First of all; congratulations with yet another fantastic album, 'The Eternal Battle'! But before we get into that, let's go back a few years. In general 'My Name Will Live On' was received well, although the new, a bit more extreme path that DoomSword had set upon was a matter to get used to for some people. How do you look back at that album?
Hi Nima, first of all let me thank you for the interview and for the compliments, much appreciated!
Getting to your question: 'MNWLO' was a strange album for DoomSword, much because of the personal circumstances surrounding the band. I moved to Ireland in 2004 a few months after releasing 'Let Battle Commence', and that was some sort of trauma for the band as everybody in the band had to adjust to the new rhythms and a new working method (through the internet). It took some time to adjust to the new conditions but eventually we made it. The problem is that in the meanwhile nasty rumours about the band splitting up started to surface, which was quite upsetting as we never even thought about splitting up. I mean DoomSword will never “split-up”, for as long as I have the spirit and the will to keep it going. Given the harsh conditions and the rumours that started to arise, the band started to accumulate a certain anger which we – thankfully – channelled into great epic heavy metal. And if you read the lyrics of 'Steel of My Axe', the fastest song DoomSword ever wrote, there's a lot of that anger and the sense of vengeance that was within us. Strictly speaking the song 'Steel of My Axe' was actually spawned off a bet – someone told me “I bet DoomSword can't write a fast song” and I answered “you just wait and see!”. So that's the psychology behind the album and of course this translated in musical choices that the fans might have found hard to digest but curiously enough, it wasn't the fans of the first album who found 'MNWLO' very hard but the fans of 'Let Battle Commence'. This seems like a paradox but when you think about it 'MNWLO' contained a lot of the melodic style of the first album and was more classically heavy metal while 'LBC' was a boulder of epic doom, and pushing on the accelerator made the latter fans more disappointed than the first. Ultimately though, DoomSword's musical aim is to write epic heavy metal, whichever form that takes. We don't impose limits on ourselves, we can go as fast or slow as we feel like it and people shouldn't be so closed minded as to think of themselves as “fans of doom metal” therefore incapable of appreciating a furious track like 'Steel of My Axe' or “bored by doom” therefore unable to appreciate a dramatic song such 'The DoomSword' or 'Blood Eagle'. So that's it, 'MNWLO' was our way to say to the world “DoomSword are here, they're here to stay, and if you don't like us that's tough”.
In our last interview you mentioned that the harshest criticism came from Italy, where you also used the phrase "Nemo profeta in Patria"! Was it different this time with 'The Eternal Battle'?
No. Actually it was worse!!! Our average mark in the world is around 8 – 8.5 /10 for 'TEB', in Italy we got a good 5 to 10 points less averagely, with comments such as “we expect more from DoomSword than just their 'homeworks'“ or “I'm not going to indulge in my mark to reward a fifteen years career from DoomSword”. Is it bad? Not necessarily, the day we make the Italians happy will probably be the day the rest of the world will be in absolute awe at how great a DoomSword album is. Mind you, I think that day is near. I am not delusional, I know our albums have their defects and things could have been differently or better at times, so I am conscious that there is plenty of room for improvement. The problem with Italian fans is that they benchmark absolutely everything. The average critic doesn't sit down and listens to the album drawing his conclusions at the end based on what emotions he felt during the listening session, rather he sits down, listens to the album and then asks himself “yeah but how does this compare to 'Irae Melanox' or 'The Etruscan Prophecy'? Not good enough!!!“. Not realising that first of all there are at this stage more than 20 years separating a new DoomSword album from seminal albums of Italian metal, but also that intents and means (recording equipment etc.) are completely different so it's really apples and freaking oranges. Each period has its own masterpieces and seminal albums and I think that DoomSword had a primary role in the come back of a certain epic heavy metal in the late 90s, if anything what was 'Irae Melanox' and 'The Etruscan Prophecy' in the 80s was replaced in and around 1997-99 by 'Champion Eternal' and our own début album. In a way Italians are pushing DoomSword really really hard, they cut us no slack whatsoever, they keep us on our toes and that's probably very good for the future of the band. It's a freaking pain though... Nemo profeta in patria is still very much valid.
