After a rather mediocre demo tape, the multinational Steel Inferno just released their first album, “Aesthetics Of Decay” through the French label Infernö Records. A band with members from France, Poland, Greece and Denmark sounds like an interesting story, especially on paper, but I guess noone moved from the country they were living in just to be part of Steel Inferno. If it was VolBeat maybe, but Steel Inferno is for sure another story. Guitarist and main songwriter Lars has the answer to this as well as my other questions about the past, present and future of Steel lnferno.
– It is actually a purely professional relationship. Krzysztof (drums) and I ran into each other more than ten years ago at a punk rock show. Out of nowhere a guy asked me if I played guitar and two weeks later we had a band. Krzysztof had moved to Denmark to get married, so that is how he ended up here. Gradually we started playing heavier and faster. We went from punk to hardcore and then on to more crust infused metal which again turned more thrashy with elements of black metal, until around 2012 when we formed Steel Inferno which I wanted to be pure old school metal. Around that time we hooked up with Thierry (bass), who is originally from France, but went to Denmark because France lacked heavy metal – and Denmark had Pretty Maids. Back then I only knew him like “the French guy” who was hanging around our rehearsal rooms doing weird metal projects, always listening to power metal. When we decided to form Steel Inferno, he seemed like the obvious choice. We put out an ad for a singer, and that is how we found Karen. Later in the process she suggested we bring in Patrick, whom she knew from her previous band. And suddenly we had a band with members from south, east, northern and western Europe. It was never intentional. Right now we are playing with a new guitar player from Copenhagen. So we are little less exotic at the moment…
So Patrick is out of the band? Is it a permanent change or a temporary one? What can you tell me about the new guy you are working with?
– Steel Inferno definitely need to have two guitar players. So when we parted ways with Patrick due to personal differences, we started looking for a new guitar player. We simply put out an ad, and this guy called Jens replied. He has been playing and listening to metal for long time, but not in any band we knew of. For us it is important that we function well together on a personal level. We do this to have fun. So fighting over bullshit takes away all the joy. Right now we are just learning the old songs so we can start playing shows. But we are looking forward to start the creative proces of writing our sophomore album. I have written four-five songs already, but we will take the time necessary to make everything perfect. It is still way too early to tell anything about that process.
According to the press release you all originate from different musical backgrounds. Tell us more about your previous musical endeavors. Listening to the songs on «Aestethetics Of Decay», its pretty clear that someone has either listened to, or performed a lot of old school metal here.
– I have been into metal since 1991 or so. I started out with Metallica, Iron Maiden, Slayer and soon after came the death metal invasion with bands like Morbid Angel, Deicide and Entombed. But I have never played that much classic metal prior to Steel Inferno. I hardly played guitar in my early twenties, but when I met Krzysztof, I picked it up again. After dismantling our first real band Ukrudt, it took us some time to find the right people to play with. We had two or three projects or bands just before Steel Inferno. Some was more black/thrash and the last was actually more speed/thrash with high pitched vocals. The last ten years I have been less and less into screaming and brutal singing. A voice can be such a powerful instrument if used correctly. When all this gets mixed in with the various backgrounds of the rest of the band, you end up with Steel Inferno.
The first recording of the track «War Anthem» is considered as the start of the band. That must have been early in 2012, so it obviously took a couple of years to get the demo out. Was that because you needed a stable lineup to record the demo?
– Yes, it took some time. Patrick was our fifth guitar player. He joined four or five months before the demo came out in January 2014. He played the guitars on all our releases so far. With each new person you start from scratch so it takes a lot of energy. Of course it can also add new fresh ideas. But still it is time consuming.”War Anthem” was the first song written specifically for Steel Inferno. It was written quite fast because we needed something that Karen could test out the vocals for. I still remember the feeling after hearing the very first demo of that song. Of course it sounded like crap – but we could feel the direction we were going in.
I mentioned in the review of the demo back in 2014, that I suspected that your singer, Karen, didn’t have much experience as a metal singer. Was I right? I have to add I think she has improved since then.
– We are happy that you think she has improved. We are also very happy with the result. It is true that she does not have a background as a metal singer. She has been more into modern rock, but also listens to old school metal.
