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Elvenking – interview met Aydan (guitars)


Aydan: “Part two is when everything becomes tragic, with a lot of blood and violence, because fate has something very bad for these eight persons. All of them are stuck into tragedies, death and so on. Obviously the whole album is much more obscure, it is darker, it is more violent because the story is telling about that. We knew that this chapter would be the more violent, dark chapter of this story”
Nu de problemen veroorzaakt door het virus stilaan wegebben, heeft ook Elvenking werk kunnen  maken van het tweede deel van de trilogie ‘Reader Of The Runes’ waarvan ze in 2019 het eerste deel ‘Divination’ hadden uitgebracht. ‘Rapture’ is duister, heavy en obscuur. Dat geldt voor teksten zowel als muziek, want zelden klonken ze zo heftig als op deze nieuwste schijf. Daar zijn we blij mee. We besloten dan ook een gesprek te organiseren met oprichter/gitarist/componist Aydan, want hem volgen we al sinds de eerste albums als de sympathieke Italiaan met een zwak voor dieper gravende folk metal. Het werd dan ook een bijzonder leuk weerzien en een verhelderend gesprek.
Vera Matthijssens Ι 27 april 2023

How are you doing?
Everything is good. We have passed this strange covid-19 situation that basically blocked everything in terms of music and things. So everything is getting back to normal, also on the live side and stuff like that. So we hope for the best.

And we have the second part of the Reader of the Runes trilogy (or even more) now, so that is nice…
Yes that is true. It was since a long time that we wanted to be working on a concept album. For one reason or another we never found the right story to tell and you know, without a strong story, it wouldn’t have been the same thing. So we were searching for the right story to tell. Once we had this idea, we started thinking about it and the more we were thinking about it, the more the story was growing and it was clear that it would not be possible to include it in one album, so we decided to go for multiple albums. We decided to do three albums, three chapters of the same book, three movies or something like that. We have released the first part ‘Divination’ in 2019. Then the plans went different. We were supposed to record the second chapter much earlier. Then covid-19 came, everything was stopped and basically we had nothing to do but write music. In the end we wrote all the songs for chapter two and chapter three at the same time and we also recorded the two albums at the same time. Basically we did the second album, but part of the third album is already recorded.

Yes, I found out. That is splendid…
It was a very good thing, because especially with a concept album, where you have to find the right songs for the right mood of the story, it was great to have a big number of songs to choose from and say: ‘okay, this one fits better the atmosphere of the second album’ and ‘this one would be perfect for this part of the story’ which is later on and so on. So it was a great experience and a great thing that happened. So at the end of the pandemic, the situation was not so bad for us. At least, it permitted us to work on this.

That is true and I could imagine you have a better overview…
When we did the first part, it was like: okay, we have these songs, we need to fit the story, and so on. But with these two albums written at once, maybe we had the specific music that fits perfectly for that particular part of the story that was in chapter three and then okay, we could leave it to chapter three, for the next album, because it fitted perfectly and maybe on the second album we had too many slow songs, we needed some fast songs, so we could switch the songs. Then obviously we always try to go with the music first and then adapt the lyrics, but in this case we already had in mind, when we wrote a specific song, we knew that the mood was right for a certain part in the story. So we knew from the start what it was about and what would be the lyrics.

The tone of this album is more dark and heavy than the first chapter. What can you tell about that?
Obviously this has a lot to do with the story. In chapter one, the reader of the runes – which is this mysterious figure that arrives in this hamlet and starts divinations to the people who wants to have the runes cast and foresee the past, present and future. So it was a kind of introduction, especially from the eight main characters. In the first chapter we see how this reader of the runes foresees the past and future of these eight main characters. Part two is when everything becomes tragic, with a lot of blood and violence, because fate has something very bad for these eight persons. All of them are stuck into tragedies, death and so on. Obviously the whole album is much more obscure, it is darker, it is more violent because the story is telling about that. That was what I was saying before; we knew that this chapter would be the more violent, the dark chapter of this story. So the general atmosphere of this album is more obscure, more heavy and bloody. There is violence and death, while chapter three – I can tell you now – instead will be a little bit more romantic and more sad, because we will find out how these eight characters are linked to the reader of the runes and why everything is happening like this.

Wow! I always love stories like that. It was a good opportunity to do more harsh extreme vocals and heavier metal like in the beginning of Elvenking…
Yeah exactly. Definitely. For sure it has never been a secret that we have always been influenced by not only the melodic part of metal, that is probably our main core, but we have a lot of influences, also from the melodic death metal from the nineties, and some black metal as well. We did it – as you said – in the very beginning of our career, especially on the very first album, there are a lot of extreme influences, and then we kept on having them, but a little bit hidden, not so prominent. This time instead was perfect to take them out again, because it was perfectly fitting with the story, with the lyrics and you know when Damna is singing through the voice of one of the characters, it is more like theatrical acting. That is why there are a lot of growls and a lot of extreme influences in the music. It shows our love for the death metal of the early nineties I would say.

