roctober Blood. So it’s quite the five-day party. It’s pretty intense. By the Tuesday I’m usually kind of hysterical but happy, you know. [laughs] It’s a lot of work.

Is it primarily you doing all of the organization or do you have any help with that?

M: I literally do almost all of it. I’m rigging up banners, I’m carrying amps, and I’m mostly helping out the bands. My good friend, Oscar, handles all of the financial stuff and a lot of the organization on that side of things, like the logistics, but I’m not sure if gonna help with this one or not. But this venue might deal with some of the pain of the bands and the fees and all that stuff so. I like to be hands-on, basically, and I like making sure the bands are happy and I like being busy and running around, sorting stuff out. That’s why I do it; it’s really good fun.

Plus I really like meeting all these new friends and bringing the bands together. Like, you have a festival, then five or ten years later these bands are still familiar and are still touring together because they met at the festival. It’s such a good way to invigorate a scene. So many positives come from it. I took a couple years off but I couldn’t stop forever.

Right. It’s also great to have as passionate as you in the heavy metal scene, especially where it’s not thriving like it is in places like Germany.

M: Yeah. And at least half the people come from outside the UK, which is fun.

Well, that pretty much covers everything I wanted to ask you, but is there anything you wanted to add?

M: Just thanks for taking the time talk to us and we appreciate the support! Never surrender!

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Interview With HammerFall’s Oscar Dronjak

“[I]t’s gonna be a really fun tour. . . If you like modern heavy metal music I think you can’t get much better than these two bands together.”

Oscar Dronjak, founder and guitarist of the legendary Hammerfall, was kind enough to invite me into his mind to discuss his feelings on Dominion, Canada, and, of course, beer.

Kane: So you guys have been playing heavy metal for more than 25 years. That’s quite the milestone! How have you seen the metal scene change in that time?

Oscar Dronjak: I think it goes in cycles. Ten years ago was different than twenty years ago, and it wasn’t the same as it is now, and it’s not the same as it was in the US or Canada twenty years ago, either. So it’s changed a lot. I think it’s gotten a lot better in a lot of ways. I mean, when we started in the mid-nineties this type of music we were playing, people weren’t really interested in that as much as, you know, grunge and the heavier stuff, the aggressive stuff.

So we didn’t really think that there was going to be a market for this and we were surprised when there actually turned out to be one, and then after that obviously, the interest grew a lot in the early 2000s. So, you know, it waves I guess. Ebb and flow. But it’s changed greatly on every level. And we haven’t even discussed the record industry that’s also changed tremendously since we started [laughs] so, everything has changed a lot.

For sure. It seems like more people have gone toward more melodic metal in more recent years, too, like it was in the 80s.

O: Yeah. I think that, for HammerFall, Canada has always been good, actually. Even, you know, like the first time we played in Canada I believe was 2005, there was such a big contrast between Canada and the US. Canada was much more like Europe, like we were used to. But nowadays it seems like the US has caught up a little bit in the last, say, five years or so. It seems like the interest level for melodic metal music in the US has almost come to Canadian levels. But Canada has always been stellar for us. There’s no question about that.

Well, that’s good to hear that my homeland is serving you guys well!

O: [laughs] Well, that’s why we keep coming back on every tour. We do, I think, six shows every tour in Canada, and there’s a reason for that, is what I’m saying. [laughs] It’s not just coincidence!

Are there any more recent bands in the past few years that you’ve been keeping your eye on?

O: Ah, not really. I mean, certain names pop up here and there but I don’t go out actively searching music the way I did twenty years ago, or even ten years ago. I don’t listen to music the same way I did either. You know, you get older, you have your sort of favourites you like listening to. You get complacent I guess is what I’m saying. But there are several new bands. We just announced a tour with Battle Beast in Europe in February next year, Finnish band with a female vocalist. Totally not like I’m used to but it’s a really good band, actually. I was very surprised to realize that I like it. So I guess what I’m saying is all of this is because of myself, you know. It’s on me; I need to give more stuff a chance and I have to admit that maybe I haven’t been as open-minded as I probably should have in the last couple years. [laughs]

So, moving on to Dominion, it’s clearly a very HammerFall album, but how do you think it stands apart from your previous releases?

O: I think it follows in the same path as we were going with both (r)Evolution and Built to Last. It’s pretty much an extension of that. What I do think we managed this time is that we captured a lot of energy on the album: a lot of the live energy that you have when you’re performing on stage. We tried to get that in the album recording as much as we could. And we have tried that a lot in the past couple of years, or probably for as long as I can remember, but I don’t think we’ve managed to capture it as much as we did this time. And if you’re talking about, like, the music and stuff, I believe this album might be the strongest one that we’ve ever released. At least up there with it, because it’s got a lot of variety and I like that in an album.

For example, The Number of the Beast is not my favourite Iron Maiden album. I mean, obviously some fantastic classics, but you also have a couple of songs that aren’t really up to par like ‘Gangland’ for example.

Yeah, like a lot of filler.

O: Yeah, exactly. I would prefer, let’s say, Somewhere in Time. That’s a flawless album from start to finish, in my opinion. Obviously, this is just opinion, but that’s what I’m comparing Dominion to because I think it’s a good comparison. You don’t have any downtime on the album, you know, it’s all really good in its own rite. Not just in the context of the album, but they can stand alone and I think that’s something that we’re really proud of that we’ve managed to achieve this time.

Yeah, I mean, listening to it myself I did sense a lot more energy and passion than the last few albums, and I think it’s actually my favourite HammerFall album so far, to be honest!

O: Oh, wow! Thank you. I love to hear that. Of course, any artist likes to hear that, but it’s really great because we tried to approach the songwriting in a different way. You know all those little details you have in every album? Those are the ones that make a good song great or a great one legendary. So we tried really, really hard to focus on all these details to try to do things a little bit differently to keep things fresh while still having the same base HammerFall sound. You know, if you were to listen to any one song on the album, you would instantly know it’s a HammerFall song because it has the HammerFall quality to it.

We also tried to give each song as much time as they needed. We had a lot of time this time. Last album was really stressful and the songwriting process was not fun at all, and we tried to avoid that at all costs this time. And we ended up having more-or-less all the songs ready several months before the album recording was about to start, so we could really put that time that we needed into it. And I think that’s a really important piece of the puzzle why the album sounds the way it does.

So the whole thing was more of a natural process, then.

