Hello Zagan! Congratulations with the amazing new album! So it is time for our next interview for Lords of Metal, this time on behalf of ‘Walls Of Vanaheim’... How are you and what is going on in the Black Messiah camp at this moment?
Hi Vera, I am glad that you like our new album. We are all happy with this, because we think we did a good job. The work on this album took a long time, but I think the result is pretty good. The sound is hard and strong and we have a lot of varied songs. Reviews of ‘Walls Of Vanaheim’ are most very good, so we feel fine. We have played a few summer festivals and now we all are going to our holidays. We need a few days to rest and we are starting again in September with live shows in England and in Switzerland.
When looking back at recent years, there are two gigs I would like some details on, about your experiences. First of all in September 2016 you celebrated the 25th anniversary of the band. Can you tell a bit more about the things and gig(s) you planned to celebrate this?
We did one big show for our 25th Black Messiah Birthday. We did it in Oberhausen in November 2016. We had the idea to play a lot of songs we have never played before, some of the songs we haven’t played for a long time, and a few songs we play on every concert. We had a lot of former Black Messiah musicians on stage and a lot of guests like Frank Blackfire from Sodom and Kreator, our baritone singer Markus Wahlers, Marc Wheeler from Nymphidia, Baschi, Schawes and Späg from the Irish folk band Moron’s Dew and Stefan from Jörmundgand. We did a three hours show with one break and the audience was fantastic. People came from Austria, from Switzerland and from the Netherlands to experience the show. One girl I met there was from Columbia. That is really unbelievable. We had over twenty musicians on stage, it was a unique evening for me. The best for me was that I played one song on stage with my son Erik. He was thirteen years old and we played ‘Witching Hour’ from Venom together… a very beautiful moment for me.
And in April 2017 the mighty Ragnarök Festival in Lichtenfels took place with amazing bill. How did you experience this happening this year?
This was our third time on Ragnarök. It is really a fantastic festival. I like to play there because you have the chance to meet a lot of friends. After twenty-five years in business, you know a lot of other musicians and Ragnarok gives you the chance to talk with them and to drink with them. This year I met my friends of Cruachan again and we had a fantastic time together. On the other side you are in the middle of the fans on Ragnarök. I like to speak with all of the people. The scene is alive on Ragnarök and that is why I love this festival.
When and how did you come to the decision to write a sequel for ‘First War Of the World’ (2009) and how come it took so long to realize it?
The idea for this sequel was born in 2009 during the recording sessions of ‘First War Of The World’. We knew that the story was not finished and that we would go to write the second part of it one time. We had a lot of fun while working on this ‘First War’ material, but we understood that a concept album costs more power than a normal one. So we decided to put back this plan of the sequel. After the release of our ‘Heimweh’ album in 2013, we had a big break in Black Messiah history. We lost three musicians. Only Garm (bass guitar) and me were left and we had to find new guys for our band. This took a lot of time and in my opinion this was the best moment to start working on this prequel.
Can you resume and go a bit deeper into the story of ‘Walls Of Vanaheim’…
Yes, sure. At the end of ‘First War Of The World’ the Aesir and the Vanir have closed peace. To keep peace they decided to change people from their tribes. The Vanir Njörd and his family have to live at the Aesir’s home and the Aesir Hune and Odin’s friend, the giant Mimir, left Asgaard to live at Vanaheim. ‘Walls Of Vanaheim’ begins with a rider who rides to Odin’s fortress Valhalla and he throws a severed head over the walls. It is Mimir’s head and Odin takes that as a start for a new war against the Vanir. He and his armies march to Vanaheim and they try to destroy the city. But the walls of Vanaheim are too strong. After a few days and nights of fighting Thor has an idea how to tear down the walls of the city. But I do not like to tell everything. Perhaps someone wants to listen to the story on CD…
What struck me was the almost human interaction between the Gods, surely Odin and his son. What are your thoughts on this matter?
The Vikings and the Germanics always have shown their gods very human, with a lot of strengths, but also with many weaknesses. They are not infallible, and that is a big difference to the today’s dominant faiths. They make mistakes and once in a while they act wrong even with intent. For the people of that time it was important to agree their own existence on the basis of their gods. My idea it was to tell a story in the old way. To show the gods like the old Vikings saw them. That is the reason for this little conflict between Odin and his son Thor.
Narrator Tom Zahner did an amazing job and I really love his storytelling parts! On the other hand I thought that some of the fans would say it interrupts the flow or the heaviness of the record. Did you get reactions like that and what is your vision on it?
Yes, that is right. There are people who like the storytelling parts and others don’t. That was clear previously. If you do not like it you can skip the track. For me it was important to tell the whole story with all elements. If we had everything set to music we had to make three CDs. Also I like the variety between songs and storytelling.
There is a longer pause between former album ‘Heimweh’ and the new one, but there were reasons for that. First of all quite a few members (three I think) left the band. What happened and how did you manage to find new musicians? Was that difficult or rather a smooth switch?
