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Nightbearer's Dominik Hellmuth: "In Swedish Death Metal, it's all about the chainsaw sound and the groove, at least for me. So if the band grooves and has a big nasty chainsaw going, it's most probably something I dig."

Interview with Dominik Hellmuth from Nightbearer
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 27 November 2019, 8:27 PM

From being a whole loads of fun into a slowly developed career, which in the future might change priorities for several individuals. However, it might be too early to tell, as only, more or less, the first steps were made. Therefore, patience is a virtue, yet it is expected to change fate sooner than one thinks. Nightbearer, hailing from German, are Swedish Death Metal addicts. Adding inspiring themes to their music, and you have yourself a bowl of fantastic deadliness. Steinmetal talked to one of the main guys of the project, Dominik Hellmuth, about the debut album, "Tales Of Sorcery And Death", how it all started, lyrical themes, chainsaws and a few giggles. 

Cheers Dominik, I am glad to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how has life been treating your mate?

Well, thanks for having me, man. The whole last year was a really great experience. Besides building my YouTube-Channel I was of course heavily into recording and producing the album. As of right now we're focused organizing all the pre orders as well as our album release party in December, so you could say that life is really intense right now, both on work and anticipation.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure to get to know your baby, or one of your babies, Nightbearer, carrying the torch of early 90s Swedish Death Metal, even though it is German based. Before we get down to the groove of your debut album, what can you tell about Nightbearer’s foundation? Is it considered also a live band or merely a studio project? Since you have been with several bands, what inspired you to create Nightbearer?

NIGHTBEARER started as a strict fun and studio project of Micha (voc) and me. We had some riffs and half-finished songs lying around that did not quite fit into the styles of our other bands, but were too good to not record. We are both great fans of Old School Swedish Death Metal, but never actually spoke about it. When we found out that we both wanted to make such music ourselves one day, we had the idea to start NIGHTBEARER as a side project, formed those ideas into 5 songs and made the EP “Stories From Beyond”. We got the great opportunity to release it via Unholy Fire Records in 2018 and got so much positive feedback, that we just had to take it more serious.

It was in summer 2018 when we agreed on bringing NIGHTBEARER to the stage. So we asked our friends Manu (dr), Oempfi (b) (both also in my other band Hate Force One) and Chris (g) (in Micha's and my band Despised) to help us out. They agreed immediately and we played our first live show on December, 1st (my birthday actually). We played a couple more live shows and will do so in the future, so I think it's clear we're also a live band.

Since I noticed your devotion to old school Swedish Death Metal, which bands would you say inspired you the most, whether material and sound wise? What captures your ears the most while listening to the old Scandinavian brutality?

Originally it was Bloodbath that inspired me to write this style of music. Both their songs and sound, especially on “Grand Morbid Funeral” had a huge impact on me. I think it's the pinnacle of a chainsaw sound. Follow ups are Edge of Sanity and Entombed, although I have to say that Dismember has become a greater influence since the beginning of NIGHTBEARER. There are of course a lot of other great bands, but since you asked about “the most”, we'll leave it with those guys.

In Swedish Death Metal, it's all about the chainsaw sound and the groove, at least for me. So if the band grooves and has a big nasty chainsaw going, it's most probably something I dig. And if there are some fine melodies added, that's the icing of the cake.

Soon to be released by Testimony Records, “Tales Of Sorcery And Death” is about to see the light of day, or darkness for that matter, just to keep it in the right mood. With the album now finished, and the only thing that stands in the way is waiting for the physical copies, are you satisfied with the end result after listening to it? Which I am sure that you did more than once. Anything that you would have done differently, given the chance?

Since I did the whole production including mixing and mastering, I definitely heard every song at least twice haha. We all are very satisfied with the result. You have to keep in mind that this was my first real production, so there are always some things that you can improve, but… and I think that's the best answer someone who just finished mixing and album can give… I still like to listen to the album. I'm not tired of any song at all. I hope that's a good sign we did it well. I would however do one thing differently. I'd invest in some better gates for the drumheads. Editing all those unwanted noises was no fun at all.

Lyrically, I noticed that you have been inspired by the worlds of Fantasy and Horror. Generally speaking, would you say that in a twisted way both themes are actually completing each other, like you can’t have one without the other in order to have yourself something out of this world?

