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Obscurity

Naast dat Duitsland zo'n beetje het trouwste en grootste metalpubliek van de wereld heeft waar buitenlandse bands gevierd worden en blijven, zijn er natuurlijk ook een hoop eigen bands. Deze enorme omvang heeft wellicht geleid tot het feit dat er ook enkele genres zijn waar Duitse bands een behoorlijke stempel op hebben gedrukt, en die allen iets hebben met de duistere middeleeuwen, met name het gedeelte voor de kerstening van Europa. Of het nu gaat om de folk metal van bands als In Extremo en Subway To Sally, de pagan muziek met toeters en bellen van bijvoorbeeld een Odroerir en andere heidens geklede bands, met muzikale elementen als doedelzakken en fluiten, of andere, hardere bands. Bij die hardere bands kan je denken aan een Helfahrt, XIV Dark Centuries, maar ook en zeer zeker Obscurity. Het middeleeuwse/ barbaarse bij deze bands zit hem vooral in de teksten, want muzikaal gaan deze bands er even hard tegen aan als de Scandinavische pioniers, zonder al te veel poespas eromheen. Zes maart verschijnt het vierde album van Obscurity genaamd 'Várar', en wij hadden de kans een interview te doen met bassist Ziu over band, het nieuwe album en sommige randzaken...

Door: Neithan | Archiveer onder black metal

band imageWhen seeing you at 2008's Ultima ratio it was already obvious that 'Várar ' was about to be released. Yet altogether the release has been postponed to an eventual release date of March 6th: how come about the delay?
Well, the first release date was planned for February 6th, but some things in the post-production changed, so we had to postpone the release. That was no big deal... Such things happen sometimes, just normal affairs. Of course, it's quite annoying as we can't await to unleash 'Várar' finally, as the album was already completely mixed and mastered since the end of November. I heard that even some fans are desperately awaiting 'Várar' hehe. So it is not a crucial blow in my eyes.

I think that 'Várar ' is a bit more brutal compared to 'Schlachten Und Legenden'; how do you see that yourself?
Hmm, in some ways it is in fact a bit more brutal but the more decisive factor is that it is even more catchy and balanced than 'Schlachten & Legenden'. The structure of the songs, meaning compositions, changed slightly to be a bit more “epic” refrain based, compared to the more strophe based songs of 'Schlachten & Legenden'. Altogether the mix of some new ways in our compositions, the voice of Agalaz who did a great job on the mic and superior sound compared to 'Schlachten & Legenden' give our new album a more brutal touch while not being as “raw” as maybe 'Schlachten & Legenden' used to be.

Obscurity has used two guest vocalists: Arkadius from Suidakra and Manuel from Path of Golgonda. I believe it is Manuel singing on 'Battle Metal', yet which song is Arkadius involved in?
Yeah man, it was an honour and a pleasure to have these two buddies and fine singers appear on 'Várar'. We have a close friendship to those brave warriors and their hordes. It was an easy job working with them and real fun. Manuel from the Death Metal Masters of Path of Golconda lifts the quite simple but very brutal song 'Battle Metal' even on a higher level with his extreme voice. We have a video where you can see his performance at the mic. It's just fearsome how he treats the mic when he shouts. We will upload it on our MySpace site so everyone can get an image of this warrior guy. It's worth watching it.

Arkadius from Suidakra sings a few lines on the track 'Wer Wind säht…' and did a wonderful job, as well. As a pro it took him only two attemps to get it in the box. After fifteen minutes everything was done and we could enjoy and relax the rest of the day. If someone doesn't know these bands... I can only strongly recommend you to check out Suidakra and Path of Golconda. These guys are real masters of their music type.

Did these guest vocalists also add something to their songs, or was their participation limited to singing the lines you had put on paper for them?
Nope, they didn't add something or even wrote the lines as the lyrics were already complete, when we had the idea to ask them, if they want to appear on 'Várar'. It was no problem and they focused on the way how to sing those lines. We just explained roughly what we expected and they put in their emotions and creativity. We are very happy with the result and appreciate their job very much.

