Dark Fortress - 14/02/2006

Recently Century Media signed the German Black Metal band DARK FORTRESS and soon after that they released the fourth album from the band called ‘Séance’. Now “Séance” is the next step to establish Dark Fortress not only as one of Germany’s most hopeful black metal acts, but as one that does not have to fear the international competition. Evolving around the conceptual idea of the direct contrast between the here and now and the hereafter, the fragility of human existence with its most striking weaknesses - ignorance, arrogance and false illusions is confronted with the crass finality of death. The fact that ‘Séance’ is a diversified, frighteningly extreme and highly creative effort, that should not be ignored. So when we were asked to do an interview with guitarist V. Santura we didn’t hesitate for a minute and ask him some questions.

I’m sorry but, I’m not familiar with your previous albums, so first can you tell us a little about the history of this band?
Dark Fortress actually already exists since 1994 and was formed by our other guitarist Asvargr. Since that time a few changes in the line up occurred, so Asvargr and Azathoth (vocals) are the only original members from the first days of Dark Fortress. We released a Demo Tape in 1996, a mini CD in 1997 and finally got a record deal at the beginning of the year 2001 with the American underground label “Red Stream”. Since about that time the line-up is absolutely constant and consists, besides Azathoth and Asvargr, of Seraph (drums), Draug (Bass), Paymon (keyboard) an me. In July 2001 our debut album ‘Tales From Eternal Dusk’ was released. ‘Tales…’ was still influenced by bands like Dissection and Unanimated and was written and recorded before Seraph, Draug and me joined the band. Because of these line up changes it was a natural thing that the band sound changed a lot since our debut.  ‘Profane Genocidal Creations’ (2003), our second album, is the first album that was created by the “new” Dark Fortress, even though I have to admit that we are not very satisfied with this album in retro perspective. We needed some time to grow together as a band again, so I miss the red line in many songs of this album. Our third album ‘Stab Wounds’ (2004), which was released via Black Attakk, was a very big stab forwards, because we found our style with this album and we got better in every point. The songs are times better composed and are very intense, the lyrics are very interesting, better production etc…

You changed from Black Attakk Records to Century Media Records, why changing after recording one album with them, were you not satisfied with them and how did you get in contact with Century Media?
We were not very satisfied with Black Attakk. At first they started to do good work for us, but due to several things, we were not able to trust them anymore, so we tried to dissolve the contract and finally we succeeded to become free. So we were looking for a new label.

We were in contact with Philipp from Century Media Germany since already about  two years and he really liked our band a lot. Actually he founded his own little company “Imperium Records” mainly for the purpose to release ‘Stab Wounds' on vinyl. So he tried to convince the “bosses” of CM to sign us and finally he succeeded. We also got massive support by the guys of Naglfar and also of some journalists.

Was there a larger budget for this album than the previous albums and did this change the way you work?
Ha, well, we did the whole production before we signed a record deal. So we kind of did not have a budget at all! Ok, we were quite sure that we would find a new label that might pay the production costs, but nevertheless we were in a very unsecured situation. For example: I made a contract with the owner of the studio, that we used for the drum recordings, that we don’t have to pay him right now, but until the end of the year. So we did everything on tick. The production costs were quite low, because we did not use any external persons for the whole production. I did all the engineering, mixing etc, mainly at our crypt with my recording equipment. But I was busy with the production for about two months with little breaks, and I was really having a hard time, because I didn’t have any money at all during the whole production. So I hope that the next production will be much easier, because than we will have a budget at the beginning of the recordings. But that won’t change our basic approach. We definitely want to produce ourselves without any third persons.

Were all the songs already written before you entered the studio, or have there been some changes during the recording sessions?
The songs are always composed before we enter the studio. Also the running order of the songs is already sure before we enter the studio. Actually the running order is already sure before we finish the songwriting, because we always try to create fluent albums, were the single songs are connected together. We just did some experiments with the vocals on “Ghastly Indoctrination” and “While They Sleep”.  

The lyrics on this album are not the traditional cliché black metal lyrics like most of these bands, who was responsible for the lyrics on this album and can you tell us something about them?
Our vocalist Azathoth is writing all the lyrics. “Séance” is basically a concept album which deals with paranormal phenomena. Every song kind of tells the “story” of a certain paranormal existence or entity or spirit, or however you want to call them. The lyrics are mainly seen through the eyes of these paranormal existences and describe their experiences, their individual ways. The lyrics show the direct contrast between the hear and now and the “worlds beyond” and the weakness and limitedness of human life and mind. They are influenced by personal spiritual experiences of Azathoth while the music creates the appropriate moods and atmospheres.

The title of the new album is ‘Séance’, is there a special meaning behind it?
Well, the title perfectly describes the concept of this album, because a séance is a spiritualist meeting to receive communications from the dead. And in this ‘Séance’ they are telling their story.