‘Rapture’ is the longest track on the album, straight at the beginning of the album and the first video, but it shows very well the capacities of Elvenking, kind of all sides of the band. Great!
(laughs) Yes, it is a bit ambitious I would say, because we have used the longest song of the album as the first single and the first video. We were not very sure about it if it was the right choice or not, but in the end we said, okay, after four years from the previous album, maybe we can come out with something not so easy, more complicated, in order to introduce the story better to the listeners, the mood and the atmosphere of the album. I think ‘Rapture’ can be a good summary of what you will find in the album, because there is this obscure atmosphere, but also the folk side – there are many acoustic passages – stuff more aggressive and more melodic at the same time, so it was done to introduce the listeners to the album.

The video has beautiful landscapes and sceneries…
Yeah also there we wanted to kind of represent the darkness of the album and the dark atmosphere. We wanted to have a very dark video, so we used this kind of creepy forest where we are playing and there are some spots here and there of the stories of the characters. It is a kind of summary of the story and also of the atmospheres on the album.

On the other hand we have lovely female vocals in ‘Bride Of Night’ from Heike Langhans. That was a surprise for me, because she is coming from the doom sides…
Yeah exactly. She is known for having this very sad voice and she was the front woman from Draconian and she is known for that, but we wanted a specific kind of angelic voice, very soft, to do backing vocals on the track ‘Bride Of Night’ besides Damna’s lead vocals. Unfortunately I have seen that we received some critics from the fans of Heike, saying that we should have used her a little bit more, more space for her. I can understand this, but in the end we didn’t mean to do that. We just needed a female vocalist for some lines and since Heike is a friend of ours, we asked her to do that. She was extremely happy. We didn’t care about having publicity by mentioning ‘this song is featuring this famous singer’ to have some more attention. We don’t care about that. It was just what we had in mind for the song and it worked out perfectly.

Maybe you can tell something about ‘The Hanging Tree’, chosen for a lyric video and there should be a lyric video coming up for ‘Herdchant’ too, isn’t it?
Exactly. The second single we decided to go with more catchiness, a bit more straight, more metal. So we went for ‘The Hanging Tree’ which shows some more familiar sounds for Elvenking. It was the good choice in my opinion after ‘Rapture’ which was this epic long track. It shows that there is a bit of everything on the album. There are long tracks, there are fast songs, slower songs and so on. There are these lyric videos, I don’t know if they are useful or not, but record companies ask to do them, so we will also make a lyric video for ‘Herdchant’. It will be released on the release date, 28th of April. It will not be a real single, but it presents the release of the album.

You had a little bit of line-up changes, let us talk in brief about that as well…
(chuckles) Yes, we had two line-up changes, compared to the previous album. One of them is half a change, because it shows the return of our previous drummer Symohn who was in the band from 2011 till 2017. He recorded drums with us on ‘Era’ and ‘The Pagan Manifesto’ and for a number of reasons we split up. We had another drummer, Lance, who was an incredibly skilled drummer. He basically received an offer from a very, very famous pop/rap artist which is known only in Italy. He is one of the biggest pop stars here in Italy. Since he wanted to live out of music and commit his life to drumming, this was the perfect occasion for him and a great chance for him to go in the high level profiles. So we were very happy for him, because he absolutely deserves this. And so we talked with Symohn and kind of cleaned up the things that were not working before. It was the perfect choice to return with him. On the other side also Rafahel, our former guitar player for many, many years with us, had some work commitments to do and he would not be able to give us 100% of his time. So we decided to split, also in a very friendly way and we got a new guitar player, which is absolutely awesome. He is a young guy, Headmatt. Obviously he is much younger than us and that is a great plus, because, you know, he is bringing all the enthusiasm of a young guy who arrives in a kind of known band. While we say ‘pff we need to take a plane’, he is always enthusiastic, so he pushes us as well.

Yeah you have been around since 1997, but I am glad you still do it…
Yeah first of all I am a huge fan of music and of metal music. That is the main thing. When I was twenty – maybe twenty-five – I was asking myself: ‘let us see in 20 years time or something like that, I will still listen to this music and if I would have the same passion that I had now’ and after 20 years I can say that my passion is not only the same, but even grown up.’ I still listen to music. Maybe I prefer to listen to old stuff instead of looking for new bands. I love listening to the great albums I was listening to when I was a teenager and I still listen to the albums from the 80’s and the 90’s with the same passion, so that is the main force that drives me here and also to play music, because it is the same thing: I play the music that I like to hear. That is still great to do.

