Welcome to another interview, this time with the mighty Metal Inquisitor, surely one of the best German bands of the last fifteen years. The whole band, apart from drummer Havoc that is, sat down together to give us all the relevant information on their brand new album “Ultima Ratio Regis”, out on Massacre now.
Blumi, when we spoke around the release of “Unconditional Absolution”, you told me you started studying in Cologne back in 2006, that should mean you are finished by now. What were you studying, and have you gotten a job where you can use the things you learnt during the studies?
Blumi: – I studied social work and at that time I was unfortunately forced to move to Cologne. I actually intended to be active in school, but the German school system is very underdeveloped. I am now in a management position and have to organize much. Whether it is better than what I have worked with before, I am no sure. Anyway, the time in Cologne was obviously not good for the progress of the band. This was certainly one of the reasons why “Unconditional Absolution” was released so late. Since 2011 I am back at home in Koblenz and can concentrate more on the band.
The single “Euthanasia By Fire” containing covers of Satan’s “Trial By Fire” as well as Tygers Of Pan Tang’s “Euthanasia”, was released last year. Was it planned already before the gig at Keep It True to do a release like this, or was it an idea that materialized later? How was it to perform with two of the more well known singers from the NWOBHM? Which of the versions did you think turned out best?
Blumi: – Oliver Weinsheimer from the Keep It True-crew had this idea. He organized the whole thing for Jess (Cox – Tygers Of Pan Tang) and Brian (Ross – Satan) to come to Keep It True in 2008 just to play these songs with us. Right after the gig I got to know that those songs were recorded, so I immediately had the idea to do a special release. Well, it doesn’t happen so often that you perform on stage with such legends. I remember that I felt really reverent even if it was just a gig like all the others. In my opinion I think that “Trial by Fire” fits better to Metal Inquisitor even though I like “Euthanasia” much more.
TP: – Of course, it was very exciting to perform with Brian and Jess . They are living legends and to share the stage with them was a big honor for us. The fact that we didn`t have a common rehearsal let the stage fright rise at the time.
“Doomsday For The Heretic” and “Unconditional Absolution”, the last two albums were both released by Hellion Records. Were you forced to look for a new label, or was it something you wanted?
Blumi: – After “Unconditional Absolution” we have been searching for another label, because the possibilities with regards to promotion were limited at Hellion. However, the time was now ripe for a change. I am very pleased that the scene nowadays is more open to classic metal. Therefore, we have got a chance to take a step forward with Metal Inquisitor.
I talked to a singer of a German band last year that wasn’t exactly happy with the work Massacre had done for them on a handful of albums. How and why did you end up on Massacre? What are your expectations for the cooperation with the label?
Cliff: – They made us an offer we couldn´t refuse. No, actually they asked us if we would join them and made a pretty good offer in terms of supporting us in releasing a new album. Also Massacre is full of history, I mean in some ways, we are successors of the great King himself. If that isn´t something. Plus in my opinion they behave much friendlier than Hellion when it comes to supporting our band and advertising for the new record.
TP: – For us it is important to be able to make good recordings. So it is absolutely necessary to have an appropriate budget for studio and coverartwork. We hoped Massacre would a good job advertising for the album, and as much as we can say today, they did so.
To me, “Ultima Ratio Regis” sounds like a natural follow up to “Unconditional Absolution”, as it pretty much follows in the same vein. Would you agree, or do you feel that the difference between the two releases is bigger?
Cliff: – I can´t really say much about “Unconditional Absolution” because I was not in the band when it was recorded, and thus didn’t take part in the creative process. As a former fan I just can say that it was hard in the first days to get myself into the “Unconditional Absolution”-album, but that it got better and better the more I listened to it. With “Ultima Ratio Regis” I was taken by surprise even if I was part of creating it. I think there is a lot of power in this piece and I hope that all the metal heads who listen to it will take the same joy out of it as I do.
