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In Words: Burden Of Grief

- Philipp Hanfland - September 2010 - Mike Thompson -

Burden Of Grief
© Burden Of Grief

Philipp Hanfland - September 19th 2010 (by email)

Following the recent release of their 5th album, Follow the Flames. We felt it was time to find out a little more about German melodeath veterans Burden Of Grief.

For those who don't know Burden Of Grief could you tell us about the origins of the band?

The origins of the band go back to the year 1994. We all went to the same school and hung around every weekend drinking beer and listening to metal. So we came to the idea "why not playing music together?". The usual way, I guess. We started the band from point zero. None of us has ever played in a band before. So it took some years to develop a certain quality. We recorded some demos and played a lot of club shows and in late 1999 we finally signed our first record deal. Then in 2000 we released our official debut-album Haunting Requiems. That particular album opened us some doors, which were closed for us before. We finally got the opportunity to play on bigger festivals and to give worldwide interviews. So the year 2000 marks a kind of turning point for us. Since then we have released 5 records and played hundreds of shows all over Europe.

What have been the high and low points for Burden Of Grief so far?

Signing our first record deal more than 10 years ago was definitely one of our most important moments, followed by some very remarkable shows. We played one of the biggest German festivals, the Summer Breeze Open Air and some very impressive shows in France, Slovakia and Estonia. But in 2006 we came to a situation where we had to dismiss 3 people of the band, which was by far the hardest decision we ever had to make. But since then we've got the strongest line-up ever and recorded our best records together in this line-up. And releasing a new record is always a very special moment, never mind if it’s the first or the fifth record.

Are you happy with how Follow The Flames turned out? What has the reaction been like to the album?

We finished the recordings very early this year and up to now I'm still very happy with the result. Every musician knows this situation, after releasing a new album you are very satisfied, but after a while you're finding more and more things you don't like anymore. I'm convinced that this day will come also with our new album, but to this I am very satisfied. We never had such a great production before and the songs are by far the strongest songs we have ever written. In our own opinion we have reached our aim to get better with every album. And of course I am very happy about the positive feedback of our fans. We don't have heard any negative reactions of the real fans, only some magazines didn't like the album. But who cares? We don't write music for the magazines but only for ourselves.

How do you go about writing songs? Is one person the major song writer or lyricist or do you all have input?

Since our singer Mike and I are the only remaining original band members it is very obvious that we are responsible for most of the Burden Of Grief material over the years. Up to a few exceptions Mike wrote almost all lyrics, and I wrote most of the songs. But I am always very glad if I got some additional help by the other guys. I am very open to different ideas. And during the song writing for Follow The Flames our drummer Robb and our other guitar player Joe came along with tons of great ideas. Whereas I have written our last album Death End Road almost alone Follow The Flames is much more a cooperation between me and the other 2 guys. And that was great. It's very inspiring if completely different ideas come together and it's the best way to create very diversified music.

The mastering was, fittingly, done by the master, Dan Swanö. How was it working with such a revered guy?

He wasn't just responsible for the mastering but he also did the complete mixing of the album and he gave us a lot of advices during the pre-production that we have done by ourselves. It felt great to have such an experiences producer working with us. But the most important fact was that he was very open to our ideas. Many other producers have their own way to produce and their very own sound. It's okay if you like such a set sound because you know what you can expect for your money. But we wanted to work with Dan in another way. We didn't want his famous old school Sweden death metal sound, but a much more natural and organic sound. Dan was really cool and very open to our ideas and he loved it to accept new challenges. I'm sure that we will work with him again on our next album.

You did a large number of covers as bonus tracks for the new album but which was your favorite to play? How did you choose which songs to cover?

The idea behind this cover album was that we take 3 bands that we all like, which were Iron Maiden, Metallica and Pantera. And besides these 3 'consensus'-bands each of us should get the opportunity to choose an individual song without taking care of the opinion of the other guys. So my special song was Fool For Your Loving of Whitesnake and I am really happy about the result. I don't know any other thrash or death metal band who's got the balls to play a song like that, haha...