In continuance to the previous question; why do you think the Italian press has been so hard on the band so far? I mean, not only are you – in my opinion – the leading epic metal band from your country, but also one of the most respected in this genre in general. And not to forget that with bands like Wotan, Holy Martyr and Icy Steel, Italy is a great supplier of epic heavy metal…
Well, let me clarify this aspect. Italians are hard on everybody. They expect you to be as good as if not better than whatever production you published that got them interested into your music. If you think that Wotan and Holy Martyr are considered in Italy to be more than “rather good examples of Italian metal” (as Italians would put it) you're wrong. That's the attitude. Very few things are granted the status of “exceptional” and usually there has to be a good ten-fifteen years in between before someone will allow any album to be recognised for the actual impact it had on the scene. Italy is really misrepresented abroad. I don't mean this in a polemic way, I'm just stating a fact. Italy was always a country of great musicians who distinguished themselves for inventiveness and technical skills. The aforementioned Adramelch and Dark Quarterer are two blazing examples of that, but the whole Italian progressive rock scene of the 70s (more than 200 bands) is a prime example of how Italy always had world-class musicians that never got their real value widely recognised. Even the whole happy-clappy crap metal movement of keyboard-based bands is full of virtuosos. I think the reason for such a high level of skill is the Italians themselves who are always extremely critical of anything that comes from Italy, music-wise Italians have always been what we call “esterofili” meaning that everything that comes from abroad is better. Except food of course haha. And as you pointed out, Italy is a great supplier of epic heavy metal. In fact – and I never thought I would say this – I think Italy is THE country for epic heavy metal right now, I cannot think of another country with the same number of bands and same level of quality for epic heavy metal as Italy. Even the Greek underground metal community, the very hardest core of everything “epic” metal in the world, will tell you that.
Let's talk about the new album a little bit; with 'My Name Will Live On' you already surprised with a heavier sound and faster songs. In my opinion 'The Eternal Battle' continues that line, only this time the album sounds more balanced in its entirety. On MNWLO there were individual songs like 'Days Of High Adventure' and 'Steel Of My Axe' that “represented” the new direction, while 'Death Of Ferdia' or 'Gergovia' still were more in the familiar DoomSword style. But the new songs all have a perfect mix of everything DoomSword has done in its career so far. Your opinion please…
I would say that once again you're right. I have a feeling I'm going to tell you this quite a lot of times during this interview haha. Yes, the strength of 'TEB' is its coherence. It was a very delicate work in that respect, because it is quite difficult to make an album that doesn't deviate too much from certain standards and not have it sound boring. Each time DoomSword release an album there is a process of “digestion” of what went on previously and this sort of “heritage” is then incorporated into new compositions. That's how we operate. 'TEB' was a very important album because we experimented a bit in terms of sound solutions (you know certain choirs, certain harmonies, different – almost 70s – approach to certain parts) which widened our horizons so our “heritage” for the next album is wider than ever before. So yes, the new album was a new direction more in its entirety than through scattered episodes. In fact you could say that 'Days of High Adventure' and 'Steel of My Axe' didn't really represent a new direction in that 'TEB' does not sound like those two songs, which – by the way – that's what EVERYBODY expected us to do. We like change, we like evolution and speculating over what kind of album DoomSword are going to release is very much a waste of time. Each of our albums was not the natural evolution of the previous album, despite maintaining our trademarks alive.
Another striking point about the album, is the fact that the album title fits very well to the music; of course it has all the elements that make DoomSword to what is, but in my opinion it also shows the many faces of battle: from the intensity, excitement and fury of battle (like the personal feel I get from 'Wrath Of The Gods'), to its horrors and melancholy ('Soldier Of Fortune' comes in mind here). In many ways the album has a sense of anger in it and the riffs sound much meaner for DoomSword standards. At least this is the vibe it gives me personally. Again, your opinion please…
I can add “a sense of tragedy” to the whole thing. The message of the album is not one of hopelessness but neither we joke around themes such as wars and conflicts. There is nothing pretty about them. And because of our “realistic” approach to certain themes the music is then harsher and meaner than other artists might choose to depict certain images with. DoomSword have overcome that sense of upset that characterised 'MNWLO' and now we are ready for a more introspective view on things, which is exactly what happened on 'TEB'. And yes, we like to talk about all the aspects of the battle, DoomSword's lyrics are meant to be food for thought, not a mindless celebration of anything or anybody.
