Saturday, September 22, 2018

Interview Nightbearer

NIGHTBEARER are a new star in the death metal firmament. Enjoy this conversation with vocalist Michael about death metal (of course), fantasy literature and misspelled band logos. If you're interested in another band of Michael called Schlachtung! , you can read here (in German) an long in-depth interview with him I did in 2016.

Hey, what exactly were the reasons for the fouding of NIGHTBEARER ? Please tell us who’s in the band responsible for what ? And what about Schlachtung!, does the band still exist, will you maybe return with new recordings and some more live appearances in the future ?

NIGHTBEARER started basically as a two-piece side project of Dome and myself besides our other bands --Despised, Schlachtung!, Bloodwork, speaking for myself, and Despised, Hate Force One & Legion, speaking for Dome – without any bigger ambitions to play live or record more than one EP or so. After knowing each other quite a time and after doing the songwriting for Despised together, we realized that both of us had some old school death metal riffs and ideas in the closet and that it would be a shame not to use/record them. So we decided that we would finish the songs together, Dome would record the instruments and do mixing and I would take care of the lyrics, the vocals, the concept, promo, social media etc. To go full speed on stage we recruited fellow musicians from Hate Force One (Manuel, Florian) and Despised (Christian).

Schlachtung! is still active, sure, but it was always a project coming in waves. Circumstances killed the last peak of the „wave“ (three of four members has become fathers around/since the release of „Mahnmal“). Moreover we only used to rehearse and write new songs once a gig is planned or a new record is on our schedule. To keep it short: Nothing planned yet, but still active. To speak for myself: My focus is mainly on NIGHTBEARER at the moment. 

How were the reactions concerning the EP ? I read in the bandbiography that the next step is playing live and recording an entire album…

To be honest, there weren't any negative reactions at all. Or at least nobody said it to our faces. That's been one huge reason why we decided to bring NIGHTBEARER on stage! As I mentioned it before, NIGHTBEARER was never meant to be more than a „one EP studio project“, but the more we worked with the material, the more positive feedback we got, the more it became obvious that NIGHTBEARER shouldn't be a studio-/side-project any longer! So yeah, we decided to play live. As it all gathered speed we felt kind of a „flow“, so, yes, the debut album is already written. In fact the writing process was nearly finished when we released the EP. There will be 10-12 songs on the album, maybe we save some of them for future releases (splits/further EPs/7inches...).

You mentioned influences such as Entombed, Dismember and Entrails, but to be honest, I don’t think so much to Swedish death metal while listening to Nightbearer. Of course you hear these influences, and of course it is more this style of death metal than (american) technical stuff such as Immolation or Suffocation, but you don’t sound like Lik, Death Breath or Tormented for example, these bands show their inspiration much more I think. Do you agree ? Maybe there exist some more decent influences from Massacre or Obituary ?

Yeah, in deed, I have to agree...up to a certain point. It's a fact that Bloodbath and Dismember are and were our fixed stars. But from my point of view you're right saying that we do not sound like directly inspired and we're not a classical SweDeath band. We're an old school death metal band inspired and kind of instructed by the old swedish masters. You know, Lik sound nearly exactly like Dismember, we don't. Don't get me wrong: I love Dismember and I think Lik is a great band (see below!) But we didn't want to copy any band or play exactly their style. We wanted to play filthy old school death metal. Go and listen to the very first swedeath bands. They do not sound very much alike. They were inspired by nearly the same bands, but they used the power of inspiration differently. Everytime we got stuck we asked ourselves: What would Bloodbath do?! To use a metaphor: We thought about the tool they would use. Would they use a hammer or a saw or whatever? And then we went and used the tool in our own style which sounds not so much like typical swedeath. Maybe it sounds like Obituary or Massacre (I heard this before) but to be honest: Neither Dome nor I listened a lot to them. Well, that's the magic of inspiration. I recently read an interview with Ihsahn and he mentioned pop-music as one of his influences... or think of Nergal, whos inspiration were bands like Fields of the nephilim... or – to return a little bit to your question – think of Dismember. One of their main influences are Iron Maiden. You can hear it, but they don't sound like Maiden, do they?