No, I would disagree. Fantasy is at least for me the escape from your normal life into a different world where there are things that just aren't possible, but still fascinating, like magic, dragons, orks, elves, dwarfs, you name it. Horror on the other hand can of course also be very unrealistic, but very real as well. It's mostly about great fear and stuff like that, which we have plenty to see just by turning on the news every day. So in my opinion those are two independent genres. However, if we go a bit intellectual, you could argument, that both genres have the elements of fear and fantasy, only assessed differently. That being said I still don't think of Horror when I read about Frodo's journey to Amon Amarth, although he was certainly frightened.

Haha, I bet they don't, and that is an interesting argument right there

When it comes to “Tales Of Sorcery And Death”, as any artist shed of himself into his creation, how did your personality connect with the songs’ themes? Any particular experiences that you had that were implemented between the lines?

Micha is responsible for all the lyrics, I just make sure that enough people die, haha. The intention behind the lyrics is to tell stories rather than explain what's going on in our heads. We both have other bands where we can do this if we want to. NIGHTBEARER's concept is different however. There may be some personal feelings implemented, but if so, it's very subtle and rather has an impact on the general mood of the lyrics of a single song. You know, we just want to make the listener dive deep into a story and if he likes it maybe get the book it's based on. Now that I've said it… we should consider getting some endorsement deals with bookstores haha.

Have you had a chance to see the trailer of the prequel series for Game Of Thrones, named House Of The Dragon? It doesn’t seem too official but provides a good idea of what is expected. Will you find yourself writing material in the light of this upcoming prequel for Nightbearer?

I haven't seen the Trailer yet; I try to avoid trailers because they normally spoil too much for my taste. I prefer to watch a series/film or read a book with just knowing as little as possible to experience the story like the author intended. That being said, Micha and I are some old school nerds, so lyrics are most probably based only on written words. But never say never.

As mentioned, “Tales Of Sorcery And Death” is a result of a tough love, or admiration, towards the Swedish kind of Death Metal. However, I am sure that while writing the material for this album, you had in mind to establish your own vision in the tunes. What do you think makes this release to become a standout? What does Nightbearer bring to the table with this album?

Yes, of course. We didn't just want to copy our heroes or stuff like that. I think, the combination of fantasy, that can mostly be found in Power Metal, and the Swedish Death Metal sound is pretty unique. Add to this our love for strong, catchy Choruses and melodies in general and you basically have what will hopefully let us stand out of all the releases. Lyrics in general and the whole visual concept is a big part of NIGHTBEARER and stands equally to the songs. I think, that also rather unique, because I know a lot of bands that just have lyrics because they have to.

What is your general approach towards writing a song? What makes you buzz into start playing and eventually recording a piece of a tune?

I have no typical approach actually. Either I just grab my guitar while watching something on YouTube or a movie or series and just play around until I suddenly hear something cool or I intentional power up my PC for a writing session and start playing until I have some riffs. I always tab my ideas to preserve them and then I add drums, work them out to full songs and add bass. After that I let a song rest for some time and come back at it. If it's good, I consider it finished. If not, I redo it until I'm satisfied. Recording it is the very last step and I almost exclusively record already finished songs.

How can you describe the songwriting process of “Tales Of Sorcery And Death”? Was it a joint venture with your vocalist or you made it happen on your own?

Micha and I both gather ideas and riffs and write songs for NIGHTBEARER. We both know where the other one has his strength and weaknesses. Micha for example is exceptional good at arranging parts to whole songs and I consider myself the better riff-writer. So we interchange songs and rewrite/rearrange everything a couple of times until we're both happy. As for this album, we had a good writing speed with only a few disagreements, but we know each other for so long that we know exactly how to convince the other one of our ideas. After the songs are ready, I add the bass lines and the solos and then Micha adds the lyrics.

Do you believe that “Tales Of Sorcery And Death” had a strong contribution to your songwriting skills and musicianship? What would you say that you learned from this album’s creation experience?

I think every written songs evolves your skills. I had not much experience in writing Swedish Death Metal before, because I was more into Melodic Death Metal, but now I know way better how to achieve a specific mood. I generally pushed aside all the music theory I know as well and composed more with my ears on this album. And to answer more specifically (or nerdy), I think two things stand out for me. I learned to embrace the d-beat and evolved my lead writing over uncommon chord progressions.

I don't have to mention the experience I got while mixing and mastering the record, because I was totally in uncharted waters. Now I consider myself almost tolerable ;-)

Unless it is some sort of an error in the promo, the song “The Gods May Weep” sounds like a cacophony, a rat salad, such dissonance that I have yet to experience. In overall, it sounds out of sync, the rhythm section gone wild, creating a different pace. Was this intentional or did I step on a landmine here?

I think this was indeed a landmine and shows what happens when you push a random button in Cubase you're not supposed to push. The intention behind “The Gods May Weep” was to create a doomish, slow, heavy behemoth of a song. The tonal equivalent of a weeping god basically.

