NOCTURNAL: Unholy thrash


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The new Nocturnal-album “Storming Evil” really took me by surprise. Don’t misunderstand me, I enjoyed the stuff I heard from the band in the past as well, but this new one, the band’s first for High Roller, really made an impression with it’s extremely high level of aggression and energy combined with the bands ability to pen great songs. I gave Avenger, the master of razor sharp riffs, a call and to get all the necessary details on the new album and other happenings within and around the band. First of all, how does it feel to have a new album out? After all it doesn’t happen that often in the Nocturnal-camp…

– Actually, it feels pretty good. As you said, it’s been a long time since the last one, so finally something is happening again. The last couple of years we also had some problems with the lineup, so it feels good that something is finally out. After putting so much hard work into it, it’s nice to finally hold it in your hands too.

When you have lived with an album for a while, writing and recording it, and  finally waiting for the thing to be released, do you sometimes wish you could just have the material released as soon as it is mastered, and not having to wait for it being pressed on to physical format?

– It would be the perfect thing to have it out a week after or something like that, but actually this time we didn’t have to wait that long. I think it was like three months or something. That’s okay. With the last albums, there were something like six or seven months between when we recorded the album and when it came out. This time it went a little bit faster, luckily. The album still feels fresh.

I also guess you are one of those bands that really want your music to be released on physical format?

–  Yeah, of course. For us that’s the only thing that matters.

There has been a few releases between “Violent Revenge”, the last album released back in 2009, and this new one, but not as many as between “Violent Revenge” and your first full length “Arrival Of The Carnivore”.  You could probably have done an album or two with the material you have contributed to EP’s  and split releases?

– I’m not so sure about that. Usually the EP’s and splits contain different recordings of songs from previous albums.. I don’t think we could make an album out of different recordings of already released tracks or cover songs.

A nice thing about the new album in my opinion, is that not many of the songs have been released previously…

– Only one song, which was released on a 7″ we sold during the US tour we made in 2011.

That should be “Preaching Death”?

– Yeah, exactly. We really wanted to have completely new stuff for this album, this song is the only exception. Maybe later we will do an EP with demo recordings or stuff like that, but we didn’t want to have anything released before the album this time.

Did the fact that only one of the songs was recorded earlier, make the album more interesting to record?

– I don’t think it made it more interesting for us, as the songs were already present all the time, but I guess for the people who buy the record, it’s nice to get a whole album full of new stuff. It’s not like three or four songs have been released before.

When such a long time passes between each album, do you feel extra motivated when you enter the studio to do a full album and not “just another” EP?

– We took the time, the plan was always to release an album, so we took what was needed until we had enough songs. And with the lineup problems, we were set back anyway, so I had plenty of time to work on the material.

Avenger and the rest of the band, vocalist Tyrannizer, bass player Vomitor and the new drummer Skullsplitter also used a new studio this time around. 

– We thought a lot about where to record the new album, because we weren’t that satisfied with the previous works. We were looking around at different options, but in the end we chose the studio from a guy we know since many years. His name is Mersus, and he just started recording albums a couple of years ago, and got more and more professional about it. The good thing is that he knows the band since the beginning and we know him personally, so for us it was the best decision to work with him. The result speaks for itself, we are very satisfied with it.

What is a good production for Nocturnal?

– For me it needs to sound natural. I don’t want to have those triggered bass drums, or drums sounding like a drum computer. Also the guitar sound is very important to me, this time I had a special sound in my mind, and we talked a lot about how we could achieve this. We tried several things and had some recommendations like recording four guitar tracks, where each of them had a bit different sound. In the end we mixed them together they way I wanted it. That was something we haven’t done before. We didn’t think too much about how to achieve our sound on the previous albums, we just recorded whatever came out.

The guitar sound you had in your mind, is that what we hear on the album?

– Yeah, it’s pretty much what I had in mind. My perfect guitar sound would be something like the guitar sound of Razor, the guitar sound of “Infernal Overkill” and a bit of “Kill Em All”. A mix of those somehow, but of course it will have to fit with the rest of the sound.  You can’t say that I want my guitar to sound like this or that, you will have to find something which fits to the rest as well.