Lots of people involved in the scene discover death metal mostly during their teenage times, at the age of 14-17 for the first time. And maybe in the run of years some of them listen to a lot of other music, most people become more tolerant concerning different styles / genres of music and explore other music, in comparison to teenage times, where a lot of listeners are very narrow-minded. Nevertheless a lot of people always return and / or never loose contact to their origins in extreme music, in this case death metal. Do you agree ?

Wow, what a question. Let me think about it... When I was 14-17 I listened to bands like Blind Guardian, Iced Earth, Borknagar, Thyrfing, Vintersorg, Dimmu Borgir but also to Korn, Slipknot, Static-X, and (basically when I was 14/15) to In Extremo, Subway to sally, Corvus Corax and the whole medieval rock stuff. Blind Guardian is (and will be forever) one of my favorite bands, no matter how my preferences changed in general and no matter how they change their sound. It's even true that Blind Guardian is one of my personal inspirations regarding the concept/lyrics of NIGHTBEARER,... just as modern true heavy metal bands like Eternal Champion or Visigoth. But I am a BG fanboy, guilty as charged, haha. And why? Because they we're my key to escape the horrors of the teenage years with all its troubles, haha. And they used to be a connection, a link between some of my best friends, who are not that much into metal, and me.

Let's return to your question: I would detach the „death metal“ from your question and go with a restricted „yes“ as an answer. As I said, BG will always be one of my favorites. And yeah, I enjoy listening to the old Korn- and Slipknot- records but only for nostalgic reasons. To those medieval rock bands I do not listen any more. Recently I banned the old CDs (I would never sell them!) into the mouldy crypts of my cellar to make way for stuff I dig since the last years: More Black Metal and Death Metal – all kinds of. I consider myself today a BM – and DM enthusiast and collector (CD, MC, LP...) but I do not forget and I can't break the special spell that (metal) music put on me when I was in my teenage years. Even though I explored new stuff like the whole 70s rock genre (new ones like Witchcraft, Graveyardm Horisont,...and the old ones like Jethro Tull, Uriah Heep etc.), synth wave,... But yeah, returning to your question once more: Everyone of us is bound to the first spell, sticking to that metaphor. If your parents showed you some Scorpions, Jethro Tull or Pink Floyd in your childhood, you'll never loose contact to them, as you said.

Most listeners discover in retrospect, that a lot of punk and hardcore was included in the first recordings of today‘s legendary death metal bands. I think one of the reason could be, that most people start listening to metal and discover punk and hardcore afterwards. Was it the same case with you ? Furthermore, some people (narrow minded death metal listeners) don’t want to admit, what’s obvious and the concerning bands even say in interviews,that there were of course a lot of punk and hardcore influences. Back in the days I think this happened more often, as metalheads and punk/hc-people didn't have a lot of contact or even were separated in two enemy camps...

Before I started with powermetal, medieval folk-rock and nu metal there was some punk rock in my life... like The Offspring, Bad Religion, Green day, Die Toten Hosen, Die Ärzte... I don't know if that's the reason why I like some good old punkish rhythms and kind of a raw and filthy sound/attitude... I really love brutal old school riffs combined with chuggy d-beats, some blastbeats and doomy parts... Listening to Darkthrones first albums, every black metal fan must admit, that there are pure punk-riffs, and yes, the swedish old school death metal scene was even much more influenced by punk/hardcore bands. Or by punkish death metal bands like Autopsy. But why conceal it? I don't get it. Maybe I am too open minded...

Can you tell us more about the lyrics ? You wrote that they include sword & sorcery (a subgenre of fantasy) lyrics. In general I think this kind of lyrics matches perfectly with death metal…Can you tell us more about the authors, which were / are prominent in this genre and some milestones/classics concerning this subgenre or your personal favourite books ? 

