Chris “The Viking” Rodens: “If you compare our music to Cannibal Corpse, then we are still pussies, but we want to feature the guitars and we tried to make it as heavy as possible in our heavy/power metal style.”
Warkings houdt er flink de vaart in. Vorig jaar verscheen hun tweede album ‘Revenge’ en nu blijken de vier heerschappen uit verschillende historische tijdperken al klaar met de derde worp ‘Revolution’. Die titel is niet zomaar gekozen, legt bassist The Viking ons uit op een regenachtige vrijdagmiddag.
Vera Matthijssens Ι 18 oktober 2021
You are very active. Only one year after ‘Revenge’ we already have the third album ‘Revolution’. How come?
It is a little bit obvious you know, because when we were ready to release the last one, ‘Revenge’ last year, this was already during the pandemic. We were ready to go on tour and play a lot of concerts, but it wasn’t possible. We had a lot of energy, we wanted to go on stage, we wanted to play the songs, but there was no possibility. So we decided to use all this energy and write new songs, because there was nothing else to do. It is better than sit around and drink and start to fight (chuckles), so we decided to write some new songs and see what happens. There wasn’t a real plan to do another album, it was just a decision due to circumstances. It worked really well, we got a lot of great songs. So we called the record company and said: ’We are ready, we got another one’. They said: ‘what?’ So here we are with the third album. We had more than a year off, nothing else to do.
Indeed, then you better use that spare time for something creative…
Yeah, that’s what we thought, before we sit around and we complain about not able to play concerts. We thought: let’s do something creative, we have a lot of ideas. We had a lot of stories we wanted to tell, so we started writing new songs.
Why is the album launched with the title ‘Revolution’?
If you look at the last one and a half year with the pandemic and the lockdowns, everything related to culture was stopped. The musicians were one of the first who weren’t allowed to play, they closed all the venues and there were no concerts anymore. For us it felt like culture and music, artists and books and all that stuff, were not necessary. Nobody cared about it, but on the other hand, imagine the lockdown and isolation without music, without books and movies. This is really important. So we thought let’s start a revolution to tell the people this is important that music is coming back. We want to go on stage and therefore it is a good title for the times we are in right now. Artists are struggling, the people who work in the business are struggling, while some people say that going to a concert is just a luxury. There is more important stuff in life, they say. We don’t think that way. For us music is important, it keeps you sane. Like I said, just imagine the last twenty months without music, without being able to listen to your favourite music or reading your favourite books. It is important and it is time to bring it back to the minds of a lot of people. We know there are a lot of people waiting for that, but there was also this feeling that some people do not consider it as essential in life. Music-wise, we want a revolution, so it is a good title.
The album opens with ‘We Are The Fire’, a typical Warkings song to sing along, but yet it is rather heavy. You always avoid a kind of cheesiness in your music and that’s a pro…
That is something we really want to achieve, a goal. We play power metal and I think power metal is in a way a bit cheesy, but that’s okay. We have a great guitar player and we want to hear him (chuckles). Our producer once said: I think you guys want to be the heaviest power metal band in the world. And indeed, if you compare our music to Cannibal Corpse, then we are still pussies, but we want to feature the guitars. If you look around in power metal these days, there is often a lot of keyboards and orchestration and guitars are just another instrument. For us, heavy metal is based on guitars and riffs, that’s what we want to do. So in our music, we try to make it as heavy as possible.
Yes, if you think of symphonic power metal bands, or the evolution through time from Rhapsody…
It is nothing bad if you want to do this and there are great bands out there, doing that stuff, but it is not for us. We are a guitar band and we want to feature that. That is a goal and we try with every record to push it a little bit more. We are very happy with ‘Revolution’, because we think the guitars sound great and we tried to make it as heavy as possible. Still we want songs you can sing along and you can listen to. It is not thrash or death metal, it is still heavy/power metal, but we try to put as many guitars in it as possible.
Yet you use a Greek instrument, bouzouki, in the second song ‘Sparta part II’…
We had this Greek sound in our heads, sitting around for a while and we were playing with it and trying the song and thinking about this. We met this awesome guitar player from Greece, he is called Ioannis Maniatopoulos. He has his own band, it is called Tri State Corner. He is a great bouzouki player as well, so we asked him to come to the studio and play this for us. Bouzouki is a Greek instrument and this whole melody is Greek. Our drummer The Spartan wanted another song about Sparta and it fits perfectly. It is a real bouzouki in that song. We are very proud on that one, because we think it really sounds great.
There should be a special hidden melody in ‘Fight’. Can you explain that?