Are you unsatisfied with the sound of all your earlier records?

– We made a 7” in 2003, called “Fire Of Revenge”. It was the first one we recorded in the studio were we recorded two albums later (Toxomusic, Koblenz). The new one sounds better of course, but still today that’s the best sounding record we made there, but after that one it all went downhill for some reason. Even though there are a lot of things I would change, I am pretty much okay with the first album, but on the second one, there are a lot of things that should be different from my nowadays point of view.

I ask Avenger to be more specific about what he doesn’t like.

– I am not satisfied with the guitar sound that is too dry. The vocals are a bit too thin, and not really into the music, more on top of it, if you know what I mean. Also the drums could’ve sounded more organic. I don’t know what really went wrong, but back then it really didn’t sound that bad. Now we have a different view on things.  Still I think that’s natural for everyone who creates music.

There is not a title track on the album this time, why have you called it “Storming Evil”?

– We discussed this a lot. This time, we didn’t really want a song with the title of the album. Personally I didn’t mind, but the others had the idea that we should have a separate title for the album. “Storming Evil” was what we came up with. It fits pretty well with the cover art and also the music.

So was the title chosen based on the cover art, or was it the other way around?

– The title came a lot later. Actually the cover is one and a half year old now. The title were decided on only a month or two before we were hitting the studio. We really had a hard time finding one.

Even though the title came much later than the album, Avenger denies that the band sat with the motive in their hands desperately looking for a fitting title.

– We were doing some brainstorming with different ideas, trying to agree which were  possible options and which were not. The important thing was to have a title that could relate to the cover, but it wasn’t like we sat down with the cover trying to figure out something. But there should be a connection somehow, I think. There were a lot of titles we didn’t choose in the end. Basically because they were already used by other bands.That was the main reason.

NOCTURNALStormingEvilCoverSTalking about the cover, you have used a well known artist, Phil Lawvere, who’s done some really iconic covers in the past.

– That’s why we choose him. We loved all the work he did in the past. We tried to contact him, because we wanted to have him doing our cover art. After all, we are a German thrash band, and people should see it already by the cover.

What’s your favourite work of his from the past?

– Maybe “Emperor’s Return” from Celtic Frost or Kreator’s “Pleasure To Kill”. One of those two, I can’t decide really. They’re both excellent.

Flipping through the booklet of the new album, one thing I noticed is that Tyrannizer is credited for a lot of the songs, but as expected, we’re only talking about the lyrics.

– Someone already asked me about this, I wrote all the music as usual, but she wrote six of the lyrics. All the riffs came from me, then we worked out the songs together in the rehearsal room. I come up with the basic song structures which I show to the others, then everyone can speak their opinion. Usually the songs don’t change that much.  About the booklet, we didn’t really care about the music, and thought it was obvious that the names underneath the song titles are just for the lyrics.

There seem to be a difference between the lyrics written by the singer and the ones written by the guitarist. Avenger agrees.

– Her English is way better than mine, so she uses a lot of words I don’t even know. Haha! Also she doesn’t do the rhyme thing as much as I do. I always try to find a rhyme somehow, but she writes the lyrics fitting to the riffs. Those two things are the main difference, it’s safe to say she has a different approach to writing lyrics than I have.

Nocturnal started out as more or less your solo project. How do you feel about someone else writing a big portion of the lyrics?

– For me it’s perfect, because I am more a music guy. I just write lyrics if I have to. Well, it’s actually not like that, but sometimes I have ideas for lyrics, and if I have one, I write it down, and in the end we use them or we don’t use them. It all depends on if they’re good enough.  When we are working on new songs, it’s more like: I have these and you have those, let’s sit down and see what fits to what song.

The lyrics seem to be dark with lots of death, darkness and evil. Don’t you ever get tired of writing this type of lyrics?

– No, not yet. We want our lyrics to carry a special mood, and fit to the songs. One example is the song “Ripping Knives”, which has some very sharp sounding riffs. Tyrannizer came up with the idea for the title and the lyrics to that song. It’s a perfect example of what I mean, because if you read the title, you know exactly how the song sounds. At least you can imagine it if you want to. We tried to do more or less the same with the other tracks, but “Ripping Knives” is probably the best example of what we try to do. We are into traditional heavy metal lyrics, that’s what we want to hear ourselves.

