The great potential of Tyrael to put their own stamp on the metal scene was hinted at in their debut album Der Wald ist mein Zuhause. The band were kind enough to answer some questions about their origins, influences and how exactly they want their music to be seen.
For those who don't know Tyrael could you tell us about the origins of the band?
Joschka: Originally, me and our first drummer John decided to play music together when we were 12 and 14. As usual with musical projects on this level, two crucial questions arose: What kind of music should we play? And where should we do that? My parents agreed to provide a garage, but they probably regretted that decision soon. Neither of us was able to play a single clear note!
Given that, the question of our musical style was pretty much answered: It just had to be all noisy and distorted. Over time, influenced by the environment of idyllic Westerwald as well as some bands like In Flames, Slime, Die Ärzte, Dimmu Borgir, Pennywise, Cradle Of Filth, Thirdmoon and some more, our style took shape more and more. Today, we have well established this style and it definitively is the best one to express how I experience life. Eventually, the band shaped to the current line up.
Congratulations on the debut album! Are you happy with how the album turned out? What has the reaction been like to the album?
Mario: We oriented a lot on black metal albums of the late 90's, so our sound is not that modern but that is not necessarily bad. I think our sound is the way we wanted it. The album was perceived quite differently by the audience, some liked it and some did not which is actually normal. The reviews we got are extremely diverse, calling Joschka's vocals the album's greatest strength as well as its greatest drawbacks. You see, we get many different feedbacks.
Joschka: Naturally our debut album is not perfect, but we are still quite satisfied. I think a big drawback is most songs age. While the newest song is Sonnige Tage, we wrote the others before 2006. We were busy in teaching the old songs to our new band members (Fabian and Mario) and did not consider it necessary to enhance them.
Sven: We alter between several genres in each song, but think our music is best described as melodic black and death metal with a 'rocky' feeling. Actually, what most of the reviews agree in is that our music neither is black nor death metal. They have also a tough time to comprehend our songs and their meaning, because the song structures are very organic and rather uncommon. I personally would have liked to name the album Green Metal instead of Der Wald ist mein Zuhause to make this peculiarity more explicit. I don't agree with the custom to categorize every genre chimera though.
Some reviews would even say there were playing errors, but I can assure every note is just as it was intended to be.
Regarding the album's sound I would have liked to do some more guitar tracks to get a heavier guitar sound, which is a little thin indeed. But time and money being scarce, we had to finish the production at some point. If you do consider Der Wald ist mein Zuhause is a low budget production and our first one too, you have to concede the sound quality is considerable.
It seems to have been an epic quest to get the album out! Why did it take so long?
Sven: We originally planned to finish the album until summer 2009, but just needed more time to complete it. Michael of Big Easy Studio had to work on some other projects, too. After May / June 2009 we could do studio dates in dribs and drabs only.
We didn't worry about that though, because we had waited a long time to start with the album already. A few months more or less didn't matter. Primarily we had planned to start with the album in 2006, but that plan was thwarted by the search for a new drummer. That had been quite unexpected.
Mario Althapp is an excellent drummer, but he's the latest in a long line. Was this a case of the previous guys not being good or dedicated enough?
Joschka: John and I made music since 1996. It was pretty difficult to find someone able and willing to play the drums like him and matching our characters too. We had already found a promising candidate in January 2008. But a few months later he told us in fairness that he would not be able to meet us longer because of his job. Having searched for a drummer for so long, we were quite depressed. And we were not sure how to go on with Tyrael. So in summer 2008 Mario seemed godsend to us, though we were not sure at first. We wondered about him and his stamina staying in band because of his age. But our concerns have been unfounded, as you can hear on our album and we experience writing new songs.
Nature is obviously a big influence on Der Wald ist mein Zuhause. What is it about the natural world that you find so inspiring?
Sven: I think green metal is the suitable name for our music. To me lyrics are overrated in music. They are merely the connector between rhythm and melody. The music as a whole tells the song's story note by note. To achieve that concept, it is necessary to abandon common pop song structures. So every song has a different grown organic structure. Adhering to this we have the opinion to use lyrics with organic themes, be them about nature or insanity.
Except for Holger, all of us live in the countryside and we like to enjoy fresh air and natural forests. Moreover, as humanity is not able to live without nature and environmentally sustainable economic activity gains in importance, so we connect our music closely to natural / organic procedures.
Using Goethe's Der Erlkönig (The Alder King) indicates that certain literature inspires you.... The German lyrics seem to follow the tradition of Goethe, Schiller, etc., but they are darker... more morbid... So, what else inspires you?
