Soundage Productions artist - Winterhymn Interview up
1. Winterhymn seems to have been a around for a bit and currently on 2nd proper album tell us a bit of how this Pagan/Power/Viking metal force came to be ?
The band came about after a chance meeting with one of our former guitarist/vocalists during a university class. We bonded over bands like Amon Amarth and Thyrfing and both agreed that playing folk metal was an unrealized dream we shared. Since we both came from small school districts in Northern Kentucky, and weren't used to meeting others with similar interests in folk/pagan metal, we figured it best not to forsake such an opportunity, and soon after began writing. We began showing each other songs that we had written previously (the tracks that ended up being "The Berserker's Axe" and "Woad" from the first album Songs for the Slain) and then began writing together, while searching for other members. From that point on (late 2009/early 2010) we spent a solid year writing and rehearsing before our first show at The Mad Hatter in Covington, KY. We knew that starting up a band like Winterhymn in the Cincinnati area and breaking through to that audience would be challenging enough, so we wanted to be sure that we were at the top of our game, and it payed off because the reception from the get-go was fantastic. -D
2.I hear elements of Borknagar, Thryfing, Blind Guardian and even Iced Earth in what you are creating. What was the vision on the new album of Blood & Shadow?
Haha those are very flattering comparisons! We've had several people mention Borknagar as a similar band, and I've had a handful of drunk fans draw comparisons between myself and Matt Barlow (emphasis on "drunk"). I've said before in interviews that I view Winterhymn as a metal band that writes folk albums, as opposed to the other way around. To clarify, we are very much a heavy metal band at heart, and I view that as what separates us from many of the European bands we are constantly (and understandably) compared to. Many of those bands (certainly not all, I apologize for the generalization) seem to place more of an emphasis on the folk aspect, and there's a lot of very dense orchestration in that regard. Often, I feel, this causes the rhythm section and the guitars to suffer. On Blood & Shadow you'll hear Exura's keys and Umbriel's violin, but minimal programing beyond that and live you won't hear any backing tracks. I've always been a fan of seeing what can be built from fewer pieces. So yes, those comparisons are refreshing to hear and I'm glad that despite the additional instruments influences like Iced Earth can still be heard. And I would say, in the realm of pagan/folk metal, fans of bands like Thyrfing and Wolfchant and Mael Mordha would likely enjoy our sound. People will find some Primordial moments on the album as well, and whether or not it translates to the listener there was a lot of Immortal being played before and after writing the guitar parts. I've said a lot of things. I blame Coors. -D
3. How did a band from Ohio come to sign with a Russian label Sound age? I read there maybe a connections with Arkona how you did some touring with? Do you have North america distro for the album that will get it out all over USA/Canada and Mexico?
Yes! We actually were introduced to SoundAge through our friends in Arkona who we got the chance to tour with at the end of 2015. We began talking with SoundAge soon after the tour, as the album had been completed by that point, and soon after we reached an agreement. So far the experience of working with SoundAge has been great, and we're very grateful that they decided to join us on this journey. And yes, they handle distribution worldwide. -D
4. Image seems to be a major part of the band mixed with the music. How does the Image take the band over all vision up a notch?
Our image has changed a bit over the years, but regardless of what form it has taken the purpose remains the same: Music like this needs a visual element. It's no different from theater or film. You can have a great story, a perfect score, top notch acting, but Braveheart doesn't work with everyone in basketball shorts and sneakers. Some people call us and other bands like us "gimmicky," but I find it far more ridiculous to get up on stage and sing about sorcerers and battles while looking like an average joe. -E
5. What artists or bands are impressive the members of Winterhymn currently?
It's kind of odd but none of us really listen to that much folk metal, nor is our music really inspired by other folk metal bands (maybe in the very beginning, but not really anymore). I mostly listen to ‘melodic’ metal bands like Children of Bodom, early In Flames, Dark Tranquility, Dimmu Borgir, Paradise Lost – I also am a huge Rammstein fan – if it has a keyboard in it, you can bet I’ll love it. Our drummer Valthrun, he mostly listens to prog and I know he loves Dream Theater. Draug loves Immortal, Dio, and since he is our main songwriter you can hear a lot of those influences in our music. Varrik loves a lot of doom, bands like Grand Magus. Kate likes Katatonia, Lamb of God, and she’s a mega Josh Groban fan which we all give her shit for. -E
6. Are you fans of the digital age ( Youtube, Bandcamp, Twitter, Soundcloud etc) or is Winterhymn more a live and Analog force like the days of old?