O: Yes. Very much so. And also, you know, the songs in HammerFall are written mostly by Joacim and myself, and both of us tried to approach the songwriting in a different way this time. We both were writing songs on the road this time. Normally, for me, the touring part has always been creative-free, so to speak. You know, I don’t do anything creatively because because, if I do anything creatively, it just sounds like the songs I’m playing every night, which is HammerFall songs. I want to have a distance from the live setting when I start writing songs for the new album. But I decided to try to write songs on the road this time and it was extremely rewarding. I had no idea. I didn’t know I could and I didn’t know it was going to be this fun to write songs.

You know, when you come off stage, for example, you’ve got this adrenaline going from being on stage and several times I managed to capture that and write some really good songs with it and it’s a first for me, for sure. And also something I never thought I was capable of, even. And that’s why this songwriting process was really fun and I think you can hear that, with the passion and everything. You can sense that, I hope. You know, for me, it’s really difficult to talk about this album in these terms. I don’t know if I’m going to feel like this when I actually get some distance from the album. [laughs] But these are all things that were different with this album that I felt from day one, basically, when we started the songwriting process. Both Joacim and I had a lot of interaction. Usually I write parts at home and then I send it out to him when it’s done and he puts on his stuff and then we’re finished, but this time we had a bit more back-and-forth during the songwriting process and I think that helped a lot, too.

Do you have any favourite tracks on the album?

O: Sure, but also difficult to answer right now. We only played two of them live, the ones that have been released so far, and both of them have been enormously fun to play live. I have to say, some of my favourites to play live right now. We just premiered ‘One Against the World’ on Saturday for the first time live. The single came out a few weeks ago. And, so, those are among the favourites right now but, you know, it’s very difficult to say. I’m hoping that we can play ‘Testify’ live because I think that will go really well. It’s got that good, cool strength in it, but we’ll see. You know, ask me this again in a year and we’ll definitely have an answer for you!

So where did the concept for your first single, ‘(We Make) Sweden Rock’ come from?

O: It came from Joacim’s brain [laughs] as a lot of the stuff we do. He’s really good at brainstorming and he wanted to find an angle, you know, something we have never done before, or something nobody has ever done before. I don’t know exactly where it came from other than when we were talking about if we were going to play at Sweden Rock next year. I think that might have started it. You know, the Sweden Rock Festival that we have in the South of Sweden. But the idea, both lyrically and the video, came from the pitch he gave me, so to speak.

And I had a song that I was struggling with a bit. I couldn’t really get past the prechorus. Sometimes when you’re writing stuff it doesn’t matter what you do, it doesn’t feel right and nothing good comes out of it. I was basically stuck on this song, and then he talked to me about this idea and I mulled it over for a little bit and I thought, “Wow! This is actually a really good idea,” so I went out and continued writing the song and from that point on it was sorta like when you pull the plug out of the drain, all of a sudden whoosh, all of the inspiration came back to me because I thought it was such a cool thing to do, so I finished that song pretty quickly, and then, of course, the lyrics took a little bit longer. He had these ideas to incorporate the song titles or album titles or just phrases from songs of these artists that he sort of wove together in a story of some kind, the story being “Swedish rock music and metal music rules”, basically. [laughs]

And what about the album name? Who came up with Dominion?

O: Normally the process is I come up with the song titles, and this is also a title for one of the songs. “Dominion” is kind of a cool word, so when the song title was presented to Joacim he was like, “This might be the album title,” and we sort of agreed quite early on that it was a good fit for the album cover that we had in mind. And so when he started writing the song he also had the album cover, or well, the idea for it, in mind, but he still wrote it coming from that direction.

And the word itself is, well, I’m a pro wrestling fan, and there’s this company in Japan called New Japan Pro Wrestling, and they have, I believe it’s in June every year, the New Japan Pro Wrestling Dominion, or whatever. And I thought that was a cool word. I didn’t know what it meant, actually, so when I saw that I looked up and was like, “Yeah, I’m gonna use this one day for a song title,”. This was a couple years ago, or a while ago, anyway. And now it just fit the song and it just came to me when I was trying to find a name. So, that’s where it came from.

See, I like that. You chose a word because it sounded cool, rather than, you know, a five minute story about how the meaning is symbolic, or whatever!


O: Yeah, and also when I found the meaning of the word it cemented everything.

So, Dominion is your second release with Napalm Records after being with Nuclear Blast for nine albums. Is it safe to say that your current partnership is an ideal fit for you guys?

O: I mean, we left Nuclear Blast for a reason, but the reason was never like, “Oh, this sucks, let’s get outa here,” you know. We stayed with them for seventeen years, after all, like you said, nine albums. But we needed something fresh and Napalm was able to give us some fresh ideas, some fresh angles to come from when it comes to the release, and that’s why we switched record labels.

Right. So, moving on to your tour with Sabaton this Fall, what kind of shows can your North American fans expect?

O: Oh, that’s gonna be fun! I really can’t wait for that. That’s gonna be great. We toured with them once before ten years ago, actually, and the roles in Europe were reversed at that time, so they were our Special Guests, but they have such a strong fanbase over there in North America, which is really good for us to be a part of this tour. And I’m really looking forward to it. I’m not sure what to expect. You can expect a kickass show, of course you can expect that, no matter who the other band is that we’re playing with, but I think for me, or for us as bandmembers, it’s gonna be a really fun tour. It’s also pretty cool because they have a new album out, it came out a couple of days ago, and their stage show is always pretty impressive, so I’m really looking forward to seeing that, as well. It’s gonna be a great package. If you like modern heavy metal music I think you can’t get much better than these two bands together. I hope not, anyway. [laughs]

I mean, I definitely agree with that. I got my tickets as soon as I could!

O: Oh, cool! I heard several of the shows are already sold out and several other shows are almost sold out so it’s going really well, the ticket sales.

Is there anything you particularly like or dislike about touring in North America compared to Europe?

O: There’s one thing I particularly like, and if you were to ask anybody in the band, they would definitely mention this as part of it, because the tour buses are bigger and more luxurious than in Europe, because you have bigger roads and less regulations for the sizes, so that means that it’s always comfortable on the bus. We don’t have hotel rooms in the US anymore, it’s just a waste of money. We treat the bus as our home, you know, clean it and everything, make sure everything is good. You take care of your stuff, basically. Your dishes and stuff. And the couches are so much more comfortable and so much more well spaced out. It’s a total difference. Everything is just a little bit bigger and it makes a big difference. You were probably looking for an answer about the audience or something but that’s what comes to mind first. Being on the road in the US is a pleasure in that respect. It’s never uncomfortable. And, you know, when you’re travelling around in your home for four or five weeks, these things matter.

