Witchery - 26/07/2010

Patience is a virtue, especially for fans of the Swedish band WITCHERY. This band’s previous album ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’ was released back in 2006 and so it took the band approximately four years to complete their new album ‘Witchkrieg’. The new opus was released through Century Media Records and has been available in the stores since June 21.

 

WITCHERY is a Swedish thrash metal band, formed by former members of Satanic Slaughter in 1997. The current lineup consists of vocalist Legion (ex-Marduk, ex-Devian), guitarists Patrik Jensen and Rickard "Richard Corpse" Rimfält, bassist Sharlee D'Angelo, and drummer Martin Axenrot. To date, the band has released four full-length studio albums and an EP. It all began in 1997 when Swedish cult band Satanic Slaughter split up in a way that basically only left their singer Ztephan Dark in the band. Thus the proto-version of Witchery started out with Satanic Slaughter members Patrik Jensen (Orchriste, The Haunted), Rickard Rimfält (aka Richard Corpse), vocalist Toxine (Seance, Total Death), drummer Mique (Seance), and bassist Sharlee D'Angelo (Arch Enemy, Mercyful Fate) on board. In 1998 they recorded and released their debut ‘Restless And Dead’. Witchery quickly gathered a cult following with their combination of serious, technical thrash metal and all topics "dead". Their strictly tongue-in-cheek humour, often involving executions, murder, necrophilia, resurrections and other morbid topics can be spotted in song titles and album names as well as in their very own mascot - an animated skeleton called "Ben Wrangle", the name being a pun on the Swedish word "benrangel" which best translates into "skellington".

 

In 1999, WITCHERY released the ‘Witchburner’ minialbum. The EP featured three originals and four cover songs bearing witness to the individual musicians’ influences, among them Accept, W.A.S.P and Judas Priest. In the same year, Witchery embarked on a U.S. tour with Emperor and Borknagar. Their second full-length album ‘Dead, Hot and Ready’ was unleashed soon thereafter, a six-week European tour followed in 2000. ‘Symphony For The Devil,’ the band’s 2001 release, was recorded at Berno Studio (Amon Amarth, Dark Funeral) in Malmö, Sweden with new drummer Martin “Axe” Axenrot (Bloodbath, Opeth). Witchery returned to tour North America later that year with The Haunted. Returning to Berno Studios in 2004, the band recorded ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’, this time entrusting mixing duties to Tue Madsen and his Antfarm Studios (The Haunted, Heaven Shall Burn, Himsa). After recording the album, the band signed a worldwide record deal with Century Media.

 

In April 2010, accomplished black metal singer Legion (Erik Hagsted, ex-Marduk, ex-Devian) joined the band to replace Toxine who was forced to drop out because of schedule issues. According to the press release, this split happened by mutual agreement. The new album entitled ‘Witchkrieg’ (an obvious pun on Blitzkrieg) was released recently. A number of guest musicians such as Kerry King, Hank Shermann and Andy LaRocque are featured on the new record.

 

 

It appears there is much to talk about and so we tracked down Jensen (Guitars), who is currently on tour with The Haunted somewhere in Europe, to answer some questions. Here you can read what he had to say to the readers of Metal-Experience.com

 

Congratulations on your new album ‘Witchkrieg’ which will be released soon, of course we’d like to ask you a couple of questions about it. First of all, how are you?

 

Jensen: Just fine... been busy sipping champagne, ‘n driving 'round town in my new RR I bought after receiving the fat cheque the initial sales of Witchkrieg gave me.

 

Could you start this interview off with a short update about the band? We understand there have some line-up changes and it has taken for this release to become a reality?

 

Jensen: Yeah, we had to find a new singer since founding member Toxine had lost his drive to be in a band and do live shows etc. We found an excellent new singer in Legion...And yes, there was a 5 year gap between ‘Symphonies for the Devil’ and ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’, and this was something I didn’t want to happen again. I had all the material written for ‘Witchkrieg’ by 2008, only two years after the release of ‘DFTR’. Rickard and I recorded the guitars in the fall of 2008, and Axe and Sharlee recorded their instruments during their time off at xmas 2008. We waited from January 2009 until January 2010 for Toxine to come down and record the vocals. After a year of waiting we had to move on. We asked Legion in February 2010 and two weeks later he had all the vocals on tape..

