It’s still early days of course, but it will definitely be a good year for heavy metal if the new album from Germany’s Metal Inquistior doesn’t end up in my personal top ten list in December. “Panopticon” is the band’s best output since the modern day classic “Doomdsday For The Heretic”, packed with excellent songs delivered with real class. While Blumi (guitars) has always been the main songwriter in the band, and the natural guy to speak to, like we did here, the other guitarist T.P. has challenged Blumi as the main songwriter this time around.
While I am sure you all agreed it was your best album at the time, how do you view the quality of your 2014-release “Ultima Ratio Regis” today, both when it comes to the songwriting, the production and the musicianship?
– First , I want to say thanks for the interest in us, and for supporting Metal Inquisitor for many years! For me, “Ultima Ratrio Regis” is still a very good album, a result, like the other albums before, of the same procedure and working in the same way. It was finished with a very Clear, but powerful sound. I like the album very much because of the sound, but also due to some special songs. But this as well, is the same with every album. Every one of us has got his favorite songs on each album, says T.P.
Do you know anything about the sales of “Ultima Ratio Regis”, compared to the previous releases?
– We have released albums now for many years, and during this time, so much in the music business has changed. It should be considered a big success to hold the number of sold albums more or less constant. That being said, we don`t have any exact information about the number of sales of the first albums, so we can`t compare them with “Ultima Ratio Regis”. However, Massacre gave us detailed information several times. The information is very interesting, but not easy to understand without having studied operational economics…
I remember you had hopes for better promotion by Massacre for “Ultima Ratio Regis” compared to what Hellion did for you on previous albums. In hindsight, are you satisfied with the work Massacre invested in the album?
– I noticed that Massacre did a lot of promotion, especially on the internet. Of course it is nice to see, but in the flood of all these record releases nowadays, one has to do it this way, or the album will not be recognized at all. We also did lots of interviews and got many reviews. It all feels very good.
It’s been five years since the last album, that’s a long time, even for Metal Inquisitor. Is it the attention you pay to details and what seems like an urge to make everything as perfect as possible that have been really time consuming?
– Well, when we are prepared and ready to go in the studio for the recording sessions, most details of the artwork, band photos and so on, are on it’s way, but yes indeed, details are changed very often, until we are completely happy with the result. For sure it takes a lot of time, but not five years. Haha!
The band was in the studio already in Sept 2017 recording “Panopticon”, T.P. explains why took more than a year to have it released to the public?
– The production took its time, I agree, but we mostly recorded a few hours in the evenings after work, and at the end of the recording sessions, we had forgot, how some songs were composed and how they had to be played. Haha! No, not really, but during this recording period, the studio had to move into another location, which was not planned to begin with. We ended up with some weeks without doing any recording at all. Finally, we needed enough time to mix the album, and last, but not least, the album had to be mastered as well.
I am really impressed by this new album, for sure your best since quite a while. I guess you agree with me that it’s a very strong offering, what are you most satisfied with this time around?
– I`m really happy about the reviews up til now. I was a little bit excited about how people would react to my own songs, as “Panopticon” is the first album, where Blumi and I have shared the songwriting. It seems like the people enjoy all songs, and that they do divide the album into Blumi-songs and TP-songs.
What do you think are the main differences between your own and Blumi’s songwriting?
– The songwriting depends very much on the music that you like and listen to. So you can imagine that Blumi and I both really enjoy the first Iron Maiden- albums. The biggest difference may be, that I’m a little bit more interested in thrash and speed metal. That is the music that I mostly listened to, after I started With, and spent a lot of time with Iron Maiden, Scorpions and Accept. Blumi is more interested in the bands of the NWOBHM, and you can for sure hear that.
I remember Blumi telling me the band had long discussions about the running order of the songs , the sound and the artwork for “Ultima Ratio Regis”. According to T.P. some of the same discussions occured this time as well.
– It’s the same procedure as every year. Ha-ha! There are five people in the band, five different opinions…It went quickly with the cover art this time though, to get one common imagination. The running order turned into a pretty hard fight, but we had to move in a small circle. You must remember, if you do the album on vinyl too, you have to take into consideration that the total playing time of each side of the record should be nearly the same. The running order always seems to be the last of our discussions on each album. Most of the time, it starts directly after the mix is done, and it goes on to the day of the mastering.
How much do you think the running order has to say for how people perceive an album? I mean, if the songs are good, the album will also be good regardless of in which order the songs are put on the album, or?
– An album should be like a good movie. What I am saying is that there should definitely be this climax thing, some kind of development. If it is perfect, the listener can enjoy one song after another, one part and one note after another without having the feeling that a fast song would fit better, or later on, a slow one. After a while, we get a special feeling for the songs which is not yet there that at the beginning of the recordings. So it’s a process for us as well. If we are doing it right, the listener should not want to stop listening, and at the end, he or she would want to hear it over again.
There is not a title track on the album, so why have you chosen “Panopticon “ as the title? The panopticon is an old idea of course, but still relevant in this digital age, where “Big brother” always can see you, and now even more than before.
– The song “Discipline And Punish” fulfills the role as the title song, because the lyrics are telling about a prison called Panopticon. And as you say, this terrible concept for a prison can symbolically stand for modern oberservation tools in our society. There are definitive parallels. Sad but true….
All songs on “Panopticon” are on a very high level. Did you decide on these tracks pretty early on and spent time perfecting them, or did you have more songs to choose from and picked the best ones?
