With the new album Caledonia, Suidakra
has joined forces with former member Marcel that has returned to the band.
And that is not the only thing that has returned as Suidakra is heading
back to a sound that is more reminiscent of their earlier days. With Caledonia
they take you back to a time of war between the Scottish Picts and the
Romans, in other words they have made a conceptual album that takes place
in the Scottish highlands. We let guitarist and vocalist Arkadius
answer some questions about the new album, the reason behind the story
and the return of Marcel.
Thomas: How would you describe the sound
of Suidakra? It is hard define your sound and to easily say that you are
either this or that kind of band. You implies elements of death metal,
thrash metal, power metal and seem to be highly inspired by folk music
as well, how would you describe your sound to someone that hasn't heard
Arkadius: Puh, that's a real difficult question
for me. Even 12 years after the band was found there is no journalist
who can describe our sound, I mean that's a good thing because it
shows that we sound quite unique. But when people ask me how SuidAkrA
sounds like, I say it's a mixture of folk-melodic death metal. I know
that those elements are not the only ones but the best way to find
it out is to listen to our albums ;-)
You have a new album out, entitled Caledonia. How do you feel about it
now when it is done and has just been released? To me it has a fresh sound
and is filled with a positive force, it is almost like it states a new
and fresh start of Suidakra.
Arkadius: We are very satisfied with "Caledonia.
I mean it's hard to release a new album after 7 releases and be able
to say that we are happy with the result. But this album is something
special to us. We worked more on the details, melodies, heaviness
and atmosphere. We had this time more fun in the studio than in the
past. We were good prepared for the recordings, so there were no problems.
Kris did a great job and for me I can say that Caledonia is one of
the best fresh sounding SuidAkrA albums ever.
Thomas: With Caledonia, Marcel has returned
to the folds of Suidakra. What was it that led to his return to the band?
And what was the situation with the guy that had earlier replaced him,
Mathias Kupka, did he leave prior to Marcel's return or did he have to
leave as a result of Marcel returning?
Arkadius: It was a lucky situation because
it turned out that Matthias has to leave the band due to his priority
on his own band. I called Marcel explained everything to him and asked
him if he would rejoin the band. To my surprise he said "all
right"... I think there were several reasons for him to do so:
first of all he was now in a better position in his company and was
able to handle some time-problems more freely and I think also the
fact that he wasn´t that much involved in the writing process
of "Command to Charge" gave him new fuel, new inspiration
for this music. But I also allured him by saying that he will always
be free to cancel a gig just for the reason that it´s too much
for him... I can be very convincing - haha...
Thomas: How much did Marcel's return matter
to the sound on Caledonia? Compared with your former release, Command
To Charge, you now return fully to the somewhat pagan death metal, was
this a natural progression with Marcel back in the band or was it something
that you set out to do as a result of not being completely satisfied with
Command To Charge?
Arkadius: It was a natural process that the
new stuff turned into that kind of folk melodic death. When we started
to write new songs for the "Command To Charge" album and
we had the feeling to do something new after six releases. The riffs
and melodies sounded not fresh enough and we didn't want to copy ourselves.
Writing new songs for Caledonia we realized that we had the necessary
distance to get new inspirations and really fresh ideas. During Marcel's
break he started a new project, but without any ambitions for success,
just for fun - it sounds like "Black Label Society" or "Clutch"
and he did only the vocals. This turned out very positive for Suidakra,
because he focused himself to improve his singing and surprised us
all when we did the first recordings in the rehearsal room. This fresh
breeze was also present when we sat together with our guitars and
started to write the songs for "Caledonia" it simply made
"click" and everything worked fantastic - the melodies were
fresh again, the parts suited like never before and we took part of
this inspiration, that sometimes make you think that the music is
already there and you are just the one who gives it a shape.I really
think that "Caledonia" is our most compact and best worked
out album since ever.
How did you go about with the recording of the album? It seems to me to
be a rather complex album with many layers in the music with very much
of melodies, the more I listen to Caledonia the more I find of melodies
that lies beneath the surface. Where do you start when you have such a
complex structure to fit on the album?
Arkadius: Usually we start with the simple
ideas, but at that time we have the way it gonna be developed in our
mind. On "Caledonia" we start a new way of songwriting,
because we recorded every idea at our home studio, which give us the
possibility to work more on details and to work melodies etc. more
out. Before entering the studio we made a plan just to make sure we
do not forget anything. Sometimes it's really hard to remember anything,
so we forgot a few melodies on "The Arcanum" for example.
But those experiences were good, so we developed our way of working
from album to album.
Thomas: You have put together an impressive
story for the concept on Caledonia about the Picts and their war against
the attacking Romans. But you are not of Scottish blood are you? So what
was it that inspired you to that kind of tale?
Arkadius: Unfortunately there is no Scottish
SuidAkrA member hehehe. Well the ancient tales were always part of
our music since Marcel joined the band in 1996. He had, and still
has, great interest in Celtic history and mythology and when we started
to mix our music with folk elements it was just clear that our lyrical
way also had to pick up this theme. We did with "Lays from afar"
our first concept album where we had a fantasy story that was much
inspired by Celtic myths and on "Emprise to Avalon" we had
a story which has a real tradition that we mixed up with fantasy to
get a good story. Just like the different styles that make our music,
Marcel is very anxious to combine different lyrical aspects: there
are Celtic myths which are flavoured with some historical facts and
fantasy but on the other side he always tries to give it a deeper
meaning in some political, social or philosophical way. I´m
in the opinion that when you haven´t got something to say you
should not write lyrics! Do you know the song "Penny Dreadful"
of Skyclad? There is a very cool passage that says: "Stand your
ground behind the times and refuse to follow fashion. Write your poetry
with anger and then sing it with a passion".
