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Bloodred’s Ron Merz: “Wanting to force one's own worldviews to people of other beliefs (or no beliefs at all) is an abysmal evil for me. The missionized people not only lose part of their own identity, but also a lot of culture is often lost.”

Interview with Ron Merz from Bloodred
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 05 August 2020, 11:11 PM

Dark thoughts, humanity in peril because of itself, sometimes for a normal person that is too much to bear, and needless to say that each to his own with personal problems and issues. So can a person really cope with it? Professionally perhaps? Still categorized as somewhat unknown as people are different from one another. Bloodred’s Ron Merz took a long stride through the darkness of man and he found some things, which some were known and some less confronted with. Unraveling his new album, “The Raven’s Shadow”, a blackened tale was told and Steinmetal had the chance to understand Merz’ vision, musical direction and more… 

Greetings Ron, it is a pleasure having you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing sir? I hope that you are safe and sound with this pandemic going on?

Hey, thank you for having me! I am fine so far. I largely adhere to the guidelines in the pandemic, so I am at home or in the great outdoors and wear a mask if necessary. Of course, this entire situation also leaves its mark and my own life has been pretty much turned upside down. But you have to accept it and make the best of it.

In reference to what is coming next in the interview, and I believe that it has a relation to the subject at hand, this Covid-19 pandemic. Certainly, a dark time for humanity due to a phenomenon that hasn’t been around for at least for a century. What do you make of all this? Is it actually simpler than it is? Where do you think this is all headed to?

One of the key findings is that, in my opinion, the pandemic has shown how fragile many things we take for granted are and how vulnerable humanity has become to attacks on their values in this situation.

So far here in Germany we have not only a government that acted relatively quickly and consistently, but probably also simply luck. Nevertheless, the effects of Covid-19 naturally affected almost all areas of life. You are restricted in your freedom of movement, you have to take care of yourself and your fellow human beings (wear masks!), there are restrictions in your job even up to unemployment and, above all, social contacts in the family and with friends are massively restricted.

I think hardly anyone could have imagined that life would change so much for everyone over a very short period of time. This is not only associated with practical aspects but also with massive psychological challenges. Life suddenly got out of joint and became more insecure. Things that have long been considered irrefutable are suddenly very different. It is quite normal for this situation to cause certain fears in people, which can sometimes lead to irrational behavior. On the other hand, it is actually quite easy to adjust to this situation and do the right thing. It becomes dangerous when people take advantage of these uncertainties in favor of their own agenda. Unfortunately, that is what we see happening in some countries around the world. And that is definitely very thoughtful.

On the other hand, Covid-19 has also brought up some good aspects. In my opinion, it is definitely the case that, for example, solidarity with others has increased. People go shopping for the people at risk of the disease or take care of them in other ways. That is one of the points that I hope will survive the pandemic. Just like the realization that working conditions and pay for different professional groups need to be significantly improved (e.g. think of all the frontline workers in the hospitals).

Overall, I am not yet sure which direction the movement will take. However, I am rather skeptical … What I can say now is that some of these topics will definitely be found in future lyrics.

Bloodred has been kind of in the grey for me, as I have only noticed the debut album artwork, yet haven’t listened to the music. Thanks to your new label, Massacre Records, I was introduced to your created universe within “The Raven’s Shadow”, your sophomore. Talking about your new label, how does it feel to sign with such a label with a long history and how this relationship started? Do you believe that you should have done that back when you released your debut album?

I can say without exaggeration that the signing by Massacre has fulfilled a lifelong dream. A dream that I almost never thought would still come true. And of course I would have wished that something like that would have worked for the release of the first album "Nemesis". But it is as it is and I am glad that I can now work with Massacre. The label is actually located only a few kilometers away from me, so it was almost a logical consequence that we came together. Of course, I have been following Massacre's work right from the start and I am now happy to be part of the family. I hope that the partnership will last for the foreseeable future.

As dark as the music, as well as dark as the album’s title. I wonder, when you thought about what would be best to title the album, how did you come up with the raven? What does it symbolize for you? Do you believe that it is a form of seer, like Game Of Thrones’ Third-Eye Raven, or is it actually a watcher that sees and hears all?

The raven is of course an icon, which has many meanings, especially in mythology but it can also be found in modern literature (everyone knows "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe). I myself find the two ravens “Huginn” and “Muninn” in the “Poetic Edda” very exciting in their meaning, because "thought" and "memory" are terms that underlie many of my texts. They are also a nice contrast to the white dove, which is often used in Christianity.

In this specific case however, the raven is a symbol for the restless and dark thoughts that leave you lying awake at night and then haunt you during the day. Worries, fears or seemingly insurmountable challenges. I myself have spent many sleepless nights in which I have not been able to get out of the brooding. At some point this can also become a problem. Not just because there is no sleep, but because it is increasingly difficult to get out of these deep valleys. Incidentally, the basic idea behind the song “Hör den Tod" was very similar.