Have you given her instructions on how you want her to sing to fit the material, or has she developed her style with time and experience?
– Karen’s development is the result of experience with Steel Inferno. Only on very few ocassions have I given her suggestions on how to sing.
Was a female singer always part of the concept of the band, or were you also considering male vocalists?
– No, it was pure luck. Karen was the first person to reply to our ad. It just sounded so cool so we had no doubts. Today her voice is an integrated part of our sound. According to some of the reviews of our previous releases, a few people tend to think that we were actually inspired by classic female fronted bands like Chastain, Znöwhite, Détente, Acid, Hellion or Bitch. All of those bands I have come to know through the reviews. We never meant to sound like any of them. Simply due to the fact that we did not know them.
Do you see any similarity to any of these bands apart from the fact that you have female vocalists?
– I guess they all belong to the certain type of heavy metal that lies close to speed metal and have a more punkish vibe to their sound. So I can see why we are compared to them. And I am only happy that I have gotten to know all these bands through the comparisons.
Please give us an insight into what the song writing process in Steel Inferno looks like.
– Almost all the songs have been written by me alone. I do most of it at home where I record the guitars on my computer using a Guitarport from Line 6. Mostly I program some sort of drums using either EZdrummer og Rhythm Rascal. I then present it to the others – and luckily they like it most of the time. Sometimes we make small adjustments in the rehearsal room. But the structure is often set. I never record vocals so the whole vibe of the song changes when Karen adds her voice to it. Not to forget bass and real drums. And solos. Sometimes I help out with the melody lines, but I am not really a singer. The lyrics are written mostly by Karen, but on our album I have written some of them too. In the past I am used to working more as a collective. Everyone had to accept all parts of everything. But with Steel Inferno is has been different. To start With, it was because I wanted to try my own ideas out without having to compromise in any way. It is not a rule or anything. I guess it has just ended up being that way. As long as the other guys like it, it is not a big problem. But now that we have a new guitar player, we might change the modus operandi of the creative process.
The demo was released by Wargame, tell us a little about that tiny label. It seems like traditional heavy metal is not what they’re usually dealing with, so either they enjoyed Steel Inferno a lot, or you know the guys running the label?
– Back in the days of our band Ukrudt, Krzysztof helped a band record their demo. Years later we talked with a guy from that band about our debut show which he was setting up and we talked about our demo. It turned out he had just bought a tape duplication machine together with a friend. He asked if he could put it out and we said yes.
Towards the end of 2014 you released a 7» inch vinyl single on your own. Were these two tracks songs you knew didnt fit in on the album? To put out a single without the backing of a label, is that something you would recommend to other, relatively new underground acts?
– Yes, those two songs stood out in some way. So they just seemed perfect for a 7 inch. We had written a couple of the songs for the album back then, but now when you can compare the album with the previous releases, it seems like the right choice. About releasing it ourselves, I am not sure we will do that again. If you are a band that does a lot of touring and/or has good connections to distributors, then yes, but we have had a hard time selling the single. Nobody buys one 7 inch directly from the band if you have to pay postage. And we do not play that many shows. So we still have a big box of them. But we learned from it. Of course the physical product – the CD, tape or vinyl – is only part of the distribution. We always release digital versions as well. Both our demo and 7 inch is available in high quality formats on Bandcamp and on various streaming services. It is a good way to reach more people.
According to your Facebook page, the new album was supposed to be released a year ago. What was the reason for the delay?
– We are far from a professional band. We do not have a manager to handle contracts and communication with labels and venues. So part of it was due to miscommunication. One part waiting for the other and the same part waiting for the first. But also because we are working with underground labels that need to have the money to print the album. We broke the news as soon as we were done with the mixing and mastering, and we simply forgot to take the above mentioned factors into account.
Both the demo as well as the single were recorded in Djævlesound. Tell us a little about this studio. Did you also use it for the recording of the new album?
– We have used it for all our recordings so far. It is our own studio, so we can use it whenever we like. We have had a lot of help from our friend Tuna – who also did the cover for the single, “Arcade Warrior” and “Aesthetics Of Decay”. He handled most of the recordings together with Krzysztof.