Sven: Most of the lyrics were written by John (ex-drummer), who always had been really grumpy and still is a loner. I suppose his peculiarity was the source to write such lyrics. Since he left us Joschka began writing lyrics. I did some arrangements like Der Erlkönig, only. Ancient lyrics and music have impressed me all the time, especial the fully developed metric.
Der Erlkönig was already used by Schubert, Loewe as well as by bands like Pagan Altar, Sturmgeist, Reaper... So, why this poem?
Sven: This poem deals with death, so to us it's not devious to us using some parts as lyrics in a black / death metal song. We supposed someone already used Der Erlkönig, but that didn't matter and still does not. We didn't aim to compete with other attempts towards this poem. When composing songs we concentrate on the music, usually when half of the song is done we experiment a bit with different ideas. The one that rhythmically matches best will be taken for lyrics.
Have you ever thought about doing a concept about e.g. Theodor Storm's The Rider on the White Horse? Or some other classic? Or some short story by Stephen King?
Sven: We don't know Theodor Storm's poems, but I think Stephen King would not work out for us because his style is too modern and too main stream. However, we use another classic in Throne Of God, which is a fragment of William Blake's Prologue to King Edward.
Your lyrics are in German and English. How important is it to you to use your native language? At what point do you decide which language to use?
Joschka: Well, I would like to sing in English only, because our lyrics would be comprehensible for a broader audience. But unfortunately my English skills do not suffice to do that. Moreover it's much easier for me to express and accentuate our impressions, sentiments and emotions in my native language.
Sven: Actually I arranged the lyrics of To Isengard and Throne Of God in English only. But translating them to Joschka, we realized that some parts would have a far better metric in German.
A lot of the songs on the album are quite upbeat and 'happy' sounding which is unusual for a black metal band. What led to you writing songs like this? Has the explosion of the Pagan / folk metal scene influenced Tyrael?
Joschka: We don't want to write typical black metal songs, but create our own interpretations of the metal scene. The happy parts in the music match the lyrics. Nobody is always in a bad mood, so why should we only write sad songs?
But this has nothing to do with surge of the pagan / folk metal scene. Seven of the eleven songs had been written before 2003. You see, we composed our songs quite early and were influenced by many different styles.
Sven: One or two of these bands had a share in Tyrael's development indeed. In 2000 we chose our name inspired by Adorned Brood's album Asgard. Between 2000 and 2003, especially Joschka, John and I used to listen to Riger's Der Wanderer, too. However, this does not change the fact that our music has no connection with the explosion of that scene. Tyrael is not a copycat project.
Which bands are your biggest influences? Who inspired you to start playing music?
Mario: I think the biggest influence for me was the Road Runner United all star session, because of Joey Jordison's extreme drumming and the beautiful growls. Metallica also influenced me a lot, they are a metal legend and they have really great songs like Sad But True. This song has a lot of energy and power, it is very straight and Lars Ulrich's drumming is simple but effective.
I started playing drums when I listened to Slipknot. Joey Jordison is a great and very fast drummer, moreover he plays with a metal groove and that inspired me to learn drums, too.
Sven: I personally started playing guitar in 1994 because of Nirvana's music. Between 1990 and 1993 I took keyboard lessons, the compositions of Johann Sebastian Bach inspired me to learn an instrument. Referring to song structures, baroque era had great influence on me.
I think the biggest influences for Tyrael are Alchera, Eisregen (Krebskolonie), Naglfar (Vittra & Diabolical), In Flames (1994-1997), Tristania (1997-1999), Dimmu Borgir (1995-1996), Riger (1998-1999), Sorhin, Adorned Brood (Asgard), Summoning, Kataklysm (2000-2008) and the greatest metal band ever, Pantera.
Germany is a country with a rich tradition of great metal bands across a myriad genres. Do you think this adds to the feeling of expectation for German metal bands?
Joschka: Yes, I think the feeling of expectation has grown, but I think that applies to all metals bands worldwide and is not limited to Germany at all. A major difficulty is distinguishing all the different metal genres because of the fluent transition. In my opinion exactly discerning them is no longer possible, especially in black / death / pagan metal. Also, the market is flooded with metal bands, so it's really hard to increase Tyrael's popularity.
There are a few live videos on YouTube which gives fans an idea about Tyrael live. Any shows scheduled? Festivals? What's next on your schedule?
Sven: We'll probably do one or two gigs near Cologne in summer 2010. Holger (bass) will study outside of Germany from September 2010 to March 2011, so further shows are not scheduled. But we are currently writing some new songs and will probably pursue that until Holger is back. Till then you will be able to watch our videos at http://vimeo.com/tyrael2000 in higher quality.
Thanks again to Tyrael for answering these questions! If 'Green metal' sounds like your kinda thing then check out the album!