To find new people for a band is not easy. You know, there are many points that need to fit. They have to like your sound, they have to be musically good and also they need to like us. So sometimes it is a long journey to find a suitable candidate. This time it didn’t last too long, but we needed time for this new record. Also we had to be capable to go on stage. We had a lot of work during the last three or four years. But now it is done and we are back again.
Can you introduce the new members and their background?
First Pete joined the band in autumn 2013. He is a former member of Eternal Dirge, Ninnghizhidda and Tsatthoggua. I know him a long time because I played a few months with Ninnghizhidda as a bass player in the past. Then our old keyboard player Agnar left the band, because of his job. So Ask joined Black Messiah in winter 2013. He is an old friend of mine and he had replaced Agnar before for some concerts , so it was not difficult to find a new keyboard player. In Spring Summer 2014 my old buddy and drummer Brööh left Black Messiah. He wanted to be more with his family and Surtr joined. He is a drumming teacher and mastermind of the black metal band Morar. At last the guitar player Donar joined the band in Summer 2014, too. He is mastermind of Wicked Disciple.
How do you look back at ‘Heimweh’ now, because it seems like a farewell album, also to AFM?
If you see the history of Black Messiah after ‘Heimweh’, you can say that it is an farewell to many things. New musicians, new label and a new sound. ‘Heimweh’ is not my favorite Black Messiah album. I do not like the sound of this record and it sounds a little bit as it is unfinished….I hope you know what I try to say hehe. ‘Heimweh’ is the end of a part in Black Messiah era and ‘Walls Of Vanaheim’ is the beginning of a new one. I think this describes it best.
And can you tell a bit more about the ending of the contract with AFM and the entrance at Trollzorn?
The contract with AFM expired and we did not want a new one. It was our opinion that we needed a change. The cooperation with AFM was a good one and we have a good relationship, but AFM is not a pagan metal label. That is the reason for our leaving. I know Kai and Stefan from Trollzorn for a long time and it was my wish to sign with them. So one evening I phoned Kai and told him that we have left AFM. The first thing he asked was if we liked to sign a contract with Trollzorn. I said yes and we had a new record label. This was really easy…
Also the recording process took longer than expected… even one year… Where did you record, and can you tell a bit more about that recording process?
That’s right, it took a long time. We recorded at Surtr’s studio in Bochum and we had the luck that we had the chance to work with Dennis Koehne as our sound technician. He gave us the sound we needed. We had a few technical problems during the recordings of the orchestra and the choirs. Two programs collided and that threw us back. It took more than four months until we could continue.
You worked together with photograph Tom Row. How did you get in contact with him and please tell us what he did to present the band and the story in this way? So the story behind the photos, artwork and booklet and maybe more…
Yes, that is right. This is the second time for us that we had the chance to work with Tom Row. He did the photos for our ‘Heimweh’ release and I really love his style and his work. He did a great job for us in the past, so I called him and asked if he wanted to take the photos for ‘Walls Of Vanaheim’. I had the idea to take battle photos for this album and I told him. We talked about the fact that we will need a lot of actors for this shooting, so I had the idea to ask our fans. At the day of the shooting we had over thirty actors and Tom Row took one photo after another. After we have seen the pictures we were totally excited. Tom is a fantastic artist and I know that we will work together in the future.
What are the plans on shooting music videos?
I think this time we will not shoot a music video because the story from ‘Walls Of Vanaheim’ is really epic and you will need an epic video for this. This would be too expensive. Perhaps we will do a live video in the future.
Well, with a festival like Ragnarök and many smaller ones focusing on pagan metal I am really sad that I am not living in Germany! I guess there is still a lively scene for that genre. Can you tell a bit more about the current evolution in Germany of the genre, since even there times of Pagan or Heiden Fests are over I guess?...
In the past the pagan metal scene in Germany was too big and bookers and organizers took advantage of it to earn a lot of money. A few years ago you had pagan festivals and concerts every week and labels signed every band that was able to tune their guitars without breaking their own fingers. At this time the scene was close at destruction. Luckily today it is better. The big hype is over and you have a couple of good bands that are left. Today our scene is healthy and every pagan festival is a big happening for the bands and for the fans. I really like to be a part of these festivals.
And to occlude: what are the plans for the near future, for gigs and for possible tours? Is there a chance we can see you in Belgium or the Netherlands?
We play a few concerts during a tour in February and March 2018 with Korpiklaani, Heidevolk and Arkona, but these concerts all are in Germany. We have never played in Belgium and only for three or four times in the Netherlands. We would really like to come to these countries. Perhaps we will have the chance next year.
If there is anything you’d like at add, please feel free to do so…
I want to say thank you to all our fans for the last twenty-five years. Without you we are nothing. I really hope to have the chance to rock Belgium and the Netherlands and then I want to see you all in front of our stage. Stay heavy!!