Avenger denies that he has to be in special mood to write these lyrics.

– I wouldn’t call it a mood. It’s more like having an idea of what to write. An idea can come to me at work or when I am sitting on the train.

What do you do to try to avoid repeating yourself?

– Basically looking at what we had in the past and look over what we covered before. Sometimes it probably happens that we have a similar theme going on. I don’t think that’s so bad, as long as you’re not copying your own lyrics. The topics are more or less coming back and forth anyway.

Seen from the outside, changing from a male to a female singer, like you did when Tyrannizer joined the band a handful of years ago, seems like a big decision. Was it?

– A big decision? It was a good option we had back then, so we went for it. We didn’t really…Of course you think about, will it work in our band? But if you know Tyrannizer as a person, she gets along with male persons very well, with our stupidity and humor. She’s not an usual woman, who might be offended by certain things. Knowing that, I didn’t see the problem. For me, gender doesn’t really matter.

Another thing is that her voice is quite masculine.

-Yeah, actually a lot of people  didn’t know she was a woman in the beginning.

What were the reactions like when she joined the band?

– We had mixed reactions. Some people didn’t like it, others liked it very much. If people have a problem with it, it’s okay for me. I can’t change other peoples opinion. If we decide to record an album in an different style or whatever, that’s our decision. If people like it, it’s okay, if not, I don’t care. I have to see it like that. You can’t please everyone, that’s something I learnt pretty fast.

I guess some people also changed their mind as soon as they heard her sing as well?

– With the new album at least, a lot of people will hopefully change their mind. At least those who said in the past that the vocals were nothing special or something like that. There are some people that just don’t like her because she is a woman, or whatever. Some say they don’t like her voice, that’s also okay for me. There are also some people who just say she’s not very good at what she’s doing. I can relate to that if you listen to the “Violent Revenge”-album because she didn’t really have the chance to work on the songs on that album. When we were hitting the studio back then, more than half of the songs were never rehearsed with vocals in the rehearsal room. We just did it instrumental and then went into the studio, gave her the lyrics and said: Now go and record! There was not much time to work on the vocals. This time we made it differently, we rehearsed the material very well and also spent a lot of time on the vocals in the studio to try out different things. She can actually show her range and the variety she has. I always knew what she is able to do, but “Violent Revenge” doesn’t do her justice.

There are some people who don’t want female singers in extreme metal at all, but Avenger doesn’t feel that is a big problem.

– I don’t know, because to us people rarely say that they don’t like her, or mention the fact that she is a woman. If they don’t like us because of that, they tell their friends probably, but don’t say it to us directly. They just ignore us probably. I don’t think too much about it actually. You should also remember that the fact that she is a woman makes Nocturnal a little special. Having something special in a band make you more interesting maybe. When we play live, a lot of people seem to like that.

Has the interest in Nocturnal accelerated since she joined?

– That’s hard to say. I wouldn’t say it’s only because of her, but she definitely has had an input. I don’t think people are interested in the band just because of her, but she definitely adds something.

“Storming Evil” is something like ten minutes longer than the last album. Was a longer album something you wanted?nocturnal-1

– We said: this time we would do at least 40 minutes, because we think our previous albums are a bit short. We ended up with 45, so it’s quite good. If you don’t count the intro on the first album, it’s like 29 minutes or something, but it doesn’t feel that short. With the new one, if I listen to it as a whole, it feels shorter than it is. I think if we took away two or three songs, it would feel wrong. Lets put it this way: I wanted an album which makes sense if you listen to it from start to end. Also we put a lot of thought about which song we placed where. If I think about taking two songs away, there would be something missing. The individual songs are a lot longer than before too. In the past we had a couple of two minute songs. This time only one song is about two and half minutes, the rest is at least four and five minutes long.

Did you have a long discussion before you chose decided on “Storm From The Graves” as the opener of the album?

