(Comrade Aleks returns to NCS with this interview of Luther Veldmark of the multinational group King Heavy.)
It started for me with Hooded Priest’s album Devils Worship Reckoning — I like good old-school doom metal, and this record had enough catchy riffs to make me wait for new release. This record also is remarkable for me because of the really possessed and expressive vocal lines performed by the band’s frontman Luther Veldmark. The new album isn’t ready yet, but at least I got King Heavy, as Hooded Priest has been keeping silent up to now.
King Heavy is the product of a collaboration between Luther (based in The Netherlands) and three members of the Chilean bands Procession and Mourners Lament. King Heavy recorded the EP Horror Absoluto in 2014, so it’s time to ask that will come next. Luther Weldmark himself is here today!
Hail Luther! How are you? How much longer did your beard grow since we talked last time? It was in 2011!
Hello Alex, great hearing from you again. The slower my music the faster time flies!
Since you asked, I suppose my beard is a bit longer than last time, actually I don’t think it’s that extremely long, but yeah right, I don’t go that often to a barber. I do cut my beard on the sides from time to time, that’s about it.
Luther, your band Hooded Priest has kept silent after you released your first and only LP Devil Worship Reckoning about 5 years ago. It was quite good, where are the new songs man?
We have done a fair amount of intertnational gigs in our demo years, that’s a fact. However, after our CD and Vinyl release we haven’t been that quiet at all actually. We played again in Ireland, Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, Belgium, and France. At the end of 2013 we were touring alongside Arkham Witch and Iron Void across Europe and UK bringing us to England, Scotland, Belgium, Austria, and Germany. We are already writing songs for a kind of third album, but for several reasons we didn’t get to record that second album yet.
Since last time we spoke, the band was unfortunately reduced to a four-piece band, but things are like they are, and in the end the remaining four of us decided to continue in silence but with focus on the future. We have put a lot of effort in arranging the new songs and adjusting the older songs to our new tuning. Meanwhile J-Maze our guitar player put a lot of effort in setting out the plan for the recording process because we do have this standing double-bass that needs to be more present in our sound than on our debut. We are currently making demos as a pre-production, it’s a stereophonic monolith that will come flying in to split your world in two, you’ll notice.
Last year we kept very silent indeed due to some health issues I had to take care of… We only “went out to play” one time in Belgium, featuring our old drummer as a second guitar player on some songs. It was fun to do, and we did a similar thing on our tour with Steve Wilson from Iron Void joining us on a couple of songs. As a matter of fact, we recently welcomed a permanent new second guitar player Jeff Von D who I met during a gig with one of his other bands, Monstertone. It’s amazing how our new songs sound since he joined. Jeff adds a very rock’n’roll vibe to the music, although the new songs are quite slow compared to the ones on our first album. I’m sure you will love the way he bends his strings as well, DOOOM!
How did you get involved in the Chilean band King Heavy? So far that band has one released EP Horror Absoluto on CD, and also has available a split-album with DoomLord.
I have met our bass player Daniel in Germany at the Doom Shall Rise festival in 2009 where he played with his former band Procession. We immediately got along very well and decided on the spot that we would do something together music-wise one day. In fact, it was that very moment when I already proposed to form a band with the band name King Heavy.
We kept in touch through the years sending ideas across the ocean. When Daniel started jamming with our guitar player Matías and our drummer Miguel, they returned to the idea of King Heavy and so our band came into real existence. They recorded demos in Chile and I added my vocals in Belgium. We didn’t release anything on demo but were quite sure we had to go for the real thing straight away. As this method worked well to arrange our songs, we did the same for our debut Horror Absoluto, a nice Digipack with four songs. You can compare the running time with Slayer’s Reign In Blood, however not in the pace of the songs haha. We released it as a self-produced CD so we could have some merchandise ready in time for our South American Horror Tour — a tour that brought us to Chile, Peru, and Ecuador, probably an adventure never done before by any other new band.
After the tour Horror Absoluto was released in Europe as a split vinyl together with Puerto Rican ‘DoomLord’. That vinyl was released by the French label ‘Emanes Metal Records’.
Luther, you’re from Europe and have your own specific local background as the other members of King Heavy have theirs. Which one prevails in the band’s songs?
