WITCHAMMER - The Next Chapter
The Next Chapter
- Written By Even Knudsen, Photo: Espen Bakken -
WITCHHAMMER, heading from Sarpsborg, Norway, were founded back in the mid-eighties in the glory age of heavy metal. The name is taken from the book The Withchammer from 1486, which is dealing with the topic of how to recognize, judge and execute witches. The band is still going strong and will release their next full length album in the late winter/early spring 2014. We spoke to guitarist Morten Skute and the rest of the band to hear more about the new album, touring plans and more. We also had the chance to get a sneak preview of the first single from the album and we can asure all fans that it has been worth the wait!
Witchhammer was formed back in 1986, that´s 27 years ago so I guess giving our readers a brief introduction to the bands history would be a good place to start?
Well – Witchhammer was formed in 1986, released the 1487 album in 1990 – toured quite heavily in 89/90/91 with our friends in Artch and Equinox. Recorded a new album in 1991, which was released in 2001 as “The Lost Tapes”. In 2005 a reunion gig was done, and this ended up in a Digital rerelease of 1487. In 2010 Per Ståle was stepping back and Thomas came in as the new frontman. In 2011 Chapter3 was released. Long story in 81 words. 2012 we was offered to get our songs on the new MMO game from Funcom – “The secret world” along with some other great Norwegian bands as Susperia and Insidious Disease! This was so inspiring for us that we got in writing mode and our 1st single “Save Me” is to be released now on November 30th, also with a video where these guys in Adapter Studio has made vfx and 3D stuff to movies like “Harry Potter”, “Elysium”, “The Green Lantern” and “Kon-tiki” among others.
The debut album ´1487´ was released in 1990, only available on vinyl back then, and is now considered to be a cult classic among metal fans. When I listen to the album today it sounds like a crossover between Helloween and a few of the eighties thrash legends. Why did you choose to release it on vinyl only and what do you think of the album when you listen to it today? We think it’s still a strong album, and is a great product of the time. It gives us pleasure to listen to it and we also love to play the songs live, though it’ll never be a Witchhammer album like that again. Times have changed, and Witchhammer changes and developes as time goes.
´1487´ came out in a period which by many were considered to be the start of the end for heavy metal in general after a glorious decade through the eighties. How did thoses changes affect the album release and in what way do you feel it limited your possibilities as a band? Grunge took over the whole metal industry during the nineties, and after some demos in 93-95 we decided to take a hiatus/break up or what it should be called. As a non-labeled band in those years, it was impossible to continue to fight your music and as you stated; the metal was almost dead at that time.
Was there any touring activity around the time the album was released? Witchhammer did a lot of gigs all around Norway at the time – you have to consider also the only way to get your name out, was to do gigs, drink beer, trade tapes, and do interviews in printed magazines – way before internet, facebook and other social medias where you can reach thousands within minutes.
Then came a few years of silence before ´The lost tapes´saw the day of light in 2001, was this album ment to be an official album or just a collection of demo songs as the title might indicate? The Lost Tapes was recorded during the summer of 1991, and was supposed to be the follow up to “1487”. Yet the time was not right, and labels showed more interest to grunge and the thrash/power metal was more like a “dying” genre. Still Witchhammer was going on until a final break in 1995, after a festival appearance in Hvaler…A “onetime” reunion was done for the release gig in 2001 - a full venue and a crazy party was enough at that time, and we decided to not do anything more with the band…
Another decade passed by before the third chapter in the bands history with the release of ´Chapter 3: In serenity and awe´ and the introduction of new singer Thomas Arntzen Dahl and Marlyn Smørsgård on keyboards. The album sounds a bit different from the previous two with the speed/power metal elements tuned a bit down, was this something you were deliberately seeking and how was the album received by your fans? Absolutely not!! The songs on “Chapter3” was written in a long period of time; I guess the song “My Sacrifice” the first riff was written in – I think 2006 (it’s not recognizable from what you hear on the CD) . Since we’ve built a recording studio in our rehearsal place, it’s quite easy to record, throw away, produce and everything in our own calm and quiet “happy” place…As stated; We’d worked quite a lot on/off with these songs over the last 4-5 years, and as our singer Per Ståle couldn’t make it – we started the search for a replacement. Thomas was in temporarily, and at some time we thought this was quite well functioning. I think the more slower tempo on this record has more to do with our personalities, life has changed, families & kids – music has been changing – and we did not want to make a copy of the previous 2 records. We wanted to make a record that showed where we are both musically and creatively at this time. I think the majority of our fans like the chapter3, but of course you have some home-living guys with their vinyl-only collection which were waiting for a new 1487 - the same people are waiting for Metallica to record a Kill’em All copy.
Sorry – it’s not gonna happen.