TP: – I think one big difference is the length of the songs. The songs on “Ultima Ratio Regis” are mostly shorter. which makes the album more compact.
“Ultima Ratio Regis”, means something like “The king’s final argument”, often connected to war, and a phrase that was found as an inscription on old Prussian cannons. As there isn’t a title song on the album, why do you still feel it fits as the title?
El Rojo: – First, there are three songs on the album, which act as historical episodes of Prussia and the phrase ” Ultima Ratio Regis ” was embossed on the Prussian cannons of the 18th century. Also, there are other songs, which have war as the theme, Death On Demand” for example. Last but not least, our mascot is the “ultimate weapon”: The knights nearby look awesome, humble and fearful inclined before him: the mighty, the most brutal, the most superior … of which are so powerful, that even the king basically shy away from unleashing him. There is always the possibility, that he could destroy the king himself. The war is so dangerous, that, once unleashed, it can also cost the heads of those who started it.
Cliff: – Well it has something dramatic about it. The Prussian period was not only a time of wealth and fancy balls, it was also a time of conflict, arrogance and obedience. You can find those topics in the lyrics like in “Self-Denial”. Plus in my opinion topics like these fit the sound of heavy metal.
Most of the material for your last album “Unconditional Absolution” was written already during the summer of 2005, before you recorded “Doomsday For The Heretic”. When were the songs for “Ultima Ratio Regis” made? Do you see any change in the way you write your songs as well as how they turn out in the end, when you compare the last two albums to each other?
Cliff: – The creative process for “Ultima Ratio Regis” took a long time. At least I feel that way. But this long working period was important for the final product. I don’t think the album would have been that good if we had sped up the production. For the older albums I have nothing to say. Sorry, I wasn´t there.
TP: – The way of songwriting in Metal Inquisitor is identical to the working process of each other band. Presenting riffs and ideas, then study the new stuff, arrange it, work on the vocals and finally do some fine tuning.
“Confession Saves Blood” was the first taster from the new album made available on the internet, and it is also the opening track off the album. Did you know already when this one was composed that it would be the opening tune of the album?
Cliff: – I don´t really know….. I think it was somehow set at the moment the song was done plus we had done the intro with the song together. They fit so well that I think it just kind of stuck. Also it was one of the first songs to be finished.
El Rojo: – Finally after TP composed the intro.
Blumi told me once that he felt the band only reached 70 percent of your best on the album “Unconditional Absolution”. Do you feel you are closer to your potential on the new album? Why is it so hard for you to get all the potential out when it comes to making an album?
Blumi: – Meanwhile, I accept the result after the completion of an album and try to approach the future more relaxed. As they say: “Blessed is the man who does not see”. Well, unfortunately, it doesn’t succeed completely. Even if you got a certain vision, you don’t have everything under control. I try to do it differently next time and let some things run free.
El Rojo: – Maybe it´s like the following feeling of an ambitious athlete: You will do your best and you see a lot of people, who jump far, run fast and so on. And then, your doubts are getting stronger: Am I good enough, to play in their league ? Remember: There is no objective instrument with which could measure your skills if you’re doing music. Unlike the athletes, which can measure time with a clock, a musician only has the possibility of getting feedback when the music is released. And then he can´t change anything!
The mix and mastering on “Ultima Ratio Regis” is handled by Olof Wikstrand from Enforcer. Was it your own choice to work with him? What qualities are you looking for in a guy that’s going to do this job?
TP: – We like the sound of the Enforcer-albums and we knew, that Olof has an own studio. Blumi got the idea to contact him. Olof knows the music and the spirit of eighties-metal, and he knows how to combine it with today’s technology. He is really professional.
Cliff: – Yes it was our choice. I for myself like Enforcer and their sound very much and Blumi came up with the idea. I think Olof is a nice guy with both feet on the ground and a very good sense for how a record needs to sound like, if you know what I mean. I think he has a good ear and an even better gut-feeling.