– In fact, we put a lot of effort into it. The song wasn’t written as an opener, but the intro riffs were added later. We decided that since the song was a combination of all songs on the album, with both mid tempo and fast part, we decided to use it as a first song. When we had all the material ready, it was pretty clear that this song would be the opener. We also tried to make the vocals very interesting when they first set in. Once we knew this was to be the first song, we put some work into it to make it a really good one.

You’ve also made a video for the second track of the album, “Rising Demons”, a video I think you put together by mixing a live appearance with various clips from movies…

– Yes,  I made a video by myself. We had some live footage from a guy in Belgium who recorded a gig for us. The quality was pretty good, and I had enough material to put something together that fits somehow. We also had the idea to have various demons from old movies appearing. I looked for some movies and found some scenes we could use.

However, Avenger didn’t do all the work by himself. 

– No, to be honest with you, I don’t really care about movies at all. We have a friend from Denmark, Ustumallagam, the singer of Denial Of Good. He is a horror movie maniac. I told him that I needed some scenes from old movies which have demons in them, and he was like: I am currently at work, when I am back home I’ll give you a list. Ten minutes later he was like: I just had a coffee break, here is a list with a couple of movies. When I am back home, I send you some more. And the first list was already containing twenty movies or something. When he went back home, I had another twenty. I checked those, and he also told me where in the movies I could find the interesting scenes.

You have a lot of musical projects going. Do you have time for anything else than music?

-Since we are now been working so hard with Nocturnal for the last year, I rarely have time to do something else. When the band was rehearsing once a month and we had all those lineup issues and didn’t play live that often, I had a lot of spare time to do other stuff. Now we are rehearsing at least once a week, most of the time twice a week, so there isn’t much time to do much else. The last year, I recorded some tracks for a black metal project of mine, but it wasn’t released yet. That’s all I did last year. There are some plans to record a new album with Angel Of Damnation which is a doom band of mine. Also, the new Nocturnal-drummer is also the new drummer in Angel Of Damnation. We also found a permanent bass player, so we’re also a real band now.

And Gerrit is still on board I guess?

– Yeah, of course. He lives far away, like 250 kilometers, so he is not around at rehearsals at all. Before, I wrote the songs at home, met with the drummer and rehearsed each song two or three times before we hit the record button. When I had the songs recorded, I sent them to Gerrit who wrote lyrics for them. In the future, we would probably do it pretty much the same way with the vocals, but at least the music will be more rehearsed, since we’re a full band now. Without Gerrit I wouldn’t do the band,  his vocals are way too important. I’ve known him for something like 15 years.

You must have a quite diverse taste in metal since you have been doing all these projects in different styles? Thrash metal, death metal, doom metal and black metal. 

– I am interest in a lot of different music, not only metal . I don’t want to set myself any limits. When people ask me about why I have so much different stuff going on, I explain that I want my music to be pure. I want my thrash band sounding like a thrash band. A black metal band should have black metal ingredients. I don’t like bands that are mixing a lot of styles, there are exceptions of course, but it you take a death metal-band like Autopsy and put some black metal-elements into that, the whole thing this band is about would get lost for me. If I have an idea for a song, it has a special vibe which I want to keep. I can’t use all the ideas I have in one or two bands, that’s the reason why I have had so many things going on.

Let’s focus on thrash for a while. It’s obvious that you have a particular love for Teutonic thrash metal, what is your relationship to for instance US and Canadian thrash?

– Of course I am familiar with thrash bands from these countries. The Canadian bands are perfect, pretty much like the European ones. Straight forward, very heavy, have great riffs…

Razor and Sacrifice and stuff like that?

– Especially Razor, Slaughter and Infernal Majesty. To be honest with you, the so called Bay Area-thrash is not really my kind of music. They always have some cool riffs going on, but after half a minute they slow down and have some strange break or something. It seems they can’t play in the same speed for all songs, for some reason.  It’s okay if they like it, but it’s not for me. I am not a fan of those gang shouts they’re doing all the time either. I think the best American bands are very influenced by European acts. If you take Slayer for instance, they’re very influenced by Venom, Judas Priest or Iron Maiden.  Dark Angel, Viking or Possessed are all great bands to me, but they’re not the typical Bay Area- style. Vio-Lence, Testament and Evil Dead those kind of bands are not my kind of music, I prefer it more straight forward.