Yeah, for sure. The tour buses are obviously important, but what about the drinks? Do you prefer Scandinavian beer or American beer?

O: Ah, ok! That’s another thing I prefer. [laughs] My favourite beer is Bud Light, if you can believe that. And you can’t get it in Sweden. You can get Coors Light, but not Bud Lite. So whenever I go to North America I always make sure that there’s always Bud Light if I need it, just to make sure I can have it as much as I want to. I mean, I like it for several reasons: it’s easy to drink, it doesn’t taste that much but it still tastes good. And it’s also only four percent, which means, you know, when you’re drinking beer and having fun and everything is great, maybe you drink a little bit faster than you should, but if the beer is not so strong, then it doesn’t matter in the end! [laughs] So much, if you know what I mean. So, that’s part of it. It’s perfect for a summer day, or for any day, really. So I definitely prefer Bud Light over any other beer. If you ask our drummer that, though, he hates that type of beer. He wants, you know, the weird shit: stouts, and the ones that have strange mixes of everything. Licorice beer, or whatever. I don’t know.

That sounds a bit more like my taste!


O: Yeah, you know, he’s really into it. And I can see that. If you like tasting stuff, you know, stuff that tastes a lot, it’s fine. But I know what I like and I know what I don’t like more than anything else. I don’t like, for example, hard liquor. I don’t like whiskey or anything; I hate the taste of that, too. For me it needs to be sweet and easy, basically. And the beers he drinks are certainly not that! But again, I understand that we all have different tastes and I see where he’s coming from, where it’s fun also. It makes it a sort of process!

Absolutely! So, we’re just about out of time here, but I do have one more question for you. I know that HammerFall is home for you, but do you have any desire to eventually pursue other projects?

O: No. Well, never say never, right? But anything creatively I want to do I can do with HammerFall. Everything I want to do. I don’t have any desire to do anything other than this because I love this so much, you know. This is my first love, heavy metal, I guess you could say that. And I have a lot of say over what kind of songs we do and stuff, which means I can do basically what I want. I’m not saying that like, “fuck everybody else,” you know, but I have a lot of freedom. That’s what I’m trying to say. And, if I get the desire to do something else, maybe one day I’ll get into that, but right now, and this has been the same for almost my whole life, this is all I wanted to do. Heavy metal is all I wanted to do.

I think that’s the best answer we could hope for, especially from somebody who’s been in the scene for so long!

O: [laughs] Well, thank you.

Thank you very much for taking some time out of your day to chat with me a little bit!

O: Yeah, no problem at all! Thank you for the nice conversation.

Make sure to pick up Dominion when it comes out on 16 August! For information about special editions, tours, and everything else, visit the >>HammerFall Website<<!

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Interview With Sabaton’s Joakim Broden

Originally written for The Metal Observer

“[M]e losing my voice after three songs, giving the guys lyric sheets, and Tommy and Chris taking over and singing the show. . . So, fucking proud to play with guys who can handle a thing like that and still get the vibe for a Sabaton show.”

With less than a month to go before the hotly-anticipated ninth studio album from Swedish metal icons Sabaton, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to interview Joakim Brodén, the frontman whose powerful vocals are as iconic as the band itself, to discuss the band’s upcoming North American tour, The Great War, and just to pick his brain a bit.

Kane: Hello Joakim! How are you doing today?

Joakim Brodén: Hello! I’m great. How are you?

I’m very well, thanks. I’m psyched to be able to talk with you. I’m a huge fan, obviously, but who isn’t these days?

J: [laughs] Well, I wish even more people liked us!

So this has been an eventful year for Sabaton. You’ve launched Sabaton History Channel, The Great War is almost out, you’re in the midst of festival season. Have you had any free time to yourself?

J: Not really! You know, maybe an hour here or a day there, but that’s about it. Having time off, one day is really nice and during the second day, halfway though it I’m really bored. I don’t know what to do.

You’re obviously committed to the lifestyle, then.

J: Absolutely. I love it.

Do you feel that you’re still growing as a musician?

J: Yeah! I mean, I’m lucky. I never planned to be a singer, and I started singing when I came into the band, so [laughs] it’s a lucky chance. You know, like, I’m also in that golden position where I don’t really sing extremely high. I go pretty high in a breast voice/full range voice point of view but I’m not going to have to worry about getting old and losing my falsetto.

Absolutely. You know, twenty years is a long time to spend on the scene. How have you seen the metal scene change since you started Sabaton?

J: Oh, it’s getting better these days, I’d say. Metal is getting bigger in general, more acceptance, I guess, and also I think that the last couple five or six years have been really good. All of a sudden we see lots of newer, younger bands coming up, which is sort of, yeah, I really love it actually. Because from our time there aren’t that many, you know. Most of the metal bands that came out were either before us, and then only a few around the same time as we, but now it seems to be exploding, which is really nice, I think.

It seems like new quality bands spring up kind of every year now, which is great to see.

J: Yes.

Now, I don’t want to beat you over the head with questions you’ve answered a million times but, of course, I have to ask you about the new album, so what do you think separates The Great War from other Sabaton albums?

J: Well, I can’t say “war” because almost all of them are about war. However, I don’t know. It’s very much a Sabaton album and by that means it sounds like every Sabaton album. But, you know, there is some sense of evolution from previous albums. We always had that. We never made huge steps, you know, between one album to the next, really. If you listen to, well, Heroes and then after that The Last Stand, which would be the two previous ones, you can hear some differences but it’s not gonna be a huge step. However, if you listen to, well, The Great War now and listen to the Metalizer album that we recorded in 2001 or 2002, there’s a huge difference. [laughs] So, um, yeah, a bit darker, a bit more atmospherical, I guess, this one, considering the topic of the album.

Yeah, I’ve definitely noticed that, compared to The Last Stand especially, where it was a lot more victorious and heroic, the overall mood in The Great War seems to be a bit darker and almost dooming.

J: Oh, yeah, in a sense it’s natural. I mean, it’s not like we planned for it. When we go into songwriting mode, I guess, we don’t ever plan, “let’s go harder”, “let’s go more cheerful”, “let’s go darker”, “let’s go softer”, you know, or faster or slower. It’s all about, well, two things, really. Writing as good a song as we possibly can, and making sure the music connects with the stories in as good a way as possible for us. So, with having the Great War in mind when writing the music it obviously affected the songwriting.

