When and how did Firtan come into being and can you tell a bit more about the early days?
We formed in 2010, basically as a bunch of teenagers that were fascinated by black and pagan metal bands, which used to be popular back then. However, it soon became clear that the pagan part of it is less fun and diverse compared with the potential diversity which is the essence of black metal for me, but later more about that.
After a few line-up changes we recorded our first EP, which is still the only record referring to paganism lyric-wise. After that we decided to increase the black metal vibe in our music, without losing melody and epicness; the end product was our first full-length ‘Niedergang’, which we recorded with our good friend and producer Mario Hann. Two years later, we started recording our second EP ‘Innenwelt’ and made our live-guitarist Marius a full-member during the recording process. With this EP we introduced more and more black metal elements, while decreasing the pagan metal amount in our music. This is mainly because we realized black metal knows no boundaries and leaves enough space for experimentation and implementation of different influences, while pagan metal has to address a more fixed criteria of songwriting.
With our latest record we followed up this vision of making experimental music combined with a black metal essence. ‘Okeanos’ is pretty diverse, while being less exhausting compared to previous records (mainly due to the variety in vocal performance). Unfortunately, our guitarist Marius left after the recording of the album for personal reasons, but was replaced with a worthy substitute and we are really grateful having Chris in the band now.
Which influences would you like to mention as important ones when forming the band and your further musical development, since one of the great features of Firtan is creating atmosphere in addition to the blackened foundation?
As mentioned, in our teens (referring to the original line-up) we were really fascinated by pagan and folk metal bands, such as Ensiferum and Finntroll, but also groups like Thyrfing (which are also an influence to this day). But over the time we discovered more bands throughout many genres, mostly black metal groups. To name a few, there would be Emperor, Covenant, Taake, Dodheimsgard etc., so mainly Norwegian black metal. As of today I enjoy all kinds of music, may it be metal or not. Good music is good music! So, these influences also help to create some kind of special atmosphere, when implemented into a black metal scaffold, I guess.
In addition to two EP’s you released the debut album ‘Niedergang’ in 2014. How do you look back at it now and what were the things you achieved with it after release?
Thinking back, it was a great experience to record the album. The excitement of recording an album was as intense as it may never be again, since it was our first full-length. We were pretty proud of the material back then and still are, but in hindsight I would of course do some things different: make it more transparent and less exhausting to listen to. But the album is what it is and has to be appreciated for its exhausting vibe to be enjoyed. We certainly do; it is a milestone in our “career”, which also helps us (and others) to reflect our development and progress. After the release we got a bigger fan base and were able to play a lot more shows, since we have never been greatly exposed to the outer world before that.
In the meantime you got more and more experience as live band. Can you sketch the situation of Firtan on the live front? What were the highlights, which tours did you do and how do you look back on it, etc...
We always try to make every show something special for the audience. Sometimes we are better in doing that than other times apparently, but over time you gain more experience and routine, which makes it certainly easier to transport the music and stage presence as we want to have it. Highlights are mostly big festivals of course, but not exclusively. We already played great shows in front of 30 people or so, but it always depends a bit on the mood of the people (and also the band). So far we didn’t tour too much. Our last tour had a kind of colorful line-up, which consisted of Elvenking, Finsterforst and Evertale. Even if we were the harshest band on the billing we certainly enjoyed the other bands and the diverse audience, which also seemed to appreciate our performances. The other tour we did lays back in 2014. We toured with Imperium Dekadenz, Gernotshagen and Bifrost, with whom it was totally awesome to play and party.
When did you start writing the new album ‘Okeanos’ and can you tell more about the way you write songs?
The basic song structures are written by me at home. As soon as I have composed something, sometimes just one or two riffs, I ask the other guys to review it Sometimes I also compose a whole song and write it down before sharing the ideas with the others. However, the fine-tuning is done during the rehearsals and pre-recording sessions; at this point especially drums, bass, vocals patterns and general arrangements are finalized. The writing process of ‘Okeanos’ began partly in 2015, but there was no red line or concept back then. Basically it was just a bunch of riffs, which then got a part of songs which were finalized much later.
