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Human Fortress's Volker Trost: "There is no "Reign of Gold", or a "Raided Land" or "Thieves of The Night" or "Defenders of the Crown", just Human Fortress"

Interview with Volker Trost from Human Fortress
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 13 December 2019, 12:21 AM

It has been a while since the last time the focus was on Human Fortress, however, there is no better time to come back to the band as it celebrates twenty years of existence along with a new record titled, "Reign Of Gold". Steinmetal talked to the band's longtime guitarist, Volker Trost, about the could be celebrations for the anniversary, the new record, songwriting and more..

Greetings Volker, it has been a while since we last spoke, I am glad to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine. How have you been doing?

Hi Lior, thanks again for keeping us in mind after three years. Everyone in the Band ins fine. After lots of work and fun, of course, we finally recorded 16 ( ! ) songs in the last years. So I´m really happy that "Reign of Gold" is now released.

Before we head towards the main course of this interview, which is Human Fortress’ new album, let’s talk a bit about two decades of Human Fortress. I must have missed, but did you have any special shows to celebrate this proud achievement? If not, will you doing anything to commemorate this highly important milestone in your career?

20 years is a long time, you´re right. As you may know our singer Gus is from Brazil, Rio de Janeiro. It would be great to have a special show to celebrate it, but in this moment we´re working with our booking agency Lucky Bob to play live shows during the festival season 2020. To play only one show is not easy to organize and If Gus comes to Europe it makes more sense to be focused on a few shows during the summer season. Probably we can catch up a special show like we did in Lux Hannover 2017 during this festival season.

Another one to sink in, looking back to the first days of the band, were there decisions that you regret not taking? Any things, given the chance, that you would have changed?

After the "Lord of Earth and Heavens Heir" and "Defenders of the Crown" we´d played a bunch of live shows and were voted to the second best band at Wacken Open Air 2003, after Slayer of course! and we started to wrote new songs. Unfortunately, that formation broke up, I took a few years' family leave and the rest of the members worked further which ended with the release of "Eternal Empire". If I could turn back time, with the knowledge of today, we should have been tried to keep the former formation together. I think with Jioti as singer and a third album written by the former members should have been the logical next step, but as you can see it´s not that easy. "Eternal Empire" is a cool album and once I talked to our former bass player Pablo, who agreed, the album was cool but at least not Human Fortress. Perhaps we would have had a little more success if that has not happened? I´m not sure ….

Alright, here we go with Human Fortress’ brand new “Reign Of Gold”. By looking through the artwork, am I looking at King Midas and his touch of gold? Is there a unifying concept for this album? If not, on which main theme does it wander in?

During the writing sessions and after finishing some songs we´d start to think about an album name. At that time the song "Reign of Gold" was nearly finished and grew and grew. We thought that could be a cool Album Name and Toddy talked to our cover artist Kristijan Kulis from Croatia. They worked out that this theme with a King who is lost in his might and greed. He turned his kingdom and nation into slaves to get more and more …. as you can see in the background. So, are we so far away from nowadays? … Regarding a possible concept I can say that we tried to keep the "Defenders of the Crown" feeling in our minds. It´s about battles, might, injustice, fright, love, hate and loosing friends on your way of life. Lots to interpret.

Talking about the philosophy of “Reign Of Gold”, how do you find yourself connected to the ideas behind the songs? And I mean by lyrically. Any personal experiences that are lurking between the lines?

"The Bullet of Betrayal" is based on the idea of Laki and Dirk. A nobleman who shot his king from behind. "Shining Light" is from Toddy about his emotions as he has lost his dad. "Lucifers Waltz" is written on a 3/4 beat which is a little challenge in Metal music. I think you can read in between every lyric line some personal experiences from us, shown in a mostly medieval surrounding. At its best every listener can read his own life in between the lines – hopefully not that hard as written in the lyrics.

If there is something that I am pleased is that you guys didn’t really change any major aspects of your music after “Thieves of the Night”. “Reign Of Gold” continues the heritage of the band, overblown with melodic features that are in command, and for the better. However, nearly every band out there usually states that there is a development stage that is still going, even in veteran bands. Therefore, I ask you, how do you believe that Human Fortress developed in this album?

I think our development is that we try to define every song new. To work out new themes and riffs is sometimes not that easy. You can do copy and paste but If Toddy and I sit there and play riffs we try to keep the Human Fortress typical style in mind and find some new ideas at the same time. So for me every song and every new record is a development. To hear something new in every song and to say yes, that's Human Fortress, is my personal development. I´m really blown away from the last Maiden, Saxon and Priest releases who did exactly the same. You hear something new and the known in the same time – really great.

For one thing, if we are continuing about differentiations, some of “Reign Of Gold” feels rather epic in comparison to the previous releases. In your view, what makes “Reign Of Gold” a pictorial of royalty and epic proportions?

I think this depends on the mix of every record. "Raided Land" and "Thieves of the Night" are full of Keys and orchestrations but with the Reign of Gold we wanted them more present and as I can see, you noted it well. If you call it royalty and epic than I´m really happy because than we have reached the Human Fortress trademarks.

