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DORNENREICH "Freiheit Tour" @ Backstage, Munich, Germany - DORNENREICH Interview

DORNENREICH / Heretoir / Wassermanns Fiebertraum
in Friday, 9 May 2014 at Backstage
by Erika Kuenstler

With DORNENREICH’s long awaited eighth full-length album “Freiheit” released just at the beginning of this month, May sees this Neofolk/Black Metal band on a tour through Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

First up on stage was WASSERMANNS FIEBERTRAUM, a young Austrian/German Alternative/Post Rock band. I was pleasantly surprised at the relatively large crowd turn-out, especially considering it was a week night; even as early as the first band, the venue was already at approximately two thirds capacity. With soft, clean vocals sparingly scattered throughout their set, WASSERMANNS FIEBERTRAUM lulled the audience with their absorbing melodies. The projection of images helped to add to the atmosphere, as did the huge dream-catcher hanging off the frontman’s mic stand. The only downside was that the bass drum’s volume had been set a little too high, with the end result that the other instruments were somewhat drowned out by the drums, but this wasn’t a deal breaker. With beguiling whispers, the shoeless frontman soon had the audience captivated. This spell was only broken once the set was over and WASSERMANNS FIEBERTRAUM left the stage with a jovial wave.

1. Abenteuerlust
2. Tauche die Welt in Farben
3. Zerkratzte Luft
4. Jetzt Oder Nie
5. Auf der Fähre ins Unbekannte
6. Waldblüte
7. Die Vögel Singen Fernweh
8. Herzdämmerung
9. Rauer Berg, Zitterndes Herz

Picking up where WASSERMANNS FIEBERTRAUM left off, German metallers HERETOIR immediately had the audience enthralled with their own unique brand of Black Metal mixed with elements of Post Rock and Shoe Gaze. Impressively, this is the only drummer I have ever seen who can successfully windmill whilst still maintaining precise coordination between his hands and feet.  With a very strongly atmosphere-driven set, HERETOIR enchanted the audience with one track after another. With the last song of their set being a cover, HERETOIR definitely had the crowd mesmerized, with calls for an encore after the band had finished.

1. Intro
2. Untitled
3. Eclipse
4. Graue Bauten
5. Heretoir
6. Inhale
7. Just For A Moment (Cover)

During the latter half of HERETOIR’s set, there had been a steady influx of people clad in DORNENREICH t-shirts steadily trickling forward, until the first two rows consisted more or less solely of fans. Finally it was time for the eagerly anticipated headliners of the night, DORNENREICH, an Austrian trio. Initially, the drum-kit was draped in a black shroud, and just Eviga and Inve appeared bowing on stage. What followed was an acoustic interplay between the two on acoustic guitar and violin respectively. During this part of the set, many of the audience stood as if in slumber, eyes closed, completely immersed in what they were hearing. Following this acoustic set, the stage was quickly rearranged, and the shroud removed from the drumkit, with Gilván taking his rightful place on the throne. As a special surprise, the bassist of HERETOIR made a guest appearance, helping out with the vocals for the first half of “Flammenmensch” before disappearing backstage again. The difference in the audience could not have been clearer: whilst before there had been somnambulistic swaying during the acoustic segment, now there was ferocious headbanging to the metal section, especially in response to the last of the set, “Schwartz”. This anthem had half of the audience wildly windmilling in time to the catchy music whilst the other half screamed the words along. Having barely had time to step off the stage, DORNENREICH were called back by the vociferous calls for an encore. Ending the night with the thunderous track “Wer hat Angst vor Einsamkeit?”, DORNENREICH made sure to end the night on an unforgettable high.

1. Piano Intro
2. Freitanz
3. Im Ersten Aller Spiele
4. Des Meeres Atmen
5. Meer
6. Flammenmensch
7. Jagd (Metal Version)
8. Der Hexe Flammend’ Blick
9. Aus Mut Gerwirkt
10. Wolfpuls
11. Traumestraum
12. Schwarz
13. Erst deine Träne Löscht den Brand
14. Trauerbrandung
15. Wer hat Angst vor Einsamkeit?

What I found noteworthy about all three bands is that despite very minimal and subdued interaction with the audience, they still managed to get the crowd fully engaged. This is, in my opinion, a testament to the passion and power of the music played by these three bands; so captivating was their music that inane banter would have merely served to break the magical spell cast by the melodies.