 

How did you launch into writing material for ‘Witchkrieg’, the last time you told us (March 2006) that already 60% of the new album was written, what happened?

 

Jensen: Witchery has previously always jammed out our material. We just got together and had a lot of fun with trying all the ideas. This has proved increasingly difficult with the growing success of our other bands. There just wasn’t any mutual time off to be found. After having let the fans wait for 5 years between SFTD and DFTR, we had to change our way of working, so I started to write everything myself, and then emailing my songs to the others for evaluation and approval, so the album is still some sort of a band effort. Next album will be written just like ‘Witchekrieg’ and hopefully, with Legion now in the band, no further unnecessary delays will occur.  

 

Did you have to rewrite some of the material after Legion joined the band? Was he your first choice?

 

Jensen: No, everything was recorded and all the lyrics were written (albeit with Toxine in mind, but all the same) Yes, Legion was our first choice.

 

Which approach did you choose to create this album, did you go for a more raw exposition.. or something more reminiscent of your previous other works, or something all together different?

 

Jensen: I think ‘Witchkrieg’ is pretty much in the vein of the first album (‘Restless and Dead’). It’s very direct and in your face. A lot of that was achieved with Legion’s vocals, but the music is very much to the point without any mucking about. It wasn’t anything I was planning to achieve, it just turned out that way.. I don’t like having a plan for my writing. I like to see where creativity takes me and just work with it, rather than forcing it.

 

What were the goals you had in mind when you started to record ‘Witchkrieg’, any elements you definitely wanted to include on the album?

 

Jensen: Not really. Like I said, the music goes where it wants to... I think the most important thing was to get the band together and kick ass together. I personally think Witchery is one Hell of a band, and that it’s a shame that conflicting schedules prevent us from playing as much live as we would like to and releasing albums as often as we'd like to.

 

Did you spend a fair amount of time working on the album before heading over to record it? How much time did you spend in the studio?

 

Jensen: Not much time in the studio, but I worked on the songs like a motherfucker on the computer before we decided we had the version we wanted to record... Studiowise, however, I think guitars and bass were done in three days,  drums in another two and vocals took maybe four days. I don’t know how long the actual dailing of sounds and mixing/mastering took. We sent everything off to Tue Madsen and he sent it back when he was done with it. That might have taken 2 weeks or so.. but I don’t know if he was working on something else at the same time, so, no real count of time there...

 

Is there a typical creational process for Witchery when you guys are in the studio?

 

Jensen: Yes, I’d say the typical way is recording everything live. That’s how we've done it on all the albums, except for ‘Withckrieg’. We will have to leave this way of recording unfortunately due to time conflicts, so.. the new typical way will be recording the instruments one by one...which is fucking boring and I hate it. I love recording live..but, what can you do..?

 

When I look at the album cover, it looks like an old Russian propaganda poster featuring Stalin, and the title ‘‘Witchkrieg’ obviously refers to ‘Blitzkrieg’.. what do you wish to express with this cover and title?

 

Jensen: Yes, cover artwork is soviet style (with the usage of Stalin, correct).. A totalitarian state. ‘Witchkrieg’ is derived from the word “Blitzkrieg”, a term from another totalitarian state. Lastly, witches weren burnt at the stake by totalitarian religion a couple of hundred years ago. The ‘Witchkrieg’ lyrics are about sticking to your opinions no matter what religion/authority tells you to think.

 

Of course the main themes of the songs are clear, but where do you get your inspiration from and can you tell me more about the lyrics? Is there a story behind them?

 

Jensen: If you want the lyrics to be just horror stories, they can be. If you are looking for something more, then there are things between the lines, just like with the title track ‘Witchkrieg’. I get the  horror ideas from sci-fi/fantasy/horror books/movies I digest. The deeper stories I get from all around me...

 

How did you get in touch with all the guests on the album? Was it hard to convince them to contribute to this record?

 

Jensen: They are all personal friends of both mine and the band's. Gary and Lee really like Witchery's music, Andy recorded Witchery's second album ‘Witchburner’, Jim has been a friend of Witchery's since 1999. When Jim heard our first album ‘Restless and Dead’, he wanted to get back into playing metal music again. Kerry has been a friend since I met him over 10 years ago. I’m really glad that he found the time to put down a solo for us and be in the Witchkrieg video. Hank Shermann is the real hero.. He has been on the last three Witchery albums, and will probably continue to be on them (if he hasn’t grown tired of us ha ha).. ohm and it wasn’t hard at all.. they all like the band and the music.. And we are very grateful for them wanting to be a part of our music.

