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Deutsche VersionInterview mit Slechtvalk (17.07.2010)

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HH: Hello Shamgar! I am glad to do that little interview. How are you after publishing your new album A Forlorn Throne?

Shamgar: We're doing well. We are getting good reviews on the new album and are looking forward on all the gigs that will come out of it once the new album has found its way to the right people.

HH: OK - before we're talking about the album I would like to ask you for one basic information about the band. Once you chose the Dutch name of the Peregrin Falcon as the band's name. What was the reason?

Shamgar: At first, Slechtvalk was a one-man's project. I was tired of all the cliche English bandnames. They all sounded the same to me, so I wanted something Dutch, even though I write the lyrics in English. I was intrigued by the Peregrine Falcon, especially its capability to smoothly circle in the sky and then just explode when it has discovered a prey and dives for it, with incredible speed, killing the prey without it ever realising what hit it. To me, the name Slechtvalk sounded cool, so I named my project after it.

HH: Now, when I took a first look at your new album I recognised the new logo. And it is really much better than the old one! Is this new logo a sign for a special change in the band or for a new direction?
Shamgar: The music of Slechtvalk has evolved alot since our previous album At The Dawn Of War. It became more technical and more mature and we felt it was time that our logo, which looks like some obscure underground oldschool blackmetal band-logo, needed to be in line with the music.

HH: Next let me congratulate you to the cover artwork! It's a fantastic work, it really is. Who is the author?

Shamgar: It's designed by Raymond Swanland, who is known for his artwork for several Magic: The Gathering playing cards and the Oddworld videogames. Seraph, our guitarist, saw some of his work in a magazine and we liked his style a lot, so we decided to contact him and ask him to design the cover-artwork of our new album, because we felt that his style would match the idea we had perfectly.

HH: Has the band been involved in the design process?

Shamgar: We gave him a idea of what we wanted him to make, as the coverartwork is based on the song "Enthroned" and we'd like to see the statue mentioned in that song. He then made a few sketches, from which we chose one for him to complete.

HH: The picture reflects the majestic atmosphere that many of the songs convey to the audience. Did you give some specifications to the artist or did he listen to the songs
before starting his work?
Shamgar: As Jens Bogren already finished a first pre-master, when Raymond started on the artwork, we sent him the song "Enthroned" and another song to give him an impression of what our music is like.

HH: OK, let us talk about the songs. I'm sure that you will agree on me when I speaking of the best Slechtvalk release up to now...

Shamgar: Yes, we think it's our best release so far. There is much more variety within one song, keeping it interesting from the beginning until the end. Due to the addition of Seraph on guitars and the great improvements of our drummer Grimbold, who both like technical metal, we were able to make our songs more spicy. We've also tried to follow the "less is more" philosophy during our writing process, to make the songs more open.

HH: Please tell me something about the process of song writing and the production.

Shamgar: We've been searching for a label for several years and by the time we found one, we've already scrapped several songs, because of being out-dated. When we got the opportunity to record a 4th album, we wanted it to be that much better, compared to At The Dawn Of War, that people would get the impression that we've skipped an album, so that would also mean a better production than the average Viking/blackmetal release. Many of our favourite bands were produced by Jens Bogren of Fascination Street, so we asked him to do the mixing and mastering of the new album though we were still looking a place to record. He gave us the advice to contact Johan Örnborg at studio Mega as he had worked with him a lot. We spent about 16 long recording days at Studio Mega, where Johan Örnborg engineered and produced the album. Working with Johan went very well, we learnt a lot and had a good time with all the guys of Studio Mega.

HH: Is there one mastermind in the band or do all members have their special part in this process?

Shamgar: Generally I write most of the music, though Premnath and Ohtar occasionally write a song for Slechtvalk as well and Seraph often comes up with interesting riffs, which I use as a base of a new song. Whenever I've written a song or a good part of a song, I take it to the band-rehearsals and then we work on it together. Seraph and Grimbold often get ideas for cool rhythms and Ohtar creates most of the clean vocal lines. Premnath rejoined Slechtvalk on keys a couple of months before the studio recordings and at the time I've only thought of keyboardparts for one or two songs. Though his part in the process was a bit limited, as most of the song structures were already finished by the time he joined, he was able to add some extra depth and atmosphere with his keyboard arrangements.

HH: The title - A Forlorn Throne - could as well be the title of a narration, the story of an ancient kingdom. Is there a concept or a red line connecting the songs?

