Siegfried Samer: “We want to show that not all the stories that you hear or see are true. In our history and folklore they are glorified and romanticized, sometimes not in a way that things really happened.”
Dragony keert terug naar een conceptuele aanpak op hun vierde studioalbum ‘Viribus Unitis’. De Oostenrijkse symfonische power metal band duikt hier diep in de leefwereld van keizer Frans Jozef I en zijn eega Sissi om een eigen versie van de geschiedenis te presenteren. Wij hadden een bijzonder hartelijk gesprek met oprichter en zanger Siegfried Samer.
Vera Matthijssens Ι 20 januari 2021
How did you come to that title ‘Viribus Unitis’?
Well, the title is based around the whole concept story of the album. Which takes place in the times of the Austrian emperor Franz Joseph I and it was actually his official motto, so this was his slogan as emperor, which means with united forces. I really like that title, I think it is a good title for any power metal album, and it also fits very well with our concept story. We saw that it was really a perfect title for the album.
It has also some reference to Sissi…
Yes it is a kind of alternative timeline, about the last emperor Franz Joseph and his wife Sissi and their son archduke Rudolph and also some other characters that lived around the same time, but they are not actually involved with them. They are actually pictured in that timeline, like Nikola Tesla, the famous inventor and magician. It is kind of retelling our alternative timeline storyline or concept of those times, but just mixed together into a kind of steam punk fantastical concept story. It is open to interpretation.
So you have your own interpretation, it is not historical correct sometimes?
No, it is not, I think there are few bands, like Pyogenesis who have a steam punk thing going, but this album has a very strong steam punk vibe, while former albums did not. This kind of allied with the concept of this album and the storyline. And I think it is also a nice new dimension for the Dragony sound and concept.
What did it mean in your opinion that it was the end of the Habsburgers monarchy?
This whole era, with also Elisabeth (Sisi, in the movie called Sissi), is still very much romanticized in Austria. Those historical figures are still very popular in Austria and there are even movies about this era, there are stage plays and musicals. There is a specific musical for Elisabeth, there is another specific musical for Rudolph, these musicals are in the theatres in Austria all the time. But they are very romanticized, these musicals do not reflect the true characters. We try to take these characters and put them in a completely different timeline, which has very little to do with what actually happened in history, but we want to show that not all the stories that you hear or see are true. In our history and folklore they are glorified and romanticized, sometimes not in a way that things really happened, so sometimes history just becomes a story and that is what we are doing with our concept album as well, so we are putting these characters into very different settings than what actually happened.
Okay, let us call it artistic freedom. What struck me was that you have an intro, but then on the second song ‘Gods Of War’ you work together with the guy from Sabaton, Tommy Johansson and Tomas Svedin. How did this cooperation come into being?
They were both working together in a project called Symphony Of Tragedy, this project only released a few singles, I don’t think they have made a whole album, but they are on Spotify and I really like the song writing that Tommy and Tomas did together. I knew Tommy already from some years ago from touring and festivals, he is a super nice guy. I liked the song writing, so we reached out to them and asked if they would be interesting in contributing a song to our new album. And thankfully they were happy to do that and they had this song in the works, and it ultimately ended as being ‘Gods Of War’ which is also the first single. Which we already released two weeks ago, so it is a very important song in the concept, because it is obviously the album opener, that is always a very important song, and it is starting our storyline, because it starts in the year 1867, it is the year of the so called Hungarian Austrian compromise, it was an agreement that Francis Joseph had to conclude with the Hungarian aristocracy, because the Hungarians were pushing to be their own nation again, not to be part of the Austrian empire anymore. Hungary wanted to be its own kingdom again, because Franz Joseph and Austria had lost some wars before and Austria was not in a strong position anymore and Franz Joseph could not resist the Hungarian aristocracy anymore, so he had to accept this compromise. Hungary was re established as its own nation with Franz Joseph as its king, so they established what we call the dual monastery, so it was the Austrian empire on one side, and Hungary, but Franz Joseph was at the same time king of Hungary. But that is actually true history.
In the sixth song we have Georg Neuhauser (Serenity) as guest singer, another friend?
Yes, for the former ten years, the first time we played a show together was in 2009. It has been a long time coming and finally, the time was right, because we did this kind of historical concept, which is fine, because he is a real history professor in Austria, specialized in the Middle Ages actually. So it was a really great opportunity to bring him on for one song here, in this song ‘A.E.I.O.U.’ he is actually singing the part of Franz Joseph. This is some real history, this is the official motto from Emperor Frederick of Habsburg, he was the very first Habsburger emperor and he lived around 1400. Really in the Middle Ages and the first in line of the Habsburgers. It is Austria’s destiny to rule the world.
But you have been involved into Visions of Atlantis as well. Can you tell something about that?
Yes of course, Visions Of Atlantis is an Austrian symphonic metal band, female fronted. We have the girl singing and the male singer, it has been around forever. I think they started out around the year 2000 that the band was initially formed, but it was in 2013, so now already seven years ago, that the band leader, Thomas Caser, which was actually also one of the CEO’s of Napalm Records. Back in the days in 2013, he wanted to move the band back to its musical roots, because they had a bit evolved away from the symphonic metal to modern pop/rock metal sound and he did not like that anymore. So he changed the whole line up, he brought Clementine in as the female lead singer and I was asked to be the new male lead singer and I was in the band for five years, so from 2013 till November 2018. Then I had to leave the band because they were just starting to tour a lot more than they did in the past, which is awesome, because it is a great comeback for the band, but I just could not manage it with my day job. I was working in an office and only having five weeks off during the year. So that did not work anymore with such a heavy touring band, but it was a great experience.
First time an album on vinyl for Dragony… can you tell something about your signing with Napalm?
That is really a great opportunity for us right now and it is the next step in our career basically, because we started out on a small independent label from Germany, Limb Music. They had big bands in the past, like Rhapsody they started out there, also Pagan’s Mind was there for a while, and it was a really great chance for us also to start out as a new band from Austria that nobody knew and they took a chance with us and we were happy to have them, but now after three albums and one EP that we released on our own, it was time to take the next step and make the connection with Thomas Caser from Visions of Atlantis and Napalm Records. We were able to conclude a deal with Napalm Records, this means a lot to us because they have a big promotion machinery and of course they have kind of the resources to also produce special packets and vinyl. This is really a very personal thing for me, because this is going to be the first nice digipaks and vinyl for my own band. I mean, I have some vinyls with VOA, those were really the first ones where I was on, but this is really my band, Dragony, which I founded over the course of thirteen years now, to get to this point. Also… to sign to an Austrian label, that is basically homecoming for us, Napalm Records I think is one of the top metal labels in the world right now and it is really a fantastic opportunity for us. We are really happy to be signed by them.