I was surprised to see how many songs from the new album you played on Ultima Ratio 2008. It happens only very little that new, unreleased songs dominate the set list so much. Why did you take that risk of opening that festival with so many rather unknown songs?
Oh man, what a day! Yes, we had only half-an-hour and about half of our set contained new songs. I don't know if we took a big risk to put that many new songs on our set list. We were eager to see the “impact” of our new material and we know that our new songs have the potential to give the crowd a blast. We didn't expect to have already such a “big” audience at 12:00 o'clock but it turned out to be a fantastic gig which will remain unforgotten to us. The Ultima Ratio 2008 was indeed a success for us... seeing the crowd growing bigger and bigger before the show and listening to all of those warriors screaming for us before the storm, along the way and even after the gig was just amazing. It was really one of our most memorable concerts because of the atmosphere and all that especially since no one expected that from the first band. It is always the best compliment and everything we work for, to get such a feedback from the audience. Even after a while, when we “opened” our merch cases the crowd boarded us and at the end of the day we were almost completely sold out. Don't get me wrong mentioning this exasperating commercial aspect, but it is just awesome to see how much the people appreciate and like your work. Thanks again to all of the brave warriors who supported us at the Ultima Ratio 2008. You guys made that day unforgettable to us!

In a previous interview we had, on the late Vampire Magazine, we spoke about the kind of witch hunt on German pagan bands. I came up with the suggestion to put the following line in the booklet: “We play metal because we love it and have no political message or interest whatsoever; to all who think there is a political message in our music nevertheless we would like to say 'get a life'..". You did put a message about metal and politics in the booklet, but it was put more decent. Was I that blunt?
No, no… your statement is exactly what we feel. Originally it was intended to be placed in the booklet. Unfortunately we didn't have enough space to include everything we liked to. Only the first part made it's way into the booklet: 'Várar' is dedicated to our loyal troops and all true Metal warriors fighting the struggle of life against social adversity & political insanity which will NEVER accord with the way of Heavy Metal. We hail you!” I think that reveals totally our intentions and shows everyone that we are against any form of extreme political ideology. Your line would have been added to that statement… but unfortunately we didn't have enough free space. Sorry, buddy!

Now a few words to the “witch hunt”. Even it is an exasperating topic, it is still a current and important discussion topic. We really hate that these Nazi punks try to invade and conquer or beloved Metal, which will never fit together in our opinion and we will never rest in telling our opinion on this matter. The Pagan/Viking Metal scene is already discredited so badly by such idiots that many non-political bands have to fear to be put in the right corner although they do not have anything in common with right wing extremists. In fact they give everything to keep burning the flame of the true metal and it's variegated community. We all have to take firm stand against such invaders and have to fight them… or we will loose our Metal community, which knows no borders or discrimination of origins. We used to be all brothers with one goal: Metal, Metal, Metal! If we accept infiltration we will loose what makes our community so adorable and unique.

The album is called 'Várar', which means “vows” as far as I can check it out. This is also supported by the two warriors on the cover holding each other by the arms to speak out the vows. Why is 'Várar' the best suited title for this new album and how does the term of “vows” reflect on Obscurity?
The title and cover belong together, that's right. The cover is the visual expression of the title 'Várar' which indeed means “vow”. There are a few significances for the title and cover.
1. One meaning is based on a historic context. It's expression of the Nordic cultures which had many minor and major differences but the origins were almost similar. The fraternization of the two warriors symbolize the bridging between the old cultures. The title 'Várar' means not only an ordinary vow. It is also an “alliance vow” which the old warrior swore on the sword. The song 'Várar' is about the “invasion of the barbarians” which occurred in the first century. That was a dark migration period in which many so-called barbaric people and tribes wandered through Europe. In this time many tribes merged to survive and created new tribes. 'Várar' is a holy vow to seal an arrangement.
2. It is a symbol for our sentiments about the Metal community. We are brothers and we seal our alliance with a vow.
3. It is a bridging symbol to the Scandinavian and “continental” Pagan/Viking Metal scene, as well as the rest of the world.
4. It is a symbol for the brothership of Obscurity. After Nezrac left the band we stuck together even closer than before and we swear to carry on our crusade! Nezrac and our former guitarist Dornaz will also be our brothers forever.
You see… there's quite a lot of meanings. Each is unique and very important to us.

