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Terra Atlantica's Tristan Harders: "For the lower classes it doesn’t really matter which higher class holds the power. The problem is the fact that there is a higher class at all"

Interview with Tristan Harders from Terra Atlantica
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 17 October 2022, 10:43 PM

Can the savior become the oppressor? It is possible that anyone can become an oppressor, no matter the intentions that are at heart, it is how the person is being perceived, by actions made. When an empire falls for another empire, who said that freedom is at hand, and in the stories of Terra Atlantica, maybe the answer lies within the technological universe of Atlantis. Tristan Harders, and the crew, return with another epos, continuing the previous chapter, relishing on the name of "Beyond The Borders", and there are many to be crossed. Steinmetal had the pleasure to pick Harder's mind about the new release.

Hello Tristan, and here we are again, I believe that it is the third time that we speak, and second time on Terra Atlantica, how have you been doing kind sir?

I am doing great, thank you! The new album is being received very well.

Last time that we spoke I believe that it was last year, when the pandemic was still relevant but there were signs of relief. Looking back and onwards into the future, I guess that you are quite relieved that all of this is over? Well, let’s hope that it is over and we have the tools to confront it again.

Well the pandemic might be kind of over but now we have the war, inflation and a crumbling economy, so I wouldn’t actually call these ‘brighter times’.

Onwards to glory, as it has been said. You return with Terra Atlantica, the adventurous Power Metal band for another run in the high seas. The emergence of the new album, “Beyond The Borders” is a continuance of the story of “Age Of Steam” but decades later. Prior to us dwelling into the story, I have to ask about the title. Is there an insinuation towards the notion that you also crossed borders other than maintaining the storyline?

The title ‘Beyond the Borders’ has a double meaning. At first of course it refers to the story but I can also tell you that we definitely went beyond the borders of our musical skills while recording this album. It’s a lot more complex and partially faster than the previous ones. You will also find that we went beyond the borders of the usual power metal toolbox and experimented with some other music styles.

 “Beyond The Borders” deals in a different scenery, with the British crown defeated, only to succumb to the rule of the Prussian uprising, taking the reins of the European continent. So, from your perspective, the British were better than the Prussians? Is there a form of regret that can be detected within the songs?

From the opressed citizens’ point of view, none of them is really better. It’s the old ‘the king is dead, long live the king’-story that has happened many times throughout history. For the lower classes it doesn’t really matter which higher class holds the power. The problem is the fact that there is a higher class at all.

Out of all this mess going on, there is another rebellion at hand, against the Prussians I presume, of a group of folks that probably want more from themselves and the world. In a manner of speaking, I guess that it never really ends doesn’t it, the struggle I mean? The karmic wheel never stops turning as it seems.

Yes, exactly. The constant rise and fall of empires is a theme that we already dealt with on our first album ‘A City Once Divine’. I guess it will never end and this is just the way of humanity.

There is the story of the stone accompanying this group of rebels, and it being served as a compass, or a guide, towards Atlantica. The journey is far from easy, with these rebels found out and pursued. How can Atlantica save Europe? Simply providing its technological essence?

That's a good question. You got me there. It's something I will still have to figure out for the story doesn't really end with the album. The way to Atlantica is discovered but we don't find out what happens there. Maybe future albums will tell this tale? The advanced technology could of course be a gamechanger in the struggle present, the same thing that we are witnessing in the real world at the moment. But I don't think that's it all. In the end, somehow the power has to come from the mindset of the people.

When you make an analogy between the story and our very own reality, what do you make of it really? From where I am sitting, it is a falling superpower only to be substituted with another. What about the oppression that you present, how does this element, which can also be referenced to the old world, make its mark?

I wrote this album in 2020, so any relations to current events are purely coincidential. However, you can see the powers depicted in our albums as your different inner personalities at war. In Transactional Analysis by Eric Berne or Schema Therapy by Jeffrey E. Young the human psyche is subdivided in several segments that are stiering our thouhgts and actions.

Once again, I was taken by the artwork, with “Beyond The Borders” showing something that could be found in a movie scene, an outstanding piece of work. What can you tell about this scene that I am looking at? Is it the final battle of the rebels?

The cover shows a scene from the song ‘Hellfire’ in which the ship of the rebels is engaged in a cannonfight with the pursuing Prussian ship. In the background we can see the tower of the castle, that is occupied by the pirates, guiding the way to Atlantica with a beam of light. The scene is of course modified a bit to make it more dramatic. None of the ships actually burns in the story. The rebels escape by sailing into shallow waters where they can’t be followed. So the pursuaders might have their revenge in the next album.

Earlier on, in our previous talk about “Age Of Steam”, I talked about the operatic nature of Terra Atlantica. I believe that within “Beyond The Borders” a step forward was made, making the album to become a strong theatrical showcase, entrusting itself by Power Metal core, but engineered with additional elements for enrichment. What is your take on the course of the music on the album?