With NIGHTBEARER I only write fictional and fantasy-related lyrics. Most of them are directly inspired by a book, some by classic pen&paper rollplaying games like D&D and The Dark Eye (Das Schwarze Auge). And yeah, you're totally right: Fantasy-related lyrics match perfectly with death metal!
Concerning particularly sword & sorcery there's no way around Robert E. Howard whose most famous creation is „Conan the barbarian“ but also many different works, also within the Lovecraft-universe.
Another author of this sub-genre is Michael Moorcock, famous for his character Elric, the eternal hero. At the moment I'm exploring the worlds of Fritz Leiber.
All my lyrics, that are not directly inspired by novels or short stories are more or less influenced by those sword & sorcery authors, partly because they affected rpg's like D&D a lot, which are – we've come full circle – also a main influence as I wrote above.
To get you a little sneak peek on what's coming next – lyricwise – concerning the album: There will be specific lyrics about „The lord of the rings/The silmarillion“ (Tolkien), „Song of ice and fire“ (Martin), „The dark tower“ (King)... And for further releases I'm planning to drown into the world of „Dragonlance“ (Weis/Hickman), „Memory, sorrow and thorn“ (Williams) and „The wheel of time“ (Jordan) once more. I've read them some years ago and will have to re-read them before...

Concerning novels which are connected to roleplaying games, I have to mention R.A.Salvatore and his novels about Drizzt Do'urden and Cadderly, Elaine Cunningham's „Councelors & Kings“ trilogy and a lot of Troy Denning's works. 

In addition to that, do you think that more or less socio-political lyrics fits with death metal ? I remember the track „Don’t care“ (there was an official video clip as well which I saw on german music television called VIVA) by Obituary , which was included on the „World-Demise“ -album, and some people (some „prominent“ people, I think people from Dismember) said, it would be ridiculus to mix death metal with this kind of lyrics which deal with the pollution of the enviroment through irresponisble companies. Okay, that was in 1994, times have changed a lot since then, and in general everyone can and should do whatever he / she / the band wants to do, but what is your opinion about that ? Back in 1994 I liked this video and I found it much more interesting than version nr. 34533 of a death metal clip where the band is posing at a grayeyard and you can see fog, bones and candles and stuff like that. What do you think about that (besides from the fact, that I know that Schlachtung! had very socio-political lyrics ) ? 

Of course! Socio-political lyrics and death metal fit perfectly! Heavy emotions and heavy music. Just think about Dying Fetus (minus the gory stuff), Cattle Decapitation (minus the gory stuff), or Misery Index. Even Bolt Thrower carry a strong socio-political message within their war-ridden lyrics. And Death of course! Everyone can see: It fits! Death Metal is angry, it's brutal, it helps us to express feelings. The world is fucked. We all are, if we don't change our mind, our behaviour... I'm getting very angry when I think about that. So death metal could be a vehicle to transport a strong plea, to give you a kick in the nuts to awake common sense and responsibility. To speak for myself: I like socio-political lyrics a lot (obviously, see Schlachtung!), but I also enjoy „common“ death metal or fantasy themed lyrics. But saying: „Keep politics out of the music. It's art.“ it complete bullshit! If you don't want to comment on the world going nuts and down – fine. But don't go and say: Art should entertain and not offend and... blabla...

But referring to your „fog, bones and candles“ comment: I really like these clichés in metal! Therefore and because I have other bands to focus on socio-political topics, NIGHTBEARER will solely have fantasy themed lyrics.

There are so much unexplored or very less known death metal albums on this rotten planet….Can you tell us about some records (albums, EPs, demos etc) that are not so well known and from which you think they are great or as good as or even better than classics such as „Left hand path“, „Clandestine“, (both Entombed)„Shadows in the deep“ (Unleashed), „Like an everflowing stream“ (Dismember“), „Cause of death (Obituary) or „Altars of Madness“ (Morbid Angel), to name a few.. Me for example, I discovered not long ago the finnish band Rippikoulo which did a really great demo named „Musta Seremonia“ which was re-released by Svart Records.