Right. Do you have any interesting stories from when you were recording the album?

J: Oh, well, there’s so many [laughs]. Nothing fantastic because, I mean, it was kind of difficult to write it. You know, every album you make it becomes harder and harder. How do you keep the band’s identity, you know, how do you keep it sounding like a Sabaton album, and at the same time progress? Or, develop in some way, at least? And, I do that and a lot of fans do that all the time. When you hear a new album, you compare it to not only to one or the other album, but a whole Greatest Hits of the that band’s previous releases. So, the songwriting was really tough on this one, because, basically, performance anxiety, but also the topic itself. It’s not a nice place to be, to be researching the Great War constantly. Obviously, when you’re doing something like Heroes or The Last Stand, it’s still of military conflict and people are dying, but you’re looking for something to celebrate, only by choice of topic. However, here, yeah, it’s a bit darker. But the studio recording itself was so smooth and fast it’s. . . I’m gonna give you a pretty boring answer. It’s pretty uneventful! [laughs]

I understand that the whole band was more involved in the making of this album compared to previous ones. Did that make the writing process easier or harder?

J: Easier, absolutely. Up until 2010, no, up until Carolus Rex, actually, I was the only songwriter who wrote Sabaton songs. Not by choice, but now, finally, we have some other guys in the band who are used to writing music and are actually quite good at it. It’s a really nice feeling.

Was every song in The Great War written specifically for the album or was there some old stuff that you brought up and refined and released?

J: Well, I always have old stuff lying around. If the song was ever not good enough, it will never good enough, so that gets basically deleted from the possibility pile. However, there’s always a few songs that I didn’t finish before. I’d rather not finish a song than completing it and having it not reach it’s potential or my potential in my mind, at least. So there were one of those, actually; the song ‘Attack of the Dead Men’ was started by me and Chris back in 2013 for the Heroes album. We just couldn’t get that prechorus right at all so we halted it. We revisited it again for The Last Stand, and we couldn’t finish it, so we revisited it again now, and, oh!, we finally managed to finish it. Then we had the song ‘A Ghost in the Trenches’ which was written with Tommy. That was way before the album, or before we entered songwriting mode, anyway. We started that in late 2017/early 2018. Tommy had been in the band for a while and, even though we knew he could write songs, we didn’t know if him and I could write songs together or if we could get something sounding Sabaton out of it. And, it turns out, we could! [laughs] So that one was written also in advance. Other than that, they’re all pretty much custom composed for the topic at hand.

It’s funny you mention those two tracks because those are both my favourites from the album. I notice they’re a little more unique for a Sabaton album. I mean, they still sound completely Sabaton but they’re more unique than maybe ’82nd All the Way’ or ‘Devil Dogs’.

J: Yeah, especially ‘Attack of the Dead Men’ is pretty damn different.

So, shifting gears a little bit, how is festival season going for you guys so far?

J: Pretty good. We had to do an extra fill in in Hellfest, which we weren’t supposed to play at, but I lost my voice and we had the guitarists singing. Other than that, it’s fine.

I would definitely think that’s one of the lower points, but any highlights?

J: Highlights. . . I would say, that one was a highlight, in a way. See, me losing my voice after three songs, giving the guys lyric sheets, and Tommy and Chris taking over and singing the show and me joining in the party whenever I could, so, fucking proud to play with guys who can handle a thing like that and still get the vibe for a Sabaton show. So yeah, I would say, at the same time it was a low point but also a high point. And, I mean, we played Graspop two days ago. Absolutely amazing festival.

It’s a good thing Tommy has those power metal chops!

J: Yes!

Will you have a lot of downtime before your North American tour this Fall?

J: A bit, actually. I know it’s not full now but it will be, anyway. September isn’t that busy yet but, if I know my dear friend and colleague Par, correctly, slowly but surely it’ll fill up. That’s usually how it goes: “Ok, let’s save some time here so we get that time off” and then that’s the time when you have to do all of the other things that you don’t have time to do when you’re touring, so [laughs] you end up going at it anyway!

I’m sure many of us in North America are wondering, is there anything you specifically like or dislike about touring here?

J: Well, I like it a lot, actually! I can’t explain why, but all the places to go on a tour, you know, they’re all different, but it’s mainly Europe and North America that you do nightliner touring. South America you fly to the shows, Russia it’s usually flights or trains, Australia, you fly. [laughs] And I like the whole nightliner thing, it’s always nice to wake up in a new city. You have your bed, which is in the bus, you install whatever, phone charger or small video game screen, whatever you want in there and then you just roll and do heavy metal shows. I really love that. And it’s been a while now since we were on a proper nightline headlining tour so I’m really looking forward to it.

Do you find that the atmosphere is different because you’re not playing arenas or festivals but more one thousand- to a couple thousand-capacity club-sized venues?

J: That helps a lot. I mean, I love that feeling because I’m a bit of a thief. I steal all of my energy from the crowd [laughs] and the further away the crowd is the harder it becomes and it almost feels like I’m playing theater. I mean, I love putting on the big shows and it’s fucking cool, however, it’s harder to keep the energy going, in a way, than if you’re playing up to three, four thousand, which would be the maximum that you can still keep the audience close and you can see people’s faces, all the way to the back.

Yeah, I remember seeing you guys in 2017 in Vancouver and there seemed to be absolutely no shortage of energy from you guys so I’m glad that you have that same commitment to the smaller venues as you do in Europe.

J: Oh, of course! A good rock and roll show can be done on both small and large stages. It’s not about the amount of people there, it’s rather the quality of the people there, both the people on the stage and in the crowd.

I couldn’t agree more. Do you have any favourite cities to visit?

J: Well. . . yeah, several. I like the Northwest a lot, at certain points it feels like home almost. I like the great hiking opportunities, for example, people are really nice, and, yeah, the nature. So from that point of view, I like it. I can’t say I dislike any other place. People have been saying stuff like, “oh, you have a show in this and this place. That’s gonna be a dead one,” maybe it was Boise, Idaho, but we had a great fucking time in Boise, Idaho! [laughs]

Looking forward to the rest of the year, what are you looking forward to the most?

J: It is the US/Canadian Tour, I would say. Absolutely. Because it’s been over a year since we did a proper nightliner tour, we’re coming with Hammerfall, so it’s a Swedish heavy metal invasion. The only thing that’s missing is a bit of Ikea and ABBA, and then you’ve got the whole package. [laughs]

Maybe you’ll manage to string ABBA along!