Well the idea was to make a power metal musical, undeniably inspired by me watching Les Miserables shortly before writing this album. So unlike Age of Steam, which is basically power metal songs with an added orchestration, Beyond the Borders is a musical with added power metal around it. This gave me the possibility to experiment with different musical elements and styles, which I find very important in the creation of music because this way it never gets boring.

“Age Of Steam” might have introduced me to the cinematic possibilities that were, and could, be put to work in such a musical infrastructure as Terra Atlantica, but one of the chief aspects of “Beyond The Borders” hit me every time, and there is a connection to those enrichments that I talked about. How were these attributes implemented to the songwriting of the album?

This question cannot be answered logically as I do not think A and B = C. When creating music such as Terra Atlantica, you cannot plan ahead and conceptualize all elements. It is not like shopping for a meal you want to cook. It is more like there is this feeling inside of me and I want this feeling molded into music. I would say by intuition and gut feeling. Most of the elements implemented in the music of this album were derived from dreams I had beforehand. You could call the final product an output of coagulated dreams.

Bringing in fresh, and also former, guest vocalists, secured the strength of the songs, producing that larger than life feeling, as if taking part in the party so to speak. How did the new vocalists in the fold help you fulfill the vocal vision of  “Beyond The Borders”?

The album has a lot of different characters who are participating in the story. The first thought was to let every character be voiced by a different singer. But that would have been difficult to reproduce when playing the songs live, so we only hired guest vocalists for small, but important passages, for example the pirate king or the evil Prussian admiral who are fighting against the heroes. It would have sounded wrong if I had sung both roles. By the way: we also contacted some high tier singers from big bands but sadly they didn't reply.

For “Beyond The Borders” you took a step forward with your engineer, taking on the services of Jacob Hansen. Since I gather that there is a huge importance for the sound, how did the work with Hansen contribute to reaching the goals that you set for how Terra Atlantica would sound on this album?

The sound on Age of Steam was also good but considering the time and work that went into the songwriting, we felt that this time the sound had to be perfect to match with the quality of the songs. So we chose one of the best sound engineers there is (in my opinion), which of course required some more financial efforts, but it was worth it. We are really happy with the sound.

The album’s foremost blaster is actually the one with the less choruses, “Hellfire”. Surging as the tough breaker after a sweet ballad, there is the heat of battle all over it, a Power Metal mood shifter that strikes hard and without mercy. Furthermore, it is also a catchy puncher. What do you make of this particular track?

The purpose of the song in the album is to crush the calm and romantic mood of the ballad before. This is not only to please the faster harder louder metal fans but also an analogy to the real life with it's ups and downs. One minute you can have a good time and the next minute it can all be destroyed due some unforseen circumstances. I tried to make the song as aggressive as possible, with a lot of Rhapsody and early Blind Guardian influences.

Going articulate, complex but no less enjoyable is the epic “The Great Escape”. Even on the run, there is no shortage of melodic Metal along with captivating classical pieces to remind the origins and signs of true progression for the sake of the song and not the technical merits. This song presented the multifarious identity of the band and the capability that is far reaching. What can you tell about the songwriting process of this song?

In this song there is a lot going on in terms of the story, so it was logical to me that there would have to be a huge variety of parts as well. In the beginning we have the rebels, who are imprisoned by the pirates, except for the hero of the story. He has the chance to flee but is struggeling as he doesn't want to abandon his friends. Therefore there is a lot of interaction between main vocals and choirs in the first part of the song. He then meets the pirate king and challenges him to a musical duel since they are both musicians. This is the meaning behind the whole classical part which alters between piano and guitar, the piano representing the pirate king and the guitar the hero. Yes, it is a bit influenced by Tenacious D – The Pick of Destiny :-D

I don’t believe that we talked about it earlier, but maybe it is time for you, since you are already in it, to establish Terra Atlantica as more than a band, but an operatic, or symphonic journey, similar to Avantasia. There are never enough high flying blazing shows such as the latter. Did that thought ever cross your mind?

Of course, I'd love to do that! When writing Beyond the Borders, I never let go of the thought to one day perform it as a real musical on stage with a lot of different singers and a big choir. That would be epic! So far I am only missing the financial resources for such an effort. So if you're a musical producer and are reading this: Don't hesitate to contact me! :-D

We didn’t really have a chance to talk about it, but was there support for “Age Of Steam”?

Age of Steam was very well received by the international power metal community and was among the best selling albums of Pride and Joy Music in 2020. We are very happy with what we have achieved with this album. It's only sad that we never got to play a proper release show or go on tour with it.

What are your intentions to take “Beyond the Borders” on the road? If there are, what are your plans?

Next year in March we will be going on a two week tour across Germany, supporting Grailknights and Victorius. It's a really cool power metal trio and we are very excited since it will be our first tour ever. Of course we will be presenting the new album on this tour as glorious as possible. Make sure to come to the shows if you can, you won't regret it!

Tristan, I wish to thank you again for your time for this interview and for the questions. Please continue with the amazing material and I can’t wait to hear more. All the best

Thanks for the questions! I hope to continue this journey further in the future and would love to see everyone on our tour next year.


 



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