How would you compare the new album ‘Vuur Van Verzet’ with its predecessor ‘Velua’ which was released in 2015?
For ‘Vuur Van Verzet’ we have once again chosen a story, linked with history and battle and that is reflected in the music. ‘Velua’ happens to be more storytelling like, about myths and legends, and therefore a slightly more melodic approach. Now we wanted to have a more raucous approach, harsher. However, without losing the melodic flair of ‘Velua’. The songs are a bit faster and they have more thrash influences. I think it is a combination of ‘Batavi’ and ‘Velua’. We also used quite a few elements from ‘Walhalla Wacht’ and our debut ‘De Strijdlust Is Geboren’.
More than ever the use of authentic folk instruments leaps to the eye…
Indeed. On ‘Velua’ we already enriched the music a bit with a string quartet instead of only violin, this time we even engaged a 24-headed male choir, the string ensemble, nyckelharpa, a Celtic harp and bouzouki. Consequently you can say that there are more folk melodies in the music this time. For instance at the beginning of ‘Onverzetbaar’. In the intro you can hear those three latest mentioned folk instruments.
’Yngwaz Zonen’ is really an exceptional song! We like to know more about that…
Here you can hear the male choir in all its glory. For a long time – since I write the music – it was my wish to use choirs. With ‘Velua’ it did not work out. In the end we came in contact with the ‘Brabants choir’ and they agreed to sing with us. They can be heard on seven songs. I wanted to make a song with a cadency of rowing for ‘Yngwaz Zonen’. It tells about the things that happened to them and where they are going.
I think the theme can easily be reflected on our times, with refugees and people who are looking for a new future far away from home…
So true… The album really suits the current times as well. Take the final song ‘Het Juk Der Tijd’ as example. What you see is that people are looking for a home. There are wars, conflicts all around the world. If you look back in history, then you see there was always chaos and then a time of creating order in that chaos. And the funny thing is… we all know about it. We all see what’s happening and yet we let it happen, we keep on making the same mistakes. It seems as if we cannot prevent it from happening, as if it is mankind’s fate. It is always nice to write lyrics about history, because these are stories we can learn from.
I think this album deals with the topic of the German tribes, fighting the Roman Empire in order to regain what they once had, isn’t it?
Yes, although it is not the main topic, since that is ‘fighting for freedom’, against the occupier and as prototype we have chosen the Roman Empire in decline. Legions start fighting to each other, emperors come and go, whether they are assassinated, murdered or banned from the throne. At a certain moment in time, the huge Roman Empire started to get weak. The tribes who were living in Germania and around the Roman Empire, noticed this weakness and decline. So the tribes, once conquered by Romans, get back to Rome and start fighting and plunder. All they ever lost in battle – land, animals – they want to take it back from the Romans. That’s why they organize plundering, so that Rome will fall after a while.
A remarkable guest appearances is done by Alan ‘Nemtheanga’ Averill (Primordial) in ‘The Alliance’. His voice is recognizable out of thousands!
Indeed. We have toured with Twilight Of The Gods and Primordial, several times. In the meantime I think we can say that there is a close friendship with Alan. When I wrote ‘The Alliance’, I instantly got him in mind. Fortunately he agreed to do it. He was very busy and travelling all the time, but finally he managed to record his parts in a studio in Portugal. We are very happy with the result!
After the release of ‘Velua’ three musicians left Heidevolk. That must have been tricky for you…
Reamon, Mark and Kevin Vruchtbaert left indeed. Of course it is always a pity when a band member leaves the band. But we call ourselves a ‘pagan brotherhood’. The previous members did not disappear out of our lives. We still have contact with them, but at this moment there are different people in the brotherhood. Since ‘Velua’ I write the lion’s share of the material, thus I really saw it as a personal challenge to write everything for this album too, music and lyrics. I started with it late 2015. In 2016 I had a hard time in my personal life, I had to get through it, but at the end of that year and the beginning of 2017 I have continued. I wrote the basic ideas of every song and of course, later I brainstormed with the other guys to finalize the songs. So it was partly a lone process and partly a process with each member of the band, together. Sure, we miss the former guys, but I think we have found amazing replacements in Kevin Storm, Jacco and Koen. In the meantime we already played more than hundred shows with them, so I know what I am talking about.
And the show will go on in 2018… In February and March you will be touring with Korpiklaani…
Indeed, three weeks. A couple of festivals are already booked as well and in autumn we hope to tour in the US again. But first we are going to finish two video clips. The first one is for ‘Ontwaakt’. I will not tell you details about the second one, because it should remain a surprise until it will be released in January, but I can tell you that it will be a video in a way we have never done before.
What about the recording process? Did you follow the routine of previous albums or not?
We recorded once again with Jochem Jacobs (Textures guitarist – Vera) at his Splitsecondsound Studios in Amsterdam. This time we had a full month to record, thirty days studio time. And we really needed that time, also due to the multiple instruments we added and with the 24-headed choir…
It is well done, it does not sound too bombastic…
Thank you! Indeed, we wanted to avoid too much bombast, we wanted to have something complementary, but something that should not affect our sound too much. The additional instruments should not have a leading role, the guitars, drums and metal should prevail. I have a funny story about the choir. I was sitting in the studio with Jochem and asked him how big the choir should be. He answered: as much people as possible. One moment I called him and said: when can I record the 24-headed choir? Then he was really surprised and: ‘wow, so many people do not fit in my studio’. In the end we went to another studio with the choir, the Sandlane Studios, where Epica for instance also records. When you have twenty-four voices, you should use them all, isn’t it? (chuckles)
What can you tell about the artwork?
It is done by the same person who did the artwork for ‘Uit Oude Grond’, ‘Batavi’ and ‘Velua’, Awik Balaian and this is a good friend of mine. The funny thing is that the picture of the barbarian who attacks the Roman, I had this already in my mind when I wrote the first music for the album. It never went out of my head again. When I met Awik I told him about my image and asked him to work it out. Then you can see if you really have a great connection with someone. Since he instantly sketched what I had in my head and he turned it into a mighty CD cover. All credits go to him, it is really beautiful.
Why did you create two songs with (partly) English lyrics as proud heathens of Gelderland?
(laughs) Well, on the former album ‘Velua’, we did one song in English ‘Vinland’. We did it for our fans in the US. ‘A Wolf In My Heart’ is based on the story of a man who is one of the Angles, thus from England and that’s why we decided to do it exceptional in English. But we thought it was important that we would record it in Dutch as well, so in the end it is in Dutch on the bonus CD as well. We have the choir in this song, so we had to record the choir twice: one time in English and one time in Dutch. Concerning ‘The Alliance’: well, it would be a pain in the ass to make Alan sing in Dutch haha. By the way, ‘The Alliance’ tells about the conquest of Britannia, so both songs have a bond with England and thus it makes sense to bring them in English.
Are there already plans for the rest of 2018, after the tour with Korpiklaani, or is it too early?
Sure, in the fall we will go to the US and we already started booking festivals. Hopefully we will play again at the fantastic big festivals.