Being the main composer of the band, do you still keep an eye on how the recording turns out? I guess you must feel a pretty strong connection to the material in a way?
– Yes, I have spent a lot of time sitting side by side the people who did the recordings, mixing and mastering. But I am not into the more technical details of the process. My role is to secure that the overall sound and atmosphere is the way I would like it. But how we get there is not that interesting.
I have to admit I wasnt too keen on the demo, but new album is much better. Are there certain aspects you have worked extra on to improve?
– I have tried to write better songs. My songs are very riff oriented, so I have tried to write more complex riffs without losing the melody and maintaining a certain aggression. An in addition I have been rehearsing a lot more.
«Aesthetics Of Decay» is not only the title of the first song on the album, its also the album title. What kind of «decay» are you talking about, and why did you decide to name the album after this track? Also what is the thought behind the cover art and how does it fit in with the title?
– I have a huge fascination for industrial decay. There is a certain beauty in old, abandoned factories. I work professionally as an urban planner. So it is in many ways in opposition to my professional life. But I am really fascinated by the aesthetics that you can find in decay. It fits my idea of heavy metal very well. It should not be polished, but raw and yet beautiful. We chose it as the album title because it was the strongest title. The album cover was created together with Tuna, as mentioned above. I told him something like: put some factories with lots of pipelines on it. And then he came up with the cover.
You have rerecorded one song from the demo – «Merciful Slayer». If I remember right, this was the fastest track and the one I personally enjoyed most from the demo. Why have you recorded this one again, but skipped all the other songs from your demo?
– In my opinion, the demo version always lacked a little bit of energy. It is also the only song we still play live. We added some new layers to the song when we re-recorded it. It turned out so much better so we put it on the album. To me it a very typical Steel Inferno song.
What about the rest of the songs from the demo then? Was it out of the question rerecording them?
– We talked about it, but we quickly decided only to keep one song. Simply because we felt the newer material was better. But also because even though it was called ‘Demo 2104’ we consider it more as our debut EP.
The material on the album is generally faster than what I remember from the demo. Is this a conscious transformation from your side, or just something that happened naturally?
– We definitely wanted the album to be faster. When the songs for the demo were written, it was the opposite situation. In our former bands we had been playing fast. Now we wanted to play something more melodic and with a lot of emotion. A song like “Heading For The Sky’ is an example. The same with the songs on our 7 inch “Arcade Warrior” and “Across the Wasteland”, but we will never be a band that plays only fast or only slow songs. We like the mix of tempos and styles.
As I mentioned, I enjoy the album, but a bit more diversity, especially when it comes to the tempo, structures and choruses would have lifted it even more. Do you think diversity is important in the type of music you perform, and do you think you have achieved to make a diverse enough album?
– I do consider this album to be a lot more varied as whole than what we have done in the past. But when it comes to tempo changes, it is very much a choice. Sometimes Krzysztof wants to make a change and I tell him “No, keep it the same all the way”. But we are working in creating better choruses and adding more breaks. So even if we are not looking to add lots of tempo changes in each song, we are trying to create an atmosphere of diversity.
How did you end up on Inferno Records? It seems the label is very into signing bands with female singers, do you think they would have still signed you if you had a male singer?
– Fabien from Infernö Records has got an eye out for new bands and we have been in contact with him ever since our demo came out. He approached us in the first place and we just stayed in contact.Having a female singer is part of the label profile. So signing us might have something to do with it. Apart from Steel Inferno making kick ass heavy metal.
Was it important to get an label in to release the album after what you described as a hard time selling the self financed 7 inch?
– Yes, it was very important to us. We are musicians. We play music. So we really do not feel like spending a lot of time on all the parts of the band that does not have to do with writing or playing music. So we still consider the role of music labels to be important even though you can easily put your music out digitally these days.
There are already what seems like a million bands with the name «Steel» in the band name. I guess other factors were more important for you than to have a name that sticks out?
– The name came up two-three years before the band was formed. It was an idea for a side project that never materialised. I wanted a name that sounded like what it was: a metal band. You are not in doubt when you hear the name and see the logo. But honestly, back then I was not aware of how many eighties bands that had a Steel-name. And even less how many newcomers that would take up a Steel-name. Anyway, it is just a name and we still like it.