Okay, I have to admit that I spent only a few minutes going through my shelf... I have to mention the following: 

Vallenfyre – Everything. No particular recommendation. Buy everything!
Revel in flesh - Death Kult Legions
Sulphur Aeon – Gateway to the antisphere
Endseeker – Corossive Revelation, Flesh hammer prophecy
Under the church – Rabid Armaggeddon, Supernatural punishment
Bombs of hades – The serpent's redemption
Death Breath – Stinking up the night
Sentient Horror – Ungodly Forms, The Crypts below
Temple of void – Lords of death
Vanhelgd – Temple of phobos
Krypts – Remnants of expansion
Usurpress – The regal tribe
Hooded Menace - Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed
Demonical – Everything. No particular recommendation. Buy everything!
Lik – Everything. No particular recommendation. Buy everything!

Ok, those are 15 bands, I could mention 50 more... those are only some of the bands of whom I have a copy on the shelf and there are many, many more. I like youtube to explore every kind of music, especially old demo stuff.

Did you read the incredible „Swedish death metal“- book by Daniel Ekeroth and discover some unknown bands through it ? 

Yeah and yeah. It is incredible, you're right. Had such fun reading it. I love reading about the early tape trading days and feel a certain nostalgia despite the fact that I am too young and didn't witness the late 80s/early 90s as a metalfan. „Choosing death“ and Jason Nethertons „Extremity Retained“ should be kind of a canon to read for musicians who want to play death metal.

But I cannot remember which bands I knew before and which I discovered through the book. Fun Fact: Everyone in NIGHTBEARER owns a copy, for as I know.

In the following please give your comment to some death metal-related keywords (styles,bands, labels...), some of them with an upcoming new record (Deicide, Terrorizer, Unleashed, Bloodbath, Deathrite).

Brutal death metal: I listen to it, sometimes I enjoy it a lot, but it has never been my favorit sub-genre. So I can't say much about it. Well, Suffocation is great, haha. But personally I don't like - lyricwise- most of the whole gore/porn-brutal slam death metal stuff.

Deicide: Same here. I bought one or two albums and „Scars of the crucifix“ was one of the most played songs in my car in 2004 but - in regard to what I know -I must say: Glen Benton is a total asshole.

Terrorizer: Listened to „World downfall“ a lot back in the days, noticed the newer recordings, but didn't spend much time with 'em. Should I?

Finnish death metal: I never got the strong connection to finnish death metal as I got it to swedish death metal. Neither the melodic nor the brutal sort, but since this year I try getting myself more into it. Recently I listened quite a lot to Wolfheart, Hooded Menace and the classics (Amorphis, Sentenced and Demigod), but I don't like Demilich (basically because of the vocals. This toilet gargling was never my cup of tea, neither in grindcore nor in death metal).

Rippikoulo: To be honest: I know the name but never listened to one of their songs. I see, I've got some homework considering finnish death metal....

Earache records: One of the essential labels of the past. I think there are younger labels, who serve the death metal cult better now, but what would death metal and grindcore be without Earache?

At the Gates: One of the most popular melodic death metal bands (i.a. thanks to Earache) with one of the most carismatic and smartest singers, and also one of Dome's and my favorite bands if it comes to melodic death metal. Of course „Slaughter...“ had an enormous impact on me, even if I discovered it not until the year 2000. No need to mention it's influence on the evolution of newer genres like metalcore or the New wave of american heavy metal.
And their last record is huge! I like it a little bit more than the „At war...“ (though I listened to it 2 months in a row in my car when it was released...).

Bloodbath: All Bloodbath albums are great! I just love everything, they didn't put out any crap. I also like every singer they got (I keep on focussing on the singer issue ,Dome surely would say something about their usage of the HM-2, their awesome sound, etc.).

A lot of people prefer Peter and consider „Nightmares...“ the best album. I bought it together with the „Ressurection..“ record and also prefered „Nightmares...“ to „Resurrection...“ but it wasn't because of Peter/Michael but because of the blastbeats. Back then I had a unquenchable blastbeat thist, haha. But later on my preferences changed. Each singer's got something special. Nick's voice is so morbid and filthy, though not as brutal as the ones before.
As I'm writing this they released the new song „Bloodicide“ and what should I say: The never ever disappoint! Can't wait for my pre-order to arrive, haha!

