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16/04/2009 – Interview with BLACK MESSIAH

Folk/Pagan Metal has increased in popularity the last few years, even if several bands have been playing this style for many years. Examples of which are AMON AMARTH, THYRFING, MOONSORROW, MÅNEGARM, and many more. Events like Paganfest have put smaller bands in the spotlights and many other bands jumped on the bandwagon. Either way, trend or not, it's about the quality of the music and the honesty and integrity behind it. One of those bands that have been mixing Black and Folk since several years is the German one called BLACK MESSIAH (official website). My first acquaintance was their critically acclaimed "Of Myths And Legends". Later I checked out "Oath Of A Warrior" (but didn't buy it, until now. I'm awaiting the delivery). And as a surprise I found their hard-to-find debut album, "Sceptre Of Black Knowledge".

But anno 2009 the German pagans have returned to tell the tale of Gullveig, or better said, the war between the Aesir and Vanir. Title of the album: "First War Of The World". You can read my review at this location. As this album was very much to my liking, not just musically but also the theme, I sent the guys a few questions about this new release and naturally some other things. Mastermind/guitarist Zagan and drummer Brøøh took the time to answer. If you're interested in learning more about the lyrical context, do read on and do check out this band, for they deserve it.

Black Messiah logo

BLACK MESSIAH started as a pure Black Metal band, resulting in that one hard to find album "Sceptre Of Black Sorrows", which I managed to purchase in a local store, where I buy all my CDs. Are there plans to re-release this album or is this a "what's done is done" case?

Brøøh: Actually it's not planned to re-release "Sceptre Of Black Knowledge". ;-D (note by Tim: correct. How did I even think of Sorrows?)

ZAGAN: Yeah, that's right. "Sceptre" was a special chapter in the past. I think that music is very different from our present stuff. At the moment we do not plan to re-release that album. Perhaps we will re-record a track from this album in the future, but it is not planned, yet.

Musically there have been some changes over the years, adding more folk, symphonics and even a touch of Power Metal. Was this a natural thing or were there elements or persons (as in "different taste") preventing from adding different elements to the music?

Brøøh: It surely does have the "different tastes" of the members in it as there are many Metal styles the band members do like most, so there is a little bit of this mixture in it because we're writing the songs mostly together.

ZAGAN: That's right, but I have to say that after the "Sceptre"-period many songs of the "Oath Of A Warrior" album were written by me in a different style without having any musicians by my side. In the years 2000 to 2002 BLACK MESSIAH was only Zagan. I wrote songs like "Blutsbruder", "Christenfeind", "Feld Der Ehre", "A New Messiah", "My Way To Asgaard" and so on. All these songs were part of the second album. So I chose the new musicians after I had changed the musical style.

Black MessiahTalking about the new album, "First War Of The World", it does have the best sound of all BLACK MESSIAH albums so far. Was it only now that you had the means to work on this? Or was it never that much of a problem when recording the albums in the past?

Brøøh: Thanx for the compliment! And yes, it is always a problem to get the right sound for an album as you are following certain kinds of sounds. For example, "First War Of The World" is a historically and monumentally touched album, so you can't put "clinical" sounds on it, everything should sound more natural and warm and as we have the great opportunity to work on the songs in the studio for about 7 or 8 months it is an advantage you have to get the right sound for the right situation.

ZAGAN: Yes, and you have to see that the production this time was more expensive than before. We had more money for the recordings, so we had the chance to use better technics and we had more time. For example, "First War Of The World" was 500% more expensive than "Oath Of A Warrior"

Did you work differently in terms of composing, recording, etc.. compared to the previous albums?

ZAGAN: Yes, it is very different, because this time we had a complete story before we composed the music. So we had to compose the music on the text. On the previous albums we had the music first. This time it was more difficult, but we had a lot of fun during the composition period.

Like I said in my review, "First War Of The World" like a movie without image or an audio book. What inspired you to work this way?