J: Yeah, somehow we’ll get them in there. No, but it’s for me, the end of the year. I mean, obviously we’re headlining Wacken and we’re doing a very special show there, a longer set and we’re using two stages, not going to go into details because that’s a secret, exactly what we’re doing. And also bringing a choir, so there’s a lot of fun to look forward to, but, personally, I still think that the North American run is gonna be the highlight of the year for me.

I know it’s still early to be thinking about new material, but what kind of topics are you guys considering for future albums? I know that you’ve wanted to do Napoleon and Alexander the Great, for example, for a while, now.

J: Yeah, we haven’t decided yet. We always have, like, between three to five topics at all times in our minds and then, as we get closer and closer to making an album or songwriting time, we narrow down the field. But it’s not something I’d like to talk about because if I make a statement like that and we announce that, “oh, we’re going to do this,” and it turns out we’re not doing it a lot of people will get angry and pissed off, especially these days, so I have found out it’s better not to give away any such information. Not because I want to be secretive, but I don’t want to make people sad if they really liked the topic that we were kind of planning on doing and then we chose not to for one reason or another. They’ll be disappointed with us, and I don’t want that.

I can definitely understand that. Do you think you’d ever potentially do an album of ancient history rather than modern history to creatively free you guys up a little more?

J: That’s absolutely possible. We’ve been looking into older stuff. It’s harder, though, because the further back you go, the more you go into myth and legend. In a way that’s liberating, but you don’t have to go far back at all to go to the times that even the regular soldiers could not read or write. So, what you have is the writings of commanders and they wanna look good [laughs] so they write propaganda. So it’s really nice to be in somewhat-modern history because you are working more with facts than with legends. There is so much interesting history in our ancient past, the problem there is sorting out legend from history, I guess.

Aside from World War I and II, what would you say interests you the most?

J: Oh! I mean, it’s different all the time. I’m not only interested in military history, I like history, period. But, you know, let’s say, art history would not be a good match for heavy metal, so [laughs] we figured that Sabaton is for military history! All of the emotioinal spectrum that we have in our music, it could be aggression, pride, joy, all of these elements that are in that emotional spectrum of our music is also in military history. 

But, right now I’m into, well, mostly the Cold War, actually, and all the proxy wars that happened and the spy games behind the scenes, and the space race, of course.

That is an interesting period. So much going on behind the scenes! All right, well, I think that pretty much covers everything I wanted to talk to you about. Thank you so much for your time, Joakim!

J: Yes, thank you for the good interview. I enjoyed it!

The Great War is set to release on 19 July under Nuclear Blast. If you want to preorder the album, check out tour dates, or see what’s new with Sabaton, you can find all of that on their >>website<<!

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Stay Metal \m/

Twisted Tower Dire Interview

Original Article By Giannis Tziligkakis ·

“I think the credit we’re really due is for sticking it out during a time when there were not many traditional metal bands.”

Twisted Tower Dire are back with their latest release. So it is about time for the mighty Zippo to track them down and have a brief talk about past, present and future.

The Present

Eight years have passed since the Make It Dark album. How do you see it now that it has completed its circle? What is a successful album or there are things that you would change now? Do you consider it to be an effort of the band to fit in the “retro” wave alongside with new more NWOBHM inspired acts?

I think Make It Dark is a great album! It’s hard to believe that it was released 8 years ago. I still remember Marc and I spending a few 20-hour long sessions with Chris finishing the mix. What a weird and challenging experience! The style of that album was a little different from our prior releases and spawned the sound that evolved into Walpyrgus. I think people measure success differently.

TTD just loves playing and writing music and we don’t have high expectations in terms of making money or being showered with attention. The most important thing to me is having fun and doing something we can all be proud of and stand behind as musicians and metal fans. Our sound has evolved over the years, but we don’t try to fit in 100% anywhere. I’m basically a hippie that loves heavy metal so I’m used to not fitting in anywhere, ha ha! I’ve been a loner since high school and I like it that way. We seem to be associated with retro NWOBHM inspired metal bands and that’s a good fit, but the genre label doesn’t guide our writing in any meaningful way.

I wouldn’t change any of our albums because they represent a snap shot in time. Nothing is perfect and dwelling on the past doesn’t get you anywhere.

The new album is somehow a return to the roots of the band. It sounds closer to Crest of the Martyrs rather than Make it Dark. Was it done deliberately, or the writing process led to this result? Did your involvement in the Walpyrgus had anything to do with it, in a way that it absorbed the 70s hard rock elements of your sound?

Make it Dark was primarily written by Scott and he was going for more of a party rock-metal style. Walpyrgus picked up where that album left off and I wrote the majority of the new album in an attempt to help TTD retain a distinct sound. The two bands share 3 members, including our singer, so we didn’t want them to start sounding too similar. I started by listening to our early albums, thought about what I liked about those songs and tried to kick around ideas based on that. I tend to write more thrashy, aggressive riffs so that worked its way into the new album too. It was somewhat deliberate, but once I started writing songs and got a feel for it the album kind of started writing itself. It felt very natural and nothing was forced.

What is the lyrical concept of the new album? The song titles somehow remind me of Crest… era with more epic/anthemic/fantasy lyrics, than the previous (more) horror themed album. Is the song True North’ somehow connected with ‘Snow Leopard, since it is the most Thin Lizzy inspired song of the album?

Scott originally wanted to write the whole album about war, specifically WWII. That might have been killer, but I felt like it was a bit much and wanted to explore other ideas. Eventually we ended up with some songs about war and some songs with fantasy-based themes. Several songs ended up focusing on monsters, which happened naturally. The title Wars in the Unknown was a way to try to tie everything together into a single concept. I think the vocal production mirrors Crest a bit with the layers and background vocals. ‘True North’ doesn’t have any connection to ‘Snow Leopard’ but it does continue our obsession with bad-ass animals, haha!

Aesthetically the album’s cover continues the band’s tradition of indulging the listener to a trip into vivid dream. However, I do not see the familiar Martin Handford lines. Who did the cover art? Is it connected to any of your songs? I’d say, I love the cover. It has a clumsy ridiculousness that it is way better than the computer made covers nowadays bands use.

Martin did do this cover and we asked him to include a few elements and make it look sparse and desolate, like an alien planet. I guess we thought that would complement the music well… and I think it does. This album is very straightforward and uncomplicated, just like the cover. The hooded figure is from ‘Light the Swords on Fire’ and the werewolves are from ‘Tear You Apart’. We originally wanted to include bigfoot, sharks and other things from the songs on the cover, but we decided that would be too much and come across a little goofy.

