Elvenking.... one of many great band-names, but one of only a few that not only keep the promise they make through it, but even shine like a star above most of the rest.  Reason for this is the fantastic debut “Heathenreel” which also shows a wonderful cover-artwork. The Songs? Well, check out the reviews….which might be difficult, as they are in german only…it´s difficult to describe all the different things these guys from Italy packed within their material, folk-influences, Power Metal, medieval sounds, Death Growls, vocals and melodies that seem to go heavenward.

It was obvious we should start one of our rare attempts of getting an interview and after contacting the band we received an answer at once, as well as afterwards, so I sent my questions beginning of October. Beginning of October? Correct, however we didn´t received any answer and I already forgot about it, when I checked my mails before christmas, only to decide to send another mail to express the disappointment of a Fanzine that refuses to work with record-labels when a band simply doesn´t answer their questions by mail.

I should have mailed earlier….the band replied at once and promised not to have received a single question as well as answering them asap if we would re-send them. We did and within days we had the answers by guitarist Aydan!

So here it is at last, our interview with one of the most promising new bands these days, whose debut unfortunately wasn´t covered half as much as it would have deserved it within Gemany:

First of all, could you please introduce the Band a bit (we never received a promo by your label and therefore no enclosed sheet of coloured extravaganzas :-) )? When did you start and all these things?!

The band is formed in October 1997, initiative mine and Jarpen’s , old friends who share the same passion for metal music and  folkloristic traditions. We had a lot of line-up problems at the beginning, looking for the right people, so we had a lot of time wasted searching for them! Then in March 1998 the singer Damnagoras joined the band and in the following September it was the time for drummer Zender. The bass player was found after the release of our first and only demo-cd “To oak woods bestowed” and his name is Gorlan.  The actual line up is really solid, a lot of things are in common and we are close friends, we have that feeling that I think a band must have! After the release of “To oak…” we have sent it to a few labels, and after 3 days we received the first phone-calls …We have chosen AFM Records (label of Edguy, Avantasia, Steel Attack,…) simply because they seemed really interested in our music! We have chosen to be well followed by a not-so-big label, instead of being the last band of more famous record companies.

I think "Heathenreel" combines tons of styles and ideas - is this your attempt to get away from all the childish Keyboard-Speed-so-called-"True Metal" which emerges so heavily during the last months or would you see it as an internal development? Where do you get your influences from?

Well, our intention was to create a sound more individual as possible, without copying from this or from that. We all like a lot of different styles and genres, from heavy, thrash, death or black metal, hard rock, or even pop music (not that much to be sincere ah ah ah!). We like the so-called happy metal as well as obscure acts like Mercyful Fate/King Diamond or Candlemass, so as you could imagine we have tons of influences and ideas. What we have done with Elvenking is trying to create a sound that was not static but always moving, with the great challenge to create a solid way of reading it, without mix a lot of stuff without  a sense! 

Who had the idea of mixing all the different kinds of singing? Isn’t it a massive problem to find a singer (or band-members) who can handle it all so perfectly?

It’s not that problem! Different voices create different atmospheres and emotions and there were some particular points in the album which, in our opinion, needed a different vocal approach.
Jarpen is a very good growling singer and so we use his voice sometimes, also because we are all great listener of death or black stuff and you can hear it not only in the voices but also in the riffing! Also Damnagoras is really able with growling but we need to hear different voices to underline a change. And so it is for the female vocals.

How important is it for you to take the listener to a world of fantasy and magic and away from all the cruel things that happen in the world? How do you react to people who say all this fantasy-thing is for children (these people exist and I hate them for telling such things, especially in the big major-mags there are guys spreading such words…)?

I think that taking the listener to a world of fantasy, far away from reality’s cruelties is our principal goal. Perhaps first of all is taking ourselves there, more than the listeners. I do not really care about people telling things against this. For my way of living, keep imagination and fantasy to strong life is one of my highest goals. In our society this aspects are dying.

You have a great cover-artwork, booklet, band-pics etc. - I think for a debut-album of an unknown band this is quite outstanding. Was it difficult to get all your ideas turned to reality or did you had to make compromises? Maybe you had to pay something yourselves?

The cover art has been created by the wizard Travis Smith. I think it gives the listener a great link with “Heathenreel”’s music. It is magic and relaxing but also obscure and mysterious and that’s what we asked Travis. He usually does very complex works but we asked him to be as simple and direct as possible. The figure-spirit in the middle is correlated with word “Reel” of the title. The link between the spirit dancing and the obscure face in the sky could be a good way of thinking about its meaning.