I already knew that Daniel and me were very alike as people, and when I finally met Miguel and Matías, the energy started floating intensely. So immediately after my arrival in Chile for the tour, we started partying to get to know each other better. The first rehearsal with all four of us together was both as real as it could get, but unreal at the same time. A true example of the special chemistry that exists in this band. A strong South American spirit, of course, for instance Los Jaivas is an important influence musically for sure. The very skilled and tight musicianship of my three friends turned out to be another perfect match with my personal insanity, and this results in what one can hear on Horror Absoluto and in what one can definitely see on the stage.
The fact that I come from and live in another continent is not something that shows directly (except that I do look quite pale). While we were touring I didn’t feel like a stranger at all, you know. The music for both our debut Horror Absoluto and our forthcoming album was written in Chile. I didn’t give many remarks on the basic concept of the songs because they were just perfect in my ears. So far, I have written my lyrics and my vocal lines on my own here in Belgium, although Daniel asked me initially to take war as a the main topic. I wrote my own typical brand of lyrics instead, it’s the most natural way of course and best guaranty for success haha.
They love my lyrics and vocal lines, and always give necessary production feedback on the vocals because it’s they who write the music — it’s just natural that they have their say about the vocals as well. It’s so reassuring when they tell me that I add the right feel with my vocal lines to our compositions. The end production of our debut EP and the new one were done in Chile, so some backings were used, some were not, and some were mixed in differently. However, they always send me the mixes and ask for my advice about how the vocals end up in the mix and the overall mix with the instruments. We are a team, everyone gives his own input.
King Heavy “Creation Must Be The Devil”
How does the distance affect your work with the other guys?
Due to nowadays’ technology it’s easy to stay in touch and to send music. Obviously it’s slightly different than being in a band where all members get together in rehearsals and hang out at bars occasionally. Since it’s not usual that the band members are divided by an ocean, I think that both my bandmates and I set the standard high for Horror Absoluto. Since we don’t follow an easy path, we’d better do our best. We maintained working that way for the new album as well. We all hope one day to record an album together at the same moment, but I’m very satisfied that we can record the way we do and get together each year to do some touring. We are coming to Europe this year, a part of it will be a tour with Iron Void, playing Dutch Doom Days, Malta Doom Metal, and a club gig at Biebob in Belgium amongst other gigs, and King Heavy will do a short Chilean tour as well.
And what about other organizational matters? How do you deal with rehearsal sessions and gigs?
Matías, Miguel, and Daniel rehearse whenever they can — they don’t live that close to each other either. Most of the time they record their rehearsals and send them to me, so I can rehearse on my own with the same feeling as they had during their rehearsal. When we change the arrangement of songs during the writing process, I try to record some vocals for feedback. I used to sing a lot in my car, since I’m in some traffic jams every day, in the morning and evening, so I’d better use those moments to practice my vocals. We did two rehearsals with all four and one small gig for friends before we started with the South American Horror Tour. We did some rehearsals in between gigs as well, and in less than a half a year we will do it all again, it works out fine if you ask me.
The song “Horror Absoluto” tells the story of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and that shows a new approach for doom lyrics; I wonder if someone sang about it before… Silent Stream of Godless Elegy maybe. What drove you to turn to this theme now?
I have a special relationship with atomic bombings. It’s not that I’m completely obsessed by it, but I have written more songs about the topic before, referring to possible future events. This time I used these two true historical events as a starting point of the song. Some fantasy might have slipped in, but hey I don’t pretend to have the truth for sale. Besides all the tests people did with all nuclear bombs, to actually use them as weapons in warfare may be the biggest doom ever brought upon ourselves by mankind. It must have been a real horror for the people who lived in these cities, most unaware of what was coming down on them, not to speak of how it ruined the lives of the survivors during generations to come. I can imagine it was a big weight on the shoulders of the bombers themselves as well. Perfect scenery for a doom song.
What meaning did you put into the song “Creation Must Be the Devil”?
I got the idea when I read about a bar in a strict Christian city in the States. The owner ran into a lot of problems with the authorities and society in general, while no real harm was meant by his bar. In the end he put on a big neon advertisement about Satan on his roof, just like all those different Churches in America with strange references to Jesus… It surely was a trigger for my fantasy. Even though a metal bar might appear a bit blasphemous to some people it’s actually the church’s men who will stand first in line when Satan comes to town you know, the majority of men can be so blindfolded. So the song’s main theme is ignorance and censorship in the first place, and in between the lines about the brotherhood of metalheads on the other hand. No one will ever get us down!
Luce, I remember how you told that your little sons would sing along to Darkthrone while you were driving in your car. Do you allow them to listen songs about the Devil, and how do they like King Heavy and Hooded Priest?