You also had a lot of guests, including members of Holy Moses and Tankard. How long have you known these musicians and how keen were they to play a part in the album?

We had invited these particular two bands some years ago to play on our own little festival that we have run for some years. This was the point where we got to know them personally for the first time. And when we came to the idea to invite some guest-musicians to sing on Follow The Flames Sabina Classen and Gerre were the first 2 guys that we have asked. And they immediately agreed. Especially for me it was a cool experience to have these guys singing on our record since I bought my first Holy Moses and Tankard records 20 years ago.

The release of Follow The Flames also marks your return to the Massacre Records roster. Why did you decide to leave Remedy records and return to Massacre?

As we recognized how strong Follow The Flames would turn out, we decided to find another record label that would be able to promote this new album in a better and more professional way than Remedy Records were able to do. As we came to Remedy Records with our 2003 album Fields Of Salvation they did a fantastic and passionate job. But during the last years we felt that they didn't concentrate on the label-activity as they could have done. And many other bands have left Remedy Records over the last years, too. We have put so much blood, sweat and money into our new album, therefore we wanted to look for another label who might be able to bring us to some kind of a higher level. So we asked Massacre Records again and they also recognized the huge development between our 2001 album On Darker Trails and the new one. And now we are really looking forward to work with Massacre Records again.

Which bands are your biggest influences? Who inspired you to start playing music?

That is hard to answer since I have a record collection of nearly 1,000 different records. Each music that I like can be some kind of an influence on my songwriting, not only my favorite bands. I try to combine the melodic elements of the old metal heroes like Iron Maiden, Metallica, Rainbow and Black Sabbath with the powerful and aggressive elements of thrash metal bands like Kreator and Slayer. But you don't have to forget that we have 2 more songwriters in the band with very individual musical backgrounds. Joe and Robb are much younger and they are much more into modern music like Disturbed, Lamb Of God and Stone Sour. But I think that our music is open enough to let all these bands have an impact on it.

Germany is a country with a rich tradition of great metal bands across myriad genres. Do you think this adds to the feeling of expectation for German metal bands?

I think there's an important fact concerning the German metal-scene. We've got a highly developed music-infrastructure here. There are a lot of important record labels on the one hand and many metal-live clubs and festivals on the other hand. So German bands got very good conditions to develop and to spread their music. I wouldn't say that the German metal bands are better or worse than bands from any other countries. But sometimes it might be easier for them to release their music and to play live. And this helps a lot to get more known and noted also in other countries.

If you could choose three current bands to tour with which would you choose and why?

I would choose some bands that I really like and where I think that it fits together musically very well. These 3 bands would be Dismember, Kreator and Arch Enemy. They are all very heavy on the one hand but they also have many melodic elements in their music. And all these bands are very inspiring for me and I would love to watch them every night. Of course I also could have chosen big bands like Iron Maiden and Metallica, but that seems too unreal...

In your opinion the five greatest metal albums are...?

1. Metallica – Master Of Puppets
2. Iron Maiden – Somewhere In Time
3. Black Sabbath – Heaven And Hell
4. Rainbow – Rising
5. Slayer – Decade Of Aggression

How important are social networking sites such as Myspace and for music these days and extreme metal in particular? Do you think they are a good thing?

It helps a lot to get in contact with people all over the world within a very short time. And it also helps to find out new bands. I have found a lot of great bands via MySpace that I wouldn't have discovered without such a medium. I don't see anything negative in this MySpace thing. But I'm not sure if every human being has to be on Twitter and Facebook to tell the entire world what he's doing right now. I think that it is redundant. But it's great to have the possibility to stay in contact with friends and fans.

Thanks very much for taking the time to answer these questions. All the best with the new album and tour. Hope to see you in the UK at some point! Anything else you'd like to add?

I thank you for this interview and your interest in Burden Of Grief. I hope I could convince many of your readers to risk an ear and to check out our new album Follow The Flames.

What are you waiting for... go and listen to Burden Of Grief! You won't be disappointed!

Mike Thompson


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