That is an old melody. This melody has been around for ages, we don’t know exactly how long. For hundreds of years. Nobody knows who has written this melody, but it was always used in protest songs or revolution songs and the most famous one everyone refers to is ‘Bella Ciao’. That is the song which was used by the Italian Partisans in the Second World War when they fought against the Nazis. The chorus of ‘Fight’ includes parts of that melody. This is just a short excerpt, the melody is way longer. We used it because we wanted to make an album and songs about revolution. It is a great melody. We tried to write our own protest or revolution song. It is time to raise the banners and time to fight for the music. We used this melody and wrote our own song, like a tribute to it. I think it was used in TV series called ‘Money Heist’, they sing it in that series. It is about a group of rebels, trying to rock the Bank of Spain. They also sing this song as kind of protest. That’s why it got famous everywhere in the world.
Another guest is Chris Harms from Lord of the Lost in ‘Spartacus’ with some harsher vocals…
We call him the Lost Lord. We sat together, we had a little party. We were talking and drinking with him. We were talking with him about ‘Spartacus’, which is about the leader of the rebellion of the Gladiators in Ancient Rome. We love his voice, so we thought it would be nice to incorporate him. He does some growling and also the very deep voice in the chorus. We think his voice is phenomenal. He is a great guy. That’s how it all worked out.
For you, The Viking’, the song ‘Ragnar’ must be special…
Yes, you can say it like that. It is about the great king of the Vikings, Ragnar Lothbrok who is a mystical figure. Indeed, it was about time as a Viking, to write a song about that one. So we put this together as a tribute to Ragnar and I think a lot of people know the name from the ‘Vikings’ series. It was long due to have a song about him. It took three albums to do that. We have this beautiful female singer in it at the beginning, called Medina Rekic. You can hear her in the intro. It is one of my favourite songs, as a Viking.
There is an influence of Amon Amarth in that song…
Yeah, if you say so. Well, Amon Amarth is a great band and they have this whole Viking vibe, so it could be an influence. I wouldn’t say no.
That’s no shame. Everybody influences everybody. A band these days cannot exist without influences. Everything is done already.
Of course. There are twelve notes in music. It is very hard to make something completely new that never has been heard before. For us this is not the intention. You have your influences. You have other music you like. We just want to write good songs. I think it is okay if you hear some influences. Like you said, everybody has influences, there are no bands without them. I think it is really hard to make something so new that you have never heard it before.
And the main question is: is it good? Can you even listen to it with pleasure?
Exactly. You can make something so new that nobody wants to hear it.
‘By The Blade’ should be one of the first songs you have written for this album. Is that true?
Yes, you can say so. I think it was the first song we have written for this album. We were thinking about the theme, because we are all dead kings. We all died on the battlefield. So we wanted to write a song about a warrior who wakes up in the morning and he knows it is his last day. He sees the signs in the skies, he sees the raven flying, he hears the voice of Odin, whatever… he knows today he is going to die. He is a warrior, nevertheless he will march into battle. We wanted to write a song about that and it was one of the first ones for this record. It is one of the faster and heavier songs on the album. We love it, it is a good one.
The title ‘Where Dreams Die’ includes a kind of melancholic feeling…
That song has also a little bit oriental influences and it is about the crusades. In the end, nothing good came out of this. A lot of people died and a lot of dreams died. So it is a story about in the end the whole crusade thing was meaningless and just brought a lot of pain and a lot of people dying on both sides. Everybody was fighting for something. In the end they were fighting for the same god, they just gave it different names. So we called it ‘Where Dreams Die’ and we thought it is a good one to end a record called ‘Revolution’, because sometimes revolution or rebellion starts with good intentions, but then it ends with a lot of pain and blood and sadness. So you start with a lot of dreams to make something better, but sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. I think that is a good end point for the record.
It is still hot topic, in this world today…
Like we always say: we are four different characters from different parts in history. Normally we would never become friends, but when you are dead, in the end, it does not matter to which god you pray. In the end you are dead. Under your skin the blood is red. It does not matter where you come from and which god you pray to. Like you said, nowadays many people still fight about beliefs, but in the end it is just beliefs. You don’t know the truth and when you die, we are all the same. We think it is very stupid to fight about all these beliefs. There are bigger problems in the world that we have to solve than which god you pray to. You can pray to whatever god you like, it doesn’t matter. When we look at the past months, we can truly say that there are bigger problems.
To round off some words about the artwork…
The artwork was made once again by Gyula Havancsak, that is an artist from Hungary. We worked with him before on the albums and we really like his style. We want to have our kind of warrior on every album cover. From every character of us, he has a feature: a Spartan helmet, Roman armour and he holds a crusader shield and a Viking axe. Then we have the red flag as a sign for the revolution and he is ready to fight. That is the theme of the album. We wanted to feature that.
Then I am going to let you return to Valhalla…
(laughs out loud) Always fun to talk to you. Stay safe, have a good time, bye!