Jonny Aune somehow sings quite differently than Make it Dark. He is more aggressive, more anthemic as if he has left the “street” hue of his voice. Was this a deliberately decision or it was the natural evolution that came with the songwriting?

I think Jonny was inspired by the aggressive feel of the songs. He’s definitely matured as a singer too! That happened naturally, but our buddy Johnny Wooten produced the vocals and probably had a hand in that as well. The two of them did a great job and I couldn’t be more pleased!

What’s the deal with No Remorse Records? Did you contacted them, or they contacted you? Are you satisfied with your dealings with Cruz del Sur music? And why you sign with European labels? Isn’t there a U.S. label interested in you?

No Remorse showed interest before we even began recording the album. They’re a great label and we felt very comfortable working with them. Cruz Del Sur is excellent as well, and for some reason we were under the impression that they were less interested in handling this release. It turns out they were interested (oops!) and there was a slight misunderstanding on our part. I think CDS was a little pissed off about the switch, but we didn’t mean it as an insult to Enrico or the label at all. I wish we handled that differently but it was an honest mistake on our part. Hopefully we can work together on something in the future. Cheers Enrico!

TTD have maintained a steady line up throughout the years. How have you managed to do that? Do you think that it is important for the songwriting or it wouldn’t matter since you (Scott Waldrop) is the main songwriter? Are you in touch with the bands previous members?

We’ve been lucky enough to have members that all get along, share a common vision and are still interested in making music. Sometimes it’s difficult to keep everyone on the same page, but generally we all just want to continue with the band and do this as long as we can. Songwriting is important because we all have to believe in what we’re doing and be willing to dedicate the time and energy to do it right. We do keep in touch with most former members and they’re all doing well. Of course, we lost Tony several years ago, but we try to keep in touch with his family too. His daughter is about to get married (congratulations to Tasmin!). I met her when she was only 4 or 5 I think? Time flies!

So, what do you think would be the reaction of the fans to the new album?

We’re really excited about this album and I hope the fans are just as excited when they hear it! There will always be fans that want every album to be exactly like Crest of the Martyrs, or Hydra or whatever… you can’t please everyone all the time. People are entitled to their opinions too. I do think this album is a fun listen and the songs cover a lot of ground lyrically and musically. Time will tell!

The Past

TTD have been around for quite a long time. I think I read somewhere that you said that TTD have been to a party for far too long. Many a times you have reached the point of disbanding, yet somehow you keep on returning (lucky for us!). What is the driving force behind this stubbornness?

Being in this band is like being married to 4 dudes and having shared custody of our baby named Twisted Tower Dire (ha ha!). I’m kidding, but it’s not far from the truth. I’ve definitely been frustrated at times and thought “F$#% this…maybe I should just quit”. Sometimes we don’t agree about things, but we all want the band to do well and that’s why things sometimes get emotional and heated. We’ve also changed as we grew older and went through divorces, had kids, lost parents, etc. I am proud and appreciative that we’ve been able to stick together this long. Right now we’re just stoked because this album comes out in TWO DAYS! It’s been a lot of work and a long wait. Now the payoff is being able to share it with everyone!

You have been a part of the underground scene of the mid/late 90s alongside with October 31, Skullview, Morning Star, Sacred Steel, Slough Feg, Paragon, Cold Mourning or While Heaven Wept. Do you have any memorable moments of these days? What do you think about the revival of the 80’s sound and aesthetics that it is around nowadays? Is it something genuine or another marketing product?

Oh yeah, too many memories to share! I remember first meeting Mike Scalzi in a bathroom at the Powermad festival in 2000, I believe? We then went on to tour with Slough Feg several times and we’re all good friends. My first time in Germany at Wacken – holy shit! I had no idea that festival was so big! I didn’t think we deserved to be there at all! Our first show with me and Tony at a small club in North Carolina. We had a smoke machine, used Conan music as an intro. and Jimmy stood on a milk crate so he could rock out at a proper height (he’s a bit short). We played so much in the early 2000s and experienced so much. Things have slowed a bit but we played so many great shows, watched some great bands and made a ton of friends.

I think it’s great that the 80s metal style is doing well now, but I think some of these bands lack originality. Many are great, but some of my favorite “modern” bands manage to mix it up and don’t follow the heavy metal rule book too closely. I think some bands want to be liked so much they’re afraid to do something more original and out of the box. That’s how genres get played out and become stale… so don’t be afraid to take chances and evolve as a band. Music needs those spontaneous mutations to keep things interesting!

Are you in touch with other bands of your era like October 31, WHW or Widow? Is there a strong scene right now or bands have fell apart? How internet has changed things? Was it for better or for worse?

Our bass player Jim plays for While Heaven Wept and October 31, so I have to say yes! Johnny Wooten from Widow produced and recorded the vocals on this album too. We’re still in touch but things are different now. We don’t play a ton of shows together and we don’t see each other as often. The scene here is kind of coming apart at the seams but it’s not dead yet. Honestly, club shows here just don’t do that well anymore, so we’re all trying to play overseas where metal is still thriving. Life is all about change and rebirth, so we’ll have to see what the future holds. We all still enjoy writing and recording music and that’s the most important part.

Nowadays the 80s sound is the new trend and younger fans seem to be digging all the “legends” of the 80s, even the crappiest bands. Yet bands how have been around during the 90s and the early 00s somehow are neglected? What is your opinion about that? TTD have been fighting to keep the flame alive during the “dark ages”. Don’t you think you deserve a bigger status among fans?

I think people need to stop looking underneath the couch cushions for undiscovered 80s metal bands. Some are great, but a lot of them didn’t get noticed because THEY SUCK! If something sounds generic and subpar I wouldn’t waste my time listening to it and I don’t know why anyone else does. I think the credit we’re really due is for sticking it out during a time when there were not many traditional metal bands. We were the black sheep in the late 90s and I remember being at shows and having the other bands say “why are you playing like that…no one wants to hear that Iron Maiden crap anymore”. Well, the joke is on you because your death metal band “Fermented Pustule” is broken up and you sucked anyway, ha ha. Of course we’d like more fans, but that’s not why we play music. If we cared about numbers and having our asses kissed, we wouldn’t play metal at all.

The first reincarnation of the band involved Janet Rubin on vocals. At that point of time bands didn’t use often female vocalists, yet now it is one of the new trends. What is your thought on this? When Janet left the band why didn’t you looked for another lady to handle the vocals?