 

One of the most typical guest appearances is the one by Kerry King, the song almost sounds like a Slayer song. Did he pick this song himself?

 

Jensen: No, but after having written the song, I realized that it had some Slayer elements to it. We had asked some of the other guest musicians already by then, so the thought struck me that this might be something Kerry could see himself doing, and sure enough, he's into the song alright..

 

 

Did any problems arise, getting this job done with so many guests?

 

Jensen: You mean getting the solo’s recorded? The Exo guys recorded their solo’s at Studio Fredman when Exodus came through Gothenburg, the rest of them recorded their solos either at home or during the recordings of their own albums..

 

This album was also mixed and mastered by Tue Madsen, what made him the perfect man for the job? 

 

Jensen: Because Tue is a great guy and he knows exactly what we want to achieve..

 

In which elements on the new album can one clearly hear your vision and ideas?

 

Jensen: Weeell... you are talking to the guy that wrote all the music and lyrics, arranged all the songs and chose which guests to ask.. I’d say you can hear my vision and ideas on all the songs, although they are all colored and made better by the rest of the band. Without them, I’d just be another guy sitting at home with a lot of his own music sitting on his harddrive haha

 

What do you think are the main differences between your previous album ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’ and ‘Witchkrieg’?

 

Jensen: I think the new album is more direct than DFTR. Plus I really like the way Legion adds aggression and heaviness to the songs. Not that Toxine was/is a bad singer.. but Legion just adds something extra.

 

What is the utmost important ingredient for a song?

 

Jensen: A main catchy riff or vocal arrangement.

 

Do you have any favorites on the album?

 

Jensen: As in songs? Hm.. maybe “The God that Fell from Earth”

 

Overall, are you pleased with the outcome of the songs or would you have liked to have changed anything in retrospective? Which element of the CD are you the most proud of?

 

Jensen: I am very happy with Witchkrieg and I wouldn’t change anything at all... And even if there were things I’d like to change, I’d do it on the next album. That’s what albums are for. For trying new ideas and growing as a musician and improving on the next album.

 

With several albums under your belt, how far has you career surpassed your original dreams and what would you say is the most rewarding part of being in the band?

 

Jensen: It’s gone way beyond my wildest dreams, and it is still going. Most rewarding is to see how much of an impact one’s music has on people from all around the world.

 

What is your opinion on the metal scene these days? What do you think about the overload of bands at the moment and is there anything missing in the scene?

 

Jensen: The metal scene isn’t at all as it was when everything that happened was new.. I’ve been around a while. I remember when Metallica’s and Slayer’s first albums came out... Not only the metal scene, but music in general, has stagnated. It’s probably no one’s fault. There might be only so much you can do when you write music, but there has to be some reason to why there were so many defining and fresh-sounding bands every year up until 10-15 years ago.. I know, there are exceptions to the rule.. but I think it’s an indication of where music is going.. into ever-repetitive cycles for the next generation that hasn’t had the opportunity to hear the original band/-s.

 

Could you respond to the following terms in just one word or sentence:

 

Metal : heavy

Underground : long time since it had any real meaning

Internet : time consuming

Religion : life consuming

Politics : truth consuming

The Netherlands : furnished by IKEA

Sweden :  intoxicated by Heineken
 

What can we expect from Witchery in the near future, will we have to wait for another 4 years for the next album to come out? Do you guys have any touring plans?

 

Jensen: No touring plans due to lack of members’ time, but definitely festivals.. and no such wait for the next album....

 

Anything left to say to our readers?

 

Jensen: Check out the ‘Witchkrieg’ album. You'll be sorry you didn’t...

 

Thanks for your time,

Eugene Straver

 

 

Members:

Legion - Vocals

Rickard Rimfält - Guitars

Jensen - Guitars

Sharlee D'Angelo - Bass

Martin Axenrot – Drums

 

Former Members:

Mique - Drums (1997–1999)

Toxine (Tony Kampner) Vocals (1997–2010)

 

Witchery albums:

(1998) Restless And Dead

(1999) Witchburner (EP)

(1999) Dead, Hot And Ready

(2001) Symphony For The Devil

(2006) Don’t Fear The Reaper

(2010) Witchkrieg