On the other hand, “As Cold As Their Eyes”, which I am sure that you meant the White Walkers, is one of the album’s strongest numbers. It develops into a blistering melodic haunter, with dramatic flavors, crushing with its heaviness, which also echoes of a bit of extreme Doom. What is your appreciation of this song? What can you tell about its source? How did it come to be?

Before I started recording the album, “As Cold As Their Eyes” started as a normal song, considered almost a filler. But after tracking vocals and starting the mix, we realized how much the track grew on us and how strong it really is. Now it's actually Oempfi's favorite track. The basic idea came from Micha and I added some parts to it as well as the eerie effects on the lead guitar during the chorus. I think this one was a finished rather quickly. The lyrics are actually based on a Dungeons & Dragons Adventure involving an evil sorcerer, who creates chimeras out of merely all living creatures' bodyparts - just to see if he's able to do so (kind of Victor Frankenstein). At least that's what Micha told us, but now that you've mentioned it, I can totally see the White Walker references. Interesting way of reading it with this in mind!

And here is the clincher question, what is your most influential track out of this album? Which song means to you than the rest? Please elaborate on your pick

Oh man, that's like asking about someone's favorite child. But anyways, I try to answer as good as I can. My personal favorite is “Beware The Necromancer” which happens to be the first single. I chose it because it combines everything I want to have in NIGHTBEARER. Aggression, Groove, catchy Chorus with some nice guitar melody and some sweet Solos. I have to make an honorable mention though: “Lycanthropic Death Squad” is a killer song as well with all those trademarks and is so much fun to play live I had to smuggle it into this answer.

From what I noticed, the spectacular artwork, is bound by the album’s title, impressively shows your devotion to both Horror and Fantasy themes. What can you tell about the imagery? How do these two worlds collide in this beauty?

As I mentioned before, everything in NIGHTBEARER is connected. Music, lyrics, design. The artwork shows our mascot the nameless Wanderer who is also seen on the EP's cover, riding on a griffin. We also see a necromancer at his tower, from where he summons all kinds of undead creatures and monsters that can be found on both front and back of our cover. The land itself only consists of ruins and devastated lowlands, because he sucked all life out of it. The Wanderer is always on the quest for knowledge, magic, secrets and tales. Being a tragic figure, he is of course always a part of the darkest stories. The cover shows one of those stories. If you look closely, you can see that the necromancer is surrounded by tentacles… but why? Has the Wanderer stolen the book (also seen on the EP's cover) from him and tries to escape? Or is he about to start fighting against another enemy who was foreshadowed on the EP's cover as well?

Mmm… That's very interesting indeed… I took the chance of looking at it quite a lot while listening to the music, yet I never questioned the situations

Where do you see Nightbearer going in the coming years? Let’s call it roughly your five years' plan going forward

Haha, obviously I won't tell you all our plans for the future, but of course we want to play a couple of live shows, maybe some of the bigger festivals or in some neighboring countries. And we will of course release new material. Five years is enough time for at least one new record, but before thinking too far in the future, we like to enjoy the present and the release of the current album.

To which new bands have you been listening to lately? Any particular starlets that you believe are to be the next in line?

Micha is way more open to new releases than I am and would probably write a whole page of recommendations, but recently I listened to Malignat Altar from the US and really liked their Demo. It has a modern Morbid Angel vibe to it, pretty cool. And of course we all can't await the Strigoi album that's coming out tomorrow as of making this interview. When I go away from strict Death Metal, I think Jinjer will be the next big thing, although they are around for some time. Apart from that I have to disappoint you, I mostly listen to stuff from bands that are around for some time.

Are there plans to support “Tales Of Sorcery And Death” in 2020? Is Nightbearer also made for touring?

Yes, we already have scheduled some live shows in 2020 and will hopefully add a couple more in the next weeks. Anyone who wants to support us can buy a CD or LP as well as some Merch from us. We even made some Shirts with the album's cover art that look really cool.

We spoke about touring recently. It's pretty difficult with our day jobs. 3 of us have little kids as well, so we most probably won't tour a whole week or even a month. But we could do some mini weekend tours f.e. In the future.

Dominik, I wish to deeply thank you for this interview. Your old school vision has a lot in it, and I am sure that your will be continuing in the same manner on your sophomore. All the best.

I have to thank you for those wonderful questions, that were really deep and a joy to answer. I hope a lot of people will enjoy our album and approve the Chainsaw, Sword and Sorcery we have to offer. Cheers.



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