“The Fire Within”
Interview with Falkenbach
Quorthon’s legacy with the legendary Bathory has been well documented; not only in the Black Metal genre he helped found, but also within the legion of epic metal acts obsessed with the Heathen imagery used within the project’s latter years. Albums such as HAMMERHEART and TWILIGHT OF THE GODS have become literal templates upon which bands base their entire careers on. While Germany’s Falkenbach and mainman Vratyas Vakyas are not plagiarists by any stretch of the imagination, their lineage has been well documented over the course of their full lengths, all of which are prime examples of Viking Metal par-excellance.
HERALDING THE FIREBLADE possesses a certain magic all its own, however. Not only is it the most extreme Falkenbach effort in recent memory, but it also possesses all of the grandeur which made efforts such as 1998’s …Magni Blandinn Ok Megintiri so influential to a whole new generation of Teutonic metal crusaders (as evidence by the forthcoming Falkenbach tribute album which in the works).
Of course, the real connection between Vakyas’ latest effort and his past is the fact that many of the songs date back to the very beginning of the Falkenbach.
“The Fireblade was actually meant to be the debut album of Falkenbach,” begins Vakyas,
“…back then I had to find a studio on my own, not knowing anything about equipment, etc. The whole recording appeared to suck, the sound sucked, the quality sucked, the engineer sucked, and there was no way out, so I decided to stop the recordings, as I didn’t want to waste even more money. Some of the songs were used later on other releases, for
example “Laeknishendr”, “Heathen Foray”, or “Heralder”, as a bonus track for a LP. All the tracks on this album now were on the original Fireblade album, too, except for the bonus track “Gjallar”. Some minor changes were done to the track “Walkiesjar”, formerly called “En Their Medh Riki fara…”, and three more songs are missing from the original album.”
What is immediately striking about HERALDING THE FIREBLADE is its intensity and energy. Beyond sounding fresh and exciting, it holds a certain aggression and immediacy that was lacking a bit on its predecessor, 2003’s OK NEFNA TYVAR TY.
As Vakyas explains it, “Ok Nefna Tysvar Ty focused on acoustic guitars, choirs and mainly epic and folk aspects. If you keep in mind that “Homeward Shore” is also a track from the original the Fireblade album, you can see that mainly the style of production is the reason for why this album became a little calmer. About the new album, I can say that I wanted to record it as much as possible in the way it had been back than: rough and harsh.”
So is the man a perfectionist when it comes to the studio?
“No, I don’t think so. I’ve had to concede that I need a dedicated engineer who kicks my ass from time to time. I don’t like the time at studios too much, and I tend to not care about every needed detail when there is a chance to return home just one day earlier. Fortunately, Mr. Damiani at Tidalwave Studio is not only one of the best engineers in Germany for metal, but he has also known Falkenbach since the very beginning. He’s the perfect one with whom to record an album.”
While session members have assisted Vakyas at times, the actual assembly of a “band” and consistent live performances seems a ways away…or is it?
Filling us in, he declares, “At the moment there are plans for one or two small live shows, but the work with guest musicians on the last two albums had nothing to do with planning a tour or whatever. Maybe more shows will follow after that, but it’s not likely, to be honest. Time will tell. In the end I don’t think it’s too hard to work with me, as long as we are talking about guest musicians. On the other hand there is no space for full members for Falkenbach, as this would lead to compromises. Obviously musicians want to realize their ideas, and I cannot expect any musician to not participate in the song writing process at all, if he’s a full member, I guess. So hopefully Boltthorn, Hagalaz and Tyrann will continue helping Falkenbach out for the recordings, and even for the live line-up, but they will focus on their own project(s).”
Not having the luxury of bouncing ideas off other musicians might prove detrimental to some songwriters, but luckily lack of inspiration doesn’t seem to be a problem for Vakyas and his vision.
“Well, inspiration doesn’t ask for a special situation, or mood…it just appears. During such a period for example both songs, Heathenpride and “Into the ardent awaited land”, were fully composed in one night. I do not have to sit back and try hard to find inspiration. I think a lot of bands do so, and in my opinion you can hear it while listening to their songs. On one hand you’ve got hard work, people with talent and musical skills, creating music that was constructed in their head, offering musical progress each new album. Falkenbach is nearly 100% different from that.”
One thing which has remained constant throughout the band’s career has been the presence and support of Napalm Records.
Filling us in on Falkenbach’s future with the label, Vakyas explains, “at the moment we have a contract for one more album. As I never know if Falkenbach will continue at all, I also cannot say if our collaboration will go on. So far the work Napalm has done is ok. I mainly care about an adequate studio budget, and I insist upon total artistic freedom. Napalm offers such things, and that’s why Falkenbach is signed there. You should keep in mind that Falkenbach hasn’t got ambitions to play large tours, a lot of festivals, and grow bigger and bigger.”
So exactly, how far DOES the man want to take Falkenbach? What is the ultimate goal?
“I cannot put to words what Falkenbach means to be, I fully belong to it. I don’t know how far I will take it. For now, nothing will change; only one or two small live shows. Maybe more shows will follow, even if it’s not likely…maybe a tour, maybe more tours, maybe even bigger festivals. There are no ideological reasons not to play live, just a personal aversion. Time will tell how things will develop. [The Pagan perspective] is a part of my life, as it’s been a part of my education. To me there is nothing else to write lyrics about, it’s the basis for Falkenbach´s existence.”