“The Raven’s Shadow”, like most albums that goes deep, is an exploration trip through darkness, whether through the psych of humanity or its actions. What is your input regarding the human condition, are we evolving as personas or rather we are at a degradation point?

When I look at the global situation, I have to conclude that humanity is unfortunately regressing again. We have the climate catastrophe, mass exodus from the aftermath of wars or from highly disadvantaged regions and, last but not least, many political upheavals worldwide. And there is much, much more that I won’t list here.

From what I can observe from my surroundings, the corona pandemic has unfortunately only briefly improved living together in a few aspects. For a time, most people were considerate and looked after disadvantaged groups. In the meantime, however, this is waning again and more and more people only look after themselves. That actually makes me very sad, but also angry. With all of these aspects, I currently see little hope that mankind will continue to develop culturally and can take an important step towards the preservation of its own species.

Of course, not everything is bad. There are also a few bright spots that give hope. People who can make an important contribution to people through their actions and thinking. In this context, I also think it is important to clearly state that these are often women who can show us men the right way. We (men) should recognize this, accept it and work for a societal change that makes this fully possible and does not disadvantage women and girls any more. It will be for all our benefit.

Do you believe that mankind, within its roots, and judging across history, that it is evil from within, only waiting to burst out at another, looking to pick a fight?

I don't think humanity is fundamentally evil. Every child is born without prejudice and is not interested in skin color, religion, sexual orientation or anything else. But over the centuries and in all cultures, mankind has managed to establish framework conditions that repeatedly reveal the bad side of people. These can be economic aspects, religious dogmas or social issues. Humanity has always been influenced in its actions and often not for the better. Clearly there are also very individual predispositions that make a person do bad things. But often this happens in the context of the circumstances described above.

Don't get me wrong: As already said, not everything is bad in this world and there are also many positive things. Things that may sometimes be overshadowed by negative events and therefore receive less attention. Perhaps it would be an approach to not only do these good things but also talk a lot more about them …

The album’s musical approach is yet again another impressive example of the unification of Black and Death Metal, on their contemporary versions, while also being able to achieve a kind of harmonic atmosphere that is so soothing within the veils of aggression. Looking back to the not so far past, how would you describe the progress and development of this project’s music?

First of all, it is very important to me that music develops at all. I don't want to stagnate in this regard and always add new facets to the songs. These do not necessarily have to be major changes, because the details are also important to me. It also helps me to constantly face new musical challenges.  What I try to achieve is not to limit myself too much musically, even if I'm of course within a certain genre. A three-minute high-speed song alongside an epic, very melodic piece? Sure, why not! What’s important is, what exactly fits and works for this one song, which mood I want to convey and to a certain extent also what reflects the lyrics best.

If I look specifically at the two albums, I believe that the music as a whole has become more consistent and also reflects the experience that I have gained in songwriting over the years. I now look much more closely at the structure of the songs and try to cut off the "excess fat" so to speak. I absolutely tend to write longer songs and I will keep that, but I'm thinking more about how often song parts should be repeated and where it makes sense to leave things out. This makes many songs more compact and accessible to the listener. I also increasingly write the songs with the ulterior motive of bringing them onto the stage at some point.

What sources would you say inspired you while writing the music for “The Raven’s Shadow”?

I always try to go through life with my eyes open and get the inspiration for my music and lyrics from various sources. Of course, you always already bring a certain set of musical basics with you that are deeply rooted in you. These are the foundation and always have an impact on songwriting. But I also try to listen to a variety of new music (new at least for me), which can then set the creative process in motion. I don't limit myself to Metal but also listen to other genres of music, because there are so many great ideas out there and it would be a shame to miss them. But don’t worry, you definitely will never hear an electronic album or Hip-Hop from me.

What I also like to do is to look at transcriptions of songs I like and to see if there’s inspiration in it for me. Sometimes it’s only one chord, rhythmic choices that were made or the way two parts are stitched together. The songs for an album are usually created over a longer period of time, so the influences can be very different. But I like that, because it also leads to more variance on the album and hopefully it will be more entertaining for the listeners.

With “The Raven’s Shadow” being a part of a vast sea of albums coming and going, what do you think that makes it special, standing out in comparison to most of the albums crossing the same line of music out there?

This is perhaps the most difficult question in this interview, because actually the listeners should judge the album and not myself.

It is true, of course, that there are a large number of publications today. These differ in many respects, but they have one thing in common: they are all accessible online and can potentially reach every listener. In order to stand out here, in my opinion the whole package has to be right. And I would say that is definitely the case with “The Raven’s Shadow”. Both - sound and artwork - can keep up with any "big" production, after all I was able to get real established professionals in their field to work on this project. Also the signing by Massacre Records now gives Bloodred much more visibility than it was previously the case. I am very much hopeful that many more people will have the opportunity to deal with my music.

Finally, I am proud to say that the album so far has received good to very good reviews from all over the world. That should also speak for "The Raven’s Shadow".

Other than the music, which made its mark, there is your session drummer, Joris Nijenhuis, behind the skins. He really kicked a notch with his contribution to the record. What is your appreciation of his skills and impact on the record?

