(We present here an interview by our Norway-based contributor Karina Noctum of Steffen Kummerer, a member of Obscura and leader of the German band Thulcandra, whose newest album was released last month by Napalm Records.)
Thulcandra have released one of the best and most beautiful melodic black metal albums this year so far. Hail the Abyss is a display of excellent musicianship and top-notch composition that pays attention to the details. The sound is a tribute to Scandinavian melodic and symphonic black metal while at the same exploring other tempos and structures that make it even more interesting.
In this interview Steffen Kummerer not only talks about his new release, but also gives us some Obscura updates.
How would you describe the sound of Thulcandra’s new album?
Hail The Abyss turned out to be the most diverse record in our long history as a band. We kept all trademarks of Thulcandra but went ahead and reached out to slower compositions that have been included in our previous album as well. You hear a real band performing, not a polished studio project. Nothing has been edited to the max, just pure musicianship of four band members makes the sound how we are.
How has Thulcandra’s sound evolved in your opinion?
We never changed our direction and kept the vibe and style since our formation in 2003. Within the years, our experiences in live venues, studios and rehearsal rooms have made us grow and therefore we feel more confident recording and producing a new record. With musicians coming and going, the details of our sound changed, but the intention and pace of each album has been the same. We do not seek for any kind of evolution, we are not bound to anything and create and release the music we love.
How do you manage your time between the bands you are currently active in?
Obscura became a worldwide touring act in 2006. Up to this date that band has been my priority and the reason I can make a living off music. While Thulcandra has been very picky about live shows, my dedication for both groups never changed and both groups have their fair share of attention. Working full time as a musician gives me the freedom to arrange my own schedules when and where recordings and live shows will happen.
What inspired the lyrics in Hail the Abyss? Is there a thematic continuity from the previous album?
We decided not to release a concept album and followed the direction of the songs on Hail The Abyss. The more diverse the material turned out, the more topics we were free to choose for this album. While music always comes first, lyrics have been worked out based on the pattern each song offers. There has been only one song that can be seen as a continuation of our previous album A Dying Wish – the closing track, “The Final Closure”, which deals with a similar lyrical theme.
Dawn’s Slaughtersun 25th anniversary was just celebrated in May this year. I can hear some Dawn influences here and there, among other Swedish and Norwegian bands. Why did these albums create such an impact as to continue to be of musical inspiration to these days?
We grew up with the whole Scandinavian scene and listened to this kind of music in the late nineties. Bands such as Dissection, Sacramentum and Unaniamted among others have been the reason we founded Thulcandra. By 2003 most of the groups split up and vanished from the surface. Necrophobic are still out there releasing excellent records and performing live regularly. Dawn has been a great band as well and Slaughtersun as well as Blood From Stone by The Moaning became the first productions by a talented engineer named Peter Tägtren. Those albums aged well and deserve more spins by everyone listening to this style of music.
What are the personal touches that you have made a part of Hail the Abyss?
Aside from writing music and lyrics, my duties expanded to engineer and produce Hail The Abyss. I’m the sole founding member and work with the group as a collective, while there is always one person needed to pull the strings and make things happen.
Tell us about the arrangements. How do you go about this process?
With both guitarists working on songs, the whole band forms songs to a final composition which works quite smoothly with everyone contributing and delivering ideas.
Who produced the album?
We worked with the same team as on A Dying Wish with Thomas Taube engineering and recording drums at Five Lakes Studios, myself engineering and recording the remaining instruments, while Dan Swanö took care of mixing and mastering the record. Production duties have been my part for the album.
I really like that the guitar work displays virtuosity without disrupting the overall dark atmosphere in the album. Tell us about other important considerations taken while composing and recording …
We have all played in different bands for 20+ years and gained a certain experience on our instruments within this timeframe. The key ever since has been to balance melody, harmony and rhythm, to come up with storytelling, and a timeless composition. Writing music to show off might limit other important rules in my opinion. I would choose a good song over show-off instruments in a heartbeat.
The album is pretty dynamic. There are a variety of tempos. What holds the compositions together in your opinion?
Each song tells a story just based on the music. Some stories can get boring quickly, therefore you need to keep the listener interested.
Which non-metal musical influences can be heard in your composition for this album?
The old great ones such as Bach and Beethoven when it comes to harmony work.
Please give us an Obscura update.
Obscura are touring in support of the recent album A Valediction and have new dates to be released very soon. Also new releases are lined up, as well as some re-releases of our old albums. More news is lined up to be published soon.
What lies ahead for the bands you are active in?
More tours, more albums and more of everything. We are looking forward to another 20 years of metal with both Obscura and Thulcandra, and hope to deliver new music soon.