(Temple of Dread‘s new album Beyond Acheron, which features artwork by Paolo Girardi, is set for release in August by Testimony Records. Over time we’ve appreciatively written about their music on several occasions, and even premiered their last album, and today Comrade Aleks joins in, with an engaging interview of guitarist/bassist Markus Bünnemeyer.)
German death metal band Temple of Dread is another unit well-known to NCS’ readers. The trio of Markus Bünnemeyer (guitars, bass), Jörg Uken (drums) and Jens Finger (vocals) shoot out albums one after another regularly, so if you skipped their first release Blood Craving Mantras (2019) then you probably heard World Sacrifice (2020) or Hades Unleashed (2021). As good as these albums were, the new one Beyond Acheron is stronger, darker, and sometimes even more epic.
Temple of Dread’s fourth album will be officially released on August 11th by Testimony Records, but we used our chance to get in touch with the band right now.
(Thanks to Jan, SureShotWorx PR, for organizing the interview.)
Hi there! Who’s online today? How are you doing?
Hello everyone, this is Markus. I feel great! I am happy that we will soon release our 4th album. Yesterday I was at a terrific Iron Maiden concert and on top of that the sun is shining!
Hi Markus! Temple of Dread was founded in 2017, and your new album Beyond Acheron is the fourth in your discography. How did you manage to keep such a good pace? What’s the secret of such a highly productive approach?
We actually have a very productive and constructive approach: I compose the songs and lay down the basic structures. After that, Jörg has a free hand to record his drum parts. Jens then thinks about how and where best to place the vocals. At the very end, of course, Jörg does the final mix. Every album is a joint product, but since we give each other free rein and don’t tell each other what to do with our parts, we save ourselves a lot of discussions and arguments. And therefore time!
How did you see the band from the start? What kind of concept did you keep in mind regarding lyrics and music?
We started musically quite impetuous and impulsive. The songs were quite simply structured and partly very strongly influenced by our idols. But at the latest since our third album Hades Unleashed we have musically found our own style. The songs are more varied and not consistently fast. Also, lyrically we have changed: We have decided to work up ancient myths (especially Greek) and add to them.
Why do you offer the writing of the lyrics to someone outside the band? Frank Albers is a psychologist and he wrote the texts for at least for three of your albums: Blood Craving Mantras (2019), World Sacrifice (2020), and Beyond Acheron (2023). How do you usually collaborate with him?
Frank is one of my longest standing friends. We both also had the idea to form Temple of Dread in 2017. When I`ve finished structuring the songs, I think about which parts to sing on. Of course, the fine-tuning is done by our singer Jens in the end. But based on my preliminary considerations, Frank then writes the lyrics. He has really cool and interesting ideas. For example, Beyond Acheron is about the ferryman Charon, who at some point doesn’t want to carry the dead for all eternity anymore, but longs for salvation himself…
Do you write the music first in this situation? For example, I’d like to admit the epic feeling of “Damnation” and I wonder if its lyrics were written after the song was finished and if you changed some lines in the song when you already had the lyrics complete?
“Damnation” has actually become a very epic song, which has developed more and more during the process of creation. But as far as I know, we didn’t have to change much of the lyrics – even though Jens placed them in completely different places than I had originally thought of, Hahaha!
You live in Spiekeroog, East Frisian islands. As I see, there are the Wadden Sea National Park there and some wellness centers, as well as a campsite. How is it to live in such a place? Does it affect somehow on Temple of Dread’s inner machinery?
Sometimes I find the contrast of a beautiful vacation island with thousands of tourists, sun, beach and fish rolls to death metal actually very surreal. Of course, this environment shapes me. But there are also many places here that are away from the tourist areas and are very quiet and relaxing. I find many opportunities here to focus completely on myself and work on songs in a concentrated way. Especially during the Corona lockdowns I enjoyed the total silence here incredibly.
Jörg Uken owns the Soundlodge Studio in Rhauderfehn; and he has recorded tons of bands including Temple of Dead. How did you work together taking into account his schedule?
Jörg and I have known each other for over 20 years and communication is always very relaxed. However, his Soundlodge studio is always very well booked, so I often request free dates long before I am even finished with the songs. But so far I have always finished on time and everything has worked out well! Another advantage is that Jens and Jörg live close to each other, so Jens can usually drop by Jörg‘s place quite spontaneously for his vocal recordings.
Beyond Acheron is your fourth album, even though the first one was recorded only four years ago. How do you value your progress with the new material?
I think that we have really developed noticeably within the past four years. The development is good and important, however I would also like to say that no one should fear that we will move further away from our roots in the future. I think that the album after Beyond Acheron will again have surprises in store, but on the whole maybe even take a step back again.
You tagged “World Below” as your “Flight of Icarus,” and it’s interesting, as a bit of classic Iron Maiden influences could really be found in Beyond Acheron. What were your main requirements to the songs’ sound and diversity when you were working over this material?
I’ve been a fanatical Iron Maiden fan for over 35 years. Of course, no other band has influenced me more – even though we ended up in death metal. Lyrically, Maiden have also dealt with ancient themes and myths in special songs (e.g. “Flight of Icarus”, “Powerslave”, or “Alexander the Great”). Musically, what I love about them is that they have always focused on expressive choruses, catchy melodies, and logical song structures. All this I try to emulate in Maiden style for Temple of Dread.
There were two guest-musicians involved in the recording of Beyond Acheron, can you tell more about this collaboration?
That’s easily explained: Marc Grewe (ex-Morgoth, Insidious Disease, Discreation, Deimos Dawn) and Henri Sattler (God Dethroned) are very good friends of mine. Henri also built my Serpent King guitars for me. We’ve been thinking about recording something together for a long time, but since time is always short, we’ve limited ourselves to a guest solo for now. Marc and I sat together in the rehearsal room last summer and I played him the new songs. After three bottles of beer the idea came up that he should add parts to a song! I find it incredible how similar the voices of Marc and Jens are.
What about the gigs? I didn’t find any tour dates in your Facebook profile.
This is a difficult issue. Due to different problems we have not played any gigs so far. However, if the good reviews continue, I will see if some special shows could take place next year. Of course, this presupposes the interest of promoters.
Markus, what are your further plans for the rest of 2023?
First, we’ll wait for the release of Beyond Acheron. But at the same time we are already working hard on the follow-up album. The drum and guitar parts are largely finished. And who knows – maybe we have to look for, find, and train additional musicians 😉