When streaming first hit the scene a lot of bands (many well-known bands) complained how little money it made them compared to iTunes downloads for example. But the reality is that people can just torrent your music for free anyway. We're all about any format that allows us to reach the widest audience possible. Plus, there are always going to be people that really want something tangible, whether its a CD or like, limited edition vinyl in 6 colors or whatever cash cow the labels are milking now. I think we'll release our next music video on BetaMax to get a jump on the next hipster trend. -E
7. Ohio seems to currently be a hotbed of Hardcore and Death metal is it hard to play your style of music there or are you welcomed by those scenes as well?
Folk/pagan bands don't come here too often, so we often play with all kinds of metal bands. I mean we've played with bands as different from us as, like, Deicide and Arsis - which is great actually because we get all new people listening. We have always maintained that our music has wide appeal to any sort of metal fans and the response we get usually corroborates that opinion. When we first started playing shows in 2010, we gained a big following in the area right off the bat (which surprised us, we fully expected everyone to be like, “what the hell is this?”) because most people had never heard anything like it – we were a novelty, and to some extent still are because there is just nothing else like us here. There aren’t very many bands in general that play this kind of music in North America and they’re kind of spread out across the continent, and we pretty much all know each other. That’s why the big folk metal tours from Europe are great when they do come here, it kind of brings everyone out of the woodwork from regional isolation. But yes, surprisingly the response from fans of other subgenres has been pretty positive - a lot of times it's like, "I'm kind of surprised I liked it" or something - or that maybe they listened to a more cheesy folk metal band once and decided it sucked and didn't really delve deeper to see what else there was. -E
8. If you could make a proper video for any track on Blood & Shadow which would it be and how would you want it to look?
The song I'd probably pick would be "Blood of the Moon" (the single) or "In Shadow We Ride," and personally if I had my way there would be a ton of fire in it and Chris Hemsworth wrestling a bear...but that would also make us playing the least exciting thing about that video, haha. But seriously, we are actually talking about our next video right now with someone so hopefully it will be out later this year or early next year. No word on what we're going to do for it yet, but I bet if we give Draug enough whiskey, wild animal wrestling might not be totally off the table. ;) -E
9. Where seeing many Pagan and Viking bands get scooped up by labels like Napalm, Century Media, Nuclear Blast and Prophecy Productions . What's the feedback you are getting for next level labels?
I could be wrong, but I can't think of a bigger metal label singing a pagan/folk band in, like, years. I think in part it's because it was really trendy for a while around 2008 or so to the point of oversaturation, so now labels are hesitant to touch it. That's just a guess as to why. Most of the time you don't hear anything. Sometimes you hear through the grapevine that they're watching you. One of the things I remember we heard had to do with our image, which has kind of gone through an overhaul since - not as a result of that, but we've matured a lot over the last two years, our music is more serious and our image has been updated as a result. It's important to realize that you'll never satisfy everyone. Focusing your energy on how you create the best music possible and turn the most heads with it is the best use of your time. The labels tend to follow that. -E
10. If you could tour the world one time with any band who would it be any why?
Haha, you'd get different answers depending on which member you'd ask (ask Draug and you'd get Immortal, ask Umbriel and you'd get Josh Groban). But I suppose you mean bands that would actually make sense with us to tour with - I would say Amon Amarth or Eluveitie. Amon Amarth I think represents a band who kind of proved that you don't have to be pigeonholed into this pagan/viking/folk/whatever subgenre which is something we're trying to prove too, and Eluveitie because they're probably the biggest 'folk' metal band and I think musically we have similarities that would make their fans enjoy us as well. -E
11. You have an impressive website in 2016 do you feel Strong PR Booking Agent, and Distro is all you need Labels are not as important any more?