Obscurity is, in all honesty, not regarded as the most innovative band. Nevertheless you must have done some things on the new album that were quite new to Obscurity. If so, what songs on 'Várar' are an example of that and why?
*rolls eyes and shouts with Homer's voice: “Boooooring!” * Now listen, brother. I know what you mean and I'm not angry or something. No need to feel offended, as I don't do it either, hehe. Seriously, every time the question of innovation comes up. I sense a chairman of the board meeting of a joint-stock company discussing that they did not met the expected earnings outlook and those guys are just about to fire randomly some workers just to get more earnings. If we take some of the real big bands of the last five years of our metal scene… tell me how many of them are really innovative. Most of them play really great metal and have a superb sound (well, that's a matter of taste) but it's mostly a very, very good package of good old metal in a new garment and it sounds awesome. That's my opinion. If you extend the question of innovation of the image of pagan bands… Talking about curious instruments and cool outfits like smurf furs and stuff like that. We don't have that stuff to offer. We are what we are metal warriors and we let the music speak for us. Fashion trends, hehe. We are so retro normal that we might be innovative again. HAHA! I bet some people hate us now!

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Obscurity is “just” a bunch of metalheads who want and do play/create the music they like and would like to listen to. We are no musicians who meet in the rehearsal room to set up a plan to reinvent or revolutionize metal. We play and play and play and if we like it, we take it. There is no master plan, no commercial consideration. If the outcome turns out to be innovative, fine. If not, we don't care! As long as we love what we are doing. That's Obscurity, a band of brothers, which do not bend for any expectations or trends. I don't want to talk big or something, we just take our music serious but we are always good for some jokes. You can have some good fun with us. We are very able to take criticism and if someone really doesn't like us, well, that's a matter of taste and just normal and no big deal. We can accept that without any problems.

Ok, sorry for my little burst. I carry on with the original question. We did some things different than in past. As mentioned before our songs are more refrain biased now and we screwed down some of our more complex guitar works like on 'Schlachten & Legenden'. That is definitely not a loss of quality or something like that, in fact it is a gain of quality as the music gets more “round” and harmonizes way more altogether. Examples for that process are almost all songs, hehe… sounds stupid… but that's simply the truth! More to that topic in my next answer.

'Várar' is a bit more balanced: some fast songs, like 'Nach Asgard wir reiten', 'Wer Wind säht...' and 'Im Herzen des Eises', and all around the more epic battle songs. Was that a deliberate move to create some more distinct and variety, or is this such a famous example of “the album just came out that way”?
Nope, the increased balance is no deliberate move. Actually, it is indeed an example of “the album just came out that way”. Well, maybe partly the move to more refrain based song structures is also responsible for that move, but even that was just a natural development. As I said before, there is no master plan. We get into the rehearsal room, one of our guitarists has an idea and we are all working out the idea until a song is finished. That's how it goes. Maybe we developed further as musicians, as well as our taste of music. This time Bony our longtime friend and producer was more involved in the creation process of two or three songs. I think this influence wasn't bad, as well, hehe. Bony is not only the singer of “Japanische Kampfhörspiele” and producer, he's also an extremely talented musician. This guy is a one-man band and gives a lot of inspiration, if needed. Furthermore we had kinds of phases in which the songs has been composed, which may have had some affect on our compositions. Another factor is maybe that I was responsible for most of the lyrics and I tried to convince my brother here and there to compose for the lyrics and not vise versa.

One point of criticism on the previous album was the sound of 'Schlachten Und Legenden': is that why you used so many people for the production (Bony, Tim Schuldt and Jacob Bredahl)?
We used to have even more people working at the 'Schlachten & Legenden' production than on the 'Várar' production. Bony has been involved in all of our album productions since 2000 and developed from being a dear friend to a brother and semi-member of Obscurity. 'Schlachten & Legenden' was engineered by Haan Hartman and Andy Brings (Ex-Sodom guitarist) which are the owners of the Midas Twins studio. Initially we had a different master guy who is a real mastermind but when it turned out that we weren't happy with the master, we asked Tim Schuldt again (He did the mastering for our “Thurisaz” album, as well). The final master by Tim Schuldt did never reach the magazines. Our promo cd's still contained the “older” master version. Massacre made the promo cd's before we could send in the final master. I think you understand that it was kind of an extreme bullshit situation but it went that way and we can't blame anyone for that. Believe me, the sound on the 'Schlachten & Legenden' album is better than on the promo cd. Still it isn't as good as the 'Várar' sound, since we couldn't totally compensate the extreme compression of the original 'Schlachten & Legenden' sound. That was a failure in the recording process, which turned out to be very nasty while we were mixing.