That is great. Here I can read that you are more and more satisfied with the albums and the sound, because you have matured and have found your own style…
Absolutely. We always tried to do our best and sometimes we did something good and sometimes we did something bad, but through the years we defined our sound; album by album more and more and I guess that now, with the last three albums or so, we have finally reached a level where we are completely confident in what we are doing. This is our sound, this is what we want to do. This is 100% Elvenking. If you listen to it, you can recognize it is something from our band and I don’t want to say it is unique, because there is nothing original in music or anything anymore, but at least there is this band playing and this is a great thing to reach.

Tell me something about your attendance at 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise this year. I think that was quite an adventure…
Yeah it was, definitely. We’d never experienced something like that. It was the first time. I had seen videos and stuff and it really looked crazy from the outside, but being inside this huge boat with a lot of people, a lot of bands, because everybody in the same rooms. You walk through the corridors, you go to eat and you eat with the guys from Nightwish, from Kreator, from the audience… everyone sits at the same tables. It is something really unique. And then playing on this boat or looking at your favourite band in the swimming pool having a drink… playing in front of the pool is amazing. It was a crazy experience, but something really unique. You really need to do it once in a lifetime, because it is crazy.

I remember the previous time you worked with Dan Swanö for the mix and mastering, now with Scott Atkins, the guy who worked with doom/gothic bands in the nineties I guess it is… why this switch?
Dan Swanö did a marvellous mix and job for the previous album and maybe we wanted to do another album with him, but then there was something with the covid-19 situation. We were searching for the right thing. We had Scott Atkins in mind since a long time, because we love the way he was producing the Cradle of Filth albums. I was always really impressed about by the fact that Cradle Of Filth’s music – as well as our music – is very crowded, full of things, very layered, orchestration, vocals, choirs, fast drumming,… and the mixes were always very clear, even if there were a lot of things happening, you could recognize everything and everything was sounding very clear and at the same time very powerful, so we had Scott in mind for a long time and we finally asked him to work with him and it was absolutely amazing. He understood perfectly the philosophy of the band and the sound that we were searching for. He did a marvellous job. I believe that this is definitely the best sounding album that we have done in our career.

I thought also a bit that you were going to England, because you always had a connection with Skyclad…
That was not the reason, but one of the reasons was that since we started the recording, covid-19 was still prominent. Instead of moving six people to the UK, we asked Scott to come to Italy. It was easier to fly one man from the UK to Italy, instead of six of us going there with the restrictions. Obviously – as you said – we always loved the UK and we had great connections with Skyclad as you know. We had a troubled situation in the past between Skyclad and Martin Walkyier, you know, but we are still constantly in contact with Skyclad. We are now speaking about the possibility to do some tours together, maybe in the UK or something. For me, Skyclad is my favourite band. Probably still nowadays, but I am talking about the Skyclad from the nineties, probably the more heavy one, they have been an incredible influence for me and for the band in general.

What are the plans for the near future?
We are doing two release shows in Italy at the end of April, basically to present the new songs we never played before live. We played the three singles already live, but we have to play some new stuff to see how it works live. Sometimes you think a song is going to work live and when you play it, it doesn’t work for some reason. Maybe another song that you didn’t expect to work as good on the live side, it works perfectly. Usually we try to play five or six songs from the new album to see which ones are working and how the crowd reacts to these songs. We will use these release party’s in Italy a little bit as a test to try something new and also we will play some very old songs that we haven’t played forever. It will be great!

Are there already plans to go on tour or play other gigs?
Yes, we are now in discussion for a tour in the Fall, so after the summer. Unfortunately the summer season will be a bit crazy this year, because you know a lot of bands were already booked for 2022 or even before, so now they moved everything to this year. The plans we are talking about with our booking agency are meant for this fall and 2024. There are a lot of great plans on the way. It is great to be back on stage. We did a small tour with Gloryhammer just when the covid-19 was gone and it was great to be back. Now with a new album, it will be great to be back on stage fully, with new songs and stuff.

The artwork is done by Zsofia Dankova. Isn’t that the one who is doing artwork for Powerwolf now?
Yeah she was great. We were really impressed by the covers she did for the Powerwolf albums and obviously we wanted to see if she was able to enter a little bit our imaginary world. So we asked her to do the cover for the previous album and she did a marvellous job. So we wanted to continue with her and she did another great work on this one. She was really able to capture the darkness of the atmospheres we wanted to have with these drawings. When we talk, she immediately understands what we want and she presents us great ideas with sketches and other stuff. She is a really great artist.

Then I think I am through with the questions. Maybe we can occlude with a hint to the third part of the trilogy…
Yes. Third part will be a different album, less dark and less obscure as this one. I would define it a bit as romantic, the end of the story will be very sad. It will be romantic, but a lot of metal and a lot of fast songs as well. So I am curious to hear the final result of that one and see how different it is going to be from part two.

But first of all we are going to enjoy the second part!

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