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Volker Dieken & Raimund Ennenga (Nailed to Obscurity)

Interview with Volker Dieken & Raimund Ennenga from Nailed to Obscurity
by Justin "Witty City" Wittenmeier at 27 January 2019, 11:25 AM

NAILED TO OBSCURITY is a German Melodic Death/Doom Metal band who incorporate many different styles into their sound. Their latest, and fourth full length, “Black Frost” shows the band tackling a more Progressive play style while adding in Gothic and Ambient/Atmospheric elements, while still retaining their signature sound. Metal Temple's own Martin Knap reviewed the album and gave it high and worthy praise. Metal Temple's Justin Wittenmeier had a chance to do an email interview with Guitarist Volker Dieken and vocalist Raimund Ennenga.

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions, guys.  And congrats on the new album, "Black Frost," it is an expansive and triumphant release. Although Nailed To Obscurity is no doubt a band with their own sound, "Black Frost," really reminded me of a much heavier version of KATATONIA. How do you feel about such comparisons?

Volker: Hi Justin, thanks to you for having us and as well for the kind words regarding our new album Black Frost. We're glad you like it. Even though I would say that the sound of NtO definitely is unique of its own, in a way I can understand the comparisons with Katatonia to a certain point. Same as with Opeth, which we get compared to very often recently. First of all, it’s a good thing being mentioned in the context with this bands, since we all like their music a lot.

I guess there is just a lot of things we have in common speaking about song structures, the use vocals and guitars and the melancholic touch of the music in general. But for a fact, when it comes to songwriting we never try to sound like other bands, we just do what we like to listen to and what feels right. Since the beginning of NtO we’ve always implemented contrasts in our songs, focusing on creating a journey of ups and downs in every piece. We know other bands have a similar working formula, but that's quite it

What is the origin behind the band's name? I know it was taken from an HATE ETERNAL song but does it mean anything on a personal level, in relation to the band's lyrical themes or overall direction/goals?

Volker: We really don’t have a special relation on a personal level to the Hate Eternal song. Aside the fact, that Ole and I just thought the name would fit perfectly to what we imagined our band might or should sound like, there is no deeper reason behind it. And I guess, by now the name fits quite well. Even though, back in the days we really weren´t sure it would turn out this way.

"Black Frost" is your fourth full length; now that you have been around awhile as band, was there any pressure when writing this album to do the best you can or did the band find it easier to finish this one, compared to previous efforts?

Raimund: To be honest, writing an album is never easy, because you don’t know how everything will turn out in the end when you start it. In case of “Black Frost” it was a lot harder in comparison to the previous records because we were so satisfied with “King Delusion”. We still like the album so much. When VOLKER and OLE started collecting their basic ideas they realized at some point, everything they had sounded like a “twin” to a song on “King Delusion”. And because they didn’t want the new stuff to be just a copy of already existing stuff, they started from scratch again. We decided to put a lot more detail on the darker and atmospheric ingredients than ever before and then everything came out a lot better. It just clicked. Due to the fact that we have regular jobs and we don’t live that close to each other, we used every weekend in 2018 up to the final recordings to finalize the songs. The only “free weekends” were the weekends we played shows.

"Black Frost’s" sound is so dynamic and a true melting pot of various genres. What are some of the influences on the two of you and the band as a whole? Specifically, were there any new influences that helped shape "Black Frost" that were not on your minds for previous recordings?

Volker: There are just so many bands which have an impact on our music that pointing out specific ones is impossible. Each of us has different influences and we listen to nearly every subgenre in metal, but also we enjoy a lot of music aside the metal genre. Probably that is one of the key elements which reflect in our songs, since everyone brings in his personal influences during the songwriting. But looking back, you can definitely say that we get more and more flexible and open-minded with the music we listen to personally. Especially when it comes to dark ambient and progressive music of whatever genre. For sure, this has an effect on our music, especially our latest output Back Frost.

Your transitions from cleans to death growls/screams are just fluid and sound effortless. How do you keep your voice up? Any special techniques you use?

Raimund: First of all: Thank you very much. I take this as a compliment. I don’t have special techniques that I use. I just go for it, but I try to warm up properly and I take singing lessons because it’s really hard to switch between the harsh and the melodic vocals. It’s still a lot of work but it feels great that it’s getting better and better :)How do you decide what lyrics to sing cleanly and what others to perform growls on? Is it planned out as the lyrics are being written or do you just sort of go with what you feel is appropriate at the time?

