Markus’ Heavy Music Blog: Hello guys. First of all thank you for taking some time for MHMB. The new year starts extremely exciting for you and with ‘Black Frost’ you have your 4th longplayer ready to be released. Can you tell us a little about the new album. What can the fans expect?
Volker Dieken: In fact, the new year starts with much excitement and anticipation for us, although this also applied to 2018 too. It was hard work to write and record the new album, but at the same time it was a very exciting and enjoyable time for us. I think we as a band have never been that focused and productive as last year, and even though it pushed one to the limits once in a while, it was great. We are very happy with the result. On the one hand fans can expect with ‚Black Frost’ an album with the typical elements that have manifested themselves in our music over the years and nowadays also make up our music. It’s a bleak album with the expected ups and downs, the changes between quiet and hard passages within the songs. With ‚King Delusion‘ we have already taken this road more targeted than before and ‚Black Frost‘ is the next and mature development if you will. In my opinion, the new songs are more complex than anything we’ve done so far. We have tried to give all instruments some space and paid special attention to the vocals. I think we did that well with ‚Black Frost‘.
MHMB: You did not make any fundamental changes to your sound for ‚Black Frost‘. I think it’s the details that make the album so exciting and ‘Black Frost’ sounds more mature than its predecessor. What is your view on this?
Volker: We think about ‚Black Frost‘ in a similar way. The almost progressive basic scheme of our song structures is a constant factor and has always been the cornerstone of our music. In ‚Black Frost‘, the focus was much more in the details. Nice that you also perceive it that way. We have tried to create clear and well-thought-out song structures in which there is still a constant change when it comes to detail. It was very important for us to embed the vocals in each of the songs, especially when it comes to melodies. For example, we’ve deviated a bit from our previous pattern of a clear split between lead and rhythm guitar throughout the songs. Instead, in many places we consciously reduced the instruments in order to emphasize the vocals. Elsewhere we were able to use the force of instruments in a focused manner to set effective accents. In principle, we worked on the points where we saw the largest unused potential in our previous albums. On top of that, we let our urge to experiment with different sounds run free again. I think the focused listener will notice that right away. I also see that our music has matured with ‘Black Frost’.
MHMB: The new album is the first to be released in cooperation with Nuclear Blast. How did you get in touch with NB and what has changed for you in the production of the album?
Raimund Ennenga: Basically, we do not really know that for ourselves 🙂 But let’s be honest: After ‚King Delusion‘ we agreed as a band that we would like to take a next step. At the time we were at Apostasy Records and we were generally very satisfied, especially with the work of Tomasz Wisniewski. He approached us proactively at the right time and offered to do the management for us, looking for a bigger label. Since our trust in him has become very big over the years, we agreed. He presented some offers from labels and one of them was from Nuclear Blast. It was truly unreal for us to have received such an offer. We agreed that we wanted to give it a try working this prestigious label. In principle, we are realising the impact of this new collaboration when the promo for ‚Black Frost’ started. The label didn’t influence when it comes to production of the album and our approach to songwriting. The album was put together with the same people who were involved in ‚King Delusion‘, considering producer and artwork artist. However, we have agreed with Nuclear Blast on the release date, because it simply makes sense that the album will be released in line with the tour. But here, too, we agreed that we would not publish anything that we do not stand behind. If we could not have kept the deadline for lack of good songs, we could have challenged the release date. But to be honest, we did not consider this as an option. We wanted to deliver 🙂
MHMB: Songs like ‘Tears of the Eyeless’ make the new album particularly exciting. The combination of quieter acoustic parts and deep growls is not new, but very well done and has a lot of depth. What is your approach to songwriting?
Volker: The songwriting starts when Ole and I sit down together, collect ideas and write first riffs or song fragments. From there on we go to the rehearsal room, where we all work together on the ideas. Often things are discarded, or completely new things are created while “strumming”. In the end it’s often hard to trace back how and when the song took on a purposeful shape and form, but that’s what makes it so exciting. This process goes on until we’re in the studio. Only when the song is recorded, work is done. It’s important for our songwriting that everyone gets involved and that we all actually sit together in one room and discuss things. This sometimes gets out of hand, because everyone has their own ideas and of course compromises have to be made at some point. But that’s exactly what’s needed. If everyone is satisfied, we can be pretty sure that it is not completely wrong. So it’s a long but productive process. With every rehearsal we record the created intermediate result as audio and listen to it constantly until the next rehearsal. Everybody thinks about it and then brings their ideas to the next meeting. So the songs grow slowly but steadily until they are ready for pre-production.