In March last year you celebrated 15 years of Metal Inquisitor with an anniversary gig. What kind of set list did you do this night?
Cliff: – The set list is always a big arguing point in the band. Everybody wants to play his favorite songs, but not all fit on the list. It is hard, but we have always found a nice balance between old and new and I hope we can keep it that way.
TP: – I remember the setlist was very long with some special songs we haven`t played for a long time and also with the new songs which were almost ready to be presented.
What kind of relationship do you have to your own music? Do you listen to Metal Inquisitor-albums at home, or do you prefer to listen to other band? Are you on the hunt for new releases by new acts, or do you prefer the old classics?
Blumi: – After a release, I listen to a Metal Inquisitor-album very often, but its not easy for a musician to listen to his own work. So I prefer to listen to albums from other artists from the eighties and wonder about the damn organic sound and enjoy the feeling in their playing.
El Rojo: – I listen to both: Old stuff and new releases – it depends on the “good emotions” I am getting while listening: Everything I like, I listen to – easy way, isn´t it?
Cliff: – Since I joined the band just a few years ago, I was a big fan of Metal Inquisitor for quite some time and I still enjoy listening to the stuff. But I also like other old fashioned bands like Saxon, Iron Maiden or Jaguar and Acid. I also love new and promising bands.
Many bands are quite critical of their own debut. What are your views on “The Apparition”?
Blumi: – This album is like every other first album of a band: Completely clueless and rough. That’s why there are die-hard fans who just prefer “The Apparition”.
El Rojo: – It is a good album. Sure there are some things we might do differently today, especially some arrangements, and some details in the production, but I think the album still has its charm.
Almost everybody that I know, rate “Doomsday For The Heretic” as your best album. Do you agree?
El Rojo: – I don´t agree. Because I find some something in the other albums, which convince me of the opposite: Some very good songs, details of the sound and so on. Maybe we can conclude with the fact that each album is our best?
Cliff: – As a former fan I have to say I like “The Apparition” a lot more.
Blumi: – I remember back at the time when “Doomsday For The Heretic” was created, I already felt that something special could come out. Unfortunately, you lose that feeling with time. Therefore its better if other decide in this case.
What do you see as the main strengths and weaknesses of “Unconditional Absolution”, more than three years after it was released?
TP: – The main strength is the diversity, the weakness is the opening song.
Blumi: – In my opinion “Extinction” is a really strong song because its unconventional and pure. That’s what the British style is all about.
Cliff: – It´s strength is in my opinion the very unique Metal Inquisitor touch. The weakness maybe the broad variety of musical styles on the album.
Cliff: – Of course it´s the best album so far because I´m with the band know. But truly I really think it´s the best Metal Inquisitor-album so far because the hard work we all put in and the amount of hours of rehearsal we amassed. Not to talk about all the fighting over the order of the songs, the layout and sound and so forth. It was worth it and it marks a whole new level of power and commitment for the band.
TP: – It is the album with the best sound, the songs are compact and also very diverse. I can`t say which is the best and which is the worst album. I like the speed of the debut, I like the songs of “Doomsday For The Heretic” and on “Unconditional Absolution” it is the vocal-perfomance and all the hooklines.
Through the years Metal Inquisitor has recorded several tracks that have not been available on the regular studio albums, but only on singles, a split or a compilation. When I asked Blumi about the the live album “Doomsday At The H.O.A” as well as the compilation “Garage Nights” in a previous interview, he told me that almost nobody is interested in these kinds of releases nowadays. It’s not like when he started listening to heavy metal himself, when it was a must to know albums like “Unleashed In The East” or “Live After Death”. Also, all the early Metallica covers were played at absolutely every metal party.
So which song is your favourite from these recordings? Also, which of the many cover versions you’ve done are you most pleased with?
Cliff: – Again I can only answer as a former fan and I have to say the best cover song by far was the Open Fire cover “Twardy Jak Skala”. Pure metal power that hits you right in your Face.