Raimund: I always try to “go with the flow” so to speak. There are some parts that are so mellow and atmospheric that I feel the need of singing them with my clean voice or whisper them while other parts force me to go full throttle. When I write the lyrics for a song, I don’t necessarily decide that a more descriptive part of them must be the basis for the clean vocals and a more dark and sinister part is for the growls. In the end I think it’s important to tell the story/ idea. But I also have to say that it’s a matter of fact that certain words and lines fit a lot better with growls while others are easier to be carried through clean vocals. But the end result is only up to the momentum.

Volker, what led to the change in how you approach the guitar on "Black Frost?" It is a very nice change of pace, I might add. Your playing feels more atmospheric, more ambient if that makes sense.

Volker: While writing Black Frost we tried to put a focus on giving each instrument and vocals the right amount of space to unfold themselves. Compared to our previous releases already this approach results in a different listening experience. Especially with the guitars we tried to pull back a bit, meaning we stepped away from our former concept of nearly constantly using a strict separation of rhythm and lead guitar throughout the songs. We wanted to create a deeper and more atmospheric sound by using different techniques and effects which support all the other elements and then emphasize certain parts by using the typical NtO’ish lead melodies. On Black Frost both guitars kind of melt together into one. So yes, you are right about the atmosphere and ambient sound and it´s nice you noticed it this way. That was one of our aims.

Although "Black Frost" still obviously retains the band's signature elements, it does sound so different from "King Delusion." Did you guys find it hard to step away from how you sounded on that album?

Volker: In fact, when we started the songwriting for Black Frost, all our first approaches sounded very similar to King Delusion in a way. But this we strictly wanted to avoid. It was important for us not to do a copy of our previous work. It took some time to get rid of that and to get into the flow to create something new of its own. We always try to develop our songwriting and our music in general into new areas. But whilst doing that, it is important for us to keep our core elements alive. And this not going to change. Looking back, I see Black Frost as a progression of King Delusion, but still being a record of its own.

I love how certain instruments on "Black Frost" seem to kind of bring about a specific mood or texture. For example, on "Road To Perdition," the drums seem to really hammer in the Death Metal elements while the guitars take a more prog/gothic vibe.  Writing the music, what is important to always have a heavy, more grounded element to act as a sort of counterpoint to your more introspective moments, Volker?

Volker: It´s just very interesting to combine very death-metal-like drums with strong distorted but kind of alternative guitars, for example. Or doing parts with death metal guitars, but put in very mellow or crunchy surroundings. We like to play around with this kind of things because you get very personal and unique characteristics into your songs. This is one of the most interesting parts during the songwriting process and i am sure we will exploit this approach even more in the future. But you can be sure, we will never forget to put out the death metal hammer so to speak. It will always remain the soul of NtO´s music, same as the all surrounding melancholy.

Some of the hardest hitting moments on "Black Frost" are during the melodic, atmospheric, and somber times. As such, "Black Frost" is an album where the silence speaks volumes.  Ole, do you view yourself as a musical poet of sorts? Your playing certainly seems to tell a story as much as the lyrics do.

Volker: Well, you definitely can say it is poetry in a way, but I wouldn’t call myself a poet. We want to tell a story with the guitars and all the riffs and melodies are a direct reflection of our soul. But that counts for all instruments. It´s a great coincidence that actually the musical interpretation of our emotions go hand in hand with the lyrics. We don’t force anything, it happens naturally. It feels really flattering that people out there, you included, pick up our music as such.

Raimund, I know you like to keep your lyrics open to interpretation. As a lyric writer, is it difficult to sometimes put down what you what you feel while still keeping it obscure enough to where fans can find their own meanings behind your words?

Raimund: It is always difficult to find interesting metaphors for the emotions I try to express through the lyrics. I don’t want everything to end up as a “soul striptease”. That would make it harder to perform these songs on stage. But it is also an interesting process because I am sometimes able to surprise myself looking back at the initial inspiration for a certain metaphor. The most challenging thing is when it comes to deadlines. This is tough because I don’t want the lyrics to be blunt and maybe too (!) obvious. Even if some lines might be quite obvious there should always be enough space for listeners to interpret a song’s text as a whole.

Raimund, you just keep raising your own bar. Your Death growls are brutal, sometimes even scary and your cleans are on another level of emotion. I suppose it was never a question when writing the lyrics that you would stick to one style over the other? Do you see yourself continuing to explore both avenues of your voice, always having that dichotomy of Death growls and cleans?

Raimund: On the one hand I have to say: You never know. BUT when I look at it now, I have so much fun exploring my own voice and finding new nuances. I love growling and I love singing. It’s great to have the possibility of using both singing styles in Nailed To Obscurity.


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