In how far have your lyrical perception changed for this album. I mean, 'Varus Battle' is again a proof of your interest in historical events, but I also can't help getting the feeling that 'The Eternal Battle' is a conceptual album. Am I right or is there at least a red line through the album and its lyrics?
The album is not a concept in the sense that there is a story, but more that all the songs are somehow related to the central theme of the Eternal Battle. The "Eternal Battle" we are talking about is what – in our opinion – is the natural condition of Man. If you think about it, everybody has their own personal idea of happiness, and we all strive to achieve this longed happiness. Getting there is a constant struggle. You have to overcome physical and psychological obstacles, you have to make decisions, always being in two minds about what to do and how to do it. The reality is you're always battling some inner demon or the external world. And if you are so lucky that you achieve your goals, what happens to you? You realize the whole point was never the goal, but it was the "getting there", because before you can even realise it, you have new goals, new dreams. So there you are starting from scratch, or already engaged into some other journey. More psychological conflicts, more demons to defeat, more people to confront yourself with. And what is on an individual basis a confrontation between two people, translates into rivalry between communities, political parties or social classes, and actual wars between nations. Man is always battling something. The Eternal Battle is this condition, which we can never escape. Well, not until humanity grows into something spiritually and intellectually different, not necessarily better or superior. So in the album we explore this theme through different perspectives: two songs in particular, 'Warlife' and 'Soldier of Fortune', are dedicated to those who gave their lives to fight battles they probably didn't even believe in, living a life which is practically marching to death. The song 'Eternal Battle' takes inspiration from Norse mythology and shows how ancient cultures had the idea that they should fight all their life, they would wish to die fighting and what would the reward be? To get to fight eternally in the sky! 'Varus Battle' is a very important song for DoomSword as the historical consequences have their effect on the present day still: DoomSword hail from Lombardy which takes its name from the Northern Germany tribe of the Longobards who were a part of the confederation of tribes which fought the Romans in the Varus Battle. Had the Romans won the battle the North of Italy would not have been – in all probability – invaded and dominated by the Longobards (and other Germanic tribes beforehand such as the Goths) and our culture and language would probably be different. As you can see in every song the theme of "battling" is very strong.
Something different; you know, the whole Viking and Nordic mythology, along with medieval thing is also becoming more and more popular, with role-playing games, medieval fares and more and more gadgets being made available for the fans. What is this in your opinion that attracts people?
I would say it's escapism. As a general rule, the more people are interested in a time that is not their time the more they're unhappy with their reality, and somehow escaping to another time and place is comfort for the mind. A world of your own, in which your imagination is God and you live according to your own rules. Of course there's a lot of delusion going on as well, sometimes even a conscious one. The reality is that 99% of people would come back from the Middle Ages after one day if they were given the possibility to live there. I don't exclude myself from this, it's possible I myself would return to the present in an eye blink. The middle ages were not a time in which you went around in an armour chopping heads and drinking beer, everything including the basic needs was not comfortable to be obtained. But the image of the middle ages and the Viking era as it's been portrayed by the media is deliberately inaccurate, creating a world where people feel comfortable picturing themselves living in. My interest for history is more “academic” if you want, among my readings I not only include material about medieval politics and war history but also the every day aspects of life. What it was like to be in the middle ages from your porridge breakfast through your ploughing day to your roasted onions for dinner. Not so pretty anymore huh? Hahaha.
Do you think that most of these people are also actually interested in the Viking mythology, Pagan philosophy and ways, or more to the outfits, the idea and the fact that they can escape reality for some time?