In summary we are still satisfied with the sound of 'Schlachten & Legenden', I don't understand if one complains about the sound. It is still raw and a bit overcompressed but far, far away from being bullshit. It's a unique sound and it suits the album very well, but that's a matter of taste again. Anyways, we learned from the past and since Tim Schuldt had his own full studio (4 CN Studios) up and running in 2008 we decided to book him for our next album. Tim is, as already mentioned, an Obscurity production veteran, very talented and a very dear buddy. He gave us an atmosphere, which allowed us to work as focused and harmonically as we were never able before. His equipment is very good and he does have some good ideas, too! Jacob Bredahl has been recommended to us by Bony and we gave him the mixing and mastering job, which he fulfilled bravely, hehe.

It took us about eight days to record everything, one more day for the pre-mix and then we sent the songs to Jacob. As it went all via e-mail contact and Jacob is a very busy man, it took three weeks to find the best and final sound. So, there was no determined decision to enter Tim's studio. If he already had it running at the time of the 'Schlachten & Legenden' we would have joined him earlier. Jacob was a chance we couldn't pass up. He's a cool guy, who gave us the best sound we've ever had and we really want go on with him. And we want to cooperate with Tim in the future, too, as he gave us the great basis sound. And there is no question about working again with Bony!

band imageGoing on about the production. I think that 'Várar' has a better production. What aspect of Obscurity is better exposed because of this production?
HAHA! Everything man! What a question… Serious, the 'Várar' production gave us a sound, which brings the songs on a higher level than all the previous albums had. The songs sound more clear/brilliant and where it suits the songs it gives a more epic sound and makes everything more enjoyable! We didn't image that it would turn out that well. Everything harmonizes so much more and the last components are set in just the right place, something we didn't manage before. It makes the sound garment slightly more brutal without drifting into the roughness of a bad production. To us, it is definitely a highly professional sound, which will satisfy and convince anyone listening to 'Várar'. Something we are very grateful for and proud of.

You moved from Massacre to Trollzorn, a label more orientated on pagan metal. What was the reason for that move?
The reason for that move is just as simple as it can be. We had a distribution contract with Massacre Records only for the 'Schlachten & Legenden' album, that's all. We got no money for the production. 'Schlachten & Legenden' was like 'Thurisaz' and 'Bergisch Land', a completely self-financed album! No one knew that when the album came out, everyone thought it was financed with a big pile of money by Massacre. I guess even two years later no one knows about that, hehe, which isn't really a “must” to know, just interesting. A while after the release we first met the Trollzorn guys at the Wolfszeit Fest. They did like our performance very much and ordered some of our merchandise stuff for their mailorder site. A few weeks later they had sold all of our stuff and contacted us again. During the e-mail contact they asked us about how much albums we subscribed with Massacre. We explained the situation and so they immediately asked us if we would like to join their forces. We had a friendly meeting with a couple of beers and these guys turned out to be some fantastic buddies. We became very good friends and so we alligned our troops. That's all. Obscurity is a bigger family now.

Obscurity belongs definitely to the more rougher kind of German pagan metal bands, like Helfahrt, XIV Dark Centuries and others. Has it ever happened to you that you had a bunch of spectators coming over expecting to see a happy pagan metal band?
No, so far no one was expecting to see some Humpa folk on stage with fur clothes on playing curious instruments like flutes, bagpipes, fiddles, hurdy-gurdies or jewish harps. That's not our style. We don't do such kind of medieval “come sing and dance with me” music. If you come to our concerts, five warriors will kick your ass with a kind of music you may need to go berserk in the middle of a battlefield. And the best thing is, you'll survive it and you march home victorious. Hehe, we are befriended with some bands like Black Messiah, Gernotshagen, Adorned Brood and a few others which use those atmospheric instruments and few of them have some fun song in their repertoire, but we are just five warriors who swing their axes. We like their music and always have a good time with it, but that's not our style. On the other hand, we are far away from being super duper true evil black metal icons. You can see that we have fun on stage and sometimes we even smile down at the audience, hehe. Our concerts use to be fun with the right portion of seriousness. You can have a real good time with us on stage, but please keep your shoes on and don't try to dance around an imaginary lake, like gay elves do in the woods. Warriors shout out loud and proud and mosh their heads off!