Janit was still our singer when I joined the band. I thought it was cool and she had a great voice! She actually left the band and moved to Germany to sing opera. I guess we beat a lot of bands to the punch on this, but it was really just about having a good singer that was willing to be in the band. It wasn’t a conscious decision to have a female singer. I think she answered an ad they posted in the newspaper, can’t remember…but that is how we found Tony! It’s hard to believe but it’s true!

TTD’s early sound was more into doom metal rather than classic stuff. Do you think that the evolution of your sound was something natural or you pushed it towards a certain sound? What is your opinion of your early demos Hail Nothern Virginia or Triumphing True Metal? A couple of years ago you re-recorded ‘False Orion’ and ‘Beyond the Gates’, yet some other songs like ‘The Mourner in the Nethermist’ seem to have been forgotten. Have you ever thought of re-recording your other demo songs?

I think the early demos are great! We played those songs with Janit when I joined the band. I guess after releasing several full-length albums we decided to focus on playing the newer material. The early stuff (excluding Beyond the Gate) is more simplistic but I still like it. I’ve always wanted to re-record ‘Epic War’ from Curse and I’m hoping we can do that soon. I’m not sure about the early demo songs but we’re not ruling anything out! TTD was originally supposed to be a Iron Maiden meets Candlemass kind of band, but we obviously leaned more towards traditional metal as time went on. I guess that was somewhat intentional, but not because we began to dislike doom metal. It was just a natural progression.

Twisted Tower Dire - Hail Northern Virginia

I know that Netherwords represent a dark period for the band. Yet I think the album is fucking awesome. Isn’t it time to leave the past behind, and bring ‘Dire Wolf’ or ‘Fortress’ to your setlists? Isn’t the neglection of Netherwords a kind of self-punishment? And do you feel that the song ‘These Ghosts Can Never Leave’ is a reference to all this? I believe that confronting your personal demons is the best way of dealing with them, do you think that if you deal with Netherworlds like any other album you would be relieved from this burden?

I think you’re partially right about the self-punishment. We’ve never been to thrilled about that album for many reasons, but the songs are pretty cool. We played ‘Dire Wolf’ and ‘Starshine’ live a few times after Jonny joined. I love ‘Dire Wolf’… one of my favorite TTD songs. Our usual live set is 45-50 minutes and we have to choose based on what we think people most want to hear. I guess the Netherworlds stuff just doesn’t usually make the cut, but we should rethink this.

At the time of the Crest… the band seemed stronger than ever. At that period, you had mentioned that you wanted to release an album each year. Yet this project fell apart. Do you think that you pushed it too far or that the band lost the momentum and never made it to the mainstream scene? Yet the mainstream is full of pressure from the labels in order to sell more. Don’t you think that it is better in the underground?

There is less pressure in the underground, but people often seem to expect more than we can deliver. This album took 8 years to complete for many reasons. Although the wait seems ridiculous, it’s better than not putting anything out at all. We were definitely at a peak when Crest… was released. We couldn’t follow through on a few great tour opportunities (Saxon, DORO) and then things began to go south with Tony and then the label. It didn’t take long to find ourselves in a rut without a clear way out. Luckily we recruited Jonny and managed to put out Make It Dark. We definitely lost some momentum, but we hope a new set of adventures will follow this release. We’re ready to get back in the saddle!

TTD used to have a lot of releases in 12’’ or cassettes. Nowadays that the lp format is somehow a fetish would you go with the wave or you think that there is no point of having them in the digital age?

I think the cassette thing is a little silly, but to each their own. 12” releases are great, but it takes almost the same amount of energy and planning to put one out as a full-length, excluding writing and recording. We usually wait for offers to do a shared 12” or something like that. Maybe we’ll get the chance to do another one again soon. It’s cheaper and more convenient to release things as digital, but metalheads love the physical media!

The Future

So tell us, will we (the fans) have to wait another eight years for a new album? Are there any plans of touring in Europe and do you have anything in the making?

We’re hoping to return to Europe soon! We just have to release this album and see where it takes us. Jim wrote a bunch of songs that we hope to begin working with very soon, so the wait shouldn’t be nearly as long for the next album.

The bands members are involved with other projects as well: Viper, Volture, Final Sign, Division. Are these projects running?

Viper is no more. Volture is without a singer and drummer right now (RIP Carlos), but we hope to get that band back on track. Jim’s still playing with Final Sign and a bunch of other bands and Marc plays for ivision. I also have an unnamed project or two in the works.

Last question for gear freaks: What kind of gear do you use? Guitars, amps, pedals?

I play Ibanez guitars and a Marshall JCM 2000. Scott plays Les Paul and BC Rich guitars and a Marshall vintage modern with a ton of pedals. Jim plays Spector bass guitars and a few different bass heads. Marc plays a custom DW drum kit with a custom Voivod snare that he’s very proud of. Jonny sings through whatever you put in front of him.

Thanks for the lengthy interview and the favorable album review. We appreciate it! Cheers! Dave

Originally written for Forgotten-Scroll by Giannis Tziligkakis.
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Temtris Interview

Original Article By Giannis Tziligkakis ·

The scene has changed. I think it’s a lot more competitive and I believe this is due to it being smaller. There are less places to play and bands have to work harder to pull the fans in.

Hailing from Australia, TEMTRIS recently released their fifth full-length album, Rapture. They have been part of the Australia metal scene for nearly two decades, and during this whole time they never deviated from their goal of delivering metal in its purest form. Fronted by Genevieve Rodda, they really know how to write music that matters while avoiding the pitfalls and industry gimmicks that wants female-fronted bands to operate in a cookie-cutter fashion. Genevieve was kind enough to share a few words with us about the band, their latest album, and the Australian metal scene in general. Enjoy…

Greetings and thanks for taking the time to do this interview! Would you like to start with a brief introduction of the band?

Hi and thanks for the interview. Temtris is a 5 piece metal band from the east coast of Australia. We originally formed in 2000 in Sydney. Not many bands had female fronted singers at the time and we wanted to bring something different to the scene. We were one of the few bands doing clean vocals with death backing vocals. We formed Temtris and started giging on the East coast while recording our first self released album.

How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard of you?

We are a traditional metal band but use any genre in a song we need to convey the emotion. The vocals are mixed styles with traditional with backing death vocals and we have a twin guitar attack with catchy riffs a killer rhythm section to keep things interesting!