MHMB: You have released the title song ‘Black Frost’ as the first single. Why this song and how did the album title ‘Black Frost’ come about?
Raimund: We consider Black Frost to be a really strong band statement and that’s why it became the title song. It’s partly due to its compositional qualities and partly to the title and the idea behind it. The title ‚Black Frost‘ refers to the term used in shipping. Black Frost occurs when an undercooled ship manoeuvres through moisture such as fog or rain, and the moisture settles as frost on the ship’s superstructure. The resulting ice is able to capsize the ship. We have transferred this idea to humans. Especially in today’s superficial society there are more and more people who don’t understand their dark feelings and fears as part of themselves anymore and don’t give these emotions a channel. Through the consequent suppression of the aforementioned feelings, a kind of burden can arise that can capsize our souls. This metaphor can easily be transferred to all lyrics of the album. That’s the reason why we chose the title of the album and the first single as well. It represents the album perfectly.
MHMB: While we have it about songwriting; your songs are all relatively long and epic. Did you consciously choose longer songs or does this come out of a creative flow?
Volker: The length of the songs comes, all by itself, from the kind of music we make. Even when we try to write a short song, we quickly realize that it just doesn’t work, simply because we always incorporate quite strong contrasts into the songs, whether in terms of speed or the basic mood of individual passages. The individual parts need their time to build up and we give it the space to do so. We often wonder ourselves how quickly you can reach certain lengths of the songs again. Within the band we agree that we don’t pay attention to the time factor. A song is finished when it feels round.
MHMB: You belong to those bands that have a very stable line-up. I think that’s what you hear on the new album, which sounds very tight and powerful.
Volker: That’s a very important factor you’re addressing. It took us long enough to get together in this line-up and we hope that we can go on like this until the end. We come from the beautiful East Frisia, but in our beginnings it proved to be very complicated to find the right line-up in this rather uninhabited region. In the beginning it was hard to find people who wanted to listen to metal and at the same time play an instrument and join a band. Then there are other aspects, like the interpersonal level but also the attitude to what you want to achieve with the band and how much energy you want to invest. All these factors work very well in the current line-up. Since the release of ‚Opaque‘ we are a team. Jann has been with us since 2006 and Carsten joined us in 2007. Raimund came shortly before the recordings of ‚Opaque‘. We are best friends and understand each other though and through. Ole and I even know each other since kindergarten age. All this is reflected in the music. We know the strengths and weaknesses of each of us and of course we can benefit from this, especially in songwriting. When you play together for such a long time the live situation becomes more relaxed and of course you hear that too.
MHMB: The album reminded me in part of bands like Opeth, Paradise Lost and Katatonia. Are these bands that have influenced you and/or are there other groundbreaking bands for you?
Volker: Surely the bands you mentioned belong to the bigger influences of us. But there is an endless list. Each of us has different heroes and I think the entire setup makes the difference at the end. In general it is the case that in our private life we are very broadly positioned with regard to our own musical favourites. This concerns all sub-genres of metal but also music styles outside the metal sector. We like to think outside the box, just like with our own music.
MHMB: You will be on tour with Soilwork,Amorphis and Jinjer. What can fans expect from your show? Why is it definitely worth it to be at the venue on time?
Volker: We will present a well-balanced set during our show, which will certainly contain some songs from the new album. The tour will also be the live premiere of some of our new songs. I hope that’s reason enough to be on time. We are sure that this will be a big spectacle. We can’t wait any longer!
MHMB: Will the tour take you to countries where you haven’t played yet?
Volker: On the tour there are even a lot of countries where we haven’t played yet, France, Spain and Italy for example. Apart from the fact that we are personally happy to finally play in these countries, it is of course enormously important to be present there. It’s that most people who didn’t know a band before can be convinced with live concerts. And for the people who already knew us before the tour, it’s nice to have a chance to experience us live.
MHMB: A totally different question now. How often have you been called metal band from Essen while hailing from Esens? Do you still count at all?
Volker: That actually happens again and again … especially when the first reviews in print and online magazines came out. By now, most people have understood it.
MHMB: Is there anything else you want to get rid of?
Raimund: We are really looking forward to the first reactions of our fans to the album. Besides that we can’t wait to bring the songs on stage on the tour with Amorphis, Soilwork and Jinjer and also afterwards. 2019 may come with pleasure!!
MHMB: Thank you very much for taking the time and good luck with the new album.
Photos: Ester Segarra