It’s not only the fact that it sounds straight forward which Avenger enjoys about Teutonic thrash.

– The way the bands made their music was their trademark. I think it’s a pity that a lot of German bands after their second album tried to sound like the American bands. Take for instance the second Assassin-album (“Interstellar Experience”), “Release From Agony” from Destruction or “Coma Of Souls” from Kreator, you can really hear they are trying to sound more American than they should. I think they didn’t realize they had an own sound going on, they were always looking up to the US band, wanting to be as popular as them and thinking they needed to sound like them too. I think that’s when these bands lost their original sound.

You’ve done quite a few cover versions of songs from German thrash-bands through the years, Destruction, Living Death, Violent Force…Which one do you think turned out best?

– We just last year played “Power Thrasing  Death” from Whiplash. They’re not a German band, but one of those bands that sounds very German. It’s actually pretty fun, because in the past we just did cover songs of German bands, but it wasn’t done on purpose. It was just those songs we liked and wanted to play. The first time we did a live cover of Exodus, some people were approaching us asking why the hell we did a cover of an American band. We were like: It’s a great song, so we don’t care if it’s from America or not. But that’s when I realized that people see us as a German band strongly influenced by German music and have a hard time understanding why we were all of a sudden doing a cover of an American band. We didn’t really think about it. What we think sounds good, we will do.

I now some people that call Nocturnal black thrash, but the band itself prefers the description unholy thrash metal.

– For me it’s a huge difference. We never had in our minds to sound black. For ourselves we always were a thrash band. To make clear we are not in the vein of Nuclear Assault, who are singing about political issues or has save the Whales-kind of lyrics , we added the unholy-thing. It’s just like Darkhtrone and their unholy black metal.

I noticed that one of my favourite bands, Procession is performing at the release party for “Storming Evil”. What’s your connection to these guys?

– They’re very good friends of ours. A good friend of mine released their demo tape, and he sent me the cassette asking me to listen to it as he thought it was my kind of stuff. When I first heard it, I was blown away, it was a professional studio recording and very well written stuff. We came in contact very early on, and then he moved to Sweden and also toured all over Europe, so we met them a couple of times.

Do you prefer to play together with thrash metal-acts or is it okay with bands from other genres?

– For us it’s important that they’re good bands. We are not set to thrash metal only, because there is no denying the fact that there is a lack of really good thrash metal-bands at the moment. We like to play with bands we like ourselves.  For the release gig, we wanted to book bands which we are good friends with to have a nice celebration of our album really.

Teutonic Slauhger is no longer a member of Nocturnal, which means you are down to one guitarist again. Do you feel more comfortable performing live with you being the lone guitarist?

– Yeah, I would say so. You need to know that the second guitar player we had, he also lived 150 kilometers away from us. He only came to rehearse with us once or twice shortly before we had gigs. It wasn’t enough, and it resulted in some live performances which were more like a mess than adding something to the songs. Now we’re just putting the one guitar we have on both speakers, left and right, and it’s just as fine I think. It sounds clearer and more to the point.

Being involved also on the opposite side of the table due to your involvement in Deathstrike Records, what do you look for in a band?

– First of all they need to have good songs. It’s not so much about the style. That can be everything. The band need to be good at what they want to do. If you have a band who are clearly obviously influenced by certain bands, they need to be able to do it convincingly. They also need to be behind what they’re doing. If you first get an album and look at the pictures, you don’t know what a band is about. But when you get to know them, it really adds something to it if the people are dedicated to what they’re doing. I am 32 years old now, and when I was younger, like 15 or 16, I traded a lot of demo tapes from all over the world. Basically I liked everything I could get my hands on. When I look back now at what I received back then, it was sometimes really crappy stuff. But I guess that’s the way it is, when you haven’t heard that much different stuff, you are easier impressed. Now it’s much harder for a new band to impress me. I have a lot of friends that are 20 years old, and when they are raving about this or that band, how good they are, I am more like: They’re okay, but I’ve heard it a million times before.

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