Firtan is well-known for its interesting lyrics. On this album they should be influenced by writers such as Nietzsche and Lovecraft. Can you go deeper into the way you used these writers as influence?
Mainly we used these writings as lyrics, because we really like the writing style and how well it flows with our music. The pictures these authors are able to create in my head are exactly what I envision when I hear our music.
Why the title ‘Okeanos’? Is there also a kind of concept or not in the lyrics?
The main topic of the album is water; water is often used as a metaphor. An endless ocean full of mysteries which is capable of tearing the whole humanity apart, while being the bringer of life is fascinating to me. The ocean is a creature, which is maybe comparable to the monsters described in Lovecrafts writings. There is still so much to learn about the ocean, which people will probably never fully comprehend, just as the universe. This mystery and anxious feeling you get when thinking about all the secrets which can be hidden in these undiscovered worlds are just magnificent topics for this dark music. This is why I think these subjects are admirably addressed, especially in metal music
There are any guest musicians on the album, adding even more depth and refinement to the music. Can you give us any more details about that?
For this record we were grateful to have two extraordinary contributions indeed. The first contribution being the violin playing by Klara Bachmair, which turned out hauntingly beautiful. The second one is the breath taking choir voice by André; which gives the parts he contributed to more depth and chilling atmosphere.
The album was finished with the famous Markus Stock at Klangschmiede E studio. Somewhere I have read that it was your first experience in a professional studio. So – since I am a huge follower of Schwadorf as well – please tell us about this recording adventure...
Overall it was great. We instantly felt welcome at Markus’s studio, as he really expresses calmness and the attitude of being in control. He helped us a lot to shape the sound as we wanted it to be. The best thing was, that every process was quiet efficient, so we rarely had the impression to run out of time or becoming frustrated. We would love to go to Klangschmiede E for our next record again.
What about visual art? Can you tell about the artwork and its artist Denis Forkas?
The Artwork is called ‘The Emperor’s Bath’. I was the first one of the band being familiar with the painting; when I first saw it; it just clicked and became instantly one of my favorites of Denis. So, the picture was independently drawn before the album was even recorded in 2016 I think. But it still was a great match and we were allowed to use it. That being said, I think it reflects the musical and lyrical content of ‘Okeanos’ really well.
Can you tell a bit more about the song ‘Uferlos’, since it has such dark menacing chants that it really struck me...
The ‘Uferlos’ main riff is one of the “oldest” riffs on the album. I wrote that one back in 2014, but never found a fitting counterpart to it. In 2017, my bandmates remembered the riff (can’t recall in which context) and I jammed it with the drummer, which gave me inspiration to work on it again. In only a few days I could finish the song, while taking the intro from a song fracture we didn’t end up using. The outro was the toughest part for me to write down, since it harbors some odd time signatures and it took a while for me to put it to paper. But I am particularly proud of this part, since it is a blast to play it live.
And more thoughts about the amazing final track ‘Siebente Letzte Einsamkeit’ would be nice as well...
This one is the first song which was finished. I think the core structure was even put together when we recorded our second EP. However, since we still had no other material so far, I only started working on it again in spring 2017, in concert with writing the other songs. Initially the song was longer and more repetitive, but this didn’t do the atmosphere any favor and we decided to shorten the song. The riff before the outro is a contribution by former guitarist Marius, were he transformed the dissonant arpeggio theme into a more climatic theme. He also contributed riffs in the song ‘Tag verweil’ by the way. Again, the outro is a personal highlight for me on the album because it became even more intense and epic than I envisioned it.
What are the plans for the near future, also on playing gigs or touring?
We are satisfied with gigs recently, since we get quiet some good offers. But we would like to play more outside of Germany and also on other continents. More touring would also be great, since you can fully focus on making music while doing so.
If there is anything you’d like to add, please feel free to do it right here...
Thank you very much for the interview. Hope to see you guys on the road!