I think another great thing about Elvenking are the fantasy-names! Do they have any special meanings? Are there any friends or families of you who are disappointed that there are no real names on the cover? How difficult is it for a musician to NOT see his name on his product? I think I would have a problem with it :-)

Well, it came out naturally, having an whole concept about pagan adoration of Nature and things like that, to re-create ourselves as part of this concept. It wouldn’t be so good having our real (and not that great ) Italian names in this! \Obviously doing this you loose your individuality but we don’t need to be know or things like this! When I play with Elvenking I’m simply Aydan and this is not a problem for me!

Unfortunately "Heathenreel" (in my opinion!) does not get the attention it deserves - in German mags it was reviewed, but you could barely read any interviews and if so, they were small only and now it begins to fade away. In the other way round, I couldn’t see so many ads from your record-label for the CD - do you think this maybe a reason for not being more featured?

Well, we are a young band and “Heathenreel” is our very first step! I think we have to be satisfied only for the fact of having the chance to release it! For sure we are getting great reactions from all over the world (not that much in Germany to be sincere, as you said!). The next album will be really important for us. We have spread the name with “Heathenreel” and we will see the fruits with our next CD! We’ll see what will happen!

How difficult is it for an italian band nowadays to get a record-contract with a German label? Tons of italian bands come out every month, everyone sounding like the other….don’t you fear to get a bit swept away by, for example, bigger bands like Edguy, who are on the same label and who got the full promotional attention? How long is your deal running and how would you consider your chances to survive as a band with all these tons of bands everywhere around?

I don’t know what to answer you. We have simply recorded a demo-CD and we have sent it to some labels around the world and we got a contract, that’s all. We have received surely more than one proposal so I think that if a product has some values it will have the attention it deserves. But this is nothing but the beginning ! As you said the most important step is trying to survive. There are tons of bands out there and surely it is so hard to survive in a musical scene where you don’t have a profit for your hard work and you go ahead only with your passion. Actually our contract with AFM is for 2 album for options for more.

How is your general look on today’s metal-scene? We think it gets once again spoiled by record-companies who want to have there share on the massive success of Hammerfall and/or Rhapsody and sign every band who plays in this direction; the result will be what it always was, a style will be sold out and only the big bands will survive. We faced this in the 80s already when the Speed- and Thrash-Metal-Genre was destroyed by the industry when replacing these style with the upcoming Grunge-Movement (by the way, how old are you? Where were you in ´79 when the Denim began to burst :-) Sorry, a small joke on the old Saxon-classic which we stated in our mag in one of our printed issues, as we are mid-30s and therefore happy to have seen the most important things in metal happening).

In 1979 I was 2 years old and I don’t remember that much of Saxon that year!!! Ah ah ah !
First of all we have to make a division between the bands who have great budgets and supports and the others! You cannot compare us with, for example, Rhapsody who as a budget 10 times bigger than ours (not a joke!). It’s a totally different point of view, a different dimension! Everyone has to play their cards and we’ll try to it as well as we can. We don’t mind that much about playing that kind of style or the other one : somebody doesn’t appreciate us but you can’t like to everyone in the same time. We will always play what we feel, hoping not to be forced by business facts in the future. (even if this would mean that we’d have become quite important )

Is there any chance to see you live in Germany? Wouldn’t it be a good thing to come with a band like Edguy who are on the same label?

Sure it would! But unfortunately we do not have the chance to do it! I don’t think we will have a tour!

Do you already have some ideas for a next album? Do you think to follow the way you went with "Heathenreel" (which is what I hope) or do you maybe plan to get some of the things featured on the CD getting a bit more pushed (more death-growls for example) to avoid the danger of repeating yourself? Can one plan such things or do they come out the way you just feel when writing songs?

We are working really hard on the next album! We would like to be able to plan such things but unfortunately it never worked! We say “Ok, let’s do a short song with a catchy chorus” and we come out with a 7 minutes song incredibly complex. Or “In the next album there will be more death vocals” and we don’t write a single song with growls! So unfortunately I cannot tell you how the album will be until the very last minute!!!! The thing I can tell you is that in the next album there will be the contribution of Martin Walkyier (ex-Skyclad) both as lyricist and guest vocals in a couple of songs! >He ‘s an incredible and amazing person and hope our collaboration will have some great results! We are also thinking about another great project with Martin but I’ll tell you more as soon as everything will be official!

Any final words to the readers?

First of all thank you so much to you for the interview! Thank you to all the people who supported us in Elvenking’s first steps!
May the winds blow fair at your back!!!

So far Aydan from Elvenking! We´d like to recommend the beautifully made homepage of the band, you can reach it under www.elvenking.net - there you can read everything about the band and their music, download things etc..

Let´s hope the guys keep us informed, as we have one of the few really fantastic bands here on whose new album we are totally looking forward to!