You’re previous album was recorded in the famous “Grieghallen Studio” in Norway, were did you recorded this new album and who was the producer? Or did you manage everything yourself this time?
Yeah, ‘Profane Genocidal Creations’ was recorded at Grieghallen Studios. Actually it was a fantastic experience to work together with Pytten, because he is a great person with great ideas. The problem was that we did not have enough time, because we only had 10 days to record and mix almost 70 minutes of music, which is far too less. We only finished the recordings, but not the mix. So Pytten’s assistant engineer did the mixes at the evenings and of course without us, because we were already back in Germany. Thus it happened that we were not very happy with the final result. Well, as I already told, I produced ‘Séance’ and I also did ‘Stab Wounds’.

How did the recording process proceed and how much time did you spend in the studio?
We booked a studio in our hometown for four days to record the drums. Afterwards we had a festival show and than I started with editing. Than we recorded all other instruments at our rehearsal room. We got the neighbor room next to our rehearsal room as well, so we had a recording and a regie room. We rented posh equipment and did everything by ourselves. This way it was possible to keep the costs low and to have enough time to experiment. As far as I remember we had two or three days for the bass and almost a whole week for the guitar recordings, which is great, because you can work relaxed and accurately. We also had several days for the vocal recordings, because I didn’t want to record more than two songs per day, cause I wanted to record every song with a very fresh mind, so we only worked a few hours every day, when we did the vocal recordings. We also spent some time for specials like recording a string ensemble for “Incide” and “While They Sleep”, a Jazz Drum set and an upright bass in the middle of “Insomnia” and some of those things. It always annoys me when journalists write in their reviews about the samples and effects that we are using. There are only a few seconds of a sample in one part of the whole fucking album, everything else is real, just our voices and instruments.

Where the recordings in this studio what you expected and was it a large improvement with your previous studio albums?
Well, of course we knew, what we had to expect, so there were no surprises for us during the recordings. And yes, we are very satisfied and we definitely made a big step forwards.

Are you satisfied with the result of the cd or do you like to change some things afterwards?
I don’t want to change anything. Of course you never make the perfect sound or album, but I love what we created.

After listening to the new album, I think it’s a very dark and cold album with lot’s of mid-tempo guitar riffs butt still with a lot of diversity and is completed with a dirge from singer Azathoth. Why are the songs so dark and cold, is this just the way you write your songs or is there another explanation behind it?
In a way it was our urge to create a really dark and cold album, which is really extreme. I was always fascinated by cold and mystical sounds and it’s natural for me to write songs that have these negative emotions, because it gives me somehow the possibility to canalize emotions like despair, solitude or fear. We also have the goal to create a unity of the lyrics and the music. This time the whole lyrical concept was really dark and horror-like, so it was a logical consequence to create such a dark and cold and maybe frightening album. 

How do you stand against illegal downloading from music from the internet, a lot of albums these days are already on the internet before they officially being released?
Well, it sucks, but I can’t change it. On the other hand, many people use the internet to inform themselves about different bands. That’s especially great for underground bands. When your album is just available via mail orders and not in the regular, big shops, people can check your album anyhow and than they might buy it, if they really like it. I am generally not interested in Mp3s, because even in best quality, they sound bad. If I listen to music at home, I can tell you after a few seconds if it’s a Mp3 or not, because there are so many audible artifacts, like the drums are loosing the transients, especially the hi hat and ride cymbals sound crappy. Mp3s they tend to sound dull and muddy. Therefore I still just have a 56k Modem, so downloading music is no fun for me.

How did you get involved with the music business and what songs and bands are you listening yourself these days?
Actually, I started quite late to play music. Already as a little child, I always had music and songs in my had, but I did not start to play any instrument until the age of 15. Strange if I think about that. But as soon as I started to jam around with some friends (by the way, I am playing together with our drummer Seraph since ever, he was the guy who told me how to hold a guitar), I got totally into music. I had classical guitar lessons for about 3 ½ years and after four years I already got my first record deal, when I joined Dark Fortress, which was a lucky situation, hehe. I really hate the business side of music, but it is an necessary evil, if you don’t want to decay in your rehearsal room and if you want to reach some audience. I am mainly only working with music, because recording and mixing bands is my job. So if you have to work with music every day for many hours you don’t listen to many music privately at all. It’s a strange thing, because I almost don’t listen to any music anymore, even though music is my passion. Hm, I didn’t discover many new bands in the last time that I really loved. I really like Green Carnation at the moment and I am eagerly waiting for the new albums of Slayer and Satyricon. Basically I’m rather open minded and not restricted to one certain style of music.

How do you see the future with this band, any plans for touring Europe real soon?
We are probably going on Tour in April or May, hopefully we will find the possibility to play another tour in September or December / January. There are some possibilities and offers, but nothing is finally confirmed yet. It is so difficult to get 6 persons together, to find a period of several weeks, where everybody is able go on tour. Because some of us are studying on universities, others on private schools, some of us are working, and it is really hard to combine. But playing an European Tour would be very important. We want to reach people in different countries and record some more great albums.

Is there still something you want to tell us after these questions?
Well, check out our new album ‘Séance’. If you really are into intense and extremely dark Black Metal, it might blow you away! Hopefully… 

Thanks for the Interview,

V. Santura / Dark Fortress