Shamgar: Ever since our 2nd album The War That Plagues The Lands, I came with the idea to create my own fantasy saga, in veins of Tolkien. All lyrics I write are based in that world and there are many connections between the stories of the various albums. I hope to write a novel about it someday, but everyday life can be very time-consuming. The title A Forlorn Throne is based on the song "Enthroned" and in the bigger story, the narrative figure in the songs "Tamers Of The Seas", "Forsaken" and "Desolate" discovers that statue, centuries after the events that took place in the song "Enthroned", though this link between "Enthroned" and the rest of the album is not really clear in the lyrics, it will be in the novel I'm planning to write. However the song "Enthroned" is a great example of many events that take place in the greater story and how mighty men and their kingdoms fall into oblivion, due to the deceit of the enemy of which "Spoils Of Treason" of our previous album is another example.

HH: Is there one special song on the album you're especially proud of?

Shamgar: I'm personally proud of the song "Forsaken", because it's the first time since "Falconry" I tried to do clean vocals myself again and in our opinion it turned out to be pretty cool and it's a very epic song. Most of us are also very fond of "Enthroned", for the great atmosphere in combination with the lyrical concept that really fits the music and "Vengeance Of A Scorned King", because it's just a hammer containing all elements of what Slechtvalk is.

HH: My absolute favourite on the album is "Forsaken" and in the review I mentioned some similarities to Sweden's most popular vikings Amon Amarth. Would you go with this?

Shamgar: Yes, Amon Amarth has been a big inspiration to us for they've managed to create deathmetal with a real Viking atmosphere, without it becoming a Viking-metal album, although I often think that they sometimes forget to put the pedal to the metal and stay rather mid-paced, often re-using riffs from earlier albums, which I think is ok if the rest of the song is different from the original. We thought that their style needed some extra spice and that our own music could do well with some more headspinning grooves, so we incorporated it into our more blackmetal-style of music.

HH: Where do you see the roots of Slechtvalk?

Shamgar: Our roots lie in blackmetal, but eventually that ground loses its nutrition so we need to expand and allow ourselves to be influenced by other styles as well, to prevent us from making the same album over and over again. I like diversity and that's often very limited in traditional blackmetal, but a Viking touch here and there and some deathmetal brutality does miracles.

HH: And what would you like to reach with the band?

Shamgar: There is much controversy around Slechtvalk and there are many rumors and prejudices about us. We want to show them they're wrong and that we've got every right as any other band to do the thing we do and make the best out of it. We hope others will see that eventually, allowing us to get the attention we deserve and all the opportunities that result from it.

HH: After four full-length albums and one best-of compilation I'm sure that Slechtvalk is a well known player in its fatherland. But I think the popularity does not cross the border to Germany yet. The best strategy to change this is doing lots of concerts. Are there some gigs or a little tour in planning to promote the new album?

Shamgar: There were plans for a tour through Germany earlier this year, but these were aborted because of insufficient finances. Our booking agency Redback and ourselves are still working on other gigs, but it isn't as easy as hoped. Due to the financial crisis many clubs are more interested in organising a disco than a metal-gig and there are simply a lot of metal bands out there trying to do gigs as well, much more than several years ago. And the existing controversy around Slechtvalk doesn't help either.

HH: Are there some special places you necessarily want to play with the band?

Shamgar: We don't have a list of goals we need to accomplish to make us feel succesful. We're enjoying the ride and the goals we have are things that we hope to accomplish, though won't let us get frustrated if we don't. One of the goals was to release an album with a production that is on par with the top in the scene and we have accomplished that, further we'd like to play a lot more in Germany and in other countries, touring with other great bands and play at some of the bigger summer festivals. We strive to achieve the things we want, but we think it's most important to enjoy what we are doing right now, because if we're unable to do that, achieving certain goals won't satisfy us in the end.

HH: And are there some special bands you'd like to accompany on tour?

Shamgar: It would of course be awesome if we're able to play with bands we like most, like Immortal, Amon Amarth, Borknagar and Opeth, but so far we've enjoyed playing with any band.

HH: OK - gradually we're coming to the end. So, who do you think is the perfect consumer to buy A Forlorn Throne? What requirements must the consumer fulfil to become happy with the album?

Shamgar: The best consumer to buy A Forlorn Throne would be someone, who appreciates good songwriting and well executed music, but isn't too picky about something vague as "originality" or too narrow minded to even enjoy music at all if not everything is by their rules.

HH: Thanks a lot for the interview. Any last messages to our readership?

Shamgar: Catch you on the flip side.


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