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Thrudvangar's Matze: "The melodies and harmonies are those that move the listener and gives the live-audience the great feeling that makes a Viking Metal gig so heroic and epic. We will continue to follow this path"

Interview with Matze from Thrudvangar
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 24 October 2020, 3:57 PM

There is nothing wrong in being ambitious, try to smash borderlines that are merely a block away from coming with something that is both exciting and refreshing. When it comes to Viking Metal, creating the drama of theme is the key, yet there are additional attributes to the music that are bound to make it great. The German Viking / Pagan Metal band, Thrudvangar, has been running for 2 decades, making themselves known their channeling the honesty of the subgenre. With their new "Vegvisir" they opened a new door for themselves, to become more inspiring. Steinmetal had a chance to talk to the band's vocalist, Matze, about the new album, the development of the band after its lineup changes and more…  

Hello Matze, I am glad to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine. From the outside, it would appear that Germany has been handling the pandemic quite well, while its economy is more or less intact, in comparison to a lot of other countries. From your point of view, how has things been handled in regards to the Covid-19 pandemic?

Hello there, we are fine right now. We keep distance where it is necessary and try to match the rules that were installed for the people here in Germany. Life did not change that much for us. We all are wearing masks and try to avoid larger groups of people wherever we can. So we are very satisfied with the way the government handles the situation in our country and we hope that it will get better in months to come.

What is your personal “escape” out of all this situation in order to keep your sanity in check?

We have been creative. Sitting at home or in the rehearsal room, writing and composing new stuff, is what keeps our sanity in check. Right now there is kind of a downtime all over the world and that gives us the opportunity to take our time and get inspired for new songs. But we are all busy guys, so there is no time for a loss of sanity. :)

Are there any predictions when the clubs and venues would be open for live audiences, perhaps under restrictions?

In terms of clubs and live events nobody can say anything for sure. We think that 2020 will end without any further bigger live shows. Here in Germany predictions for 2021 are as bad, too. We do not know when we or any other band will enter the stage again – with a proper amount of audience and as less restrictions as possible.

After seven years, and I remember your previous album "Tiwaz" quite fondly, Thrudvangar is back more aggressive yet highly melodic than ever with "Vegvisir". I believe that it would be great to ask why the sudden gap since the previous album? What happened within the band that made you take things slow?

After the release of “Tiwaz” the band faced some core lineup changes and with that some evident changes in songwriting. The current lineup was fixed in 2018 and at this time we had a lot of stuff from the previous years to look upon. So we decided to revise the material to make it comfortable for all of us. Both our new guitar players Daniel and Sebastian have been the main influence on the songs of “Vegvisir”. We know that 7 years of waiting are a long time but the new material is absolutely worth it.

Signing with Trollzorn to be your home for this album, with hopes for the next ones as well, was a good choice, especially with the label’s expertise in the subgenre that you have been leading. In your opinion, how does this signing take the band to the next level?

First of all, we were looking for a label that fit our type of music. With TrollZorn we found a label that supports Viking/Pagan Metal bands a lot. We are part of a family now and that is the most important thing for us. The collaboration is absolutely great and the communication with the label owners Kai and Stefan as well. With TrollZorn we are able to provide our music to a lot more people than before. We are looking forward for releasing a further album with TrollZorn in the future. They help us to spread our music all over the Pagan/Viking Metal scene and they provide us with many connections and support to get our album promoted. As said before we feel like coming home and this makes TrollZorn Records so valuable for us.

Since I am no German speaker, and I don’t really trust the simultaneous translations, what can you tell about the "Vegvisir" title? What does it represent?

The vegvisir is an old Islandic stave, translates as 'signpost' and stands for 'not losing your way', whether it is known or not. It is a symbol for the lost to find his path to destination. For us the vegvisir is a very strong symbol that reflects the many changes the band has been through over the past 7 years. We wanted to develop ourselves and our music and because of the changes in lineup we have had many influences during the songwriting. So it was paramount for us not to lose our way in all these new influences and to write an album that still has the trademark 'Thrudvangar'. We wanted to be true to ourselves but at the same time go at least a step forward with the new songs. But it stands also for the many ways we walk with the songs on 'Vegvisir'. It is a very heterogeneous album and the songs tend to have influences from different metal genres.

Is "Vegvisir" a concept album in any form or rather multi themed release that maintains the main narrative that has been integral to the band’s legacy? If there is a narrative, what is it all about? Is there any type of analogy between the theme, or themes, channeled through “Vegvisir” to our very own reality, even related to the happenings going on worldwide at the moment?

No, 'Vegvisir' does not have a concept at all. The songs stand for themselves and each one delivers its own message or story to the listener.

One thing is certain, "Vegvisir" turned to be quite a meat grinder, a bellyful of massive riffs along with enchanted melodies for the creation of the best possible blend in Metal music. Under the wing of the Viking / Pagan subgenre, it would appear that you guys strived to become more than the attached label. How can you relate to the musical progress of the band through "Vegvisir"? After “Tiwaz”, there were lineup changes that shrunk the lineup a bit, yet you empowered yourself with a pair of great guitarists, and it is evident due to the mighty riffery throughout "Vegvisir". What was the impact of the twin axes to the songwriting of the album?

