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Interview conducted August 17 2019
Interview published August 31 2019

Italian folk metallers Elvenking put out their new record Reader Of The Runes - Divination on August 30th and as the band recently made a quick stop at Sabaton Open Air, Metal Covenant took the opportunity to talk with the band's singer Damna.

Tobbe: What will the fans get when they buy your new record Reader Of The Runes - Divination?

Damna: Well, of course, if the fans already know us they will find a 100 percent Elvenking album. We've been doing this since 1997, but I think with The Pagan Manifesto album [2014] we really defined our identity and sound once and for all. So I think that the fans will absolutely find another chapter in our history.

Tobbe: Describe what it takes musically and lyrically to make a concept album.

Damna: This is the first time we do something like this. I mean, we have already done some theme-based albums. You know, where there was a whole theme and every song was kind of relating to that theme, but this time is the first time we make a concept album. We fronted this thing for the first time and it was interesting because we had to approach the songwriting in a different way of course.

Basically it's me and Aydan, the guitarist, who are writing most of the songs. Usually we just, you know, sit down together and listen to the ideas we have, and play the songs, and start to build the songs. But this time we also had to take care of the lyrics and depending on how the story would develop we had to of course take care of that, and also, you know, kind of shape the music to the lyrics and the mood of the story. So it was really interesting this time.

Tobbe: You have filmed two videos for this new album so far. So tell me a little bit about them.

Damna: We wanted to do a video that was more kind of like a playback outside. The Silverseal video, where you have, you know, actors, and we're interpreting a little bit the mood of the concept album. We're trying to summarize a little bit the mood and the atmosphere of the album. So we wanted to do a more complex video like that. And then have an easier video [Divination]. You know, with flames and just playback. It's the first time we do two videos for an album.

Tobbe: You guys have also made a video series leading up to this album. So tell me about those clips as well.

Damna: Yeah, we wanted to give the fans more insight on the music and the lyrics on the album. And we want to update our fans as much as we can, so we just made these videos. We talk more about the concept and about the artwork. We're now releasing a track-by-track, where we, you know, say a couple of words about the songs, so the fans might know what they can expect from the album.

Tobbe: Social media's importance today can't be neglected or ignored, right?

Damna: It has been a little bit difficult for us, because we come from a completely different era. You know, end of the '90s. Nothing of this was there. We still have handwritten letters, from our fans, that we used to receive back in the day when we released our first demo [To Oak Woods Bestowed, 2000] and our first album [Heathenreel, 2001]. We still have those letters. And of course this is not happening anymore and now social media is here.

So it has been a little bit difficult for us, because we had to change our idea a little bit on how we approach the fans and how we present our music. But nowadays we fully comprehend that it is something that can help us. It help us to be more in contact with our fans and also reach other people that wouldn't know about Elvenking if not for these medias.

Tobbe: Divination is just the first album in this concept story and what makes a band wanna go so deep that they have to use 3 albums to complete the story?

Damna: Like I said, it's the first time we do this, but we've always been very fascinated about the idea of having something more around the music, you know. We really love and we've always been fascinated by the classic albums in metal that had a concept story. Like King Diamond and Savatage for example, that really were successfully creating something, you know, beyond the music.

Of course there's the music, and you're a fan of that, but you also have something more. You have a story, you have a whole world around it, and this is something we really appreciated. Yeah, we wanted to do something like this and finally we had the right idea. But we wanted it to be really good and since the story is pretty long and complicated we just wanted to give the right attention to every detail of the story, so we split it into 3 parts.

Tobbe: It's the band's 10th album now and do you sometimes come to dead ends and have to redo things from the beginning again?

Damna: Well, this is something that we had to do a lot in the past. But I think that we have made some different choices now perhaps. We made some albums where we were kind of exploring influences of the sound, that were maybe not in line with what Elvenking stands for. Yeah, we had to, you know, start from scratch a couple of times, I would say. We never really had this kind of strong basis before, which could help us being consistent and grow step by step.

Tobbe: Do you ever listen to the Elvenking back catalogue? And if so, what kind of emotions does that bring to you when you listen to it?

Damna: Well, it's always kind of watching back to how we were, and to how I was, in that year and in that specific time in our life. And that is always a great emotion. It's like going through an old album of photos and see how we were, you know. And that brings a lot of memories and things linked to those times.

You know, it's always a good thing to sometimes listen to the back catalogue and listen to the things that, you know, were good and the things where we did wrong. It's really important to do that in order to stay focused and keep things going.

Tobbe: Filesharing started around the time of your first album and what did you think about that at that point?

Damna: The point is that it was really bad for a band like ours. We were kind of starting to get a big growth in sales, but then this thing came up and like for any other band, also the big ones, things really just dropped. That really was bad for us. We were still a small band, but we were growing, but, you know, all of a sudden everything dropped down. It was really, really hard to stay there and being alive in that kind of market.

But fortunately right now it's growing again and things are going good with digital services like Spotify or Apple Music and that's something that is a really helpful for the band. But at that time: yeah, it was a mess.

Tobbe: Do you think that you would have been an even bigger band if you were from another country than Italy?

Damna: This is a question that's being asked a lot of times. And probably yeah, because we were born in a time in Italy where there were really not a lot of opportunities, not a lot of venues and not a lot of structures that could support a heavy metal band. At the moment it's still not like in Germany or Sweden for example, but it's much better. But probably, yeah, our growth could have been quicker.

Tobbe: My last question: What's the status of your other band, Hell In The Club, right now?

Damna: At the moment we are starting discussing about doing a new album. We took a long break, mostly because of things with Elvenking. But now, when this Elvenking album will be released, I will have some kind of a free spot and I can concentrate a little bit on new songs. But yeah, I think next year we will have a new album out.

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