Interview – Eviga (Dornenreich)

Before the last German show of the Freiheit Tour, I had the opportunity to interview Eviga, the vocalist and guitarist of DORNENREICH, and got to chat to him about the tour, an in-depth view of the new album, and about the band’s influences.

You’re already in your second week of the tour, right?

Yes, we are. It’s the ninth show in a row, so two left; tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, and then it will be over.

And how has it been so far? Have there been any highlights?

To me it’s always a joy to meet our audience: very special people, good people to talk to. This time some of them I guess they over-interpreted what I said in front of the tour, the pause that we take from studio-albums, and many people thought that this tour is the last tour. So they said goodbye in a way and they brought some presents. It was very emotional, in spite of the fact that they over-interpreted the pause. There are also very very very good vibes in the tour bus; we’re good friends with all the people involved in the tour: the crew and the other bands. The shows have been very intense. Leipzig was extremely good because the venue was an actual theatre, and that’s something that adds special theatrical vibes to our expression in a way.

I can imagine it was quite spectacular to see.

Yeah, it was great. We had the acoustic set in front of the curtain, and then we opened the curtain for the metal set. That was nice!

This tour is only covering Germany, Switzerland and Austria. What about the rest of Europe?

Our main market, so-to-speak, are the German-speaking countries. During the last years, we played a lot of tours in Europe, but we really wanted to focus on the German-speaking countries this time. I know there are many other countries that would love to see us. We had very good shows in London and Paris, and I would love to play in maybe Russia, and Greece would be great one day. But it’s tough times for the business, so we really concentrated on the main area. There is a difference; I don’t think people come only because of the German lyrics, but in our case, the lyrics are important for the people. So it’s quite a difference whether we play in the Netherlands for example, or in Cologne.

Your album “Freiheit” was released just a week ago. How has the reaction been to it?

The reactions were very good. There is a certain polarisation, as we tend to be a band that has an impact on people, positively or negatively. But there is no indifference when it comes to the band. The reactions have been very good, which is great, because it’s a challenging record because of its special structure, and how the songs are arranged in the whole album.

What can fans expect from it? Does it still contain the same power and emotions that DORNENREICH is so well-known for?

Yeah, for sure. In my humble opinion, this is really the essence of the band, lyrically and musically. Of course, everybody tells everyone that the current album is the greatest one. I would not say so, because all our albums are so different. But I would say it is a good mixture of many things that DORNENREICH is known for, but also new with fresh vibes. But all in all very positive vibes, and in many ways it is the brighter twin of “Flammentriebe”; the cover artwork is quite similar with the white areas left and right, which are black on the “Flammentriebe” cover. “Flammentriebe” was built on eight songs, and only one song was based on acoustic instruments, the last one, and on this album “Freiheit”, it’s quite the opposite. So we have only one song that is really what you can consider to be a metal song, the fourth song, and the others are more or less acoustic music.

What was the inspiration behind “Freiheit”? What made you go more acoustic with it?

The acoustic guitar has always been very important for me. Even on our demo tape, we had a lot of acoustic songs, and this demo tape we recorded it 17 years ago. And also on our second album, we had a cello player. And we also did a purely acoustic album, as you might know, the “In Luft Geritzt” album. And to me that is the core of expression when it comes to music. That’s an important message in a way in these times, and to me it’s the core because there are so many dynamics and so many emotions when you play acoustic instruments. Also, the “Flammentriebe” album was composed on the acoustic guitar, but in the end, it resulted in a Metal based album when it comes to the instrumentation. Tonight we will play a song which was recorded for an acoustic album in a Metal version. The music itself is the fundament – not the actual instrumentation.

“Freiheit” translates to “freedom”. What made you choose this word as the album title?

It’s a big word; there are many levels and nuances to it. It has many layers. So, for example, I guess it is a good brand when it comes to our band because DORNENREICH has always been independent expression without any compromise concerning business issues. So starting with the music itself, to lyrics, album artwork, everything just relies on our vision. And that’s rare these days. But the other conceptual core of the album is the inner freedom. I know we are living here in central Europe and we have a lot of freedom and personal liberties that are the fundament to have the time and the resources to sit and think about something like inner freedom. I’m aware of that for sure, but to me, it is important how one deals with oneself, how one’s mind is triggered, or if one is aware of what is going on within oneself: one’s perception, one’s fears. That’s very important, and if one reaches a certain level of consciousness that radiates, so that if one is free within oneself, some kind of outer freedom might follow, in spite of the fact that life is always based on inner and outer forces.