Another element that has a few twists in “Reign Of Gold” is the approach towards the songwriting. No doubt that some of the band’s memorable songs to date are part of this album. Even with the cloak of epicenes, it is hard to detach oneself from a number of tunes. Did it just come natural for you while writing the songs or was it intentional to come up with the best possible catchiness without being cheesy or selling out?

If we came together and write music it is Human Fortress. We have a ton of Ideas who didn´t work for us and abandoned them. You can easily do some records with these ideas. A secret is that you must have the strength to do it. If the basic ideas are worked out you´re right, the chorus must open the song and be a little catchy but the hell not cheesy … If you´d hear a song and can whistle it´s melody than we did everything right.

How would you describe the songwriting on “Reign Of Gold”? Other than the ultra-catchiness that I noticed, anything in the process changed in comparison to the previous album?

"Reign of Gold" is a catchy song of course. If we start to write a song it´s formerly about ideas. We put together these and see what happens. The basic idea is an old riff we kept in mind over years. This worked really good in this song but let him increase and get opened in that type of chorus ins sometime hard work, sometimes luck or just be there… I think you can compare this song to our previous albums also. There is no "Reign of Gold", but a "Raided Land" or "Thieves of The Night" or "Defenders of the Crown", just Human Fortress.

Talking about the importance of the song, there has been a phenomenon nowadays, especially when it comes to the modernized driven Metal bands, to show off with technical abilities, while in the process somewhat dumping the actual songs to the can. What is your opinion about how a song is perceived nowadays? Are the souls of the songs slowly dying?

Mmmh, I´m not sure. At first every musician/ band plays his way of music. At least the listener must decide if there is a soul in a song or not. My opinion is, that every musician has to tell something and if you look behind the lyrics or an arrangement there will be a soul. Sometimes obviously, sometimes not or not for everyone.

I’ll be honest, I usually like to hear about a certain song’s source and origins out of the album, yet I am rather torn up between several tracks. So, I will pick “Martial Valor”. What can you tell about this song? It sure has that little 80s Hard Rock meets AOR in its veins, yet under the hand of Metal.

At first, with the intro, we tried to bring you back to the medieval times. Talking about fear and aggression which is in everyone. If you hear 80´s it´s really o.k. for me. Toddy is a big AOR fan but we have a song who is more influenced from AOR and so we decided to put him not in this record. But yes, over all we are influenced here and there.

Did you have a chance to play some of the new songs live? If so, what were the reactions by your followers?

For me it depends on the fans. We played some sets with songs who didn´t get on fire live. Songs who are working really great on an album but not live. A setlist should be well chosen. After playing the shows with Orden Ogan we had a lot of positive feedback. The fans were really impressed from us and asked what the hell a band … why don´t we know you … A setlist which has faster songs only one or two slower one is the best way to play around 45 minutes. If a set is longer you must be careful that the listener will not be bored.

Are there any plans to make an official video to one of the songs of “Reign Of Gold”? I noticed that you already have a lyric for “Thunder”, which is an explosive song as well.

We released "Legion of the Damned" before and yes, around February there will be a third video which song is still a secret, to bring us back in mind. Unfortunately, there will be now official performance video. We produced 16 songs overall and there is no money left for this.

Speaking of which, do you prefer lyric videos in favor of actual filmed clips? Do you think that the industry shifts towards lyric or animated videos in order to save costs for an actual filming? Does it work promotional wise?

Yes, I think that´s the reason. A performance video is not that expensive but a little story in it would help always to bring it up to life. Nowadays not every band has a deal but you need something that promotes your music. I that case a lyric video can be a good solution. As we started wo thought about this Gus introduces us Gabby Vessoni, a good friend of him and we saw her style of lyric videos and find them perfect for our new release. A cool lyric video who has the message also in it.

Heading back to the two decades of Human Fortress, what still keeps you motivated to continue heading forward with the band?

We have lots of Ideas which are good for one or two records. With the "Reign of Gold" we did a further step in terms of songwriting and production. I can listen to this new record every day and be happy. If we can keep this flame alive I think we can continue making music.

What do you think are the main challenges for Human Fortress, and I don’t mean merely the support of “Reign Of Gold”?

Every song is a little challenge. Everyone in our band has some basic tastes and some special also. To bring these together and to say that everyone is happy with a song is our main challenge.

As for the support of the new album, where is Human Fortress headed in 2020?

We hope to play and introduce "Reign of Gold" in summer 2020 live. Everyone wants to see us live and is asking, from UK and Europe up to the States and South America. We are ready if you are ;-)

Volker, I wish to thank you for this interview, it was good to catch up after a long time. Nothing but the best for you guys in the band. Continue blowing minds. Cheers.

Thanks a lot Lior for the interest of Metal Temple to do this interview. It was my pleasure to talk to you. I hope it will not take another three years to talk to you again. All the best to you, your colleagues of Metal Temple and your families. Merry Christmas and a happy new year. Keep the flame alive. Cheers Volker


 



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