Monday, February 9, 2009

Interview With: SUIDAKRA

On a Plain of Standing Stones: SUIDAKRA Hail Heritage

Kim Kelly for Hails & Horns Magazine 2/2009

“Celtic metal,” eh? Sure an’ that seems like an unlikely combination – if you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade or so, that is. With the folk metal explosion nearing critical mass and legions of conquering metal hordes storming our beaches armed with glockenspiels, warpaint, and bagpipes, if you’re listening to metal in 2009, chances are you’re familiar with (if not a ravenous consumer of) that feisty little subgenre dubbed “folk metal.” Skyclad’s legacy has held fast and spawned untold numbers of modern-day Vikings, city-dwelling rune-worshippers, and iPhone-wielding shamans; the voices of the past are calling, and it finally seems as though the general metal populace is heeding their call. Of course, folk metal and its affiliates (Viking metal, Celtic metal, all manner of regionally-specific tags, and something I, to my immense chagrin, heard referred to as “battle metal” – it’s a Turisas album, kids, not a genre) have been around for decades. Skyclad may have been one of the first, but they were predated by Mago de Oz and The Lord Weird Slough Feg, and followed closely by Cruachan, Orphaned Land, and Subway to Sally (comrades from Ireland, Israel, and Germany, respectively). One may even argue that folk metal’s first stirrings were felt in seminal “Viking metal” offerings from Bathory, Enslaved, and Amorphis. Leaving the history lesson behind, though, let’s shift our focus onto one of the original Celtic-focused folk metal bands – Suidakra, who formed in Germany in 1994. Blending melodic death, black, and power metal with traditional Irish folk and a healthy appreciation for melody, the band is often backed by a sixteen-member choir and have been releasing record and touring the world since the early nineties. Suidakra’s affable frontman Arcaduis “Akki” Antonik took some time to weigh in on some metallic (and not so metallic) issues and share some juicy details about their brand-new record, Crógacht.

On the folk metal explosion:

To be honest, I’ve no idea why Folk metal has become big lately… And we don’t care too much about it, because as all trends it will be gone as fast as it has come probably. Concerning ourselves, it’s just the music that comes out of us when writing songs; we like to combine joyful melodies and powerful metal tunes into our own style. For some reason, in private we do not even listen to many other bands that play this kind of music, at least no more than we do to other styles of metal or music in general…

On the band’s name and history:

“SuidAkrA was formed in Germany in 1994. We released a bunch of albums since then and the new -our ninth- album “Crógacht” will be released in the US on March, 3rd via Wacken Records / SPV. We consider ourselves to play Celtic Metal, but that’s just a shorter term for melodic death metal blended with Irish folk music which might describe our style a bit more precisely. The folk influence has been part of our sound since the very beginning and during the last years we introduced some new instruments like the bagpipes and the choir to have some more diversity. If you listen to our albums you’ll find some acoustic songs, but we like to keep the wilder stuff for the live shows. It’s a wide range that we’re covering.”

“There is no deeper meaning behind that name. Once we started to write our names backwards because it sounded quite funny, and my name Arkadius backwards is Suidakra. We called the band “Glorifcation” at that time and were not really satisfied with that so I said “Hey, let’s call the band SuidAkrA!” And that’s all, it has nothin’ to do with “dark” or “Suicide,” hehehe!”

On their upcoming US tour:

“We already had the opportunity last year to play six US shows as a special guest on the Pagan Fest USA Tour last year. It was a blast. We noticed that there are many SuidAkrA fans out there. We knew we would have to come back as soon as possible. After returning home we get the offer to play a “real” North American tour in March 2009. This time we will play about 4 weeks with Týr & Alestorm. This time we will use sound samples live to create the same atmosphere as we did on the records. It’s a new experience for all of us. Every single song from the new records has its own intensity and character, so we’re looking forward to play almost all songs off “Crógacht” live on stage. We’re really looking forward to meeting some friends and gaining some new SuidAkrA fans!”

On Crógacht, the new full-length:

Since 2005 we have been signed to Armageddon Music, a label that was transformed into Wacken Records / SPV last year. We’re happy so far because SPV can supply a much better distribution now than we had before. They are really providing their support for our band and our new album.

“I think the main differences between now and the earlier days lie in the sound of the production and in our musical and songwriting skills. Both have improved on every record and while the first releases sounded quite raw it changed to a kind “controlled power” on the newer ones. On “Crógacht” we experienced how it works to write music according to a concept. I guess this would not have succeeded in the early days. We told Kris Verwimp, our longtime graphic artist who was also responsible for the lyrical concept on ”Crógacht”, that the new album will include about 9 songs. He came up with the concept and its division into chapters. So, before we wrote the first song we knew what the whole story and album should be about to express. We sent him the first recordings from the rehearsal room and planned which song would fit to which lyric. It was a new way of songwriting for us. This time we had the oppurtunity to create certain moods and atmospheres according to the lyrics. It was more like writing music for a movie.
The recordings were also very special this time. We worked with Martin Buchwalter for the third time and he never gets bored with us, haha!
He likes to develop himself as a producer and to record bagpipes and other exotic instruments is very exciting for him. I knew that it’s gonna be hard to mix the sound, because at some parts of the songs there are so many different instruments and you have to do a good mix to give each element its own place so it can be heard! Martin managed it perfect.”

On lyrics and writing a concept record”

“Crógacht” is the Gaelic word for “valor” or “bravery”... First of all we came up with the idea to title the album “Valour” but in our opinion it didn’t sound that good, so we found the Irish word with the same meaning. We thought that would fit to the concept 100%.The concept concerns the Irish legend of the hero Cuchulainn. We focus on his journey to the Isle of Skye, where he seeks to learn the arts of war from the Scythian warrior woman Scáthach. His decisions set the events in motion that causes his son Conlaoch’s tragic fate... But I won’t tell you how the story ends haha! We had the idea that Kris could create a lyrical concept for us many years before when we found out that he also released pagan comics & books that tell Irish stories. The problem was that we always finished the songwriting a few weeks before we entered the studio so there wasn’t time left to work on that. After the “Caledonia” album was released, we met Kris at one of our shows in Germany and we asked him about our idea. He was very excited to work on such a big project. He came up with the idea of using that Irish legend and we gave him free space to create the story like he would like to.
This way we got Kris involved into the songwriting. After the recordings were finished and I asked Kris a few days ago if he would like to work with us in this way on the next album again and he said: “of course!” ;-)

On German metal (is it something in the beer?):

“Germany’s important role in metal probably started in the 80’s with Thrash metal bands like Kreator, Sodom etc. I think back then the foundation of a good working distribution of metal music was built that lasts until today and gets many people introduced into metal. And I agree with you that our beer plays an important role of course! Also, I’d like take the chance to say hi to our friends from Sirocco, a folk thrash band from Ireland. And we want to apologize to the American people for sending over the band Tokyo Hotel to tour the US… Hahaha!”

Parting shots:

What upcoming albums are you most looking forward to hearing in 2009?

Since we’re extremely busy at the moment because of our own upcoming album release, I’m not really up to date with what’s coming out soon… Maybe the next Guns ‘n Roses album?
What’ve you guys got planned for the rest of 2009? What’s next for Suidakra now that your latest record’s been completed?

First of all we want to play as much shows as we can when we return from the US tour and I think at the same time we will start to write new material for the next release. We can’t wait to record a new album! We hope to meet many people on our tour in March! Feel free to check out SuidAkrA on the net: so you know the lyrics to sing along or the correct timing to bang your heads off at the show! See you there!

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