ZAGAN: It was a big wish of me to record an concept-album. I love the old legends and I love to compose music for these old stories. So why not a concept-album? If you only write one song of a theme you have no time to deal with it at length. You have to make it short. Here with our new album we have the chance to tell a whole story. That was very interesting for me and it was a great challenge. I love the story of the first war and so I deceided to work with that stuff on this album.

Who is the narrator, who plays the role of Thor and Tyr and did you meet them to discuss their roles in person?

ZAGAN: It was the same person. His name is Tom Zahner and he is half-English and half-German. He is a professional narrator known from audio books, radio- and TV-spots and other things. He has a wonderful voice, he sounds like an old, wise guy, a story-teller. I heard his sound-examples on his internet-page and I was totally thrilled. I knew that is the man who has to speak on our new cd. He spoke as the narrator, Thor and Tyr.

First War Of The World coverThe artwork represents Gullveig (in all her glory, hehehe :-)), the Aesir, Vanir, but who's on top (holding Gullveig's hair)? In addition, why is Gullveig represented like this? Was she really that kind of person to show her personal "developments"?

ZAGAN: The picture shows us a part of the battle. Gullveig is fighting with Odin and his brothers Wile and We. (note by Tim: Oops, I'll have to redo my homework, also because my knowledge on the subject is still very limited. But it's good that Zagan added this info) The guy who is holding Gullveig's hair is one of Odin's brothers. In a few sagas Gullveig is described as a beautiful giantess. So it was our opinion to demonstrate her personal developments. We are all men and we like tits. So we had to put it on the cover..haha...!! I think it fits perfectly to the theme of the album.

Who painted/drew the artwork?

ZAGAN: Michael Müller is the name of the artist. He did a great job. We all love the cover-painting and the whole booklet.

About the album title: at first I thought "If there's a first war, then a second must follow". Until I read about this war, about Gullveig having been captured by the Aesir, tortured and so on. As a consequence the Vanir didn't like that and planned an attack on the Aesir. Apparently Gullveig was crazy about gold, but can you tell why? I'm slowly learning about Norse/Germanic mythology, and I hope to learn more, of course.

ZAGAN: There are a lot of versions of this story in the Northern mythology. One talks about a giantess named Gullveig who came to Valhalla and brings the goldlust to the Aesir. She is an evil person and she wanted to bring a big dispute to Odin and his brothers. I do not know why, that is the story. The Aesir want to burn Gullveig 'cause of her bad faith, but Gullveig survived. She escaped from Valhalla and runs to Vanaheim. There she told a cock and bull story to the Vanir. The Vanir marched with their hosts to Valhalla and the war had started. That is the story.

ZaganHow much did you learn in school and how much did you learn by yourself (checking out books, websites, documentaries, ...)? I only learned about the Romans and the Greeks, mostly, and maybe a tiny bit about the vikings. It's the Roman and Greek mythology that played a far bigger role, which can be interesting, but it's kind of sad that the Norse/Germanic was forgotten. That's why I wonder how much of it you saw in school, considering the country you live in. ;-)

ZAGAN: I never have learned Teutonic or Nordic mythologies in school. Here in Germany we have a big problem with our own legends. In the 1920s and 1930s the Nazis used our old myths for their sick propaganda. They diverted it from its intended use. 'Cause of this many German people today believe that our old German mythology is nazi-shit. That is wrong. Our forefathers in medieval times where no nazis. I and all of BLACK MESSIAH hate nazis. I think this is the predispose why pupil do not learn anything about our forefathers in school. That's a shame.

What inspired you to make an album about this "First war"? And which tools (books, websites, ...) did you consult?

ZAGAN: This is an old story from the "Edda". I love this part of it because this story is like a Hollywood movie. You have a war, treason, epic elements and a morality at the end. I mean, this part of the "Edda" is perfect for a concept album. Before I wrote the story with my own words I read a few translations and a few versions of it. Then I used the version who was the most believable to me.

