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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 you before?

  • 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 ;-)

Thomas: 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.

Thomas: 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?

  • Arkadius: The "Caledonia" theme has a historical background but it is also completely mixed with oral tradition and a lot of facts got lost during the time. This is a good base for inspiration and a good story... But when you focus the theme it is absolutely necessary to understand also the political situation to get a imagination of how they lived during this time. You can find this deeper meanings in most of our songs - there are only few exceptions where the lyrics just have to create a specific atmosphere or have to express a feeling..

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.

Thomas: 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?

  • Arkadius: It was really something new for us to be in front of the camera and to play one song over and over again with a lot of changes on the set. I think the most difficult part was to made some action without have a crowd hahaha. But after a few test we concentrate ourselves on the work. It was funny to do the forest filming because from time to time there were some joggers. We thought it looks strange to the normal people seeing four painted metal guys standing round in the forest and banging around. But they were cool and fascinated.

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 us.

Thomas: 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 Psychotica http://www.psychotica-film.de 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…

  • Arkadius: Thank you for this interview and I want to say thanx to everybody who support us. Check out our new album Caledonia. You can watch our first video clip on www.suidakra.com and another studio video on www.myspace.com/suidakra. Keep on Metal !!, Arkadius.

See also: review of the album Caledonia

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