What was the idea behind the addition of a keyboard player? When we were finishing Chapter3 at Lydmuren studio, we found this strange young girl working there – and we just asked if she wanted to try to do some strings etc. on some of the songs. This fantastic girl was almost exploding with ideas, and we worked day and night to record them before mixing. It was actually lifting our songs to another level, so next up was asking her to join us on some gigs… The chemistry was great – she is very professional, and last but not least; she lowered the bands average age with 15 years or so…haha… So – what the hell – we asked if she was interested in joining. Great voice, great musician and Marlyn became quite fast “one of the guys”…
Singer Thomas Arntzen Dahl left the band earlier this year, what´s the story behind that? Not so much really. Thomas disappeared after a gig in September last year (2012), with so many excuses to not meet up when we tried to contact him, that we in February/march decided to let him “off” the project. We were already behind the schedule with all our plans and releases.
You found his replacement in Sam Natanael, where did you find him and how will his entrance affect the musical direction of Witchhammer on the upcoming album? It was actually through Facebook, through a norwegian FB group called ”musician seeks musician.” We saw his ad, and contacted him. And the rest is as they say…..history. We think Witchhammer will continue on the path that has been laid now, with a more symphonic power metal. His writing and composing goes straight into the style which is presented by the band at the time. The creative process is also a bit different, as we now are working on the songs as a band, where everyone are into the process and working together.
Apart from the introduction of a new singer what would be the main difference between the new album and ´Chapter 3…`? A deeper and more powerful vocal. Chapter 3 was in a way Witchhammer’s ”St. Anger”, it was something we just had to get out. The next “chapter” will be more angry, powerful, faster and maybe contain more “attitude” and feelings than the “Chapter3”. Todays line up with Sam on vocals, Marlyn vocals/keyboards, Totto (guitars), Morten (guitars), Gokki (drums) and Finn on bass is the tightest and most powerful line-up we’ve had. And the creativity is huge!
The new album is due for a late winter 2014 release, do you have a title ready by now? Working title is “Chapter4” – but can be changed.
Will the new album be a self-release as well or will it be released through a record label? Chapter3 was released by our label Lydmuren. The next chapter, will also be in collaboration with these guys. Two songs are already finished at this time, the first single will be released 30th November. The rest of the songs will be recorded in – well – January/early February (also at Lydmuren), The release of full album is march/april at the latest.
I find it strange that none of the major metal labels have shown interest in a band of your standards, what do you think about that yourself? We would like to be on a label who would have supported and helped us out – today Lydmuren has become a solid partner, but we are their only metal band so far – but we should have had a label who could help us out with the physical distribution and more promotion. Just contact us if you feel that Witchhammer is “your missing band”...
The lyrics are, according to your press release, based on stories from the game ´The Secret World´. Will it be a concept album? No, but some of the songs will have connection to the game. But not the whole album, we still have our own ideas……
The storyline can anyway be linked to the game/setting as “The Secret World from Funcom is it’s own dimension of life. So in some way or another, the texts could be a reference to happenings in the game if you’re a gamer…
Rumors says that founder member of the band Peder Kjøs has played a behind the scenes role in the band through the years after his departure in 1989, is this true and if so is that the case when it comes to the new album as well?
He’s still alive and kicking! Peder is a really good friend of ours, and has been since his departure of the band. He has always been a lyrically masterpiece, and has already several books out. We wanted the chapter 3 lyrics to be as good as possible, and with our timelines we needed help. We had the story/concept, but felt that Peder could make the different angles even more morbid and interesting than we would’ve done ourselves.
He has not been involved with the lyrics to the new album, but who knows what will happen
The first single from the album, entitled ´Save Me´, will be released in the end of November and a video has been shot for that song as well, tell us a little bit of what we can expect from the first teaser from the new album. In short, you can expect a song that won’t leave your head in a while. It’s a song that ”sticks to your head” for a while, and the video will really strengthen the story. Save me is really a solid tune, bringing both the symphonic, the dark, the feelings and eerie moments when listening to it. The video (which is edited these days) is going to be a killer. Very! We shot some scenes for about 10-12 hours at Torgauten Fort in Fredrikstad in october. The guys in Adapter Studios who’s producing the video, has made 3D and visual effects for The Green Lantern, Harry Potter, Elysium, Kon-tiki and many other BIG productions. We’re really stunned that they asked us to do this, and – they’re working all they can to make this the coolest music video ever. That rules!
Finally, Since ArcticMetal.no are based in Northern Norway, is there any chances that we will see Witchammer on stage north of Trondheim in 2014? Hopefully – as Trondheim has been a really fun place to play – we did a gig with Manifest and Chtoon back in 2006 at Bybroen scene (which was really fantastic), and the guys in Manifest are so great, both as musicians and friends!! Maybe we should joined forces with them for some gigs again in 2014!! We would love to visit your part of Norway, it’s lovely up there.
With those final words we are leaving Witchhammer for now, but watch out for the "Save Me" single and the video for that song that will be released this month and the release of the new album a few months later.