Which books or authors can you recommend to learn more about the subject?

ZAGAN: The "Edda" at first. This is the "holy bible" (please pardon this parallel) for everybody when you want to learn more about german or nordic mythologies. Then I want to recommend abook from Rudolf Simek with the titel "Religion and Mythology of the Old Germanic Tribes" and a few books from Edmund Mudrak. He wrote a lot of books about nordic and germanic sagas.

Will the next album also be based on a mythological event? Or will it be a more "normal" album?

ZAGAN: What is normal?? Haha... We have a plan for the next album. I do not know if we really are going to do this, but I think so. It will be a story of the ship Naglfar. This is a ship in the Nordic mythology. I do not want to speak about this plan before we have starteted to work with this material.

With so many bands writing songs based on pagan/Norse mythology or history (TÝR, AMON AMARTH, MÅNEGARM, MOONSORROW, REBELLION, TURISAS, THRYFING, and many more), do you feel you have a sort of responsability to learn people a lesson in history, or at least, a different aspect of history?

Brøøh: I don't think it's about learning somebody something, the pagan/Norse mythology is part of history and we tell stories about it, if there is a "learning aspect" to it then it's ok for us. ;-D

ZAGAN: I think it is not wrong to teach people about their forgotten past. It is important to know where you come from and it is important to know your own culture. In ancient times we had our tribes and our own belief. Nobody knows it today but it is a part of us, a mighty part, so I think it is good to tell the people the old stories.

BroohHow's BLACK MESSIAH doing in Germany? Do you easily get airplay?

Brøøh: No, because Heavy Metal has gone way underground after the great tv shows on MTV or the German VIVA do not present whole shows about Metal anymore, so does the radio. But that's ok, because also in the 80's (yes, we are so old ;P) you even didn't have any music videos and the fans spread their word through tape trading and telling about the newest stuff, so it works nowadays and the Metal community is still living properly.

Speaking of airplay, the new album recently was featured on Radio4Sound ( Whose idea was this and what was it like? Furthermore, is this a big radio station?

Brøøh: It was the idea of Stefan from radio4sound and AFM records which meant a lot of fun for us. Stefan is very ambitious even his radio isn't a big one, but for us it's a good opportunity to reach more listeners.

ZAGAN: Thats right. We had a lot of fun with this radio show and we got good responses after the show.

How would you compare the labels you've worked with? (Last Episode, Einheit Produktionen, AFM Records)

ZAGAN: Last Episode was no label, it was a Crime-Association. They told you a lot of things, but they did nothing. They tried to steal your money and they did not look after their bands. So many people are angry now. Last Episode sucks!! Einheit Produktionen is a very small label. They are really pagan-fans and they try to do much for their bands. The problem is that they are to small. AFM is a major label. To work with them is a great chance for us. This is really professional.

You are the only surviving member, since the founding of the band, and have seen members come and go. Did that affect your trust in people when seeking new musicians? And does everyone have equal input or do you fulfill a sort of leading role, playing the chief, the mastermind who has the final word in everything (which can be a good thing)?

ZAGAN: I am the founder of BLACK MESSIAH, that's right. But it does not mean that I am the imperator of the band..haha.... We do everything together. Everybody composes music and parts and we decide everything with an acclamation. The only thing I want is that I enjoy every music we make. But we do it together.

And last, what are the tour plans for "First War Of The World"? when will you hit the road and with whom?

Brøøh: Unfortunately there's no tour planned, right now we are playing some club shows and summer festivals in Germany and Switzerland, but maybe and hopefully there's more to come. :-D

That's it from me. I apologize for the long list, but since you made a great album, about a very interesting subject, I had to make my list of questions a little longer.

ZAGAN: Thank you very much for this interview. I am glad that you like our stuff, that is important.

Brøøh: No problem, we always enjoy answering questions from people who are interested in our music and maybe we can reach more fans through interviews like that. ^^ Danke Dir!

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