Joris is not only a great person, but of course also a great drummer. I keep saying - and I mean it seriously - that the music is better because of his playing! He gets programmed drums from me and thus knows in which direction I imagine the drum parts to be. However, he always has the freedom to change things and adapt them to his style and music. After all, I'm not a drummer from home and Joris knows much better what goes with the songs. It comes to pass that Joris is a very precise drummer, but this is never at the expense of the dynamism in his playing. And so it doesn't matter whether it is slow songs or Blastbeat-parts, he is always very present with his drums. And what more could you ask for?

With the mentioning of Mr. Nijenhuis, I wonder, and you were probably asked, yet I don’t know the answer myself, why isn’t Bloodred a full time band?

Well, it just hasn't happened yet. I tried to find the right musicians in my area for some time, but was unfortunately not really successful. That's why at some point I decided to continue Bloodred as a studio project because I didn't want to let this circumstance slow me down in my creativity. I am very happy that Joris joined the band for the recordings-sessions, but since he unfortunately lives too far away, it is currently not possible to run Bloodred as a real band. However, it is still one of my goals to finally be able to play my music live. And who knows, maybe the release of "The Raven’s Shadow" via Massacre will open up new opportunities …

Going into depth of the tracks, the sorrowful “Hör Den Tod” was the first to pinch me. Even though it is in German, I read about it in the dossier. It appears to be dealing with suicide. Its atmosphere was created by the riffs and melodic elements, attributed to the mournful nature of the track. What is your input about it? Is it based on your personal impression of the subject or is there something more to it?

“Hör den Tod" is mainly about depression. For many people, depression is still not a serious illness, rather the sick are simply “just a little sad". Of course, it's nothing like this. Depression can affect everyone, many may even have suffered from it in one form or another without being recognized. I myself would say that something like that caught me at night when I lay sleepless and very dark thoughts were in my head (this situation was also the trigger for the text and is reflected in the first verse). Depression can be treated with timely detection and the right environment, and this often happens very successfully. But unfortunately, this is not always the case and those affected then resort to the last exit and commit suicide. The lyrics to the song pick up on this and try to accompany this process so to speak.

When I listened to “Under The Sun”, understanding that it is your appreciation of nature, first I expected an instrumental and got instead an actual song. I was a bit puzzled as largely this track is quite heavy, not what I expected as I mentioned from a nature driven kind of tune. What is your take on that? Is it more than meets the ear?

Well, I like to not meet expectations. The song "Under This Sun" was actually created as a counterpart to the many rather dark lyrics. I wanted to take into account the fact that there are of course many wonderful and beautiful things in this world that you should discover and explore with your eyes open. At the same time, one should of course not forget that we humans are seriously damaging nature and that we all have to rethink! There is no plan B for our planet.

Lyrically, I take up different areas of fauna and flora in the verses. In the first it is water as the foundation for life, in the second verse it’s the animal world and then it goes into the plant realm. Musically, this is reflected by the fact that each verse is completely independent and only the chorus is repeated.

“We Who Ruled The North”, I actually had an army of the North kind of thought while listening, as if I could take several scenes out of Game Of Thrones and create a video for the song rather than Vikings. What was your inspiration to write this tune?

The basis for the text for this song was a documentary about the Christianization of Scandinavia. In this it was described in detail how, on the one hand, the missionaries carried the Christian faith north and how, on the other hand, the "pagan" northern peoples reacted to it. What I found particularly interesting was the fact that the leaders often switched to Christianity from pure opportunism because they realized that this was the only way to maintain their power. It therefore did not necessarily have anything to do with the fact that people were really evangelized, but it was very mundane worldly things.

In my opinion, missionary work is one of the worst excesses of organized religions. Wanting to force one's own worldviews to people of other beliefs (or no beliefs at all) is an abysmal evil for me. The missionized people not only lose part of their own identity, but also a lot of culture is often lost. And that is something that I really regret, because even if I personally do not care about the “spiritual levels”, it is art, literature or architecture that often suffer as a result and are eventually forgotten.

Other than merely promoting the album through the media, and probably also on social media as an extra mile, did you have any thoughts or directions of how to promote the album further? Perhaps live stream sessions of you playing perhaps?

In fact, I have already given some thoughts about this but so far have not managed to really tackle it. On the one hand I currently hardly have the time and on the other hand I am not sure if in the end I will be the only one in the stream … If your readers are interested in something like this, please let me know Twitter or Facebook!

With the given time in lockdown, or semi-lockdown, any work started on the next album?

I am always writing new music, lockdown or not. That's why I'm actually quite far with new songs, a good 30 minutes of new music are in advanced stages. Of course I cannot yet say when I will start recording a new album and when it could be released. That would be too hasty in the current situation. But the good news is: I’m working on it!

Ron, thank you very much for your time for this interview. You inspired me and I couldn’t be happier about it. Many thanks sir.

Thank you very much, stay safe!


 



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