– Normally, we use all songs that we start to compose. Sometimes they are easy to arrange together as a band in the rehearsal room, sometimes it is better to work on them at home, if there is no satisfying Development when we are performing them together. It always takes a lot of time, because you are not always able to be creative. I remember only one song that we have not finished, up to now. I’ m not sure, but I think, it was a song from the “Unconditional Absolution” session. Even though the idea hasn’t been used, we see lots of potential in the riffs.
As we have already indicated, you are a lot more involved in the song writing this time, having delivered the music for some outstanding tracks. When you hear songs like “Re-Sworn The Oath”, “Trial By Combat” or “Discipline And Punish”, I wonder why you haven’t contributed more before?
– Thank you! That is a great compliment for me. Blumi is the main songwriter in the band. His compositions always convinced us in the past. If not at the start, then no later than after they were recorded. So we normally had no reason to change that. But on “Ultima Ratio Regis”, we included the first song written by me. I prepared the song in some kind of pre-production, as a demo, nearly finished. And the other guys, including Blumi of course, liked it. So we decided to include this song on the album. Also the intro to “Confession Saves Blood”, was done by me . Certainly, there were many ideas from me in some of our songs in the past, but they were additional to Blumi’s construction of the songs and belonged more to the arrangements of the tracks. After the last album, Blumi asked us to participate more when it comes to songwriting. Partly due to lack of time, and maybe also because of Blumi’s other band “Midnight Rider”. So I had to collect my ideas and to construct a couple of songs. I liked the songwriting sessions very much, but it only worked, when I really had a lot of time and accidently a creative phase. When that happened, it was hard to realize, that the night also comes to an end.
Were you unsure about how your songs would be received by the other members, or were you confident I in the quality of your own songwriting?
– Blumi is well known as an excellent songwriter. We always trust his ideas and imaginations of his songs, because history showed us, that he is right. So I certainly was not sure how I could convince the other guys. Maybe this was the reason why I produced a demo? For the other guys, it’s probably the easiest way to get a new song. All they have to do is to say: “Yes, we take it” and to learn how to play the song.
Asked what his fave song is from the ones he has written, and how he developed this song in his head before he presented it for the band, T.P. really take a deep dive into the process.
– I think it is “Re-sworn the Oath”. No surprise, I guess, and it is indeed the song I can tell you most details about. It started with this riffing before El Rojo begins to sing. Some years ago, I played it several times in the rehearsal room and the guys told me to go on with it. But it took some months, until I got creative enough to continue. It is very annoying and frustrating to forget the good ideas after a while, so I tried to record and to collect all the ideas. Part after part has been recorded, guitars added, and a drum computer programmed. While listening to the finished parts, I tried to get deep inside, to feel what should come next, what the song needed to make it more exciting. After the core of the song was composed, I felt that it should og in a different direction, that it should have a turn…so I started working on the instrumental part in the middle. It went quickly, after I found the starting riff. Finally, I decided to make the whole part shorter and to cut it, to get more to the point. It is still long enough, I think. At last, I had the idea for the intro. First I was not convinced, if there was any need for one, because there was already an atmospherical intro. But I had this short melody line in my head, and when I found time, I went on working on it, completing the melody, finding a second guitar line, working on the rhythm, and finally the opening theme. I think it cost me a whole night, but it didn’ t matter. I listened to it many times and was happy about the result and certainly, that all the parts, including two intros, seemed to fit together. After the music was written, I met El Rojo to work on the vocal lines. And that went up to the recordings and some small changes were done several times. I don’ t know, how other bands can write and produce an album in one or two years. We obviously need some extra time. “Re-Sworn the Oath” was the last song of the album, that El Rojo recorded.
Metal Inquisitor is not a band that is touring all the time, not performing at all kinds of festivals during the summer and not releasing a new album every second year. How important is the band in the lives of T.P and the other guys?
– The band is still important, and personally I like playing live the most. I’m visiting many festivals and metal shows each year, so for me, it would be perfect to play at these places with Metal Inquisitor. I could promote the band and don’t need to spend money for a ticket…
Most of you have kept together since the start of the band. How important is the friendship in Metal Inquisitor? Do things sometime take a bit more time than usual because it’s important to you to keep this lineup intact? I mean, some bands changes members because one of them can’t follow the schedule of the others?
-Metal Inquisitor has existed for 21 years now. You can imagine, in that period, a lot of things have happened in the lives of the band members. So for sure there has been both ups and downs. Everyone in the band has to live his life, but Metal Inquisitor, and even the members, are part of it. I think we take care of each other in a special way and try to keep everybody in the band. We know each other quite well and that influences us and makes the bands engine powerful.
Judging from the quality of your releases, Metal Inquistior should get much more attention than you have done and currently do. Do you think the fact that you were already an established band when the interest in heavy metal got bigger about 8-10 years ago, worked in you disfavor? I mean, many new bands with young musicians suddenly got a lot of exposure without delivering real quality?
– Of course we can speculate, what could have happened if… But to begin with, none of us wanted to be professional musicians. I think the band is in a quite comfortable situation. We can release an album when we want, and we can play live when we want to. We have families and jobs, and it’s great to make music without any liability, without pressure, without the usual album-tour-circle, and without financial aspects. To do it just for fun and having fun. But of course we can only think about what would happen, if we played more live.
Do you feel that you are able to reach out to a wider audience with each album, or is your main core of fans those who have followed you since the very start?
– I don`t know if releasing a new album changes anything. I think, it depends more on playing live, and trying to reach other people that way. The chance to get some attention from new fans, is certainly higher, when you play festivals with all kinds of metal. These are challenges we really like. But otherwise we love to play for fans, which know and support us for years and which we know as well. It`s always nice to meet friends, you know what I mean?