Definitely the escaping reality aspect of things is paramount. There are people who are interested in the pagan philosophy but guess what, 90% gets that wrong too. Without going down the route of how certain political movements in fact appropriated themselves of certain cultures – unjustifiably might I add – the vast majority of people goes around thinking being a Viking meant being blond and bearded drinking beer all day and slashing people in half if they pissed you off. The philosophical aspect is just ridiculous: right now the scene of people who claim to be pagan is split into nazis in disguise and flowery-hippie new age tree-huggers. It's a disgrace! The old ways are truly lost and modern people apply modern-day concepts to ancient culture to create a whole new world in their minds which never existed historically. Being a Viking meant respecting the rules of your tribe, paying fees for killing someone, holding back the drinking for the occasions, thinking about fetching timber and fishing and above all, being very very worried about your own and your family's sustainment to the point where you consider spending six months on a boat to reach some land that someone else referred to as a very fertile place where people can live in peace.
Back to DoomSword then; in how far has the composing process changed during the years? I mean, there was a shorter period between the first three albums, while both 'My name Will Live On' and 'The Eternal Battle' took four years in making…
The process has changed a lot, but surprisingly enough this has very little to do with the time passed between releases. Initially, in 2004, what slowed us down was my move to Ireland. Between 'MNWLO' and 'TEB' we took a year off from songwriting as a sort of a break but then started writing songs quite rapidly, the release of the album got delayed by the fact that after the recording I wanted to review some of the vocal parts I had done on the album and I decided to take a complete “break” from the album itself, let a few months pass then listen to it again and decide what to change or improve. And so I did. 'TEB' was in fact completely recorded in December 2009, but it wasn't until July 2010 that I decided the album was ready for being published. Back in the early days of the band, songwriting was more the case of Deathmaster sitting down with pen paper and an acoustic guitar. Nowadays there's still a lot of that, but the ideas I write are purposely focused on the vocals and left a lot more vague in the instrumental parts so that the rest of the band can adjust and arrange whichever way they prefer. There's a lot of bouncing ideas off each other and Sacred Heart and Wrathlord today are responsible for the sound of DoomSword a lot more than any other member in the past. It's great because the band real rather than my project with a few session musicians, and the quality can only improve. Even song structures are the result of a concerto of efforts among the members of the band and I think that this was a killer aspect of 'TEB'.
And finally; can we expect more live activity from you guys this time?
False answer: well look, in the past we had our philosophy of just doing a few well-chosen dates to make the events more magical but now all that is gone and we're going to tour extensively and show our faces pretty much everywhere in Europe, hopefully everybody will get a chance to see DoomSword this time!
Actual answer: we planned ONE gig for 2011, at the Hammer of Doom VI in October. We like it that way.
By the way, what's the status of your Viking project Gjallarhorn? It's been six years since the release of the debut album…
Christian (the new bass player in DoomSword, and already bass player in Gjallarhorn) and I were talking about resurrecting the project for a long time, but now that he's in DoomSword and we're in much closer contact we made a promise to ourselves to release a new album. We're writing new material right now and we're really excited because we think that Nordheim was a real cult album. The biggest problem is the name Gjallarhorn: there is already a finnish folk band with that name that didn't take the fact that we used the same name very well – apparently fans of the band bought Nordheim thinking it was a new album of the finnish band and were extremely pissed off about it. I even think a number of copies of the Gjallarhorn album had to be recalled from the market because the finnish band was going to legal on Dragonheart's ass, so we're going to have to use another name for the project which KILLS us because we really don't want that. Right now, in this very instant I'm thinking of changing it to Gjallarhorn-Nordheim.
Well, I guess we can wrap it up for this time. Unless of course there is anything that you'd like to mention…
Well I'd like to say that we already started writing new material for the next DoomSword album and that – while I will make no promises – I cannot see another four years passing before having a new DoomSword album out. The current line-up is the best DoomSword ever had by a long shot and you can only expect a masterpiece from our next release. Also for those interested, I am working on a solo project under the name Deathmaster, and a very 80s style metal band called Lightning Strykes which should be published in the next year or so. Finally the new Fury'n'Grace album featuring myself on vocals should be out soon, you might want to check that out.
Thank you very much and all the best for you and DoomSword! And once again congratulations on this killer album! Cheers.
Thanks a lot for the interesting interview, all the best to you and Lords Of Metal! Up the horns!