I see several shows coming up until September 2009, yet it all concerns all incidental shows, mostly at festivals. Are you also working on an (mini-) tour or do you intend to foucs especially on such incidental shows?
“Incidental shows”, that sound like an event for incorporated dentists, hehe. We are indeed working on a mini-tour with Adorned Brood and Kromlek. This tour will take place at a few weekends over weeks and months. We can't play a big tour because we are still missing a singer or guitarist. We try to get Bony at the battleaxe for the shows but he got also others things to do. If anything goes bad, we play as a band of four but five guys on stage is just better for the sound and performance. We are trying to play as much as we can but not in a row. Furthermore Agalaz has a very bad injury at the nerves in his back. It is even questionable whether he can carry on his job. You can imagine that it is a pretty bad situation for him, for the time being. Last weekend we drove to a party of the guys from Trollzorn and after that two hour trip he couldn't move his left leg properly. That sucks big time if you have to travel around several days and you are not fully “operational” with a big load of pain. So we keep going on with incidental shows.

The shows I see so far are all in Germany: any other countries where you think Obscurity would do very well on stage?
Yes, of course. I would say Austria, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Spain, Greece, Italy and eastern Europe would work very fine for us. I don't know the metal scene in France, Portugal and some other countries but we would be glad to visit as much countries as possible. Maybe we'll be playing in the Netherlands this year, maybe at the Dynamo Club, what do you think, hey? Playing live is the greatest thing we can imagine. We love to act on stage and interact with the Metalheads, that's LIFE, man! I think we'll have some more shows coming up this year, as we already have on our schedule so far. It's early in 2009 and some shows are still on the hold. If you are interested, guys, just check out our website or at MySpace.

The band has a special action: there is a batch of 100 special limited digipack of 'Várar' coming out, including a unique shirt. How is that action going so far?
It's going quite fine. We didn't make very much promotion for that action. The news reached the magazines and metalheads just a few days ago (first weekend of February). We have about twenty items stored so the special edition will be available at our concerts. I don't know the exact sales but as far as I know Trollzorn sold already half of the remaining stuff within a few days (The XXL shirts are already sold out). I advise everyone who may have interest in that edition should order it as soon as possible, hehe. Or come to our concerts, maybe we will have some left.

Singer Nezrac left the band, and this time Agalaz did the vocals on the album. Now I see that you are nevertheless looking for a new singer. Agalaz is doing the vocals just fine, why is Obscurity nevertheless in search for a new vocalist?
Yes, Agalaz did a fantastic job and his voice fits perfectly to the sound of Obscurity. We are fine with the idea of leaving the frontman job to Agalaz but he's Obscurity's guitarist for about twelve years now and does have a problem with laying down his battleaxe. Nevertheless we carry on with Agalaz as singer for the live shows and Bony as a valuable session guitarist.

Apart from being metal, what is the person you are looking forward like, regarding both his or her style of singing and the personality?
Apart from metal I like to listen to Johnny Cash, Elvis and those old R'n'R icons. I don't like most of the pop singers and I'm no fan of any of them. Most of the non-metal singers I like are related to Rock, R'n'R and other related genres. That may seem a bit limited but Metal is my life and R'n'R is running through my veins.

Since Agalaz is doing the job well, how much in a hurry is Obscurity in finding the new herald?
As I said before Agalaz is a great singer and we are a complete band at present. We feel very comfortable with the current line up and our creative output is better than ever. We are still looking for a new singer because maybe a guy with a voice we can't pass up may knock on our door. We will continue our search just for a couple more weeks after the release of 'Várar'. Afterwards we may try to get a new guitarist who will be a steady member of Obscurity (maybe we have even a big surprise in the bag). We are not in a hurry, as it runs very well with the current line up. But you'll never know what will happen in some days… maybe we'll find the “Über”- singer or guitarist, hehe. By the way, Agalaz is very fine with that. He's willing to take the job as the singer permanently but at the same time a bit unwilling to put his guitar on the nail, which is understandable, in my eyes. We don't put pressure on him and on ourselves.

What are, apart from promoting 'Várar' and finding a new vocalist, the main goals for Obscurity in 2009?
Playing live shows as much as we can in as much countries as possible! Being able to get on the road with Obscurity is the essence of our work. The other “goal” is to write some fine new songs!

Anything I have forgotten to ask, yet that you want to be said in this interview. The final words are up to Obscurity…
First of all, thanks for the fine interview once again, buddy. It was a pleasure. I think I already bored you all to death so I keep it short and close this interview with a greet from the bottom of my metal heart. METAL FOREVER!

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