Yes, it was my youngest son W who sang along in perfect sync with Darkthrone, but he is into all kinds of music. My oldest son V is also becoming an active music lover, but no metal at all. I don’t force any of my music (neither the ones that I create nor the ones I like to listen to) onto my children by purpose. It just happens that I put on music in my car or at home (the latter rather seldom). In fact a lot of people think and ask me if my kids are metalheads, a bit a strange question if you ask me. Did I turn into the same music lovers as my parents? Not at all. It wouldn’t hurt of course if my kids would become metalheads. It would surely be a pleasure to hear them playing my fave stuff, but it’s not obligatory at all.
My oldest son is almost 11 years old, about the age when I began to listen to some heavier music with more intense lyrics, among other more mainstream or ‘regular’ music… I didn’t want to have my parents interfering with my musical taste and the lyrical content of it back then. I think my sons don’t like me to censor their music choice either. I do keep an eye (and an ear) on how they are spending their free time as an interested parent. In my childhood and early teens music was lyrically more extreme than television or movies (or you had to find underground movie stuff). I guess that nowadays the lyrics of the bands I listened to in my teens could almost be called pussy compared to the mainstream television programs for early teens or even kids, not to talk about some computer games that recently invaded our home…
You’re working on a full-length album with King Heavy. What is the progress now?
The album is recorded, mixed and mastered. The artwork is ready and all is delivered to our record company Cruz Del Sur who will release our new album, named after the band ‘King Heavy’. This album is really what we stand for: Heavy Metal The Doom Way written and played by the four metal crazy people we are, a special bond across oceans. We’re very pleased and proud of our new work
How does new King Heavy stuff differ from the songs included in Horror Absoluto?
I think the music of the new album is slower in general but there are quite some intense faster parts as well, and maybe more progressiveness and aggressiveness are to be found in the new compositions and vocals as well. As I receive a lot of King Heavy’s stuff ‘ready recorded’ at home, I can listen to it and pretend a bit that I’m not in the band, it gives me a level of objectivity you know… So from the moment I heard the new compositions for the first time I recognized the typical King Heavy sound was present in them again. With the experience of our first EP and the tour, I think I gained more personality in my vocals on this album. Even though the vocals on the Horror Absoluto EP may not be the typical vocals you’d expect in a Doom metal band, I still think that I kept it quite genre-typical on that EP. This time there’s much more Luce emerging to the surface, hehe.
King Heavy and Hooded Priest play in an old-vein heavy / doom metal style. What’s your opinion about the attractiveness of this genre?
I really like that combination of old school heaviness mixed with slow doom parts. I really feel at home with this kind of music. I do listen a lot to traditional doom metal myself, but the same as with the bands I’m in, I don’t want to limit myself to a certain genre. I think every headbanger in general could find a lot of satisfaction in the kind of music we play. If that blend is a recipe for success, I don’t know. I could live with it of course, and it would probably be easier to get things organized for the bands I’m in (in 3 different countries). But with all bands the first goal is to write the songs we like and play the music that flows through our veins, and if we can share it with people on our records and on stage, we can continue doing it.
And what does drive you to play such music? What do you find interesting about it?
I‘ve been singing in a Heavy Metal band (Witchsmeller Pursuivant) as well for 20 years now, but it was written in the beginning that one day I would end up in a Traditional doom metal band. And even in these two, although I think that both bands have their own particular style, neither of them use much of the regular Sabbath riffs nor extreme downtuning. They clearly have a Heavy Metal edge to it which is most present in King Heavy. It’s so fantastic to find my way as a singer in the rhythmic variations and epic compositions.
On the other hand, Witchsmeller Pursuivant haven’t released anything since 2007, but if we ever get to record a new album it’s going to be quite speedy, progressive in a way but with a kind of Thrash metal edge to it as well. The new King Heavy will be doomier than the EP but still have faster moments as well. Hooded Priest’s new one will be very HEAVY and extremely slower than the debut. After that second release we probably won’t release a complete album again, but different EP’s or splits, because we are opening our musical horizons a lot and exploring very varied aspects of heavy music. I can’t wait… so anxious to have all that new material released. This is no goodbye, we’ll speak again my friend when that happens. Muchas gracias por la entravista !
Luce, I would like to thank you for your time. I believe that this interview will help you and King Heavy to reach new listeners. Good luck!
You can order the King Heavy CD here: firstname.lastname@example.org
King Heavy “The Origin of Witch Hunts”