Maybe a silly question, but where does your name come from?

We just wanted a female fronted name that had a metal feel to it. Temtris was what everyone thought suited the music.

Temtris – Run

Moving on to your latest album, Rapture, would you like to share a few details about it? It’s your fifth one, right?

Yes, our 5th album and we did a lot of recording in our own studios. Vocals were recorded first at Main Street Studios in Wollongong which is unusual for a band to do, but we made it work. It was mixed and mastered in a few weeks, but we had previously released ‘Run’ as the single and we new that mix worked so we just had the rest of the album mastered to sound like the single which received a lot of love from the metal community.

Not sure if you agree, but compared to your previous releases, I’d say Rapture strikes the right balance between power, speed and melody. Maybe a bit less aggressive, yet quite powerful. Where do you attribute this?

We put a lot of time into the writing process before we recorded. We wanted big catchy choruses and riffs that stuck in your head. Our newest member, Youhan AD, who is our drummer, helps bring some fantastic feels to the songs which really made a difference I believe to our sound we have been looking for.

Is everything featured on Rapture new material or did you revisit old ideas as well (old demos, etc)?

No, everything is new ideas that get thrown into the songwriting process. If they don’t work we usually scrap them. You tell if something is going to work pretty early. You just get a feel for it.

Who’s mainly responsible for the music, lyrics and overall theme of the songs featured in the album?

Majority of the music is written by Fox (Anthony Roberts) and Hoff (Anthony Hoffman). They throw riffs down and build the music. I will come up with the melody line and lyrics most of the time but Fox does often write complete songs as well. The theme for this album was my own idea as I wanted a positive album and songs about overcoming things in life.

What’s the concept behind the album cover?

When I had the song writing idea and themes I thought it would be great to have a person with power running through their veins. We talked to our artist, Darrell Firth, and he sketched out what we talked about and it grew from there.

How can people contact you and how can we get your album overseas?

We have worldwide distribution through Code 7Hàrt and Battlegod Productions. The album is also available at our website at plus iTunes. We are always happy to make contact with fans so just shoot us a message on our Facebook page and say hi!

If there’s anything else you’d like to say about Rapture now’s the time…

We are doing another video clip from the Rapture release. The single will be a follow up from ‘Run’. But I won’t give the song name away yet. We have had amazing reviews so if you want to check us out you can listen to us on spotify.

Being active for nearly two decades, I’d guess you’ve witnessed many changes in the metal scene/industry. What has changed and what remains the same for Temtris after all these years?

The scene has changed, I think it’s a lot more competitive and I think this is due to it being smaller. There are less places to play and bands have to work harder to pull the fans in. Album sales are not as big as they use to be due to internet availability of music, but the plus side of that is being able to reach audiences worldwide. But we will continue to release albums as creating music is what we love to do .

Did the numerous line-up changes you’ve undergone in the past affected your growth as a band at all?

Definitely held us back time wise. We really could be up to our 6th or 7th album by now but everytime you lose a member you spend time training people to play sets for shows and the focus or writing and recording has to wait. We do have a fantastic line-up now though with amazing musicians.

What’s the status of the AU metal scene nowadays? Despite some OG bands metalheads are familiar with for some decades now (Black Majesty, Pegazus, etc) are there any other bands you’d suggest to the world to listen to?

We have some amazing bands here in Australia. Bands such as Damnations DayHAZMATHidden Intent are a few amazing bands worth checking out.

I’ve seen you’re already planned a few dates in Australia in support of Rapture. Is there a chance for any US/EU dates?

Not at the moment. We have applied for festivals in the US and EU. Hopefully something pops up soon so we can play there.

I believe it’d be fair to say that US/EU metal bands get more exposure compared to bands that come from South America, Australia or Asia (opportunities, shows, tours, etc). Have you ever considered moving abroad so that you’re able to better support your music?

Yes I have a few times. It is very hard for an Australian band to tour overseas as the costs are huge. But it is a big risk to relocate for music.

One of the key features of your music is the female vocals and despite trends, you stay on the traditional side of things. As a vocalist, which artists would you credit as your main influence?

Yes the thrash/death vocal are very popular as well as the symphonic style with bands these days but my influences are singers such as Bruce Dickinson,Geoff Tate and Rob Halford. All amazing vocalists and I take pieces from all of their individual styles to make my own.

Female-fronted metal bands like Doro and Leather made quite an impact a couple of decades ago. However, most bands featuring female vocals tend to follow symphonic (Nightwish) or extreme metal stuff (Arch Enemy). Why do you think this is happening?

Metal at the moment is about being the heaviest and fastest. So i think that explains the extreme vocal styles. I like listening to a good death metal vocalist. The symphonic metal style I struggle to enjoy. I like my metal with a bit of grit so the operatic vocals don’t work for me. The European metal scene loves them but I am not sure why .

Are there any female-fronted metal bands you think deserve more attention at the moment?

Matterhorn from Adelaide. Great band with killer female vocals.

With the exception of your debut, all of your albums have been released through Battlegods Productions. Would you like to tell us a bit about your relationship with the label?

Peter from Battlegod Productions has supported Temtris with every release.  We have a family relationship with him and his company. Battlegod Productions gives us distribution worldwide and the ability to advertise in magazines such as Legacy Mag and many other publications. We have worked together for many years .

What should a metal band/artist expect from the music industry professionals (labels, promoters, etc.) nowadays?

I think a band sets their own standards. As you grow so do your expectations. There are many levels to work on and it’s up to the band to decide what the goals are then reach out to the right people to help make that happen.

With bands like Queensryche or Conception having to raise money ( to make a record, I think it’s safe to assume that the industry is not at its best. At least not for metal acts. When do you think things started to go wrong and why?

Definitely the internet availability of music has made an impact. CD sales are down and the value of music sadly is declining. I am not sure if this will change in the future, but as a musician I hope things improve.

On the same subject, what’s your view on using platforms like IndieGoGo or PledgeMusic to raise money for funding a musical project?

Temtris is old school and has always played our own way with releases and touring. If bands want to go down that road that is their personal choice.

I know it’s probably too soon to ask, but do you have any plans for a new album?

Not yet. We may just release a new song . No decisions have been made yet.

That’s all on my end. Thanks once again for taking the time to do this one! The closing remarks are on you. Cheers!

Thanks so much. Horns up from the Temtris crew. Hope to see you at a show soon.

Originally written for Forgotten-Scroll by Giannis Tziligkakis.
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