– Hi Ed, lots of thanks for answering a new interview from us. How is everything going into the HAIL OF B ULLETS camp right now?
Very well, we just got back from a great weekend rehearsing and we did a really fun photo shoot at a war museum.
– HOB has a new album coming out next 25h, entitled «III: The Rommel Chronicles». Though isn’t out yet the record has already hit the press so, how are the first reactions being? And how are you guys feeling on the final output?
So far so good! We’re in the upper regions (among the first 3 spots) of several magazines’ soundchecks and we got some perfect scores (7/7, 5/5) already. Guess most people appreciate the fact that we’re not trying to change our style too much and stick with what we know.
– When I interviewed you in support of «On Divine Winds» you told us Martin even had a case of writer’s block at some point of the creative process for that album. With a debut opus you are always fresh so, with a third album, are things getting harder or maybe the opposite, as you are shaping a little bit more your own identity and know what it works better for the band?
Harder I guess, this time it was my turn to get writer’s block. I finished the second 11th Hour album in 2011 but I just couldn’t bring myself to get started on new HoB material. In fact I didn’t even listen to any metal for months and after a while I started to worry that Imight be “empty”. Fortunately by june I came up with a brutal song which would become Farewell To Africa and that re-opened the floodgates of inspiration that I’d become used to having for the last 7-8 years. You can never repeat that “first album” experience though, it’s very pure. But being more experienced also has its advantages of course, knowing what we want to sound like is definitely important.
– Expectations on any of your albums are always really high, maybe due to being a so-called «all-star band». Despite all of you are veterans, do the expectations (also your own expectations, of course) have any kind of effect on the whole creative process?
When we’re writing the only thing that matters is our own opinion, you can’t try to cater to other people’s taste and expectations without turning into a jukebox-band. We do feel the pressure of course, and we’re aware that we have to equal or possibly surpass 2 well-received albums, but that usually doesn’t come to the surface until everything’s done. That’s when I start thinking “is it good enough, will they like it…”. And then the first reviews arrive and I can sleep easy again, haha!
– Digging into this new effort, lyric-wise you deal again (as on your debut album, «…Of Frost and War») with a par of the European history, being a CD based on marshal Erwin Rommel. First off, cold you introduce a little bit Erwin Rommel to our readers?
Erwin Rommel, also known as The Desert Fox, was a German general known mostly for his role in the North-African campaign during World War II. Feared and respected by his enemies because of his strategic and humanist qualities respectively, he had a much lauded military career until he was eventually forced to commit suicide after being implicated in a plot against Hitler.
– Lyrics here have a subtle different approach, focusing on military life instead of a specific event. I know lyrics are written by Martin but, was his decision to approach lyrics like that this time around? Or did you decide it was time for some kind of twist without losing the «HOB concept» (so to speak)?
It was definitely a conscious decision to try something a little different, Martin really wanted to do another full concept album but this perspective makes it stand apart from the previous 2.
– As I said, «III: The Rommel Chronicles» deals with something related to Europe, unlike from your previous «On Divine Winds», so in some way you are going back to your first opus, and you are also going back musically, having again a more straight-forward and less epic approach. Was this something you were striving for? Maybe a rawer sound fits better the concept on this new release?
Absolutely, for me the subject matter of On Divine Winds with its aerial scenes demanded a more epic approach, and for this one we needed to get down ‘n dirty again. When I write I try to visualize what the song is about, or at least have a certain image in my head and that usually helps to create a certain mood musically. Martin gave us a broad outline of the things he wanted to touch upon and that’s how the album was constructed, resulting in quite a few raw tracks but also a few more epic ones such as The Desert Fox and The Final Front.
Same here, it only seems to get harder instead of easier, haha! This one took a full year, that’s writing/pre-production, recording and mixing/mastering. But I guess that’s a normal timeframe, for us anyway. You always run into delays, and Martin needed more time than he thought to complete his lyrics so in all I’m glad we made the deadline for an October release. One thing we didn’t want to do is rush an album into the shops that’s not up to par with the rest of our material, it had to be better if anything.
– Despite the album is 100% HOB I personally think is faster, and there are elements as certain guitar riffs that seem to be inspired by the Gotehmburg school, and it also caught my attention the song «Farewell to Africa», where the rhythm section has certain Crust/D-Beat flavour. As I’m saying, I specially noticed that on the pace and the bass/drums mix so, are you also influenced by those genres or is it just my perception? Anyway I think old school Death Metal (European specially) has always had that kind of nuances.
One of the bands that got me out of my dry spell was Black Breath and I also listened to quite a bit of Repulsion, so your observation is not far off the mark. I’m not really into Gothenburg though, apart from the mighty At The Gates, but there’s a healthy dose of D-beat in there yeah.
– «Death of a Field Marshal» even has a quite atmospheric section. What did you want to convey with this last song? It’s a pretty good and «emotional» way to close the album.
On that one we deal with the suicide of Rommel, and what better way to convey that than a doom track? We used a famous quote from Rommel at the end, and even managed to get some Ennio Morricone-worship in there.
– In fact though being a pure, straight-forward and «simple» DM release is surprising how you guys manage to nail just everything, and «III» also has anything a record into the style needs. Into this genre it seems like less is more, would you agree?
The biggest challenge for me personally is to create songs that sound simple at first but when you look deeper there’s a lot of cool stuff going on in the arrangements and riffs. A good song doesn’t need more than 4-5 strong riffs and we tend to use pretty straight-forward song structures. None of us like overly technical death metal and we all feel that the song is the most important thing. We also pay a lot of attention to mixing details such as a little delay here, or some reverb there, stuff you may not notice right away but it’s not a “set up basic sound and run the songs” kinda mix.
– All this about «III» being said; how could you describe it in just 3 words?
Our new album? 😉
– And finally, what are your near-future plans? If I’m not mistaken you have a few festivals later this year, and you have also been confirmed for Summer Breeze for instance but, any single shows? And any future plans with any of your other bands? For example de new AYREON is coming out later this month to if I’m not wrong.
Yes, it’s a very exciting month for me with 2 albums coming out! We’re in the middle of booking for next year right now so I can’t really say anything yet but ewe’ll be announcing more shows soon. No plans for 11th Hour shows at the moment, it’s 100% HoB time now.
– That’s all from my side, thanks once more for dedicating some of your time to Queens of Steel. And now, as always, if you feel like adding any last words to our readers, feel free to do it.
Thanks and cheers!