TP: – My favourite is “Resistance Is Futile”, but it is now released on the live-album, and I like Witchfynde’s “Stab In The Back” as well.
Blumi: – Yes, I think that “Stab In The Back” became a very good cover. Also the cover of Image’s “The Legacy” is very strong, but this band is anything else but not known in the scene.
“Unconditional Absolution” was voted album of the month in Rock Hard when it was released, something we also covered in the last interview. What do you feel about the fact that the editor Götz as well as a lot the writers have now left the magazine? I’ve read several interviews with Metal Inquisitor in smaller paper zines over the years, is the existence of paper publications important for a band like you?
Blumi: – For a band like us those smaller magazines are more important than the bigger ones. Our fans are coming from the very deep underground and those people are still reading underground paper zines. By the way, I have heard that “Ultima Ratio Regis” should become number one too in Rock Hard Magazine too.
Cliff: – Of course critics, writers and interviews are important for a band. They determine what way the band will go for the most part. If critics and journalists don’t like you it’s hard for you as a band to gain a foothold. I was sad to hear that Götz and the others are leaving Rock Hard and I think it will leave a very big mark, not only on the German heavy metal scene. I wish them all of luck for their further careers.
El Rojo: – Of course it is important for a band, what critics write. And if it is a critic whose views are widely read, and has a good opinion, this is clearly important. But we make our music for a simple recipe: We release what we like. If our taste is shared by fellow human beings, we are delighted. I feel sad when an institution like Rock Hard undergoes fundamental changes. There is nothing more we can say about the current events. We know nothing more than everyone knows and if we knew, we would not say it. After all that is their affair
Being a huge fan of the Metalucifer-album “Heavy Metal Bulldozer”, I asked Blumi last time how much freedom he did have working on the German version of this release. He told me Gezolucier normally is a strict leader, but on this particular album he was just the opposite and let Blumi and the guys have full freedom. And as Blumi put it back then, they needed all of it to make sure not to do two identical albums. The biggest changes were in the vocal department as Blumi simply can’t sing like Gezolucier. This can best be heard if you compare the two versions of the track “Heavy Metal Highway Rider”. Are Blumi and Cliff still in the band?
Blumi: – Yes, me and Cliff are still part until now. But it all depends on Gezol whats going on in the future.
Cliff: – I´d like to be but that depends on Gezol and my future work here in Germany and how things will correspond. I hope I will have the time to tour again because it´s always awesome fun to tour with Gezol and meeting all the maniacs out there in the world.
What happened with Midnight Rider, the band with Blumi and Cliff that released their self titled EP back in 2008? Last time we spoke Blumi told me this is a very special band, and that he looked forward to play a type of music he loves very much, with lots of feeling and no hard riffing. He also said he would start working on the first album right after the release of “Unconditional Absolution”. With this in mind, I expected the debut of Midnight Rider to be released before this new Metal Inquisitor-album.
Blumi: – We had big problems finding a suitable drummer. Finally in 2013 we found somebody who fits in with us. In 2012 I played in the punk band Toxoplasma for one year. The drummer of Toxoplasma heard me playing some Midnight Rider-riffs and he showed a big interest in this kind of music. So he joined Midnight Rider, and since one year we are rehearsing continuously. Our goal is to release the first album in 2015.
Cliff: – Also Wayne (vocals) moved to our hometown so now we can begin a creative process. But I think we have to focus on Metal Inquisitor until this release is behind us and we have done some of the gigs, especially the ones in Japan.
Do you feel that Midnight Rider is more personal and closer to your own taste in music than Metal Inquisitor, or do the bands show a different side of you musical taste?
Blumi: – Midnight Rider definitely shows another side of my musical taste. It’s an absolutely different kind of playing in which you have to put much more felling into it. In comparison to this is to play speed metal more functional and it also requires a significant amount of strength and endurance. So both styles of are therefore interesting in several ways.