Wednesday, June 8

Interview: Stormwarrior


With their latest album "Heathen Warrior", out now on Massacre Records and reviewed here, Stormwarrior refuses to go south and keeps heading north, further breaking away from its slavish Helloween-worship to become something more daring and unique. We asked bass player Yenz Leonhardt, also in Iron Savior and Savage Circus, about the band's new direction and why they add those 'e's at the end of some words (but not all of them). Because we know how much this puzzles the general audience.

First of all: congratulations on your new album, “Heathen Warrior”. It took some time to get here, though, what caused the delay?

Well, it was planned quite differently. We originally wanted the fourth studio album to be released hot on the heels of its predecessor "Heading Northe”. So after some festival gigs and a tour with Firewind, we went back to recording in the spring of 2011. But around that time we realized we needed to start looking for a new record company, if we wanted to move forward. And that situation completely took the wind out of the sails. Switching from Dockyard to Massacre was a long process that lasted until mid 2010. Only from then on were we able to focus 100 percent on creating “Heathen Warrior”. Now, our healthy partnership with Massacre should prevent another long delay until the next album.

On a similar note, what’s the latest news concerning the upcoming live-CD/DVD “If It’s Not In Your Bloode,…You Will Never Understande!”?

It really is a shame that the release of the live DVD became a victim of circumstance. As soon as we had the business side sorted out, we had to keep our priorities straight and focus on the new studio album, which meant putting “If It’s Not In Your Bloode…” on hold for a while. We definitely want to release the package as soon as possible, because there’s some big moments there, both in terms of footage and performance. There’s talk about adding bonus material from the Headbangers Open Air festival, to keep the feel of the package fresh. But no matter what, the release is going to happen this year.     

It seems to me that “Heathen Warrior” further explores a more epic sound of the band, as introduced on “Heading Northe”. Was that your intention with this album?

On “Heathen Warrior” we took a deeper and less schematic approach, sometimes letting the lyrical content deciding the arrangement, instead of the other way around. So you could say that the epic and atmospheric elements we introduced to the Stormwarrior universe on “Heading Northe” somehow have created more space for themselves on “Heathen Warrior”.  We wanted the lyrical statements to play a more obvious central role on this album, which meant that we often chose the more dynamic or poetic rather than sheer aggression. To me it feels like this album is a big step for us towards becoming our own entity. A fact that fills us with pride. 

Stormwarrior, currently not warring storms.

How do you feel the fans will respond to this direction?

I think that the people who are into the band will always expect us to keep evolving and keep mapping uncharted Stormwarrior territory. They also know that we’re the kind of band that stays close to our roots, that’s like a sacred pact of trust. Our audience is always looking for something extra, and that’s what “Heathen Warrior” is all about. It’s an album that creeps up on you, rather than a full frontal attack.     

Your first two albums showed an obvious debt to Helloween, what other music has influenced you? For example, I hear a clear Running Wild-influence in “Fyre & Ice”.

Well, Stormwarrior was founded in the metal underground and the old Hamburg School of Metal is still a solid part of the foundation. We are in fact influenced by a wide cross-section of styles, and we’re definitely not the kind of people who don’t listen to new music. But the stuff you listened to in your a teens, like Running Wild and Helloween, has a tendency of staying potent. The poetic approach of bands like Bathory is also a mutual influence. We also get a lot of inspiration from movie soundtracks and we’re pretty big on reading in this band, of course.  

How do you feel you’ve grown as a band over the years?

I think we’re really fortunate that Stormwarrior has risen out of the metal underground. We never stopped identifying with the community, so we definitely know where we’re coming from. We’re basically still four guys who need to play metal at maximum speed, churning out pagan anthems. But over the years we have gathered the experience to hit the designated target most of the time, and the confidence to play around with elements of more depth and dynamics, so we feel armed and ready to go to the next level. With the move to Massacre Records we’re going to take our best shot at that.

Yenz Leonhardt, shooing away a cat.
Your subject matter is, as always, Vikings and their lore. What is your fascination with this subject and do you ever feel the need to sing about something different?

Norse mythology might initially have started off as a fascination, but over the years it has deepened into a way of life. We are followers of the Elder Way, and define ourselves as an active part of the Northern collective folk soul, with origins in Norse mythology and history. The different branches of nature linked pagan religion, like Asatro, shamanism and Wicca are the fastest growing religions world wide right now, which really is no wonder, in times of tsunamis and nuclear meltdown. In Denmark, where I hail from, the Asatro organization “Forn Sidr” has been authorized as a legal religious community since 2003. So, to answer your question: The messages in our lyrics are our way of connecting with the gods, and when you actually get to sense that power, you don’t really need to sing about anything else.

This may sound like a strange question, but is there a rule to which words you do or don’t add one of those little ‘e’s, like in “Heirs To The Fighte” and “Bloode To Bloode”?

To enhance the feeling of reading old lore, we use “Early Modern English”, which was commonly used around 15th-17th century, for instance the plays of Shakespeare were written in that period. We would like to go even further back, but that would make our lyrics undecipherable for most people. In “Early Modern English” a lot of nouns had that extra “e”, “thou” and “thy” is used for “you”/”your”/”your” etc., and of course third person singular verbs have the “eth” ending. We don’t always follow the rules, though.   

You’re playing a couple of festivals this summer. Are there any plans for a full tour?

Yeah, we’re playing the Bang Your Head! and Headbanger’s Open Air festivals this year. We’re getting pretty restless to get out on the road, so we’re on the lookout for the right tour for this fall or winter. We also want to return to other shores, we have some possible US dates this year and it feels good to be back on the Spiritual Beast label in Japan. They handled the two first albums, which resulted in us touring there.

What does the future hold for Stormwarrior?

First of all, we feel very good about finding a home with Massacre Records. This means that we can finally plan long-term, both in terms of touring, but also recording-wise. We want Stormwarrior to become a stabile metal power to be reckoned with, and that’s the direction we are headed.


Interview conducted by Arno Callens.

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