And how did the recording process go? I know a few years back you would record all instruments at the same time, which resulted in hundreds of takes. How did it go this time?

It was a mixture. It was similar because the first three songs were recorded live again, without any orientation, just me and the violin player, and that is something that is always challenging, because the studio atmosphere is very clinical in a way. With these new songs, there are many very fragile and intimate moments that one cannot really plan to do this or that way, especially when one is playing live takes. We needed a certain amount of luck, and I guess we had that. Again, we did a lot of takes of every song, but then we had a good version which ended up as the album version. And then there have also been the other songs where we had some click orientations, so it was a mixture. But again, it is very challenging to do just acoustic recordings; one has to really want the expression to really fix it and to record it. But that is something great and magical; it’s not that magical to record it track by track with clicks in your ear. So I like to record live.

And how does it work with performing the songs live, seeing as you can’t layer the music like you can in the studio?

We surely have to adapt the arrangements of the studio versions to the live setting. But in my opinion, that’s a great thing because many artists that I admire myself experiment with their music and rearrange it, so it’s always different. Tori Amos, whose music I have always loved, is an example for that because whenever she plays on her piano, the songs never sound the same, and that’s great; it’s so vital! If there are fans that come to see us perform exactly as the studio version, they might be disappointed, but that’s not what we are aiming at.

Have you ever considered adding session musicians for the live shows?

Yeah, sure, sometimes we thought about that, but that has to fit on many levels: the personal thing, and the artistic side, and with each member that is involved, things tend to get more complicated, especially when we go on tour. We are not the youngest guys anymore, so it’s difficult to find good and reliable people, and I guess we really want to keep things as simple as possible, which still means that it’s quite difficult these days. But for the DVD we did many years ago, we had our friends from Empyrium, and that was great! For the DVD we really wanted to have the whole range with bass guitar and everything. But live… To me, it’s cool to just have three people on stage that just perform just as good as they can; it’s like THE WHITE STRIPES in a way haha. I don’t think it lacks too much without the bass. I never attended a show to see a bass player!

Looking at the band’s photos, so often you’re posing in nature. Has nature been an important influence on your music?

Yeah, sure. I have the privilege to live in a very beautiful country, in Tyrol, which is very similar to Scandinavia I guess, without the big dimension of nature, but with mountains and lakes and forests. My parents always took me with them to gather mushrooms and things when I was a child, and so that really made for the strong bonds that I have with nature. A good friend of mine, who used to be our back-liner, has a survival school near this area and so that was intensified throughout the last years. Nature is everything that we are based on, and there is so much wisdom and beauty in it, in all the smaller and bigger cycles that we are so rarely aware of today. It’s a sad thing, and nature will have her revenge I guess. It’s a sad thing, but I try to live with it as good as possible, and so I spend a lot of time in nature.

Are there any other influences on your music, or other musicians you look up to?

I love heart- and handmade music out of all genres that you can think of. When it comes to bands and artists that have had a bigger influence, I would name DEAD CAN DANCE and Tori Amos for sure, and also in earlier days I really loved to listen to PANTERA because I loved the energy in this music. Also, old ULVER, and KVIST from Norway, who just did one album, but it’s a great one. Countless bands and artists really, but just to name a few.

With an 18 year history behind DORNENREICH, is there any advice you’d pass on to younger bands?

Hmm, stay away from music! No. I guess I really try to keep up some of the idealism and also naïve vibes of the early days because it is something magical to express one’s feelings or thoughts via music and art. And that is something that one tends to lose when you tour a lot and you also get to know the rough sides of this business. So one should try one’s best not to lose touch with this first strong experience with an instrument. I will never forget the moment when I first grabbed my mother’s acoustic guitar, and I just had it on my legs and did not know how to play, but then I discovered a way to strum it and then to play: it was magical! I really felt that it’s great that I can communicate something from deep within. That’s the core, and I guess that is a good core for everybody involved in music.

That’s good advice! Well, those would be all my questions; thank you very much for your time.

You’re welcome! 

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Edited 20 March 2023

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