Well thank you! I think that in a lot of ways, yes, that is 'technically' all you need. But the bigger labels do give you something more intangible but really necessary - prestige and connections. The latter is something you really do need to advance to that next level. Which is why, despite not technically "needing" a big label to make music, sell music, or play shows, every band still wants to be signed to one - especially the ones who want to turn their band into a career. -E
12. What is the story or theme behind " Blood & Shadow" I know I can hear a story it's not just a collection of songs.
Blood & Shadow is a (loose) concept album. For this album we abandoned the viking/norse themes (which really were loosely present in our first album) in favor of our own mythos. The album doesn't tell a linear story, with the exception of the tracks "Seafarer" and "Into the Depths," rather most of the songs serve as glimpses into the world we've fashioned. I've planned for some time to expand on and explain the backstory for the album, possibly through short stories even, but the loose concept is this:
The album takes place in the fictional land of Kjellangor, in a time one might compare to the dark ages. Most of the continent is wilderness, comprised of tribes rather than any one united nation. There are two conflicts simultaneously plaguing the land during the time the album concerns: an invasion from across the seas to the east, and a supernatural cataclysmic event which occurs (or could occur, if not stopped) every hundred years known as the Caladim, in which Azagot, the arch-nemesis of the gods of the heavens, and his minions (referred to in the album as "the deep gods") break the seal of their imprisonment and roam the earth unchecked. This is linked to and coincides with the death of the gods of the heavens who inhabit the moon, a sphere of luminescent silver forests and oceans, which undergoes seasons similar to earth, but with much more dire consequences. As it enters its season of death (wilting from silver to crimson) so do the gods who inhabit it, and their seal which was placed on the tombs of the deep gods is broken and the inhabitants of the earth are left to fend for themselves against the onslaught. The death of the gods and the release of the deep ones can only be reversed by the Shadow Riders, an ancient order kept in place to reverse the Caladim, by riding to the Spine of Azagot (the literal spinal column of the deep god's original physical form from when he was thrown down, which has since formed a mountain of sorts), the tallest point on the planet, and scaling it and performing an ancient musical ritual known as the Winterhymn.
There is still much more that could be explained, but that should suffice for a general background explanation! -D
13. Do the members of Winterhymn create music outside of band if so please let us know of other projects.
Draug and Varrik have a doom metal band called Siren, and Valthrun and Alvadar play in a prog metal band called Scarangella. Umbriel and I just play classical music by ourselves like total nerds ;). Haha - E
14. What words of advice would you have for new bands starting in the extreme metal world?
It's not easy, that's for sure. And we're still a young band with a lot to learn ourselves. But what can we say about the music business that hasn't already been said? I'd say it's important not to follow the trends and to make music that you want to make - people can tell if your heart's not in it. Bands have to deal with so much shit - promoters trying to rip you off, 'managers' wanting a piece of your pie, terrible monitor mixes, long van rides with no A/C and sweaty dudes - but it's all worth it for that 5% of the time when you're performing your music live on stage - there's no feeling like it in the world. Also, when you're starting out and inevitably play those shitty shows to like 6 people, those 6 people paid to see you and they absolutely should get the same show as the 600 people. That's the mark of professionals. Also, always make sure your trailer is closed securely before you start driving - not that we're speaking from experience or anything ;) -E
15. Thank for the time any closing thoughts here..
Thanks for reading and we hope to be back on the road soon! You can get our album 'Blood & Shadow' on iTunes, Amazon, GooglePlay, or stream it on Spotify and Youtube. Physical copies can be bought from our merch store here or for European/Asian fans, from our label here. You can also follow us on Facebook where we talk about important topics like whiskey and bears - oh, and less important things like music and where we'll tour next too I suppose ;). Thank you! \m/ -E
Draug (Jared Compton)
Varrik (Dave Spicer)
Umbriel (Kate Liebisch)
Alvadar (Andrew Ris)
Exura (Jenny Warner)
Valthrun (Kent Morales)