Thomas: If we look at the story in a more
historical sense, how much is fact and how much is fiction on Caledonia?
Did you do any historical research in order to get the facts straight
before commencing writing the album or did you make the story fit the
album and the songs?
Thomas: You have included bag-pipes on the
album and it fits perfectly with both the music as well as the story I
must say. Although it is not everyday you hear the pipes from a band that
is as much metal as you are, how did you come up with the thought to have
them there? Who is it that plays the pipes on Caledonia and much searching
did you have to do before you found someone that could do the job?
Arkadius: Axel Römer, who is a professional
piper, is responsible for the bagpipes. We worked with him on Command
To Charge for the first time, because we thought that it would fit
very good to our sound. Marcus found him in an internet forum for
pipers, we asked him via email if he would be interested and he agreed
immediately. It was the something new for us and we involved the bagpipes
after the songs were already written. This time we introduced them
into the songwriting, so we wrote special melody lines for the bagpipes.
Axel is also a good friend of the band, and it's always fun working
with him together. We asked him to be part of the "The IXth Legion
Video" and he accepted immediately.
If you would compare Caledonia to any of your earlier albums, if possible,
which one do you think it is the most similar to? And have you ever done
conceptual albums like Caledonia before?
Arkadius: Yeah we did two concept albums before,
"Lays from afar" and "Emprise To Avalon". We learned
a lot from album to album how to build up a real good concept album.
I would compare "Caledonia" more to "Emprise To Avalon"
than to any other SuidAkrA records, because both releases figure out
some historical and mythological aspects of it's period. We worked
musically on both albums close to the lyrics, but I my opinion it
sounds on "Caledonia" better balanced.
Thomas: The cover looks really cool and
suitable for the album. Did you have any conceptual directions for the
artist or did he get free hands to do whatever he liked? The artist, Kris
Verwimp, you have used him before as well, haven't you?
Arkadius: Yes, after working with some other
artists on the two previous releases we thought about working with
Kris again. We met him last year, when we played in Belgium for the
first time. After the show we talked about the idea making a concept
album and asked him if he would be interested to work with us again.
Kris was our first choice, because in our opinion he is able to bring
the concept idea to his artwork better than anyone else. Different
to our previous releases we worked together as a team. We sent Kris
our first recordings, which we've made in the rehearsal room to inspire
him and of course the lyrics to make sure that the artwork fit perfect
to the whole album concept.
Thomas: For Caledonia you have also done
your first video ever for the song The IXth Legion. How was it to act
in front of the camera for this?
Thomas: What led to the choice of this song
to be used for a video shot and how does it work behind the scenes before
a video gets done? How much involvement does the record company have about
this? Did they pick the song and decided the details or did they just
give you a certain amount of money to get a video done for and then leave
it all up to you?
Arkadius: Our label has no budget for us to
made a video, so we did it all on our own. To be honest I have to
admit that we didn't ask our label about which song etc. We choose
"The IXth Legion" because this song gave us the opportunity
to film on different locations and create different atmospheres. It
has some folk parts, for witch we choose the forest and some modern
blast speed parts that were filmed in an old factory. After we finished
the clip we told our label about it, and they will distribute it for
Who directed the video and did you have any conceptual thoughts for it
or was it all up to the director?
Arkadius: Sebastian Radke, who is a SuidAkrA
fan for years, asked me why we didn't released a video clip yet and
if we were interested. I said ok let's do it, so the idea was born.
He was also the man for the concept. We as a band choosed the locations
and he wrote a real script for the filming process. I mean it was
the best decision, because he is the one with more experience. He
made some underground movies like the horror psycho splatter movie
which was also released on DVD.
Thomas: Who stands for the writing of the
songs in Suidakra? Is it a common effort where all in the band writes
material and has inputs or is there anyone taking more control over it
than the others and has the final word regarding what goes on the album
and what does not?
Arkadius: Every member is 100% involved into
the songwriting process. The first ideas are of course written on
the guitars, than every member works on those ideas to figure out
if that works. After that we all meet together in the rehearsal room
to combine all this and a song is finished when every member is satisfied
with the final result. It is a very democratic way of songwriting.
There is no special person who choose the songs it's a majority decision.
Thomas: With a conceptual album like Caledonia,
where did you begin with the songs. Where do you begin when you write
songs? Do you start with a theme or a direction of the songs, and what
comes first, lyrics or music?
Arkadius: We start to write some riffs on the
guitar work detailed on the melodies and put all the ideas into a
song together. Usually we wrote the entire album, before we wrote
the lyrics. This time we worked on both things at the same time to
make sure that the lyrics fit with the songs 100%. It was a new experience
for us and I think that if you read the lyrics you feel the connection.
Thomas: According to you website, plans
for a European tour is in the making? How far has the plans reached so
far, and do you have plans to tour outside of Europe as well?
Arkadius: Yeah, we talked to our booking agency
about some tour plans, and now we are planning to be part of the next
Wacken Road Show in April 2007. We hope that we gonna have much more
European gigs than on previous tours. Beside that we gonna play a
tour in Russia in march and several single gigs in and outside Germany.
We are also looking for a possibility to play live in the States but
it depends on organizers who invite SuidAkrA.
Thomas: And to round this off I would only
like to say a big thank you for taking the time to share this with us,
and if there is anything more you would like to add or share with the
readers of Metal Covenant, feel free to use this last space as you like
See also: review
of the album Caledonia