Besides "Alles, was beibt" there is not intended analogy to our own reality we are living in right now. The before mentioned song is a very personal and intimate one for me. It deals with the loss of a very beloved person. But there are certain songs on the album that are more than storytelling. We leave it to the listener to identify himself with a certain message of a song or to transfer its lyrics to our present times. The good thing about music is that everybody can relate to it in a different way and is allowed to interpret it in his own way.

With the longevity of what was called a trend, meaning everything that is Folk, Viking and Pagan Metal, and the becoming of these subgenres popular, and they still do, what do you think makes an album such as "Vegvisir" to stand out?

We have always been a Viking Metal band and always will be. The point is that Viking Metal is mainly based on the lyrics in the songs. But when it comes to the music, Viking Metal gives you the opportunity to move through all the many different metal genres and write a song that fits your idea as a composer. Whether it is a black metal or death metal riff – what fits, does fit. Viking Metal can come in many different ways of making music.

On "Vegvisir" we changed our style from the past a little bit, but for us it is still Viking Metal. The musical progress came on first hand with both our new guitar players. They are the main songwriters and each of them brought his own influences with him. Sebastian came to Thrudvangar in 2014. Since then he wrote a couple of songs that are on the new album. He is based in Viking and Pagan Metal so with the songwriting he was very determined and knew what has to be done.

Though Daniel joined the band last he also put in a lot of awesome ideas and we were eager to implement his imaginations into the album. On the other hand, for the first time we did not produce the album ourselves like the last ones. We decided to ask Lars Rettkowitz (Freedom Call), whom we are close friends with for many years, to produce our album and to make something great out of the material we had. He eagerly said 'YES!' so we entered the Emperial Sound studio not far away from our hometown and started working on the new album. His expertise with metal bands was the last part of the puzzle that helped us to create an album so powerful yet so melodic and we hope that the old fans and new listeners will dig it!

Hardships and challenges are a part of any process, and in your concern, the songwriting and recording. What lessons of the past did you learn from that made you find solutions, or confront, challenges along the way to achieve "Vegvisir"?

There have not been any particular hardships during the production of 'Vegvisir' at all. The chemistry between the band and the producer was absolutely great. We always felt very comfortable when we entered the studio. During the process of songwriting there have not been any challenges as well. Daniel and Sebastian wrote riffs and melodies that we the whole band liked from the first moment. There was a clear understanding of what the band liked to achieve with the songs and how they have to be composed or arranged. 'Vegvisir' is a new starting point for us. The hardships will come with the next album. We set new standards for ourselves and hope to deliver with the next album at least as good as with 'Vegvisir'.

I found "Fenrirs Brut" to be one of the most exciting riff based tunes in Viking Metal, certainly a powerful chugger to be reckoned with. How do you find this rather heavy tune?

Thank you. Yeah, with 'Fenrirs Brut' Daniel wrote a smashing riffy song that clings to one's mind immediately. We decided to drop our guitars down for this album, because every riff sounds ass-kicking when you play it 5 steps lower. So the down-tuning gave us the opportunity to play rather heavy riffs with a lot of punch but also to play pleasing harmonies and melodies that sound epic and powerful.

On the other hand, there is the catchy “Jörmungandr” that is a great source of melodic infusion with fast paced beats, it is hard to escape the melodies for sure. How do you see the continuation of this kind of material as part of the band’s next steps? How do you find the importance of these melodic features on your songs in general, and on this number in particular?

We will cling to the kind of songwriting you can hear on 'Vegvisir'. On 'Tiwaz' we decided to abandon the keyboards and filling melodies we used on the albums before. The response was not that good as expected. The fans missed the keyboards and backings and we did, too. But we did not want to sound like on our first albums and wanted to create now tones and tunes. For us melodies are a key part of any song, especially in Viking Metal. The melodies and harmonies are those that move the listener and gives the live-audience the great feeling that makes a Viking Metal gig so heroic and epic. We will continue to follow this path. At with this step back (compared to our former albums) we will take a huge step forward.

This is going to be a hard one, what is your prime tune out of the tracklist? Please elaborate on your pick and the reasoning behind it

We do not have a favorite song in particular. All of the songs make us proud and happy and we hope that the fans will like them as well. Most of all we are looking forward to play the songs live because therefore all the songs have been written.

You have been riding with Thrudvangar for the past twenty years, what do you feel about the band’s status after two decades and where do you wish it to be in the next two decades to come? What are your aspirations for the moniker?

We think that we have a certain status, at least in the German Viking/Pagan Metal scene. Viking Metal is a small genre in general and only a few bands have the luck to shine. For the last 20 years we just wrote and played that kind of music we are connected with very tight. For the next two decades we want to do the same and we will try to reach as much people as possible with our songs.

Have you thought of any way to commemorate the occasion of the 20th anniversary? Perhaps doing a small open air feature with a band or two to support?

Actually we thought about something special for our 20th anniversary but Corona kicked in and is a pain in everybody's ass. Though we do not know when or how we think about something for our anniversary, even if it takes a while longer to realize it. We shared stages with a couple of very good bands and over the years we became friends with them. We will see what happens. Stay tuned. :)

Matze, you made an exciting mark with “Vegvisir”, and I am glad we could have this interview to support it. I wish you guys all the best and keep releasing treasures. Cheers.



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