Axis Powers: Again I have to be honest: Never heard of them.

Interment: I think „Scent of the buried“ was a good album, but not as much noticed as other death metal records in 2016. Don't know why they don't gather more attention. The songwriting is good, the production is classic swedeath (hello?! Sunlight and Skogsberg?!) and Juanjo Castellano, one of the best artist for death metal at the moment, drew their cover.... which, as a side note, was the inspiration for me to go for a framed picture on white background concerning our recent EP. Later I also bought their older stuff and like it, too.

Unleashed: I've got some records here, but I have never been the biggest Unleashed fan, though they're keeping up the old school flame since year one... Maybe their old stuff was kind of too plain and ordinary to my ears. They get a new chance with their new record... but I don't get the title („...white christ“?!) and the cover could be used by Doro for one of her christmas albums...naaah, just kidding!

Deathrite: I saw them live some years ago and because some friends, who play in a hardcore band, did several gigs with 'em, I thought Deathrite is a metalic hardcore band. And then they came onto the stage, started with some nasty feedback and impressed me that much, that I bought a shirt, a longsleeve and a CD straightaway (though I had to borrow some money therefore, haha!)

Deathbearer: Good music, very punkish. As I said I like it when there's a good dose of punk/crust in my death metal meal. I don't mind that they seem to be hardly connected to the hardcore scene. If they feel Old school death metal running through their veins, why not.

Slaughterday: Great band! Very morbid and different to the classic HM-2 worshippers or the occult reverb worshippers. I've got all their recordings on the shelf. I think „Nightmare Vortex“ was one of the first records I ordered at FDA Rekotz/Records back then... It's far more Autopsy worship and less swedeath worship than I expected back then but I liked it so I had to re-order „Ravenous“ immediately, haha.

And let's be serious: What can be wrong about two nice bearded guys playing rotten old school death metal and recruiting fellow musicians to spread the plague live on stage?!

FDA Records: Oh yeah, home of dirty rotten music of metal … I think everyone knows FDA. Everytime I order something, Rico puts nice extras in the parcel... an old fanzine, a patch, a FDA-Shirt... because of that and of course because of the music FDA is definitely the home of the death metal underground.

Fun fact (and totally embarrassing): When we finished the recordings of our EP, even before we had a cover or a logo and even before Dome and I talked about possible release options (physical or just digtal etc.) I contacted Rico/FDA just because of what I wrote above. So far, so good. But at this time I was very exhausted because of family and work and stuff. It's been my task to design the logo myself... So late in the evening i finished the logo, a small collage of Dome and me on stage and put it in a mail, together with the EP Tracks... and I totally jumped the gun. On the FDA site is a small „don't call us, we call you“ info so we waited quite a time until we signed with Unholy Fire Records.
When Timon (Timon Kokott Art-Works) designed our cover he asked me what's the matter with the „R“... I explained it. That it's a link to Entombed and classical Old School death metal logos. But he did not get it. And when I thought that he might be a little slow on the uptake I saw it: I designed a nice logo with pen, paper and photoshop that said: „NightbearerR“...... And yes, to be honest, I wouldn't sign a band that might be a bunch of idiots who cannot spell their own name, hahaha... hell no! So hey, Rico, If you're reading this: We're NIGHTBEARER, we have a propper new logo, a complete band to play live, a chunk of professionally designed/printed merchandise, an already written full-length recording in the pipeline and we're bent on releasing it via FDA Records!! (P.S.: We're quite wacky but not totally retarded, hahaha!)...

The last words are yours….

I think we pretty much covered every aspect of NIGHTBEARER that I can say something about. If you all have read until this lines, haven't stopped and are still alive, you might have liked it. In this case go and grab our EP put it in your stereo, turn up the volume and let the buzzsaw reign!!

And yeah, it's 2018 blablabla, so of course visit us on Facebook, Bandcamp or Instagram (you see, totally old school social media whores)!